Separating the very good from the merely good

Looking over the Mock Draft Central ADP report and focusing on when certain positions are taken, it becomes clear that a run of outfielders generally occurs in drafts from picks 50 to 70. In a standard 12-team draft those picks equate to the beginning of round five to the end of round six.

Looking at the data I count a total of 24 players picked on average over this 21-pick stretch and 12 of them happen to be outfielders. Forgoing anonymity, they are the following players.

Nick Markakis
Adam Lind
Curtis Granderson
Josh Hamilton
B.J. Upton
Adam Dunn
Nelson Cruz
Manny Ramirez
Andre Ethier
Shin-Soo Choo
Carlos Lee
Shane Victorino

So this means about half of the players taken over this stretch are outfielders and even with the usual ADP caveats, I think it is worth investigating to find out who the best options are of this grass-roaming group. Using the recently debuted THT Projections we can come up with a general expectation for each player and using those numbers as a baseline, separate the very good from the merely good.

Here are those same 12 players again but instead of their 2009 numbers next to their name, their projected stat line for the 2010 season follows.

+-------------------------------------------------------------+ | THT 2010 PROJECTED STATS | +-------------------+-----+-----+-----+----+-----+----+-------+ | Player | Age | AB | R | HR | RBI | SB | Avg | +-------------------+-----+-----+-----+----+-----+----+-------+ | Nick Markakis | 26 | 585 | 85 | 18 | 85 | 9 | 0.298 | | Adam Lind | 27 | 569 | 78 | 24 | 92 | 1 | 0.291 | | Curtis Granderson | 29 | 617 | 102 | 28 | 95 | 19 | 0.277 | | Josh Hamilton | 29 | 497 | 74 | 22 | 80 | 9 | 0.290 | | B.J. Upton | 25 | 539 | 86 | 14 | 63 | 38 | 0.269 | | Adam Dunn | 30 | 509 | 90 | 40 | 108 | 2 | 0.262 | | Nelson Cruz | 30 | 557 | 92 | 38 | 107 | 18 | 0.274 | | Manny Ramirez | 38 | 466 | 83 | 29 | 96 | 0 | 0.317 | | Andre Ethier | 28 | 550 | 84 | 24 | 92 | 5 | 0.289 | | Shin-Soo Choo | 28 | 541 | 89 | 20 | 83 | 16 | 0.301 | | Carlos Lee | 34 | 567 | 82 | 26 | 97 | 6 | 0.301 | | Shane Victorino | 29 | 591 | 92 | 11 | 66 | 32 | 0.289 | +-------------------+-----+-----+-----+----+-----+----+-------+

As you can see, there are a couple of speed options such as Upton and Victorino, a few power options in Dunn in particular, and then there are those desirable across-the-board players in Granderson, Choo, and Cruz. Check out that line projected for Nelson Cruz! I don’t like saying that my eyeballing of a player’s peripheral stats is more accurate than a projection system, but in this case I do feel comfortable knocking a decent amount of home runs off of Cruz’ projection.

image
It’s OK, Nelson. Some of us just take longer to develop than others. (Icon/SMI)

Even with the detraction, Cruz comes off as an appealing option with his ability to contribute across the board. If, however, the fact that Cruz was in the minor leagues not more than a year ago makes you afraid to pull the trigger at this stage of a draft, then Granderson appears to be a similar, yet much safer option. The third five-category contributor, Choo, I find less appealing than most, mainly because of his notoriously high BABIP, which when regressed, would wipe away the extra value he provides in the batting average category.

If you are looking for power, Adam Dunn is the only player of the group besides Cruz predicted to hit over 30 home runs and with his average projected to not drop below the .260 mark, should not wreck havoc on your team’s batting average. Carlos Lee and Manny, while capable of hitting 30-plus home runs with ease no too long ago, are now well into their thirties and most likely will top out at about 25 home runs.

The hidden power supply in this group is found where Adam Lind stands with, in my opinion, the ability to hit another 30 bombs or more in 2010. A projection system, understandably, would be skeptical of Lind’s power outburst last year but as someone who predicted the outburst, it does not seem altogether too improbable for it to happen again. Couple his power ability with his relatively high .290-.300 average and out comes an attractive outfield option in the sixth round.

Andre Ethier is close to having the home run and average capabilities of Lind but will more likely finish with around 25 to 28 home runs instead. He may be a safer option given his more proven track record, but Lind is definitely more capable of posting home run totals well into the thirties and is also the player I am partial to taking given the choice between the two similar players.

Rounding out the last of the players: Markakis, while perhaps the safest player to draft of this bunch, does not appear to have the ceiling anymore of the other players. In retrospect, I should not have argued in favor of Markakis over Troy Tulowitzki in the comments section of this article.

