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January 20, 2012

The Keeper Reaper

Outfielders for 1/20/12

by Rob McQuown

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Welcome to the new Friday time slot, which is kicking off with some (overdue) responses to comments from last week

Following up on Chris Heisey, at present there's no real competition for a starting spot, and unless that changes, he should get about 90 percent of the playing time, which would be almost 600 at-bats, given his low walk rate and where he's likely to bat in the lineup. He hasn't been labeled a "proven veteran" yet, so there's always that chance that he could wash out, but Dusty Baker is loyal to players and sticks to his opinions, so it's more important that Heisey impress his manager in spring training than it is for him to post a 1.5 WARP in the first half.

Oh, and yes, I'd consider keeping Dayan Viciedo at $10, depending on other keeper options, league format, how much inflation there is (due to bargain keepers causing more dollars to be chasing less talent), and how much he'd cost the following season. I think he'll do well, but there's enough risk that I doubt he'll make an owner look terrible if he gets cut. $10 can usually buy some good talent later in the bidding, and I don't expect his auction price to be much different from that in AL-only leagues.

Regarding Kyle Blanks, Domonic Brown, and Jason Bourgeois, it's difficult to see them being keepers in many formats, though we'll try to write more about them before the season, as each is interesting in his own way. It's difficult to envision Bourgeois as a keeper, after he was arguably the worst Value Pick player reviewed in 2011, as noted in the year-end summary:

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.

More to come next week about Allen Craig, but here's a reprint of the 9/20 Value Picks commentary:

Obviously, this late in the season, it's unlikely that any full-time player is going to suddenly jump into the spotlight, but Allen Craig has been raking, and Matt Holliday has been breaking. PECOTA has a robust .281 TAv projected for Mr. Craig, and he's hitting .314/.362/.529 in 2011. With series against the Mets, Cubs, and Astros on the schedule and the still-potent Cardinals lineup around him, don't expect much let up, though he's not quite this good of a hitter. Still, he could be a true diamond in the rough to finish the fantasy season strong.

Marlon Byrd | Chicago Cubs (ADP 256)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers): NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
NL-only (60 keepers): NO
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: NO

Showing that even numbers-heavy analysts can be influenced by the typical offseason gossip which passes for baseball news during the period where baseball-only fans are parched for any drink of information about their sport, a "best shape of his life" article at mlb.com about Marlon Byrd lent some optimism to this writer's outlook for Marlon Byrd yesterday:

Byrd, 34, has added a martial arts workout called Muay Thai (pronounced "moy tie") to his offseason program. The intense sessions, which he does three to four times a week, plus a dramatic change in his diet has helped the Cubs center fielder go from 255 pounds, which he weighed at the end of last season, to 215 now. That's the same weight he was his senior year in high school.

"Now, he's a lean, mean, fighting machine," said Robert Cole, Byrd's instructor at L.A. Boxing in Chicago and a retired national champion from England.

He used to box when he was younger, and also when he was in Philadelphia at Joe Hand Gym. But this offseason, Byrd was looking for more.

"I wanted a change of pace," said Byrd, who spent the winter in Chicago. "I did the boxing and I wanted to throw the kicks in. I heard about 'Muay Thai' training and I thought it was very intense."

It is. Muay Thai evolved from hand to hand tactics of the Thai army. A form of martial arts, it features punches, kicks, elbows, knees, standing grappling, and head-butts to wear down the opponent.

This needs to be balanced against a very low starting point in perception (from the BP2012 player information for Byrd):

After Byrd was hit in the face with a pitch on May 21, 2011, [the Cubs] may again be in need of a center fielder, as Byrd hit just .255/.311/.380 when he returned. It's too early to write him off entirely, but he didn't look the same at all after he returned.

As noted in the Adam Jones discussion on December 27, Byrd logged a .272 TAv between ages 23-25—better than B.J. Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Drew Stubbs, Curtis Granderson, and Shane Victorino (and many others) among currently active center fielders. While he's never really shown off the tools he was supposed to have when drafted (topping out at 11 steals back in 2003 and topping 12 home runs only once), he carries a .281 career batting average and plays his home games in a friendly park (104 BPF each of the past two seasons for Byrd). Perhaps it's a bit of an over-reaction to a bit of boxing and eating right, but it wouldn't seem surprising to see him return to the .290 batting average range while collecting double-digit homers and a few steals (he's averaged eight per 162 games in his career while obviously transporting some extra tonnage).

Byrd is in the final year of his contract, and that could be further motivation as he tries for a final contract push. If he's doing well, he's expected to be trade bait, as the Cubs don't appear to be ready for prime time in 2012, but that would most likely only be a concern for NL-only owners who might lose him if he wanders over to the American League. He's still not on the radar of keepers in many formats but could be a decent mid-round/mid-dollar profit-maker.

Alex Presley | Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP 234)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers)
: NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
NL-only (60 keepers)
: NO
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: NO

In the 2011 summary article, it was noted that, "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 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues, 0 percent in ESPN leagues, and 6 percent in CBS leagues, he was quite a find... when healthy."

