June 29, 2011
Checking in on recent graduates, Josh Reddick hit .417/.429/.917 this past week, making AL-only owners happy. Meanwhile, fellow graduate Charlie Blackmon had a frustrating week, with just one hit in 17 PA and no counting stats (HR, SB, R, RBI). So much for living in the past; onward to the players who are still on The List and those who have just arrived.
Ben Revere has led off for the Minnesota Twins every game since last week, playing center field since the team has no other reasonable option at the position until Denard Span's concussive symptoms abate. Reports on Span suggest this may still be a few weeks (or longer) away. With a six-game losing streak entering Tuesday, it remains to be seen how doggedly manager Ron Gardenhire will stick with Revere in the leadoff spot, though. For the long term, his prospects of becoming a good leadoff hitter are good, but his .267/.267/.333 batting line the past week is consistent with his season line of .264/.291/.295, and he didn't even steal any bases this past week. With upcoming series’ against the Brewers, Rays, and White Sox, the pitching won't be favorable and only the White Sox are easy to steal against among these teams–and even then, only if Mark Buehrle isn't starting. The tiny percentage of leagues where Revere is owned make him fairly safe to cut for now, taking a wait-and-see attitude.
14. Alex Presley, OF: Presley is a diminutive outfielder who can hit, but he doesn't profile well for a corner due to a lack of power.
Now, there's “lack of power”, the Juan Pierre version, and “lack of power,” the Alex Presley version. Presley has hit 20 home runs in 886 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A over the 2010-11 time frame. He also hit a combined .326 and stole 31 bases. More to the point, he ramped up his stealing in 2011, swiping 18 bags in just 321 PA. When the 2010 Pirates Minor League Player of the Year was demoted in spring training, General Manager Neil Huntington cited specifics on which he needed to work (MLB.com):
"He has speed to impact the game on the bases, base stealing is something we definitely have to refine. Just the confidence. He can get the good read. He can get the good jump. There's just a little bit of hesitation that we can work out."
Also mentioned was working on his plate discipline, though 123 strikeouts against 66 walks in 886 PA for 2010-11 isn't bad, and batting well over .300 makes up for lack of discipline to an extent. More to the point, the batting average helps a fantasy team (in most formats) more than walking ever did. With Jose Tabata's injury being to his quad, don't expect the Pirates to rush their other speedy outfielder back, so the door is open for Presley to get his foot in the door. Presley played primarily center field and left field in the minors, but with the foursome of Garrett Jones, Lyle Overbay, Xavier Paul, and Matt Diaz all floundering (Jones is the best of the group at .251/.342/.435 to date), the Pirates may find a creative way to get him extra playing time even after Tabata returns (such as Tabata in RF and Presley in LF).
Presley's PECOTA forecast of a .236 TAv is obviously worrisome, and it will remain to be seen whether 2010 and 2011 are the outliers in his minor-league career or whether the something that “went click” for him in 2010 (so he claims) will stay in the “on” position. It seems likely that he's upped his outlook from “okay Triple-A outfielder” to “decent fourth outfielder in MLB”, and a decent fourth outfielder who steals lots of bases can always help a fantasy team. Further, his “lack of power” isn't pronounced enough to “Juan Pierre” the home run category on a fantasy team.
Chris Heisey has a skill set which is bound to make any manager happy. He's a pretty good hitter with a career line of .261/.326/.449, and there are many who believe that's a pessimistic expectation going forward. His PECOTA forecast is almost that good, with the weighted mean projection indicating .263/.321/.425. He plays adequate defense in center field (though Drew Stubbs can make most anyone look bad in comparison) and is above-average in either corner with sure hands, good range, and a good arm. He hustles, has very good pop–16 home runs already in his 387 career PA–and has enough speed to lead off or pinch run (though his bat is usually held in reserve if he's on the bench).
While he hasn't performed well in Triple-A exposure (just .269/.319/.457 over 360 PA), he demolished Double-A in his time there (.340/.409/.554 in 396 PA), so his high-minors results are mixed. He can hit right-handed pitching as well as left-handed pitching (in fact, in 2010, he had one of the more extreme reverse splits by a right-handed batter, posting an OPS of 925 vs. RHP compared to 546 vs. LHP; his 2011 stats and minor-league splits don't indicate this is a true tendency, however).
