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April 20, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Departures

Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays (86 percent ESPN / 58 percent Yahoo)

Certainly not as memorable as his graduation from Stanford, Sam Fuld graduates with honors from the Value Picks list this week. Given his past, it's extremely unlikely that he'll remain worthy of such a high level of ownership all season long, but for now, he's the only major-leaguer with two four-hit games and leads the American League in stolen bases (factoids courtesy of CBS Sports). As a purely practical matter, if he was obtained off waivers, and there's another league member who is known to be highly reactionary, now is definitely the time to explore trade possibilities. That is not to say he should be given away, but trading up is always easier when the lesser player is doing exciting things.

Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals (43 percent ESPN / 37 percent Yahoo)

Jeff Francoeur hit .471/.500/.765 the past week, raising his season line to .328/.358/.525. Since there is nothing else to say about Frenchy, he'll be matriculated as well, though it's more like a Junior College degree than one from The Cardinal. Repeating from last week: “There's very little he can do between now and June to change his outlook for 2011." The fact that his ownership percentages went up by more than 30 percent this week suggests that there may be a trade partner out there. One can hope, at least.

Arrivals

Jonny Gomes, Cincinnati Reds (80 percent ESPN / 63 percent Yahoo)

Hello, Goodbye, Señor Gomes. The extreme walk rate appears to have been an early-season aberration, as Jonny Gomes has drawn only one walk in the past five games, though obviously any conclusion based on tiny sample size will be premature. But Gomes has always had power, clobbering 110 home runs in 2421 career plate appearances entering Tuesday's action. He is also a streaky hitter, and expecting more batting average than his sub-.250 (.247) career rate isn't realistic.

Dusty Baker supporters and naysayers alike all agree that he is loyal to players, and often the trick with Baker is figuring out which players he has chosen to support through thick and thin, as he'll ink guys into a lineup card even if circumstances suggest otherwise. That probably means that Gomes needs another couple weeks of production before he can feel secure about holding off Chris Heisey and Fred Lewis, when Lewis returns. All that is to say that investing heavily in Gomes may be premature, but by all means, if he is available, join the herd and ride his powerful bat while he is getting playing time. With an 80percentownership rate, expect him to “graduate” from this list next week, but a tip of the cap to owners who grabbed him early, and a wave from owners who didn't, as he goes past.

Jerry Sands, Los Angeles Dodgers (1 percent ESPN / 0 percent Yahoo / 33 percent CBS)

Speaking of rushing past, the lure of making a pun about “sands of time” can't be totally resisted, but somehow the hourglass got inverted without much fanfare. So little, in fact, that he just cleared waivers to join this author's team in a writer's Box Baseball league, despite league member (and Dodgers expert) Mike Petriello being in the league also. Sands had awesome minor league and Arizona Fall League stats in 2010, but wasn't even in the Box Baseball database in early March. Petriello's comment at the time was, “The more I hear, the more I think he'll be playing by June.”So, on Sunday, yours truly submitted a claim on Sands, releasing Brandon Allen, who appears to need some stars to align to have utility in 2010 now.

Anyway, CBS Sportsline manages many leagues which allow for keepers, so it makes sense that owners in CBS leagues would be ahead of the curve, but Sands is talented enough to be of interest in mixed leagues without keepers. He is no speed burner, as R.J. Anderson notes (among other insights on his promotion), and not having watched his 2010 season, it's tempting to think that his 18 steals may have been due to sheer thuggery, as opposed to the usual cat burglary method. But the steals do underscore his aggressive nature, something everyone acknowledges about him.

