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NL Outfielders: Day One
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National 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.

Jason Bay599183.3063210121110O
PIT Pirates4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R414063.854.9

Bay emerged as baseball's most unheralded superstar last season, slamming from winning a contentious NL Rookie of the Year contest over Khalil Greene to top-five player status in less than a full year. He improved every relevant skill while thoroughly earning the devotion of fantasy owners by leaping from a 4/10 SB success rate in 2004 to a 21/22 mark last year, not getting caught until the closing weekend of the campaign. Now he has the chance to boost his quantitative stats again following the additions of Sean Casey and Jeromy Burnitz, who while not great players, will provide better lineup support than the offensive ciphers employed by Pittsburgh throughout 2005. Also remember that over half his steals occurred in the last two months after he received a continuous green light, a privilege he should retain under new skipper Jim Tracy. Don't be afraid to say $40 since I can't envision Bay contributing less than $35 and potentially as much as $50 sometime during the four-year extension just signed in the fall.

Juan Pierre656181.2762475796O
FLO Marlins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:L    T:L3937-10.4-2

Few players post wider differences between their fantasy and actual values than Pierre, who lost five points off his BA despite only dropping from a .95 contact rate to a .93 mark. A slow start and somewhat uncertain lineup spot caused much of this decrease, a problem partially remedied in the second half as Pierre held a .340 OBP. Although I believe the Cubs traded far too much potential value for the uncertainty Pierre offers, his move to Chicago could result in a return to true roto stardom. Dusty Baker will let him run at will, and Pierre certainly benefits from moving into an easier park that should receive some slight modifications to better suit his skills. Bid the $40+ it takes to get him and then don't bother targeting additional steals until the endgame. .

Bobby Abreu588168.2862410231104O
PHI Phillies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:L    T:R383739.337.7

Although Abreu regressed to his 2003 level of performance, mostly due to a complete collapse surrounding his domination of the Home Run Derby, he remained one of the most useful fantasy players due to his power and speed combination. With 100 runs and RBI virtually assured by his lineup spot, he at least should echo these numbers for one more year until Pat Gillick completes his apparent quest to trade the best Philadelphia player since Mike Schmidt. Letting Abreu go for anything less than $35 remains an unwise course of action.

Matt Holliday479147.30719871468O
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:R    T:R292727.419.8

I doubt many fantasy players realize exactly how dominant Holliday performed down the stretch. He parlayed a .318/.374/.551 second-half line into a final roto value among the top dozen batters in the league. Considering a broken finger cost him over a month of action at the beginning of summer, another $30 season looks like a sure bet. His .357/.409/.593 home line also places him into the ranks of must-own players in any national contest.

Willy Taveras592172.2913293482O
HOU Astros4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23B:R    T:R2928-10.5-10.5

Taveras tops the list of the few players with more yawning gaps between roto value and actual value than Juan Pierre. His .325 OBP nearly kept the Astros out of the playoffs as the benefits of his speed and defensive didn't begin to compensate for his atrocious bat. Yet when we contextualize his career with the knowledge that he completely skipped Triple-A, these stats instead seem like a respectable building block for an extended big league career and a few years of roto dominance. Taveras held an OBP over .350 from June through August generally stole bases very effectively outside of one brief stretch in July, and will continue to benefit from playing home games at Minute Maid. A return to $30 appears almost inevitable even as he shouldn't cost you much more than three-quarters of that price due to the pervasive albeit understandable derision of his current baseball skill by the sabermetric community.

Kenny Lofton367123.3352362267O
PHI Phillies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 38B:L    T:L272619.226.2

The best leadoff man since Rickey cost us a bunch of money last year. Heading into an NL draft on little sleep, we hoarded our auction funds throughout much of the day, and then began closing on Lofton at the beginning of the endgame, observing upward of a $15 gap between his value and the stats offered by anyone else on the board. As a few other teams also possessed around $20 to buy their last few players, we expected they would bid us to $15 before we finally expended the majority of our remaining budget on him. Of course, Lofton instead landed with us for a mere four bucks, resulting in us leaving over twenty bucks on the table that could have paid for the closer we needed to remain in contention throughout the year. Heed the lesson here that while Lofton remains very talented, the perception of him as a fragile malcontent could depress bidding and allow you to grab a great bargain. Even his move from Philadelphia to the Dodgers shouldn't affect his performance in any category save BA, where the expected downturn merely will let you acquire a sweet third outfielder somewhere in the teens.

