Jon Jay, Dexter Fowler: National League OF Update

This week in the national league outfield we’ve got two interesting players – one for shallow leagues and one for deeper leagues. Happy hunting.

Dexter Fowler (39% owned in Yahoo, 63.6% owned in ESPN)
Call this an appeal to the Yahoo owners who are on the fence about Fowler, because something about the ESPN game has made him more appealing already. ESPN projected Fowler to hit .275 with seven home runs and 27 steals, while Yahoo thought his 2011 would look more like .266 with five home runs and 25 steals. That might explain a little bit of the variance, and perhaps ESPN has more five-outfield rosters. In any case, Fowler is definitely ownable.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some huge asterisks. For one, Fowler’s strikeout rate, which has been problematic in the past (25.7% career), is down right disastrous right now (32.9%). That might not be such a problem considering the sample size, but then there’s his contact rate. At 71.7%, he’s making contact at a career-low rate (79.9% career), and as we know from the Pizza Cutter article reprinted last week on this site, contact rate becomes 70% reliable at 100 plate appearances. Fowler’s had 98 so far. ZiPS is unconcerned about contact rate and projects Fowler to return to his 25% strikeout rate, which makes a .270 rest-of-season batting average very possible. Just remember that, since 2008, the best full-season batting average for a batter with a strikeout percentage over 30% has been Ryan Howard with a .269 number. Of course, with Fowler’s career-best walk rate, his OBP makes him a strong player in OBP/OPS leagues despite his flaws.

Jon Jay (2% owned in Yahoo, 0.4% owned in ESPN)
Sometimes we get too wrapped up in a player’s faults. Sure, Jay was lucky last year when he had a .350 BABIP propping up his nice batting average. Sure, he got caught stealing more than he was successful, and yes, he showed below-average power. Yeah, he walked less than average, too, and his strikeout rate was pretty close to average. Wait, what can this kid do well, then? Well, even though he’s showing a 1.6 speed score right now (5.0 is average), he’s got a little speed. He stole 20 given a full season at Triple-A, and had speed scores that hovered right around average and above-average. He doesn’t have the best glove, but it’s capable at all three outfield positions. So far this year, his average has been suppressed by poor BABIP luck (.250), so his batting average should climb. He’s striking out too much (22.7%), but given his career rates (17.8%) and the fact that his contact percentage is virtually unchanged (83.3% this year, 84.8% career), that should revert. The biggest news is that Albert Pujols has a sore hammy. Given the fact that the 27-year old backup first baseman Mark Hamilton has a long history of poor strikeout rates in the minor leagues, the safest thing for the Cardinals to do is play Jay in the outfield and move Lance Berkman to first for a few games. That means that Jay is an interesting short-term play for the possibility of a few hits, and maybe a stolen base or two. In some leagues, that is exciting. Okay, useful. Okay, interesting.

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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What can we do to convince Fowler to actually steal once in a while when he’s on base? If he’s gonna get on at this rate and not steal, he’s just tease.