July 21, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
Self-Congratulation: As frequent readers of this column know, mistakes sometimes get made here, and they get exposed so that fantasy owners can hopefully learn from them. By the same token, it's sometimes good to remember how useful such recommendations can be. Week after week, Delmon Young kept producing the same tepid stats, and was receiving numerous days off... yet he kept appearing as a “Value Pick”, week after week. Now, it appears he might make it to 20 HR and 100 RBI while hitting .300 – all this despite missing almost 100 possible plate appearances in the early going. Not quite on that lofty level, but VP mainstays Drew Stubbs and Andres Torres graduated and continue to represent well. Stubbs went from .213/.300/.373 in the May 26 edition (when he was added) to hit .286/.343/.484 (with 7 SB and 8 HR) since, and he's dramatically improved his defensive metrics in keeping with the commentary at the time. Torres was added the same week and has hit .264/.358/.489, with 11 steals and 6 homers since. Even Mike Stanton has lived up to his billing, hammering five home runs in his past 79 at-bats (with the expected batting average problems). With that history in mind, onward.
Keep the Faith: Michael Brantley hit .292/.370/.333 the past week, picking up two steals and generally doing what was expected, though more runs and RBI would be expected with all the winning Cleveland has been doing lately (maybe this is some sort of Lou Brown memorial push for a Hollywood ending? R.I.P. James Gammon, 7/16). Jose Tabata is getting hot, hitting .348/.348/.522 with a steal. For perspective on how Tabata's been doing, only three outfielders have more steals than Tabata over the past 30 days: Carl Crawford, Coco Crisp, and Michael Bourn (plus Ben Zobrist, who qualifies in the outfield, of course).
Along for the Ride: Somehow, the future former manager of the Chicago Cubs determined that Tyler Colvin should be leading off, even against lefties. That should maximize his plate appearances, at least - and it led to seven (7) runs last week for the low-OBP slugger. It's difficult for a player to get three steals in a week when his only three times on base are two doubles and a walk, but Coco Crisp managed it last week. That's very encouraging news for fantasy owners, who can be assured that his batting stats will stabilize near his career norms, and now know that his legs are fully healthy and he has a frequent “green light” to steal. Felix Pie hit an empty .273, but has received plenty of playing time with Corey Patterson dinged.
Yellow Card: Burrell only played four games and drew four walks. Being stubborn enough to keep him on the VP list through this four-game set in Arizona isn't looking like the best decision, but hope for the best and look for someone else starting Monday. With the understanding that he should be kept for the Arizona series, he's getting kicked off the list this week.
Hiding in Plain Sight: Remember Lastings Milledge? Well, despite the lack of attention the team earns, Pittsburgh isn't The Void, and Milledge is still playing Major League baseball. In fact, he has 299 plate appearances. And he's hitting .283. After hitting .291 in Pittsburgh last year. Seriously, who would have guessed? Without gushing over the unspectacular-but-able job that Neal Huntington has done, the Pirates are no longer offensively inept, and Milledge has shown recent signs that some of his previously-hyped talent is translating into baseball performance. Meanwhile, other dead weight has been removed from the lineup, and the team has a nearly-average hitter (or better) in seven of the eight positions now, allowing for a much better run environment than the team season stats would suggest.
Speaking of improving on season stats, Milledge has been on a tear lately. After going homerless through June 26, he has hit three taters in his last 56 plate appearances. The 1-in-20 rate won't be sustained, but this is a guy who slugged .580 in the Sally League at age 19 (back in '04). He's hitting almost 50% of his balls in play on the ground now, so even 20 HR in a full season would be wishful thinking. But he does hit 20% of his balls in play for line drives, and strikes out in under 20% of his plate appearances. And he makes solid contact, hitting the ball hard, even when on the ground. Milledge has obviously been maddeningly inconsistent in his career – from his 7 HR in 206 PA age 22 season, to his 23-steal season in Washington, to his powerless first 3 months of 2010, and now to a month of raking (.317/.368/.508 the past 30 days). It does seem clear that the immense talent he's always been believed to harbor is still there, however, making him a high-upside pick, even after all this time.