Are you tired of Spring Training?  I know I am.  The hot stove season is long gone and it seems like forever ago that we heard those four magic words: Pitchers and Catchers Report.

Shortly after that cold, snowy day in early February, you signed up for a fantasy league and now you find yourself a day away from drafting and you have no idea how to go about it.  Fear not, Getting Blankers, my auguring abilities will see you through.

Two weeks ago I gave you a rundown of which pitchers to draft for cheap and which ones to stay away from; last week, I did the same with infielders.  This week, it’s the last instalment of this preseason trilogy, outfielders and catchers.  Next week, we have meaningful baseball to discuss and then we can breathe our collective sigh of relief; baseball will be back and all will once again be right with the world.

Let’s get to it.

Matt Kemp
A lot has been made over the past year of Kemp’s relationship with “musician” Rihanna and how it has led to a less focused version of the young star on the field.  Kemp appeared miserable for much of last year and was apparently not getting along with many members of the coaching staff, including former manager Joe Torre.  With new manager Don Mattingly and his regime of fresh-faced coaches, Kemp appears much happier; we’ll see how much that affects his play on the field.

Looking at what matters, the numbers, Kemp’s .295 BABIP was well in line with the league average, but well below his own career number which sits at .344.  A rebound in this respect should go a long way to getting him back on his superstar track.  Kemp’s stolen bases were down a lot too as he looked awful on the basepaths with a 56% stolen base success rate.

He’s way too young and way too talented for that kind of down year to suddenly become a regular thing.  He won’t go too cheap, but guaranteed he’ll go lower than his value because people will be scared off.  Be aggressive on him and make him the centerpiece of your fantasy success.
Carlos Gonzalez
Kemp’s opposite in this case is Gonzalez.  Last year he put up an insane .336/.376/.598 slash line and went from waiver-wire pickup to stud in a matter of months.  This year, fantasy owners will be pushing the price on him; don’t fall for it.  Not only did Gonzalez have way better numbers in hitter-friendly Coors Field than anywhere else, he also had a .384 BABIP and HR/FB rate double the league average.  Another knock against him is his inability to draw a walk which hurts in sabermetric-based leagues.

He’s a good player who has value, but you’ll be paying more for him than Kemp and getting far less value.

Travis Snider
Every time I hear a disgruntled Jays’ fan moan about how Snider is a bust, it takes all my energy to keep blood from bursting out of my ears.  That may be graphic, but Snider is still only 23-years-old and still has all of the upside he once did.  With Cito Gaston and his swing-first instruction gone, expect Snider’s walk-rate to balloon allowing him to behave more selectively at the plate.  He’ll finally be given an everyday job and will get the consistent at-bats he needs to be successful.

Some leagues I’m playing in completely passed on Snider in the draft and I was able to get him for less than $5 in every league but one (where I paid $8).  He’ll more than pay back that value and in a keeper league his value increases significantly.

Josh Hamilton
Hamilton is a ridiculous talent, but he has a few things going against him.  The most glaring is his inability to stay healthy for a full season.  However, he was an 8.0 WAR player in just 133 games last year and won the AL MVP with a .359/.411/.633 slash line.  Unfortunately, his .390 BABIP means you can’t expect a repeat of that.  Like Gonzalez, Hamilton is a very good player with a lot of fantasy value, even with the injury risks, but paying Pujolsian money for him in a draft will only get you burned; especially in dynasty leagues.

And now for the catchers:

Kurt Suzuki
Suzuki’s average dropped significantly last year which will decrease his value heading into this year, but there are a few reasons why you may want to make him your starting catcher.

First, he doesn’t walk a lot, but he raised his BB% by almost 2% last year and he should eventually get back above the 7% mark that he had early in his career.

Secondly, Suzuki rarely strikes out which means he’s putting the ball in play a lot.  Last year this hurt him because his BABIP was just .245; if he brings that numbers back up toward his career mark of .280ish, you should see a return to his former production.

Miguel Olivo
Olivo saw an increase in intentional walks in 2010 which inflated his on-base percentage and his .346 BABIP contributed to a higher-than-normal batting average.  Expect both numbers to normalize and for the 32-year-old Olivo to crash back down to his former level of production.  He still hits a decent amount of homeruns and will steal the odd base, but if you’re spending starter’s money on him, you’re going to be disappointed, especially with his move out of Coors Field to cavernous Safeco in Seattle.

John Jaso
Jaso will probably be available in the bargain bin near the end of the draft and he may be one of the better catchers in the AL in 2010.  Jaso played 109 games after his call up from AAA last season and posted a .372 on-base percentage due to extreme patience at the plate.  He’ll bat leadoff for the Rays this season and should put up a slugging percentage close to .400.  He’s better than many, much more expensive, options.

Generally speaking, you should spend a decent amount of your auction money investing in outfielders as they tend to give you a solid return in terms of offensive production, whereas catchers are injury risks and generally don’t contribute as much at the plate.  Spending on middle-tier catchers such as Jaso and Suzuki is much less of a risk than gambling a large amount of your money on elite catchers like Joe Mauer or Brian McCann (as much as I love them as players) since they are far more likely to get hurt.

Next Monday there will actually be meaningful baseball to talk about and I’ll tell you which Opening Weekend swoons are sustainable and which you should ignore or trade away while the going is still good.

Comments (13)

  1. Had my draft last night and was ready to draft Snider for $1 in the 11th round. Until the doosh in front of me took him….arg. But was at least able to pick up Romero and Yunel to give me even more reason to cheer for the Jays.

  2. I think Yunel will be a solid pickup

  3. I’ve taken Snider in all my drafts, gotten him late too, solid pick up.. I’ve also stay away from Gonzalez as well, for the same reasons you listed above.

    For the most part I’ve tried to build my OF around Snider, Rasmus and Stanton.

  4. I grabbed both Kemp and Snider in my draft this weekend, hoping for good things from both. Kemp has apparently lost a lot of weight, so hopefully he’ll steal a few more bases this year. I had him last year as well (it’s a keeper league) and remember feeling like he was a huge bust, but his final line actually wasn’t half bad.

  5. Any thoughts on Peter Bourjos’ fantasy value? I picked him up in the bazillionth round to fill out the end of my bench, not really intending to play him, but I’m kinda curious. He hasn’t really done much in the MLB but he comes with a pretty decent minor-league track record.

    • I like Bourjos, but I’d think of him as more of a long-term commitment than a break out guy this year. He’s got great defense and has show a surprising amount of ability to slug for his skinny frame, in addition to high OBP and good speed throughout Minors.

  6. Who to keep between Rasmus and Adam Jones? I have to drop 1 of them.

  7. @Ty: It’s too bad fantasy hasn’t yet figured out a way to incorporate defense properly, because if they did, Bourjos would be a solid pickup. He may not be half bad for you off the bench though. He’ll hit the odd homerun and steals a lot of bases. If he increases his BABIP at the major-league level he could be a nice little bargain.

    @PdcD: I would keep Rasmus. I feel like he has the higher ceiling. Plus, Jones isn’t going to walk a lot which means when he goes into a slump, it’ll be that much worse. I also think Rasmus has more power and will steal you a few more bases.

  8. Thanks for the suggestions. Plus there’s always that sliver of a chance Rasmus becomes a Jay one day. #wishfulthinking

  9. Does having a high BABIP mean the guy is speedy and can beat out throws to first or does it simply mean most balls he puts into play results in singles, doubles, hr’s etc. This metric has always kind of confused me.

  10. BABIP is higher for guys with speed generally speaking. Ichiro is the perfect example.

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