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September 15, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Another Man's Treasure: In addition to the standard Rookies-who-will-explode value picks for 2011 which get most of the ink, such as the ten players listed by Mike Street (First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter) and Mike Jong (Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop) this week, sometimes players will present themselves as good keepers due to being cut by another owner due to (usually) a 2010 injury...

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Speed is the theme: The standard Rotisserie advice is to get speed in the auction. How much the better to come into the auction with enough speed thanks to well-chosen keepers? Yours truly confesses to timing Michael Brantley all wrong in 2010, from recommending him on July 7 to removing him on July 28. He got only 64 plate appearances in that span, hitting .172/.250/.241, and stealing just two (2) bases. But since being removed from the list (and honestly getting another chance due only to more Tribe injuries), he's hit .304/.345/.400, with seven (7) steals in 146 plate appearances. This is almost exactly the sort of performance which was expected from Brantley. He won't walk a ton, but he's very difficult to strike out, giving him a lot of at-bats, with a presumably high batting average, in addition to being a legitimate stolen base threat. Seeing a stat line with a .290 batting average and 30+ steals would not be the least bit surprising from him in 2011.

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Desmond Jennings was added as a Value Pick on September 1, with an overly-optimistic playing time estimate. But as a fantasy asset, it's almost impossible to be overly optimistic about his outlook for 2011 and beyond. He may have to wait for his chances at becoming a “Super Two” player to expire, spending April and May in the minors, but otherwise, it seems very likely that he'll be at least a “good” fantasy player in 2011, perhaps stepping immediately into the shoes of assumed-to-be-departing left-fielder Carl Crawford. Only the uncertainy of his playing time gets him ranked below Brantley here, he's a much better all-around player.

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Ben Revere is nobody's cast-off, checking in as Kevin Goldstein's #46 prospect entering this season, despite assumptions that he'd never hit for power. If anything, he improved his stock in 2010, making the often-telling jump to AA in 2010, with nothing worst than a bump in his strikeout rate:

2009 (high-A): 517 PA, .311/.372/.369, 45 SB, 34 K (6.6%)

2010 (AA): 406 PA, .305/.371/.363, 36 SB, 41 K (10.1%)

He was hit in the face with a pitch and suffered an eye injury (hence the lesser PA total), but – as Kevin Goldstein notes – hit quite well upon his return. Right now, his biggest problem is that his strengths and weaknesses mirror the incumbent center-fielder in Minnesota, Denard Span. It bears noting that – at least for now - he's an even better base-stealing threat than Span, and the organization has found ways to open up playing time for their extra outfielders in the past. It's quite certain that manager Ron Gardenhire likes the idea of having two true centerfielders in the outfield together, especially when the other options are Jason Kubel, Mike Cuddyer, and Delmon Young – not the best fielders ever. It's also certain that those three guys can hit well enough to make Revere's path to playing time uncertain. Revere isn't the best candidate to make an impact in the first half of 2011, but he has the potential to become a must-own commodity as soon as the second half, due to his speed. He's on the Peoria Saguaros roster for the AFL.

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David DeJesus has been the forgotten man since his injury. And while his 2010 season represents a career-best in terms of WARP/PA at age 30, and he doesn't have a lot of power or speed, he's still a quality bat. And his home ball park has suppressed his power, as it's even less favorable for lefty home runs than for righty home runs. It's not clear that Kansas City will trade him, and to sell tickets, they are more likely to pick up his cheap $6 MM option and market their good up-and-coming talent as a group which could pull a San Diego and surprise the baseball world in 2011.... but “DD” will be playing for a contract, and might end up on a better team for the final two months of 2011. All-in-all, he's not a player to be excited about, but he could hit nearly .300 with 15/10 HR/SB possibilities.

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One final AL Outfielder to check for is Grady Sizemore. He was expected to be so good, that he went in the first round in most leagues in 2010, and is retained now mostly by owners who were demoralized into inactivity by losing such a high-profile player. Will Carroll's Under the Knife at the time was far from optimistic about Sizemore's ability to play at a star level when he returns, but he almost assuredly will return. With microfracture surgery on his knee, it seems safe to assume that Grady will not approach his career peak of 38 steals in 2011, nor does it seem likely he'll rack up 745 plate appearances, as he did three years in a row from 2006-2008. But he will be only 28 years old, and he's a well-rounded hitter who had 33 home runs in 2008, scores lots of runs due to getting on base at a nice clip, and he should drive in more runs, as it's unlikely he'll be asked to lead off again. This would be a keeper with a lot of risk, but the upside is substantial enough to warrant consideration.

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Click graphic for more stats

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Whatever Happened To? Some players who have received Value Pick notice in the past aren't listed as good “keepers”, with the assumption being that their values will be low enough on Auction Day (or Draft Day) to warring taking a pass on them now. It's always a tricky guessing game. For example, some may have noted the absence of the long-hyped Lars Anderson from the First Base keepers, which makes sense given his mediocre Davenport Translation of .242/.308/.396, and the fact that it seems pretty unlikely that Boston would allow Adrian Beltre to walk, but at this juncture, who really knows? Maybe Beltre's agent will be unreasonable and the Sox will decide that Beltre only plays when he's in the final year of a contract and that Kevin Youkilis' value is being wasted at first base, and why not see what Lars can do? Anyway, Felix Pie has played 60 of the team's 63 games since returning from the DL, giving hope that he might stay healthy. But the observation that he's hit when healthy (from the June 30 Value Picks) was belied by his .269/.303/.395 batting line since his return. While there's reason to be semi-optimistic, he shouldn't be difficult to re-acquire in 2011. Ditto for Travis Snider, he of the jaw-dropping power. He's still very much someone to consider long-term, and even for 2011. But if he's not being held in a league already, it's very likely that nobody will prevent an owner from grabbing him in 2011 at a very reasonable price (or with a late draft pick).

Razing Arizona: Three players are unlikely to have any 2011 impact, but their stock could rise with an outstanding AFL. Michael Taylor hit just .272/.348/.392 in Sacramento in 2010, and his seasonal age was 24, so he's not young for the league. But his preseason weighted-means PECOTA was .275/.338/.462, and that's in Oakland. And until 2010, there was little doubt that Taylor would hit – he obliterated the Sally League, Florida State League, and Eastern League in previous minor-league stops. He stole 16 bases in 2010, and could wind up being 5-category fantasy player, though he'll remain banished to AAA unless he has a great AFL and Spring Training. Engel Beltre, on the other hand, is very young for his leagues. One could shrug off his .331/.376/.460 batting line with 10 steals in 290 PA as being a California League creation, but he was still just 20 years old in high-A ball, and spent the 2nd half of 2010 in AA. A longshot to get playing time in Texas in 2011, a great AFL could change minds, at least getting him on the June radar, ala Starlin Castro in 2009. The biggest longshot is Juan Carlos Linares, who turned 26 in July. He won Gold Gloves his last two years in Cuba, but only stole 16 bases in all his seasons there. His best skill is power, and for his years in Cuba, he homered once per 21.6 at-bats, compared to once per 23.5 AB for Kendry Morales. He's far from being a keeper now, but keep him in mind – he's considered a dead pull hitter, so Fenway would be a good fit.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

Related Content:  2011,  The Who

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