Hamilton has a ceiling that reaches into the stratosphere, but his riskiness due to poor health and general inconsistency when on the field turn me away from him. Another risk magnet, B.J. Upton, is a player almost impossible to forecast. At least with him if all else fails, you can count on around 40 steals and somewhere indeterminable, yet tangible, there exists the possibility of a year reminiscent of his magnificent 2007.

Finally there is Victorino, who is an overall solid fantasy player as his projected line indicates. The difficultly with him is deciding where to rank him amongst this group of players. A comparison between Victorino and Ethier looks like this: even in terms of batting average, Ethier gets a slight edge in RBI/run totals and so it comes down to home runs and steals. Ethier can be expected to hit about 15 more home runs while Victorino will thieve approximately 25 more bases.

Which is more valuable, the 15 home runs or 25 steals? It is a difficult question to answer and one that makes rankings two players like this a struggle. Most of the time I would opt to take the slugger early and grab Ethier, though a reasonable case could also be made for Victorino.

If I had to make a definitive list ranking these players it would look something like this:

1) Curtis Granderson
2) Nelson Cruz
3) Adam Lind
4) Adam Dunn
5) B.J. Upton
6) Andre Ethier
7) Shane Victorino
8) Josh Hamilton
9) Nick Markakis
10) Shin-Soo Choo
11) Carlos Lee
12) Manny Ramirez

Having sorted (for the most part) these outfielders out, the question now is will you take an outfielder during this popular spot in the draft? And the answer to that question … I’ll let you decide.

If you are interested in the THT Projections for all players for the 2010 season (and beyond), check out this page for more information.

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Comments

  1. Dan the Bluesman said...

    When this stage of the draft comes ,who you want to take will be partially determined by who you picked in the earlier rounds. Obviously if you already have power and no speed then you have to take a player good at steals. And if you already have speed and not enough power you can make your pick accordingly.
    Don’t get me wrong I like to rank players , but as the draft goes along, the needs of your team will be changing . Thus the ranks of whose left should also change.
    Every draft is different so rank lists should not be set in stone . I mean that you can’t always take the highest ranked player , because he not not fit your team.
      Batting average of the early picks should also influence who you pick later.
    As far as responding to the earlier comment. I wouldn’t even consider drafting Manny.  As far as evidence , the lack of performance enhancing drugs in his system is all the evidence I need. If that’s not enough , how about his bad 2nd half numbers.  After the break he hit only .255 with 10 homeruns and 34 rbi’s. He’s also getting old, and is in a declining phase. The others drafted about when he’ll be are not old and could still be on the rise.  No Manny for me.

    Dan the Bluesman

  2. Brian M said...

    Dan,

    I definitely agree with you about the lists of player ranks.  I’m more for a dynamic approach to filling a roster.  I just feel like people are low on Ramirez without much justification.  I’m fine with opinions, and there is some decline, but he’s in the NL in a good lineup.  As for his .255-10-34 line, he had a .241 BABIP in Sept/Oct, and slowly got his batting eye back from July through the end of the season (11% to 13.2% to 19.2% BB rate).

    It’s not so much that I disagree he’s not the Manny of 1999, he’s not, and I understand the general pessimism after a PED suspension (though, it wasn’t specifically for PED use, but for something that goes along with it).  I’m okay with it though, as I’ll happily snatch up Ramirez relatively late.

  3. Jimbo said...

    In round 6, I’m still okay looking for the best available player. I like to get half my offensive roster filled out BEFORE I really start looking at needs. That’s when I will shift gears and decide if I need Denard Span for Avg, runs, sb…or Carlos Gonzalez for all around upside…or Jason Kubel for hr and rbi. Yunel vs Andrus vs Alcides at short, Asdrubal, Ian Stewart, Polanco at second. And so on.

    At least if you work it that direction, you are rostering the earlier—more studly—talent on draft day for maximum value.

    As for the list, I’m fine ruling Hamilton, Manny and Lee out altogether. Might move Cruz to 4th and Ethier up to 5th. I’m not sure why so many expect a decline out of Andre. His peripherals held steady in 08 and 09 (no apparent spike in Slugging or HR/FB), he’s not yet 28, and last year really faded (pressed?) when Manny went out with his suspension. With another year of experience I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t reach 30 hr again, and I like him to even exceed that.

  4. Paul Singman said...

    First off I agree with Jimbo on the issue that Dan brought up. While no ranking list should be cemented and followed completely linearly, at this point in drafts you should still mostly be picking certain players over other players based on the quality of the players themselves, not who you drafted in the first four rounds.