With the signing of fellow lefty outfielder Nate McLouth, Presley's role is still ambiguous, likely to be determined in a head-to-head spring training battle, with the loser filling the fourth outfielder role to begin the season. The review he received when first promoted seems to apply again for 2012, concluding with, "A decent fourth outfielder who steals lots of bases can always help a fantasy team." In other words, don't worry about keeping him in most formats, but follow the news closely to see how playing time shakes out.

Jose Tabata | Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP 222)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers)
: NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
NL-only (60 keepers)
: BORDERLINE
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: YES

Compared to Lonnie Smith in this space in 2010 and still touted a year ago with "a run of .300+ TAv seasons (as Smith had from ages 24-27) [is] entirely plausible," it's fair to say that Tabata has been a favorite here for a while. So, it will come with little surprise that a player with an ADP outside the top 200 so far in mock drafts is being suggested as a sure-fire keeper in Super Deep leagues, and even a borderline keeper in NL-only.

The two things to keep in mind about Tabata are that he's still extremely young and that he was hurt in 2011. But even as an injured 22-year-old, he posted an OBP of nearly .350, making him almost a good leadoff hitter, despite such a disappointing season. Leading off in front of McCutchen should help him score plenty of runs, though he's likely to again be an RBI sinkhole, with the back end of the Bucs lineup being very soft.

Some leagues have members who won't pay a lot for steals. In an NL-only league like this, it would be wrong to keep Tabata. That's more of a market-based decision (and personal preference) than an absolute, however. He's a good candidate to hit .290 and steal 30, so take that for what it's worth.

Eric Thames | Toronto Blue Jays (ADP 249)
Shallow (30 keepers)
: NO
Medium (60 keepers)
: NO
Deep (90 keepers)
: NO
AL-only (60 keepers)
: NO
Super Deep (200 keepers)
: NO

Using very unscientific analysis, Thames isn't a keeper because people don't think he's as good as he is, generally speaking. Toronto fans who see him every day don't think he can play defense and don't appreciate his offensive game. And, as noted in the Rajai Davis report, Thames and Travis Snider have the unfortunate fate of having options remaining in an outfield with two spots firmly locked down (Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus) and Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco wandering around. Fans in Ontario are still hoping for a Prince Fielder signing (and why not? No other team seems to want him), which would force the Jays to either play Adam Lind in left field or to bench one of Lind or Edwin Encarnacion.

It's sort of a strange situation. As noted when Thames was first reviewed in July, he should hit (and he had the second-best slugging percentage on the team in 2011). But playing time is king in fantasy baseball, and right now, he's not a sure thing to receive the playing time required to make a player keeper-worthy.

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:  Jose Tabata,  The Who,  Marlon Byrd,  No-no

18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Benjamin Harris

Can you do Emilio Bonifacio? I know Michael did him as a SS, but that was before the Reyes signing. I'd like to know what you guys think about him now.

Jan 20, 2012 04:27 AM
rating: 0
 
jhardman

Travis Snider *still* has options? Time to give the guy a change of scenery.

Jan 20, 2012 06:14 AM
rating: 0
 
raef12

Can you cover Jason Heyward at some point, if you already haven't? And if you did I you missed it, sorry about that.
I'm "stuck" with Heyward on the last year of a contract that costs me $12 in an 11-team NL only league, where each team can keep as many as 15 active players and two rookies. Heavy inflation in this league, so I'm thinking I'll be feeling good about Heyward by season's end, even if I didn't get quite what I was hoping for when I dealt for him a couple years back.

Jan 20, 2012 06:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Sure, good one. I was surprised to get Heyward 44th (final pick of 2nd round in a 22-team format) in a Scoresheet Mock draft this year, since that format is "keep indefinitely, no salaries", with 13 keeper slots per season (times 22 teams makes for a lot of keepers). My short answer is that I'll be stunned if he's not worth $11, even uninflated, in 2012... I'll have to dig some to decide how much more than that.

Jan 20, 2012 14:56 PM
 
Jack Thomas

Do not understand the Chis Heisey comment "No real competition. CIN sgned Ryan Ludwick last week. LF is the only position that Ludwick could play (Bruce RF & Stubbs CF). Will that not cost Heisey AB's? Since they are both RHB, platooning is not an obivious solution.

Jan 20, 2012 06:58 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

You are correct sir, downgrade my opinion on Heisey playing time and value slightly, though at the rate Ludwick's career has been moving backward, I'd expect the Reds to play Heisey a lot. I wrote that intro before he signed, it was not meant to be as dismissive of Ludwick as it reads.

Interestingly, though this split is one that often quickly reverses itself, both Ludwick and Heisey have been significantly better against right-handed pitching in their careers (and that's almost 3000 PA for Ludwick now).

Jan 20, 2012 15:46 PM
 
jfranco77

Tabata is 22 years old like I am a billionaire, but he's still a good short-term play if he can stay on the field.

Jan 20, 2012 08:18 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

So, should I ask you for some money, or him where to get a fake ID?

