Wednesday, February 6, 2013

12 Bargain Basement Outfielders

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Nate McLouth slides into second. Photo courtesy of Keith Allison
Nate McLouth slides into second. Photo courtesy of Keith Allison
An underrated bargain bin for fantasy baseball can be reserve outfielders.
I find that guys who figure to platoon at one spot or serve as a fill-in throughout the outfield often provide nice production at a reduced price, particularly in leagues when you can change your line-up daily. If you get a couple part-timers cheap and check major-league lineups before games start, you can juggle a couple of those guys and get the production of a full-time starter.
Many fantasy baseball players are scared off from these players because they feel like they have to get a guy with a regular starting job. So you can swoop in and get some productive hitters late in a draft or cheap auction. In particular, there are a lot of guys who can provide cheap steals or power.
Another benefit of this strategy is that often these guys work their way into a regular spot in the line-up either due to an injury, or outperforming one of the guys ahead of them on the depth chart. So for $1 in an auction or the final round of a draft, you may find a guy who earns an unexpected 500 at-bats this year.
Here are some outfielders to watch entering spring training who could be in a time-share, but will still produce for your fantasy team.

1. Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth, Baltimore Orioles:
This looks like a straight platoon and both Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth can help you.
McLouth came off the scrap heap late last year to provide fantasy value down the stretch with five homers in September. As the lefty in the platoon, he will get the most playing time and could provide 15 homers and 20 stolen bases. Reimold got off to a great start last year with five homers in 16 games, but missed the rest of the season with a neck injury. He’s never played a full major-league season, but has always provided fantasy value when healthy, including 15 homers in 2009 and 13 in 2011.

2. Rajai Davis, Toronto Blue Jays:
Strictly a guy who can boost you in steals. Don’t look for Rajai Davis to start much in Toronto’s loaded outfield, but he’s averaged nearly 40 steals in the last four years and will find a way to do that again through pinch-hitting, pinch-running, and an occasional start.

3. Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels:
The outfield is loaded so playing time will be sporadic at best, but Wells hit 11 homers in 243 at-bats last year so he will provide power in whatever at-bats he gets.

4. Chris Young, Oakland:
I know, he has frustrated fantasy owners for years with his inability to get his batting average to even a decent level. However, he is the likely back-up at every outfield spot and has 20-homer, 20-steal potential if he gets in the line-up on a regular basis.

5. Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez, Seattle:
The OF/DH spots for Seattle got more crowded recently with the arrivals of Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales, but Bay and Ibanez will vie for time. Bay has been a fantasy disappointment as he battled injuries in recent years, but he is just 34 so if he is truly healthy, he could find his way into the starting line-up and provide 20 homers and 15 stolen bases. Ibanez is likely a pinch-hitter and designated hitter, but could hit 15 homers in those roles.
6. Craig Gentry, Texas:
He should get plenty of at-bats sharing center field with Leonys Martin and hit .304 with 13 stolen bases in limited work last year.

7. John Mayberry Jr., Philadelphia:
Likely lost his starting role when the Phillies signed Delmon Young, but should split time with Domonic Brown and Mayberry has the better track record of the two. He has 35 homers in 303 major-league games while hitting .254, so should provide some pop in a part-time role and he could get a full-time gig if Brown struggles yet again.

8. Tony Campana, Chicago Cubs:
The Cubs’ outfield is a major question mark and Campana always finds his way to some at-bats. He is the ultimate in cheap steals as he has 54 stolen bases in 184 games during the past two seasons.

9. Gerardo Parra, Arizona:
He never has a full-time starting job, but always provides fantasy value. The trade of Justin Upton gives him a few more at-bats and he’s stolen 15 bases in each of the past two seasons while hitting seven or eight homers. Solid batting average as well.

10. Tyler Colvin, Colorado:
What does a guy got to do to get a starting job? Colvin resurrected his career by hitting .290 with 18 homers and 72 RBI last year, but is likely behind Michael Cuddyer in right field. He can also play first base, and should get plenty of at-bats against right-handed pitchers.

11. Jerry Hairston, Jr., Los Angeles Dodgers:
Solid utility player could start the year in left if Carl Crawford is not ready to go. Won’t help you a ton, but won’t hurt you with a .280 average and plenty of runs scored.

12. Chris Denorfia, San Diego:
Likely will platoon with Will Venable, Denorfia could provide double digits in homers and stolen bases with a nearly .300 average.

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