Dusty Baker takes a lot of criticism for limiting Heisey to (essentially) half-time duty as he's hitting about as well as Jonny Gomes and Fred Lewis and fields better than either (not to mention that he's out-hitting Stubbs by quite a bit). The Toothpick-half-full version is that Dusty is extracting good value from Heisey's versatility, and games like his three-homer outburst last week will go far toward helping Heisey relegate Gomes and Lewis to bench roles. If he does get a full-time role, he could be a power/speed force without hurting batting average in fantasy leagues as he has stolen 88 bases and hit 51 home runs in 2019 minor-league plate appearances, and his power has clearly matured as he's aged. Of course, in shallow leagues, it's best to wait and see if he earns more playing time, but he could be worth a preemptive pickup in mid-sized leagues.
Roger Bernadina shot up from less than 10 percent ownership to over 50 percent ownership in ESPN leagues (“a guy I've always liked”, according to Matthew Berry, certainly doesn't hurt his popularity) despite having a mediocre week, hitting just .250/.300/.286 with no home runs and only one stolen base. Considering how red-hot he was the week before, though, that still makes most of his other recent stat splits look great. As noted last week, he has good job security and should hit some homers and steal some bases. He still seems like a dicey play in shallow leagues (such as the standard ESPN format), though, as he doesn't do quite enough of these things to make up for the expected low batting average. Facing the Pirates, Cubs, and Rockies before the break stacks the deck somewhat in his favor for the very near term, though.
Jon Jay hasn't exactly been a revelation, hitting .235/.300/.471 over the past week, but is starting most games, and homering once every 20 plate appearances while scoring four runs and driving in three isn't bad. The Cardinals are in Baltimore now and go to Tampa Bay next before hosting the Reds and Diamondbacks before the break. Depending on how the starting rotations work out, that could end up being a couple weeks of bad matchups or–at best–somewhat neutral. If he's available in late July, a week of games (seven) against the Astros and Cubs to close out the month should make him a good pickup at that time.
A .250 batting average with no homers, steals, or runs scored and just a lone RBI for the past week isn't exactly cause for exclamations of “He's Back!” But from the Braves' perspective, the .400 on-base percentage and .438 slugging percentage lend some hope of better things to come, and he even filled in at center field when Jordan Schafer was given a day of rest on Sunday. How far back he'll come (and how quickly) is still an open question, but he'll linger as a Value Pick for at least another week until we see how healed he is.
Domonic Brown (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 12.8%, CBS 65%)
It certainly is difficult to predict when guys will figure it out. The struggles of Dom Brown (a pathetic .133/.278/.133 the past week) are yet another example. Already long ago cut by owners in most shallow leagues, he remains someone to keep an eye on, and series’ against the Blue Jays and Marlins in early July might help him get untracked.
At the risk of being overly repetitive or repeating ourselves, Travis Buck was recalled and is getting some playing time in Cleveland again with Shin-Soo Choo's injury. Buck hit .333/.432/.583 in Triple-A while biding his time. He's a former first-round (supplemental) pick and hit .288/.377/.474 in 334 plate appearances his rookie year, so there's some upside potential here, though it's far from bankable. He's unlikely to hit many homers, and stolen bases could be a seasonal event (as in one per season), but he could potentially really help out in AL-only formats which use on-base percentage.
Trent Oeltjen is playing in his third major-league season at age 28. He has hit a home run every 32 plate appearances in his career and stolen a base every 26 plate appearances. He can play center field in a pinch and is a good defensive side outfielder. His career batting line is a not-so-bad .257/.312/.469, his homers being augmented by triples due to his speed to give him a decent ISO (thus slugging percentage). He was hitting .339/.429/.583 in Albuquerque this year before his promotion and hit .347/.416/.563 there last year (overall Triple-A line in 2010 was .320/.382/.525). Between 2010 and 2011, he stole 34 bases and hit 21 HR in 735 Triple-A plate appearances.
The catch, of course, is that Oeltjen has only 129 PA for his “career” in the bigs. One could make a case that the Aussie's skill set resembles Will Venable's, with the bonus that Dodger Stadium favors lefty power, and Petco suppresses it brutally. It remains to be seen just how much playing time he'll get, but–as with the hypothesis that Xavier Paul could win a lot of playing time (March 30 Value Picks)– “stranger things have happened than the sequence of events which would vault Paul into a starting role and 500 plate appearances.” Oeltjen could see himself playing more than anyone expected, and it's not as if Tony Gwynn is going to suddenly start hitting like his father did.