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NL Outfielders: Day Two
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.

Dave Roberts411113.2758382365O
SD Padres4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33B:L    T:L19187.211.2

Groin problems initially forced Roberts to spend two weeks on the DL, but he returned in mid-April and performed just fine until a knee sprain severely limited his effectiveness in July. Although a few more minor injuries bothered him late in the year, Roberts otherwise remained very useful to the Padres, even registering a .314/.429/.443 line with a 14:7 BB:K in 70 September at-bats. Only his speed truly diminished this season as lower-body problems limited him to nine second-half steals in fifteen attempts. Expecting a significant rebound from any speedster ready to turn 34 is a mistake, so keep your bids close to $15 while just hoping for a repeat.

Juan Encarnacion506145.2871676659O
FLO Marlins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R181810.511.7

Few destinations suit any player better than Encarnacion in St. Louis, where the Cardinals found a remarkably similar player to Reggie Sanders albeit without an extra decade of wear-and-tear. He enjoyed one of the best years of his career in 2005, even posting his first ground-fly ratio below 1.00, and with his speed largely gone, I believe we'll see Encarnacion exceed twenty-five homers for the first time. Batting behind Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen also should translate into a wealth of RBI opportunities, making Encarnacion an absolute bargain anywhere in the teens.

Jose Guillen551156.2832476181O
WAS Nationals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R181813.89.8

Only a reduced number of RBI opportunities dropped Guillen under $20 as the Nationals' lineup just didn't compare to batting behind Vlad and Troy Glaus. Guillen's skills held nearly rock steady, and even the slight across-the-board erosion he suffered suggests nothing other than a hard upside around $25. The biggest problem he faces is that post-season surgery on his left shoulder could keep him out until May, potentially affecting his power even after he returns. You therefore shouldn't risk more than about $15 on Guillen due to the significant risks incurred by anyone that rosters him.

Reggie Sanders29580.27121541449O
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 37B:R    T:R171617.313.3

Aging even better than vintage baseball cards, Sanders appeared on track for perhaps the best year of his career before a mid-season collision with Jim Edmonds fractured his right fibula, sidelining the veteran right fielder until mid-September. Signing a two-year deal with Kansas City could combine with the effects of that injury to devastate these numbers. I just don't view Sanders as a viable cleanup hitter, so although his skills indicate he could return to a fantasy value in the teens, let someone else take the risk of rostering a 38-year-old playing his first games as an American leaguer.

Jim Edmonds467123.2632989588O
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35B:L    T:L17183246.9

Outstanding skills can't always compensate for chronic fragility. Edmonds spent another year fighting a bunch of bumps and bruises, unsurprisingly tailing off in the second half as the damage accumulated. Although he still walks plenty and added a career-best .71 G-F, even a slot batting behind Albert Pujols can't guarantee superb fantasy numbers. Let someone else spend the $20+ necessary to slap Edmonds on a roster.

Jason Lane517138.2672678665O
HOU Astros4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:R    T:L161611.911.9

The potential return of a healthy Jeff Bagwell could eliminate much of Lane's playing time, but given his relative success as a run-producer, another few hundred at-bats appear assured under any circumstances. However, while he remains a pure power hitter, declining patience limited his value to the Astros and an improved contact rate didn't translate into the expected higher BA. Hopefully Lane just spent 2005 consolidating his skills during his first full season as a starter and will emerge as a true force this summer. Projecting his .305/.354/.536 second-half performance out over five hundred at-bats gives us a better idea of his true upside, so if Houston successfully forces Bagwell into retirement, pushing $20 for Lane may make a lot of sense depending on the rest of your team.

Luis Gonzalez579157.2712479490O
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 38B:L    T:R16182011.6

Few players appear more likely to change addresses by 2007 than Gonzalez, whose eighth year in Arizona will be his last unless Josh Byrnes managed to return Shawn Green to the West Coast. Although Gonzalez essentially returned to full health, dips in both his walk and contact rates cut more than a hundred points off his 2003 OPS. He certainly shouldn't rebound at his age, and considering both Carlos Quentin and Chris Young will require starting jobs by year's end, stick to the low teens in most leagues and possibly avoid Gonzalez altogether anywhere you lose players dealt to the other league.

So Taguchi396114.2888531145O
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36B:R    T:R16142.94.7

A weak OBP limits his value, but the rise in Taguchi's playing time due to an outfield full of injuries in St. Louis sent his roto value skyrocketing. A likely reduction to 250 AB only will cut his price down to $10, so consider him a solid sleeper given his HR/SB upside, consistently solid BA, and the near certainty that Taguchi will cost five bucks or less in most fantasy leagues.

Preston Wilson520135.2602590673O
Age: 31B:R    T:R151666

Knee and groin problems didn't prevent Wilson from returning to five hundred at-bats, split around a mid-season move to the Nationals for Zach Day and J.J. Davis. Only Wilson's power production declined in Washington as he otherwise maintained his Coors skills. Now he returns to a better batters' park in Houston, so although his career-worst 1.83 G-F concerns me, he could accumulate plenty of fantasy value batting behind Biggio, Berkman, and Ensberg. Feel free to push $20 for the reputedly healthy Wilson since he still should enjoy one more impressive season before beginning his decline.

