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...
Ben Revere, Minnesota Twins (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 5%, CBS 22%)
It's time to revisit Ben Revere. He was booted back on June 29, noting that he's not owned in many leagues, so owners should be able to get him back if needed. Additional information was posted on June 22 and June 15, when he was added for the first time. Additionally, Derek Carty mentioned him on July 18 as a One-Category Wonder, and in more depth the previous week, too.
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%)
Michael Street has already ably written up Brandon Belt and subsequently kicked him off his Value List—appropriately—when the Giants traded for Beltran. Not much has changed with Belt's offensive outlook, but now—for the time being—he's playing the outfield almost every day for the injury-plagued Giants.
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.
Kyle Blanks, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 18%, CBS 32%)
The Mets and Marlins may not have pitchers like the Phillies, but Kyle Blanks hit .313/.333/.750 this week, homering twice and driving in six. He can hit. Despite the low ownership percentage, he's going to be graduated early from the Value Pick list. Keep him in mind if he's available, and remember that Petco doesn't hinder right-handed power nearly as much as that of lefty batters. That, and Blanks is powerful enough to hit a ball out of any park.
Jason Bourgeois, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 14%, CBS 27%)
It's been a missed opportunity for Jason Bourgeois. Light-hitting Jordan Schafer is back and starting against right-handed pitching. Brian Bogusevic would be a star if he always faced the Cubs, and his performance against the team he grew up hating during the August 15-17 series appears to have earned him the large portion of the right-field platoon for now. All this is to say that while opportunity may have knocked for Jason Bourgeois, he didn't knock down the door; he barely opened it, hitting an anemic .155/.210/.190 in August. He'll go back to his platoon role against left-handed pitching with the occasional pinch-running opportunity. He's good at those and might even be temping enough for a better team to try to acquire him for a September push. But unless Schafer or Bogusevic falters badly (certainly possible), it's unlikely that he'll get another chance as good as the one he had when Pence and Bourn were traded.
J.D. Martinez, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 13%, CBS 31%)
So far, so good, for Magglio Ordonez II (aka J.D. Martinez). He had a great week, hitting .429/.455/.714 and driving in five other Astros in addition to his one homer (six RBI total for the week). He's already up to 35th on the rookie batter VORP list despite having just 90 plate appearances and playing the outfield. With his unconventional swing and flat swing plane, he's always going to have his share of detractors—but that's nothing new. He attended little-known Nova Southeastern University despite leading his high school team to consecutive (Florida) state titles, being drafted in the 36th round by the talent-savvy Twins in the 2006 draft. Then, despite being voted a first-team All-American by the College Baseball Writers Association in 2009, he slid to the 20th round of the draft.
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%)
It's difficult to give up on such a wonderfully talented player as Trayvon Robinson, but … Well, with a 6-for-10 showing in yesterday’s doubleheader, Trayvon may have kept himself in the starting lineup a bit longer in Seattle, though an error doesn't help. As noted, Casper Wells is applying all sorts of pressure, though Wily Mo Pena needs to hit at some point to keep getting playing time. Justin Smoak sounds like he'll be back soon, so at-bats will become even more scarce. A shameless plug for the new compensation page; going there shows that Ichiro is signed through 2012, and his past greatness and iconic status will keep him in the lineup almost every day despite his negative WARP in 2011 and 1973 birth date. Meanwhile, Franklin Gutierrez is supporting his limp bat with ever-stellar defense and is unlikely to sit much during the remainder of his contract, which runs through at least 2013 (option for 2014). Despite the heavy competition, it does seem that Seattle views Robinson as a member of the outfield as long as he's under team control. Especially if he starts stealing again like he did before 2011, he should be a nice fantasy asset, even in that ballpark (possibly similar to Mike Cameron). For 2011, however, he's a very risky play.
Josh Reddick, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 14%, CBS 33%)
For now, Josh Reddick is still batting fifth in the potent Boston lineup. Of course, this is a function of David Ortiz being out, but even sixth isn't bad. J.D. Drew is expected back on September 1, so this next week will be critical for Reddick to convince manager Terry Francona that he should keep starting upon Drew's return. Going .133/.188/.200 the past week isn't sending the right message. The talent is there, but Boston is trying to finish off a championship season, so don't be shocked if J.D. Drew—or even someone who is currently in another organization—is playing a lot of right field for Boston in September.
Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 28%, CBS 34%)
Dexter Fowler hit just .200 on the week and didn't steal any bases, but he managed a .333 on-base percentage and scored five runs. He has a hit and a walk Tuesday night as of this writing, so he's doing the job Colorado wants him to do—get on base and play defense. He still has a big home-field advantage, so the two weeks starting next Monday—September 5 through September 18—look like a very appealing time frame in which to own him, if he's available—the Rox have 10 home games and their only two road games are in Milwaukee.
Eric Thames, Toronto Blue Jays (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 8%, CBS 21%)
It's been a slow week for Eric Thames, hitting just .167/.286/.167 on the week, but he did steal a base. Don't expect many more of those, but he's still a solid power bat. The addition of Kelly Johnson should lengthen the lineup a bit, too, so chances to score and drive in runs should be ample (assuming he remains in the top half).
Brian Bogusevic, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 2%)
Baseball America's Draft Database from 2005 starts commentary on Brian Bogusevic with this:
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.
Brent Lillibridge, Chicago White Sox (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 2%, CBS 6%)
Brent Lillibridge won the race with Wily Mo Pena by a nose for this week's AL-only VP. Wily Mo Pena has been covered multiple times this season, from Resident Fantasy Genius Derek Carty, on August 8 and earlier on June 27, and from yours truly on June 15. He's worth looking into, but so is Lillibridge.
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.
Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Click here to see Rob's other articles.
You can contact Rob by clicking here