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January 11, 2012

The Keeper Reaper

Outfielders for 1/11/12

by Rob McQuown

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Do you keep the (other) American League stolen base leader, Coco Crisp?  Do you keep guys filling voids created by trades of Yonder Alonso and Carlos Quentin? And if you don't care about the White Sox, feel free to submit your own players for review and keeper consideration. All format questions are welcomed, not just the ones we usually profile here.

Chris Heisey | Cincinnati Reds (ADP 213)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers)
: NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
NL-only (60 keepers)
: BORDERLINE
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: YES

Chris Heisey has shot up from ADP #236 to ADP # 213, thanks—no doubt—to the Reds opening up a spot for him. And he's been upgraded slightly on Keeper Reaper, too. In the unfortunate situation where you must decide keepers before the Cincy outfield situation settles, treat him as though he will play full time. His power plays well at home, as it's mostly down the left-field line. Since manager Dusty Baker has used him much more frequently on the road (301 road PA compared to 233 at home), balancing out his home/road playing time should help somewhat. Still, the safe play in NL-only leagues is to talk up his nice power stats, “Great American Bandbox”, “the Reds traded Alonso away”, and even “age-27 with experience”, if you can, and try to find someone to overpay. Not that keeping him would be awful, but it should be possible to find similar upside elsewhere with less risk.

Re-iterating the 10/25 text, for reference:

Many fantasy owners seek values from players who put up an impressive dollars-per-plate appearance rate, while playing less than full time. The logic being that when said player is given full-time work, he'll improve his value on a linear basis. And that might actually be the case with Chris Heisey, as he was discussed in positive terms in this column before. The problem with Heisey is that while he has very good power, expecting him to double his 18 home runs with double the playing time is overly optimistic, and the expected batting average gains won't make up for it. Besides, he's not currently in line to receive full-time duty, despite entering his age-27 season. Too many risks here to take the chance, unless he receives a firm commitment to receive playing time over the offseason, an eventuality which is extremely unlikely.

Dayan Viciedo | Chicago White Sox (ADP 215)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers)
: NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
AL-only (60 keepers)
: YES
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: YES

Before the trade, the comment by Derek Carty last week about Dayan “The Tank” Viciedo rang a lot more true, “Viciedo makes for a huge power sleeper this year, especially since he refined his approach and patience at Triple-A in 2011.” He still has jaw-dropping power, plays in a great hitter's park, and his improved patience in Triple-A is a much more significant gain than the attention it's received from most analysts. The only reason he's no longer a “huge sleeper” is that for some reason, the fact that he already had a starting role in Chicago hadn't made the rounds before the Carlos Quentin trade, with people assuming that guys like Alejandro De Aza and Brent Lillibridge would send him to the bench or back to Triple-A. Viciedo wouldn't win any wind sprints with those guys but could out-TAv them by 30 points without surprising anyone. After the trade, he's still a sleeper, but most people moved him up on their draft boards, so the level of sleep is a bit lighter now.

It may seem nonsensical to take a guy whose ADP is just 215 (after rising from 287 last week) and use a keeper slot on him in an AL-only league, but if you don't, be sure to draft (or buy) him back, and don't assume that mock drafters represent the same thinking as your draft league members. Viciedo is about as certain of a “sure thing” as a 200-ADP player with under 220 career plate appearances can be.

As a reminder of the obvious, he's still a young, unproven commodity. If you have him and someone offers a comparably good player with less risk, it's still right to trade up for the better keeper (even if you lose a few years of youth in the swap). As with Heisey above, sometimes owners acting on the news can become the most vulnerable to overpaying in trades.

Alejandro De Aza | Chicago White Sox (ADP 212)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers)
: NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
AL-only (60 keepers)
: NO
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: NO

Alejandro De Aza hit .329/.400/.520 last year. He stole 12 bases in just 171 plate appearances. His team just traded away a starting outfielder and has made no mention of filling the void with anyone outside the organization. This author likes Alejandro De Aza as a ballplayer and thinks he's been overlooked for years... to the point where he drafted him in an AL-only expert league in 2010 (for $1), much to the amusement of the other league members. De Aza has hit .300, .302, and .322 the past three seasons in Triple-A while averaging over 30 stolen bases per 600 PA.

Sold?

You shouldn't be. And the rise from “undrafted” to #212 on this week's ADP is sort of ridiculous, to be frank. Perhaps if you're not serious about winning your league but want to make a pick you can remind people of in 10 years, then keeping—or using an overly high pick on—De Aza makes sense. In the real world, the most-likely case is that the White Sox will add another outfielder, or De Aza will platoon with Lillibridge (or others). Given full playing time, it's possible he'll continue to hit .300, but his first-cut PECOTA TAv is .256, and he's not exactly Dayan Viciedo when it comes to getting an edge from a home-run park like U.S. Cellular. Then lump on the fact that the White Sox scored the fourth-fewest runs per game in the American League and that their top TAv list (400-plus PA batters only) read: 1) .315, 2) .301, 3) .254 (and that .301 guy will be playing in Petco in 2012). It's counterintuitive, perhaps, to gush about Viciedo and then pan De Aza based on team performance, but unless Viciedo and Dunn produce, it's difficult to envision De Aza doing much, even if he's so good with the bat that he holds the leadoff role all season... just thinking about how empty the bases will be when he bats must be depressing for Sox fans.

So, let him go. If he loves you, he'll come back. Or something like that. The chance that you might be able to brag about your fantasy skill to your friends in 10 years if lightning strikes De Aza in 2012 isn't worth protecting a fourth outfielder-quality player, even in Super Deep formats.

Coco Crisp | Oakland Athletics (ADP 157)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers)
: NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
AL-only (60 keepers)
: YES
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: YES

Blast from the past... coming off 2004 and 2005 seasons in which Coco Crisp hit a combined .299/.345/.456, the annual had this to say:

Crisp seems to have finally caught up to the league with his peak seasons still ahead of him. A career .299 hitter in the minors, Crisp has hit exactly that in the majors over the past two seasons. In 2005 he added twenty points of slugging, largely via doubles (he tied teammate Travis Hafner for fifth in the AL), and pushed his success rate on the bases past 70 percent. A better defender in left than he was in center, the Tribe can get away with Crisp hitting like a centerfielder in left if Grady Sizemore can hit like a corner outfielder while starting in center.

Since then, Crisp has somehow morphed into a very highly-regarded defender in center field (with the FRAA to back it up) who led the American League in stolen bases in 2011. Oh, he's also hit a meager .267/.328/.392 since that was written and has made—scrolls down, scrolls down again—a lot of appearances on various injury reports. It's not without some reservation that we recommend keeping a player in an AL-only format who hit only .264/.314/.379 last year, but there's still a little upside here if he can get and stay healthy (an almost impossible “if”, seemingly). And, of course, entering a draft or auction with a 40-SB player locked up is a nice luxury. Still, if the rest of the roster is rock-solid, he's risky and might make a better trade piece than a keeper.

One caveat is that some leagues have a dynamic where stolen bases are not bid upon in auction or drafted highly. Know your league, and if your league is like this, don't keep him, even in an AL-only setting. He's still keepable in a Super-Deep, however.

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

6 comments have been left for this article.

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