October 18, 2011
The Keeper Reaper
Outfielders for 10/18/11
Starting off on a tangent, the Player Forecast Manager has been updated with 2011 final stats, as many have already noted in this blog post: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15322. This is good news for discussing keepers. In fact, for easy reference, here are direct links to the PFM reports for the various league sizes used in Keeper Reaper (note that minimum dollars have been set to $5 so that the reports display faster – this can be extended to include players who had worse 2011 seasons, if desired):
Shallow (10-team mixed, 3 keepers): http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6431
Also, email notification of comments will be coming very soon, so you can be notified when people comment on a Keeper Reaper article you're interested in. Speaking of comments, in the two weeks since the last Outfielders edition, many suggestions have been made, so without further ado, let the reaping begin.
Ben Revere was a bit of a statistical disappointment in 2011. He'd burst onto the full-season baseball scene in 2008 with a whopping .333 TAv in the Midwest League, and with his lightning-fast speed adding both fielding runs (FRAA) and baserunning runs (BRR), he logged 5.6 WARP over the next two seasons combined, despite seeing his TAv drop. When Denard Span had concussion problems this season, Revere got his chance, having hit .305 in Double-A in 2010 and .303 in Triple-A in 2011. In the end, with the injury problems on the Twins, Revere ended up with the third-most plate appearances of any Minnesota player despite posting a terrible .231 TAv while his FRAA fell below average (though “average” is better in the majors). He collected a paltry sum of just 14 extra-base hits and 26 walks. If he hadn't created nearly a full win (8.0 BRR) with his running, he would have been worse than replacement level. All of this real-life stuff only matters inasmuch as the question of his playing time is concerned. And it bears observation that Revere has been treated the opposite of many other mid-level prospects the Twins have had over the years, who seem to get more minor-league time than many fans and analysts would prefer, yet seem to come out better for it.
Real-life considerations aside, Revere has the raw speed to steal 50 bases, and that may be conservative. To do that, however, he'll need to get on base 33-34 percent of the time, continue leading off, and stay healthy. And all of this—besides the health—gets back to the seminal question: “will he hit?” Comparisons can be misleading—for example, Willy Taveras hit .291/.325/.341 in his age-23 season and had two more productive years followed by that 68-SB fantasy fun outburst in 2008 before falling apart. However, Michael Bourn seems to be improving, ala Lance Johnson, and he wasn't starting full time until age 25. Johnson didn't become a starter until age 26, yet he hit .295 from age 27 onward, collecting 4819 plate appearances and 263 stolen bases. Given the raw tools and the good work ethic that Revere has, it seems safe to assume that he'll make at least steady progress as he ages—learning better how to disguise the bunts and how to lay off the pitches he can't handle. And if this happens, he should keep his fantasy owners in the money with the rampant base pilfering. Expectations shouldn't get too high, as the hopes for him to turn into a more complete hitter—with walks and extra-base oomph—have dwindled, but singles and steals make for a good fantasy asset.
Denard Span | Minnesota Twins
Through June 3, Denard Span was hitting an even .300. He'd stolen only four bases but had scored 32 runs in just 54 games started, thanks to his .367 on-base percentage and good baserunning. We don't have any oracle here to augur a player's recovery from injury, but the safe advice is to talk up how great he is when he's healthy and trade him as soon as possible. Concussions (which he suffered on June 3) are bad enough, and Span had a history of vertigo as far back as 2009, compounding the problem. When healthy, he's likely every bit as good as his first two months, if not quite his 2009 season, but the risk is just too high when it comes to head injuries.
This author has some analytical egg on his face regarding Tyler Colvin. He has shown great ISO at every level, including one of the best in the majors in 2010. But for now, it would take the Cubs hiring a general manager who publicly declares that he's going to give Tyler Colvin a full-time job for at least half a season to make him worth keeping. His value could potentially go up if he opens eyes in spring training, of course, but all things considered, he seems like someone who will be very cheap in the auctions. The reader question was whether to keep him at $2 in a 12-team NL-only league, and that really depends on who the other options are. It's difficult to imagine him going for even $4 in an auction, so is saving $2 really that big of a deal?
