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AL Outfielders: Day Four
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.

Curtis Granderson16244.272820118O
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24B:L    T:R445.66.4

Granderson experienced little difficulty upon his promotion to AAA Toledo(IL), compiling a .288/.356/.512 performance with 30 2B, 13 3B, 15 HR, 65 RBI, a 22/28 SB%, and a 38:131 BB:K in 451 AB before moving into Detroit's starting lineup down the stretch. Only a minor drop in his walk rate indicated any detrimental effect of that final promotion, and with obvious skill deficiencies, Granderson should remain a Tigers' outfielder for the rest of the decade. Yes, he may lose a little playing time to Nook Logan until Dave Dombrowski dispatches Dmitri Young and possibly Carlos Pena to other teams, but Granderson's all-around consistency gives him $30 upside once he secures a full-time job. Obtaining him anywhere in the teens this spring should give you a long-term keeper.

Jeff DaVanon22552.2312151142OD
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:S    T:R34-4.4-3.1

If Arizona truly offered him a two year deal, DaVanon will finish second only to Ben Molina in balloting for this winter's Jody Reed Award. He largely collapsed in the first half, losing almost all his power, before completely tanking down the stretch to the tune of a .180/.329/.279 line in 61 second-half at-bats. Somewhat ironically, he performed best during the two months immediately after he broke his nose on June 8th, but a reversal of his previously positive platoon split simply destroyed his overall numbers. The Angels released DaVanon in December, and although he still owns strong plate discipline and should rebound with a new club, don't bother bidding more than a couple of bucks until his role looks completely defined.

Aaron Guiel10932.29447118O
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:L    T:R3343.7

Hitting .278/.373/.541 with 30 HR, 94 RBI, and a 64:105 BB:K in 497 AB for AAA Omaha(PCL) earned Guiel an August recall, and he returned to his 2003 level of performance as an everyday player in September. Like teammate Matt Stairs, Guiel appears fully capable of contributing as a platoon starter, however unless Kansas City deals both Reggie Sanders and Doug Mientkiewicz, I see no more than a bench job at best for Guiel. His wildly careening big league BA prevents me from recommending him as more than roster filler, but if a trade or injury creates an opening, Guiel at least shouldn't hurt you in a limited role.

Steve Finley40690.2221254841O
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 40B:L    T:L34-11-9.5

Moving up the coast to San Francisco places the veteran journeyman in the unenviable position of backing up three All-Stars, including baseball's best batter, while trying to hold off a half-dozen moderately intriguing youngsters. Jason Ellison and Todd Linden both look likely to join Finley on the Giants, which could leave him truly struggling for at-bats after a decade wherein he never batted less than 495 times in a season. Of course, Finley turns 41 in March, posted his worst OPS since 1990, and suffered from groin and shoulder problems for much of the year. While I expect a mild rebound despite significant erosion of his plate discipline, Finley doesn't merit much more than a minimum ante in most standard leagues.

B.J. Surhoff30378.257534030O
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 41B:L    T:R33-5.7-9.6

Not officially retired yet unlikely to continuing playing after posting his worst OPS since 1992, the aging backup no longer adds positive value in any aspect of the game. A solid contact rate helped him maintain a passable BA, but even that extremely empty average doesn't help a club from an outfield corner. Surhoff should depart baseball with very respectable career numbers from his nineteen seasons, though even if plays in a twentieth year, he doesn't belong on any fantasy roster.

Bubba Crosby9827.27616415O
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:L    T:R32-1.5-1.5

Another meager .231/.306/.363 output for AAA Columbus(IL) in 160 AB, along with fairly similar big league averages, apparently nearly convinced New York that Crosby could start in centerfielder, somehow compensating for his significant shortcomings at the plate with solid defense. The signing of Johnny Damon thankfully removed that plan from consideration, so although Crosby still might spend much of the year on the Yankees' bench, he won't see enough playing time to hurt your team if you accidentally add him as a free agent.

Jason Tyner5618.3210528O
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:L    T:L2122

While his formerly formidable speed continues to deteriorate, Tyner returned to the majors in September as a reward for his capable .286/.349/.334 line in 524 AB for AAA Rochester(IL). Unfortunately, he never owned any power and now also lacks any likelihood of stealing more than a dozen bases as a reserve. Thankfully for Minnesota fans, the Twins keep signing more experienced outfielders this winter, pushing Tyner ever further down the depth chart. Only teams desperate for steals should bother spending a roster spot on the two-dimensional outfielder.

Larry Bigbie27265.239523527O
Age: 27B:L    T:R22-5.7-5.7

Swapping Larry Bigbie for Eric Byrnes never made much sense for the Orioles, and as the Rockies also didn't want the Baltimore product, he received little playing time after a deal with the Red Sox collapsed. Obviously undervaluing their asset, Colorado then included Bigbie with Aaron Miles in the trade for Ray King, a move that places Bigbie in an ideal situation to restart his career. The Cardinals understand how to manage a fragile corner outfielder and should place him in a platoon with John Rodriguez to provide solid numbers from left field. Bigbie still faces the dual problems of obvious fragility and a troublesome 2.23 G-F for his career, but I certainly see sufficient upside here to warrant several bucks in most NL leagues.

