This week we are going to focus on Outfield and DH sleepers for the second half. It has been quite an eventful week with two mega trades moving top tier pitchers to the NL. I will talk about those changes next week, but for now we will get to this weeks column. Check back on Monday for my Triple-A update, as well as analysis of the traded minor leaguers. Also, look for my First Half Fantasy All-Star Teams and Awards (AL and NL) next Tuesday in a special All-Star Edition of the Fantasy Column.
Before I get into the Outfield Sleepers I want to give brief run-down of players’ value. We talked a couple weeks ago about how to make and analyze a trade (Pitchers to Target Column). I want to focus on player value, because many owners struggle to understand a player’s value. This explanation is very brief (look for the full explanation in next Friday's column). Make sure in trades or at any time you are acquiring a player (draft, pool, etc.) that you look at the players "true value" (not the hardware store). You must use a cost-benefit ratio to determine a player’s value. This requires you to forget the players name and past production (to an extent). You must focus on the player’s production and weigh that against the cost (i.e. the players you are trading, draft round, or monetary amount). This explanation is a simple method for determining value, check back next week for a better breakdown.
Outfield is a traditionally deep pool for fantasy talent. However, in recent years outfield has become less of a sure thing. The young fantasy studs have been more prevalent infield in quite a few cases. Although, guys like Ryan Braun, Jay Bruce, Justin Upton, and Jacoby Ellsbury are starting to give a jump start to young fantasy outfields. There are still quite a few sleepers out there in the outfield that fit in between those young studs and veterans. Here are five (standard size of a fantasy of), young and old, that I like for the second half.
Delmon Young (Twins): Young has not been bad during the first half. However, he has also not been the big time breakout player many expected this year. If he continues to hit for an average upwards of .280 he will be a very solid performer the second half. Young's power numbers have begun to rebound, and I think he is as good a bet as anybody for a big second half.
Matt Murton (Athletics): Murton will never be a fantasy stud. But, in Oakland he should be allowed to play everyday and a full season line of .280/20/80 is not out of the question. If you pick up Murton expecting those kinds of numbers you should be very pleased. At this point in the season getting those numbers out of a player who is likely available in your leagues pool can be invaluable.
Shane Victorino (Phillies): Victorino is another player who will never be a fantasy stud. I truly believe that last year was as good as he will ever be in fantasy terms. That said, Victorino should be very valuable the rest of the way, especially if you need speed. He should either be available for pickup or a cheap trade in your league. Victorino will put up solid numbers the rest of the way and should be a solid pickup for good speed numbers.
Adam Lind (Blue Jays): I am a huge Adam Lind fan. I am trying to temper my excitement now that the Blue Jays (with the injury to Vernon Wells) are going to be forced to play him. He is a young guy who could easily hit .300/20/90 in his prime. I thought that it would take a trade for this to occur in Toronto, but with the Wells injury there is every chance that he can establish himself as a permanent starter in the Blue Jays outfield. I would pursue him aggressively in all keeper formats if you are looking to the future. Also, Lind has as much value as Murton for the rest of the year.
Austin Kearns (Nationals): Kearns was as bad as it gets before going on the DL over a month ago. He has been very solid since returning and that trend should continue. He has to put up excellent numbers the rest of the way just get within sight of his career averages. Kearns is as good a bet as any veteran "sleeper" to be a help in several categories the rest of the way.
Outfield is loaded with some young guys who should be available or easy to get in many leagues. Carlos Gonzalez (A's) has improved with each month he has been up. Gonzalez is as good a young talent as anybody in baseball. Chase Headley (Padres) is one of my favorite young players to come along in awhile. He has hit for more power than many projected and just as many strikeouts as everybody predicted. Even with the strikeouts Headley's value is outstanding for this year and beyond. Carlos Gomez (Twins) is only going to improve. He is as fast as anybody in baseball, and he will only get better at getting on base. Once Gomez gets on base better he will be a fantasy force. John Bowker (Giants) is a power hitting youngster with upside. He does not have the name recognition of a Chase Headley, but he is a similar talent. Bowker is a great player to target as a value youngster for the second half (plus it is not like he has any competition in San Fran).
