Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
American League Outfielders with Positive Draft Value
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We ranked players by position 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 all players in the league where they began the season.
A month ago Rivera broke his left leg in winter ball, prompting the Angels' signing of Shea Hillenbrand due to the possibility that Rivera might miss the entire season. Of course, he could return by late spring if his rehab goes perfectly, and if healthy, he appears the favorite at DH, leaving Hillenbrand, Casey Kotchman, and Kendry Morales to fight for at-bats at first base. Yet Rivera worried me even before the injury courtesy of a flyball rate spike, which when combined with his weak plate discipline, suggests both his current power production and batting average appear at unsustainable levels. He remains a superb target for his value as trade bait in keeper leagues, but owners in single-season leagues shouldn't ante more than a couple of bucks given his unsupported 2006 stats and highly uncertain playing time upon his return.
Left alone in right field to develop at the plate after turning 27 last march, Cuddyer finally emerged as a serous power threat on the basis of almost all-around skill development. He solidified the cleanup slot between MVP candidates Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and while his contact problems indicate a pending BA dip, he otherwise seems a good option anywhere around $15. Cuddyer's biggest problem is that he appears a long way from thirty homers due to those contact issues. Taking into account the inevitable regression from Mauer and Morneau, Cuddyer could slip down to .270/20/80. I still consider those solid stats, but they just don't deserve bid near $20.
On my short list of probable breakouts for 2007, Baldelli appears ready to return to the fantasy heights of his rookie season. While he missed much of the last two summers with a list of injuries that included a torn ACL, a torn elbow ligament that necessitated Tommy John surgery, and a strained hamstring that slowed him throughout 2007, Baldelli didn't experience significant skill erosion during his DL stints and could explode after turning 25 last September. At the very least, he should blow well past $20 with a certain breakout occurring no later than 2008, especially with comparably exciting budding superstars Carl Crawford and Delmon Young respectively batting behind him and playing alongside in the Rays' outfield. Let someone else draft Baldelli for less than $25 at your peril and consider yourself lucky if he only costs that little since we'll outbid that price if we're in your league.
We know that Payton at least will start against all left-handers over someone in the Orioles' left-handed OF/DH menagerie of Nick Markakis, Jay Gibbons, Aubrey Huff, and Corey Patterson. Only Markakis appears certain to play every day while Payton seems the best fit in center over Patterson against southpaws. However, Payton probably doesn't deserve more than a few hundred at-bats given his negligible potential for growth at age 34. With limited power, speed, and plate discipline, I even can foresee a scenario where he drops into negative value. Payton looks like someone to slot no higher than the back end of your outfield, if and only if you see him available for a couple of bucks in the endgame.
The reported move of Mark Teahen to left field leaves Brown sharing RF/DH duties with Reggie Sanders and Mike Sweeney, most likely receiving another five hundred at-bats ceded by the injury-prone veterans. Even though he turned 32 in December, another round of regular playing time easily could prompt a mild breakout from Brown, who nicely improved his plate discipline in 2006 while also contributing a surprising 41 doubles. Don't be surprised if Brown returns to $20 to owners that won't need to pay half that price to secure his services.
Hamstring problems bothered DeJesus throughout April and led to a month-long DL stay lasting until the end of May. He exploded upon his returning, registering an impressive .327/.431/.500 with a 14:15 BB:K in 98 June AB before settling nearer his career norms in the second half. DeJesus finished with career-highs in most categories, even bumping his contact rate from .84 to .86. The biggest problem is that he also posted a career-worst 1.75 G-F, and after his twenty-seventh birthday in December, we may not see much power growth here. He already isn't contributing much speed, so although I feel comfortable endorsing DeJesus on the basis of the $8-10 he'll add in BA alone, his limited quantitative value makes him far less useful than most outfielders. Consider $15 a good limit for you when he appears on the block in your draft.
While Blake enjoyed a solid rebound season, he missed a month in early summer with an oblique strain and then lost three weeks in August to a sprained ankle. The Indians rewarded his perseverance by exercising his $3.75 option for 2007, and after the signing of David Dellucci and Trot Nixon to man the corner outfield spots against right-handed pitchers, Blake will play first base most of the time but cover for Nixon in right field against southpaws, likely ceding first to Ryan Garko. Of course, given Blake's limited upside, he also could slip into a straight right field platoon if Garko's bat continues developing, so view Blake's 2006 stats as the best possible scenario for the veteran journeyman. Bidding into double digits sharply reduces your chance at seeing a profit here.
