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May 4, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Departures

Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks (98 percent ESPN / 63 percent Yahoo)
Ryan Roberts continues to mash, hitting .300/.417/.600 over the past week, and has performed like an All-Star so far in 2011. Invariably, when a player is doing well, hyperbole flows from various experts, overstating aspects of his game. In the case of Roberts, Scott White of CBS Sports was raving about what a power/speed threat he has been when he has hit 88 home runs and stolen 55 bases in 2918 full-season minor-league plate appearances. These are paces of 18 homers and 11 steals per 600 plate appearances, right in line with his 16-and-10 totals for 532 major league plate appearances. As with Brennan Boesch (.185/.214/.222 the past week, for those who have been waiting patiently for his collapse), Roberts minor-league stats don't indicate that he will continue to provide even these modest levels of power and speed, however. So far in 2011, the big difference has been that over 23 percent of his fly balls have left the yard, compared to a career mark (in the majors) of just under 10 percent. Trade him now if he was grabbed off waivers.

Arrivals

Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays (29 percent ESPN / 14 percent Yahoo)
One of the resident Tampa Bay Rays experts at Baseball Prospectus, Jason Collette, has mentioned Matt Joyce in two previous columns. He has also received Scoresheet Baseball attention, thanks to his nice PECOTA projection and platoon split. And he barely missed the cut for Value Picks last week. And that is a shame, as he has long been on the radar of sharp fantasy owners (going for $10 in Tout Wars, for example) and has had a heroic week, batting .556/.619/.944, with two homers and a stolen base. He strikes out too much to sustain a high batting average, much less the .346 mark he has posted so far in 2011. But PECOTA's .241 projection is overly pessimistic. And even at .241, he was projected to post a fine .280 TAv. His career TAv is now .302, and he is a good candidate to keep that up.

Incumbents

Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels (23 percent ESPN / 25 percent Yahoo)
One game can make a big difference in a weekly stat line. Since Bourjos' April 26 game wasn't included last week, he has hit .292/.320/.458 since press time, but just .200/.238/.200 for “last seven” games. He did steal a base, however, staying on pace for the “20 more” projection from last week. The Angels have three games at home against the White Sox May 9-11, which should be fertile ground for more steals for Bourjos.

Jerry Sands, Los Angeles Dodgers (2 percent ESPN / 5 percent Yahoo / 31 percent CBS)
There haven't been many positives so far for Jerry Sands, and the upcoming two weeks could be problematic, as trips in the first week to PNC Park and Citi Field will involve games in rough parks for right-handed power, and then the Dodgers will be home—another challenging park for hitting home runs right-handed—the next week. If cut, try to reclaim him in time for the May 20-25 games at US Cellular and Minute Maid Park.

David Murphy, Texas Rangers (39 percent ESPN / 35 percent Yahoo)
David Murphy hit .333 over the past week, with a robust .455 on-base percentage, but didn't homer or steal any bases. His outlook remains unchanged, as Josh Hamilton is still due to be out another month and pitching matchups are (probably) somewhat favorable for the Rangers during that month.

Seth Smith, Colorado Rockies (49 percent ESPN / 19 percent Yahoo)
The Colorado Rockies have 15 of their 20 games from May 9-29 at home, and Seth Smith appears unhindered by the groin tightness which sidelined him for a couple games. Ryan Spilborghs is starting against left-handed pitchers, but Smith is worth starting during weeks with many home games in most formats anyway.

Nyjer Morgan, Milwaukee Brewers (5 percent ESPN / 11 percent Yahoo)
It takes a lot of faith to hold on to Nyjer Morgan at this point, but he was listed in Tuesday's starting lineup before the game was rained out. That indicates that manager Ron Roenicke isn't worried about him re-injuring himself, even on a wet field, as well as the obvious—that he was batting second against Tommy Hanson instead of Carlos Gomez. It's worth a look at waiver wires in shallow leagues to see if he was cut.

NL-Only VP

Mark DeRosa, San Francisco Giants
Mark DeRosa has hit .278/.353/.439 since his age-31 season. He is landing on the NL-only list because he is currently on the DL with a bad wrist, and many will give up on him. Sandwiching him for playing time is Pablo Sandoval's expected return, which will reduce DeRosa to filler again. But in the interim—between when he is healthy again and whenever Panda returns—DeRosa should see lots of playing time, as the other left-infield suspects don't distinguish themselves on either offense or defense. Don't expect DeRosa to hit like he did in his Rudy Jaramillo inspired toe-tapping heyday in Texas, but he could turn out to be a tolerable 2-position backup as soon as he qualifies at third base.

AL-Only VP

Juan Rivera, Toronto Blue Jays (5 percent ESPN / 5 percent Yahoo)
A borderline choice between AL-only and mixed-league, Juan Rivera has averaged 23 home runs per 600 plate appearances for his career, and Toronto is a great park for right-handed power (especially on balls pulled down the line, just as Jose Bautista). Between health issues and slumps over the years, he hasnever quite reached 600 PA in his 11 seasons, however. With Travis Snider demoted, Rivera should see even more regular playing time in the next few games, and has even batted fifth most of the timehe hasbeen in the lineup despite his anemic batting line so far (just .213/.330/.300). A career .278 hitter who is 32 years old, he isunlikely to help with batting average, but should be a positive influence on home runs and RBI, even in mixed leagues. In AL-only leagues, he is more of a buy-low candidate than waiver wire fodder, but worth investigating, as his cost is unlikely to ever be lower.

Conor Jackson, Oakland Athletics
Even with the injuries, Conor Jackson's PECOTA-projected TAv was projected as .265, not bad at all considering his terrible stats in 2009 and 2010. With Daric Barton forgetting everything he learned in 2010, Jackson's chances of gaining more playing time keep going up. The team paid him over $3 million, somewhat surprisingly. He hasbatted third against lefty pitching and—rarely—some righties, as well. Jackson has long teased as a potentially potent bat, striking out barely more often than he walks (244 K, 225 BB, career), hitting as many as 15 home runs in 477 plate appearances, and even stealing 10 bases one year while hitting .300. But he has never put it all together at the same time, and the strong pitching in the AL West—combined with his home park—will suppress his stats considerably. Not worth touching in most mixed-league formats, he isnonetheless a safe play in AL-only leagues with a bit of upside potential. 

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:  Conor Jackson,  Mark Derosa

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Prospectus Q&A: Matt C... (05/04)
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