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September 13, 2011

Value Picks

Outfielders for 9/13/11

by Rob McQuown

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Arrivals
Nyjer Morgan, Milwaukee Brewers (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 18%, CBS 27%)

Value Picks has shunned Nyjer Morgan for most of the season—not for lack of faith in his abilities but because so many early raves were written about him that readers were expected to know the opinions on the ballplayer. With the season winding down, it's time to revisit an old friend. Nothing about his skills has really changed, and here's what was written before:

John Perrotto's article on Nyjer included this Prince Fielder quote:

"He's a good dude. We have a really good clubhouse. We have guys who really like each other and get along. He has fit right in with us. He's always happy, always in a good mood. Everyone here likes him."

April 20 Value Picks: “Morgan's injury should expose Carlos Gomez and Mark Kotsay as being inadequate.”

April 13 Value Picks: “Morgan's .455/.500/.727 week should give him more playing time.”

April 6 Value Picks: “Brewers are playing for 2011, so they should play Morgan and aren't worried about him wearing out his welcome, as he may be gone after the season.”

Preseason Value Picks: Longer writeup, including notes that Morgan has hit .301/.361/.387 against right-handed pitching and could pile on the steals, making him a very good fantasy player, though his troubles with the Nationals add some risk.

With Carlos Gomez healthy, Morgan may not start against left-handed pitching, but that's not much of a ding on his value since he hasn't hit them well, and lefties are more difficult to steal against. Expect a near-.300 batting average, good runs scored in the great Milwaukee offense, and some valuable stolen bases. He's owned in a remarkably low percentage of leagues, given his three-category contributions.

Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox (Yahoo! 47%, ESPN 43%, CBS 54%)
Alex Rios's ownership percentages are mind-bogglingly high for a player who has been having such a brutal season. And while it's tempting to look at his most-recent 123 plate appearances—wherein he's hit .265 with four home runs and three stolen bases—and conclude that he's returned to something resembling his career levels, that .265 batting average has led to only a .276 OBP, so he hasn't been helping the White Sox. Most fantasy leagues don't use on-base percentage, though, and the White Sox have one of the easiest schedules the rest of the way with seven games against the Royals, four against the Indians, and three against the Blue Jays. The other two games are against the Tigers, and only tonight's game against Justin Verlander is worrisome. Rios is a career .274/.323/.433 hitter in his prime who has averaged about 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases per season. Facing soft pitching the final two weeks, he may finally be worth attention in mixed leagues.
 

Departures
Gerardo Parra, Arizona Diamondbacks (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 12%)

With road games against the Dodgers and Padres this week, Gerardo Parra's short-term outlook isn't all that great. After that, the Snakes close out the season with nine home games, though only the Pirates present a tempting matchup (the other series are against San Francisco and Los Angeles). Since he's still unlikely to start against left-handed pitchers—or do much if he does (career line vsL of .247/.291/.313) —he can be safely cut at this point.

Eric Thames, Toronto Blue Jays (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 6%, CBS 20%)
Eric Thames will face the Yankees, Angels, Rays, and White Sox over the remainder of the season, and now Canada's favorite son, Adam Loewen—who hit .306/.377/.508 in Triple-A—may have a chance to earn some time as a position player. Thames appears to be entrenched in left field, but with his streaky play (just .136/.240/.273 this past week, though he did score five runs, hit a home run, and drive in a pair), the possibility of a benching looms. The Blue Jays appear to be very resistant to hyperactive lineup tinkering, so the chance that Thames gets benched isn't very high, but combined with the rough pitching he'll be facing, he can probably be safely ignored, though the upside remains.
 

Incumbents
David Murphy, Texas Rangers (Yahoo! 38%, ESPN 59%, CBS 37%)

As a writer for NBC's rotisserie information service (rotoworld.com) noted of David Murphy this past week, “dude is red-hot right now.” Sadly for Mr. Murphy and those who hung onto his bandwagon as it accelerated, the safety of the ride may be nearing an end as Nelson Cruz is slated to return today. Expect some deceleration, and beware the possibility of a sudden stop to the Murphy ride. Worse yet, while the present series against the Indians is friendly to Rangers hitters, the ensuing matchups against Seattle, Oakland, Seattle again, and the Angels are not. So, though Murphy's hot streak may urge manager Ron Washington to, on occasion, go with the offensive option in center field as opposed to the defensive platoon of Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry, seeking another outfielder may be the prudent move by proactive fantasy owners at this point, Murphy's recent hot streak notwithstanding.

Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 11%, CBS 36%)
The good news: Dayan Viciedo hit .357 over the past week. The bad news? Everything else. He scored only one run and was shut out on the rest of the 5x5 fantasy categories (home runs, stolen bases, and RBI) with just 18 plate appearances. Viciedo remains entrenched in the middle of the White Sox order, however, with Carlos Quentin on the shelf, and Viciedo's big-time power will show itself at some point. There's little enough time left in 2011 that it might not be this year, but there's enough time for him to get hot, and his power is impressive enough that a single hot week could result in a month's-worth of home runs (four or five). A risk for 2011, but the great upside remains.

Jordan Schafer, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 2%, CBS 9%)
The Curse of Michael Bourn Past appears to have stricken Jordan Schafer, as he hit just .158/.200/.263 and didn't steal any bases. With the Cubs, Reds, Rockies, and Cardinals on the slate to finish out the season, he should see sub-par pitching, so he's still worth the risk for teams needing speed.

J.D. Martinez, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 10%, CBS 29%)
J.D. Martinez had yet another awful week, hitting .125/.200/.125. He did subsequently rebound to collect three hits against the Phillies last night, but with his lack of pedigree, two bad weeks were enough for fantasy owners nationwide to look for other options. Here at Value Picks, this just means that he's available in more leagues. Martinez can hit, and while anything can happen in small sample sizes, he's going to see the same pitching staffs as Schafer, and Martinez has the raw offensive skills (hitting and hitting with power) to amass some nice statistics over these final four series.

Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 33%, ESPN 54%, CBS 55%)
Dexter Fowler has not leveraged good matchups to his advantage in recent days, but he does have two series at home followed by four games at Houston, so he could still finish strong (the final three games of the season are in San Francisco, however, which aren't games hitters usually relish). Fowler did hit a home run, score three runs, and drive in three runs this past week, partially making up for a .200 batting average and no stolen bases. With walks, he managed an on-base percentage of .333, so his job shouldn't be in jeopardy.

Fowler's two-homer game on September 5 rectified his ownership percentages to nearly as high as they should be. He's a starting position player for the Colorado Rockies and has the skills to contribute in multiple categories, so being unowned in more than 40% of leagues is still surprising, but the big leap is a step in the right direction.
 

NL-Only VP
Bryan Petersen, Florida Marlins

In mid-July, this column predicted ample playing time for Mike Cameron, mostly at the expense of Chris Coghlan. That prediction came true, and from August 9 to September 6, Cameron made his presence count, hitting .282/.346/.479. But Bryan Petersen belied his previously mediocre levels of performance, blasting Triple-A pitching at a marvelous .351/.434/.569 rate this season. He's continued his hitting in the majors with a .286/.388/.409 batting line and seven steals, giving him substantial fantasy value with Cameron ailing.

AL-Only VP
Ryan Sweeney, Oakland Athletics

Last week's Athletic, Michael Taylor, clearly isn't getting the playing time he was promised. The beneficiary of Coco Crisp's health problems has instead been Ryan Sweeney. For most fantasy systems, he's a dog, having stolen just 17 bases with 14 home runs in 1671 career plate appearances, and he’s surrounded by a mediocre offense and plays home games in a tough park. But for an AL-only pick, playing time is king. And Sweeney is a career .284 hitter who hit a combined .291 between 2008-2010. These things make him a 1-category aid, but for teams in a dogfight for a few standings points in batting average, he could help a lot more than other available players. In daily-move leagues, Sweeney's .297/.234 batting average splits against right-handed and left-handed pitchers, respectively, can add even more utility to this one-category player.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

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Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (09/12)
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