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February 22, 2011
Left Fielder Rankings
Like last year, the fantasy rankings are broken into tiers. Generally speaking, five-star players should be worthwhile in five categories and have an auction dollar value of $30 or more in your standard, mixed leagues. Four-star players should be worth at least $20 and useful in four categories, three-stars $10 and up, two-stars are more of your single-digit buys that you hope fill a hole or return some bargain value, and one-star players are, most likely, roster filler in the deepest leagues that you hope can be worth the buck you throw down on them.
This year we are listing stats like we have in the past (plate appearances, average, R, RBI, SB and HR projections from PECOTA) but are also including dollar value estimates produced by the Player Forecast Manager. In order to make these columns fit into the tables, I had to shorten them: "2L-$" is for mixed leagues, and "1L-$" is for AL- or NL-only leagues, depending on the player. The dollar values may not match up perfectly with the tiers, but those are just cases of PECOTA and I disagreeing on a player.
For reference, the dollar values were created with the PFM using standard 5x5 roto scoring, 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) Util (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify (though I snuck a few brand-new players likely to qualify in). If your league uses different settings, be sure to plug them into the PFM to see what kind of differences in dollar value we are talking about—I set these to be as close to standard roster construction as possible.
Be prepared to see a lot of Carlos Gonzalez the next few days. He’s eligible at all three outfield positions, and while in a vacuum he’s not one of the league’s best players, the fact that he plays for Colorado means that he will score in fantasy like he is. I worry that Carl Crawford will lose a little batting average by moving to Boston—the lack of turf could cut into the speed of some of his hard-hit grounders—but between the Green Monster in left and the triangle in right-center, Crawford is going to have a good time with doubles and triples. He was covered in more detail in our first Donnybrook entry.
I debated Ryan Braun as a five-star left fielder a few weeks ago when I reviewed the left fielder rankings. I’ve stuck with him here, though I don’t think he’ll be better than either Gonzalez or Crawford. That says more about those two than it does about Braun, though.
It’s a little strange to have more five-star level players than four-star at a position, but left field is a bit top heavy. You could argue that Matt Holliday is a five-star left fielder, but I think five stars is where his upside lies—he’s a safer bet as a high-quality, four-star-level player. Josh Hamilton put up an incredible 2010 performance, but it was injury-shortened and benefited from a BABIP of nearly .400—he’s going to be much better than the (understandably) conservative $15 total spit out above, but I wouldn’t bet on a repeat of his 2010 season.
PECOTA loves it some Rajai Davis in Toronto, but I’m not so enthused that I’m willing to make him a four-star-level outfielder. The steals are great and his offensive numbers should improve as a result of leaving Oakland for the Rogers Centre, but $20 seems to be on the very high end of my expectations for him. He may be a better buy than Juan Pierre, given the latter has a much longer history and most likely a loftier price tag.
Delmon Young finally did something with his career that wasn’t frustrating to fantasy owners, but PECOTA stills sees a lot of his previous work in him. I’m not 100 percent sold on a repeat of 2010 based on how his career has gone so far, but I am willing to pop him into the three-star tier, which is something you would not have caught me doing a year ago. Ryan Raburn is supposed to be in the lineup every day, even if it’s not always at the same position. He can flat-out hit, and his versatility makes him that much more useful. Brett Gardner is expected to fall back a bit according to PECOTA—that development does not surprise Craig Brown—but he’s still a Yankee, which means that he should score a whole lot of runs. He has the best chance to make it to four-star territory out of this group, but he also has a good shot of moving toward the bottom of the three-star pile.
Angel Pagan won’t hit for much power, but he should play often and steal bases. PECOTA is underselling him a bit here. Jose Tabata is somewhat similar in my mind, though with a little less power. Soriano just snuck into three-star territory with his 2010 performance, and PECOTA thinks he can do it once more. PECOTA does not like Andres Torres nearly as much, which shouldn’t be a surprise. He wouldn’t be the first player to come out of the minors at a late age and perform at a high level for one season. I’m a Torres fan, and I expect we’ll see another quality season out of him. It’s hard to argue with a power/speed combination, even if it isn’t helping your batting average much and is packaged within an ordinary offense. Luke Scott had a quality 2010, and while PECOTA isn’t convinced he can do it again, I think he can do just enough to merit the three-star designation. It helps that he is eligible at first and in the outfield.
