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April 13, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Departures

Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers (28 percent ESPN / 23 percent Yahoo)

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, “B.B.” He hit .118/.250/.176 (plus his 1-for-4 Tuesday) since last week's summary that he's not “worth risking a roster spot to include.” He will have better weeks, to be sure. And people really do win the lottery!

Arrivals

Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays (3 percent ESPN / 21 percent Yahoo)

Sam Fuld: Defense! Brains! Grit! Walks! Speed! Legend! Power? Of course, Sam Fuld's home run was the “Home Run of the Day”, Larry Granillo. Fuld's professional home run rate is under 1-per-100 plate appearances, and if history is any indicator, it could take him another two years to get another 100 PA (he now has 186 PA in parts of four seasons). Though Fuld is probably just a “4th outfielder” on a good team, the Cubs clearly evaluated his talent badly, with 2007's outfield of Soriano (and his vaults full of money), Jacque Jones (in center field?!), and Cliff Floyd keeping all of Fuld, Angel Pagan, Felix Pie, and Matt Murton from playing as much as they could.

Of course, those guys did much better than the “kids” would have done, but at what cost? The Rays are used to having an outfielder with center field range patrolling left field, and saw a poor-man's Desmond Jennings in Fuld, albeit one who will allow the Rays to remain rich by delaying arbitration on Jennings.

Don't take the stunning outburst by Fuld too seriously: the January summaryis still likely to apply (“He has the ability to be a stolen-base asset to a fantasy team, though it's hard to envision contributions in other categories (other than holding his own in OBP, for leagues which use that category). ”), but–especially with Tampa Bay struggling–it's very much a possibility that Fuld will continue to get playing time all season long. There are, after all, no guarantees that Jennings will hit enough to force management's hands. Nor is it certain that Johnny Damon will remain on the roster if things don't turn around soon. If things break right, Fuld may actually stay on an active roster long enough to collect another three or even four home runs!

David Murphy, Texas Rangers (4 percent ESPN / 32 percent Yahoo)

Not much to add to January's summaryof David Murphy, either. The closing was: “he makes more sense in leagues where there are numerous bench slots to stash him for the stretches when everyone else is healthy on the Rangers.” As we all know, Josh Hamilton is no longer healthy, and while six-to-eight weeks of David Murphy won't exactly cure what ails Hamilton owners, it will reduce the sting.

Seth Smith, Colorado Rockies (12 percent ESPN / 7 percent Yahoo)

Deliberately acting in poor taste, the same line of advice will be reiterated from last June, yet one more time: “Some moves are obvious, and when a good hitter gets a more-or-less full-time job in Colorado, well, that's the sort of acquisition which needs to be done at Blackberry speed.” Looking at Team Tracker, it can be seen that Smith has hit .350/.435/.700 over the past week, even stealing a base.

His steals will be about as scarce as Sam Fuld's home runs, but there is no reason to think Smith won't reach his PECOTA rate stats of .283/.358/.490, and may even exceed his anticipated 455 plate appearances—especially if Ryan Spilborghs doesn't get back on track quickly. Picking up players like Seth Smith is how fantasy leagues are won. His 70th percentile projection has almost a .300 TAv, and a .300 TAv in Colorado is a fantasy owner's fantasy.

Corey Patterson, Toronto Blue Jays (0 percent ESPN / 1 percent Yahoo)

Corey Patterson has always been maddeningly difficult to predict. The most salient aspect of his game for fantasy purposes is, of course, his speed, however. And PECOTA projects seven steals in 133 plate appearances. Except that with Rajai Davis' ankle balking, it suddenly looks like Patterson ending up with four times that many PA is no longer out of the question. As for the “maddening” part, here are his batting lines for the past five seasons:

2006: .276/.314/.443

2007: .269/.304/.386

2008: .205/.238/.344

2009: N/A (30 PA in MLB) – hit .292/.333/.478 in AAA

2010: .269/.315/.406

PECOTA–influenced by his struggles in 2008 and 2009–projects .251/.282/.389. But his other three seasons indicate more like a .270/.310/.410 skill level. Don't be overly shocked if he ends up playing against a lot of right-handed pitchers, if Davis shows even a hint of being gimpy upon his return. Davis is a career .260 TAv hitter, much better than Patterson's .242, but neither player is going to be worth much if he cannot run, either to Toronto or to a fantasy owner. And neither needs to post a .300 TAv to help a fantasy team in steals.

Incumbents (or is it “Hangers-On”?)

Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals (7 percent ESPN / 7 percent Yahoo)

Francoeur hit .235/.263/.353 since last Wednesday's article. There's very little he can do between now and June to change his outlook for 2011. He'll have his ups and downs, and unless OBP counts in your league, he should end up being marginally useful, given his playing time and power. It's believed that only Vin Scully can say that Francoeur is “dropping to 207 pounds” without confusing the audience, but only because he'd point out that “twos are wild”.

Nyjer Morgan, Milwaukee Brewers (12 percent ESPN / 17 percent Yahoo)

Corey Hart appears to be avoiding the Wrath of Marcin Collateral Damage, and should be back soon. That could prove problematic for Nyjer Morgan's playing time, though his fast start as a Brewer cannot hurt his chances of claiming the center field job against right-handed pitchers. As noted last week, it's going to be very difficult for Ron Roenicke to avoid playing the better player, and Morgan has hit .455/.500/.727 over 14 plate appearances since last Wednesday.

It would be easy to get concerned about the fact that he has only one steal, but his three-hit game came against Derek Lowe, who reversed an early-career trend of ignoring runners, and has allowed just 52-31 (SB-CS) against since 2007, a span of 3432 PA against him. Morgan's two-hit game was against Carlos Zambrano, probably one of the two best right-handed pitchers at shutting down the running game, having allowed just 49 steals with 49 caught stealing in 7216 PA against. Suffice it to say that most right-handed pitchers Morgan will be facing won't be so good at keeping him anchored to first base when he gets on.

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

Related Content:  Sam Fuld,  Hit Tracker

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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: A Pletho... (04/13)
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