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August 24, 2011
Outfield for 8/24/11
Last week's choice of players spurred some interesting discussion in the comments about Casper Wells, with a smart reader looking even smarter now, as Wells has posted a nice .308/.400/.538 batting line this week. However, the Mariners seem to agree with this author's opinion that he's nothing more than a fourth outfielder, limiting him to just 15 plate appearances. He's someone to keep an eye on, to be sure. Meanwhile, owners who were able to find space for AL-only multi-position pick Trevor Plouffe were rewarded with a fine .308/.357/.500 batting line and 28 plate appearances. Meanwhile, former NL-only VP Trent Oeltjen had a nice eight (8) plate appearances, hitting .429/.500/.857 and stealing a base, raising his season line to .250/.387/.438. Of course, as Derek Carty points out, he's started only one game in the past (nearly) two months, so he's purely deep-league filler. Onward to more significant players...
What's changed is that a lot of playing time has become available in the Minnesota outfield. Delmon Young is gone. Denard Span is suffering from migraines after having a concussion—an alarming sequence of events. Rene Tosoni can't hit. Justin Morneau isn't 100%. Jason Kubel and Jim Thome have been put on waivers, and it sounds like the Twins are very willing to trade them, though that's based on rumors, which are notoriously unreliable.
It's hard to say that Revere has “won a job”, hitting just .218/.279/.261 since peaking at .278 on July 17. But, as they say, the Twins need to “find out what they have here”, and manager Ron Gardenhire likes him, so, to quote Derek Carty, “buy with gusto if you need speed.”
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 2%, CBS 30%)
Belt has posted a .282 TAv, in line with his .286 projected TAv. The problem for fantasy owners is that a .280-ish TAv isn't that useful in this context—Belt is a hitter who draws walks (13 in 115 PA isn't exactly Barry Bonds, but it's not bad), plays home games in a pitcher's park, and has the Giants' anemic offense suppressing his runs and RBI totals. Belt did steal 22 bases in 2010 (combined at three levels), and hit .337 in Double-A in 2010 and .309 in Triple-A in 2011, so unless the Giants tire of his defense in the outfield, he should provide some batting average, home runs, and even a couple steals.
If salaries didn't matter, Belt would almost certainly be an upgrade over Aubrey Huff at first base, since he's a good fielder and is out-hitting Huff, despite his low batting average. What the team actually does will depend on how the divisional race goes and how fully Andres Torres and Carlos Beltran rebound from injuries.
Jason Bourgeois, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 14%, CBS 27%)
He's slowly made believers, winning the New York-Penn League batting title in 2009 and the South Atlantic League MVP in 2010. While it's a strong possibility that opposing pitchers will find a flaw in his approach and force him to adjust at some point, it seems likely that if he's going to suffer a setback, it's more likely to come in 2012, and he makes for a very strong rest-of-season candidate. And while the scouting reports suggest he won't be able to adjust enough to keep hitting (or hitting enough to start in left field, to be more accurate), his statistical resume suggests that he could make enough adjustments and continue to be an offensive bright spot in the dark Astros universe.
Trayvon Robinson, Seattle Mariners (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 9%)
Josh Reddick, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 14%, CBS 33%)
Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 28%, CBS 34%)
Eric Thames, Toronto Blue Jays (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 8%, CBS 21%)
No. 2-ranked Tulane boasts the best record (45-8) in NCAA Division I and two of the best two-way players in Bogusevic and Micah Owings. It's a given that Bogusevic will go in the first round, but his pro position remains uncertain. Though more teams prefer him as a three-pitch lefthander, he also has five-tool potential as a right fielder.
While the damage to his offensive (and defensive) game from working as a hurler through 2008 can't be ignored, his pedigree does somewhat temper the negative influence of his tepid Triple-A batting stats (combined .272/.355/.391 in 1410 PA). He hasn't shown the extra-base power desired from a corner outfielder, but he does walk more than one would expect from a raw talent and doesn't strike out much. If his power emerges, he could work his way into being a capable big-leaguer. Far from a sure thing, but he's getting a chance, and being considered a first-round talent as an outfielder reminds us that scouts like his swing and are confident of his ability to defend.
Outside of Chicago, Brent Lillibridge may be one of the most overlooked players of all in 2011. And he's been a manager's treat, accepting whatever role Ozzie Guillen has put him in with zeal. He has 11 home runs and 10 stolen bases, so he's not going to be available in any deep AL-only leagues, though he's not good enough to consider for most mixed-league formats. His recent willingness to put on a first-baseman's glove has been quite useful with Adam Dunn's defensive skill getting rusty with all the time at DH. And, yes, that alloy was already very susceptible to oxidation before, as he's managed to tally an absurd -63.4 FRAA in his career. Anyway, Lillibridge may be much shorter than Dunn and hits from the right side, but he was also considered a potentially very good fielding shortstop as a prospect and has the athletic ability to remind people of that as he bounces around the diamond defensively.
The script that Lillibridge and team sources are sticking to is that Lillibridge had some sort of epiphany while working with hitting coach Greg Walker, and his fly ball percentage is over 50 percent, up from under 40% before 2011. He's swinging at a few more pitches outside of the strike zone but is selecting pitches he can hit hard. As always, there's a lot of skepticism that such a dramatic change is anything more than a function of randomness, but it's hard to completely ignore the power improvement, and the speed has always been there.