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January 17, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, Designated Hitter, and Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The news of the past week has been slow, so if readers have suggestions for 1B/3B/DH/OF players to review Wednesday, feel free to post them here, and all four positions will be covered, whether the players moved or not. In other news, Acta Sports has a new page for Graphical Player: http://www.actasports.com/gp11/ and there should be a free multi-page preview up there soon. Baseball Prospectus 2011 can also be ordered from the Acta site, taking care of all the requisite 2011 “hardcopy” fantasy players (and other baseball fans) will need.

There's no 2011 change with Carlos Gonzalez, nor will there be for anytime in the foreseeable future, as he inked a seven-year contract with the Rockies. Not being above a little self-congratulation, yours truly will remind folks of the April (2010) discussion regarding the Rockies outfield in this very column, where little was held back in recommending “Car-Go”, as advice such as “Gonzalez is going to rake”, “don't fear the limited playing time estimates”, and “target in trade immediately” was offered.

Jim Thome is returning to the Land of 10,000 Homers (or Lakes, or whatever it is), and while the Value Picks writers didn't jump on him with quite the same zeal as Carlos Gonzalez, he was just a part-time player last year, and Michael Street got him on the list at the start of May, noting “Despite his age, potential health problems and limited playing time, deeper AL-only leagues and saber-scoring or Scoresheet leagues can all get some value from Thome, if used judiciously.” And as the prognosis for Justin Morneau's concussion failed to improve, Thome's stock rose. As noted in the Baseball Prospectus 2011 annual, he became only the fourth player age 39 or older to slug .600 or better. With Morneau expected to be healthy, another 300 (or or more) plate appearance season seems unlikely from Thome, and his slugging percentages were .503 and .481 in 2008-2009, so it's likely he'll settle in at under .500 slugging, as well.

Yours truly wasn't so on-the-mark with tepid comments about Ryan Raburn last year, noting “For fantasy teams which need flexibility and pop, he isn't awful, but not good enough to start in most mixed-league formats.” Well, he hit .346/.392/.582 from that day onward, again having a hot September, as Craig Brown had previously noted of his 2009 season. Raburn remains a great platoon bat at worst (he's slugged .514 in his career against lefty pitching), and the Tigers have plenty of question marks around the diamond, so his versatility could come in handy as well, though he's not much of a defender anywhere. As a longtime infielder, it's not completely out of the question that his outfield defense will improve somewhat, however.

Ben Francisco is a career .263/.329/.446 hitter (with 39 HR and 26 SB in 1221 career PA) who avoided arbitration with Philadelphia this week, re-upping for over $1 million in 2011. He hovers around league-average in defensive metrics, and has shown a typical platoon split, hitting .267/.347/.460 against lefties for his career (though he was atypically very lopsided in 2010, tuning them up at a .284/.344/.557 rate). In short, Ben Francisco is about as close to being an average corner outfielder as possible, on both sides of the ball. His problem is that the guy in waiting was compared to all of Carl Crawford, Barry Bonds, and Daryl Strawberry in the first three sentences of his “Scouting Report” section at Baseball America, and when Kevin Goldstein gets to the Phillies Top 11 in a few days, it's unlikely his reports on Domonic Brown will be any more tempered. The Phillies aren't giving the kid anything, claiming that they expect Francisco to be the most-often right fielder (The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: "We are pleased to have come to terms with Benny," Amaro said in a statement. "Our goal in this process is to come to equitable deals. Benny, as we've stated, will have an opportunity to play more regularly in right field this year, and I am looking forward to the competition beginning this spring.") Anyway, that's a verbose way of noting that there's a lot of risk with Francisco, despite the relative certainty about his talent level. At the very worst, he seems like a prudent “handcuff” position for owners gambling that Domonic Brown explodes on to the scene like Jason Heyward did in 2010. At best, shrewd NL-only leaguers could end up with a decent full-timer for chump change on auction day.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ScotMartin

For 1st base, you could take a look at Mitch Moreland of the Rangers. It appears he's going to get a shot for the full time job.

Jan 17, 2011 06:53 AM
rating: 1
 
kdringg

How about Ian Stewart and Chris Johnson for 3B?

Jan 17, 2011 07:19 AM
rating: 0
 
peachycream

Jay Bruce please.

Jan 17, 2011 09:30 AM
rating: 1
 
DGBL

+1

Jan 17, 2011 09:44 AM
rating: -1
 
R.A.Wagman

What does the future hold for Jose Tabata?

Jan 17, 2011 09:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Solid requests, thanks. If I get more, I'll still make sure they get answered somehow - at least in a comment, or the following week, so keep them coming.

Jan 17, 2011 09:44 AM
 
pobothecat

Markakis, A. Jones, Bay, M. Brantley, Bourjos, M. Saunders, B. Wallace (don't feel obligated to cover the gamut here. just guys on my mind these days. thx.)

Jan 17, 2011 12:04 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Presuming you mean Adam Jones here, not Andruw, though both are interesting cases for 2011.

Jan 17, 2011 15:52 PM
 
Behemoth

Logan Morrison, Nolan Reimold please.

Jan 17, 2011 14:14 PM
rating: 0
 
davinhbrown

Carlos Pena, Jason Bay, Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina

Jan 18, 2011 09:23 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Carlos Pena covered here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12575

Jan 18, 2011 11:35 AM
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

... and now this in-depth writeup by Craig Brown: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12745

Jan 18, 2011 19:16 PM
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

I'll try to do ten of these guys, unless I get going on one too long. The ones I'm not going to do tomorrow, with quick takes...

Jason Bay - all depends on return to health, will watch for news the next few days and weeks.

Michael Brantley - playing time question marks. Could be quite good for fantasy, ala Coco Crisp 2010, if he wins the job out of spring.

Peter Bourjos - playing time question marks. Has the defense to warrant playing, and could rack up some steals if he does.

Michael Saunders - I'll have to research into him some more, I liked him a lot before his 2010 season. Have to think about how that impacts his outlook.

Brett Wallace - playing time question marks, with C-Lee playing 1b? I'm a bit higher on him now than most other analysts, maybe in reaction to the fact that I prematurely wrote off Adrian Gonzalez after a couple nondescript minor-league seasons, and, well, we know what he's done. No account of Wallace's skill set has ever included concerns about his hitting ability (before 2010, at least), so it wouldn't shock me if he is better than the standard outlooks now. That said, I wouldn't overpay for him. More analysis to come...

Roger Bernadina - Ugh, he hit .246/.307/.384 in 2010, and will be 27 in June. He does have enough power and speed and defensive chops to deserve some playing time and to earn some fantasy value if he gets it, but he shouldn't be a full-timer except under duress.

Jan 18, 2011 11:52 AM
 
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The Week in Quotes: Ja... (01/17)
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