Chris Coghlan had an awful start to the 2010 season, but he picked things up in June before having his season end in July. The outfielder injured his knee after hitting teammate Wes Helms in the face with a pie following a walkoff RBI single. This ranking might be aggressive, but if he’s healthy he should provide some pop and some steals, and will also be able to slot into center field. Jason Bay is coming off of a concussion that ended his 2010 campaign. Even with all the questions surrounding concussions, the more confusing thing regarding Bay may be how well his bat will do at Citi Field. He performed better at his home park, which is pitcher-friendly, than he did on the road in 2010. That's not even a full season of data, though, so it’s difficult to get worked up too much in either direction—PECOTA seems to be taking the under, but by placing him in the three-star tier, it looks like I’m taking the over.
As I said in the first base rankings, I think Huff will have another quality season, though probably not as good as his 2010. Logan Morrison is an intriguing player, and will be better than this $2 forecast, but the time to pay more attention to him in fantasy baseball will come after 2011. Bobby Abreu is still hanging on, but he’s not quite the power/speed titan of old. Instead, he’s just kind of old. Will Venable ended his 2010 on a high note after dealing with nagging injuries all season. The Padres are more open to the running game under General Manager Jed Hoyer, so expect Venable to swipe at least twice as many bases as are projected here (he had 29 in his injury-shortened 2010 campaign). If he weren’t stuck in Petco for half of his games—the park hates on all hitters, but left-handers especially—he would be much higher than a mid-range two-star player.
Raul Ibanez still gets to play in Citizens Bank Park, so if he’s in the lineup, something between $5-10 seems more reasonable than his negative projection here. Travis Snider is showing small amounts of offensive growth, but for now belongs in this tier. Maybe by 2012 he will be ready to graduate. Moving from Detroit to Tampa Bay won’t do much to change Johnny Damon’s stats, but if he can still reach double-digits in homers and steals then there is value to be found here.
I don’t think it’s a secret I jumped off the Carlos Lee train a long time ago. His pre-2010 career most likely causes PECOTA to like him more than I do, so if you want to bet on PECOTA, feel free to move him up your personal rankings. Bill Hall is right near the bottom of the two-star stack, and gets to stay out of the one-star tier mostly because he has eligibility at multiple positions. If you’re forced to play him in left in any but the deepest of leagues, you'd better have someone like Chase Utley at second, or something went wrong.
There are so many names I want to love here, like Manny Ramirez, or Tyler Colvin, or Cody Ross. For the most part, though, they have some major flaws. For Ramirez, the problem is playing time. He seems jazzed to play with the Rays, but I would be lying if I said I knew how often he will actually enter the lineup. He could get 300 plate appearances or 600 or anything in between, and his value is highly dependent on what number it ends up being. He’s a great buy-low pick. Colvin is another buy-low pick, since he seems to be someone whom many people have dismissed. Ross doesn’t hit right-handers well enough to compensate for his home park, but in a deep league or in a situation where you can start him against lefties, he’s going to have his uses.
If the Rogers Centre plays in 2011 like it did in 2010, Juan Rivera as a one-star outfielder is going to look silly. David Murphy would be more intriguing were he to receive more playing time, but unless Hamilton hurts himself early on, that isn’t going to happen. Ben Francisco is in the same situation, because Domonic Brown is likely to soak up a large percentage of the playing time in Philadelphia. Michael Saunders still has to try to hit in Safeco, so depending on him for anything is risky.
Jonny Gomes tailed off in the second half of 2010 (.253/.324/.382), but if the Reds give him playing time he can be useful in a deep NL league. The same goes for Roger Bernadina, Ryan Spilborghs, and Chris Denorfia. Felix Pie would have received more love from this corner, but the Orioles’ recent acquisition of Vladimir Guerrero pushes Luke Scott to the outfield on a full-time basis, cutting into his value. Lastings Milledge has already received far more attention elsewhere than he requires in this space. Eric Hinske could be useful in NL leagues given Chipper Jones’ uncanny ability to injure himself—this would cause new outfielder Martin Prado to shift back into the infield, giving Hinske more time on the diamond. Chris Carter was intriguing, but when the Athletics signed Hideki Matsui to DH and traded for outfielder Josh Willingham, his chances of securing meaningful playing time at the major-league level disappeared. Maybe in 2012, Chris.