December 1, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
As was kindly noted by a reader Monday, the graphics included here are from Graphical Player 2011. The “Mini-Browser” includes the projected stats of the the player along with others at the same position in the same price range, and then a few 2010 minor-league stats (when applicable) and 2007-2010 MLB stats for the player, including some skills stats which help the reader see quickly how lucky vs good the players has been (“Bash” is bases per hit for those without the GP2010 glossary handy – 1.6 is league average). The book works well in concert with the indispensable “Prospectus” book, in that it's fantasy-focused and available earlier. The book's name comes from the fact that each player's historical performance is displayed using trend lines of various stats, so readers can tell at a glimpse how a player had done on a monthly basis in recent years. Some sim-friendly stats familiar to readers of this column are also included, in L/R splits and Scoresheet fielding ratings.
The Athletics are highly represented this week, as they brought in David DeJesus to replace left-fielder Rajai Davis. They also re-signed center-fielder Coco Crisp, who is now a premier stolen base threat for the “Runnyball” A's (32 SB in just 328 PA). DeJesus has always hinted at having more speed than his SB totals would indicate (he has hit 45 triples in 3799 PA and shown good range in the outfield, for example), so it's not out of the question that he'll find a way to get back to double-digit steals again, belying his projection. Meanwhile, he's a well-rounded player, without a standout category – rather like a better version of his new outfield mate Ryan Sweeney. As far as bidding on DeJesus, it will depend on league context. He had his best season for rate stats in 2010, and yours truly was thrilled to get him for $8 in an expert league – until the injury ended his season. But, while his ISO may rebound to sustain his near-.450 slugging percentage in 2011, the BABIP (or H% in GP2011) will drop from the .370 range (37%), dragging down his batting average and on-base percentage. So, it's possible that some leagues will see his price get driven up in auction based on his 2010 stats. But unless that happens, he fits the profile of a great value pick – played for (and will play for) a team which doesn't get a lot of attention, doesn't have a standout fantasy skill, and didn't post gaudy “totals” stats in 2010 due to his injury.
New Toronto manager John Farrell is an unknown when it comes to stolen-base aggressiveness, but he wanted Rajai Davis, so it seems safe to assume that while the A's are looking for more power, the Jays are looking to steal more – they were last in the AL in 2010 with just 58 steals. Davis is very much an “old-school” leadoff hitter, sporting a career OBP of just .330, though he's pushed that up to .337 over the past two seasons since first becoming a regular starting player, a good .281 batting average (.293 the past two seasons), and – most importantly – blazing speed. Only 36 active players have more steals than his total of 143, and Rajai has only had 1455 plate appearances! He's no spring chicken, so don't expect a sudden growth spurt in his skills, but he joins a Toronto roster which is woefully short on on-base options, so expect him to get even more playing time than projected in the GP2011 excerpt here as the everyday leadoff hitter, and don't be at all surprised if he continues his rate of stealing a base every 10 plate appearances, making for a truly high-impact fantasy season. With Encarnacion gone, Bautista will be playing third base, so playing time in RF should be uncontested for Davis.
It's nice to know that Jed Hoyer thinks Cameron Maybin can be a full-time centerfielder. Maybin kept letting down this author, as he hit .240/.319/.394 after he was added to the column on August 25 (with the lead-in of “Phenom Disappointment Syndrome: Don't let it get you.”). Ken Funck's Marlins article agreed, suggesting, “Former uber-prospect Cameron Maybin is too young to give up on and deserves at least one more spin in center field to see if he can translate his tools into production. Between those three, the Marlins may eventually be able to field the league’s most productive outfield.” - just days before he was traded. Other than the playing-time boost Maybin should see in San Diego, there's little more to add to past analysis. Petco is reputed to be a dire situation for hitters, but had the same home-run factor for right-handed hitters in 2010 as Florida, just slightly below-average. Considering road games in Arizona and Colorado, San Diego isn't an awful place for a righty hitter to end up, fantasy-wise.
Along those lines, the Padres are now able to field an outfield with three righty bats who have shown a rare statistical split – hitting right-handed pitching better for their career. This is usually a tactic used more in simulation games (like Strat-O-Matic and Scoresheet) than real-life, since it's usually fluky. To note, here are their three current outfielders' career splits, and the 2010 L/R split for RHB:
It's probably just an anomaly for Maybin and Denorfia, due to small sample size, but nobody every accused Hoyer of being a dummy, and since most pitchers are right-handed, getting RH bats who can handle them is a smart tactic in that ballpark.