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2010 Sleepers: Juan Pierre
Michael Ryan, FantasyJuice.com

Looking for cheap speed with an average that wonít kill you late in the draft? Who isnít? Fortunately there is plenty of speed in the outfield this year, but are these players going to help your average too?

The New Kids on the Block

Last year rewarded many owners looking to get mad speed from the outfield late in their drafts. Michael Bourn, Rajai Davis, Nyjer Morgan, and (after he was called up) Julio Borbon all provided steals, runs, a decent average, and little else in 2009. All have been tagged as being ďJuan Pierre clonesĒ and have climbed up the rankings on Mock Draft Central heading into 2010.

Remember this guy?

The problem with this is that the real Juan Pierre has been largely forgotten by fantasy owners. Itís time for the real Juan Pierre to please stand up (yes, I just wrote that, and no, Iím not proud of it) and take back his title. Pierre is currently going 219th on MDC, which is after Morgan (131), Davis (163), Borbon (187), and way after Bourn (84).

Pierre stole 40 and 30 bases the past two seasons, despite being the fourth outfielder for the majority of the time and recording fewer than 400 at bats in each season. Pierreís last season as the full-time starter was 2007, in which he batted .293 with 96 runs and 64 steals for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He is now 33 years old, which is no young pup, but the past two seasons will have helped keep those legs fresh and with the move to the Chicago White Sox playing time will no longer be an issue. This is a player who can still hit for a high average and flirt with 60 steals, and you can get him in the 18th round!

Pierre Vs Bourn

So why is Pierre going 135 picks (or over 11 rounds) later than Michael Bourn? And while weíre at it, should you be using a 7th round pick on Mr. Bourn? Letís take a deeper look at Houstonís leadoff hitter.

Bourn broke out in 2009, to the tune of 61 steals, 97 runs, and a .285 batting average. The speed is definitely for real, nobody questions that. He also swiped 41 bags in his first year in Houston in 2008. And that was with a putrid .229 average and .288 OBP!

That brings us to the real question: Was Michael Bournís .285 batting average for real or was it a fluke?

Using BABIP to Analyze AVG

Itís always cause for concern when a player jumps over 50 points in average from one year to the next. Taking a look at his BABIP (batting average for balls in play) might help decipher which average is legit.

Bournís BABIP in 2008 was .290, which is slightly unlucky (.300 is considered the norm), especially considering that faster players tend to have a higher BABIP (due to their speed, which should allow them to leg out more infield hits). His BABIP in 2009 was a tremendous .366!

Even for a burner like Bourn, .366 is extremely lucky. There is one player that year after year tends to defy the BABIP laws and that player is Ichiro Suzuki. Michael Bourn is no Ichiro.

Bourn is most likely to hit somewhere in the middle of his .229 and .285 averages (and is most definitely not a .300 hitter). Even if he regresses to an average around .265, the steals and runs should still be plentiful, but do you really feel like using your 7th round pick on a 95/3/35/50/.265 guy? What about when you can get the same player (or better) 11 rounds later? Didnít think so.

What about the other guys?

Okay, so Michael Bourn is definitely overrated in 2010, but what about the other guys? Lack of experience and inflated BABIPs say the others are likely due for regressions as well.

Nyjer Morgan stole a cool 42 bags for the second straight year in 2009, hitting a combined .308 for Pittsburgh and Washington. Unfortunately that average was also likely due to an unusually high BABIP (.355) and a regression can be expected in 2010. You also have to worry about how many runs he will score for the lowly Nationals.

The only player happier than Rajai Davis about the deal that sent Matt Holliday to St. Louis was probably Matt Holliday himself. Davis exploded with 30 steals and a .325 average after the All Star break in 2009. Davis hit .243 in his first full season in 2008 and .303 in 2009. Davisís 2009 BABIP? .361.

Julio Borbon stole 19 bases in just 157 at bats for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He also hit .312 with a .376 OBP and will potentially be hitting at the top of the order for a potent lineup in 2010. He is only 24 and only has 179 plate appearances in the majors. Hitting .300 would not be out of the question but .275-.280 is a much safer prediction.

They are all going in the mid-to-late rounds and arenít necessarily overvalued if you need speed (especially compared to Bourn) but none are locks to repeat in the average category.

Juan Pierre returns as the powerless king of fantasy

Juan Pierre is a .301 career hitter who has stolen 45 or more bases in every year that he was the full-time starter, which he is expected to be for a White Sox team that expects to contend in 2010.

At 33, Pierre is no longer a young kid but has shown no signs of slowing down and has been remarkably healthy throughout his career (he played in all 162 games in five straight years before Manny Ramirez arrived). Simply put, when he is in the lineup, he produces.

None of these players will help you in home runs or RBIs which means they have to be above average or better in the other three categories in order to be positive contributors to your team. Juan Pierre is the safest bet of these five guys to come through in all three.

While your league-mates reach for Bourn or take the risk on the other speedsters, be happy to sit back and snag Juan Pierre near the end of your draft if you are feeling the need for speed.


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