July 15, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

Fantasy Baseball Position Battles: Pittsburgh Outfield

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Jose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates hit the second half as a contender but with weaknesses in left and right field.  Andrew McCutchen is playing as well as anyone on the planet but the corner spots are up for grabs and the internal options are not very enticing.

Jose Tabata was recently optioned to the minors.  Alex Presley is rehabbing a concussion and could return to active duty on July 17.  Garrett Jones played 28 games in the outfield and 29 games at first base.  The team seems far more comfortable rotating him then making him a full time outfielder.  Organizational journeyman Drew Sutton started every game in July in left field.

Tabata’s skills have not slipped catastrophically but this year’s results show how precariously he hangs onto a major league job.  A 0.40 BB/K is not terrible but it is a career low for Tabata.  Combined with a .267 BABIP (his career average is .312) his OBP is under .300.  His swing rate is up about 7% and he is going after more pitches in and out of the strike zone.  That dragged his walk rate from 10.5% last year to 6.1% in 2012.  Since he has little power he is extremely hard pressed to be above average offensively unless he walks more frequently.  With eight steals against nine times caught he is also costing the team on the bases.

Presley offers similar traits as Tabata, although with worse plate discipline but more power.  His 0.23 BB/K is troubling, and a significant factor behind his .276 OBP.  His ground ball rate surged to 58.8%, only a HR/FB jump to 15.4% is keeping his ISO afloat.  Considering he never hit more than twelve home runs over a complete season the current rate is high.  Even setting aside possible aftereffects of the concussion he could be an offensive liability from here on out.

Sutton currently sports a 31.0% K%, a 4.3% BB%, and a .397 BABIP propping up his .286 average.  Give him some credit for a 29.6% line drive rate but that line still screams “regression”.  He unfortunately has a track record of poor plate discipline, with a 0.23 BB/K in his major league time.  He is a desperation stopgap, one that a contending team should constantly be trying to replace.

International League All Star Starling Marte’s OPS is over .900 since June 1 and he recently rose to #2 in ESPN’s fantasy rankings of minor leaguers.  Keith Law doubts his on-base skills, and this year’s 6.8% walk rate is a professional high.  The power is clearly developing though, his ISO has improved from .117 to .168 to .204 the last three seasons while advancing a level each year.

Robbie Grossman has 84 games under his belt at Double-A so a promotion to Pittsburgh would be aggressive.  He is a step behind Marte in power and speed but his BB/K was 0.94 in 2011 and is 0.79 this year.  Neither player made Baseball America’s mid-season Top 50 so they are unlikely to make a dramatic fantasy impact if they get the call.

MLB Trade Rumors believes the Pirates are preparing to act as buyers at the deadline.  Some possible targets include Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Shane Victorino, and Justin Upton.


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