SleepersMarch 25, 2010

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Sleeper Watch

By Ben Lewis

The last few times that I was dragged to a Padre game to watch the franchise I once loved, I couldn’t help but fall into a bit of a stupor watching each friar go to the plate, only to walk back to the dugout after a few failed swings.  During these zoning out times, there was usually one thing which woke me from the trance, and that was when Kevin Kouzmanoff came to bat.  While he might not have been the best player on the team, the stadium would erupt with a loud, “Koooooooouz” as he walked up to the plate.  It was nice to finally feel some life from the stands, even if it resulted in a strikeout about a quarter of the time.  That’s why I was a little teary when I heard the news that we had shipped him off to Oakland to man third base there. While it might make Padre games a little less exciting, if that was possible, the move makes Kouzmanoff a very intriguing pick for fantasy baseball this year.

Petco Park: The Place Where Offense Goes To Die

Normally a guy who hit 18 homers, held a .255 average and amassed a whopping one stolen base doesn’t show up on the radar for fantasy purposes, especially in mixed leagues.  While the Oakland Coliseum may not be the most hitter friendly park, it is a HUGE improvement over Petco Park, pictured at left and better known as “the place where offense goes to die”.  Normally, the stats I listed before would justify him not being selected in 85 percent of mock drafts, but the fact that Kouz is in a new stadium, combined with his road stats from last year and the power he showed at home, could lead to a breakout season in 2010.

First, let’s look at his road numbers to help us get a glimpse at what he might be able to do once he escapes the downer that is known as being a Padre. To give you an example as to just how much he struggled at home, he had a BABIP of .247, compared to a more reasonable .317 away.  Overall, in 69 games on the road, Kouzmanoff hit a very respectable .287, with 31 runs and 52 RBI.  Those are very good stats for a guy you can find on the waiver wire, especially at one of the weaker positions this year.  Combine those numbers with the fact that he was able to hit 9 home runs at Petco, to emphasize his pure power, and that could lead to a line that looks something like this: 75/25/90/.277.  With those kinds of numbers, the new A’s 3B could really outperform guys being selected before him, like Troy Glaus or even his replacement, Chase Headley.

Even with all of these positive indicators for Kouzmanoff’s performance outside of America’s Finest City, I would never recommend using Kouzmanoff as a starter.  However, he is definitely someone to place on your watch list, or pick up as a backup option in case you missed out on studs like Longoria or Zimmerman, or even as the injury replacement for other starters like A-Rod or Wright.  At the very least, you will be able to yell “Kooooouz” when he comes up to the plate, and who doesn’t want to do that?

Ben Lewis is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Ben in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of BeanBean. Also, check out his other works at his blog:
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