May 26, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
Alumni Update: Several ex-Value Picks again appear to be value picks, for the same reasons given originally. If the players listed here aren't available or don't fit a specific need, consider Mike Cameron, Carlos Guillen (whose value should shoot up even more when he qualifies as a second baseman), Will Venable (his elite speed should really shine now that the rough pitching matchups are behind the Padres), and even Carlos Gomez (who may continue to face playing time threats all season, but has the stolen base potential to keep him on the radar).
Status Quo: The Cubs have a “good problem”, with seemingly everyone on their roster hitting the cover off the ball, aside from the two guys who seemed the safest bets to do so before the season began. This results in nonsense like Jeff Baker getting a start in right field, and Xavier Nady getting increased playing time, including a start against righty Colby Lewis while Tyler Colvin waited on the bench to have a late-inning clutch double. With the starting three locked in place through 2011 (and that suddenly appears to be a very positive thing), Colvin will probably end up playing first base next year, when Derrek Lee is allowed to walk. In the meantime, the Cubs are likely trying to showcase Nady for a potential trade. It's all very frustrating for Tyler Colvin owners in fantasy baseball, but keep in mind that Lou Piniella is a notorious “hot hand” manager, and also that Alfonso Soriano hasn't had the best health record in recent seasons. Meanwhile, iIt was a big RBI week for Delmon Young. It should be noted, that – while it doesn't help him in fantasy baseball directly – he already has 12 walks in 2010, equally his 2009 total (posted in 416 PA).
Mike Stanton's presence here is more of a Chris Coghlan “Flop Watch”. The 2009 Rookie of the Year had an exciting 12-game stretch from May 9 to May 20, where he hit .333 with 2 home runs and 2 stolen bases. He followed that with an 0-for-16 series, including 0-for-6 on a day when his teammates tallied 13 runs. Owner Jeffrey Loria may talk about a “foundation for success” being critical to determining when to bring up Stanton, but with 2 more homers this past week, it's difficult to believe that the team will delay much beyond the early June time frame required to avoid eventual “Super 2” status for their young slugger. Also, without much fanfare, he's started 3 of the last 4 games in left field for the Suns, his first 3 games at the position all year.
Departures: Just when it seems like every avenue of twisted logic from a ballclub has been heard, the Giants “explain” how playing Aubrey Huff in left field to allow all of Edgar Renteria, Freddy Sanchez, and Juan Uribe to get into the lineup improves their offense. See the table for their career stats, none of which should be expected from them anymore, as they are all on the down slope of the age curve.
Needless to say, fantasy sports is all about pragmatism, and if the team thinks that those guys can hit Livan Hernandez better than Schierholtz can, there's really no point in having Schierholtz on a fantasy roster, so he's being dropped as a Value Pick also.
Doing a very quick U-turn from last week is Marcus Thames. Obviously, there's nothing to this “Curse of the Value Picks”, but sometimes it's hard to know. For example, the very day Thames was added last week, rotoworld.com reported, “Marcus Thames was lifted from Wednesday's game with a sprained left ankle. Thames appeared to slip on his own bat while running down the first base line.” [relaying a Mark Feinsand Tweet] While there's virtually no reason to expect mediocrity Juan Miranda to keep hitting, there's a lot of “inertia” involved in playing time decisions, and until his stats (.261/.370/.652) return to earth, he's in line for the big side of a straight L/R platoon at DH, with the menace of Thames' power giving Joe Girardi a potent late-game option on the bench in games started by righties. Good for Joe, bad for fantasy owners.
Arrivals: Dusty Baker has always had a strange set of “labels” attached to him. One such “label” Dusty has is not caring about fundamentals. This is poppycock, and probably just commentary on the fact that he's not a screamer. Dusty has shown a career-long tendency to preference defense over offense - up the middle, at least. Enter Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is about as unlikely to fall out of favor with Dusty as Corey Patterson was. His exciting blend of speed and great ballhawking skills in center field lock him into the lineup almost every day. (The traditional scouting reports seem much more trustworthy at this point than the -15 UZR/150 he's posted in 2010 so far, at least until UZR comes equipped with a “show worst plays” link to video lowlights so people can see why he's rated so badly – seriously, it can't be far off for MLB.com to offer this functionality, can it? Anyway, for fantasy purposes, it doesn't matter what UZR says, only what's in Dusty's mind, and he believes Stubbs can “go get it”.) From an offensive standpoint, Stubbs really benefits from Dusty's belief in stealing bases, and should blow away the PECOTA projection of just 23 in 506 PA (he stole 56 between AAA and MLB in 2009). In many ways, he's similar to Carlos Gomez (PECOTA of .257/.309/.387) with more patience compensating for a lower batting average. He also showed indications in 2009 that he might have some serious untapped power potential, as he blasted 8 home runs in just 195 plate appearances in Cincinnati, after just 3 in 462 for Louisville. If the power is maintained, expect an almost unique blend of stats from Stubbs – the low batting average is very likely to persist (he has 95 strikeouts in just 363 career PA), but he could still reach 20 HR and 40 SB. That's an upside, but 15/30 would shock nobody.
Who is Andres Torres? From the 2010 Annual: “A bum hamstring kept Torres shelved for most of the first half, but in the second, finally given his first real opportunity to play in the majors since his participation on the 119-loss Tigers of 2003, he shined as a bench bat. Mostly, he put the hurt on lefties, rapping out 13 extra-base hits in 78 PA against them (including six triples, four homers, making for a hell of a Strat card) while spot-starting at all three positions. He won't slug .500 again, but because he can run and he's always been able to handle center, he may finally settle in as a useful bench weapon.” A lot of that still makes sense, but he's hit righties much harder in 2010 (.557 slugging, as opposed to .333 slugging against lefties), flattening out his 2-year stats somewhat. He's also shown himself to be an above-average fielder in center, and a great side outfielder, consistent with UZR's in 2009-2010 (+14.8 fielding runs in 297 PA). Also very noteworthy is that his walk rate made a huge increases in 2008, working with Von Joshua while Torres was a member of the Iowa Cubs. Joshua has had some success in helping players realize later-career breakouts, and suddenly, it's difficult to find a reason to write off Torres as a fluke. His strikeouts-per-PA percentage has come down from 29.6% in 2009 to 19.6% in 2010, while his walk rate is a very nice 12.6% this year. His BABIP of .357 is unsustainable, but as a fast player with “extra-base power” who doesn't bat right-handed exclusively, a .330+ BABIP wouldn't be outrageous. And fast, senor Torres is. He won't ever steal 67 bases like he did back in '00 (in A ball), but he's 12-3 in stolen-base attempts with the Giants, in just 293 plate appearances. And the improvement in his walk rate only helps him, so dreaming on 25 steals isn't delusional, though perhaps optimistic. His biggest worry at this point is the fact that all of DeRosa, Schierholtz, and Bowker have decent skills, so he needs to out-play two of them to keep a starting role.
Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus Fantasy Beat, Baseball Daily Digest, and the team expert for both Chicago teams in Heater. You can click here to see Previous Fantasy Beat articles or click here to see his entries at BDD (including daily fantasy advice).