Part 2 of the Outfield Keeper Building Blocks and the final piece of the series (pitchers are a different story altogether that I will address at some point in the future).
Curtis Granderson (NYY, 30) – Still checking in as a 6th-7th round pick in most leagues, Granderson was hardly “cheap” this spring, but he has definitely exceeded expectations performing as one of the very best players in all of baseball. Though he has seen an uptick in his HR/FB rate every year since 2007, this year’s jump was from 15% to 21%, easily the largest in the five year span. That is the biggest change in his profile along with major improvements against left-handers.
I think he can be a low-to-mid 30s home run hitter on a yearly basis, but I would be really surprised if he continued at his 44 home run pace of 2011 the following season and beyond. Even as “only” a 30 HR/25 SB guy, he is easily a big time keeper especially as the runs scored and driven in should remain plentiful in the Yankee lineup.
Carlos Quentin (CWS, 28) – Imagine if he could stay healthy. He certainly wouldn’t be a 16th round pick like he was this year, but with a career-best of 131 games played in his three years a regular Quentin is a risk. He is on pace for a new career high at 151 this year and he is on pace for a 30-100 season at the same time. With power in shorter supply these days, a 30 home run guy at his cost is a nice piece to tab as a keeper.
Logan Morrison (FLO, 25) – Interesting season for LoMoMarlins so far this year. He looked like a contact hitter with a great eye in his 62-game debut last year (.283/.390/.447), but his meager two home run output left his fantasy value low this preseason. He has traded the batting average (.253 AVG) and walks (.325 OBP) for some more power with 14 home runs in 79 games so far this year. I was kind of hoping he’d simply add the power instead of giving up something for it.
His 14% walk rate from 2010 has dipped to 9% and it wasn’t just a small sample of patience that may have misled his fantasy managers as he posted rates of 16% and 18% in the minor leagues in 2010 and 2009, respectively. All in all, with less than a season of games under his belt yet (141), the 23-year old’s profile is definitely one worth buying into as I think he will become someone who can hit around .275, an on-base percentage about 100 points (10%) higher and high-teens to low-20s power production, in other words a strong OF2 or elite OF3 depending on how you build your team in a given season.
Adam Jones (BAL, 25) – His 2010 season was a bit of a regression considering he put up the same numbers he had in 2009 despite playing 30 more games. Unfortunately his 2009 breakout was cut short and he ended up playing just 119 games, but managed 19 home runs, 10 stolen bases and a .277/.335/.457 line. In 96 games so far this year, he has just about equaled or bettered all that 2009 breakout campaign with 17 bombs, six stolen bases and a .284/.325/.478 line putting him on pace for 30-99-12.
It feels like he has been around forever since this is his fourth full season, but he is just 25 years old and the best is yet to come with Jones. Just the latest example of how the growth patterns of young studs are unpredictable and why you shouldn’t expect the world, but also shouldn’t give up on them just because of a down season. Don’t assume that a few similar years before age 25 is what you can expect throughout their prime, you could very miss out on the breakout you were expecting a few years earlier.
Names of Note:
Jacoby Ellsbury’s value varied wildly league-to-league so if yours was one where he was heavily undervalued, then he obviously becomes a part of this list and a major piece to go after. Of course, if you’re trading with a contender, you’re really going to need to give him the world & then some as removing Ellsbury from his lineup is a huge dent. Since he still went as high as the late 2nd round in plenty of leagues, he wasn’t included on the list.
Domonic Brown & Jose Tabata are a pair of guys who will come very cheap if you’re trading with a contender and giving up some big pieces to help their team. You shouldn’t have to make them the centerpiece of the deal in most situations, but I still like them to make a 2012 impact and they should fit nicely as your last keeper in a mixed league. Both are power-speed combos who have showed a sharp batting eyes in their limited samples for 2011.
Brett Gardner is a much better real player than all-around player. He is a great base-stealer, but unless you play in an OBP league, that’s really all he does thus he isn’t someone I would chase in a trade. Especially since the Yankees continue to misuse him badly.
In just about any other park, Cameron Maybin would make a list like this, but Petco Park makes it really hard to see him much more than 10-12 home runs right now. He is still just 24 and could reasonably add some more bulk to his 6’3” frame and overcome some of the challenges that Petco presents when hitting for power. He definitely has some keeper value, but for what we are looking at here which is trading our best non-keeper pieces for the best 2012 keeper pieces, he doesn’t fit.