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May 11, 2012

Value Picks

Outfielders for 5/11/12

by Rob McQuown

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There was a common perception that Jayson Werth is injury prone, but he went almost four years between stints on the disabled list (his previous being May 23, 2008). His loss hurts fantasy owners, though not nearly as much as it is likely to hurt the on-base-challenged Nationals. Meanwhile, mixed-league afterthought Rick Ankiel becomes a much better risk; the team really needs his power, even if he brings little else to the table offensively. In the fantasy realm, however, owners can do a lot better when searching for a replacement in most league formats, which is where Value Picks comes in...

Departures
There should probably be a “David Murphy” (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 10%, CBS 20%) category for players among outfield Value Picks to go with “Arrivals”, “Departures”, and “Incumbents”.  At his best, Murphy is not terribly exciting, and at his worst, he's still better than a handful of players who are getting playing time on fantasy teams in most leagues.  With over a dozen mentions by this author alone in the past couple years (per the site search tool), there's not much new to write; “he is who he is,” as the saying goes. He had a good week baseball-wise (.333/.412/.467 plus a homer in Thursday's early game) but had a lone run scored and an equal number of runs batted in. He's getting the boot for now, although with two games against the Royals and three against the Astros this upcoming week, waiting a few days to replace him might be better timing for owners who have him.  But don't worry; he'll likely be there on your league's waiver wire if you need someone in the future.

With the assistance of Sam Miller, DiSars recrudesced again Wednesday, and the fact that the 2010 “winner” of this “award” was none other than Dayan Viciedo (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 0%, CBS 25%) was mentioned. With 28 strikeouts and just three walks in 97 plate appearances, it appears that Viciedo has reverted to his apparent pursuit of Gary DiSarcina's goal of never walking. But in some ways, his 2012 stats are even more concerning still. He's swinging at only 49 percent of pitches compared to nearly 56 percent in 2010, but he's also taken 37 percent of his pitches seen for strikes, whereas his 2010 aggressiveness held this rate to just 26 percent. In some instances, a reduction in swings at pitches outside the zone (from 45 percent in 2010 to 36 and 39 percent, respectively, in 2011 and 2012) would compensate for taking a few more pitches for strikes (which patient hitters do). Yet connecting on just 57 percent of those out-of-zone swings is disconcerting, to say the least. Part of the reason his 2012 outlook was so positive is that he wasn't missing these pitches previously. He had just a 25 percent miss percentage on pitches outside the zone (75 percent rate of making contact) in 2011. There's still the possibility that Viciedo will find some magic bullet (such as moving his hands back four inches in his stance) and instantly become the solid mid-order hitter that we hoped for. And the lack of pressure from young up-and-coming players, combined with the bleak outlook for the Sox in 2012, makes it less likely that he'll be demoted or lose too much playing time. His stat line is bad enough now, however, that he can safely be cut in most formats and subsequently re-acquired if he starts hitting.

Arrivals
How often is it that a starting position player for the most popular baseball team is hitting .260/.326/.513 through May 10 with five home runs and two stolen bases (in just 86 plate appearances) and is available in over 70 percent of fantasy leagues? Yes, Raul Ibanez (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 23%, CBS 29%) is available. Yes, Derek Carty picked him as a preseason Value Pick. And yes, there's a lot of risk involved, as Ibanez saw his slugging percentage decrease from .552 in 2009 to .419 in 2011 with the Phillies. But Yankee Stadium plays as a much better park for lefty power than Citizen's Bank Park, and with Boston's pitching falling apart completely in 2012 (worst in the American League in runs allowed per game at 5.70), the AL East hasn't had great pitching so far in 2012 (though Baltimore's has been surprisingly good). While the Yankees have so many injuries, playing time for Ibanez should be assured, even in games in NL parks with no DH. He'll get more off days than a younger player might, but those are likely to be against lefties, so the hit to his stats won't be too bad.

Nobody ever suggested that the Oakland A's are the most popular baseball team, and that helps explain why their most often-used number-three hitter, Josh Reddick (Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 65%, CBS 57%), is available in so many leagues. The A's organization (and general manager) will forever be synonymous with the “Moneyball” philosophy and discerning market inefficiencies, and it appears as though they’ve keyed in on a new inefficiency: low-OBP isolated power. Reddick has always been this sort of hitter, which never sat well with Boston's management and led them to seek out a hitter with a more patient and selective approach.

While his defense won't help a fantasy owner, it is likely to keep him in the lineup during slumps; he's a smooth, rangy right-fielder who can cover center field in a pinch. Oh, and he has a cannon attached to his right shoulder that has allowed him to rack up 10 assists in his brief MLB career to date (four so far in 2012), confirming that the 34 assists he piled up between 2007-2008 in just 205 games was not some sort of minor league illusion. That's nearly 27 assists per 162 games, which compares favorably to Alex Gordon's MLB-leading total of 20 outfield assists in 2011 and the mere 16 for the second place outfield assistant. Reddick may not end up leading the league, but he should be a frequent contender.

Not much positive can be said about his teammates or his home ballpark, but if he keeps batting third, at least he'll be surrounded by the best Oakland has to offer, and that should allow him to end the season with representative totals in runs and runs batted in.

