February 21, 2014
TTO Scoresheet Podcast
It is outfield week here at BP, so we are chiming in with a look at the position from a Scoresheet perspective. In this article you’ll find our rankings along with thoughts on strategy for the position and deeper dives into specific players. Don’t miss the podcast for more thoughts on the position. And, as always, feel free to contact us via email, Twitter, or comments on this article for any questions you might have.
Here are our rankings:
Because outfielders in Scoresheet are simmered together in a range factor gumbo, finding the right center fielder for your team can be tricky. If you're looking to make center field defense a strength, you have to make it a priority early in your keeper list or your draft, because even when compared to shortstops or second basemen, there aren't enough "true" center fielders to go around. This may put more emphasis on finding someone who can man the position than is worth the trouble. One possibility is to purposefully scale down your expectation in center, and work on finding defensive upgrades elsewhere on your roster. Drafting a Brendan Ryan-esque shortstop may allow you to better get away with playing corner OFs with strong defensive ratings such as Alex Gordon or Bryce Harper in center.
As part of our discussion this week, we got into some players who are somewhat controversial or at least whose value is especially debated going into 2014. Matt Kemp generated plenty of discussion because we are so divided internally on what to expect from him in the coming years and how to value him as a result. Injuries have plagued him in recent years, and he’s still working to recover from an ankle injury that has him yet to run in 2014, along with an offseason shoulder surgery. Perhaps as a result of his recent struggles and injuries, there is a wide variety in forecasts for his offensive performance—the range spans an OPS in the mid-.700s worth a win or two to an OPS in the mid-.800s worth a handful of wins. For a player that was basically replacement level last year, expectations run the gamut from something similar in 2014 to recapturing a majority of the performance and value that earned him a second place finish in the MVP award voting three years ago. Notably, PECOTA is amongst the highest on Kemp, in part because it has a longer memory than other projection systems, and his projected SS/SIM is fairly high as a result. Color us collectively skeptical that Kemp can attain top ten status amongst outfielders in 2014.
Another player that generated some discussion was Bryce Harper. In contrast to Kemp, the young phenom has been able to hold his value while battling injuries. Because of his ability to reach the majors at a very young age and perform admirably, he was widely considered to be one of the three most valuable players to own during the recent Mock Draft. Interestingly, projections for his performance in 2014 would have his composite value, using something like SS/SIM, falling outside the top 20 outfielders, let alone the top 20 players overall. Still, the three of us agree that Harper’s long term potential and his likelihood to top his projections are considerable, and warrant selecting him in the top handful of outfielders.
As with many players, whether you should keep or trade Adam Jones depends upon the perception of your league-mates. Our general perception, however, is that Jones may be overvalued by people who are used to reality, or even traditional fantasy leagues. While everyone senses that Jones never walks, the degree to which it cripples his offense may be understated. That said, in a sharp league, we recommend hanging on to him. Jones' unique durability and lack of a platoon split means that he almost never has to be replaced by a backup, perhaps freeing up an extra pick in your draft.
Since you generally need to draft 5-6 outfielders in your draft anyway, and since the Scoresheet replacement level at the position is higher than it is in the infield, your outfield is probably the place where you should look to build your bench and find platoons. It pays to look closely at Scoresheet's pre-printed platoon ratings for value. For instance, David DeJesus has the biggest platoon split in the game, and if he's platooned even more strictly in real life as well, then you can consider that an extra bonus to his offensive numbers. Just be sure to hide him against lefties. Raul Ibanez, David Murphy, and Michael Brantley are other players with severe splits who may make up the strong side of a post-draft platoon. In that case, be on the lookout for Justin Maxwell, Jonny Gomes, or Justin Ruggiano late. And we strongly recommend Jon Jay or Gerardo Parra if you'd rather build your platoon from your center field position, or Alex Presley as a bargain-basement option in AL-only leagues.
As mentioned, true center fielders are hard to come by this year. If you can’t get one of the top tier ones, though, you do have a few options. Austin Jackson is an interesting win-now type who you shouldn’t have to take super early in a redraft or startup league. And Adam Eaton poses some long term value. There’s a glut of terribly unsexy CFs with middling OBP and limited power, including Denard Span, Desmond Jennings, Ben Revere, Peter Bourjos, and Brett Gardner. These are all guys who have their uses, certainly moreso in Scoresheet than traditional fantasy leagues, but you’ll generally be happier if you don’t overpay to have any of them patrol center. If you can get them late, however, do it.
In the redraft portion of continuing leagues, Darin Ruf is a player to keep an eye on. He might be a little older than you’d expect, coming into his age-27 season after being stuck in an organization infatuated with memories of what Ryan Howard used to do. He’s on track for a part time role, but could earn enough to work well in a platoon for your Scoresheet squad. If the Phillies ever wise up and sit Howard against lefties and let Ruf be part of a real -ife platoon, his Scoresheet value would rise considerably on the back of more assured playing time and a bit better expected production to boot.
It seems like there are scads and scads of interesting outfielders. In the young slugger category, we are generally believers in Kole Calhoun, Corey Dickerson, and Khris Davis. Some interesting bounce back candidates are Michael Morse, Chris Young, and Michael Saunders, but be careful not to bet too much on the come there. And in the late rounds, Craig Gentry and Chris Denorfia could provide some value.
For new Scoresheet players, we have to sound a note of alarm for your favorite center field prospect. Yes, even you, Byron. Because outfielders are lumped together, all outfield prospects receive a universal 2.10 range rating until they hit the major leagues. Essentially, unless your centerfielder is also a superstar hitter, they may have a rough entry into the league. Your best hope, as with Jackie Bradley last year, is that they come up briefly the year before, retain their minor league eligibility, and play enough center field to become an asset at the position when they're up for real the year after. The downside is represented by a player such as Billy Hamilton, who as a marginal defensive center fielder is a nearly worthless curio in most leagues this year.
Who to look for, in that case? Assuming that the top prospects are protected in most leagues at this point, you may still be able to find value in the top 75-150 prospects in baseball. Domingo Santana, in particular, is a prospect who appears to be flying under the radar in an extremely deep Astros system. Santana has a lot to learn, but he's young and already near the majors, with a ton of opportunity in Houston. Stephen Piscotty, of the Cardinals, doesn't have the opportunity, but may also be an above average player at the corners soon, able to give you 250-300 solid at-bats a year until the Cardinals outfield machine clears a full-time job for him in Busch or elsewhere. And don't sleep on corner outfielders with strong bats and defensive questions: as that 2.10 range rating cuts both ways. Jesse Winker of the Reds, is a marginal defensive outfielder who will probably land more assuredly in Scoresheet than in a traditional fantasy format.