Outfield Bottom of the Barrel

The other day I presented to you outfield options from outside our top 75 for deeper leagues.  Today we dig even deeper for those of you in AL and NL only leagues.  Most of the players below will not even be an afterthought in standard 12 team leagues and will probably be available on waivers to start the season, but in AL and NL only leagues these players could be gold when trying to fill in your outfield.

Craig Gentry (A’s): He may not be a full-time player, but any player that steals 20 bases over 232 at bats should have your attention. Before coming to Oakland he stole 24 bases over 246 at bats with the Rangers in 2013; that’s 44 steals in 478 at bats and he was only caught 5 times. Gentry lost at bats in 2014 to his speedy counterpart Sam Fuld who stole 21 bases (9 after being traded to Oakland). Gentry has the better bat, but until Oakland turns over the position to him you’ll have to accept the fact that this is a one category wonder. If he does receive more at bats and consistent time at the top of the order a bump in runs could be in order. Combined with an average that won’t help or hurt your team, you’ve got a decent speedster to bring off your bench. AL only owners should have him on your radar.

Drew Stubbs (Rockies): He received considerable playing time in 2014 with Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer hitting the DL at various times. Half of the problem is alleviated with Cuddyer now in NY, but Cargo, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are still the primary go to guys in the OF. Even so, Stubbs should garner a fair amount of at bats against lefties; he did hit .328 against them last season. If everyone stays healthy Stubbs may find it hard accumulating 350 at bats to make him fantasy worthy, but Cargo doesn’t exactly have the best track record for staying healthy. The other question owners should be wondering other than playing time is, was Stubbs a late bloomer and figure things out late or was 2014 a fluke?

Prior to 2014 Stubbs played 4 ½ seasons in which he was lucky to sniff a .250 batting average let alone the .289 he produced in 2014. A .356 home average played a huge part in last year’s success; Stubbs was a .211 hitter on the road. Mixed league owners (or at least Cargo owners) may want to keep him on their radar, but NL only leagues should be considering Stubbs on draft day. Even as a part-time player, inserting him for home games could net you some decent power and speed numbers. This isn’t someone you want as a starter, but as a bench player he may be worth it.

Domonic Brown (Phillies): After several years and multiple attempts to break into the majors, Brown broke out in 2013 only to come crashing back down to reality in 2014. He lost 37 points of average, 18 runs, 17 home runs and 20 RBIs in virtually the same number of at bats. We knew he would lose some power with a 19.3% HR/FB ratio, but 10 home runs? Brown’s LD% dropped to 17.4 and the FB% slipped a few points down to 32.7, but it was the 50% groundball rate that did him in. That was the major negative going for him. Walks and strikeouts were similar, the BABIP was lower but not far off from 2013 and his contact improved; particularly on pitches outside the zone. Maybe he made contact with one too many bad pitches, maybe it was bad luck, or maybe Brown was just due after the good year he produced in 2013.

Brown showed speed in the minors; enough to potentially steal 20 or more bases in a year, but that speed hasn’t really shown itself in the majors. He also has enough pop to hit 15 to 20 home runs each year. Then there is the age factor, Brown is at the magician age of 27 when hitters usually step up. Finally he has zero competition so there is little to worry about for him or fantasy owners of someone taking his spot. Brown was a post-post hype sleeper coming going into 2013, was overvalued for 2014 and again an afterthought for 2015. Still, a guy with a full-time job who has the potential to put up a batting average that won’t kill you is worth something in NL only leagues. If we split the difference between 2013 and 2014 banking on some improvement you get a .255 average with 55 runs, 73 RBIs and 7 steals. Add on 10 or more home runs and you’ve got a useful player. It’s even possible he shows enough improvement early on that mixed leagues will begin to filter him in from the waiver wire. Brown is worth a draft pick in NL only leagues along with deeper leagues.

Jarrod Dyson (Royals): Another all speed guy that can be had for pennies on the dollar. Playing time will be harder to come by this year with the addition of Alex Rios, but the Royals will find a way to squeeze the speedster into their lineup. Dyson has managed to top 30 stolen bases for 3 straight seasons despite not accumulating 300 at bats in any of them and I don’t see this year being any different. His 36 steals ranked 6th in the league; tied with Rajai Davis, and would have been enough for a top 10 finish in the category in 2013. Dyson is a decent option as your 4th or 5th outfielder in an AL only league as long as you have home runs and RBIs covered elsewhere.

Matt Joyce (Angels): Normally I don’t like part-time players, but I’ve always made an exception for Joyce. He can’t hit lefties; everyone knows it so he rarely sees them, but playing primarily against righties makes it easier to set your lineup. Before last year Joyce saw three seasons in which he hit between 17-19 home runs, all to right and right center field. He could lose a few of them with the moved to Los Angeles considering the right field wall is 28 feet further away, but right center doesn’t change at 370 feet and actually comes in five feet on shallow right.

Looking at his average fly ball distance starting with 2011, we see 271, 282, 266 and 280. It appears each year his total distance takes a step back which doesn’t bode well in his current situation. Additionally, last season Joyce saw his GB% spike from the 37% range up to 43% while his FB% fell from 43% down to 38%. The drop also coincided with the drop in his HR/FB% below 10 for the first time in his career. Joyce is only 30 years old so I can’t see this as being a decline, so let’s chalk 2014 up as a bad year. While the overall distance and drop in FB% is a concern, it’s not like you are spending a high pick here.