He's a one-category guy who probably is no better at the plate than the ill-fated Clete Thomas AL-only recommendation last week, but Jarrod Dyson  (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 5%, CBS 9%) is so great at that one category that he's actually worth picking up in deeper mixed leagues until Lorenzo Cain returns. Vince Coleman led off for the Cardinals for years, posting lines as bad as .232/.301/.280 in 1986. Dyson's career batting line is a not-far-off .234/.301/.331, though that’s probably slightly lower than his true skill level. He has hit .282/.348/.367 in 659 Triple-A plate appearances, so slightly lower doesn't mean to expect him to suddenly become Kenny Lofton at the dish. Nor is he really Vince Coleman on the basepaths either, though with the change in strategy over the years, it's not inconceivable that if he (and his manager) was willing to take more risks, he would pile up more. So far, he's been on first base 79 times with second base open and has gone 23-for-26 in steal attempts with four pickoffs (zero pickoff caught stealing).  This means that 38 percent of the time, he tried to steal. Thirty-four percent of the time, he both attempted and succeeded in stealing. Coleman's numbers were astonishing: 51 and 41 percent, respectively. Since Dyson has appeared as a pinch runner so often, it's not safe to pro-rate his steal rate per PA, but even with a .300 OBP, he should manage a 60-steal pace.

Incumbents
With a few owners jumping off the bandwagon in both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, Tony Campana (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 14%, CBS 23%) is now more available than ever.  Stolen bases are very dependent upon opportunities, and the fact that Campana didn't have a steal last week was just a fluke. He started every game in center field except against Chris Capuano started, and Capuano isn't the sort of pitcher who's going to be a good matchup for Campana anyway (which certainly entered into manager Dale Sveum's decision process); he has a career .293 OBP allowed to lefty batters and has a fantastic ability to keep baserunners from stealing (just 24 stolen bases allowed in 4308 career plate appearances against).  Much more important is the fact that Campana had a tolerable .333 on-base percentage last week and actually slugged .421. In other words, he's doing what he needs to do to solidify his hold on playing time, and if he plays, the steals will come.

As in real baseball, Delmon Young (Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 27%, CBS 55%) is getting another chance  this week to show that he belongs on a Value Picks list. If he plays his way off this list, he may re-emerge on Michael Street's DH list in the future, even if he doesn't like the idea very much. If he doesn't rebound, he won't be the only player to peak at age 24 (Nick Markakis appears to be on this career path as well, providing evidence that it's not necessarily a matter of having a bad attitude—no one would question Markakis' attitude). Unlike many other players listed as Value Picks, Young is likely to get snatched up as soon as he strings a couple good games together, so there's some strategic value to being overly patient with him too.

Despite a bad week (.150/.190/.150 and his first off day of the year), Denard Span (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 39%, CBS 44%) remains a very solid pickup among typical waiver wire fodder. He has the Indians, Tigers, and Brewers coming up, so the schedule makes this a good time to pick him up. Tangentially, who would have guessed that the Brewers would have the second-highest runs allowed per game through May 10?  It can't even be blamed on sixth-turned-fifth starter Marco Estrada, who has a 4.50 ERA and 1.125 WHIP so far.

AL-only VP
Trevor Plouffe (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) 
has more value at other positions than he does as an outfielder, but he does have outfield eligibility, and being rated at both middle infield positions is just an added bonus. He actually looked like he might deserve some playing time in 2011 ala Brett Lillibridge in Chicago, slugging a whopping .635 in Rochester—giving him 30 Triple-A homers in 665 plate appearances between 2010 and 2011—and playing decently (.305 on-base percentage and .392 slugging percentage) in the majors… for a guy who could play shortstop, that is. As an outfielder, he only seems passable by comparison to the other options on the Twins this year. Erik Komatsu is probably the better option in the outfield for the Twins (better on defense, more likely to have an acceptable on-base percentage), but he only has a little stolen-base potential and almost no power, so Plouffe is the upside play based on the power he's shown (“upside” being very context-dependent here).

NL-only VP
The graphic below shows a Team Tracker report of the Pirates players who are iin the mix for outfield at-bats (Jones could move there if Casey McGehee starts hitting). It's not exactly a ringing endorsement of Nate McLouth (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%), but he's career .248/.337/.423 hitter, and his PECOTA projection is .244/.333/.408 (the power being sapped somewhat by his home ballpark) with eight homers and eight steals in just 288 plate appearances. Given the sad state of affairs in Pittsburgh (compounded by the fact that possible Triple-A replacement Starling Marte was recently hit in the hand with a pitch and hasn't played since May 6), it doesn't take much imagination to foresee McLouth playing more. While he's struggled like the rest, he has a long enough track record (and a $1.75 million contract for 2012) that it seems likely he’ll bring his stats up to his career levels.

Name               

AGE

PA

AB

G

H

HR

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

TAV

BABIP

Garrett Jones

31

72

68

23

19

4

1

.279

.306

.529

.296

.306

Nate McLouth

30

43

38

21

8

0

0

.211

.302

.263

.210

.286

Alex Presley

26

110

105

28

26

2

3

.248

.269

.343

.228

.308

Jose Tabata

23

108

100

26

23

1

4

.230

.280

.310

.229

.268

TOTAL

28

333

311

98

76

7

8

.244

.285

.363

.241

.291

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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