Fantasy Baseball: Roaming the Outfield

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Fantasy Baseball: Roaming the Outfield
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Nearing the season’s halfway point, every injury and benching is scrutinized to the smallest of details.

This week has given us plenty to digest. Not only are two stars going to be down or out, others are also slated to pick up or lose some playing time.

Beyond that, this time of year should have owners evaluating who on their roster is available for trade. With a lot going on, paying close attention to news coming out of the manager’s office can help owners react and get ahead of the transaction curve.

With the benching of Magglio Ordonez, Marcus Thames stands to see the most immediate increase in at-bats. Thames is owned in AL-only formats, but he represents serious power potential even if he only receives limited playing time.

Over the last three seasons, Thames has averaged 23 home runs but has hit around .250. Thames will struggle keeping up an average around the .300 mark, but there is a strong chance he cracks 20 home runs.

Owners hanging on to Nyjer Morgan should be advised that Morgan could see his playing time cut. With the Pirates (as usual) out of the playoff picture, it is highly likely that they look to bring in more youth. Andrew McCutchen has already made a quick impact, and Delwyn Young and Steven Pearce are next in line.

Morgan has run hot and cold and only recently broke an 0-for-15 slide. At just .131 against left-handed pitching, that could be the first spot they look.

Unless Morgan can increase his .232 average for the month, the Pirates will not have a reason to keep him in the lineup. Look to move him now while he has some value.

It is time for owners to start shopping Juan Pierre. With Manny Ramirez beginning rehab work in the minors, Pierre has only limited time left as a regular in the Dodgers lineup.

Yes, Pierre has done enough at the top of the lineup to earn more playing time when Ramirez returns. Unfortunately, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have performed just as well.

Pierre has the speed to provide steals in limited playing time. Expect him to still produce moderately in runs and steals in the second half of the season, but only in part-time opportunities.

With his average only checking in at .228 since the end of May, moving Pierre while he has a somewhat regular spot in the lineup is the only solution. Otherwise, be ready to drop him come the end of July when the Dodgers' outfield rotation returns to normal.

While Hunter Pence has been nothing short of impressive, it is time to look to sell the Astros outfielder. His stats have been very good so far. He has posted an average of .331 for the season to go with respectable power numbers.

The question is if he can continue to maintain this pace. The peripherals do not make that likely.

His power should remain consistent, and 10 more home runs over the course of 2009 can be expected. Pence, though, has a BABIP of .364 so far this season, nearly 60 points above what he checked in at in 2008.

Yes, in 2007 he had a BABIP of .378. That was during a rookie season in a shorter campaign, though.

Over 162 games, that number should not be that high, so look for him to regress in terms of average, likely settling in closer to .300 to .305 for the season. That means he likely hits closer to .280 the rest of the way than he does .330.

With his value where it is, owners could do well for him in the trade market.

At the same time, look to buy Ryan Ludwick. Health and luck have been a major hindrance to Ludwick in 2009. Coming off a season that was thought to be a breakout, the outfielder has fallen down and is being pushed out by some owners.

Ludwick’s 37 home runs last season were far from a blip. In 2006, the slugger hit 28 home runs in AAA for Detroit. The 2007 season saw him splitting time but still managing 22 home runs between the minors and Cardinals.

This season, he has 11 home runs, but his home run to fly ball rate is six points off of last season’s numbers.

It is not likely that 20 percent of his fly balls leave the park like they did last season, but with a little bit of help on timing, some of those fly balls go out of the park, and others become line drives. He has not had the same luck striking the ball to the gaps, and that will change.  

Look for him to produce 30 home runs this season and raise his average closer to .270 by the end of the season.

With speed at a premium, there likely is not much of a window to attempt to buy on B.J. Upton. Still, those that own him could see the .240 average this season and not pay attention to the .303 average over the last 30 days.

His numbers are better across all categories than Jacoby Ellsbury’s over the same time, with the exception of a three-point difference in average. Upton is playing in one of the better scoring offenses in baseball.

Owners may not get him cheap but could look to get him for slightly lower value based on what is seen over the whole campaign.

The rest of the season? Upton should perform better than Ellsbury, especially given that Ellsbury could spend more time buried at the bottom of the order than at the top of it.

The loss of Carlos Beltran will be felt by many fantasy owners. It is very likely that the Mets center fielder could be held out until the All-Star break. While the injury likely creates more short-term time for the likes of Jeremy Reed and Gary Sheffield, neither is likely to help advance your fantasy roster or even cover your losses.

Unfortunately, finding a combination of the average, power, and speed that Beltran brings to the table will force fantasy owners to look for two players to replace one. The decision comes in what category can be given up.

If there are already steals on your roster, look to round out some power and average with hot-hitting Juan Rivera or Minnesota’s powerful Jason Kubel.

Rivera is a short-term fix, not a prospect that will aid you in the long run as the Angels get healthier. His playing time will largely be dependent on what the team can or cannot do with Gary Matthews.

Kubel, though, can straight-up mash. He hammers right-handed pitching and is therefore in the lineup at least four times a week.

Speed is where it gets a bit harder. McCutchen is still only 35 percent owned, yet is scoring runs and generating offense at the top of the Pirates' lineup. His two steals are not a lot early, but he should be able to grab between 15 and 20 bags by the time the year is up.

His weakness is a lack of power, and hitting .333 may be a stretch, but hitting over .300 is not.

Another option for speed is Scott Podsednik. The White Sox have rejuvenated his career, and the speedy outfielder is taking advantage of his opportunity.

With Carlos Quentin expected to be out of the lineup for an extended period of time, Podsednik will be given regular at-bats. He likely will not maintain the .348 average that has been seen over the last 30 days, but he will steal bases.

 

Collin Hager writes The Elmhurst Pub fantasy blog. You can get your questions answered by sending an email to elmhurstpubroundtable@yahoo.com. He's also on Twitter @TheRoundtable.

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