The outfield is a wonderful place. Playing center most of my <ahem> illustrious career, I have an appreciation to the boredom coupled with rapid excitement that comes from playing in the space past the infield diamond. But before I start digressing about outfield arms and covering ground, let’s talk fantasy. No one cares about outfield defense in fantasy, we want power. Or speed. Or power AND speed. The fantasy outfield landscape is vast and varied. So let’s jump on in…
Mike Stanton can MASH. That’s actually the scientific term used by physicists when describing his swing. He hit a homer every 18 times he stepped up to the plate and had a stellar .248 ISO. He hit 21 homers in AA then then jumped and hit 22 more in the majors. The kid’s got serious power. CAIRO, for some reason, has him down for abbreviated AB and only 21 homers. This is still a good ratio considering they have him down for only 418 AB. Slightly more realistically, RotoChamp has him hitting 34 in 562 AB and GUESS WHAT? The usually stingy Bill James has Stanton hitting a whoppin’ 38 homers in 2011 (and an improved ISO of .288). Sure, he’s going to strike out a ton but how many young studs are out there? Actually quite a few, but not many who are very very likely to hit 35+ homers and doubles and knock in near 100 runs. He’s not going to hit .300 next year, but with 40 bombs and 100 RBI, you better be able to stomach a .270 average. Stanton is a stud, and is here to stay. Get him.
Jennings is one of the many young players I could have thrown into this space. However, he distinguishes himself in one of my favorite areas: speed. While there are questions about his power developing immediately, his speed is the real deal. Call him Crawford 2.0. He tore up the bases in the minors, stealing 45, 37 twice and 32 in rookie ball. No one seems to think that will change in the majors. CAIRO and RotoChamp seem to fear that he will lose AB’s to Damon and Manny, keeping him under 400 AB, yet both have him stealing 20+ bases. Now it gets interesting. Bill James, notorious for conservatism about rookies has him down for FIFTY-FOUR STEALS! That’s instant stud-dom! Jennings has always had a pretty good eye, but you gotta figure that, as a rookie, it is unreasonable to expect a .300 average. Look for .275 and be thrilled when he does better. As I said, his power is still (allegedly) developing, so don’t expect more than 10 homers. But 10 homers, 20+ doubles, 5 triples and FIFTY-FOUR STEALS sounds like a pretty good ‘low’ expectation to me. Jennings has enormous (read: the next Crawford) ceiling, but temper your expectations- he is a rookie, after all.
Great name, right? And we all know that’s the first step towards stardom. And the general consensus is just that – Browns headed to stardom. He looks like a player, standing (or towering) at a lanky 6’5” 200, he projects to hit for nice power but is also fleet of foot. He’s the whole package, basically. Now in my thinking about his 2011 season, I figured a safe starting bet was numbers similar to Jason Heyward’s 2010 campaign… good, very good even, but really just a teaser for the NEXT season. Again, I’m no expert, but this seemed reasonable. So imagine my surprise when I got to Domonic Brown’s Fangraphs page and saw Bill James’ projections. Apparently he likes the kid – 26 homers, 33 doubles, 4 triples, 94 RBI, 84 runs (breath), a .288 AVG AND 28 steals?!? Bill James gone wild! Ew. Gross. Seriously, though, is that a projection or what? Even if he doesn’t reach James’ lofty projections – and I expect he will not – somewhere between the low end (my theory) and the astronomical (James’) is a happy medium. 20+ homers and 20+ steals is ownable right there, throw in some other stats and it’s all gravy, baby. Tasty, tasty gravy.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THESE GUYS
I should admit that I’ve always been partial to the Flyin’ Hawaiian. I admire the speed in which he plays the game and the hustle he shows. That said, he was a major disappointment last year… or was he? Yes, his average slipped all the way down to .259 but the dude still swiped 34 bags and hit 18 homers! He is more than capable of producing a 15 homer, 35 steal, 100 run, 10+ triple season, making him at the very least interesting. But what do I know? Let’s see what the projectors say… just as I thought. CAIRO, RotoChamp, and Bill James all have similar numbers: .280 average, 90-100 runs, 15-ish homers, 30-ish steals… and that wonderful threat of the triple. I’m not saying go out and reach for Victorino in drafts – quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that when he drops (and he WILL drop), be mindful of letting him by in the later rounds.
How’re you gonna forget a face like that?
Easily, actually. Sizemore is a serious red-flag injury risk at this point. But for the bold, all signs seem go. Bill James seems to think he can play 150+ games but RotoChamp and CAIRO have him at limited (mid 400’s) at bats. It’s really a matter of how much faith you have in his health. I happen to think he’ll break down again, others are very optimistic. James has him for 23 homers, 105 runs, 81 RBI, and 23 steals in roughly a full season, hitting .265. Given a full year, this seems about right to me. There comes a time in every draft you take a player you’re scared of, and I’ll say that when you get to it, you might as well take a flier on a healthy Grady Sizemore. You remember healthy Grady Sizemore… right? He was a fantasy dreamboat. Good luck if you snag him, and I hope he does well – he seems like a good dude.
THE INCEPTION PLAY(s)
Do you know Matt Joyce’s ISO off the top of your head? That’d be incredible, rain man, but let me just tell you – it was .227. He hit 10 homers and 15 doubles (3 triples too, woot.) in just 261 plate appearances. That’s good for an extra base hit every 9.32 AB, a delightfully high rate for a guy who just needs a chance to play. Joyce has real pop – it’s just a matter of whether the Rays will let him use it. He figures to split time on the corners, so I’d hope for 500 AB and be happy with 400. Why? Well, let’s once again go to the projectors: RotoChamp has him at 21 homers in 444 at bats, an amazing amount and Bill James thinks 18 in 388 AB (with 28 doubles to boot). Point is, his power projects. Now if only it would come out on a regular basis… put him on your watch list or stash him while you monitor his playing time.
So, first off, yes I’m including him because I want him to follow us on twitter (@duckfromthepond). But more than that, this is the year for Snider, who is only 21 (actually his birthday is coming up so 22), to make a big step in his progression. With an improved batting eye, Snider could be a late-round power bargain. He put up two very promising months, May and September, which are hopefully indicators of what might be. Now the 24:2 K:BB ratio isn’t going to cut it, but that’s easily improved marginally. What sticks out in those months are his 6 homers in September and .543 SLG. Bill James doesn’t seem to think he will get regular PT, so I’m ignoring his projections (16 homers in 311 AB). CAIRO and RotoChamp, however, have him at 19 homers in 466 AB and 23 homers in 521 AB, respectively. These numbers are a better base if you look back at Snider’s power potential from the minors. Plus, the dude just looks like he can swing the lumber (link evidence of a BOMB). Snider is a great guy to take a flier on this year at the end of a draft, as, once again, he’s only 21. He’s improving every year and could pop off at any time. He was a major prospect who has since cooled in the majors so grab him before he heats up again. And see if he’ll follow us on twitter, damnit.
There we go, the outfielders to keep an eye on this year in drafts. With the exception of Sizemore, I would readily own them all (and I’d take Grady, just knowing that the injury bug could burn me). Outfield is a funny position in fantasy, as you can play it fast and loose with guys like Juan Pierre and Raja Davis, you can go for boppers like Snider, or you can play it safe with guys who emerge like Pagan or Torres. Only the season will tell, and it is fast approaching! Two weeks til Spring Training starts, so get ready. DotP is taking off so be prepared – fantasy baseball excellence is at the tip of your finger.
Later, ducks, and happy drafting.