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July 7, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Value Picks 2010 PECOTA Games '10 Scoresheet
Outfield Team PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG BA OBP SLG LF CF RF vRH vLH Rng
Michael Brantley CLE 50 0 4 4 0 .136 .204 .159 .282 .354 .378 7 5 0 +13 –39 2.11
Pat Burrell SF 91 5 11 11 0 .304 .385 .532 .249 .346 .455 21 0 0 –10 +20 1.99
Tyler Colvin CHN 184 12 28 32 2 .272 .317 .550 .246 .297 .412 36 10 26 +20 –71 2.12
Coco Crisp OAK 59 2 13 11 5 .292 .362 .563 .274 .352 .415 0 14 0 –4 +10 2.17
Eric Hinske ATL 189 6 25 34 0 .280 .344 .494 .244 .334 .448 31 0 0 +26 –91 2.06
Gerardo Parra ARI 169 2 13 14 0 .258 .302 .396 .278 .334 .415 39 3 7 +37 –115 2.11
Corey Patterson BAL 201 4 26 13 16 .280 .328 .396 .246 .287 .395 44 3 0 +19 –60 2.17
Felix Pie BAL 28 1 4 2 0 .385 .429 .577 .284 .345 .471 7 0 0 +24 –79 2.15
Jose Tabata PIT 107 1 11 6 6 .235 .299 .327 .280 .335 .420 24 0 0 –16 +40 2.10
Subscribe to Heater: Avg for Left Field .274 .342 .440   vRH = OPS v RH
Heater Magazine Avg for Center Field .269 .338 .424   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Right Field .275 .348 .449   Rng = Range
  Avg for All Outfield .273 .343 .438  

Do Run Run: In another fantasy column last September, this author quipped: “Just pretend his Triple-A batting average says .310, since there's no way his stats support a continued .288 BABIP.” Though that seems to be obvious now, since he hit .315 at AAA in 2010, he'd hit just .267 in 2009, and most thought his .313 average in the majors in September was a bit of a fluke. The acquisition of Russell Branyan coupled with the desire to see more of Matt LaPorta got Brantley his ticket to AAA despite a .400 OBP in spring training. Unfortunately for Brantley, his hot September last year didn't continue in his first few at-bats in Cleveland this year (he broke camp with the team due to Branyan being on the DL), nor was he really tearing up AAA when Grady Sizemore went down, so former first-round pick Trevor Crowe was installed into the outfield, and has hit like the fourth or fifth outfielder he is.

Most worrisome for fantasy purposes has been Brantley's lack of steals in AAA, however. After swiping 46 bags with just 5 times caught stealing in 2009 (despite his modest .350 OBP), he's stolen just 11 bags in 2010, while already being caught as many times. That's the bad news. The good news is that Brantley hit .353/.412/.480 in June, with 7 steals. While his April and May stats can't be disregarded, most every other data point about him suggests potential fantasy stardom (though the Indians' lack of offense certainly doesn't help his Runs and RBI totals). Brantley's minor-league contact percentage has been almost 90%, which – in concert with his slap-hitting style, tremendous speed, and lefty batting side – suggest a player who could help a team batting average a lot, in addition to the valuable stolen bases.

Close, but not quite: Since the goal of this column is to recommend players who should be picked up, it will differ from other sources, which look at things like 3-day hit streaks and other similarly insignificant trends. The difficulty comes when a player continues to out-perform (or under-perform, for that matter) his well-defined level of ability. It's fairly uncommon among hitters, barring some external factors (usually injuries). Garrett Jones 2009 was the classic exception proving the rule. He was a 28-year-old proven AAAA hitter who came out of nowhere to hit .293/.372/.567. He's back down to .276/.345/.432 this year, which is a step up from AAAA, but nowhere near the impact player he was in 2009. Corey Patterson doesn't fit the Garrett Jones mold. He's been good before. His Tav was .280 in 2003. As a very rangy center fielder who has the ability to steal a ton of bases (he has stolen 200 in his career in 3951 PA), he has had value in both real-life and fantasy contexts. But that's ancient history. His only two seasons with a .320 on-base percentage were 2003 (.329) and 2004 (.320). He's topped a .276 batting average only once (.298 in 2003). Still, he has 16 steals already in 201 PA, and has shown this sort of 40-SB speed in the past, though not consistently. But a few steals and an occasional home run are all he offers. Yesterday, he went 0-for-6, dropping his batting average a full 10 points. Expect more days like that. For teams in dire need of speed, he might be worth the risk – just keep expectations low. [Patterson was included in the table in yellow for context, showing that he'll be removed next week.]

