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September 27, 2011

Value Picks

Outfield Review

by Rob McQuown

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Value Picks is such a mixed bag, especially before NL-only and AL-only players were separated out. Sometimes, a “Value Pick” is a player the authors think should be owned in every league, even shallow mixed leagues, because they're just that good. Other players are more appropriate for deeper mixed leagues or shallow single-league leagues. And, of course, some players are total bottom-of-the-barrel shots in the dark (here's looking at you, Trent Oeltjen!)
 

Preseason Good and Bad Picks
The Good
Starting out on March 30 with superstar Curtis Granderson—who was worth $40+ in fantasy dollars this year—and Mike Morse—who’s been worth over $20—certainly seems like the right foot on which to start. Of course, Grandy was taken in almost every league, but the assertion was that an ADP of 78 was ridiculously low. Since Mike Petriello wrote up Mike Morse, this is all that was added on 3/30:

Not that yours truly is following Mike Petriello around, but an addendum to his commentary[ed-where he notes that Morse has “huge upside”]on Michael Morse is that with Tony Plush going to Milwaukee, he's much more secure in receiving starter's playing time. Morse is a career .291/.353/.456 hitter (.287 TAv), making him one of the harder-hitting players likely to be available later in drafts.

I doubt that anyone really expected a .304-29-91 season from Mr. Morse, but this is the sort of pick which wins leagues.

The Bad
Calling Ben Francisco “fantasy relevant” before the season seemed appropriate at the time but fell far short of the mark. He has always had modest hitting skills but had hit like an average left fielder before 2011—.263/.329/.446. With Domonic Brown seeming uncertain to be ready to contribute and Raul Ibanez being so old, it seemed like Ben Francisco would get lots of playing time. And, well, that much was accurate, as he was sent to the plate 291 times despite a paltry .245/.339/.365 batting line. The batting average fluctuation is nothing to be surprised about, since these things happen, but the drop in ISO from his career mark of .183 to .120 turned him into a liability—both in Philly and on fantasy rosters.


Early Season Good and Bad Picks

Between April 6 and May 4, the following players were added to the Value Picks list:

The Bad
Fuld was definitely not highly touted on April 13 and was, if anything, given a cautionary note to not expect very much from the speedy fill-in. Jerry Sands, however, was a complete disaster, as projections go. With bold words such as, “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,” it's almost comical to note that Sands has only one more home run than Sam Fuld this year. There's not—however—much doubt that Sands actually has these skills. He's recently been on a bit of a tear, hitting .438/.500/.667 since September 12 (he also blasted 29 home runs in just 418 Triple-A plate appearances in between MLB stints). But good fantasy ownership isn't just about assessing talent, it's about assessing opportunity as well. With James Loney is firmly entrenched at first base, Sands' inability to contribute defensively in the outfield meant that he had to hit a ton right from the start in order to keep playing there.

The Good
The rest of the early-season suggestions contained some real winners, with marginal players like Gomes and Patterson being suggested only as part-time niche fillers for injured teammates. Jeff Francoeur and Matt Joyce both made fantasy owners very happy this season, while Nyjer Morgan promised more than he delivered, due—mostly—to playing time issues. David Murphy also had playing time issues, which were clearly discussed whenever he made an appearance on Value Picks. Seth Smith and Peter Bourjos both had very solid seasons and made owners who got them on the cheap happy this season.

As far as why Francoeur and Joyce made for good picks, the reasons are almost exactly opposite. Joyce is a good hitter, but concerns about his playing time caused his value to be depressed before the season in most leagues. Logging just 511 plate appearances, these concerns seem somewhat valid, though he produced  .277-18-72-13 with 68 runs in that time.

Francoeur, on the other hand, entered the season with a .268/.310/.425 batting line—worse, it should be noted, than Ben Francisco's. But quantity has a quality of its own in fantasy baseball, and he is well-loved by Dayton Moore and was unlikely to lose playing time, even if slumping. A slump never came, though, and as of this writing, he leads the league in doubles, and if he steals one more base, he'll have equaled his career total entering 2011 (he has 22 this season and had 23 through 2010). He's also blasted 20 home runs and is hitting .285, for good measure. The old “age 27 with experience” adage would seem to have yet another data point to suggest that great things can happen, but yours truly confesses that anything above his pedestrian career stats that Francoeur provided is being credited to “pure luck”.

 

Mid-and-Late season Good and Bad Picks
The Good

Sometimes, “good” is relative. Nolan Reimold didn't hit like a monster, but on August 3, Reimold was owned in no ESPN or Yahoo! leagues (0%) and just 3% of CBS leagues. He's up to a somewhat surprising 31% ownership in ESPN leagues, 11% in Yahoo! leagues, and 10% in CBS leagues. On that date, he was recommended with…

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.

...and added to the Value Picks list, not just the AL-only list. While he hasn't set the world on fire, he's hit .265/.339/.469 since then with—you guessed it—seven home runs. Toss in a startling six stolen bases (another thing we won't take credit for foreseeing), 27 runs, and 25 RBI, and it's been a nice couple months for Reimold owners.

