2010 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers, Comebacks, and Busts: The Outfielders
Yes, he had a miserable AVG last season. Bruce fared poorly against both right- and left-handed pitching but ended with an extremely low .222 BABIP. Part of that can be explained by a very low 13 percent line drive rate.
Then again, he did crush 22 home runs in only 345-at bats. Home runs do not count toward BABIP because they land over the fence and not "in play." His AB/HR rate of 15.7 was among the best in the league, and it would translate to 35 home runs over 550 at-bats.
He will continue to get better with his pitch selection and contact rate as he gains more big league experience. This guy is a future star—there is no doubt about it.
Last season Davis stole 41 bases in only 125 games and 432 plate appearances. As the starting left fielder for the A's in 2010, that total could easily push 50 or more. Be aware, however, that his .305 AVG from last season was aided by a .361 BABIP. Davis also lacks the plate discipline and contact skills to maintain such a high AVG year after year.
As happens with most non-Ryan Braun/Evan Longoria rookies, Rasmus struggled in his first big league season, hitting only .251/.307/.407. There were a lot of parts of Rasmus' game that failed to show up in 2009, like only three steals in four attempts. The season before in AAA he stole 15 bags in 18 attempts in only 387 plate appearances.
Power was another part of his game that showed in flashes but never truly materialized. Rasmus has hit as many as 29 homers in a minor league season.
His plate discipline was yet another trait that did not transfer to the big leagues. Improving in that category, as well as improving against left-handed pitching, should show in his 2010 numbers. Rasmus is too talented to not make the adjustment.
Reimold is set to make his spring debut after offseason ankle surgery. We will have to wait and see how his ankle reacts to game activity, but if he is 100 percent, he has the potential for 25-plus home runs over a full season.
Another issue is Felix Pie, who may split time with Reimold to start the season. That platoon may not last long if Reimold gets off to a good start. His power potential is worth a late-round flier.
In 135 Major League games last season, Fowler stole 27 bases. His AVG was an up-and-down struggle, but he did improve his plate discipline as the season went along. The experience he gained last season should carry over and allow him to hit for a better AVG while stealing 30-plus bases in 2010.
After a couple years of being buried by the Dodgers, Pierre will be an everyday outfielder and leadoff hitter once again. His elite contact skills and still very good speed should help keep his AVG above .280 and allow him to approach 40-plus stolen bases once again.
Big Bad Blanks came through the Padres system as a first baseman, but he's not getting much playing time there until Adrian Gonzalez leaves town. At 6'6" and 280-plus pounds, Blanks is a massive figure that has surprising athleticism.
A foot injury shortened his Major League debut, but his power was certainly on display before he went down. Blanks hit 10 home runs in 148 at-bats, good for a star-level 14.8 at-bats per home run. While that rate may regress some over more at-bats, 20 to 25 home runs should be attainable with potential for more.
Stubbs made an immediate impact last season once called up from the minors. In 180 at-bats he hit eight home runs and stole 10 bases. Last season in the minor leagues Stubbs stole 46 bases. That is a combined 56 steals in 149 games.
In the past, Stubbs was projected to become a big-time power/speed threat, but the power numbers have dwindled in the minors as he tried to cut down on his strikeouts. The strikeouts could very well be an issue at the Major League level, keeping his AVG down, but he could easily hit 15 home runs at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark to go along with 40 to 50 stolen bases.
Matt LaPorta/Michael Brantley
Matt LaPorta is among the best power prospects in the game. He hit a combined 24 home runs in 519 at-bats between Triple-A and the majors last season. He is scheduled to get into his first spring training game in the next few days.
The major question with LaPorta is where he will play. The signing of Russell Branyan to play first base moves LaPorta back to left field, though he should also see games at first against left-handed pitchers.
The other end of that equation is Michael Brantley. Brantley stole 46 bases in 116 games at Triple-A last season and four more during his 28-game Major League call-up.
Playing time between the two will work itself out this spring. If LaPorta is healthy, he will likely get the job. Stay tuned.
Example No. 1 of how there really are not many "sleepers" anymore. Heyward has about as much natural ability as any player in baseball—at any level. His work ethic only adds to the many reasons to love his future.
He could very well break camp as the starting right fielder for the Braves. With a full season of at-bats he could approach 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases. There is, however, reason to think he might not hit for a high AVG as a rookie. Feel free to grab Heyward later in the draft, but do not reach too far just based on hype (lesson learned with Matt Wieters).
Everyone's breakout favorite from last season (not mine) seems like a forgotten man entering the 2010 draft. His 2009 season started out poorly, and he was sent to the minors after only 24 at-bats. A hand injury sapped much of his power last season, but he still stole 18 bases through all levels combined.
Out of the spotlight in Pittsburgh and surrounded by other young talented players like Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez (soon enough), Milledge should provide good value late in the draft with 15-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases.
While Gardner has to win the center field job once again this spring, he brings exceptional speed and defense to the game, which are skills that Randy Winn continues to lose with each passing year as he ages into his mid-30s.
Gardner stole 26 bases in only 284 plate appearances last season. He has good plate discipline and very good contact skills, which, combined with his great speed, could turn into a Juan Pierre-type season given the at-bats.
Beltran will miss most, if not all, of April after offseason knee surgery. That has dropped his draft position a little, but is it enough to pull the trigger on draft day?
Even before 2010, Beltran's power production had declined for two seasons in a row. Now, the knee worries may also affect his speed, which is a key part of his value. Don't be fooled by his .325 AVG in 2009 either. That was a product of a .352 BABIP, the highest BABIP of his career.
Unless he falls past round 10 or so, I will be passing on Beltran and his bum knee.
Damon was one of the many players that took full advantage of the jet stream to right in the new Yankee Stadium. His 24 home runs were the most he had hit since he hit 24 back in 2006. It also marked his best AB/HR rate since, well, ever. We can definitely expect a strong regression in power production, as Comerica Park is well known for favoring pitchers.
Then we have to consider Damon's age and declining speed. He will be 36 years old this season and has not played in over 143 games since 2006. His 12 steals in 2009 were his lowest since his 188 at-bat debut in 1995.
In short, he is a player likely to decline—and decline fast without the help of Yankee Stadium's right field porch.
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