Outfielders to Avoid for the Second Half
Josh Hamilton (Rangers): Hamilton is having one of the best years in baseball history (fantasy or otherwise), so how is he on this list? Well, in fantasy it is all about value (cost vs. production). Hamilton simply cannot meet your expectations after his first half. Hamilton will cost you at least three for one; no player can meet that cost. The other thing that works against Hamilton is a chance at a drop off in production. You cannot afford to give up what it will cost to get Hamilton at this point. You would be better off trading for a young guy with upside, or pulling a veteran at a much lower cost than overpaying for Hamilton.
Michael Bourn's (Astros) speed is unquestioned. Bourn is a player I would avoid simply because I believe he is a young Tom Goodwin (great speed, no OBP, good runs scored, nothing else). Goodwin was a solid player, but Bourn owners value him as more than a 1.5 category guy, so the cost is just too high. Jeremy Hermida (Marlins) is ever going to live up to his rookie hype. He is a nice player, but his cost is never going to equal his value. Some owner is always going to value Hermida more than he should based on Hermida's raw ability. Carlos Quentin (see Josh Hamilton) (White Sox) is another player I like a lot, even before this year. However, he will probably drop off some in the second half. Even if he does not suffer any drop-off he is cost prohibitive at this point simply because of that risk.
DH Sleepers for the Second Half
Billy Butler (Royals): Butler is a player I had as my 1B sleeper as well, that is how high I am on him. He is a legitimate .300/20/100 player that may be available in your leagues pool or in a good value trade.
Jack Cust (A's) is never going to hit for a particularly high average, but he should hit for solid power numbers the rest of the way. If you are looking for some cheap power, and you can afford the drop in average then he is a solid pickup. Jason Kubel (Twins) has been solid thus far, and I see no reason not to expect more of the same. He is a good all-around hitter who should be very solid for the rest of the year and beyond.
DH's to Avoid for the Second Half
Travis Hafner (Indians) and Gary Sheffield (Tigers) are to be avoided for the same reason. They are aging former stars who no longer carry the value associated with their names. It also must be noted, especially on Hafner, that the steroid question is legitimized by his last two seasons. There are too many good young options that can fit into your lineup to risk the "upside" of Hafner or Sheffield.
The other DH I would avoid is going to surprise many readers. David Ortiz (Red Sox) is the best DH in baseball, when healthy. The wrist injury is a major concern, and you should avoid making a move on him until he is able to prove he is 100 percent healthy and hitting again.
Other Fantasy Notes:
Jeff Baker (Rockies) is going to play everyday for a good while now that Troy Tulowitzki is out again. Baker can hit and should be a great asset for the rest of the year, and if he can establish himself, for the future. CC Sabathia's (Brewers) moving to the NL should make him even better. He is on a very good, young, contending team. Sabathia is pitching for a postseason berth and a contract which could prove to be a potent combo, something he is very familiar with, for the husky left-hander. Vernon Wells (Blue Jays) injury is putting a huge question mark on his future in fantasy. Wells is quickly becoming a significant injury risk, and he is not going to have long to prove himself for next year when he gets off the DL. Fransisco Liriano (Twins) has thrown together three consecutive scoreless outings at Triple-A and should be back in Minnesota soon. He is the "sleeper" pitcher I would want the most in a keeper league for the second half (and he is in my top three overall now). Ryan Zimmerman (Nats) has made it through the BP phase of his rehab and should head to the Minors sometime around the All-Star break. I will still believe he is going to play again this year when he steps onto the field (in Washington, not High-A), but this situation should be monitored much more closely now. Dave Bush (Brewers) has continued to pitch very well of late with a 13 strikeout performance yesterday. Bush is worth stashing away and starting when the Brewers play at home (his ERA is 2.87 at home and 4.47 overall, you do the math). John Maine (Mets) lasted on 4.2 innings against the Giants on Thursday after throwing 109 pitches. He is a streaky pitcher, but based on his last two outings there is a definite injury concern, react accordingly.