Sometimes, the “good” comes from warning owners away from players in a hot streak. While not quite as harsh as it could have been, this cautionary comment about Roger Bernadina—“Not likely to make much impact in standard leagues, he could be a decent option in deeper leagues and NL-only leagues” —hopefully kept most owners away from a mistake. Of course, warning owners away from Casper Wells worked out well, though that was also unlucky, as he's nowhere near as bad as his .216/.310/.431 batting line with Seattle would suggest.

Alex Presley would seem like much more of a “good” pick if he hadn't been injured so soon after being added. With just one game in the majors, he was boldly placed on the Value Picks list (on June 29), and he hit .286/.327/.442 this season with eight steals in just 206 plate appearances. For a player with 1% ownership in Yahoo leagues, 0% in ESPN leagues, and 6% in CBS leagues, he was quite a find… when healthy.

In general, looking at the list of players-by-dates (see chart at bottom of article), most of the additions to the list contributed to teams for a while: Josh Reddick, Eric Thames, Kyle Blanks, etc. Some of the younger players were added with plenty of warnings given: Trayvon Robinson, Dayan Viciedo, etc. More may have been expected from players such as Dexter Fowler, Cameron Maybin, J.D. Martinez, and Thames, but they still contributed.

The Bad
Again relative, Austin Jackson hit .242/.315/.374 with 12 stolen bases from June 15 to present. That's clearly not abysmal—especially when you toss in the 56 runs scored—but it’s far from the suggesting that his 2010 stats weren't a fluke. As noted at the time, “The big question with Jackson is where his BABIP will stabilize.”  It was .326 over this span, yet his career mark still stands at .369. Since his game doesn't resemble Ichiro's, there's little reason to expect him to continue to have a BABIP above .350, so the continued batting average struggles should probably have been predictable. For a player from whom so much was expected, a mid-season tantalizer (hot streak) to get him on Value Picks turned out to be a red herring. With so many strikeouts, he's likely to always have difficulty staying above even a .250 batting average.

It's hard to get too self-critical over picking Brandon Belt on July 20 and again on August 24. Everything suggests that he'll be a Grade-A hitter in time. But, as with Sands, the opportunity wasn't there for him to withstand an early failure. If he'd stayed hot, he would have held a job, but when he got cold, the team had another, more highly-paid option for each of his positions.

Jason Bourgeois was a disaster of a pick. Even the analysis when adding him pointed out that he's always hit lefties only and has padded his stolen base totals by pinch-running. To assume he'd hit righties enough to stay in the lineup was analysis based solely on opportunity; the Astros appeared to have no other options. Still, he should have done better than he did: .233/.275/.252 from August 3 onward with just nine steals to his credit.

The What You See Is What You Get
Ben Revere hit .270 from June 15 (when he was put on the list) through yesterday. He stole 29 bases, scored 45 runs, drove in 25, and hit zero home runs. Presumably, none of this really comes as much of a surprise.

Here's hoping that owners found the Value Picks to be helpful and informative, and everyone will be uncorking the fantasy champagne (does anyone still use Yoo-Hoo?)  Here's the list of all players added to Value Picks by this author from March 30 through last week:

Complete List of 2011 Outfield Value Picks

Player Date Added
Allen Craig 09/20/11
Colby Rasmus 09/20/11
Nyjer Morgan 09/13/11
Alex Rios 09/13/11
Gerardo Parra 09/06/11
David Murphy 09/06/11
Dayan Viciedo 08/31/11
Jordan Schafer 08/31/11
Ben Revere 08/24/11
Brandon Belt 08/24/11
J.D. Martinez 08/17/11
Trayvon Robinson 08/10/11
Kyle Blanks 08/10/11
Jason Bourgeois 08/03/11
Josh Reddick 08/03/11
Nolan Reimold 08/03/11
Desmond Jennings 07/27/11
Cameron Maybin 07/27/11
Dexter Fowler 07/20/11
Brandon Belt 07/20/11
Eric Thames 07/06/11
Magglio Ordonez 07/06/11
Alex Presley 06/29/11
Chris Heisey 06/29/11
Jon Jay 06/22/11
Roger Bernadina 06/22/11
Austin Jackson 06/15/11
Charlie Blackmon 06/15/11
Ben Revere 06/15/11
Matt Joyce 05/04/11
Peter Bourjos 04/27/11
Jonny Gomes 04/20/11
Jerry Sands 04/20/11
Sam Fuld 04/13/11
David Murphy 04/13/11
Seth Smith 04/13/11
Corey Patterson 04/13/11
Jeff Francoeur 04/06/11
Nyjer Morgan 04/06/11
Xavier Paul 03/30/11
Mike Morse 03/30/11
Curtis Granderson 03/30/11
Ben Francisco 03/30/11
Peter Bourjos 03/30/11
Julio Borbon 03/30/11

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

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Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Los A... (09/27)
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