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January 26, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Rankings Review: Center Field

by Marc Normandin

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This is a review of my 2010 center field rankings. This time around, not only will we use auction values for mixed leagues, but also the dollar value for AL- and NL-only leagues. These dollar values come from Graphical Player 2011, and I think these will do a good job illustrating how much I missed by on the players I missed, though, broken record style, the why is more important than the result when it comes to these rankings. All PECOTA projections, dollar values and statistics in the parentheses are from 2010.

Five Stars

Matt Kemp (.302/.354/.487 PECOTA, .249/.310/.450 2010; $16.7 mixed/$23.2 NL): Kemp has a career .344 batting average on balls in play, but in 2010 that figure sunk to .295, which helped to keep him from being the fantasy monster you paid for. His .201 Isolated Power was a career high, and other than batting average, the only downer was his stolen base rates—Kemp swiped 19 bases, but was caught 15 times. If you had Kemp in a SB-CS league, his dollar value was far lower than the ones presented above. The addition of Davey Lopes should help Kemp out on that for 2011, and with Joe Torre out of town and someone who doesn't seemingly hate him in the manager's seat, maybe 2010 will turn out to be a blip.

Grady Sizemore (.279/.389/.502 PECOTA, .211/.271/.289 2010; -$17.5 mixed/-$2.1 AL): I bought into the projection of a guy with knee problems, and that resulted in being way off with my ranking. Thanks to Colin Wyers we should have some safeguards for this sort of thing in projections in the future, though, even without them, I should have rated Sizemore lower because of injury concerns.

Four Stars

B.J. Upton (.279/.370/.452 PECOTA, .237/.322/.424 2010; $15.5 mixed/$24.7 AL): Like Kemp, Upton's issue was mostly in his batting average and BABIP. He strikes out far too often to post a high batting average unless his BABIP is in the stratosphere, and even though his power recovered (his .187 ISO is second only to his 2007 .209 mark) and he once again stole 42 bases, that one fact will keep him from being an elite fantasy player. He's better suited to the three-star group until he learns to hit right-handed pitchers better, and with 75 percent of innings coming from that side of the mound, it's tough to bet on him until he shows he can do it.

Andrew McCutchen (.281/.363/.439 PECOTA, .286/.365/.449 2010; $19.6 mixed/$27.2 NL): He was more like a low four-star player, but McCutchen did not disappoint. With a better offense around him (read: more opportunities for runs and RBI) he can become more of a fantasy presence.

Curtis Granderson (.273/.358/.503 PECOTA, .247/.324/.468 2010; $10.0 mixed/$19.1 AL): Granderson played in 136 games, and despite the move to the offensively-friendly Yankee Stadium, his batting average didn't recover. Granderson is one of those players who does not excel at anything but does a lot of everything, so when he misses time, doesn't steal as many bases and doesn't hit for a high batting average, his value drops significantly. I have faith in him doing well in 2011, but 2010 stung for a lot of owners who thought they were getting a valuable center fielder.

Jacoby Ellsbury (.301/.358/.430 PECOTA, .192/.241/.244 2010; -$18.2 mixed/-$2.3 AL): Let's just say that if Ellsbury's broken ribs had been diagnosed correctly the first and not the sixteenth time, this ranking would have looked fine.

Carlos Beltran (.278/.381/.485 PECOTA, .255/.341/.427 2010; -$11.4 mixed/$1.9 NL): This ranking was based on his being healthy, which didn't happen until the summer. He also didn't hit well until the year was nearly over, which is a good thing when it comes to 2011, but not so good for the people who counted on him last year.

Shane Victorino (.296/.360/.458 PECOTA, .259/.327/.429 2010; $16.4 mixed/$24.2 NL): He wasn't on base as often and the Philly lineup wasn't as potent, two factors which kept him from reaching four-star status. Stealing 34 bases helped balance some of that out and kept him from being a bad fantasy choice.

Nate McLouth (.277/.370/.479 PECOTA, .190/.298/.322 2010; -$13.9 mixed/-$0.7 NL): This came out of nowhere, and injuries kept him from spending enough time on the diamond to counter a horrific start at the plate. McLouth did hit .275/.345/.549 in September, and since he has turned into a joke to many because of his 2010, will most likely be available cheap and late.

Adam Jones (.295/.350/.509 PECOTA, .284/.325/.442 2010; $11.9 mixed/$20.6 AL): PECOTA and I both thought Jones would breakout after a strong 2009 campaign, but instead he had the same kind of season. It was his age 24 season, so there is still time for that breakout year.

Nyjer Morgan (.288/.347/.381 PECOTA, .253/.319/.314 2010; -$1.3 mixed/$11.1 NL): This one is on me. I overrated him based on 2009, thinking his stolen base totals could offset a decline in his rate stats, but both his steals and numbers dipped.

Michael Bourn (.276/.346/.390 PECOTA, .265/.341/.346 2010; $12.3 mixed/$22.6 NL): Bourn is an extreme stolen base threat, but he doesn't contribute in enough categories to be considered for the four star tier. Lesson learned.

