We checked out right field this week and found that once again the outfield provides serious value late in the rankings. Jermaine Dye, the fourteenth-ranked outfielder in those rankings, is a good bet for close to 30 home runs and a decent batting average next year. But let’s take a look at some of the guys that will be fringe picks in most mixed leagues. They’ll be relevant in most leagues.
J.D. Drew got some love from Big Oil in the comments, and rightly so. At first glance, he had an almost exactly average JD Drew season last year. His wOBA (.389 in 2009, .386 career), BABIP (.320 last year, .321 career), OPS (.914 last year, .896 career), O-Swing % (15.3% in 2009, 15.8% career) and walk rate (15.4% in 2009, 14.7% career) are all eerily close to his career averages. So if it wasn’t a lucky year, he should be a lock for a .280 average and 20+ home runs in 500 plate appearances – and therefore a boon to players that can change their lineups daily.
That is not to say that Drew is without his own asterisks. There’s always the health question with him, as he’s averaged only 480 plate appearances a year for his entire career. Last year, his speed score dropped dramatically, from 5.2 in 2008 (5 is average) down to 3.7. Bill James seems to think the drop is a harbinger for a lower BABIP and a lower batting average in 2010 and projects a batting average about ten points lower than the fans do. Looking at Drew’s batted ball profile – he’s hitting more fly balls every season – it does seem to follow that he’s hitting more like a prototypical slugger as he ages. It’s possible his batting average drops next year, but with a five-year high in ISO in 2009, it’s possible that he makes up for the missing hits with a little extra power.
Kyle Blanks is an all-or-nothing hitter that hits like a prototypical slugger already. The Shaq-like (285 pounds!), afro-sporting behemoth of a first baseman will be manning the outfield (poorly), striking out (37.2% in 2009), and punishing the ball for the Padres next year (.264 ISO). The good news is that he should be able to improve that strikeout rate considering his 22.3% strikeout percentage in the minor leagues. If he can get that rate under 30%, he should be able to bring the batting average to a respectable level so that his fantasy owners can enjoy his power without pummeling their batting average.
A lot has been written about Alex Rios over the past year, and he’s certainly a lightning rod for discussion. Because he’s once hit 24 home runs and stolen 32 bases in his career, he’s been saddled with some unreasonable projections that had him challenging for .300/30/30 numbers. He’s just not that kind of player, though, as his groundball percentage (42.8%) is just too high for him to produce real power. On the other hand, the speed is real (76.9% career success rate) and by all accounts he had an unlucky year last year (.277 BABIP in 2009, .321 xBABIP in 2009, .323 BABIP career). If you revise those old predictions to a more realistic .280/20/20, you’ll likely find yourself pleased at years-end.
Elijah Dukes deserves a mention despite the fact that his speed is not currently playing at the major league level (50% success rate) and he just can’t stay healthy. But some year he just might stay healthy, and if you prorate Bill James’ projections for him to 500 at-bats, you’re looking at a .263/17/13 player that will probably cost you very little. He’s periodically shown ISOs over .200, and the James projection only has him at .176 in that department, so there’s even a sliver of upside in those power numbers.