February 9, 2011
Value Picks in the Outfield
Michael Street will be returning to action next Monday—welcome back, Mike! There will be a delay in getting reviews of some corner infielders so that he can handle them on their rightful day, Monday. Bad news for those of us who were chomping at the bit to find out how Mark Kotsay and Pedro Feliz are going to impact the fantasy realm in 2011 (hint: queue up suggestions so Mike has enough important players to write about that he can let those two drop).
How can a guy lose almost 100 points on his on-base plus slugging (OPS) and only see his OPS+ drop by 12? His TAv fell by .024, so OPS+ is probably understating the decline, but the big factor was obviously moving from the Bandbox in the Bronx in 2009 to Comerica Park in 2010. Tropicana Field won't do him many favors, as it's about as hard on lefty power as Detroit is, but at least Damon will be playing the field more frequently, which he prefers. The other AL East teams all have lefty starters atop their rotations, and Damon's of an age when more decline is inevitable and likely to happen soon. While he should garner some runs scored, it's not even certain that he'll post double digits in home runs and stolen bases in 2011. At least he gets to play for yet another one of his dream teams.
Lastings Milledge was signed to a minor-league contract by the Chicago White Sox. He has a career TAv of .260, and won't be 26 years old until April. With Adam Dunn upgrading the designated hitter slot in 2011, Milledge won't see as many plate appearances as his predecessor in the fourth-outfielder role, Andruw Jones. He can adequately cover the wings, with left fielder Juan Pierre moving to center field on days when Alexis Rios needs a day off. Milledge has hit .289/.363/.435 in his career against lefty-handed pitching, so expect him to get his cuts as a pinch-hitter and to start frequently against lefties. It still adds up to fewer than 300 plate appearances, barring a Carlos Quentin injury, however.
Curtis Granderson and his high socks didn't change teams this offseason, but after a few months acclimating himself to the Bronx, and some adjustments suggested by hitting coach Kevin Long (not this Kevin Long), Granderson reminded Yankees fans of why people were raving about his power potential in Yankee Stadium. Even with a bad first half (.240/.309/.409), “Grandy” hit .253/.340/.526 against right-handed pitching in 2010. He hit .262/.336/.511 at home, and .253/.338/.523 in the second half of the season. He'll never win a batting title (every season, he's struck out in more than 20 percent of his plate appearances) and it's unlikely that he'll ever rectify his problems with southpaws, but he more than earns his salary by hammering away at the more populated right-handed portion of the pitching spectrum. In fact, his career line against them is .287/.363/.527, and with his defensive skills, that makes him a very valuable player.
Baseball is a game of adjustments, batters and pitchers always trying something new to get an edge. So, it's premature to assume that the “Kevin Long Adjustment” is some sort of magic bullet, and Granderson will take leaps forward, but his TAv has ranged from .262 (2006) to .306 (2007) over his five full seasons, and there's every reason to assume something akin to his .281 career mark in 2011. Adjusted for Yankee Stadium, that's going to bring a lot of fantasy value. Adjusted for Yankee Stadium and used in a platoon role–such as in a simulation game like Scoresheet Baseball–he could be something special for a few years.
Jim “Hollywood” Edmonds (who is not in the Graphical Player 2011, and therefore has no image like the others in today's piece) has undergone surgery and will return to St. Louis, which will certainly make his adoring fans happy … while he's signing autographs, at least. The other outfielders (and Lance Berkman, the “outfielder”) on the roster all share Edmonds' preference for hitting right-handed pitching; even righty Matt Holliday leans that way. One possible scenario is that the team is going to let him take a lap around the league to hit seven more home runs—which would put him at 400 for his career—say goodbye, and then re-promote Jon Jay from Triple-A, as Edmonds is nudged out to pasture. Of course, Edmonds did slug .504 in 2010, and hard-headed Tony LaRussa has been vocal about his lack of respect for Colby Rasmus, so anything is possible–even Edmonds starting against all right-handed pitchers. But for fantasy purposes, that possibility belongs on the bench–as in only during the bench rounds of NL-only leagues.