July 20, 2011
Outfield for 7/20/11
Many fantasy owners have gone fishing the past couple weeks, with Mike Trout's promotion and all. Trout's value to fantasy teams will depend entirely on how much playing time he's able to “earn” while Peter Bourjos recovers. It's not clear where he'd fit on a Value Picks list (since he's so hyped, it's hard to believe he's a “value” in many leagues), so he'll be skipped for now. But don't take his omission as any sort of knock against Trout. He's a dream fantasy prospect. He has blinding speed that should translate into many steals, good power, and should contribute in batting average as well. Hanley Ramirez hit .313/.385/.521 from ages 22-26, stealing 196 bases in those five seasons. Nobody would be surprised if Trout posted stats like these, nor if he got started at as early an age as Hanley did. That being said, his 2011 value is hard to determine. Don't expect full-blown stardom in August and September, even if he keeps the job. And since we’ve seen Vernon Wells start some of the games while Bourjos has been out, it seems that the Angels are serious about throwing Trout back in 2011.
Domonic Brown (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 10.2%, CBS 62%)
The trade deadline approaches, and—like many fantasy owners—the Phillies have to be focused on winning the title this season. This suggests that it's very likely the team will stop having patience with Domonic Brown (for 2011) and will trade for outfield help. It's a disappointing state of affairs for Brown, the Phillies, and fantasy owners who've kept the faith all year. The immense talent remains, so there's always a chance that today's game could be the start of a quick transformation into a star-level outfielder, but such chances depend on getting playing time, and that could dry up soon.
At the risk of making one of the worst timing mistakes ever in fantasy advice, Brown's getting dropped off the Value Picks list.
Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 14.6%, CBS 16%)
Dexter Fowler is the center fielder in Colorado until further notice. This was a more exciting proposition before the season, however, when the combination of PECOTA liking him and the possibility that he'd steal a lot more bases in 2011—with his legs recovered from 2010 injuries—making him a potential fantasy star who was capable of contributing to batting average, runs scored, and steals. And he's not completely powerless, so he wasn't expected to hurt the homers category as much as many leadoff hitters do. Considering that he'd finished 2010 on a hot streak, expectations were high.
But 2011 had other plans for Dexter. He lost his starting job and was demoted so he could keep getting playing time. Fowler's game has been so messed up that he experimented with scrapping switch-hitting during his demotion. He's still swinging from both sides, and he hit .385/.489/.615 in his final 10 games at Triple-A. Additionally, there are some other positive signs that there may be some good results coming. He's only 25, and despite his struggles against right-handed pitching, his career .240/.335/.375 batting line against them hasn't hurt his team much, given his good defense in center field. Maybe I’m pulling at straws here, but August has always been his month, hitting .309/.393/.520 in the month for his career. July hasn't been so bad for him, either, at .257/.384/.434. It's probably time to give up on him developing into a big stolen base threat, but his preference for warm weather (as indicated by July/August success), and home cooking (.283/.382/.446 batting line at home, compared to .225/.313/.333 on the road) suggests that the 16 home games the Rockies have in August (and 13 more in September) could be very good for Fowler, indeed.
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1.4%, CBS 27%)
This author cannot—with a good conscience—“steal” Brandon Belt from Michael Street, even if he has been playing some outfield at Triple-A in preparation, presumably, for a multi-position usage pattern with the big club. So, this is just a placeholder. Be sure to tune in to Mike's column next week, but if you have moves to make before then, don't sleep on Belt; he can hit, and it appears he's going to get a lot of playing time.
Eric Thames, Toronto Blue Jays (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 29%, CBS 29%)
Eric Thames hasn't done anything out of character for the past two weeks, hitting .282/.317/.487 with one homer in 41 plate appearances. His continued presence in the starting lineup has the masses catching on, however, and he's being picked up in more and more leagues. Thames would be best to own in daily-move leagues as the Blue Jays have a lot of games coming up against teams with excellent pitching, but they also have 12 games against the Orioles remaining on the schedule. All-in-all, Thames remains a solid home run and RBI threat, who should also score plenty of runs batting second for the Jays.
Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 6.1%, CBS 27%)
“There's at least a decent chance that Maggs will rebound strong in the second half...”, from two weeks ago in this column. So far, so good .. except that he isn't playing every day. His 21 plate appearances over the past two weeks aren't really enough for mixed-league relevance, but he did hit .368/.429/.579 with a homer. Carefully monitor his usage to see if he gains more playing time as his health approaches 100%.
