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AL Outfielders: Day Three
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Outfielders with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.  B = Bats.  T = Throws.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2005.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider a player's 2005 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.

Carl Everett490123.2512387458OD
CH White Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34B:S    T:R11114.82.6

Not yet a dinosaur following this impressive rebound, Everett reemerged as a useful offensive player, demonstrating across-the-board skills near his career levels. Unfortunately, moving from Chicago to Seattle places him in a far inferior park for hitters, an environment that should exacerbate his monthly performance swings - his OPS differed by no less than 165 points between any consecutive months. With intriguing alternatives like Chris Snelling, Shin-soo Choo, and even Mike Morse available to the Mariners, Everett could slip toward his 2004 numbers much quicker than many might imagine. Unless your BA foundation looks rock solid, gambling more than a few bucks here isn't a good idea.

Trot Nixon408112.2751367264O
BOS Red Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:L    T:L111217.312.4

Oblique problems troubled Nixon throughout the second half, once again demonstrating the detrimental effect of his fragility on his performance. He also continues to display a significant platoon split, which should result in someone like Gabe Kapler replacing him against almost all southpaws. The good news here is that Nixon compiled one of the best skill sets of his career, boosting his contact rate to the level where a return to a .300 BA seems imminent. He similarly could his over twenty homers again in similar playing time, however due to his persistent injuries, bidding much into the teens in search of a $20 season in his walk year looks rather risky.

Gary Matthews, Jr.475121.2551755972O
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:S    T:R11121013.3

Missing a few weeks in the spring with a strained hamstring didn't prevent Matthews from seizing an everyday job in the second half, compiling a solid .258/.340/.449 output with 10 HR, 34 RBI, and a 37:55 BB:K in 287 AB. He enters camp as the likely starter at center, at least until Laynce Nix proves himself both healthy and effective. With respectable power, plate discipline, and speed, Matthews deserves no less than a platoon job. A likely BA rebound near .270 should guarantee a profit if you can land him for several bucks.

Magglio Ordonez30592.302846038O
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:R    T:R101014.113.4

Ordonez's skills quietly rebounded close to his Chicago peaks, and if Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco, and Chris Shelton perform at expected levels, 500 AB for Ordonez means no less than 100 RBI. Hernia surgery proved the injury culprit last year as Ordonez hit the DL in early April and then didn't return for three months. However, he again looked like an All-Star throughout July and August before apparently tiring in September. Ordonez may clear $25 as the Detroit's lineup fulcrum, and with both his 2004 and 2005 problems looking somewhat fluky in nature, I see no reason to discount that estimate more than twenty percent due to health reasons.

Terrence Long455127.279653362O
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:L    T:L10111.81.8

Regular at-bats for Long led to no positive result for the Royals or the outfielder, who still hangs in free agency with spring training merely two weeks away. An average BA empty lacking noteworthy secondary skills don't warrant more than an NRI, and despite some latent talent, only a move somewhere like Colorado will force Long from fantasy free agent lists. Consider him no more than injury filler until further notice.

Alex Sanchez17657.324216832O
TB/SF4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:L    T:L1096.29.4

Words nearly fail me when thinking of the AL-only teams devastated by Tampa's decision to cut Sanchez. Yes, he royally embarrassed the franchise with his positive test for banned substances and subsequent suspension as the shocking first MLB player nabbed by testing. His presence also clearly blocked the development of both Jonny Gomes and Joey Gathright. However, the Rays certainly knew the potential of their rookie outfielders prior to signing Sanchez, so considering he registered a .346/.373/.466 output for Tampa, even hitting third for part of the year, the club lacked a real reason to DFA him. San Francisco, another club with plenty of young and old outfielders, further marginalized him before a July DL stint unexpectedly ended his season. While I admit Sanchez generally adds little to most rosters, he actually performed decently in 2005 and deserves another shot, either as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner or a defense-first centerfielder somewhere he can hit ninth and serve as a second leadoff man. Feel free to bid a few bucks depending on where Sanchez lands, and even if he still lacks a job by draft day, Ultra leaguers should float a $2 bid in the hope of adding twenty steals at minimal cost.

Jay Payton408109.2671863062O
Age: 32B:R    T:R101079.8

I expect Payton leads the list of potential starting outfielders ready to move during spring training if the WBC knocks out a regular for any length of time. The Frank Thomas signing pushed Payton back into no more than a platoon with Nick Swisher, and he probably deserves an even smaller role given Swisher's upside. Bobby Kielty and Daric Barton similarly provide Oakland with little reason to retain Payton as a benchwarmer, but unless he lands that everyday job, he could sulk back onto the fantasy waiver wire. Only his power potential from his formerly balanced skill set, so I generally see little reason to approach $10 even if his circumstances by draft day suggest he could return to double-digit value.