    Regarding Manny Ramirez, there is no reason he won’t defy aging rules again and smack something like 35 home runs. However, even when healthy (or not suspended) he won’t be playing 150 games anymore. More likely he will play in about 125 games and assuming some amount of age regression, I see 25 home runs as about his average home run projection.

  5. Paul Singman said...

    Marver, while you make a good point, consider this. Manny is more of a “day-off risk” per the idea conveyed in this article of Jonathan’s back in January. Therefore Manny most likely won’t be on the DL while he accumulates days off here and there.

    This means that in weekly leagues it is almost impossible to let a replacement player fill-in for Manny’s missed games (so long as he avoids a serious injury and the DL). In daily updated leagues you certianly could have a Will Venable-type fill in for Manny on those off days however 1) it is annoying to have to check before the game starts every night to see if Manny is in the lineup (not to mention that when Manny’s game starts after Will’s there is no way of making the switch then) and 2) bench spots are valuable and having Manny + replacement hit 32 home runs might be just as valuable as getting 27 from one player (Ethier) and having an extra bench spot to hold, let’s say, another pitcher.

    Having said all of that, I think we can agree Manny is a tough player to predict and no one has much insight on how he will play in 2010 since he is such a unique player.

  6. Rob said...

    Paul,

    Great article and extremely relevant to me. I’m sifting through these exact options in my main league, a 9-team 6-player keeper where we will start in round 7 and I’ll be selecting my first OF at pick 8 or 11.

    I’m shying away from some of the riskier options in Upton and Hamilton and I like Markakis and (echoing others) Ramirez a whole lot more. I’m going to have to more heavily consider Cruz though, so thanks for that.

    One thing to consider on Manny – he was HBP on his hand shortly after returning from suspension, which might have been a major cause in the first/second half splits.

    Before suspension – .348/.492/.641 in 42 games

    Before the HBP & after suspension – .333/.429/.688 in 15 games

    After HBP – .255/.380/.448 in 62 games

  7. Derek Ambrosino said...

    We can talk about PEDs and wildly speculate their effects on Manny’s production over the years, anticipate a precipitous drop due to aging, and generally throw rocks. Or, we can focus on the fact that he is simply one of the greatest right handed hitters of all time, and in last season’s “catastrophe” he still managed to out-OPS Ryan freaking Braun (Howard too.)

    So, we know this isn’t ‘98 to ‘01, when Manny averaged a full RBi per game over the course of four seasons. (I’ll pause while that sinks in.) But, jeez, the guy has a OPS of over 1 over the course of 2,200 games. We can’t just write off that track record.

    When the crowd moves this starkly away from Manny, it’s time for even the skeptical to start thinking about at what point they WOULD or SHOULD start to think about Manny. In a contract year, what are the chances he pulls a 2006 Frank Thomas? If he does, how silly will we feel for doubting one of the best to ever pick up a piece of lumber?

    I’m not saying aggressively pursue Manny. What I am saying is don’t write Manny off unilaterally. Every player has a price where the combination of his upside and his safe projection justify his selection. It seems like the consensus opinion about Manny diverts from where this point would objectively be, and this discussion is a microcosm of that point. Let’s be careful not to simply fall victim to group think.

    I do like Ethier a lot too. We’ll have to see where Granderson settles into the Yanks order before making a judgment about his projection.

    And, yes, theoretically you could get supplemental production from the Manny + replacement combo, but as Paul points out it may be difficult to actually capture that production. …It’s a very subtle issue, but owning West Coast players is a disadvantage in this respect because even if you are diligent enough to check line-ups before first pitch to make sure your guys aren’t getting a rest, you can’t sub a west coast stud unless you have another player on the bench playing on west coast time.

  8. Paul said...

    great comments & i found this list really useful

    I find that the OF is even more crowded – players like Werth, Abreu, Span, Adam Jones, Hunter, McCutchen and Bay are in this equation, though they may fall just out of the 50-70 range.

    As for Manny, I’m all in where I am finding him (80-95) in drafts

    but i like the value at OF even lower (Quentin, C-Gonz)

  9. Marver said...

    @Paul Singman
    “More likely he will play in about 125 games and assuming some amount of age regression, I see 25 home runs as about his average home run projection.”

    Right, and that’s what actually bumps up Manny’s value.  Assuming your league permits any sort of bench space whatsoever, you still get replacement statistics for the games he doesn’t play.

    120 games of Manny + 40 games of waiver-wire outfielder (say Will Venable in a deep, deep league) is a pretty healthy bump in those statistics listed.  Manny’s ‘functionable’ homerun average is likely in the 30s.

    I can’t justify the selection of Josh Hamilton or Andre Ethier in front of Manny Ramirez.

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