Denard Span (.295/.378/.421 PECOTA, .264/.331/.348 2010; $8.0 mixed/$17.9 AL): Span is a career .301/.380/.427 on turf, and .282/.360/.373 hitter on grass. Guess which surface his new park is covered in? He did however improve on his steals, as I thought he would, getting caught just four times rather than 10, like in 2009. Let's not get into his pick offs though, since they don't count as caught stealing anyway.

Josh Hamilton (.294/.366/.532 PECOTA, .359/.411/.633 2010; $35.2 mixed/$39.2 AL): It's a good thing he recovered from his injuries to post a monster year, as no one else from center stepped up to replace all the disappointing seasons.

Dexter Fowler (.283/.382/444 PECOTA, .260/.347/.410 2010; $0.5 mixed/$10.8 NL): Fowler has always stolen bases in the minors. He stole 27 bases in 135 games in 2009. So when he steals just 13 bases, doesn't improve in the way you expect a player his age to improve, and fails to contribute in any other major category, you get the dollar values above, and the ranking looks silly.

Torii Hunter (.283/.351/.494 PECOTA, .281/.354/.464 2010; $16.5 mixed/$24.2 AL): His stolen base totals were halved from 2009, but he did everything else he was expected to, and ended up being one of the more valuable center fielders because of it. There are going to be a whole lot of three-star center fielders this year, and things are going to be light on the four-star end.

Rajai Davis (.284/.341/.415 PECOTA, .284/.320/.377 2010; $14.4 mixed/$25.1 AL): Less power than expected hurt his numbers somewhat, but he swiped 50 bags and kept himself plenty useful, though not quite four star material.

Three Stars

Carlos Gonzalez (.280/.340/.475 PECOTA, .336/.376/.598 2010; $44.2 mixed/$46.4 NL): I'm glad I said Gonzalez was likely to become a four-star player, because that is five-star value. He may not be as good in real life as he is in fantasy (Hello, .356/.405/.687 career line at Coors), but unless your league park-adjusts, that's a trifling matter. Abuse his home park for all it's worth.

Franklin Gutierrez (.276/.338/.457 PECOTA, .245/.303/.363 2010; $4.8 mixed/$16.0 AL): Gutierrez had just hit well in Seattle despite being right-handed, so this projection didn't seem out of line for an age 27 season (at least back when I was doing the rankings). 2009 looks like a fluke campaign in a lot of ways for Gutierrez, whose 25 steals were hardly worth the effort in mixed leagues.

Alex Rios (.275/.333/.456 PECOTA, .284/.334/.457 2010; $25.2 mixed/$32.1 AL): I was a little leery of putting Rios into four stars—after a .247/.296/.395 2010, the fact he was in three stars was kind of a show of faith in his rebounding—but he earned it, unlike most of the guys in four stars. I'm glad to see that, he's always been a personal favorite.

Cody Ross (.277/.344/.502 PECOTA, .269/.322/.413 2010; $6.9 mixed/$15.6 NL): A lot of Ross's value was tied up in his R and RBI projections, and those didn't come to pass. Hitting in San Francisco after getting out of Florida didn't help things, between the park and the pitcher-oriented team.

Mike Cameron (.257/.351/.465 PECOTA, .259/.328/.401 2010; -$13.9 mixed/$0.6 AL): Cameron played little, and when he did, it was with a tear in his abdomen that eventually required a four hour surgery to fix. This understandably limited him in the field and at the plate, and kept him from even attempting to reach his forecast.

Cameron Maybin (.266/.354/.441 PECOTA, .234/.302/.361 2010; -$7.0 mixed/$4.9 NL): The strikeouts haven't vanished and real power might never come. It's too early to give up on him in real life, but with the move to Petco, expecting Maybin to ever fulfill his fantasy potential may be a reach.

Chris Young (.251/.338/.468 PECOTA, .257/.341/.452 2010; $22.7 mixed/$28.3 NL): Guys, I don't want to alarm you, but Chris Young finally hit like he was supposed to for an entire season. Considering my line for him last year was, "Chris Young, could you please, for once, do what your projection and the analysts know you're capable of?" you could say I'm excited about this development.

Brett Gardner (.272/.364/.384 PECOTA, .277/.383/.379 2010; $17.5 mixed/$26.3 AL): Gardner got the playing time that was more of an unsure thing when these ratings came out, and for his troubles, he was worth a few bucks more than his placement within the three star category merited.

Lastings Milledge (.278/.344/.422 PECOTA, .277/.332/.380 2010; -$6.8 mixed/$5.6 NL): I don't think you could pay me to count on Milledge again.

Coco Crisp (.267/.355/.405 PECOTA, .279/.342/.438 2010; $5.4 mixed/$17.0 AL): Crisp didn't even play half-a-season, but he was great when he was on the field thanks to 32 steals and a solid line for a center fielder.