Alex Presley, Pittsburgh Pirates (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 20.3%, CBS 29%)
Jose Tabata has had a setback in his rehab, which is especially concerning when you remember that a quad injury is more serious for a speed guy like him in the first place. In the interim, Alex Presley is doing everything in his power to cement a spot in the lineup, hitting .382/.432/.500 and stealing two bases over the past two weeks. Nobody knows what the Pirates will do at the trade deadline, if anything, but it's likely to take a bad cold streak from Presley to get him out of the lineup. And he has the talent to avoid that.
Roger Bernadina, Washington Nationals (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 20.1%, CBS 27%)
“Roger Bernadina is the same player he was two weeks ago.” This column has never gushed over Bernadina's potential as other fantasy sources have, but when the trend last week was to cut Bernadina (his ownership percentages went down a lot, in response to a two-week slump), this reminder was given as encouragement. He rewarded those who stuck with him, racking up four steals and nine runs over the past two weeks while hitting an even .300. He remains useful for fantasy purposes, owning both power and speed and having all but cemented his starting job for the rest of 2011. For players who are borderline like Bernadina, it's especially important to look at upcoming schedule. Bernadina has moderately tough matchups until August 4 when he gets four games in Coors Field followed by three games in Wrigley.
Jon Jay, St. Louis Cardinals (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 12.3%, CBS 16%)
Jon Jay remains as unexciting as ever—for fantasy purposes at least—but he did hit .412/.474/.588 in 19 plate appearances over the past two weeks. He's blocked for now, but there have been rumors of Colby Rasmus getting traded. So, for deeper leagues, it might be prudent to hold onto Jay through the trade deadline, especially on teams which need batting average.
Mike Cameron, Florida Marlins (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%)
Arguably one of the most underrated players in recent history, Cameron always seems to take his nice mix of power, speed, walks, and defense to parks which suffocated his power, making him appear less useful than he actually is. Not that Hall of Fame admission should be based on Least Common Denominator, but Mike Cameron has racked up 44.8 WARP, more than the 43.4 total of recent inductee Jim Rice. And, of course, Cameron will get virtually no support for induction when the time comes. Manager Jack McKeon is certainly remembering a younger version of Cameron when saying he wants him in center field, but he has logged +2.3 FRAA so far in 135 PA in 2011, so don't be surprised if Chris Coghlan plays somewhere else when he's back from his rehab. Cameron's speed is gone, but he hit a combined 49 home runs in 2008 and 2009, so he could provide some NL-only pop and is especially useful if batting average isn't a category.
Ezequiel Carrera, Cleveland Indians (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.3%, CBS 1%)
Not much has changed with regard to Ezequiel Carrera since the time he was traded in 2010, though he certainly fell off any top-11 2011 prospect lists with a tepid 2010 season on offense. Here's Christina Kahrl's colorful writeup, which should tell fantasy owners all they need to know (taken in concert with Manny Acta's proclamation that Carrera will play a lot):
Plus, they didn't just hand Branyan away, they got stuff! Not great stuff, of course, but guys you can play at up-the-middle positions. Sort of—what did you expect, this was a Russell Branyan dump, after all. Carrera's a 23-year-old water bug, a short speedster whose bat plays best in center but whose arm might conjure up comparisons to some of the game's finest noodles—Rudy Law, anyone? For Tacoma, Carrera was hitting .268/.339/.315, which means he's doing slightly better at slugging than Kevin's cat, but most of those very few extra-base hits came in usual-suspect venues like Salt Lake and Las Vegas, and in contrast the cat apparently doesn't get out much. The fact that he's walking just eight percent of the time, and has been successful on just nine of his 14 steals, makes his bid for utility as a speed guy and fourth outfielder type look pretty weak, but he did just turn 23. Rated as the 14th-best Mariners prospect by Kevin Goldsteinand the 15th-best by Baseball America before the season, you should take both numbers at less than their face value—the Mariners' system is exceptionally shallow at present, so being in the teens in their organization doesn't mean a lot.
(Bonus) Matt Angle, Baltimore Orioles (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%)
Sort of a poor-man's Zeke Carrera, Matt Angle doesn't rate to get nearly as much playing time, mostly because Baltimore has a good option in center field, unlike the Indians sans Grady. For deep leagues, though, Angle should be good for a few precious steals down the stretch.
Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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