Stubbs, Young, Maybin, Morrison: Tier 5 NL OF Keepers

We’ve looked at four tiers worth of National League Outfield Keepers. That’s 13 dudes, or at least one keeper per team in a 12-team NL-only. If you’re in a traditional keeper league — one in which you keep fewer than eight players — then we’ve probably come to the end of your more attractive keepers. So many of the remaining options are buy-low guys better acquired at a draft or auction, or they are solid performers with real flaws that don’t figure to go away. Or they are older players that you are just keeping because nobody will buy them from you.

But let’s look at the best of the rest, shan’t we?

Tier One
Matt Kemp
Ryan Braun

Tier Two
Justin Upton
Carlos Gonzalez
Andrew McCutchen

Tier Three
Mike Stanton
Hunter Pence
Jay Bruce
Michael Bourn

Tier Four
Matt Holliday
Shane Victorino
Corey Hart
Lance Berkman

Tier Five ‘The Best of the Rest’
Drew Stubbs – $12.04
It looks like we know who Drew Stubbs is now. He’s going to strike out too much, he’s going to walk enough to improve his value in OBP leagues, and he’s going to show wheels of steal on the basepaths. But that first flaw really drags the rest of the package down. It took him a .343 BABIP to register a .243 batting average — if his BABIP luck gets any worse, he could be nigh unplayable. The problem is that no matter how much we’ve killed the great batting average god in real-life baseball, there are still people in power that gravitate toward that part of a player’s batting line. Dusty Baker is one of the more traditional managers in baseball — if Stubbs starts next year with a string of strikeouts and a batting average under the mendoza line, but the team is competitive, how long will the manager stick with his player? Especially with the speedy Dave Sappelt in the wings? It’s nice that he has league-average power, better-than-average patience, and great wheels, but his one flaw is so readily apparent that it actually puts his entire value in danger. You really need a team that can handle his bad batting average (and, really even his OBP is below-average) in order to reap the rewards Stubbs can offer.

Chris Young – $11.29
It’s tempting to say that Chris Young represents the best-case scenario for Drew Stubbs, but they really aren’t the same player. Sure, Young also has good power, nice wheels, and a bad batting average, but he got there for a different reason. For the last two years in a row, Young has only struck out around 21% of the time, compared to Stubbs’ 28+%. Their respective swinging strike rates (9.3% for Young, 11.3% for Stubbs) tell the same story. Young’s poor batting average may be tied more to his batted ball mix. He likes fly balls (.71 GB/FB career), which bring down a BABIP (.280 career) even while they help power. Lo and behold, his xBABIP (.282) wasn’t far off of his BABIP last year (.275). At this point, Young’s career batting average (.240) can provide as much of a guidepost as any. Since he walks more than Stubbs, he might be a little better option in OBP leagues, but he’s still just as flawed a player. Why he hits so many infield fly balls (16.6% career) is probably a topic for a whole ‘nother post.

Cameron Maybin – $10.37
Hey another toolsy center fielder with a bad batting average! Maybin actually took the Stubbs pathway to his poor numbers in the category (.255 career). Even though his strikeout rate looked more Young-ian last year (22%), he has the swinging strike rate (12%) and career strikeout rate (25.2%) of a low-contact whiffer. One thing that has helped him put up a good BABIP over his career (.332) are his plus wheels and his preference for ground balls (1.93 GB/FB). He needs to hit more line drives (15.6% career), but there’s a little more power upside in his line, and he managed to steal 40 bases last year in under 600 PAs, so he can fly. There might be the most upside in Maybin if he can actually keep his strikeout rate in Young territory while showing Stubbs-like power and batted ball mix — and Bill James has him down for a .277 batting average (and 11 home runs and 32 steals), which would perhaps make him the most valuable player in the tier. But there’s even more risk, especially when considering Maybin’s home park in San Diego.

Logan Morrison – $2.98
Finally a player whose value is probably not going to be tanked by a bad batting average. Yes, Morrison only hit .247 last year, but he’s a reasonably athletic player (4.2 career speed score) who hits more ground balls than fly balls (1.41 career GB/FB), doesn’t have a problem with line drives (18.6% career), and strikes out at a better-than-average pace (18.5% career). Most likely his .265 BABIP from 2011 will improve in the coming season, and bring his batting average up with it. No, the ‘problem’ with Morrison is projecting his power. His Double-A ISO was only .165, and though he pushed that stat to .181 in Triple-A, he was never projected to be your traditional slugging first baseman. His .221 ISO last year was a career-high at any level, and yeah, he hits more ground balls than fly balls. The average ISO of qualified hitters that hit more than 1.3 ground balls per fly ball last year was .139, so LoMo may have to hit more fly balls to keep his power gains next year. Think more Andre Ethier than anything — perhaps without the platoon issues — but also remember that the real, actual Andre Ethier will cost less at your next draft.

All 2010 auction values come from Zach Sanders’ new and improved auction value tool.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Chicago Mark
10 years ago

Excellent read Eno. I’m not sure of Young but Stubbs, Maybin and Morrison are still in growth years. Aren’t they? What has FG written about growth ages? Do you see any getting better based on this?

Eno Sarris
10 years ago
Reply to  Chicago Mark

Stubbs is 27 and Young is 28. Position players usually peak between 26 and 28. So they might have a peak season coming, but there isn’t a ton of growth to be had.