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January 8, 2010

Fantasy Focus

Right Field Rankings Review

by Marc Normandin

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The word I used to describe the right fielders from the 2009 list was "upside." When that's what you are basing the order of players on, some things are bound to go wrong, and they did. Sticking out like a sore thumb is my top right fielder, who performed at a level you could describe as "less than expected." It also appears as if I didn't give enough credit to some players in the middle who should have been ranked higher. Basically, this is the position I feel I messed up the most on, and it's part of the reason I wanted to do this review series in the first place. The list is as out of order as one with injuries, except no one of consequence was actually hurt, just bad. You can't win them all, I guess, but the good news is that we can now review where I went wrong before the 2010 rankings are completed and released.

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. Corey Hart (.289/.343/.494 PECOTA) .260/.335/.418: Basically, I felt that Hart was closer to his 75th percentile than his weighted mean. When I wrote the ranking, 2008 was the blip, and 2007 was what I thought he could do. Instead, Hart cranked out even less power in 2009, and cut his steals in half as well, so basically he went from a five-category player (in my head only, apparently) to being an afterthought. This was easily my most significant mistake out of all of the rankings.

2. Nick Markakis (.286/.368/.466 PECOTA) .293/.347/.453: Markakis is a player I took a lot of flak for, as many people did not think his projection or ranking was an accurate representation of what he could do. For whatever reason, PECOTA nailed his performance, as he played much more like the Markakis of 2006-2007 than the one we were all excited about in 2008. Markakis didn't have the massive success against fastballs that he did in 2008, which may have led to the 30-point drop in his BABIP. He also somehow lost six percent off of his walk rate despite the same number of P/PA. Curious.

3. Justin Upton (.278/.361/.506 PECOTA) .300/.366/.532: I said Upton needed to make more contact and strike out less often for his ceiling to come within reach, and Upton did a little bit of both on the way to his breakout season. He still whiffs often, but not at an embarrassing or alarming rate like in 2008, and for the second straight year, he increased his power output. Let's not forget he also stole 20 bases after what seemed like a generous projection of 11 (Upton had three steals combined between 2007-2008). I would love to see more runs and RBI for him so that he's the clear-cut superstar-level player at the top of the list, but he might be there even without those numbers.

4. Hunter Pence (.286/.346/.491 PECOTA) .282/.346/.472: Instead of building on his power from 2008, Pence was around the same level. His power did increase in the second half, though, as his ISO moved from .175 to .207. Let's hope he can maintain that in 2010, as he would be a much more attractive option with just a bit more pop.

5. Andre Ethier (.292/.368/.464 PECOTA) .272/.361/.508: Ethier maintained more of his second-half 2008 surge than PECOTA expected, and he did so without the benefit of BABIP (which was the main reason his numbers were so good in the first place during that stretch). The fifth spot seemed like a good place for him given that BABIP-influenced 2008 and his PECOTA forecast, but going forward he will be ranked higher since he does everything well except steal. [Ed. note: Or hit lefties.]

6. Ryan Ludwick (.264/.344/500 PECOTA) .265/.329/.447: Ludwick's BABIP dropped 50 points between 2008 and 2009, and because of this he wasn't quite able to match his projection. It wasn't a terrible year, but also not worthy of the sixth spot. The reason I felt the projection was reasonable is because he performed well in 2007-obviously 2008 was not his true talent level-but the idea of putting up a year a bit better than 2007 in 2009 seemed doable. I'll have to reevaluate him for 2010 though.

7. Jay Bruce (.283/.342/.509 PECOTA) .223/.303/.470: From the 2009 rankings: "If you draft Jay Bruce, be wary; I'm not sure that he'll hit as well as PECOTA thinks he will. This ranking is based on my belief that he'll turn a corner at some point during the year and become more consistent at the major-league level, instead of having his raw talent carry him through short stretches as it did last year. Once he 'gets it,' though, he's going to be a fantastic hitter." Bruce hit .207/.283/.441 in the first half, struggling out of the gate as expected, but because of a fractured wrist he was never given the chance to set things right, picking up just 46 at-bats after the All-Star Game. He did hit .326/.426/.652 during that short stretch, though, which Bruce credits to no longer "double-tapping" his foot. He hit .223 with an awful OBP, but let's focus on his 22 homers in 345 at-bats; once he puts the rest of it together, he is going to be a monster.

8. Elijah Dukes (.278/.386/.486 PECOTA) .250/.337/.393: Another player with high upside who just didn't put it together. Dukes didn't play a full season, thanks to injuries and a stint in Triple-A, but he never played at a level where he deserved to do more than that anyway, especially once Nyjer Morgan joined the club. I put a little too much faith in his second half performance from 2008.

9. Milton Bradley (.294/.402/.525 PECOTA) .257/.378/.397: I don't think I accounted for his 2008 BABIP enough-I knew a drop was imminent from .396, but I thought that meant down to a .330+ level, not .311, and not with a 100-point dip in ISO to boot. Next year should be interesting for him, as he's a switch-hitter in a park that favors lefties and punishes right-handers.