Fire the GM, fire the manager, fire the left fielder? It can't be a good sign for an outfielder when Tony Abreu pinch hits for him, as happened to Gerardo Parra yesterday. For now, it appears that new manager Kirk Gibson is going to stick with Parra against righties (with Cole Gillespie – not the same “Gillespie” from this Ryan Howard Boy's Club commercial – getting the starts against lefties). If he doesn't start hitting a bit more in the next couple weeks, don't be surprised to see Brandon Allen wearing an outfield glove in Arizona, or the righty batters – Gillespie, Rusty Ryal, or even Jeff Bailey – getting starts, with Parra reduced to defense and pinch-hitting duties.

Recaps: The games in Colorado proved much less advantageous to Pat Burrell than anticipated, and he seems to be in one of those aforementioned cold streaks. Worse for his owners, the soft part of the schedule – which made him such a tantalizing pick – is coming to an end after Sunday. Four games in Arizona July 22-25 make him reasonable to keep for another 2 weeks, but August features mostly the better-pitching teams. If he gets hot in the next couple weeks, he's a prime trade candidate (in fantasy ball)

The offseason workout program which has added power to Tyler Colvin can't be mentioned enough. His .278 ISO is higher than all but 6 qualified batters this season, though he doesn't qualify yet. And it's not like it's totally unexpected, as he had power before 2010 and slugged .514 in high-A ball in his first full season of professional baseball (2007), and then topped .500 (.524) again in 2009 in his 3rd attempt to figure out AA pitching – a classification which has often serves as a winnowing fork, separating the wheat from the chaff among prospects. The addition of at-bats against lefty pitching has had the expected result of dropping his batting average, but his .189 average the past 2 weeks is accompanied by 4 homers, 10 RBI, 6 runs, and a steal, and unless low on-base percentage factors into a fantasy system, he's still a big asset.

Coco Crisp appeared to be bringing back the “Curse of the Value Picks”, leaving Sunday's game with a hamstring injury – not good for a stolen base guy, obviously. But he's back, and running, stealing two bases the past week. His ownership percentage has rightfully soared over 20%, as he's one of the few 30-steal types who can actually be considered a viable offensive player even without his steals.

Eric Hinske had a rough week, collecting just 2 hits in 15 at-bats, though being the part of the platoon who gets to face Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay can do that to the best of hitters, and he did have a homer and 4 RBI, so it wasn't a total loss. After the All-Star break, he'll miss Yovani Gallardo (DL), but might have to face Mat Latos, Josh Johnson again, and Stephen Strasburg. None of the other potential matchups seem too difficult.

Tabata remains valuable as long as he leads off for Pittsburgh, as he will keep racking up the steals. Felix Pie came off the DL as anticipated yesterday, and rapped out two hits. He won't be enough to prevent the O's from picking first in the 2011 draft, but could help a fantasy team, as detailed last week.

Mile High thoughts: Value Pick fave Seth Smith is hitting an unbelievable .538/.625/.846 over the past week, certainly validating the faith placed in him by this author. In a world where Todd Helton wasn't such an organizational icon, Brad Hawpe would return to his former position (1b – he was moved to RF because of Helton) when he returns from his injury. With his dominance in AAA extending into his first week back in Colorado, Dexter Fowler is going to be difficult to remove from center field, and Carlos Gonzalez may not be walking much, but he's every bit the fantasy monster discussed (nay, raved about) back in April.