Juan Rivera35095.2711559146OD
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R1094.12.5

Any reverse platoon split that persists for three out of the last four seasons looks less like a statistical oddity and more like a face of someone's skill set. Rivera continues to struggle against left-handers, and his miserable .10 SB success rate also gives us an obvious warning flag. However, a combination of a 1.16 G-F and .87 contact rate give him intriguing upside on a club with as many questions as the Angels. The departures of Steve Finley and Jeff DaVanon could bump Rivera to 500 at-bats unless Nick Gorneault receives a surprise promotion. Think Craig Monroe with more upside here due to the possibility of Rivera rebounding against left-handers. Anyone looking for a fourth outfielder with more potential than certainty should bid that tenth dollar if bidding stalls in single digits.

Reed Johnson398107.269858555O
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:R    T:R10101-0.7

Despite a couple seasons of worse numbers than even his unimpressive rookie stats, Johnson nevertheless seems entrenched in Toronto's outfield, likely returning as Frank Catalanotto's platoon partner despite the move of Eric Hinske to the outfield and a need for Alexis Rios to play every day. Considering Johnson slipped to a mediocre .279/.335/.418 performance against southpaws, even that role seems too bid for a player seeming in decline during his peak years. With limited quantitative upside and no guarantee of a helpful BA, please let someone else waste a roster spot on Johnson unless he somehow slips into Dollar Days.

Jeremy Reed488124.2543451261O
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24B:L    T:L89-6.8-1.9

Few projections look worse retrospectively than our roughly $27 expected value for Reed, who instead wound up $20 and 25 RAR below anticipated levels. The September revelation of a torn wrist ligament explained much of the disparity given his rather extraordinary minor league numbers. His inability to handle southpaws and general problems in the basepaths finished destroying his rookie season. However, he still owns a .10 walk rate and .85 contact rate, so even though he stays with Seattle after brief trade negotiations with the Red Sox, Reed should enjoy his sophomore season to a far greater extent. I look at $15 as a likely minimum, finally leading to a $25 breakout the following year as Reed turns 26.

Damon Hollins34285.2491346844O
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:R    T:L881.61.6

I never understood the rationale for starting Hollins over Jonny Gomes and then Joey Gathright even when the journeyman rookie crushed the ball for a .325/.368/.600 performance in 80 May at-bats. He understandably slumped in June to a .213/.272/.307 output before delivering a truly uninspiring .236/.271/.404 line in the second half. Hollins only needs a trade of Joey Gathright to see another couple hundred at-bats as Tampa's fourth outfielder, but please remember that he turns 32 in June and will hurt your BA. Gambling more than a couple bucks just for the chance of double-digit homers and a half-dozen isn't a good bet given the competition he'll face for playing time once Delmon Young joins the Rays.

Bobby Kielty37799.2631057355O
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:S    T:R886.75.1

An extended history of impressive plate discipline hasn't lead to much big league success for Kielty, who belongs in the lineup against any southpaw yet never should sniff a plate appearance against any right-hander. A strict platoon could push him into double-digit value due to .300+ BA, but with Ken Macha showing no indication to acknowledge Kielty's increasingly obvious limitations, he adds little more than a few bucks of homers and RBI to most roto teams. I rank him as no more than an endgame fallback option for your last outfield slot unless spring training developments suggest Kielty will find the elusive limited role needed to maximize his effectiveness.

Casey Blake523126.2412358472O
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:R    T:R782.23.1

Few players bear more responsibility for Cleveland's failure to make the playoffs than Blake, who rewarded Mark Shapiro for the first multi-year contract of his career by losing nearly a hundred points of OPS despite moving from third base to the comparative relaxation of right field. The continuing rumors regarding a deal to bring Austin Kearns to the Indians wouldn't exist without this turkey from Blake. At least he remains a relatively patience hitter with solid power potential, so while his age puts a $20 ceiling on any rebound, his second-half improvement augers well for a $15 season from Blake in 2006. You just may roster him for two-thirds of that price if your fellow owners ignore Blake's success when left alone in the #9 hole.

Bernie Williams485121.2491264153OD
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 37B:S    T:R56-1.9-4.8

Few transactions pleased us more than winter than seeing Bernie return for a sixteenth and hopefully final season. The only member of the club capable of remembering the Dark Days prior to the quartet of Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, and Posada debuted in 1995, Williams emblemizes the combination of professionalism and achievement that defined the late 90's Yankees. Although diminished speed in every facet of his game renders him relatively useless as more than a platoon DH and therefore unworthy of more than minimal auction bids, Williams deserves this last chance to depart the game on a positive note while not under the pressure provided by a ten-digit contract.

AL Outfield Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Only Magglio Ordonez and Jeremy Reed own any real chance of reaching $20 in 2006. Nixon, Matthews, Rivera, and Blake also may qualify as sleepers depending on your league, but none of today's players really rank as more than tertiary components of a championship fantasy outfield.

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