December 28, 2009
Left Field Rankings Review
Just as with the pre-season rankings, the review of the outfield will be broken down into left, center, and right field. We'll start with left field today, a position that for the most part went as expected, though there were a few surprises on both the low and high ends that merit discussion. Left field wasn't all that impressive offensively as a unit in 2009, with a .271 average EqA that was closer to the middling offensive positions than first base, which sat well ahead of everyone else. The young players didn't emerge for the most part, and many starters either succumbed to injury or struggled while playing through them. It's kind of a top-heavy position with a very similar back end, and unless some situations change in the next few months, 2010 may end up being kind of the same (though with a different order).
Before diving in to the rankings, I also want to start some discussion about what it is we should do about the lists themselves. Should the format change? Should it stay the same? Would you prefer something like star ratings and tiers, like those that Kevin Goldstein uses in his Top 11 Prospects list, or do you want to retain the basic 1-20 ranking system? For that matter, are 20 players at each position enough? Let's get all of these ideas out in the open now so that there's plenty of time to accommodate requests by the time ranking season rolls around. That way, I provide you with the service you ask for, and still have time to do the things I plan on doing for you outside of that. Reply in the comments, ask me in chats, e-mail me, or talk to me via Twitter (@Marc_Normandin) over the next few months with your thoughts; I may not respond to all of you, but I will keep track of your replies for the purposes of 2010's rankings.
1. Ryan Braun (.296/.362/.560 PECOTA) .320/.386/.551: Braun had his worst power output, but he made up for it by crossing the 200-hit mark. In the original rankings, I said Braun was one of the few left fielders I would go for early, given the scarcity at other positions versus the depth in left, and he made that statement work as a five-category player.
2. Alfonso Soriano (.281/.348/.538 PECOTA) .241/.303/.423: Soriano's PECOTA forecast looked a lot like his 2008 campaign, and given he was free from the injuries that hurt his body that year (but not his performance), there was no reason to think he would perform otherwise. A knee injury caused him problems before shutting him down, but there were other issues at play. Soriano is a notoriously good fastball hitter, but saw very few of them this year-among players with 450 plate appearances, Soriano's 46 percent fastball rate ranked second behind Ryan Howard. He performed poorly against sliders, which he saw a great number of (second, min. 450 PA) and curveballs (fifth in the majors), which may not be a good sign going forward for either the Cubs or Soriano.
3. Manny Ramirez (.291/.391/.538 PECOTA) .290/.418/.531: PECOTA was all over this Manny forecast, though the time he missed with his suspension caused his rate stats to dip. It was an impressive three-fifths of a season, but that's little comfort to those who picked him up early in their draft.
4. Carlos Quentin (.273/.363/.485 PECOTA) .236/.323/.456: Injuries kept Quentin from putting together a full season and limited his production while he was on the field as well. The .219 ISO he put up even while hurt is a good sign, though. Assuming his .269 BABIP moves back to where it's supposed to, then Quentin's 2010 forecast and actual performance should both look much better than this past season's effort. If he's healthy, that should happen.
5. Carl Crawford (.276/.322/.409 PECOTA) .305/.362/.452: I mentioned in the rankings that PECOTA was misinterpreting struggles with injury for downward trending performance with Crawford-much healthier in 2009 than in 2008, he was able to perform above his forecast's expectations. I'm tempted to move him up in the left-field rankings for next year since a few of the players in front of him are struggling with injuries or performance.
6. Matt Holliday (.291/.366/.498 PECOTA) .313/.394/.515: Holliday hit well enough in Oakland and then exploded in St. Louis to help push his line above his forecast. I'm still comfortable with this ranking, though his power output may have been even less than my pre-season pessimism expected had he spent the full year in an A's uniform.
7. Jason Bay (.271/.364/.493 PECOTA) .267/.384/.537: Bay hit more fly balls than we're used to seeing (he posted the lowest GB/FB ratio of his career) and had his highest HR/FB rate since 2004, which helped him outperform his expected power production. This ranking looks worse due to Soriano and Quentin struggling due to injuries, so I'm not too broken up on the miss, but at the same time I may have understated his power. I was a tad worried Fenway would block some of his homer potential, especially since he had an aversion to the Wall in his time there in 2008.
8. Adam Dunn (.263/.396/.541 PECOTA) .267/.398/.529: Dunn's season went well thanks to a rejuvenated BABIP that kept his batting average in an adequate fantasy range. He drove in over 100 runners, but didn't come close to the 100-run mark. Still, 38 homers, 100+ RBI, and 80+ runs is a pretty good deal from Dunn, especially when his batting average didn't crater.
9. Carlos Lee (.296/.359/.509 PECOTA) .300/.343/.489: Lee hit .300 yet again, but his power output dropped significantly. He had just two fewer homers than in 2008, but he did this in 174 additional at-bats (Lee's AB/HR for 2008 was 15.6, whereas 2009 was 23.5). His Isolated Power dropped from .255 to .189, and though he once again drove in 100 runners, he was driven in just 65 times by the below-average Astros offense (one that, of course, looks even worse once Lee is on base and not at bat). Sliders were his downfall, and they normally are not a problem for him, so one wonders if his bat or reaction time has slowed just enough to cause future problems.