I wouldn't be nearly as bullish about him if I didn't think he was entering his age-23 season, and instead was faking his age. But anything's possible - as with injuries, sometimes you have to make decisions based on conjecture, because the full truth just isn't available.

Jan 20, 2012 16:32 PM
 
Wyomissing

Does the fact Tabata is actually married to a 45-year-old woman and tends to get injured like a 40-year-old man help at all? If you surveyed all of the people in the Pirates' pressbox, you could count those media who believe he is his current age on one hand.

Jan 20, 2012 21:25 PM
rating: 0
 
carlbrownson

I saw a night of muay thai fighting on a trip to Thailand. It was impressive. And I'm pretty sure it's older than the Thai military, unless by "Thai military" that guy meant something like the "Chinese military" that gave us kung fu.

All of which is to say that I think it would be funny to see Marlon Byrd getting his ass kicked by a 130-lb Thai kid.

Jan 20, 2012 14:32 PM
rating: -1
 
davinhbrown

first, don't completely disregard Frazier from getting some LF at-bats for the Reds.

What's the odds that Byrd will still be on the Cubs, say by August 1st? Epstein seems intent on rebuilding, and Byrd is a free agent at end of the year. Jackson seems ripe to step in soon. They won't want to reduce Byrd's ABs before dealing him and calling up the prospects.

Jan 20, 2012 16:53 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

I think Cubs management is doing sensible moves, and - unless you consider the Free Agents they let go - their moves have been about age-neutral, but have been attempts to bring in better players (such as Stewart instead of LeMahieu, even though LeMahieu is younger, cheaper, and under control longer). They are trying to add lefty power and lefty pitchers and/or groundballers (Maholm, Wood, Volstad), which fit well in a park that favors lefty power.

If I start hearing serious rumors about Dempster and Marmol being traded, I'll believe they have given up on 2012. For now, I'm guessing they are going to keep some money in reserve so that if the team is doing surprisingly well (see: 2011 Diamondbacks, Arizona), they can trade for pieces at the break without panicking over budget constraints. If - as expected - they're out of it in mid-July, I do think Byrd is gone.

FWIW, I think Campana/Sappelt in CF (until Jackson is ready), with Soriano on the bench and Byrd/DeJesus on the wings is currently the best OF alignment (sorry Mr. LaHair), so anything they could possibly do to move Soriano seems like it would have to help - paying almost all his salary and getting a playable second baseman would be the best option, IMO. And if I'm wrong about the Muy Thai helping Byrd out, then Jackson's probably already better than him. Now, if Soriano had been training with Muy Thai, too (and had avoided injuries while doing so), I'd feel better about the OF situation in Chicago.

Jan 21, 2012 00:44 AM
 
BigX

How bad does Ian Stewart have to be before it is accepted that he is just not a good ballplayer. He is the Andrew Miller of position players.

Jan 21, 2012 08:42 AM
rating: 0
 
davinhbrown

In regards to Campana, anyone who saw him knows he's got tremendous speed and therefore a fantasy prospect.

What kind of ABs will he get this year? [this may be a 2-part answer as in early in year vs after the potentially trade Byrd and/or Soriano]

In deep NL only leagues, at the least Campana is a $1-3 pick or at worst a bench guy.

Getting a cheap steals guy who surprisingly tops 30 steals is just as good as speculating on setup men for about the same price.

Jan 21, 2012 12:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Regarding Byrd, "topping 12 home runs only once" can be rephrased to "Byrd, who wasn't a full-time player until five years ago, has hit at least 10 home runs in four of those last five seasons."

With the addendum "Given those power numbers, he might still not be worth drafting."

Call it a nitpick, but from a fantasy perspective, there isn't a huge difference between 10 home runs and 12 home runs but the way you phrased it implies he has even less power.

Jan 21, 2012 17:07 PM
rating: 1
 
xavier

Between Tabata's injuries and McLouth being his primary competition, I think Presley should see a lot of time this year. I have him at $11 in an 11-team NL, and am strongly considering keeping him. My question is, can he be better than the prototypical 4th OF many experts project him to be?

Jan 22, 2012 09:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

It might depend on the league format, but I cannot see keeping Presley at $11. Even if he's going to be worth that much - and that's far from certain - you'd have to have another league member willing to bid $12 on him in order to keep you from re-acquiring him at $11, and you might get him for significantly less. The only real way cutting him would be a losing proposition is if some news broke which made it clear that he was going to get 600 PA. And it's not like he's going to get bid up to $20 or anything, even if the door is wide open, is it? (again, depends on format and inflation) What are your other keeper options? I guess I'd view him as being sub-$0 in unadjusted profit at $11, though that could swing either direction. If your other options are also around $0, keep the guy you like, sure. It's always fun to be able to say, "I told you so", and Presley could do well enough to make that possible, even if I think it's not terribly likely.

Feb 02, 2012 19:22 PM
 
wbw6b6

Thanks for taking a look at thames. Basically said what I thought, if he gets onthe lineup his bat will shine.

Jan 24, 2012 09:04 AM
rating: 0
 
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