Mark DeRosa14836.243820126O
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R222.72.7

While DeRosa looks far better in leagues with no more than a 15-game position qualification, gaining eligibility at second and shortstop, he barely merits any roster spot in standard AL circuits. I cannot envision him beating out Ian Kinsler or D'Angelo Jimenez for the second base job, and despite some mild improvement I his skills, a severe platoon split should keep him off the field against the majority of pitchers. Only an unexpected straight platoon for DeRosa could lead to more than a few bucks of value for the unimpressive utilityman.

Laynce Nix22955.240632228O
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24B:L    T:L22-3.3-2.8

With three straight sub-.300 OBPs and the season-ending shoulder surgery required to repair his torn labrum in July, Nix desperately needs a return to the minors in an attempt to regain his former promise as a prospect. His struggles aren't shocking given that he received less than 400 at-bats in the upper minors, including brief demotions in 2004 and 2005. Spending a few months at AAA Oklahoma should help Nix rediscover his lost plate discipline, a necessity for his continued development. Don't bother spending more than a couple of bucks if he breaks camp in the majors, but if demoted as I expect, Nix deserves a high reserve pick or a significant mid-season FAAB investment depending on his stats prior to returning to the Rangers.

Eric Byrnes41293.2261040749O
Age: 29B:R    T:R23-8.3-10.6

Moved first to Colorado and then Baltimore after Oakland tired of his limitations, Byrnes fell so far out of favor that the Orioles non-tendered him. He unsurprisingly landed a one-year deal with Arizona as the centerfield caretaker while Chris Young spends a couple of months demolishing AAA pitching at Tucson. I absolutely expect Byrnes to switch teams during the year and therefore can't recommend a significant investment here. However, given his double-digit upside in both homers and steals, bidding about $10 with the expectation of a solid half season for Byrnes makes sense as long as you feel confident in your ability to deal him in early July.

Richard Hidalgo30868.2211643143O
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R12-3.6-3.6

Few players need an impressive WBC performance more than Hidalgo, whose career sputtered to a halt in Texas due to general ineffectiveness caused by a multitude of health problems that culminated in a season-ending wrist injury suffered in early August. An unanticipated inability to hit left-handers looks like the other culprit as Hidalgo's skills otherwise hewed closely to his 2004 marks. While he never should hit for a high average again, he only needs a starting job to add at least twenty homers and eighty RBI to your roster. Feel free to target Hidalgo anywhere in single digits if he signs somewhere like Florida or Baltimore.

Chip Ambres14535.24149325O
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:R    T:R11-0.8-0.8

Boston executed a masterful coup of signing the minor league free agent last winter, watching him compile a .290/.396/.488 performance with 10 HR, 50 RBI, a 17/22 SB%, and a 47:65 BB:K in 283 AB for AAA Pawtucket(IL), and then dispatching the suddenly valuable Ambres to Kansas City for Tony Graffanino. That sequence seemed perfect right until Graffanino's playoff miscue took the Red Sox right out of the post-season, but I still find the usage of free talent inspiring for all other franchises. While Ambres started strong and earned semi-regular playing time, he unsurprisingly tailed off very quickly and now needs an excellent camp to keep his roster spot. Consider Ambres no more than an interesting Dollar Days option despite his HR/SB upside due to his minimal chance of seeing everyday duty this summer.

Matt Diaz8925.2811907O
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R100.4-0.2

Finally freed from an ignorant Rays' administration only to land with the comparably incompetent Royals, Diaz spent a third straight summer obliterating AAA pitching. He registered a .371/.408/.649 performance with 14 HR, 57 RBI, and a 12:49 BB:K in 259 AB for Omaha(PCL), and although I recognize that his walk rate remains a problem, he obviously didn't need to walk that often to rank among the league's best hitters. Yet Kansas City, despite likely contacting every team looking for young outfielders, still failed to give Diaz the starting job he deserves two years ago. Instead they tried to convert him to catcher during instructional league before dealing him to Atlanta, where he may emerge as Julio Franco's replacement and finally receive a regular cache of at-bats. Only general concern regarding his role on the Braves keeps me from endorsing Diaz as more than an endgame option.

David Newhan21844.202521931O
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:L    T:R11-8.9-10.3

A brief demotion to AAA Ottawa demonstrated that Newhan easily qualifies as a AAAA bat, but his failure to break a .700 OPS in any month of the season similarly suggests a rather limited ceiling. Of course, he stole nine more bases in eleven attempts, boosted his walk rate over .10, and still demonstrated intriguing power potential, so I certainly expect a dramatic rebound here. Even seeing Newhan return to a double-digit roto salary wouldn't shock me, making him an especially intriguing endgame UT option in leagues where your competitors will make the mistake of assuming his extremely unlucky BA drains him of all fantasy value.

AL Outfield Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Curtis Granderson laps this field in terms of both long-term value and 2006 upside, but perhaps forgotten players like DaVanon, Bigbie, Byrnes, and Newhan all could net nice profits for their owners. Nix and Hidalgo rank as the high-risk, high-upside options here, although please don't bother drafting either player unless you already possess an impressive BA foundation.

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