July 14, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
Barely Hanging On: Michael Brantley's 74 plate appearances are nearing the point at which his awful stats warrant consideration, due to the magnitude of the “badness” involved. But it's been only 38 PA since his recall, and better hitters than him have hit .083 over such a short span. It can safely be stated that he's much better than this, but clearly seems like a player who should be on the (fantasy) bench until he shows a pulse. Pat Burrell struggled through another tough week, but will retain his spot here until the Arizona series is done on Sunday, July 25. Cutting him after that game makes sense, but four games in the desert are too tempting to pass up. He obviously has the potential to do something in his other games, though recent history would suggest it won't happen.
It would be easy to look at Jose Tabata's .241 batting average and be disappointed, but he's still just 21 years old, and is doing a lot of things right. He drew five(5) walks last week, to raise his on-base percentage to .323 for the year, and his eight(8) steals in 130 PA are a 40-steal pace (or more, since leadoff hitters get more plate appearances). For Strat-O-Matic players and others who pay attention to which outfield slot players play, he now has 2 games and 4 innings in Center Field.
There's not much to add about Tyler Colvin, Coco Crisp, or Felix Pie other than it certainly requires patience and nerves to roster any of them. Pie and Crisp always seem to be on the verge of going on the shelf again, and Colvin gets benched at random intervals by Lou Piniella. To wit, the last Cubs game of the first half was against Vicente Padilla, a pitcher with a career OPS split of 672/852 (vsR/L), yet because his new split-finger pitch has gotten some lefties out in 2010 (his split in 2010 is decidedly reversed from his career trend), Lou benched Colvin (and the Cubs were shut out)
He Is What He Hinske: Nothing has really changed about Eric Hinske. He's still a valuable player to own, especially if you can spot him against righty pitching. And he has upcoming games against Milwaukee, which sounds promising until it's noted that three lefties are slated in the four-game series. He should keep up his good hitting against righties this season, and qualifies at multiple positions, so don't consider him being removed as a Value Pick to mean that there are concerns over an impending decline.
Second Half Fun: Value Picks are going to “hold em” with the six players above for this week. But there are some outfielders who definitely warrant keeping an eye on, and perhaps even grabbing immediately for teams with needs
Jon Jay – Kudos to smart reader “pobothecat”, who kindly alerted folks to his torrid start in a comment last week. And, frankly, it's hard to argue too much with his ability to make a difference on a fantasy team if he plays. His DT in AAA was .302/.362/.450, and he stole 13 bases in just 191 PA. He has a long hitting streak so far in the majors, and is hitting .377 with 3 homers already in just 73 PA. But who is this guy, and why wasn't a guy who is not hitting so much on everyone's prospect radar? To use a couple quotes from Baseball America: when he was drafted, they wrote, “He's a classic tweener outfielder who doesn't profile as an everyday player on a championship club.” And in the 2010 Prospect Handbook, “Jay is built to hit for average,” with a comparison to Skip Schumaker. Obviously, Jay has been having a great year so far. And LaRussa has been attempting steals with almost everyone this year (Yadier Molina has 9 attempts, for example, with 6 steals). His problem is that all three starting outfielders are quite adept at hitting right-handed pitching, which leaves his primary utility being to spell Rasmus against some tough lefties; and Jay hasn't hit lefty pitching well at all. So, in spite of the fact that Tony LaRussa claims he'll find at-bats for Jay, his best avenue for playing time would be a swap to another team (for an outfielder who could also play CF, but could hammer lefty pitching - against which the Cardinals have struggled somewhat).
Domonic Brown – Normally, making fantasy baseball decisions based on TMZ-style gossip would seem uttlerly ridiculous. But that garbage may actually have an impact on the Phillies outfield situation. From a purely baseball standpoint, there'd be no reason for the team to trade Jayson Werth, as his big right-handed bat is a perfect fit, yet it does seem like a distinct possibility based on the rumors. Anyway, Raul Ibanez isn't hitting, either, and the focus turns to Domonic Brown, who many consider to be the best prospect still in the minors this year. His .318/.391/.602 line in AA produces a tepid DT (DT's rarely come out very good for pre-AAA players, since the translation from AA-to-MLB is so severe). But since joining the Iron Pigs, he's continued to hammer the ball, going .365/.390/.636, which does translate quite nicely to a DT of .345/.373/.600.
Here's where the term “iron pig” comes from, lest people think the “Iron Pigs” are akin to the “Ham Fighters” [ed- I know, I know, it's not really the “Ham Fighters”]: Early ironmaking. To make iron, the metal must be separated from the nonmetallic elements in the ore. This separation process is called smelting. For thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution, smelting had been done by placing iron ore in a furnace with a burning fuel that lacked enough oxygen to burn completely. Oxygen in the ore combined with the fuel, and the pure, melted metal flowed into small molds called pigs. The pigs were then hammered by hand into sheets. Beginning in the early 1600's, the pigs were shipped to rolling mills. At a rolling mill, the pig iron was softened by reheating and rolled into sheets by heavy iron cylinders.
He even has 14 steals in 330 plate appearances, augmenting his already substantial fantasy value. Believe that the Phillies will call him up before September, if for no other reason than to insure he's playoff-eligible. And either a trade or continued disappointment with Ibanez could make the promotion happen sooner.
Dexter Fowler – He's above the typical ownership threshold for a Value Pick, but just a reminder that if he's available, grab him. The .279/.369/.432 weighted-means PECOTA didn't arise by accident, and other than his early 2010 struggles, he's been very good (2009 and 2010 post-demotion).
Travis Snider – Lost in the shuffle has been mega-powerful Travis Snider. He could potentially be back tomorrow, and he has a .483 slugging this year, and has slugged .463 against righty pitching in his brief career so far. If your team needs homers in the second half, this is the flier to target. Clearly, he's not going to help batting average, and he doesn't walk overly much, but hitters with .250 ISOs are very rare.
Alex Gordon – Not included in Mike Street's third-base column, he's now playing the outfield in AAA. He can be safely ignored in most mixed leagues, at least until he's called up. His DT so far is a fine .278/.387/.484, though obviously more useful at the more-scarce 3b position.
Dan Johnson – Definitely a long-shot, and someone who can be safely ignored in mixed leagues, he's worth at least consideration in AL-only settings. His DT is a useful .239/.331/.465, and he's a career .248/.343/.420 hitter. He and Matt Joyce both bear watching in the Tampa Bay outfield for the 2nd half, though Joyce is probably gone in AL-only formats and not worthy of mixed-league consideration.
Down But Not Out: Marc Normandin is publishing a piece discussing Nate McLouth, so look for that, as he's one potentially returning outfielder who is commonly available. No need to hurry to pick him up, however, so wait for Marc's analysis. Former Value Picks Conor Jackson, Kyle Blanks, and Will Venable are also, though give them time to prove their health before considering them for pickup – and remember to only use Venable against righties, regardless of what Manager-of-the-Year-to-be Bud Black does. Luke Scott gets no respect, but is a very solid power option, whenever the O's bring him back. He may be struggling to find playing time as long as Pie stays healthy and Corey Patterson keeps hitting, however.