Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finding Outfield Value

by Brian Jones

At the tail end of last week I recorded a fantasy baseball podcast segment for The Phil Naessens Show.

We talked exclusively about outfielders: who are the elite players, is this guy better than this guy, who might rebound or fall, etc.  It was mostly a fly-by look at fantasy outfielders.  Maybe not the kind of hardcore insight frequent Crackerjack readers might be looking for, but if you are just looking for some basic outfield pointers, give it a listen.

After I finished podcasting with Phil I could not get outfielders off of my brain.  With 90 outfielders starting in Major League Baseball on any given day, it should not be hard to find value at the back end of this 90 players.  Certainly there are going to be $1 players and players taken in the 15th round that turn out to be regular contributors for winning ball clubs.  But, I wondered, how can I find value at the top of that list, especially in the top 20 players?  So I pulled out the Draft Kit and got to work.

The draft kit lists two players topping the $40 threshold, and six more players valued above $30.  It will be hard for any of these eight players to perform so well that they will be providing value above and beyond their purchase price.  With Ryan Braun and Mike Trout, the $40 players, they’re likely going 1-2 in a regular draft, and the other six (Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Hamilton and Justin Upton) are all likely to be gone before you make your third pick, and you won’t find a lot of surplus value in the first two rounds of a draft, you have to just be hoping that the player you draft lives up to his expectations.

So that leaves twelve more players on the Top 20 list from the Draft Kit.  That’s everyone between Jason Heyward and Alex Gordon.  What I want to find in this range is a player that can still fill all five of the standard scoring categories (Runs, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases, and Batting Average).  If I can find a five category player hanging around after the first few rounds, and for around $25, I feel pretty good.

For the purposes of this exercise, let’s say that 85 R, 15 HR, 75 RBI, 12 SB, and a .270 AVG are the minimums for each scoring category.  That takes out Jason Heyward (AVG), Jose Bautista (SB, AVG), Bryce Harper (RBI), Matt Holliday (SB), Jay Bruce (SB, AVG), Curtis Granderson (SB, AVG), Jacoby Ellsbury (RBI), Austin Jackson (RBI), Shin-Soo Choo (RBI), and Alex Gordon (RBI).  Leaving only Adam Jones.

Our Draft Kit projects a healthy 2013 season for Adam Jones (93 R, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 16 SB, 271 AVG), meaning that not only do the Crackerjack minds believe that Jones will continue his run of good health (149+ games played last three seasons) but also that the increased power and stolen base totals he put up with a year ago are more indicative of his true talent rather than blips on the radar.

The runs and RBIs might be a little high for my tastes for two reasons.  First, Jones played 162 games last year so all of his counting stats are artificially inflated by his 697 plate appearances (10th best in MLB last year) and I do not expect him to be on the field that much in 2013.  Second, and more importantly, I do not believe that the Orioles did enough this winter to make their team any better.  In fact, the 2013 Orioles are probably a little worse just from the improvements made by the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox (the Rays are essentially the same team, and despite the early injuries from the Yankees, they should be the Yankees everyone expects by the middle of June).

But even if you ding Jones a little bit with the runs and RBIs he’s still a five category player, and I think you can grab him for about $25 in an auction draft, or at the tail end of the 3rd, beginning of the fourth round in most fantasy drafts.

Happy hunting.
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