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May 18, 2012

Value Picks

Outfielders for 5/18/12

by Rob McQuown

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Despite booting Dayan Viciedo and his .381 week with two home runs, the Value Picks outfielders hit a composite .295/.390/.477 this past week with five home runs and five stolen bases. With the three leadoff hitters combining for two runs batted in (neither Jarrod Dyson nor Denard Span had any), the group still managed 18 RBI while scoring 28 runs. Obviously, results may vary from week to week, but this is the sort of “found money” that can be realized when Value Picks work out.

Departures
Josh Reddick (Yahoo! 76%, ESPN 100%, CBS 93%)
departs on top, now being available only in leagues where all the active owners are asleep. With so few fantasy leagues counting walks in any way, shape, or form, he should have a long, prosperous fantasy career. He had another assist (his fifth) this week to go with his white-hot batting exploits (.346 with four home runs, seven runs, seven RBI, and a steal).

After six weeks of hiding in plain sight, Raul Ibanez (Yahoo! 37%, ESPN 72%, CBS 51%) is a secret no more. In keeping with the “fresh legs” theory of resting him more than a younger player, he had only 20 plate appearances, but he homered twice while driving in six runs, compensating for a .235 batting average this week. With the friendly home park and surrounding lineup, he should continue to hit homers and drive in runs.

Arrivals
At this point in his development, Ben Revere (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 9%) is probably no better an offensive player than Jarrod Dyson, but he also has the sort of 50-steal potential that should make him an immediate fantasy target. And unlike Dyson, he is still quite young and has shown enough in his minor-league track record to suggest there's much more growth en route. Derek Carty gave him two stars before the season, and he was a Keeper Reaper recommendation for “Deep” leagues last October. With his job security being now based primarily on the health of others, he no longer lives up to these predictions, but the potential is still there.

Michael Brantley (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 20%, CBS 30%) stole about 40 bases per 600 plate appearances while in the minors yet has only tallied 30 thefts in 1101 plate appearances with Cleveland. He leads the majors with four times caught stealing so far in 2012. Hitting .333 over the past two weeks makes him valuable regardless of the steals, and—other than during his 2011 MLB season—he's always had a very high contact percentage (just 15 strikeouts in 154 plate appearances in 2012), so expecting him to hit nearly .300 isn't unreasonable. Some have noted that his turnaround came when he was pulled from the leadoff spot, but he likely would have started hitting regardless. The steals should be expected to pick up somewhat, and that would be the reason to grab him from waivers. He should have better RBI totals than most players with low home run totals who steal bases.

Tweeners
Some players are long gone in single-league formats yet aren't really good enough for mixed-league consideration, but some should see their value improve over the upcoming days. Such guys include Coco Crisp, whose skill set is no mystery, but may be off the radar of many owners since he's been on the disabled list. Gregor Blanco isn't as good as he's been playing, but he should continue to steal bases and isn't bad. So many value picks at this point are “speed guys,” but Blanco should be playable in many formats as long as he continues to see playing time, even if he's playing well over his head now. In the National League, J.D. Martinez may be one of the best batting average/power combinations available, though his performance has put his playing time in serious jeopardy.

Incumbents
With nine steals in just 81 plate appearances, Tony Campana (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 17%, CBS 27%) has shown exactly the sort of speed which was expected, yet he remains freely-available in most leagues. His .324 batting average has been a pleasant surprise but has been tempered by his paltry totals in runs (12) and RBI (3). As long as Bryan LaHair and Starlin Castro continue to hit well behind him, Campana should see his runs scored total improve.

In year-to-date valuations (from lastplayerpicked.com), Jarrod Dyson (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 9%, CBS 12%) has been worth $1 in his 88 plate appearances already. His stolen base totals are alarmingly low, but at least one of his caught stealings (against the White Sox) was a blown call by the umpire, and there's no reason to expect that he won't soon return to burning up the basepaths.

Certainly not an exciting fantasy contributor, Denard Span (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 28%, CBS 40%) continues to help his major league team, logging a .417 on-base percentage this week and playing his usual great defense in center field.

Batting fifth for the Tigers to break up the lefties (Prince Fielder and Alex Avila), Delmon Young (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 25%, CBS 52%) clearly has Jim Leyland's confidence for the time being, and that's good enough to keep him on this list. Far from a sure thing to turn his season around, he'll be one of the more disappointing (non-health-related) washout stories if he doesn't. As a negative defensive influence, he'll have to get his OPS over .600 to have value to a major league team, but he's likely to continue to receive playing time for another month or more, even if he continues to struggle.

AL-only VP
Defensive whiz Craig Gentry (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) is the Rangers' secret weapon, according to Ben Lindbergh. He fits right in with all the other “speed guys” this week, having stolen as many as 49 bases in a minor-league season (2009). With David Murphy joining the starting outfield contingent this season, Gentry is highly likely to keep his roster spot and should see fourth outfielder playing time for a team with two outfielders who are quite prone to missing time (Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton). Don't expect him to steal 49 bases for the Rangers, but a .260 average with 20 steals would surprise nobody. Given the potent surrounding lineup, he should tally a goodly number of runs and RBI if he does that.

NL-only VP
Skip Schumaker (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 2%) and Shane Robinson (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) will be splitting time in center field for the Cardinals until Jon Jay is back. As the lefty, Schumaker will see most of the playing time, and though he won't hit home runs or steal bases, his career .291 batting average and .347 on-base percentage will allow him to contribute since the Cardinals’ lineup is so strong. Robinson should be avoided in virtually all formats; nothing in his history suggests an ability to steal enough bases or provide enough power to compensate for his lack of hitting.

Rotoworld.com commentary had this to say about Eric Young Jr. (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) recently: “Young missed 11 days following the death of his grandfather. He carries no value in fantasy leagues.” While he has a lot of obstacles to playing time, he also stole 330 bases in 3015 minor-league plate appearances, or more than 65 steals per 600 PA. He's continued that rate in his limited major league time, stealing 52 bases in just 504 career plate appearances (a pace of 62 SB per 600 PA). He fits well into this week's “speed guy” theme, and with a break or two, he could suddenly become a big asset in NL-only formats despite his limited offensive contributions while at the plate.

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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