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July 20, 2012

Value Picks

Outfielders for 7/20/12

by Paul Singman

Readers, I have the pleasure of introducing you today to yet another new member of the Baseball Prospectus Fantasy team.  Former Outfield VP author Rob McQuown will now be devoting his efforts to keeping things running smoothly on the tech side of the site, so we welcome Paul Singman to replace him. Paul used to write with me at The Hardball Times and, in fact, was the first writer I ever recruited at THT. He holds an impressive mixed league track record over the past few seasons, routinely finishing near the top of the Yahoo! Friends & Family league and currently running third in Tout Wars. Welcome aboard, Paul! —Derek Carty, Fantasy Manager

Welcome! It’s my first edition of outfielders Value Picks so there are no departures and nobody is sticking around. It’s arrivals only, so let’s begin.

Arrivals
Lorenzo Cain (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 8%, CBS 35%) returned from a torn hip flexor this past week, an injury that kept him out for the entire first half of the season. He’s back, though, and should receive the bulk of playing time in center field for the Royals. Based on his minor league numbers and reputation, I’d normally tout him as a solid average/steals combo, but the truth is, he hasn’t attempted a steal since returning. He has the speed, but it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll use it. What should not be ignored about Cain is the surge in power he’s produced since blasting a PCL-induced 16 homers in 2011. He went yard five times in spring training this year and has added two more bombs in his seven games since returning from the DL. He’s not a power hitter, but six-to-eight home runs of the rest of the season seems attainable. Couple that with a respectable average and ample run and RBI opportunities batting in the middle of the Royals lineup (he surprisingly batted fourth once and fifth three times in his last four starts) and you have a player that should be owned in most mixed leagues.

The Mariners don’t have much going for them hitting wise, so they can try fun things like playing Casper Wells (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 6%, CBS 4%) every day and batting him third. It’s not my idea of fun either, but for what it’s worth, Wells has responded by batting .360 with two homers and a steal over the past week. This is not an endorsement of Wells’ long-term ability—he simply strikes out too much to ever post a sustainable batting average above .250—but he’s hot, and sometimes it makes sense to simply add the hot hitter.

Although technically an infielder, I won’t hesitate mentioning Alexi Amarista (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 37%, CBS 19%) here as long as Josh Shepardson keeps writing about Wil Myers in the catchers VP. At 150 pounds, he may be the only major leaguer I outweigh. Don’t let size fool you though; Amarista packs a little pop in his bat, rarely strikes out, and steals bases (even if he might be best stopping given his awful success rates). With his play of late, Amarista looks like he could overtake Everth Cabrera as the Padres starting shortstop and be the new leadoff or number-two hitter in San Diego. In 12-plus team mixed leagues, he seems a worthy middle infield option.

Andres Torres (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%) hasn’t done much for the Mets this year with a .226 average and nine steals on the season. In July though, he’s found his singles stroke, batting .366 with 11 hits (10 singles) in 30 at bats. Torres is a known streaky hitter who appears to be heating up. If this is the case, Torres can offer plenty of runs and steals and his ownership rates should start to rise. Just watch his playing time, as the return of Jason Bay could cut into it if he doesn’t start performing immediately.

AL-only VP
At 21 years young, Anthony Gose (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 2%, CBS 15%) got the call this week to fill the void left by Jose Bautista’s wrist injury. Gose should provide plenty of steals and runs atop the Jays’ batting order and is capable of hitting a few balls over the wall too. He struggles to make contact though, and even with a relatively high BABIP, he could have trouble maintaining a batting average above the .240s. For what it’s worth, our own Resident Fantasy Genius made a sizeable FAAB investment in Gose this past weekend. Gose could be up for a mere two weeks, not play well, and be sent back down. Or he could be a starter for the next month while racking up steals. Nobody really knows which will happen, but the bottom line is that few available players have the potential to make as big an impact on the standings as Gose.

NL-only VP
If Nelson Cruz, Bryan LaHair, and even Brandon Moss have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t just ignore players in their mid-20’s who mash at Triple-A. The 27-year-old Andrew Brown (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) is doing his part to fit that description, slashing .317/.372/.605 with 20 homers for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate. He’s recently been called up and made one start, although consistent playing time won’t open up for Brown unless injury strikes. Still, he’s close to receiving playing time and has the ability to produce if given at bats, so keep an eye on him in NL-only leagues. A—

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