Since I have nothing new to add to the Closerpocalypse of 2012, I figured I would cast your attention toward the outfield. I neglected right, left, and center fielders in my first stab at “In some depth,” so it is only fair that I neglect infielders in my third try.
Without any further ado, here are 10 interesting (as defined by me) outfield observations through the season's first 10-ish games:
Well I discussed the Boston outfield experience briefly last week, but things have declined since then. Jacoby Ellsbury hit the DL on Friday after his shoulder hit the ground funny, which means two-thirds of Boston's All-Star outfield is out of commission. Jason Repko relieved Che-Hsuan Lin of fourth-outfielder duties Sunday, and Cody Ross, Darnell McDonald and Ryan Sweeney are your three starters. I would imagine the BoSox bring in someone from the outside before all is said and done.
You know that National outfielder you were waiting to see in the big leagues all spring training? Well, his season debut came a bit under the radar over the weekend. Yup, Rick Ankiel finally came off the disabled list, and his mere health has helped him wrestle the Nats' starting center field gig from Roger Bernadina. The job should be Ankiel's property until the team recalls Bryce Harper. Given the latter's struggles thus far at Triple-A Syracuse (especially against lefties), Ankiel's reign might be longer than anticipated.
Meanwhile, Mark DeRosa and Xavier Nady appear content to alternate starts in left field until Mike Morse returns to health.
Kansas City OF
Two-thirds of this outfield are extremely boring (Alex Gordon will play left every day, Jeff Francouer right), but the center spot has become extremely interesting over these past few days. Lorenzo Cain won the job outright thanks to his incredible spring performance, and said performance helped use forgive him for his minus-11 OPS+ through five games. It looked like Jarrod Dyson could be a Cain clone in center, but he only stuck with the club for two days before heading back to Omaha. Mitch Maier and Jason Bourgeois will split the role until Cain returns, with the former getting the uninspired edge.
Ben Revere's 34 steals in 2011 made him one of the better rookies in fantasy, but he got crowded out of the Twins'outfield Saturday when they claimed Clete Thomas off waivers. The latter will now take Revere's spot in the Twins' right field triumvirate alongside Trevor Plouffe and Ryan Doumit. Actually, this arrangement may be changing in the near future, as Doumit should move behind the plate more frequently as the season progresses, and Plouffe touts his stuff around the infield. Target Field is a tough park to hit a home run in, but Thomas remains an intriguing and affordable power play.
Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey broke camp in a left field platoon, and the former has the advantage thus far. Ludwick has started six of the Reds' first 10 games, and his production to this point certainly deserves it, but Heisey owns the higher ceiling. Manager Dusty Baker utilized a platoon through all of 2011, and it is hard to see things changing much in 2012. Heisey could steal starts at the other two outfield slots, but the timeshare in left should deflate the value of both players.
Neither Jonny Gomes nor Seth Smith have a lick of not have a start in the outfield thus far, but both should be OF-eligible for fantasy purposes. The two are engaged in the traditional righty-lefty platoon, but Smith has a slight edge in playing time earned thus far thanks in part to the abundance of opposing righty-handed starters. Smith has an un-DH-like zero extra-base hits, while two of Gomes' three hits have left the park. One or both of these guys could be off the roster when Manny Ramirez returns from suspension.
I touched on this situation a bit last week, but it is worth circling back. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Scott Hairston remain in an alternating-game platoon in center for the Mets, though that pattern will be skipped when Hairston shifts to the corners when Jason Bay or Lucas Duda needs a day off. Niewenuis potentially represents a new wave of Mets, while Hairston is a remnant of the era of Hairston.
Do I really want to touch this situation? If it wasn't my job, then I probably wouldn't. Bobby Abreu has essentially been a $9 million fourth outfielder. Were he a bit more gifted in the field, then perhaps Torii Hunter or Vernon Wells would wear that hat, but for now they are the starting right and left fielders, respectively. DH is not the outfield dumping ground it was last year. Kendrys Morales has relinquished that role just once through the Angels' first three series, and he turned the reigns over to Mark Trumbo rather than an outfielder. At least manager Mike Scioscia has not benched Peter Bourjos in the name of getting the “paid” men onto the field.
Did I mention Mike Trout has a 1.143 OPS through his first 50-ish plate appearances for Triple-A Salt Lake? It is hard to imagine the Angels eating Hunter's or Wells' salary, but Trout should force their hand before long.
Emilio Bonifacio only played nine games in center last season, but the job is his completely this season, and there is nothing Chris Coghlan or Bryan Petersen (in Triple-A) can do about it. This isn't the same Bonifacio-mania that swept the fantasy nation and then quickly died out in 2009 – he has been doing this since last July. He has had a few slip-ups in center, but not enough to affect his playing time. Juan Pierre attempted 80+ steals in a season under Ozzie Guillen's tutelage, so the sky is the limit for Boni. On a side note – check out this video about the physics of the new Marlins' park. The Marlins could be even more active on the basepaths if the ball can't leave the park.
Nolan Reimold provided some heroics over the weekend with home runs in wins Friday and Saturday, and he has provided the Orioles with an unconventional leadoff profile. Reimold was a superior OBP guy for the duration of his minor league career, so the fit might not be as awkward as it initially seems. Endy Chavez has scraped a third of the starts in left field through nine games, but I expect that pace to decrease as long as Reimold can hold his own.