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April 27, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Departures

Jonny Gomes, Cincinnati Reds (98 percent ESPN / 66 percent Yahoo)
Whether or not Gomes is indeed inherently “streaky”, per the comment-based discussion from last week, he's had a rough week since then, checking in at just .111/.261/.111 in 23 plate appearances. He gets the Astros twice (six games) in the next two weeks, so a “streak” in the other direction wouldn't be surprising. As long as his name is in the lineup, he's a useful contributor of home runs.

Corey Patterson, Toronto Blue Jays (0 percent ESPN / 1 percent Yahoo)
Rajai Davis' return is imminent, and Patterson has done little to earn playing time insurance so far.He hit .143/.143/.333 this past week, homering once and driving in three.

On and Off

Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks (73 percent ESPN / 41 percent Yahoo)
With Willie Ballgame on the Disabled List, Geoff Blum out, and Melvin “things could get ugly” Mora fighting injuries, showing his age and–generally speaking—not getting things done at third base, Ryan Roberts has had an opportunity to start at third base lately for the Snakes. Jose Bautista hitting .238/.329/.400 for 2038 plate appearances before turning into a perennial MVP candidate at age 29 has made fantasy owners with itchy iPhone fingers all the more reactionary, and who's to say that an age-30 Roberts won't turn around his previous 453 PA of .251/.333/.389 mediocrity? Roberts has also had about three full seasons at Triple-A, compiling a .275/.363/.441 batting line, mostly in the Pacific Coast League, where hitting is easier than in the International League. He is not considered a plus defender at any position, but can cover all four corners adequately and middle infield spots in a pinch, and his minor-league defensive metrics have actually been respectable the past few years at Triple-A.

Frankly, Roberts is only added this week because leagues have Sunday deadlines. He is more appropriately slotted as a third baseman, where he has played 13 games already in 2011 and he'll be treated as “graduating” anyway, since his ownership percentage is so high. We recommend allowing him to matriculate to someone else's team, as 63 plate appearances in 2011 don't outweigh the PECOTA projection slotting him as a .256 TAv hitter. The huge ownership percentage in ESPN leagues, which are usually 10-team mixed leagues, is unfathomable.

Arrivals

Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels (9 percent ESPN / 21 percent Yahoo)
Peter Bourjos has already been featured twice this year: March 30 and January 24 before that, not to mention Michael Street referring to him as “limp noodle” in a Mark Trumbo commentary. Well, heis officially “on the list” now.The oddity here is that Bourjos has been defying all predictions. He was walking a ton in spring, but has curtailed that practice (just five in 85 plate appearances so far). He's hitting .299, or 50 points higher than his PECOTA projection.And hehas already blasted two home runs. And, yes, “limp noodle” blasted them, with one being a deep fly ball and the other being a laser-beam liner.

The ability to keep fielders honest is going to serve Bourjos well as the season progresses, but the reason he was drafted in any leagues–even AL-only–is because he was supposed to be a 30-steal candidate. Yet, he is barely on a pace for half that many, with just two so far in 85 plate appearances. Obviously, owners will be thrilled if he can keep his other categories from hurting a team, but his speed score is down to 5.6 in 2011; a good mark, but far from the 7.9 to 9.2 range he'd posted in previous years of full-season ball. Of course, most of that's due to the 2-2 mark on stolen-base attempts, as he already has two triples, nine runs scored, and even reached third base on a “Little League Triple”on Opening Day (bunt hit followed by two errors).

Examining his game log, it does appear that he hasn't had his multiple-times-on-base games against the lesser-throwing catchers hehas seen, other than the two hits he collected on April 24, but the Angels had already fallen behind 3-0 to Boston in the first inning, and the hit-and-run is almost as well-liked by manager Mike Scioscia as the straight steal. In fact, the Angels have actually stolen fewer bases than the average American League team so far in 2011. With Miguel Olivo (career caught stealing percentage of 35 percent) and Yorvit Torrealba (30 percent) joining the division in 2011, some reduction in Angels stolen base totals is to be expected, but if he can keep his on-base percentage around (or above) the .330 mark, the steals should come–20 more would be a conservative expectation.

Incumbents

Jerry Sands, Los Angeles Dodgers (5 percent ESPN / 6 percent Yahoo / 35 percent CBS)
Still mostly an NL-only novelty and long-term pick in keeper leagues, Jerry Sands did have a three-hit game and has stolen two bases already, including one against a battery of Sean Marshall and Geovany Soto, notable as Marshall is a lefty and Soto has been having a better year throwing out runners (though not to be confused with Yadier Molina). The Jerry Sands highlights page at MLB.com doesn't include either steal, but MLB.tv subscribers can watch his nice piece of hitting and subsequent steal in the fourth inning of Monday's game. The announcers give partial credit to the element of surprise for his steals, but heis also clearly not slow and plodding, either. Don't expect another two-steal week from Sands, but another dozen in 2011 would hardly be surprising.

David Murphy, Texas Rangers (49 percent ESPN / 40 percent Yahoo)
David Murphy had a rough week considering rate stats (.111/.111/.333), but homered and drove in five runs, while scoring three–salvaging some fantasy value. For weekly-move leagues, next week's four games at Oakland (one) and Seattle (three) aren't appealing, though three in the Bronx after that should be productive and a seven-game week is always nice. Josh Hamilton is “still more than a month away” (per MLB.com).

Seth Smith, Colorado Rockies (49 percent ESPN / 23 percent Yahoo)
Seth Smith ownership percentage has spiked a lot this past week, but he went just .278/.316/.333 for the week (it was mentioned last week that this week wouldn't be “rosy”). He remains a good pickup candidate in all formats.

Nyjer Morgan, Milwaukee Brewers (6 percent ESPN / 12 percent Yahoo)
It's hard to remain high on Nyjer Morgan's chances, with a leg injury leading to a disabled list stintand Corey Hart returning. He remains for now, but seems a safe cut for the next two weeks, if he was available on waivers to start with anyway.

NL-Only VP

Xavier Paul, Pittsburgh Pirates
Xavier Paul has received recent mention, and while PNC Park isn't hostile to lefty power, his competition for playing time is somewhat better, with Garrett Jones getting on base at a .369 clip and good young players populating center field and left field. Still, neither Jones nor first baseman Lyle Overbay are All-Star candidates, and each is much older than Paul; Jones can play first base if Overbay continues to struggle (.253/.337/.354). For now, expect for Paul to share reserve outfielder duties with Matt Diaz, and for Diaz to see his already-limited playing time against right-handed pitching all but disappear.

AL-Only VP

Scott Podsednik, Toronto Blue Jays
A nice backup plan for those with Corey Patterson, Podsednik is slated to begin Triple-A play this week, meaning he should be ready to rejoin Toronto soon. How outfield playing time shakes out remains to be seen, but Patterson hasn't been tearing it up, and Podsednik was “Plan A” to start the season (as primary backup outfielder). Both players will see their playing time dry up when Rajai Davis returns, presumably this week.

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

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