Brian Giles545164.30115831392O
SD Padres4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34B:L    T:L272744.239.7

San Diego demonstrated that a couple of boneheaded decisions may not kill an entire offseason as the club offset the incomprehensible exchange of Brian Lawrence and Mark Loretta for Vinny Castilla and Doug Mirabelli by adding Mike Cameron, Mike Piazza, Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, and Mark Bellhorn. The re-signings of Trevor Hoffman and Giles truly capped a decent winter for the Padres, who respectively and correctly retained the best pitcher in club history and the top current Padre. Somehow Giles defied the PETCO architects to boost his OBP by nearly fifty points, demonstrating superior skills almost across-the-board. While he remains the only certain above-average hitter in the entire lineup, his likely .300/.400/.500 line fuels the club's offensive attack. Giles still looks like an excellent sim player and a solid roto option anywhere around $25.

Andruw Jones586154.26351128595O
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:R    T:R262634.741.3

Jones clearly exposed the continued failures of the MainStream Sports Media (MSSM) with his supposed MVP candidacy fueled by him finally developing into the monster power hitter scouts expected to see for the last decade. Clearly benefiting from spring tutelage from Hank Aaron, Jones punched out a pedestrian .239/.303/.409 in April before exploding to an OPS near .975 for the next four months. Unfortunately, his batting average barely budged from 2004, and a correlating lower walk rate left him without the OBP gain to justify anyone supporting him over Albert Pujols, Derrek Lee, Jason Bay, and many others for MVP. The lack of a BA boost similarly kept his roto value surprisingly low, so although his power numbers certainly carried many fantasy squads to championships, nothing here suggests that Jones deserves more than a hard $29 bid in any standard league.

Cliff Floyd550150.27334981285O
NY Mets4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:L    T:R262526.221.9

Exceeding four hundred at-bats just once in the past three seasons suggests Floyd won't remain completely healthy in 2006. Yet his across-the-board skill improvement gives him every chance to echo these marks in that reduced playing time. I see little reason not to push into the high teens for him, but if you hear someone say "twenty", don't try for blackjack.

Ken Griffey, Jr.491148.3013592085O
CIN Reds4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35B:L    T:L252542.941.5

Placing one of the game's best power hitters in one of baseball's best parks for home runs finally resulted in a second impressive season for Griffey in Cincinnati after a four-year stretch where his total homers didn't equal his totals from 1997 or 1998. Now I look at Junior and want to forecast continued success, but he also turned 35 in November. His injury history strongly hints at a downturn to four hundred or fewer at-bats, so although he owns the skills to repeat this performance, you'll never the enjoy the profits many owners reaped last year due to the elevated expectations produced by his season. Match every dollar you bid about $20 with another buck to your power-hitter replacement fund to cover Griffey's DL junkets.

Brady Clark599183.30613531094O
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:R    T:R252610.910.9

Rescuing Clark from baseball's bargain bin finally offered real rewards for Milwaukee as he ascended to start in center and spend all year at the top of the Brewers' lineup. Unfortunately, his rise in value appears quite temporary given his advancing age and significant skill deterioration. A much lower walk rate left Clark with a lower OBP than in 2004 despite a twenty-six points BA jump fueled by a contact rate surge. That improvement also produced career-best power numbers, but his skills seem surprisingly soft. Clark's 10/23 SB success rate particularly worries, so while he remains a useful player, expecting an echo above $20 looks very unwise.