I suspect that most people don't remember that Crisp just turned 27 in November, and prior to his injury problems, possessed skills that suggested plenty of long-term upside, which is why Boston traded Andy Marte for him in the first place. Barely a week into the season last April, Crisp broke on left index knuckle on a steal attempt and missed over a month on the DL, a problem compounded by the discovery of kidney stones that sidelined him until the last weekend of May. He unsurprisingly struggled upon his return, growing increasingly worse in each month until aggravating his finger, causing him to miss the last three weeks of the season. While the Red Sox reportedly fielded multiple trade offers for Crisp throughout the last year, he remains in Boston as part of an amazing fan-unfriendly outfield with Manny and J.D. Drew. The good news for roto owners is that Crisp's skill set barely budged, and with a new lineup slot near the bottom of the order providing plenty of opportunities both for steals and swinging from the heels, a 20-20 season wouldn't shock me. Bid well into the teens without blinking to secure his services given Crisp's strong shot to earn about $30.
Baltimore's 2003 first round pick and the seventh player selected in that draft, Markakis leapt from A-ball to the majors after only 124 AB in the upper minors. Yet after an achingly slow start in the spring, he boosted his OPS in almost every month of the summer, culminating in a .998 mark in July and a 1.140 output in August before he finally collapsed to a .599 OPS in 116 September bats. He finished the year in the #3 hole between Mora and Tejada, and despite his end-of-the-year fall, Markakis could hold that lineup slot for the next decade. While he could develop somewhat slowly from a fantasy perspective given his lack of speed, reasonably strong plate discipline and solid power potential at least will keep him in double digits for the next couple of years until his inevitable breakout in 2008 or 2009.
Among the most intriguing youngsters in the game, Cabrera just turned 22 last August yet could see another 400 at-bats as the only reserve outfielder likely to break camp with the Yankees. He owns shockingly good plate discipline, including a .12 walk rate and .87 contact rate, along with respectable speed and power skills. Cabrera even switch hits. A team like the Marlins should make every possible effort to acquire this guy before he emerges as the successor to Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon in centerfield. If he stays with the Yankees, Cabrera belong on the top of everyone's draft list if you can land him for less than $10 to fill your fourth or fifth outfield slot. By mid-season, a $5-9 Cabrera should rank among the best pieces of trade bait in the game.
One of the least productive regular outfielders in baseball continues to bat right behind Vlad, costing the Angels at least a dozen runs a year by sheer virtue of stranding Vlad thanks to Anderson somehow hitting even worse with runners on base than he manages without the apparent distraction. With no speed, negligible power, and a platoon split that could force him to share a job with Juan Rivera whenever the latter returns from his broken leg, Anderson appears a poor gamble in any league. I won't tell you to avoid a starting outfielder in his lineup slot if you can grab him in single digits, but anything over $10 appears a poor gamble given Garret's perennially shaky skill set.
With only 534 at-bats over the the past two-seasons and generally declining power potential, the upside of drafting Bradley continues to dwindle in step with his increasing DL time. Thankfully the move to Oakland's relaxed clubhouse worked wonders for the troubled outfielder, who thankfully avoided appearing on SportsCenter most of the year while reestablishing his baseball credentials. Yet quad, knee, hip, oblique, and shoulder injuries wrecked his first half and leave little hope that Bradley can expand his .300/.386/.482 second-half rebound into a 500 AB campaign as Oakland's likely #3 hitter. Bradley certainly qualifies as a clear sleeper with three seasons now between himself and his 2003 breakout, but only owners comfortable with high-risk projects should push bidding past the teens. He appears as likely to sink down to $10 due to another injury-plagued morass than to reemerge as a stud outfielder capable of cruising to $30.