Matt Lawton500127.25413531867O
Age: 33B:L    T:R14140.1-3.1

A solid half-season in Pittsburgh resulted in an unsurprising move to Chicago for Jody Gerut, however Lawton's failure to immediately impress Dusty Baker soon prompted Jim Hendry to redeal Lawton to the Yankees for a pointless pitching prospect. Lawton lost even more than the Cubs in that transaction as the pressures of playing in New York prompted him to use steroids, and the revelation of his positive test destroyed his free agent value. He barely landed a bench job with the Mariners, so although he could steal playing time from Carl Everett, Raul Ibanez, and Jeremy Reed, he just doesn't look like a great sleeper in that park. Due not spend into double digits on Lawton unless a Reed trade opens a starting job before your draft day.

Cory Sullivan378111.2944301264O
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26B:L    T:R14142.92.9

Elbow surgery cost Sullivan all of 2004, but he impressed the Rockies in spring training and earned a 25-man slot for the entire season. While he doesn't look like a Juan Pierre clone and shouldn't continue starting indefinitely, his .300/.355/.419 in 217 second-half at-bats makes him the best option currently in camp, and if Colorado finds him a platoon partner, Sullivan could approach $20 in 2006. A .348 home BA also gives him plenty of value in national contests, making him a good target anywhere under the teens despite owning little power and lacking great speed.

Jeromy Burnitz605156.2582487584O
CH Cubs4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36B:L    T:R14153-2.4

I can't completely fault the Cubs for declining Burnitz's option, but Burnitz isn't much worse than Jacque Jones despite his advancing age. Even a sharp bump in his contact rate couldn't prevent Burnitz's numbers from collapsing outside of Coors, and even a move to PNC Park won't generate the needed rebound. He seems certain to produce a quiet 20/80 season with a negative BA contribution, exactly the kind of performance that could lead to a championship as a $12 fourth fantasy outfielder by will leave you buried in the second division as an $18 second outfielder. Any rumors of a projected platoon with Craig Wilson bump up those prices by two bucks due to the superior BA.

Mike Cameron30884.27312391347O
NY Mets4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:R    T:R13121121.1

Few teams squandered resources with less aplomb than the Mets who dispatched Cameron to San Diego for Xavier Nady, essentially Victor Diaz without as much upside, and then watched the off-season market explode, missing an ideal shot to package Cameron for Manny. Cameron instead moves once again from a below-average batters' park to a truly terrible hitting environment. He just turned thirty-three last month and spent 2005 suffering from wrist tendonitis, a strained quad, and a dislocated finger before a devastating collision with Carlos Beltran abruptly ended his season in mid-August. Cameron required surgery to fix his broken nose and fractured cheekbones, so we simply don't know how he'll react to returning to the field. Given his past BA problems, diminishing speed, and overall question marks hovering around him, Cameron just doesn't deserve many bids above ten bucks.

Jeff Francoeur25777.3001445341O
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 21B:R    T:R121113.313.3

I can't envision Francoeur emerging as anything approaching a bargain in more than a handful of leagues. A couple of owners almost everywhere will ignore his somewhat pedestrian minor league numbers and his terrible plate discipline to drive bidding well past $20, a fairly unconscionable price after he dropped to a .247/.287/.452 output in 93 September at-bats. While he still looks like Atlanta's future #2 hitter and a potential All-Star, nothing here suggests that the 22-year-old will flourish in his sophomore campaign. Francouer's lower BA will negate most of the quantitative benefit gained from playing a full year in the majors, keeping his fantasy value around $15.

Milton Bradley28382.2901338649O
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:S    T:R121112.217.6

Following a thankful exodus from a city that never warmed to this potential hometown star and knee problems that ended his season much earlier than expected, Bradley moves to Oakland and the middle of an outstanding group of young hitters from Bobby Crosby and Eric Chavez to Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher. While we expected him to build on his 2003 numbers in each of the past two seasons, Bradley won't need to worry about cutting strikeouts on the Athletics as he finally blossoms into a fantasy star. I wouldn't be shocked to see him earn All-Star consideration, so take full advantage of any lagging bidding to grab the misunderstood malcontent for less than $20.

Larry Walker31591.2891552266O
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 38B:L    T:R111218.410.3

Another batch of injuries prompted Walker to retire as his $75M, six-year deal concluded in St. Louis. He registered an above-average OPS for sixteen straight seasons, finishing his career with a .313 BA, .400 OBP, and a .565 SLG. While Coors certainly impacted those numbers, he also earned seven Gold Gloves, joined five All-Star squads, and stole the 1997 NL MVP from Mike Piazza. His career compares surprisingly well with several current and borderline Hall of Famers, so although I believe his repeated DL trips cost Walker the quantitative milestones he needed for the Hall, we look forward to seeing his vote totals as a test case for future Colorado products, especially perennial All-Star Todd Helton.

NL Outfield Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Juan Encarnacion, Jason Lane, Preston Wilson, Cory Sullivan, and Milton Bradley rank as the best bets from this group of outfielders. Any of them could cruise past $20 as your third or fourth outfielder without costing you much more than $15 in many leagues.

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