10. Vladimir Guerrero (.296/.351/.478 PECOTA) .295/.334/.460: His projection was pretty close as far as rates go (though his ranking still doesn't work because there are players behind him who should have been here or better) but Vlad didn't play a full season. The 15 homers looks mildly depressing for those who know what he used to do on the field, but if he had played more than 100 games, he would have been able to match or surpass his projected total of 22. That being said, he is Molina slow these days, and grounded into 16 double plays despite playing about two-thirds of a season.

11. Ichiro Suzuki (.292/.338/.359 PECOTA) .352/.386/.465: It's so difficult to predict when Ichiro is going to have his huge offensive seasons. There's an Ichiro baseline out there, somewhere around .310/.360/.400, and he doesn't go below that, but he very well may blow it out of the water without warning. I could rank him in the top five next year because of his average, runs, and steals, and he will end up hitting .310 with no power, 100 runs and 20 steals. Then I'll move him back here for 2011, and he'll hit .350 again. That being said, PECOTA had a pretty good handle on how his stolen bases would turn out; apparently his swiping just nine bags in the second half of 2008 had more weight to it than I believed.

12. J.D. Drew (.269/.374/.451 PECOTA) .279/.392/.522: PECOTA has been signaling the decline of J.D. Drew ever since he got to Boston, but it just hasn't happened yet. Drew doesn't drive in anywhere near as many runs as you would expect for a guy slugging .522 in a packed lineup, but he's more of a table-setter in that lineup, as Theo Epstein so eloquently bashed into the heads of the WEEI radio folk this past year. He's one of the best right fielders in baseball in real life, but in fantasy he doesn't have the counting stats to be more than a pretty useful option.

13. Alex Rios (.275/.332/.459 PECOTA) .247/.296/.395: Rios saved his 2008 season with a homer-happy second half, but that second half never came in 2009, even after being dealt to homer-friendly Chicago. Rios posted the lowest BABIP of his career and his worst since 2005, so there's room to improve in 2010, but the idea that he'll be a 30/30 player at some point may be slipping away.

14. Jayson Werth (.283/.380/.511 PECOTA) .268/.373/.506: I thought PECOTA was "overboard" with its projection, but it turned out to be right on target. My reasoning was that Werth did things to left-handers that the Geneva Convention prohibits, but hit just .255/.360/.407 against right-handers. He once again ruined southpaws in '09 (.302/.436/.644 in 149 at-bats) but also picked up the slack against righties (.256/.348/.457 in 422 at-bats). His three-year line against right-handers is still a bit worrisome, so I'm still debating whether I over- or underrate him for fantasy purposes.

15. Bobby Abreu (.289/.372/.447 PECOTA) .293/.390/.435: Abreu's power dropped again, but he also picked up 96 runs and 103 RBI in the Angels' lineup, so that's something. If he's going to steal 30 bases, hit .290, and near or surpass the 100-mark in those two numbers, then he's going to need to be ranked better than 15th. I had put him here thinking he wouldn't be able to replicate his Yankees numbers in the Angels vastly inferior lineup, but then the entire Angels lineup decided to be like Bobby Abreu and develop patience, so let's throw him into the reevaluation bin for 2010.

16. Randy Winn (.297/.359/.421 PECOTA) .262/.318/.353: You know, I learned something today, and that's to never expect anything from a Giants hitter not named Pablo Sandoval. I'm pretty positive that if we put Willie McCovey in a uniform now that he would outperform most of this lineup.

17. Jermaine Dye (.271/.333/.503 PECOTA) .250/.340/.453: I mentioned that Dye was tough to predict, as he'd had a huge first half but fell back a bit in the second to around to where his 2009 projection sat. He instead performed closer to his 25th percentile thanks to a truly abysmal second half in 2009, lowering expectations still further for 2010.

18. Magglio Ordonez (.296/.360/.468 PECOTA) .310/.376/.428: PECOTA expected him to fall back a bit, and he did; he just fell even further than expected. He was ranked this low mostly due to the number of talented players in front of him, but he ended up earning this spot just the same, as his batting average was the lone asset he provided.

19. Brad Hawpe (.285/.384/.514 PECOTA) .285/.384/.519: Hawpe normally has a severe platoon split, and some of that was lost against right-handers in 2008, so I wasn't too hot on the idea of Hawpe matching his forecast, especially when he misses a good chunk of the season avoiding lefties. PECOTA decided it would be cool to project his slash slats to within .005 and show me up, though, so there's that. He's another one to reconsider in 2010.

20. Brian Giles (.280/.376/.415 PECOTA) .191/.277/.271: Giles was coming off of a year in which his EqA was better than teammate Adrian Gonzalez, one of the better hitters in the game. He followed that up with one of the worst performances by an everyday player in the majors. That's not a Point A to Point B progression, but given the injuries, his age, and the total lack of interest in him on the free agent market, it may not be a problem we need to sort out for 2010 either.

Related Content:  PECOTA,  A's,  The Who,  Power Rankings

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Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Catcher... (01/15)
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You Could Look It Up: ... (01/08)

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