Julio Borbon (.286/.340/.399 PECOTA, .276/.309/.340 2010; $0.6 mixed/$12.1 AL): Bourbon stole 19 bases in 46 games in 2009, so expecting him to do better than that with a starting job in 2010 didn't seem crazy. He swiped just 15 on the year though, which, when combined with an inability to be on base, killed his value in all but deep leagues.

Scott Hairston (.255/.314/.453 PECOTA, .210/.295/.346 2010; -$10.0 mixed/$2.3 NL): Injuries messed up his value, but even if he had been healthy, he probably should have been a two-star player due to playing time concerns.

Colby Rasmus (.253/.333/.434 PECOTA, .276/.361/.498 2010; $14.9 mixed/$21.8 NL): Rasmus was ranked here due to his ceiling, as his previous production didn't merit the spot. He delivered on that promise as often as Tony La Russa would let him.

Two Stars

Rick Ankiel (.255/.314/.456 PECOTA, .232/.321/.389 2010; -$11.6 mixed/$1.3 NL): Ankiel was hurt for most of the year, and didn't play that well when he made it onto the field. Chances are good you didn't waste too much on him given his rating here, but unless it was $1, it was waste.

Elijah Dukes (.249/.362/.435 PECOTA) Not playing at all kind of keeps you from delivering on a projection.

Vernon Wells (.262/.320/.429 PECOTA, .273/.331/.515 2010; $17.4 mixed/$24.9 AL): Wells was only in two stars because the rest of the outfield positions looked loaded, but with a bit of a resurgence from Wells and center field not doing well on the whole, his value was a tier higher.

Austin Jackson (.262/.321/.404 PECOTA, .293/.345/.400 2010; $14.2 mixed/$22.8 AL): The difference between Jackson's forecast and his actual line was a healthy dose of BABIP. He's been covered in more detail in the past, and is a fascinating player because of that very BABIP issue.

Aaron Rowand (.277/.343/.442 PECOTA, .230/.281/.378 2010; -$7.8 mixed/$4.0 NL): Rowand was even worse than his biggest detractors could have anticipated, and lost his job as a starter in the Giants' outfield because of it.

Carlos Gomez (.257/.315/.385 PECOTA, .247/.298/.357 2010; -$6.5 mixed/$6.3 NL): Unless it was steals, he just wasn't helping out. With a 639 OPS during his age 23 and 24 seasons, it's tough to get excited about Gomez turning into something even as useful as Michael Bourn for fantasy purposes.

Marlon Byrd (.288/.355/.441 PECOTA, .293/.346/.429 2010; $11.3 mixed/$19.1 NL): Byrd probably should have been a three-star player (or at least a high two) especially since I had no problems with him matching his forecast.

Drew Stubbs (.237/.320/.360 PECOTA, .255/.329/.444 2010; $19.1 mixed/$25.7 NL): I liked Stubbs for his speed, but felt he needed a much better offensive line than what PECOTA forecasted to be anywhere but two stars. Here we are, and he got nearly 600 plate appearances too.

Ryan Church (.271/.349/.414 PECOTA, .201/.265/.352 2010; -$15.4 mixed/-$2.0 NL): Injuries and a progressively more crowded outfield in Pittsburgh helped hinder Church's 2010 from a fantasy perspective.

Melky Cabrera (.273/.341/.404 PECOTA, .255/.317/.354 2010; -$5.7 mixed/$5.9 NL): His forecast wasn't stellar and he still couldn't come close to that or his career rates, which is a bit disheartening (or hilarious, if you're a Yankees fan).

Ryan Sweeney (.286/.354/.424 PECOTA, .294/.342/.383 2010; -$6.5 mixed/$6.0 AL): For the amount of playing time he had, Sweeney put up an admirable number of R and RBI, but he needs more than half a season to cut it anywhere other than AL-only.

Tony Gwynn (.262/.336/.345 PECOTA, .204/.304/.287 2010; -$12.9 mixed/$0.9 NL): I don't care how many bases you steal, with a line like that, you have zero use in fantasy leagues. Gwynn isn't that bad at the plate, but his 2010 was just awful.

Jordan Schafer (.236/.316/.391 PECOTA) It's probably not a good sign the last time I thought about Jordan Schafer was when I wrote my 2010 center field rankings.

Kosuke Fukudome (.260/.383/.394 PECOTA, .263/.371/.439 2010; -$1.7 mixed/$9.3 NL): A more useful bat in real life than in fantasy, as Fukudome doesn't drive in many runners and isn't driven in often either.

One Star

Felix Pie (-$6.7 mixed/$6.2 AL), Gerardo Parra (-$11.7 mixed/$1.5 NL), and Michael Brantley (-$9.9 mixed/$4.0 AL) all failed to contribute in anywhere but the deepest of leagues, and we've been over why Scott Podsednik ($11.9 mixed/$22.2 NL) was so much better than expected—far more steals and playing time than was envisioned for him, thanks to the dual contributions of poor Royals and Dodgers teams.

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