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August 3, 2011

Value Picks

Outfield for 8/3/11

by Rob McQuown

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It's been a chaotic week of outfielder moves across the league, and Houston's outfield takes on an entirely new look with Carlos Lee moving to first base and the other two starters moving out of town. Last week's additions both graduate from The List this week, but new faces are getting playing time all around the majors with the shuffling. The holes in San Diego and Seattle will probably see multiple players before the season ends, but none besides Trayvon Robinson have much star power, and the parks will depress the stats of the other pretenders enough that they can be safely ignored for now.
 

Departures
Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays (Yahoo! 49%, ESPN 95.5%, CBS 82%)

Not that he could be expected to remain a secret for long, but Desmond Jennings is now owned in most every league. As noted last week, he's probably being over-valued for 2011 fantasy, but over-valued doesn't mean he's not good; he should be a good stolen base influence with moderate power. The Rays lineup—despite being below-average in runs per game—should allow him to amass runs as their leadoff hitter.

Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 51%, ESPN 93.7%, CBS 64%)
The other arrival from last week, Cameron Maybin, also graduates from the Value Pick list. With a four stolen base week, his season total is up to 26. He's still hitting just .278/.332/.406 on the season, and while that can be defended as a decent stat line given his home ballpark, for fantasy purposes, it's not very hot. Further, his career 26 percent strikeout rate (259 strikeouts in 982 plate appearances) suggests that even a .278 batting average is above expectations. He's cut down his strikeouts a little bit in 2011, but his BABIP is still .359—well above his career mark of .344. With the likelihood that his strikeout percentage will increase a bit and his BABIP will decline, expecting an average much above .250 is optimistic. At least the stolen base increase in 2011 seems real.

Alex Presley, Pittsburgh Pirates (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 5.4%, CBS 19%)
With the Pirates importing two batters at the deadline, there will be no pressure to bring Alex Presley back quickly, but reports make it sound like he should be available sometime near the August 12-14 series against Milwaukee. With Tabata on a similar timetable, at-bats are going to be scarce in The Steel City, especially now that Ryan Ludwick is around.
 

Arrivals
Jason Bourgeois, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 42.4%, CBS 38%)

With 22 steals in just 136 plate appearances, it could be imagined that Jason Bourgeois has a chance to catch the guy he replaced in the Houston outfield, Michael Bourn (who has 39 steals but has been starting all year)… except that Bourgeois is a career .272/.318/.347 hitter who has hit .344/.363/.435 so far in 2011, and playing full time will mean facing a lesser percentage of left-handed pitchers (he's hit .404/.436/.538 against Southpaws in 2011 and .307/.349/.394 in his career). Still, if Bourgeois can keep his on-base percentage somewhere around .320, his certain “green light” from manager Brad Mills should allow him to continue racking up steals at a rate equal to anyone in the National League. He did have hamstring issues earlier this season, and if those recur, expect fewer steals. Until that time, however, he's money in the bank for teams in need of speed.

Josh Reddick, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 42%, CBS 43%)
He hasn't been overlooked here because anyone hates (or even dislikes) Josh Reddick. Featuring him as an AL-Only pick on June 22 seemed appropriate props for what he'd done so far. And, in fact, after his Single-A season (2007), this author was recommending him to everyone as a player who could end up hitting like Garrett Anderson while playing great defense as well. Reddick made that prediction look strong by demolishing the California League in 2008, but his 2009-2010 struggles in the high minors tainted the luster of his prospect shine. He maintained some great ISO in the high minors, slamming 51 homers between Double-A and Triple-A in just 1211 plate appearances, but he also hit under .250, and drawing walks has never been part of his arsenal.

Reddick version 2.0 was revealed in 2011, however. Looking at batting average and power, it would be easy to miss the change, as he hit only .230 at Pawtucket, and his 14 home runs in 231 plate appearances led to a .508 slugging percentage—another fantastic ISO. What changed, though, is that Reddick started taking more pitches and working deeper into counts. This resulted in 33 walks in just 231 PA while maintaining his low strikeout rate (just 39 K's in 231 PA). Contrast this with his 25 walks against 73 K's in 481 plate appearances in 2010.

Reddick claims that not trying to hit for so much power has been the secret to his success thus far in the majors and has helped him stay consistent. From a statistical perspective, the .375 BABIP has been a big part of the secret, as well, but he's hitting both left-handed (in the few chances he's received) and right-handed pitchers, and with 16 extra-base hits and 11 walks in 137 plate appearances, Reddick is showing signs that he's getting the hang of major-league baseball. The real test will come when his BABIP declines and when/if J.D. Drew starts hitting again. Still, he seems like a decent MLB outfielder now and is part of a very potent offense, which should lead to many runs and RBIs. He still comes with a lot of risk, so trading a lot for him seems unwise, but he's likely to be a good source of home runs, runs, and RBIs for the rest of 2011.

