June 2, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
Checking In: Proactive owners read last week's edition and rushed out to sign Drew Stubbs, a move which netted the faithful a monster week of 8 runs and 5 RBI, as the Reds claimed, not only first-place in their division but, first-place in runs-per-game in the National League. Andres Torres, Delmon Young, and Fred Lewis all had very nice weeks, and Ryan Sweeney, well, had another Ryan Sweeney week. For those who didn't catch Stubbs as he ran past, there may still be time, as his ownership percentage is still reasonably low. But he's priced himself out of the “Value Picks”, and so he'll be sent on his way this week.
The two young players still on the list – Mike Stanton and Tyler Colvin – are both still very much in favor. Stanton whacked another 2 homers yesterday, and his stat line reads like hyperbole one would use to describe someone having a great season—“oh, he has 50 RBI already and is slugging about .700, you know...” Mike Jong did an excellent piece on Stanton and is a bit more pessimistic about his 2010 chances, which may be more realistic. But—age aside—any baseball fan who has seen a powerful hitter with an “all or nothing” approach go on a hot streak knows that batters who can hit mistakes a country mile can rack up imposing power stats in a hurry. He's very high-risk, to be sure, but for teams which are in dire need of power, his upside—even in 2010—is as high as any of the freely available players. And yesterday's game pretty much summed up the dilemma manager Lou Piniella faces with Tyler Colvin, as he batted clean-up in a week during which he was limited to 10 plate appearances (without an injury). Until Lou starts him at first base out of total desperation (perhaps not a terrible long-term move, it would be desperate to do in-season, given his lack of experience there), or until one of the starting 3 falters, Colvin is situated as one of the hardest-hitting 4th outfielders in baseball, much like this guy has been for the past two years...
Arrivals: Some moves are obvious, and when a good hitter gets a more-or-less full-time job in Colorado, well, that's the sort of acquisition which needs to be done at Blackberry speed. And make no mistake, Seth Smith is a quality hitter. He may not have the fantasy upside of his faster teammate Carlos Gonzalez, or his faster ex-teammate Dexter Fowler, but his 10th-percentile PECOTA is .258/.341/.417, which equates to a 1.2 WARP ballplayer in just 375 PA. That is a very high “floor” for such an anonymous player. And if the early returns from 2010 are any indication, his stats will be well above said “floor” by the end of the season. Consider:
Seth Smith tidbits:
Taken together, these factoids paint the picture of an incredible fantasy value. If the improvement in contact percentage is retained, he should see career highs in both batting average and homers-per-at-bat. However, it wouldn't do to rave about him without pointing out the obvious fact that he still rests against some tough lefty pitching. With two other lefties in the outfield (Brad Hawpe and Carlos Gonzalez), both of whom hit lefty pitching better than he does, and with a good platoon option to face lefty pitching (Ryan Spilborgs has hit lefties at a very nice .282/.366/.468 clip in his career), Jim Tracy's best tactical move is usually to keep Smith in reserve to face the inevitable righty reliever. Still, he bats first or second when he starts against righties, so he'll get a few extra plate appearances that way. He should also play enough to be on a 550-600 PA pace the rest of the season, so he should contribute mightily to all four non-steal categories.
Odds and Ends: The target is to add two new players for review weekly, but there really isn't another candidate who jumps out, and who hasn't been covered already. Some “alumni” should be very tempting at this point, including Mike Cameron, Will Venable (who is unfortunately slated to see 3 lefty pitchers out of 7 games at Philly and New York, before returning to San Diego), and Carlos Guillen (5 games and counting at second base...) Speedsters Corey Patterson and Trevor Crowe appear to have some semblence of job security, and could contribute steals in bunches (and there are some very weak-armed catchers starting for some AL teams now) while they are able to keep their jobs, but it's unlikely that will be for more than another month or two. Angel Pagan is a career .302/.356/.456 hitter against righty pitching, so in league formats where he can be hidden from lefties, he should be an outstanding option until Beltran returns and perhaps thereafter, given the struggles of Jeff Francoeur. Chris Coghlan should be kept on the fringe of the radar for now – he wasn't very good in the first half of 2009, either, and while it would be folly to count on a similar 2nd-half outburst, he has a history of being a very good hitter, so it would surprise nobody if he made the needed adjustments and began hitting again in a manner closer to his Rookie of the Year season.