May 12, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
Welcome to the List: Not to say that drawing the Outfielders straw in this “Hot Spots” series is limiting, but in there are exactly 11 players rated in the outfield who have between 5% and 20% ownership in ESPN leagues. And it's sort of an odd situation, since CBS Sportsline shows players who are no-brainers at this point like Brett Gardner [ed - a reader pointed out a typo here] and Josh Willingham and Andruw Jones, as being owned in 80% or less of leagues. Just a heads up that there are likely to be more situational plays amongst Outfielders than for other positions, so reading the “fine print” is indicated.
Taking a cue from the Sportsline owners, AA slugger Mike Stanton joins the Value List this week. Obviously, if you don't have bench spots, he's not much use, but he seems to have compensated adequately for the high strikeout rate, and while reading Kevin Goldstein's take is indicated for more in-depth analysis, suffice it to say that he's going to hit homers at any level in any park. He's here in large part due to the struggles of the other Florida outfielders:
At this point, it seems likely that Stanton will join the team in June, after dangers of him becoming a “Super Two” have passed, and it would require a shockingly bad slump by him to not get a 2nd-half callup.
Along with Stanton this week, the A's Ryan Sweeney seems to be an overlooked commodity. He's about the most “blah” fantasy player imaginable, with 1 homer and 0 steals, and little potential to generate many more of either. He's not even a very good offensive contributor at the MLB level, though his stats are somewhat suppressed by his home park (105 OPS+ according to baseball-reference.com). But he's a stellar defender, which will keep him in the lineup, and PT is king in most fantasy formats. He's also a legitimate threat to hit .300, with his discerning eye at the plate (85% Ct% and a willingness to take a walk, indicating that he's not avoiding strikeouts by swinging overly early in the count) and is featured prominently in an A's lineup which is producing more runs than most would have expected.
With the lack of options in the outfield, the third addition this week will be somewhat off the reservation, with Tyler Colvin. He has an ugly PECOTA, but had the always-suspect “gained 25 pounds in the offseason” bump this year, and from all reports, the extra strength has had a huge impact on his performance. As sometimes happens when players gain strength, he's been able to hold up his swing more often, as well, and his walk rate is showing some promise for a guy who this author has compared to fellow Georgian Jeff Francoeur in the past, for his lack of discipline (and also power). It's a “situational” pick, in that the Cubs starting outfielders are all raking so far in the young season, but with 8 extra-base hits and 6 walks so far in 59 plate appearances, and the ability to back up in center field or improve the left-field defense when he's in the game, Colvin is at the very least a must-get if one of the top 3 goes down with an injury.
Departures: No sooner was he added than J.D. Drew became a hot commodity, and needs to be “graduated” off the “Value Picks” list this week, as he got hot and racked up runs and RBI as anticipated. Platoon advantage or not, it's not a good sign that Cameron Maybin lost his leadoff spot to Chris Coghlan, who's sporting a .209/.263/.218 batting line so far. Time to stop recommending Maybin as a “Value Pick”, sending him to the proverbial minors for a while. Baseball is a funny game sometimes, as Mayin's PECOTA for 2010 was .269/.345/.435 (weighted mean), compared to .262/.322/.400 for the Tigers' Austin Jackson, another right-handed 23-year-old centerfielder. This wasn't a quirk of PECOTA, either; most every projection system had Maybin doing as well or better. Fortunately for Will Venable believers, the Padres are patient, and winning. Check back on Will for the June 4 game at Philly, if he's held his own against tough pitching until then, he's worth another pickup. Of course, he has the skills to make an owner regret dropping him against any opposition, but it's the “numbers play” for now.
Status Updates: Jeremy Hermida actually reduced his rate stats this past week, despite having a great RBI week with some runs scored. Nate Schierholtz continues to hit for a huge batting average and appears to have shrugged off getting hit in the head with a ball to collect his first home run. Delmon Young continues to be Del-”meh” Young, and over at BDD, Dan Wade just posted an in-depth, if ever so slightly “homer”-biased, discussion of what to expect from him (it's recommended reading, but the Cliff Notes version is .295/.355/.480).
First month results: Runs and SB have been strong, as expected. And while the average and RBI haven't been good, the the injury bug which seemed to follow the Value Picks around (the "C" word will NOT be used), and the situational recommendations for some players contributed to that, and it could have been worse.