Carlos Lee618164.265321141385O
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R252517.317.3

While I loved the deal that acquired him, Milwaukee erred by not shopping the slugger very hard over the break after two exceptional months from Lee, missing the chance to acquire multiple young pitchers. The two defining characteristics of his skills look like significant durability and developing power, specifically an incredibly impressive seven-year trend of maintaining or increasing his homer total every season. Now the Brewers hope to spend 2006 in contention despite Lee's free agency, which creates an unenviable situation where either the club loses him for draft picks or deals a cleanup hitter and admits another lost season. I therefore fully expect some problems for Lee during a July of innuendo, as well as the inevitable adjustment following his move to another team. You won't see the BA rebound that would budge him from $25 this summer.

Moises Alou427137.3211963567O
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 39B:R    T:R24233729.7

Transferring roughly forty points of slugging into his OBP resulted in a surge of Alou's practical value despite his move from Chicago to San Francisco. Playing for his dad and next to Barry Bonds helped him to the best plate discipline of his career, and although he turns forty in July, Alou appears in the perfect place to withstand the infirmities of advanced age. Nothing here provides any substantial justification for predicting more than a mild drop in his averages, a decrease I expect to see offset by a small jump in his playing time.

Pat Burrell562158.28132117078O
PHI Phillies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:R    T:R222237.933.3

Career-best marks in walk rate, pitches per plate appearance, and ground-fly rate provided the necessary support for Burrell's surge. He nearly matched his 2003 breakout in all respects, only truly falling short in extra-base hits. Fortunately for the Phillies, his lineup spot between Bobby Abreu and the dynamic young duo of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard provides plenty of opportunities for continued production. Playing in CB Park during his peak power years almost certainly will result in no less than one 40/120 season from the best possible additions to your quantitative foundation. Even his inconsistent BA shouldn't keep you from pushing $25 to grab Burrell.

Shawn Green581166.2862273887O
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:L    T:L222223.213.5

The expiration of Green's blanket no-trade clause cries out for his return to the Dodgers for Dioner Navarro and a young pitcher, rectifying the simultaneous mistake made by two clubs when Arizona wasted a top young catcher for an overpriced veteran as Los Angeles kicked a lineup stabilizer without addressing a significant need. Instead Green just may spend another summer blocking top prospect Carlos Quentin, who absolutely must start in the majors yet doesn't look likely to replace either of the Snakes' high-priced veteran corner outfielders. Thankfully improvements in Green's contact and ground-fly rates support a power rebound, likely retaining a value over $20 as long as remains with Arizona.

Geoff Jenkins538157.2922586087O
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:L    T:R202130.928

Only Philadelphia matched Milwaukee's accomplishment of finishing the year with all three starting outfielders at no less than $20. Although problems with left-handers again limited his effectiveness to some extent, he still owns a strong skill history that improves his odds of remaining with his initial club indefinitely. The Brewers almost certainly will re-sign Jenkins rather than extend a tremendous deal to the overpriced Carlos Lee, and with his rapid increase of doubles over the past three years, Jenkins appears prepared to return to hit the 30/100 level as the true veteran on a team full of youthful promise. He won't hurt you anywhere in the high teens.

Carlos Beltran582155.26616781783O
NY Mets4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:S    T:R20203.120

A strained quad destroyed his June performance and then an August collision with Mike Cameron resulted in a concussion and cheekbone fracture that slowed him for the rest of year. Significant drops in his walk rate, ground-fly rate, and overall patience similarly limited Beltran in his first full year in the NL, a performance already reduced by the switch from Minute Maid to Shea. However, he only turns 29 in April, still owns impressive overall skills, and now enjoys needed protection from Carlos Delgado that thankfully shunts Beltran into a supporting role. I expect to see no less than a push back over $30 as Beltran emerges as a likely MVP candidate and the fulcrum of the Mets' order.

NL Outfield Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Only youngsters like Bay, Holliday, and Taveras seem set to improve on these numbers. Okay, Pierre and Beltran also will enjoy increased value, but I generally see a lot of career years or at least short-term plateaus, making the majority of these salaries recommend hard bidding caps for 2006 auctions.

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