The Rangers offered Catalanotto $13.5 over three years to return to Texas and solidify their #2 hole. With superb plate discipline and decent power, he stands to see an improvement in his stats based on the park shift alone. The presence of no less than one of Nelson Cruz, Victor Diaz, and Marlon Byrd as Cat's platoon partner similarly should reduce his at-bats against southpaws to a bare minimum. While $15 appears a hard ceiling for Cat, he might not cost you half that much, providing a solid BA foundation and a little power for a surprisingly reasonable fee.
Although Granderson appears horribly miscast as a leadoff hitter, he nicely blossomed in his sophomore campaign, emerging as the only member of the Tigers' World Series lineup likely to remain in Detroit into the next decade. His .11 walk rate, 4.08 #P/PA, and a 1.03 G-F establish an excellent skill foundation for the young centerfielder, who does turn 26 in March yet still should continue developing for a few more years. Yes, he struggled against southpaws, and he also rather badly slumped in the second half. However, given his extensive experience in the upper minors and his five-tool talent, Granderson only needs to bump his contact rate from .71 to .75 to emerge as a truly dynamic force. Expect a little improvement this summer before a move toward $25 or more in 2008, particularly if Jim Leyland finds a way to move him lower in the order to take advantage of his power growth.
Re-signed last winter for a reputed final season with the Yankees, Bernie still hasn't retired and just might return to New York thanks to Joe Torre's lobbying. Of course, considering that employing both Andy Phillips and Josh Phelps seems somewhat superfluous, Bernie doesn't look like a terrible fit as a fourth outfielder. Yes, he'll likely receive two hundred more at-bats than he deserves, potentially cutting into Melky Cabrera's development, but the Yankee lifer still possesses some semblance of his former sterling skill set. He won't hurt you for a buck or two if available, although Williams certainly isn't someone to target due to his miniscule upside.
Watching his contact rate drop from .83 to .77 cost Monroe another twenty-two points of batting average, leaving him at an unacceptable low .301 OBP barely salvaged by a .482 SLG. A career-best .90 G-F accounts for the homer spike, but with Monroe now essentially sharing the left field job with Marcus Thames, he could lose a hundred or more at-bats thanks to his reverse platoon split. Of course, he holds a higher batting average against lefties yet rarely drives the ball against them, suggesting the Tigers' best course of action involves dealing him to any club desperate for a right-handed slugger, specifically the Rangers if Sosa flops, or possibly the Dodgers. Monroe appears a poor fit for a Detroit lineup focusing even more on OBP, leaving you no reason to bid into double digits given the multitude of alternatives available in every league.
Despite an OBP below .330 over the past two seasons, Kotsay appears stuck atop Oakland's order despite an offensive profile that fits the #8 or #9 hole far better. A platoon with Bobby Kielty would make even more sense, though if Kotsay's perennially balky back allows him to play every day, I expect Bob Geren will play Kotsay every day for defensive purposes. He remains signed through 2008, and with Milton Bradley's contract expiring at season's end, Kotsay may continue clogging Oakland's batting order for more two years. Despite his deficiencies, we still believe Kotsay could rebound when feeling healthy. He possesses fairly good plate discipline and respectable power potential. However until we him boost his OPS over .750 for only the second time in the last five years, we can't recommend him at anything much above $20.
Acquired last winter for Arthur Rhodes, Michaels moved into a full-time job and unsurprisingly flopped due to his extant difficulties with right-handed pitchers. He also missed a couple of weeks with ankle problems, further cutting into his limited production. Fortunately for the Indians, they rectified their error in the last few weeks by signing David Dellucci and Trot Nixon to man the outfield corner against right-handers, relegating Michaels to his previous part-time role. I anticipated a welcome rebound toward his 2005 numbers, making him an excellent gamble anywhere around $5.
Ozuna's now clocked about $10 in each of the last two season, last year by virtue of stealing fourteen bases and this year due to a shocking .328 BA. We owned him throughout much of both seasons after grabbing him for a dollar or less in multiple drafts, and while his SB contribution disappointed us in 2006, he remains a superb Dollar Days target in standard AL leagues. He almost certainly will earn at least $5 this summer, possibly even returning to $10 if Ozzie lets him run more. My biggest concern involves the fact that he turned 32 in August, yet given his success against southpaws, Ozuna appears a useful contributor on both the White Sox and many fantasy teams.
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