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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:
B = Bats.  T = Throws.  Age = Player's Age as of October 1, 2006.
Proj. = Rotohelp's projected 2006 stats and fantasy values for each player.
2006 = Each player's final 2006 stat line and fantasy values.
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2006.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement; aRAR = RAR adjusted to
consider a player's 2006 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

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.

36.  Wily Mo PenaBOS Red SoxAge: 24B:R   T:R

Pena enters 2007 as one of the most intriguing players in baseball. He owns career averages of .261/.315/.480 in 1106 at-bats despite just turning twenty-five last week., plus sufficient defensive acumen to cover any outfield position if needed. However, Boston appears down on the young veteran after giving up Bronson Arroyo, who the club desperately needed later in the year, for Pena, who missed more than two months recovering from a broken left wrist and completely missed a beautiful opportunity to help replace the production lost from the injuries to Coco Crisp, Trot Nixon, and finally Manny Ramirez in the fall. At least Pena remains on the Red Sox as the club's only true reserve outfielder, backup to Ramirez, Crisp, and injury magnet J.D. Drew. Given Pena's slow growth trends, I still see a $20+ player who only needs an everyday job to reward savvy owners. Nine dollars seems a fair target price for someone capable of turning more than a 100% profit on your initial investment, perhaps even single-handedly winning you a title if you can leverage Pena for the right package of talent from a rebuilding team.

37.  Marcus ThamesDET TigersAge: 29B:R   T:R

Enjoying regular at-bats prompted a tremendous power surge from Thames, who outslugged every regular contributor on the Tigers. Yet despite superior stats and skills to Craig Monroe, Thames appears headed to the bench to make room for Gary Sheffield. Perhaps another run of injuries will cede playing time to Thames from the starting slots of Sheffield, Monroe, Magglio Ordonez, and Sean Casey. He might even simply outperform Monroe during spring training, but considering Thames didn't even hit double-digit value in his breakout 2006 campaign, he doesn't deserve much optimism from roto owners. I can't justify recommending him at more than about $5 despite his intriguing patience and power potential.

38.  Joey GathrightTB/KCAge: 25B:L   T:R

Possessing as much pure speed as anyone in the majors, Gathright just couldn't take advantage of gaping opportunities to lift the moribund offenses in Tampa and Kansas City. Dealt to the Royals at the beginning of summer with Fernando Cortez for J.P. Howell in Dayton Moore's first major deal as GM, Gathright bumped his average from .201 to .262 yet couldn't lift his OBP above .332, a wholly unacceptable mark for an outfielder given his .328 SLG. He at least fits nicely on Kansas City's bench, but with the promotion of Alex Gordon forcing Mark Teahen to left field, Emil Brown to right field, and Reggie Sanders into a part-time role, Gathright remains in competition with Shane Costa for the fifth outfielder's job. Of course, he only needs to spend the summer in the majors to steal another twenty bases, so if Gathright's recent struggles lead to his availability in your league, I strongly recommend anteing a few bucks for someone one injury removed from a good shot at $30 in roto value.

39.  Kevin MenchTEX/MILAge: 28B:R   T:R

I look at Mench and still see the tremendous fantasy potential suggested by the initial campaigns he posted as he reached his prime. Yet now, after turning 29 three weeks ago, Mench doesn't even belong in mixed league draft lists after flopping following his trade to Milwaukee in the Carlos Lee deal. The Brewers' likely outfield alignment of Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall, and Corey Hart, backstopped by Brady Clark and Gabe Gross, leaves little room for Mench as more than a possible Jenkins platoon partner. Ironically, the Rangers appear one of the teams in direst need for a right-handed slugger, but barring a spring training deal, he could spend much of 2007 rotting on the big league bench. The converse argument is that Mench still possesses plenty of power potential, and only a fluke injury stands between him and five hundred at-bats. Despite my severe misgivings regarding his general situation, Mench merits at least a few bucks from you in keeper leagues where your $5 investment could result in a superb piece of trade bait if the at-bat genie wishes him a starting job.

40.  Rob MackowiakCH White SoxAge: 30B:L   T:R

Acquired last winter from Pittsburgh for Damaso Marte, Mackowiak returned to his native Chicagoland to enjoy another solid season despite a 60% decrease in his at-bats. He even managed career-best marks in both batting average and on-base percentage. Unfortunately, worrisome power and speed trends sap his quantitative upside, and I also don't believe he can hold a batting average this far above his .262 norm. Perhaps Mackowiak will remain near $10 if Ozzie keeps him from facing virtually all left-handers, but I just don't see sufficient fantasy potential here to recommend him as more than Dollar Days roster filler.

41.  Jason TynerMIN TwinsAge: 29B:L   T:L

Still without a big league homer after more than a thousand at-bats, the powerless groundball machine emerged as one of the keys to the Twins' second-half resurgence. Of course, neither his .345 OBP nor a .353 SLG really helped the club from a corner outfield spot, but Tyner's promotion at the All-Star break seems frequently cited whenever anyone attempts to describe Minnesota's climb into contention. He certainly deserved the shot after registering a .329/.379/.405 with a 8/10 SB% and a 25:39 BB:K in 316 AB for AAA Rochester(IL). Unfortunately, Tyner appears horribly miscast as more than a fourth or even fifth outfielder, and with Lew Ford, Jason Kubel, Rondell White, Jeff Cirillo, and possibly Matt LeCroy seeking at-bats in the LF/DH rotation, Tyner appears a terrible gamble in most leagues. With his SB seemingly gone, I see no reason to employ him anywhere as more than roster filler.

