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August 18, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
Jose Guillen is Surging – Why? As anyone who's played fantasy realizes, a huge part of winning is not only knowing how much players are going to produce, but also how highly valued they might be by others. I own Jose Guillen on my ill-fated FP911 Expert League team. Here's the latest writeup, for people in need of a laugh – “I wasn't prepared, so I drafted Gerald Laird”... that rhyme more-or-less summarizes my season, though I did avoid picking up Mariners Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins, Ian Snell, et al - not that anyone could have predicted their declines in 2010. But, honestly, I hadn't paid much attention to Guillen as a potential Value Pick. So, I was surprised to see that he's still owned in about 50% of leagues, even in the shallower formats available. Sure, before 2010, his Weighted-means PECOTA came out at a useful .285/.333/.464 rate, despite playing in KC. And he's theoretically moving to the easier league. But consider his rate stats by year:
2010: .257/.315/.438 (age 34 season)
This is a rate of production on par with Guillen's 40th-percentile expectations, per PECOTA. He and Burrell weren't crazy pickups for the Giants, who are trying to chase down the Padres. Both Petco and AT&T Park are about neutral when it comes to right-handed home run factor, as opposed to making it difficult for (most) lefties to hit homers. But this Giants have better options against most right-handed starters, and Guillen can expect to see a lot of bench time as Bruce Bochy searches high and low for every matchup advantage down the stretch.
Staying thematic, and answering a reader request from last week (thanks for the comments, everyone – always appreciated), Ryan Raburn is also a tempting player to stay away from in mixed leagues. He's 29 this year, and has hit .261/.322/.444 in 909 career plate appearances. He has some skills, namely hitting for power and bashing lefties (against whom he's hit .257/.336/.491 and amassing almost half of his career PA facing them). He plays multiple positions, starting at second base, left field, and right field in August already, and backs up Austin Jackson in center field, as well. For fantasy teams which need flexibility and pop, he isn't awful, but not good enough to start in most mixed-league formats. And his weighted-means PECOTA projection of .274/.349/.500 was probably stolen from Ryan Ludwick somehow, because that's simply not the player Raburn is.
Scratch Him Off: Last week, the advice was to “keep the faith” with Peter Bourjos, but an 0-for-14 week and more bench time make it appear that only martyrs would have enough faith to stick with Peter through his trials. In the “real world” of fantasy ball, it's time to go fishing again... speaking of which, Bourjos' eventual successor, Mike Trout, isn't sinking at high-A ball, with a .287/.365/.426 batting line so far. It's the California League, but keep in mind that he just turned nineteen 11 days ago.
Similarly to Bourjos, Shelley Duncan went hitless on the week (0-for-13), and with Brantley's signs of life and Hafner's return, his playing time will dry up considerably. Another center fielder, Coco Crisp, graduates this week after hitting .320 with 3 steals. No surprise there.
Matching Up: John Jay and Felix Pie had “meh” weeks, hitting .250 and .240, respectively, with little else to show. Both have limitations, but the higher on-base percentages and almost 100% playing time should keep them ahead of the guys like Guillen and Raburn, though with guys like these, going week-to-week looking for favorable matchups might net the biggest gains. Pulling the teams up on www.rotolympus.com, I see that Pie gets 3 games at Chicago and 3 at Los Angeles next week, while Jay gets 7 at the Pirates and Nats. The Tigers have 7 games, with 4 at Toronto, so Raburn should be okay next week, with three lefties in the Toronto rotation. Certainly, with so little of the season remaining, playing the “churn and burn” strategy makes sense for a much higher percentage of players.
Bubble Boys: With a tip of the cap to Marc Normandin's mad fantasy skillz, Boston's new centerfielder Ryan Kalish and San Diego's recent MVP-caliber “free resource” are available in most leagues, and few have any idea of how good these guys are. Chris Denorfia hit .286/.356/.558 over the past 30 days, and has 6 steals in just 191 AB. He gets most of his playing time against lefty pitchers, despite whaling on righties (.281/.352/.471 over 273 PA for his career, better in 2010). He's exactly the sort of player who could be used in daily-move leagues against bad pitchers and/or in good hitter's parks. Oddly, he's also hit (much) better at home this season, defying both expected platoon splits, but that shouldn't lead owners to favor him in home games. For example, the Padres are facing Casey Coleman at Wrigley today... if Denorfia is slated to start, that's like landing on “Free Parking”, and the soft underbelly of the Cubs bullpen is likely to be a windfall to offensive stats after AAA mediocrity Coleman is KO'd early.
Ryan Kalish had the third-best Davenport Translation among players with 150+ AB (.254 Tav – DT's are notoriously rough on AA players), and his DT was .278/.338/.451 (.277 Tav) in AAA for his 144 AB there. As with Lorenzo Cain, he's a great athlete who was formerly hyped and is having a great season, yet isn't being considered as a strong option due to minor league stats below expectations in previous years. At 22 years old, he's probably not to be expected to be a big mixed-league factor immediately, though he was 25-3 in stolen base attempts in just 343 PA in the minors this year.
Travis Snider has mentioned at the break, and it's hard to stomach picking up a guy who is coming off a .095/.095/.095 week, continuing a disappointing season. But he's so powerful that there's always the chance that he'll break out of his slump with something crazy, such as a 5-homer week. Certainly not for the faint of heart – or the team in need of batting average.
What's New? Um, nothing? It's impossible to fully endorse any of the low-ownership players this week as “Value Picks” going forward. David Murphy has been added, though he's already surpassed the usual threshold of ownership percentage. He's a great play as long as Nelson Cruz is hurt, then he resumes his prior status as a good 4th outfielder.