Today marks latest batch of trends in the American League outfield.
Mike Trout – I know that it is hard to be bullish on a kid who is as highly touted as Trout, but so far he has shown that he is as much production as we projected. His strikeout rate is a touch high, 22.7%, but he makes up for it with excellent power and speed. In just 88 plate appearances, he has four homers and 10 walks. To put that another way: he has as many walks as Albert Pujols does and Pujols has 176 PA’s this year. Trout is an absolute superstar in the making, if he isn’t already one. He is still available in 31% of Yahoo! formats somehow although ESPN leagues have been quicker to reel him in (that will be only Trout pun from me all season, I promise), as his ownership rating there is a healthy 94%. For anyone in any format in need of offense, Trout is a fantastic pickup.
Raul Ibanez – I’m surprised to say his name too. After his disaster of a 2011 season where he “hit” .245/.289/.419, he has shown that he isn’t finished just yet. Compare to last year, he has cut his strikeout rate in half to an unbelievably low 9.8% while upping his walk rate to 7.4%. I don’t expect that low strikeout rate to continue, but perhaps it is a sign of a major adjustment on his part? Just yesterday he hit his ninth home run of the year and a 25 home run season wouldn’t be shocking at this point. Given his surrounding lineup and his batting position of fifth against right handed pitching, his RBI totals should be nice shot in the arm as well. Once again we see that ESPN is quicker on the draw; his ownership rating there is 83% and it went up over 50% in the past week. Yahoo! lags behind considerably despite his LF and RF eligibility, he is only owned in 41% of leagues. Anyone in need of a solid OF bat that will play 4-5 times a week should pick up Ibanez. I know I am.
Rajai Davis – I admit to being a big Davis fanboy. I have a chronic weakness for cheap steals late in the draft, or sometimes even out of free agency. Toronto Blue Jays skipper John Farrell seems to agree. Farrell has recently stated that he wishes to get Davis more at-bats with more regularity. To me, that directly translates to 30 extra steals that I wasn’t expecting. Don’t expect too much power out of Davis, despite his recent two home run game. That is the exception to his game, not the rule. Davis’ value on your fantasy squad is directly related to how many steals he can rack up. ZiPS foresees 25 more bags, but I would actually take the over on that. Last year while appearing in only 95 games, Davis ran away with 34 stolen bases. With more playing time comes more stolen bases. His Yahoo! ownership rate is a microscopic 4% and his ESPN rate is a near invisible 3%. If you can stand the lack of RBI production and a middling batting average in an active OF slot then Davis could represent the ultimate steal for you.
Ben Revere – Revere, like Davis, was a man who I dreamt could tally 30 stolen bases without coming with too high of a price tag. Other than his steals, his 2011 season was quite forgettable. Not enough power to make up for the poor average and not enough runs to be recognized. So why am I bullish on him? Well the good news is that he is an outstanding contact hitter who doesn’t strike out much. His extreme ground ball tendencies and solid speed lead me to believe that he can quite possibly replicate his .300 average days in the minor leagues. His ability to beat out ground balls awarded him with a low point of a .295 average throughout his minor league career. With a similarly paltry 3% Yahoo! ownership rate and 2% ESPN rate, Revere is even more underground than Davis. Though for now Revere won’t receive a starters amount of at-bats, I assume he will be used a fourth outfielder/pinch runner type. He can still get steals.
Xavier Avery – Avery is another guy with 25+ steal potential. Since 2009, he has stolen at least 30 bases every year, and has stolen over 40 in 2010 and 2011. He has always had his good speed but very recently has he displayed patience as well. Before his recall this year, his BB% and K% were the highest and lowest respectively of any point in his minor league career. So far in his extremely short major league career his plate discipline has translated nicely, as his walk to strikeout ratio is 4:6. Combine Avery’s on-base and stealing ability with the fact that he’ll be hitting lead off for a quality offense and you have a potentially fantasy league-changing pickup. In the FG vs. THT Expert League I just picked him up off of waivers for $7. A healthy amount for an untested rookie, but I am hoping that Avery pays big dividends for me in the long haul. Avery is currently owned in less than 1% of ESPN and a mere 1% of Yahoo! leagues.
Hideki Matsui – With the strong possibility that Matsui joins the the Rays at some point later in the week, several question arise: Will Matsui be the Godzilla of old? What kind of numbers is Matsui capable of producing? Will Matsui fall asleep in the clubhouse a la Ken Griffey Jr.? I can’t tell you the answer to the last question there, but the first two seem fairly straight forward. I’ll answer both of them with this: In 2009, Mastui’s ISO was at an all time high of .235 and he was coming off of a five year stretch where his ISO was above .190 for four of the five years. In 2010 it fell down to a still very respectable .185, then in 2011 with Oakland it fell through the basement to .124. Long story short, I wouldn’t expect much out of Matsui at this point in time.
Johnny Damon – Another aging left-fielder, Damon’s best days are also behind him. His putrid triple line is not all age-related, as his his BABIP is a preposterously low .192. That excuse said, his upside at this point is about a .260 AVG with 10 homers and maybe 10 steals. None of those are inspiring. If you need average, homers or steals, there are other, better options available. Damon may eventually reach 3,000 career hits, but I don’t want him on my fantasy team while he goes for it.