SleepersMarch 15, 2008

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Sleeper Watch

By Craig Gould

Fourth year outfielder Nate McLouth is battling to start and hit lead-off for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008. McLouth has never started full-time in his short career, but will have every opportunity to do so this season. Pittsburgh has several young outfielders on the horizon (namely Steve Pearce, Nyjer Morgan, and Andrew McCutchen) who will compete with McLouth for playing time.

In only 329 at-bats last season, McLouth hit 13 home runs and swiped 22 bags (in 23 attempts). McLouth has 34 career stolen bases and has only been caught twice. For a leadoff hitter, his batting average is a sub-par .258, but his OPS is a very respectable .810. McLouth won’t provide much help for your batting average, but it could increase given that his contact rate was a meager 77 percent and stands to improve slightly. McLouth also scored 62 runs atop the Pirates lineup, and given 500 at-bats this season, he could easily cross the plate 90+ times.

Keep your eye on the center field battle during Spring Training. If McLouth wins the job, he’s easily worth a late round pick as a fourth outfielder on your fantasy teams. There have also been some rumors of right fielder Xavier Nady being shipped out of town, which would open up another spot in the outfield.

My projection for McLouth: .268 average, 90 runs, 15 home runs, 50 runs batted in and 35 stolen bases – certainly very valuable!

McLouth’s average draft position (ADP) on Yahoo! is 215, which puts him between rounds 17 through 19 in standard leagues. Given his stolen base prowess alone, this can be great value for a 15/30 threat. An extra perk is that McLouth holds LF, CF and RF eligibility in leagues that break down outfield spots.

Craig Gould is a Fantasy Baseball Cafe Regular and die-hard Phillies fan from Philadelphia. You can catch him posting at the Cafe under the name of Snakes Gould.
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