Fantasy Fridays, Vol. 4: March Madness in the Outfield

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Fantasy Fridays, Vol. 4: March Madness in the Outfield

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In the second last edition of Fantasy Fridays draft special, I will discuss some solid bargains in the outfield. This group will come as an unglamorous bunch that hold the same value as those drafted significantly higher. There is one player in particular, that I am incredibly high on and worry about talking too much of him as I have drafts remaining. I will also refrain from talking about my bracket. Although I am sure that it would be humorous to discuss at given how embarrassingly ugly it looks already, I will save some credibility.

Jerry Owens

Remember the Scott Podsednik days in Chicago? You know, when he was a healthy, full-time outfielder who stole 99 bases in two seasons, despite a .340ish on-base percentage. I re-introduce to you the forgotten Jerry Owens.

In 2007, as a 26-year-old rookie without a full time gig, Owens stole 32 bases for the White Sox. This was with a less then stellar BABIP (when considering his line drive and ground ball rates) which obviously affected his batting average and consequently his on base percentage.

Now, Owens is not going to fool anybody with game changing power or an outstanding on base percentage. While he is not terrible at taking a walk (he is slightly below league average in walks per strike out) Owens would much rather put his bat on the ball, which for a guy with his speed is not a terrible idea. However, when Juan Pierre is being taken with pick No. 110 (ESPN and Yahoo Average Draft Position), it becomes obvious who has the better value.

But let’s say you are waiting on steals, thinking ‘I’ll just take Taveras or Bourn later in the draft’. This isn’t a bad strategy and one that I would have considered before doing my homework, but again, you are going to be spending a pick in the top 190 to land one of these two.

Conversely, Owens is available for nothing. You could, by all means, draft DL bound players like Schilling or Carpenter and pick Owens up once the season begins. If you do that, you’ll be thanking me in August when your team receives one of the best deadline players available.

 

Lastings Milledge

If you are like me, you probably prefer not filling your roster with one dimensional players. Although at times it is required, in certain leagues it definitely should be avoided. This leads me to Lastings Milledge. Here is a player whom at one point was compared very favorably to Delmon Young and has had a very similar professional career. Now, I am not suggesting that Milledge is going to have a better season then Young, rather, I am discussing the difference in value here.

Consider that Milledge is on average being taken with the 223rd overall pick according to ESPN’s Average Draft Position (ADP) and is being taken with an unknown pick beyond No. 201 within Yahoo public leagues. Conversely, Delmon Young is being taken with picks No. 110 and 102 on ESPN and Yahoo, respectively. However, Milledge is not only being overlooked in favor of Delmon Young, but also with Johnny Damon (145 and 130) and Aaron Rowand (140 and 156) as other five category outfielders.

Here is the average of the five projection systems on Fan Graphs have to say about these four players:

Name – R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG
Milledge – 47, 11, 46, 10, .270 (average 325 at bats)
Young – 64, 13, 79, 13, .291 (554 at bats)
Damon – 93, 13, 63, 19, .277 (536 at bats)
Rowand – 80, 17, 72, 9, .284 (545 at bats)

I understand that Milledge comes in looking a little shaky, but keep in mind that is with 325 at bats. If we average those stats over 545 at bats his numbers look like this: 79, 18, 77, 17, and .270. Overall, those rank as about the best numbers of the foursome. I do recognize that the numbers are not exact and they can definitely vary between 325 at bats and 545, but even if he is slightly worse then the other three, if he can be had some 80 picks later, why not?

 

Bill Hall

After Hall’s 2006 season, he was understandably a very high pick. Given his position flexibility, people figured the move to the outfield would only enhance his performance as it would be much less stressful on the then 28 year old. What people did not notice is that he had a dangerously unsustainable home run per fly ball rate. Couple that with a high ankle sprain that entirely derailed Hall’s season and one can be excused for drafting him in the top 80 (as per three Yahoo public league drafts I was involved in for the 2007 season). Consider his first half slugging percentage of .448 compared to his second half slugging percentage of .384.

One can expect Hall to have a superior season simply due to his move back to the infield and presumed health. Return Bill Hall’s home run per fly ball rate to his career average and there is no reason he shouldn’t sit around 25 home runs for the 2008 season.

Now, you may be suggesting that I am crazy to think that Hall will have the second best home run hitting season of his career. The problem is, in 2007 PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus’ projection system) expected 28 home runs out of Hall. RotoAuthority’s Tim Dierkes expected 33 home runs.

Comparatively, Jermaine Dye is being taken with pick 114 within ESPN leagues. Burrell, Guillen, Ibanez and Cuddyer are all being taken in the top 200 as well. Can anyone reasonably suggest that those five are worth drafting and Hall isn’t?

Cody Ross

Simply put, everyone expect Ross to be a part time, platoon player, or to again suffer an injury. However, as I wrote earlier, Ross underwent a treatment to deal with his chronic groin problems. Thus, unless Ross is expected to platoon in Florida (which doesn’t seem likely), this should be the year Ross makes it past 500 at bats.

In 2007 Ross had one of those miraculous, unsustainable seasons. Had he not gotten injured, I wouldn’t be surprised if he only slugged another five to eight home runs and saw his batting average drop 30 to 50 points. That still would have put him at 20 home runs with a .280 batting average in his first full time job. Not too shabby if you ask me.

Given the added experience, there is reason to be confident in Ross for 2008. The five projection systems on Fan Graphs expect the following:

Projection System – At Bats, R, HR, RBI, SB and AVG
Bill James – 287, 44, 14, 44, 3, .261
CHONE – 254, 12, 38, 38, 2, .264
Marcel – 293, 13, 44, 50, 3, .273
MINER – 259, 11, 36, 39, 2, .239
ZiPS – 326, 15, 49, 48, 2, .255
PECOTA – 272, 14, 41, 43, 3, .271

While simply doubling these statistics would be too simple of an exercise and not a very accurate projection, it is obvious that the forecasters are expecting similar results. But what if Ross manages to stay the course beyond 300 at bats up to 500 or 600? Is a line of 25 home runs, with 80 runs and RBIs and a .270 batting average that far fetched?

Let us continue with my ‘what if’ experiment. Consider where Andruw Jones (ESPN ADP-103 and Yahoo ADP-96), Vernon Wells (90 and 84), Jose Guillen (170 and NA), Nick Swisher (128 and 110) and Jason Bay (93 and 88) finished last season. Then consider that Ross is the same age or younger then each of the aforementioned names. While I anticipate Swisher to perform significantly better then he did in 2007, I also expected him to perform much better then he did leading INTO the 2007 season.

 

These are four outfielders who are going vastly under the radar. Not one of them will replace a No. 1 outfielder, but each of them will give you flexibility in the middle rounds to wait it out for equal or superior talent. Tomorrow at The Fantasy Baseball Generals I will write about another outfielder whom I think is a MUST for fantasy teams. And watch out for next week’s article on starting pitchers and relievers.

 

If you would like to contact Brandon to ask a question or simply challenge anything he has to say, feel free to email him at bheikoop@baseballdigestdaily.com.

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