Nolan Reimold, Baltimore Orioles (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%)
At this point in the season, with about a third of the games remaining, finding 10 home runs on the waiver wire would be quite valuable indeed. Nolan Reimold's rest-of-season PECOTA projects seven homers, 23 runs scored, and 22 RBI. Obviously, Reimold has struggled this season, and there's some risk involved in rostering him in a mixed league. Luke Scott is done for the season, though, and Derrek Lee is in Pittsburgh. Felix Pie will play some games in left field given that he's a better defender than Reimold, but Pie is hitting only .218/.248/.272 this season, and DH Vladimir Guerrero has knees which need days off more often than most. New first baseman Chris Davis should get a reasonably long leash, but if he's not hitting, expect Reimold to see some time at first base against tough lefties before long. All things considered, Reimold could end up playing almost full-time the rest of the way, and his power potential suggests that seven homers are to be expected with double-digits far from being outrageous.
 

Incumbents
Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 37.3%, CBS 35%)

Dexter Fowler didn't have a great fantasy week, but he continues to prove he belongs as the Rockies leadoff hitter, hitting .286/.375/.429. He stole a base and scored five runs, so it wasn't exactly a bad week, either. He's a starting position player for the Colorado Rockies, and there's really no reason he should remain available in so many leagues.

Eric Thames, Toronto Blue Jays (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 15.1%, CBS 30%)
With a bad week, Thames is becoming more frequently available. Now is a good time to “buy low” (or pick him up if he's been cut). He hit only .167/.158/.333 on the week and got a game off Tuesday against David Price, but Rajai Davis is going to be the one losing the bulk of playing time due to the Colby Rasmus acquisition—at least until Brett Lawrie gets the call.

Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 7.1%, CBS 26%)
Magglio Ordonez doesn't appear to be in any hurry to belie his age and start hitting like he's 26 again. After a .188/.188/.375 week, his stats are mediocre enough that he should be available to owners at some later date, if he's needed. That makes him a tempting cut in mixed leagues. Between Friday and the end of August, the Tigers have only four games against above-average pitching staffs (Tampa Bay on August 22-25) and get 15 games against the three worst in the AL in terms of runs allowed per game (Baltimore, KC, and Minnesota). So, if he's going to find the Fountain of Youth, August could be his month. He's a relatively safe player to roster inasmuch as he shouldn't suddenly become terrible, and he still has some upside.

Jon Jay, St. Louis Cardinals (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 20.8%, CBS 38%)
There's nothing like a trade to improve a player's perceived value. Jon Jay hit only .231/.231/.346 this past week, but he has been picked up in a lot of leagues. He remains the same singles-hitting machine capable of stealing the occasional base and hitting the occasional home run, and it's unlikely that he'll sit very often, barring a huge slump.
 

NL-only VP
Corey Patterson, St. Louis Cardinals (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 11%, CBS 17%)

Perhaps Tony LaRussa fell into the “short and fast” trap, putting Corey Patterson in the leadoff spot in his second game as a Cardinal. Of course, Patterson has never had a skill set resembling those of a good leadoff man, but he has stolen as many as 45 bases in a season and has hit 24 home runs in another. Playing home games in Busch Stadium won't help his batting stats, and LaRussa appears to prefer Jay in center field, playing Patterson in right field when they both play. Since LaRussa also doesn't attempt many stolen bases, Patterson is listed here as an NL-only pick, but in most formats, he's someone who smart owners should avoid as he's likely to be buried on the St. Louis bench.

Luis Durango, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%)
Rookie J.D. Martinez is a much better player and clearly the one to grab in keeper leagues, and Jason Bourgeois will get a lot more playing time, but Luis Durango is a powerless-but-fast center fielder who hits somewhat better from the left side, allowing him to spell Bourgeois at times. He's also stolen 170 bases in 2507 minor-league plate appearances, including 58 in 727 Triple-A plate appearances. Only worth attention in the deepest leagues, but manager Brad Mills does like to run, so there should be some steals here.
 

AL-only VP
Alejandro De Aza, Chicago White Sox (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.1%, CBS 3%)

The White Sox management made a big deal about not feeling any pressure to play players just because they have big contracts. It was said in so many words that Alejandro De Aza would get a lot of playing time in center field at the expense of Alex Rios, who is stuck in a season-long slump. De Aza replaced Rios in two consecutive games and spelled Carlos Quentin on Tuesday. De Aza has seen 1100 plate appearances at Triple-A over the years and has acquitted himself with a .309/.372/.479 batting line, stealing 49 bases and hitting 22 home runs. At age 27, he should be playing his best baseball, so a couple seasons of useful contribution as a fourth outfielder seem possible. It seems unlikely he’ll continue to start regularly for the rest of the year, though, so keep expectations in check.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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Pebble Hunting: The Er... (08/02)
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