May 4, 2012
Outfielders for 5/4/12
It's a good thing most leagues don't count slugging percentage as a category, since the three picks from last week slugged a combined .278 over the past seven days. Fortunately, our much-discussed hero (at least in the comments), Michael Saunders, hit three homers, so good work anyone who had him active. Also, Gerardo Parra continued his wanton running, swiping three bases, and they say steals are more important when slugging is down.
Charlie Manuel will play the hot hand, and Laynce Nix has been that lately. With Juan Pierre (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 6%, CBS 16%) not stealing as much as he has in the past and Nix getting most of the time in left field against right-handed pitching, there's little reason to keep Pierre around.
With eight steals this season in just 85 plate appearances, Gerardo Parra (Yahoo! 34%, ESPN 51%, CBS 32%) is quietly turning into a fantasy star. Lastplayerpicked.com shows him as being worth $19 at present, good for 15th among all outfielders. He'll always be facing his organization's obvious lack of respect for his talent (made clear when they brought in Jason Kubel), but as long as Chris Young is hitting off a tee, things look rosy for Parra.
[In Campana's comment] Only seven qualifying batters registered a higher speed score than Campana's 7.5 in 2011, and it's no statistical illusion – he has the sort of wheels which cause even inveterate critics of the running game to gawk. His small stature makes him a longshot to develop into a starting position player, but he did go through the minors almost as quickly as he goes around the bases, with just 156 plate appearances below the high-A level, where he played most of 2009. With new GM Epstein's obvious affinity for fast players who play good defense, Campana should manage to stay on the roster and even see playing time. An optimist could hope that the new organizational plan will help his walk rate, and that his small strike zone and great speed will allow him to get on base enough to contribute on offense, but an upside of fourth outfielder seems more likely than a starting job.
[In Dave Sappelt's comment] With Tony Campana, the Cubs are well-stocked with capable outfield reserves, or even a productive stopgap platoon solution for center field if Marlon Byrd is traded before Brett Jackson is deemed ready.
Sappelt is playing his way out of any conversations with a bad start in Iowa, but Reed Johnson is around to fill the right side of the platoon with Campana. Of course, speed is golden in fantasy baseball, so as long as Campana is slated to receive 70 percent of the playing time in center field, there's really no reason to avoid him. He won't hit balls that leave the park and he won't keep hitting .355 (or even .300, probably), but early indications are that manager Dale Sveum will run a lot. Even if Campana doesn't have a high on-base percentage, he should continue to rack up the steals.
In general, the goal of value picks is to find players owned in fewer than 20 percent of leagues, but Delmon Young (Yahoo! 28%, ESPN 31%, CBS 60%) is an exception. It's likely that leagues in which owners are active have cut him, so his effective availability will be higher than most players owned in 30 percent of leagues. So why should you pick up a player who has been a constant disappointment and has off-field issues which not only make him difficult to root for, but also endanger his playing time? The short answer is because he's a 26-year-old with a career .287 batting average, whp has hit 21 home runs in a season before, and who plays in a lineup that should score runs. He's far from a must-have player—there's some real risk that his down season in 2011 was the beginning of the end of his career—but if he had two more singles, one more double, and one more home run right now, he'd be hitting .303 with a .454 slugging percentage. And if that were the case, there would be almost no talk of his imminent demise, regardless of his drunken spat. Of course, you can't go turning outs into hits for players without some good reason, and there really isn't a good one to do that for Young other than to show how small the sample size really is at this point in the season.
Dayan Viciedo (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 1%, CBS 30%) has hit .304/.333/.435 over the past week but is losing occasional playing time to Kosuke Fukudome against right-handed pitchers. After raving about him so much in this column, his start is indeed disappointing. It's probably time to face facts, and the fact is that if he gets cut now, he's extremely unlikely to be picked up right away, so owners can wait for him to turn things around without using a roster spot—at least for a while.
The bad news for David Murphy (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 12%, CBS 22%)—aside from the obvious fact that he stopped hitting—is that Brandon Snyder is hitting .357/.438/.643 in his very limited playing time so far, and Murphy has slumped since he was recommended. The good news is that Murphy bats lefty, so he'll still see most of the playing time even if they are platooned. Plus, Snyder hasn't really shown much in his recent minor-league seasons, so it's relatively likely that he'll play himself off the roster at some point anyway. Murphy hasn't turned out to be the “safe” pick he was advertised as, but he's still scoring and driving in more runs than expected given his awful stats recently (six runs scored and four RBI in 55 plate appearances since April 13, despite a .213/.278/.277 batting line).