10. Johnny Damon (.280/.354/.423 PECOTA) .282/.365/.489: This was a projection that didn't make much sense to me, given he had slugged .461 (with a .159 ISO) when healthy just the year before. The 22 projected steals sounded good though, and I felt that in the revamped Yankee lineup you could expect him to increase his run totals to over 100 and see his RBI jump a bit as well. While he stole just 12 bases, the other items on the list did happen, and he even managed to hit 24 homers to make up for the lack of steals.
11. Adam Lind (.272/.326/.458 PECOTA) .305/.370/.562: PECOTA thought Lind would slowly build on his modest showing from 2008, but he skipped a few steps in his development and went straight to being awesome. I did mention that by year's end he should be hitting in line with his 75th percentile forecast of .288/.344/.494, so he even outperformed my optimism. He'll be higher than 11th in 2010, that's for sure.
12. Pat Burrell (.236/.364/.454 PECOTA) .221/.315/.367: Burrell's neck was a problem in 2009-he was hitting .250/.349/315 on May 15, with a HR/FB rate of 2.5 percent. Things did pick up for him a bit in the second half, as he was at least able to post a .171 ISO there while hitting 10 homers, but his year was disappointing overall. I'm not entirely convinced he'll rebound enough in the future to merit a spot in the rankings, but since he played just two games in the outfield in 2009 anyway (and was not dealt, as was expected, for Milton Bradley) he'll be at DH and largely ignored anyway.
13. Delmon Young (.284/.325/.420 PECOTA) .284/.308/.425: PECOTA nailed his average and slugging, but missed on the on-base percentage since Young decided to devolve as far as his patience was concerned. Young was in just his age-23 season, but he's played three full years in the majors now, not one of them even a sliver above-average offensively, and he hasn't made any progress in regards to seeing pitches, drawing walks, or making up for his lack of patience with power. He also decided not to steal any bases this year, picking up just two after swiping 14 last year. His ranking was based on upside, but I'm going to have a hard time recommending him anywhere near this slot in 2010.
14. Felix Pie (.274/.333/.435 PECOTA) .266/.327/.437: PECOTA was right on target with Pie, which is a bit disappointing. Pie picked up just 282 plate appearances on the season, which cut into his counting stats, but without a breakout campaign on the rate side, the Orioles never felt pressured to play him any more than they did. The fact that he dealt with a sore leg, a hamstring injury, a throat injury, and food poisoning also didn't help matters.
15. Fred Lewis (.277/.354/.436 PECOTA) .258/.349/.390: Lewis' forecasted line was not that impressive for a left fielder, but he was projected for 15 steals and had just stolen 21 in 2008, so as a late-rounder or a backup, he should have been harmless. Despite a .348 BABIP, he ended up falling apart at the plate and spending a lot of time riding pine though, and to add insult to injury swiped just eight bags. I leaned a little too heavily on his 2008 campaign when making this ranking.
16. Rick Ankiel (.258/.327/.488 PECOTA) .231/.285/.387: A discussion of what did not go wrong for Ankiel in 2009 may take less time than what did-his HR/FB rate dropped by nearly half and his liner rate fell to 15 percent, limiting his BABIP and batting average, and injuries kept him from sticking on the field all year or playing well while he was on it. He may not be a lost cause in 2010, though the total lack of attention paid to him on the free-agent market makes it seem like he is.
17. Josh Willingham (.266/.360/.466 PECOTA) .260/.367/.496: Willingham was a little better than his projection thanks to a bump in HR/FB rate. His run and RBI totals were weak though, and the .260 batting average isn't that great considering he doesn't do much else to boost your team's numbers. A solid enough pick in deep NL-only leagues, but he's nothing special overall, which is why he's ranked where he is.
It looks like a wonderful chain of events unfolded for Ibanez, all at once. Between the league switch and favorable weather conditions for hitters in his games, Ibanez has been able to make the Phillies' front office look smart for signing him. Assuming he does not have the same meteorological blessings in the second half that he has had in the first, we should see his performance return to a much more Ibanez-like level.
You can read about that in more detail here, but the important thing is that Ibanez hit .232/.326/.448 in the second half, which is lower than he should but also closer to the truth than his first half or full season line indicates.
19. Jack Cust (.236/.375/.456 PECOTA) .240/.356/.417: Cust would be a lot more valuable if he could somehow convince pitchers that throwing him nothing but fastballs was the best way to get him out, but since the complete opposite of that is happening, his numbers are dropping. If you desperately need homers, he's a fit, but the batting average is a killer. If he ends up in a better lineup than what the A's surrounded him with, though, he may be a bit more attractive in 2010 than in 2009.
20. Chase Headley (.258/.345/.436 PECOTA) .262/.343/.392: Poor Chase Headley. He's not a bad hitter, despite appearances-Petco is just very, very mean to him. He hit .305/.377/.426 on the road this year, and .293/.377/.421 overall in the second half following a poor first half, so there's hope he'll be better in 2010, but that park is going to keep him from being relevant on a fantasy level.
As for the "Just Missed" guys, none of them did much of anything to warrant a better ranking. David Murphy hit .269/.338/.447, which is decent enough, but not that impressive given he plays in Texas and is a corner outfielder. Eric Byrnes looked about as useful in 2009 as he did in 2008, which is to say he was awful. Jody Gerut couldn't repeat his trick from 2008. Scott Hairston hit very well for the Padres in spite of Petco, but couldn't keep it together in the AL playing for the Athletics.