Three for the show: Last week, a reader asked about thoughts on Josh Hamilton, Carlos Lee, and Carlos Quentin. With Josh Hamilton, there are a lot of different factors in play here. As noted, he received much more playing time in the “first half” of 2008, due to the schedule (he played every game all season). In 2010, he appears healthy. If unworried about his health, there are still reasons to “trade high” on him – first, his BABIP is an unsustainably high .381, and he's also benefited from Vlad Guerrero's hot first half, which seems unlikely to be repeated in the second half. With Carlos Lee, it seems realistic that he'll “play to the back of his baseball card”, as they say. He's not old. His top 4 PECOTA comps are: Vlad Guerrero, Harold Baines, Harry Heilmann, and Jim Rice. That resulted in a “Weighted Means” projection of .314/.364/.526 before the season. Obviously, the dreadful first half can't be totally ignored, but Lee has long had a great combination of contact ability and power, and writing him off after a couple bad months would be as much of a mistake as writing off Magglio Ordonez after his bad first half last year (which most people did). Carlos Quentin is a very good hitter playing in a great hitting environment (Weighted Means: .277/.353/.535). By all reports, he's been 100% healthy this year, and his slow start has been somewhat mystifying. His career BABIP is an amazingly low .250, but he's been “unlucky” even by that standard (.234 BABIP this year). It's probably time for yours truly to give up on the idea of him being a “plus” batting average player (since it doesn't appear that the BABIP will ever normalize), but as long as he stays healthy, he should post good on-base percentages and power numbers.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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11 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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friel27

Thanks for answering my Hamilton, Lee, Quentin question. I currently have them on my team along with Hunter. We have 3 OF spots and 2 util. stats are avg, hr, sb, tb, rbi runs. I have a strong SP of Cain, Wainwright, Verlander, Lilly, Dempster, Jaime Garcia, recently got wandy for his past 3 starts and on the fringe with slowey. I currently have the best staff in my league and am looking for hitting help. I have a Beltran 4 Jaime Garcia trade in the works. (noone seems too high on Jaime and im worried after tonights game he will be sitting around 100 IP and should be shut down soon) what are your thoughts?

Jul 07, 2010 13:42 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Okay, piece by piece:

1. Garcia is a good pitcher. Is he 2.10 ERA (what he had before tonight) good? No way. His SIERA was 3.67 before this game, and I wouldn't worry overly much about one sub-par outing in Colorado. A pitcher with mid-3's talent pitching for the Cardinals with Dave Duncan and their offense and park to help him is a good pitcher to have.

2. Tony LaRussa plays his starting players almost the entire game in spring training games. I have very little evidence that he'd be worried about something like an inning restriction on a young pitcher. Barring a trade for Cliff Lee and/or miraculous recoveries by Penny and Lohse, the Cards desperately need Garcia to take the ball. He may not reach 200 IP, but 170+ wouldn't shock me.

3. Beltran is the wild card here. With your pitching, the ability to trade surplus for a guy who can help in almost every category is probably a no-brainer. Now, can he? I would certainly like to roll those dice, though I have a suspicion that his speed won't be there, at least at first.

4. Also entering the discussion would be the available SP you'd be backfilling the rotation with. I recently picked up Bumgarner and D.Hudson in the 15-team BDD fantasy league, for example - both could be excellent, but both come with very high risk.

Anyway, my gut says that this is probably a good trade in your situation, but it's never easy to send away good starting pitchers from good teams in good ballparks - like Garcia.

Jul 07, 2010 22:43 PM
 
pobothecat

Ladies and gentlemen ---- Jon Jay.

Jul 07, 2010 14:23 PM
rating: 0
 
OonBoon

On that note, what on earth is wrong with Aaron Hill and Pablo Sandoval?

Jul 07, 2010 14:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Thinking about what to say on this. Obviously, it's very complicated, but the bottom line is what to expect for the 2nd half of 2010 and in 2011... I circulated it around the other writers, and we should give you some solid analysis at some point soon.

On a personal level, I have Hill in an AL Expert League, and keep hoping for the best, but that's hardly "analysis".

Jul 07, 2010 23:30 PM
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

From E-BABIP's, I see that Sandoval's is just .307 predicted for 2010. That isn't much different than the .294 he's posted so far. His GB/LD/FB rates are about the same as last year, but his HR/FB% is down a ton. Applying a similar reasoning to that which Marc used in his Hill article, it appears that Panda has been swinging at - and contacting - balls outside the zone at a very similar pace to 2009.

Looking at his 2009 vs. 2010 spray charts, it appears that - confirming the %'s - his fly balls haven't been travelling as far. Also, he's hitting more balls to the left side. In 2009, he pulled a lot of balls, hammering many of them for homers and other base hits, including some very long homers. Looking at the Pitch F/X charts, pitchers appear to be working him in almost exactly the same manner, at least at the composite level (don't have it broken down by count or game situation).

