Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flames: Thanks to Bautista nomadic Patterson has found a home

Entering spring training, Corey Patterson was driftwood winding down a river of uncertainty. For the sixth time in as many years, the once cherished Cubs phenom ? recall he was second only to Josh Hamilton in Baseball America's prospect ranks in 2001 ? donned a different jersey, hoping to resuscitate a career on life-support.

Despite his dreadful on-base percentage, impatient eye and hole-filled swing, the Jays, looking to add outfield depth, signed the vagrant to a minor league deal in December. His ability to swipe a bag and defensive versatility offered some value. Still, when camp opened in February, most pegged Patterson would uphold his unflattering "Peppermint" nickname.

However, as the season unfolded, injuries to Scott Podsednik, Rajai Davis and Adam Lind provided the drifter with yet another chance at redemption.

Shockingly, he's taken advantage.

On Tuesday, Patterson added one more hit and run to a monstrous month. Over 117 May at-bats, he tallied a .308 BA with two homers, 16 RBI, 21 runs and four steals, the 10th-best output among outfielders and 17th-best overall. After his nine-hit explosion over two games during the Memorial Day weekend, needy fantasy players couldn't swap spatulas for iPhones fast enough.

Doubters, on the other hand, shrugged off the outburst. After all, this was the same abomination who in 2008 with the Reds posted one of the worst lines by a semi-regular in recent memory (.205-10-34-45-14). To skeptics, Jim Tressel was more trustworthy.

Not long ago, Patterson was a highly sought after power/speed combo. In 2004, his best season as a pro, he accumulated a smorgasbord of stats, totaling a .266-24-72-91-32 line. Even last year in his second tour of duty with the Orioles, he again contributed balanced production netting a .269-8-32-43-21 tally in just 308 at-bats. Extrapolate that data over 550 at-bats (.269-14-57-76-37), and the value difference between him and Angel Pagan was practically negligible.

Despite a .293-12-78-84-21 pace, the 22-percent owned outfielder has attracted few admirers. Baseball's Ted Nugent, Luke Scott, is rostered on more teams. Yes, he still refuses to take walks, but his sharp Ks decline ('10 K%: 24.4; '11: 19.6) and contact increase are positive signs for ongoing success.

Though those advancements are revealing, the real reason for Patterson's turnaround is Jose Bautista. The home run king's presence has served the two-hitter a steady diet of grapefruits. Patterson, understanding pitchers will be more aggressive with him early in at-bats, has mashed when ahead. Eighteen of his 26 RBIs have occurred on pitches after 1-0 counts. Couple that with an 87.5 contact rate on pitches inside the zone, and the career .255 hitter could sustain an average above .270, provided he doesn't fall behind. When buried (after 0-1) he's notched a lowly .159 BA with 31 strikeouts.

John Farrell's aggressive strategy on the basepaths ? the Jays lead the Majors in stolen base attempts ? is another reason to buy. Remember, three times in his career Patterson has swiped at least 32 bags. Given the abundance of green lights he's sure to receive, 30-35 steals isn't out of the question. Throw in his 12-15 home run pop and sound runs production, and at worst he's a fourth OF or UTIL option in 12-team and deeper mixed leagues. By year's end, his overall worth could be identical to Michael Brantley's (50-percent owned), assuming he sticks in the everyday lineup.

When Lind is activated later this week, Patterson's playing time could get complicated. With Rajai Davis locked in center and Bautista holding down duties in right, Lind and Juan Rivera, who are both capable of playing left-field, will need to find at-bats. Considering Patterson is a more reliable glove, Farrell will likely use Rivera as a fourth outfielder/part-time first baseman while toggling Lind between 1B/DH. Bottom line: perennial deadweight Edwin Encarnacion looks to be the odd man out. If CP can continue to lay the lumber, he will be a starting fixture.

Smack dab in the middle of his prime, the well-traveled 30-year-old looks to have finally planted firm roots.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 306 at-bats, .270 BA, 9 HR, 49 RBI, 58 R, 18 SB

Interesting commodities owned in 25-percent or less of Yahoo! leagues

Tony Campana, ChC, OF (one-percent owned) ? Outside Jose Reyes, Michael Bourn and possibly Terrell Pryor, no one has more wheels than Campana. Thrust into the starting lineup after injuries to Marlon Byrd and Reed Johnson, the baby-faced 22-year-old has taken the job and run with it … literally. A nightmare on the basepaths, he harassed the Astros staff on Memorial Day stealing four bases with ease. Because of his plus defense, slight build and on-field exuberance, an attitude Mike Quade "just loves," he's naturally drawn comparisons to ex-Cub Sam Fuld. Though his physical appearance and style of play is reminiscent of the Tampa outfielder, Campana, in fantasy terms, is Jason Bourgeois revisited, a short-term deep league speed grab with BA upside. Last season at Double-A West Tennessee, the slap specialist took 48 bases while kicking in a .317 BA over 131 games. As Pianowski noted Monday, if you're trying to gain traction in SBs, the very available rookie could net 7-10 steals over the next two weeks. And that could be a conservative estimate.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 197 at-bats, .278 BA, 0 HR, 24 RBI, 28 R, 21 SB

Ryan Raburn, Det, 2B/OF (23-percent) ? While Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and surprise sensation Alex Avila have jolted the Rock City, the popular preseason sleeper has barely wailed the whammy bar. Admittedly, he hasn't exactly lived up to my Kelly Johnson of '11 label. However, with Scott Sizemore now shagging balls in Oakland, the toyed with infielder finally has a place to call home. That is, for now. A hideous 36.3 K percentage and propensity for weak fly-outs (0.54 GB/FB) has kept his long-ball potential under wraps, an underwhelming performance Jim Leyland believes is the result of an overly "long swing." If the despondent slugger can tighten the screws, expect him to venture into Flames territory very soon. He is too good a power hitter to flounder the entire season. Keep in mind from 2009-2010, he reached the bleachers once every 20.3 at-bats, a 25-30 HR pace if extrapolated over a full season. Steadily dropped over the past several weeks, Raburn deserves one more chance, particular for managers with a pop need at middle infield.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 298 at-bats, .267 BA, 15 HR, 43 RBI, 36 R, 2 SB

Dillon Gee, NYM, SP (eight-percent) ? A new catch phrase sure to grace the front of t-shirts in the Big Apple is also sweeping through deep leagues in Fantasyland; Gees up, batters down. Shades of Rick Reed '97, the mediocre prospect has exceeded expectations so far this season, developing into the Mets' most consistent starter. The youngster credits his relationship with battery-mate Josh Thole who he worked extensively with in the minors for his success. Through seven starts, the backstop's presence has helped Gee record a commendable 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and five wins. Dissecting the scouting report, the righty isn't blessed with overpowering stuff, instead relying on deception to draw weak contact and whiffs. So far, it's worked to perfection. His fastball/change combo has regularly mystified the opposition indicative in his 10.3 swinging strike percentage, 7.09 K/9 and 1.24 GB/FB ratio. He also has benefited from good fortune (.241 BABIP), which arrows to an ERA rise, but given Citi Field's spacious comforts, he is likely to maintain a sub-4.00 ERA over the remainder of the season. If you're a deep-thinking owner in need of back-of-the-rotation stability, you could do far worse than Gee.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 137.1 IP, 7 W, 3.99 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 109 K

Want to bean Brad in the head? Bring the heat on Twitter @YahooNoise.


Images courtesy of US Presswire/Getty

Jessica White Anna Friel Monica Bellucci Minki van der Westhuizen Katharine Towne

No comments:

Post a Comment