Joyce is good for 50 each in the run and RBI categories along with at least 15 home runs; not bad totals from a part-time player. If paired with someone like Rajai Davis who is a lefty specialist, you have a 5 category player for those that can make daily moves. AL only leagues should consider Joyce along with the above pairing (or something similar). There will be days when neither player has a favorable matchup or worse yet, are both off, but the overall numbers you get over the course of a season should outweigh any negatives.

Gerardo Parra (Brewers): Like Joyce above, Parra is another right-handed specialist and part-time player. Unlike Joyce, Parra has a roadblock to playing time in front of him by the name of Khris Davis. While Davis has the upside and power advantage he is prone to slumps; barring a breakout by Davis, Parra shouldn’t be left out in the cold, but his production as a part time player could be limited. Parra has enough power and speed to reach double digits in each category and he hits for a decent average. The Diamondbacks used him more often than not at the top of the order; we can assume the Brewers will employ the same strategy given the lack of options for this spot.

Parra isn’t the best option for your 4th or 5th outfielder, but if you are a Khris Davis owner you would be wise to handcuff the two in NL only leagues. Combined you’re virtually guaranteed one of them will be in the lineup each night and if by some chance they are both playing, flip a coin based upon the matchup. You could do better than Parra, but if you own Davis as well you can do much-much worse.

Anthony Gose (Tigers): He may lose some playing time to Rajai Davis and struggle at times, but Detroit will give him every opportunity to succeed as their new center fielder. Gose showed a little pop in the minors, but you’re not drafting him for power. Split between AAA and the majors he stole 36 bases in 2014, 26 in 2013 and 49 in 2012. Gose also stole 70 in 2011 while in AA so you can see why the Tigers like him. Gose doesn’t walk as much as Davis, strikes out more and his bat is not advanced. He holds a career .259 minor league average and he hasn’t hit higher than .259 in his 3 attempts to break into the majors. Still, like Davis, there is speed here and it should be cheap. While Matt Joyce makes a nice pairing with someone like Rajai Davis, Goose could make an equally nice combo with him. Gose alone would give you decent stolen base totals, but combined with Davis you could have an outfielder that would rival Billy Hamilton’s totals.

AL only players in search of speed late should give Gose a look this spring, and like I suggested with Gerardo Parra and Khris Davis, consider handcuffing him to Rajai Davis giving you one solid outfield option.

Seth Smith (Mariners): Like Joyce above, Smith is a righty specialist, but he has shown improvements against lefties the past few seasons. Since he has been playing for a while we have a basic idea of what to expect from him as far as numbers. You’re looking at between 50 and 60 runs and RBIs, 15 home runs and a batting average in the neighborhood of .255. Based upon the current roster, Smith will probably split at bats between the 6th and 7th spot which means a lower run total but a potentially higher RBI production. Given no visible option for DH (other than Nelson Cruz), Smith could see more at bats than he saw in 2011 with the Rockies.

There is no upside to Smith other than the potential for more at bats.  He could be a sneaky pick at the end of your draft, but his value is tied to the development of the following player.

James Jones (Mariners): He will compete with Austin Jackson for centerfield duties and a strong showing could push Ajax to the corner which would ruin any potential value for Smith above. Jones stole 27 bases last season over 312 at bats compared to Jackson’s 20 steals in close to 600 at bats. He showed some power in the low minors but that never translated above A+ ball. His minor league batting average is right in line with Jackson as are his walk and strikeout totals. If he has a strong spring the Mariners are sure to find a place for him in the lineup, but it could come at the expense of at bats for Seth Smith or Dustin Ackley. Keep your eye on the situation during spring training and move Smith/Jones up or down your draft board accordingly. Both are a worthy gamble in AL only leagues, but the guy with more playing time is the one you want (obviously).

Jon Jay (Cardinals): The St Louis centerfielder holds a career .295 batting average. Yup, I’m done – not much more to say here. On a good year you can get maybe 5 home runs, the speed continues on a downward spiral and he’s not going to score many runs or drive them home, spending a majority of his time at the bottom of the lineup. So what is Jay good for? Batting average of course. There are a number of power hitters out there that can give you very good home run and RBI totals, but their batting averages leave something to be desired. If you have enough power though, you could pair your Ryan Howard/Prince Fielder type hitter with Jay to balance out the average. There is no DH in the NL so the options are thinner here. If your power and speed categories are covered, Jay is a low-end but decent option as your 4th outfielder in NL only leagues.

 

In addition to the ML ready talent available in AL/NL only and deeper leagues; there are a number of rookies that could make an appearance and impact if an opening presents itself. Currently guys like Scott Van Slyke, Michael Taylor and Jackie Bradley are blocked and don’t have a place to play, but an injury or slump could open the door for any of them. Byron Buxton, Jesse Winker, Addison Russell and (insert favorite prospect here) are all a phone call away and with a deep enough roster or team could be worthy of a stash.

There are other players similar to those above that have produced in the past and are now stuck in a platoon/bench roll like Brock Holt, Garrett Jones and Eric Young. Any one of these players could emerge as a fantasy worthy talent if presented with the opportunity; that is the beauty of fantasy baseball. The outfield is deep in talent, but in AL and NL only leagues that talent gets thin the deeper you go into the draft. While we normally advise waiting to draft your outfielders, don’t want too long in Only leagues unless you’re prepared to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.