Sometimes, the keeper decisions depend more on how the long-range keeper rules work in a league. Martin has enough tools that keeping him would be defensible in mixed league if there are no escalating salaries to worry about (i.e. in 2015, he could be quite good, playing in that nice ballpark with a potent surrounding cast to provide runs and RBI). For 2012, let someone else worry about how he's going to get plate appearances while the Rangers are driven to field the best possible team and make yet another run at the World Series.
It's possible that Charlie Blackmon could end up on many “2012 sleeper” lists. He did, after all, batter Triple-A pitching in 2011, and he plays in the best hitting environment in baseball. The problem here is that Dexter Fowler—as confounding as he is sometimes—had a very nice year. Again. And Seth Smith was the second-most-common batter in both the number five and number six slots in the Rockies lineup, which makes sense given his career batting line of .290/.364/.518 against right-handed pitching. Oh, and Blackmon bats lefty as well. While he'd be a defensive (and speed) upgrade over Smith, it's difficult to supplant a player who has hit 47 homers in 1210 career plate appearances against right-handed pitching with a guy who has hit one in the majors (and just 30 in 1590 PA in the minors).
2012 is shaping up to play out the same as 2011 for Blackmon—he'll start in the minors (Triple-A this time, as opposed to Double-A), and hope to make enough noise that they'll hear it in Denver if Fowler or Smith scuffles. Barring a trade of one of the starting three outfielders (stud Carlos Gonzalez being the third), there's too much risk to keep Blackmon.
The question with Jay Bruce is whether he's a top 30 player or not. PFM shows him ranking 52nd in shallow leagues last year, but most would agree that he still hasn't reached expectations despite clouting 32 home runs and driving in 97 runs. Meanwhile, many ahead of him on the list (this means you, Melky) are unlikely to remain in such lofty company in 2012. He's listed as BORDERLINE, but entering his age-25 season, he's one of the few NL players who has a shot at winning the MVP award. The reason he's not a sure keeper in shallow leagues is only because outfielder “replacement value” is insanely high in such contexts, and Bruce is really just a three-category player, though two of those could be exceptional (HR and RBI).
On a 21” monitor, Matt Holliday's injuries (from his Player Card) take up an entire browser window, top-to-bottom of screen. That doesn't really mesh with the fact that he's played 155-plus games in four of the past six seasons, but while he's tough enough to shake off most injuries, they do add up, and the recent ones cause the most alarm... and he's nearing the end of his prime. He's an excellent hitter in a very good lineup, but his park works against him, he doesn't steal bases, he hasn't topped 28 home runs since leaving Colorado, and his injury history makes him too risky to bank on. He's still a good bet to hit .300-25-100, but he's certainly not top 30 any longer, and while he'd be kept in most medium-depth leagues, he'd be someone to consider packaging in a trade to improve that keeper slot.
Alex Rios had a train wreck of a season. Following the Sox here in Chicago, everyone had a theory as to what was wrong, suggesting that nobody really knew. One thing is certain: he wasn't playing with the same brash confidence he shows when he's playing well. This turned up in the field as well as at the plate and came across as a terrible lack of focus most times. Sometimes low BABIP can be attributed to bad luck, but Rios wasn’t making hard contact as often as the player who had entered the 2011 season with a (career) .281 batting average and .446 slugging percentage. The comment from BP2011 ended with, “With four years and $50 million left to go (taking him through his age-34 season), Williams' grab looks more obviously like the inspired snag that it was, especially given the shortage of quality everyday center fielders floating around on the market.” So, it's probably too early to punt Rios in super deep formats, but make sure that there's a viable Plan B on the roster. If he's not hitting or playing good defense again in April and May, new manager Robin Ventura could have him spectating, regardless of his salary.