Putting it all together, I'd be somewhat worried. I haven't read anything about his strength being down, but the tale of the tape shows something is missing. Combining that with the fact that he's probably not a .350 BABIP hitter, but more like a .300-.310 guy, that's a big drop in performance. The flip side is that he's almost certainly endured some ill fortune this year, and can be expected to rebound somewhat. But 2009 levels seem out of reach, even for the rest of the year.

Jul 09, 2010 10:31 AM
 
BobbyRoberto
(907)

"His career BABIP is an amazingly low .250, but he's been “unlucky” even by that standard (.234 BABIP this year). It's probably time for yours truly to give up on the idea of him being a “plus” batting average player (since it doesn't appear that the BABIP will ever normalize)"

I would say that, after 1478 career at-bats, Carlos Quentin's BABIP has "normalized" at his career .250 mark. It's not like pitcher's BABIP, where most pitchers are in the .290 to .300 range and if they are way below that or way above it, we can expect them to regress back to that range.

Hitters have vastly different BABIP abilities. Ichiro's career BABIP is .358. Quentin's appears to be in the .250 range, so it's not going to "normalize" to something closer to .300.

Jul 07, 2010 20:50 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Yep, I couldn't agree more. But I have my own xBABIP system, which has long indicated that Quentin's BABIP would increase. So did Matt Swartz's published E-BABIP for Quentin in 2010 (.280). Some links:

Matt's 3-part article on E-BABIP:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10358

Google Docs with 2010 E-BABIPs (the link in the article has a typo): http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tMC8mqXiVL6gP9bnd74jrEw&single=true&gid=0&output=html).

But, anyway, I think we're in agreement that the empirical data for Quentin outweighs the significance of the models of what his BABIP could be expected to be at this point.

Jul 07, 2010 22:12 PM
 
OTSgamer

Need some advice here on outfielders. I currently have a glut of them right now, and the stockpile I have is really limiting me in other areas of my roster, so I think I need to let one or two of them go.

Right now I have seven outfielders on my roster, though one of them is on the DL. They are as follows: Jayson Werth, Carlos Quentin, Magglio Ordonez, Angel Pagan, Hideki Matsui, Jose Guillen, and Carlos Beltran (DL).

I would like to trim those seven down to four or five, but I don't know who to cut right now. Any advice?

Jul 08, 2010 13:15 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Obviously, you know all these guys have talent. I think the question you'd have to think about is who you could get back if they have a slow stretch the rest of April, coupled with who's most likely to have a slow stretch.

Guillen - I think there's little doubt that he's the worst player among this group. Add in a hostile home ballpark and few other offensive contributors, and he has all the makings of a terrible fantasy player as well. He hit .340 in June, but it was fairly empty, as his OBP was .382 and his SLG .466. And he's begun July in a slump. I think at this point, you take what you've gotten from him and let him go. He's hit .263/.317/.428 over his last 1800+ PA, and even if PECOTA W.M. indicates he's better than that, I wouldn't bother.

Matsui - I suppose he's the next guy (or maybe the first) to shed. He's hitting a paltry .253/.333/.404, has been ice cold, and - especially if Texas upgrades their rotation - his upcoming schedule is bleak.

Quentin - It's amazing to me that the schedule worked this way, but the White Sox literally play only the M's and A's for 2 straight weeks to end the month. Quentin's finally looking alive, but - at least with Lee still in Seattle as I write this - those two teams aren't much fun. But I'd definitely want him back in August!

Pagan - As noted here in the past, he has hit righty pitchers quite well all through his (admittedly short) career. That's a great trend for a base-stealer, as they are usually easier to swipe against. I'd only cut him if you thought that the Mets were going to be stupid and play Francoeur so much that Pagan is relegated to 4th OF duties. From an informal poll of some smart people via IM, this appears to have about a 50% chance of happening. :(

Don't cut Werth or Beltran. I think you're seeing what you can expect from Maggs - not a superstar (10 HR, 1 SB), but certainly useful (.300-ish AVG, RBIs and Runs).

Jul 09, 2010 10:13 AM
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

I'm sure I had a good reason for typing "rest of April" (not), but I meant "rest of July", if it isn't obvious.

Jul 09, 2010 10:17 AM
 
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