For fantasy impact, Sands may not have quite the raw power potential of Mike Stanton in 2010, who was added to this column last May, while still in the minors. But his upside is at least as good as the aforementioned Jonny Gomes, and he could end up with a similar “shape” of statistics line, as the strikeouts should drag down the batting average (despite recent batting lines–in reverse order—of .400/.422/.875 in Albuquerque this season, .313/.405/.594 in spring training this year, .299/.410/.494 in AFL play last year, and a .301/.395/.586 composite minor league batting line from 2010).It's almost meaningless to look at raw minor-league home run rates, but Sands has 69 HR in 1128 PA, a pace of 40 home runs per 650 PA. While it's obvious that any minor-leaguer with options is at risk of a demotion no matter his pedigree (see: Belt, Brandon), Sands probably has more home run potential from April 20 to the end of the season than anyone else available on waivers in most leagues now.

Incumbents

David Murphy, Texas Rangers (18 percent ESPN / 40 percent Yahoo)

David Murphy has received 20 plate appearances since last Wednesday, and has hit .389/.450/.389.Anyone who wants to mention that booted Brennan Boesch hit .350/.500/.500 can submit a comment to: talktothehand@baseballprospectus.com.We're sticking to the story that David Murphy is the better “fourth outfielder currently in a starting role”, though Boesch is mentioned here because he really isn't a tragic option if a hole needs filled.

Seth Smith, Colorado Rockies (15 percent ESPN / 10 percent Yahoo)

Seth Smith hit only .222 over the past week, and came up with a minor injury. He pinch-hit Tuesday, and appears to be fine going forward. His low batting average was tempered by five runs scored and four RBI (and a homer).For shallow leagues, the upcoming week isn't rosy for Smith, with road games at Florida and Chicago (with Wrigley being a poor hitter's park in cold weather).

Corey Patterson, Toronto Blue Jays (1 percent ESPN / 1 percent Yahoo)

Corey Patterson had a rough week entering Tuesday night action, but has gotten on base three times already Tuesday and stolen a base. That gives him two steals for the week, which is–after all–why he's on a roster.

Nyjer Morgan, Milwaukee Brewers (10 percent ESPN / 15 percent Yahoo)

In the “glass half full” department, Morgan's deep thigh bruise has given Carlos Gomez and Mark Kotsay more playing time. And one has to believe that there's some level of exposure to direct empirical data which will suffice to change manager Ron Roenicke's mind on playing time decisions. Gomez did his job, going 0-for-5 from the #2 hole Tuesday, lowering his batting average to .197.Ironically, if Morgan wasn't around, Gomez would be starting to look like an interesting Value pick, in the Corey Patterson mold.

NL-only VP

 Jon Jay, St. Louis Cardinals (NL-only, 22 PA)

Jay has been 0-for-1 in each of the past four Cardinals games, dropping his seasonal average to .222. But while his .300 batting average from 2010 was bolstered by a too-high BABIP, he has a nice hitting stroke, and can be expected to hit around the .267 PECOTA predicts, or even a bit higher (as he'll supposedly be used against pitchers he can handle for the most part, in the ever-changing Tony La Russa system). With Berkman hitting enough to overcome the Big Puma droppings in right field (and then some), Jay's firmly barred from any hint of a starting job. And he is not much of a fantasy asset, with limited home run or stolen base potential. But still, he'll be batting as part of a good offense, and should get RBI opportunities as a pinch-hitter, and has decent on-base skills (.359 on-base percentage so far in his short career to date), allowing him to get on base for the top of the Cardinals order when he pinch hits for the pitcher. Not worth a lot, but not worthless, either.

AL-only VP

Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals (AL-only, 9 PA)

As a fleet, lefty-batting center fielder, Jarrod Dyson could be considered a poor-man's Nyjer Morgan in some ways. Of course, the fact that Nyjer himself isn't able to find playing time doesn't make this a very encouraging thought. But Dyson doesn't have to worry about Ryan Braun and Corey Hart clogging up two outfield slots when everyone is healthy, either. Melky Cabrera has posted a .280 on-base percentage so far, and Dyson has gotten a couple looks. He doesn't have a hit yet, but has drawn three walks and stolen five (5!) bases, thanks to pinch-running opportunities. 

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:  Nyjer Morgan,  The Who,  Jarrod Dyson,  Jonny Gomes

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