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April 2, 2008

Fantasy Beat

Veteran Watch

by Marc Normandin

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Earlier in the week, we took a look at prospects you either wanted to keep an eye out for or avoid, so to wrap up the week's fantasy content, let's take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum: veterans. With the influx of young talent into the league yearly, many aging veterans are left off of fantasy squads in favor of upside. Many times this is warranted, as a player is not going to contribute enough to maintain a position he may have been better at only a few years earlier. There are veteran players who can still help your team out, and they are more than likely available late in the draft or via free agency during the season.

Carlos Delgado is a player that much of the analyst community felt was only going to help the Mets for a portion of his contract before age set in, and after looking at last season's .258/.333/.448 line with just 24 homers, it could be safe to say it's happening now. His BABIP was .290 last season, around what you would expect for someone playing half his games in pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium, so that low batting average is where it's supposed to be. He seemed overmatched at the plate fairly often, and many of his big hits came from mistake offerings. Looking a little deeper, we see that Delgado hit much better in the second half of the season than he did in the first, thanks to a July line of .323/.414/.525 and a September showing of .321/.383/.566. PECOTA reflects this in its .265/.343/.471 forecast, higher than last year's performance.

Two things that keep me from advising you to pick up Delgado though: first, lefties. Delgado hit just .267/.318/.386 against them to cap off a three-year line of .244/.313/.426 versus southpaws. He's a drag on your lineup whenever facing them, and if last year is any indication, you aren't going to want him for home games, either. Delgado hit a paltry .225/.313/.368 at home with a .241 BABIP; even if you throw him 50 points of BABIP for this year at his home games, he's still going to be, at best, around .270/.360/.430 or so. While that might be manageable depending on his road averages, it's not worth it to drop someone on your current roster for him just yet, especially when there are likely other first basemen available.

Jermaine Dye may have been drafted in your league by someone who thinks he can rebound from last year's poor showing, but chances are good that unless they are dead set on keeping him, you could pry him away for yourself. Right field is a shallow position, so if you missed out on some of the more productive players, Dye is a useful pickup. Last year he hit .254/.317/.486, which isn't all that far from his 2005 campaign with the White Sox, just with a lower batting average dragging his numbers down.

For this season, PECOTA put him down for .265/.344/.484, which I find to be a bit low. His range of outcomes is not that different, so I'm thinking he can hit his 75th percentile (.275/.346/.508) and help out in leagues that use batting average more. Last year, his .271 BABIP should have been higher, as evidenced by his 19 percent liner rate. Given that, you would expect his BABIP to be roughly .310; adjusting his line for that gives you something closer to .300/.380/.520, assuming all of the extra hits are singles. Since he did hit .298/.368/.579 after the All-Star break, the adjusted line is plausible.

On the downside, the White Sox lineup still is not that good, so Dye may not be able to bring lofty R and RBI totals to standard 5x5 leagues. He will more than likely improve on his batting average from last year, and he'll help out in the power categories. He's a significant improvement over many of the right fielders if his second half of 2007 is any indication, so if you can get him through the waiver wire or a trade, try to do so.

Frank Thomas is another player who succeeded in the second half of the year after a mediocre first half showing. His .306/.378/.524 post-All Star line may be a bit too much to ask at his age over a full season, but it does give you hope that the Big Hurt still has some power left to share with your team. PECOTA forecasts a .258/.364/.488 season, a real possibility given some of Thomas' low batting averages the last few years, but the power is still useful.

There are a few red flags though. Thomas slugged just .409 on the road and .547 in Toronto, something that seems to be a recurring theme with much of the Blue Jay roster. He didn't have this problem in 2006, so there's a possibility it was a one-year blip. The difference in production is pretty significant though, so it's something you'll have to deal with if you pick him up. He's also restricted primarily to DH in most leagues, meaning that you can only use him at your Utility spot. If you happened to end up with someone like Edgar Renteria as your utility player, Thomas might not be a bad idea, even if you're just going to abuse him for his home games. If you don't have daily roster moves, I advise you to steer clear of Thomas. Otherwise, he could be part of a well thought out fantasy platoon.

Picking up Garret Anderson, for me, is usually a good sign that I'm desperate for outfield help. He had his run with RBI last year that made him one of the more valuable standard 5x5 players for a stretch, when he drove in 52 runs over his last 52 games, but banking on that sort of thing to happen again is one way to cheat your team out of better production. PECOTA agrees, forecasting Anderson for a .279/.320/.438 line. His batting average is not going to be high enough to help in many standard leagues, and he doesn't have any splits you can take advantage of. Anderson did hit .305/.361/.530 over his last 68 games, but the 36-year old also hasn't hit that well over a full season since 2002-2003, back when the Angels were just from Anaheim, and not the Los Angeles Schrödinger Angels of Anaheim, capable of existing in two cities at once. Chances are good Anderson won't outhit his PECOTA forecast, where even his 90th percentile is just .310/.356/.501.

The Angels will more than likely finish first in the AL West, but that doesn't mean they are a powerhouse team. The offense is not that great, and Anderson is not going to be the beneficiary of a particularly high number of R and RBI. Since he doesn't steal more than a base or two a year, and you can't guarantee he will hit .300 anymore, it's going to be tough to compose a situation where he is a necessary component of your team, especially with the other veteran outfielders who are still free agents in many leagues.

Last, we have a player who may have gone undrafted due to his injury history and the fact that he's starting out the season with a 25-game suspension. Mike Cameron is still a PECOTA darling despite being 35, with a .269/.355/.493 projected line. He will miss games due to the suspension he is currently serving for amphetamine usage, but once he is back you will have one of the better center fielders in the league on your team.

Cameron's 2007 line was brought down in part by his slow start to the season-he hit just .192/.267/.240 in April, and struggled at random intervals throughout the year as well-but managed to slug over .500 in three months as well. If nothing else, Cameron will receive a boost from not having to play in PETCO half of the year; he hit just .229/.316/.413 there for the season, and .254/.341/.449 on the road.

My only worry is that PECOTA is giving Cameron a bit too much credit in his rate stats given his road line from last year. He may be worth it simply because of the lineup he is going to be in the middle of, as the Brewers look like they could be among the league leaders in runs scored. Cameron will benefit from an increase in RBI and R-this is even more important since he isn't a high batting average hitter-and he may even steal somewhere around 20 bases for you, a welcome total from a player you drafted for power. If you have room on your roster to stash Cameron away, do so, since he currently is not active. Even if your league is not broken down into LF/CF/RF, he has value as a source of HR, SB, R and RBI, though he isn't a premiere player in any of those categories.

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Premium Article The Braves' New World (04/02)
<< Previous Column
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Young Hu... (04/07)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Doubl... (04/02)

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