42.  Gary SheffieldNY YankeesAge: 37B:R   T:R

Whining his way through the fall resulted in a Sheffield's departure to Detroit for three quality pitching prospects, quickly followed by a two-year extension that cements this future Hall of Famer on the Tigers until nearly his forty-first birthday at the cost of more than $13M a year. Of course, he hit just fine last season until colliding with Shea Hillenbrand on the basepaths at the end of April, breaking his left hand and necessitating a DL trip that lasted until the last week of September. The acquisition of Bobby Abreu left Sheffield without a clear starting job in New York, and although he supplants Marcus Thames in Detroit, his OBP provides a needed remedy to the Tigers' biggest offensive failing. Moving to Comerica also should help boost his BA back over .300, though given the still-spacious dimensions, consider 30/100 Sheffield's power ceiling. He remains a viable third outfielder, albeit not someone worth bidding into the $20s to acquire.

43.  Jay GibbonsBAL OriolesAge: 29B:L   T:L

The four-year extension Gibbons signed last January appears rather questionable after he slipped back under an .800 OPS. He performed respectably for two months before a sprained knee ligament sidelined him for almost all of June and July. Gibbons never really regained his hitting stroke over the last two months, though the good news is that he managed respectable skill development and now moves to DH, which should mitigate his fragility. Anything less than a .275/20/80 season would shock me, so feel free to bid into the teens as long as you don't count on him as one of your primary power sources.

44.  Hideki MatsuiNY YankeesAge: 32B:L   T:R

Fresh from signing a four-year extension with the Yankees after the 2005 campaign, Matsui stumbled slowly into the season, producing an unimpressive .261/.353/.454 performance through six weeks of the season until breaking his left wrist in mid-May. He didn't return for four full months, though he at least pounded the ball upon his return. With a full winter to finish rehabbing his wrist, Matsui should be able to build upon the improved skills he demonstrated during the fifty-one games he played. Given his power potential and the massive RBI opportunities awaiting Matsui while batting behind Abreu, ARod, and Giambi, I feel comfortable recommending him even at prices approaching $30.

45.  Willie BloomquistSEA MarinersAge: 28B:R   T:R

Recipient of a weird one-year extension in November covering 2008 and recently called "the best utilityman in all of baseball" by Mariners' President Chuck Armstrong, Bloomquist realistically barely ranks as a decent twenty-fifth man after his fourth straight season with a sub-.640 OPS. His versatility doesn't help in spring drafts since he failed to exceed seventeen games played at any infield position. Yet Bloomquist invariably steals a dozen bases, and he more than doubled his walk rate in 2006, which suggests we should see a bounce to a BA around his .257 career mark. He just might return to double-digit value this summer, so if you need an extra player certainly to add twelve or more steals to your team, plan to slide Bloomquist into your fifth outfielder's slot during the endgame.

46.  Eric HinskeTOR/BOSAge: 29B:L   T:R

Largely forgotten in most fantasy leagues by season's end, Hinske received scant playing time in the first half until Alex Rios' injury thrust him into the lineup. His decent performance as a starter prompted the Red Sox to deal for him in August, and now Hinske enters camp as Boston's primary backup at the infield corners, along with backstopping Wily Mo Pena in the outfield corners. Fenway appears a good environment form him to resuscitate his stalled career, particularly given his still-solid patience and power potential. However, Hinske just isn't a particularly solid roto option right now, though unlike plenty of aging veterans, he at least offers some upside for the buck or two he'll cost.

47.  Reggie SandersKC RoyalsAge: 38B:R   T:R

Inking a two-year deal with the Royals last winter prevented Sanders from slipping into NRI land this spring. Multiple problems with his left knee forced him to miss all of September, and after his dropoff in production prior to the injury, he doesn't deserve regular playing time over likely RF/DH starters Emil Brown and Mike Sweeney. Considering we could see Sanders total as few as 250 AB this year, and his power potential appears vastly reduced following the 1.11 G-F he posted, his worst mark in this millennium, even spending a Dollar Days selection on Sanders only gives you a chance to see a few bucks in profit. Don't target him in any format.

48.  Bobby KieltyOAK AthleticsAge: 30B:S   T:R

While Kielty spent two stints in the minors, his continued success against southpaws, who he trashed to the tune of a .325/.358/.607 output last summer, guarantees him regular playing time with the Athletics. He should see another couple hundred at-bats, mostly in the lower half of the order, as a platoon-mate for either Mark Kotsay or even Dan Johnson when Nick Swisher shifts from left to first. However, with limited speed and a rising groundball rate that reduces his power potential, Kielty offers little benefit to most fantasy teams. I generally consider him no more than roster filler in any save the deepest leagues.

49.  Shin-soo ChooSEA/CLEAge: 24B:L   T:L

Allowed scarcely a week to impress the Mariners in July, Choo instead headed to the Indians, who dumped Ben Broussard's salary on Seattle while adding a younger player with far more upside. The underrated Choo deserved a much longer look in Safeco given his .320/.392/.496 performance with 13 HR, 48 RBI, a 25/29 SB%, and a 45:73 BB:K in 375 AB for AAA Tacoma(PCL) last summer. Instead he amazed Cleveland fans by hitting a game-winning homer in his Indians' debut, along with seemingly earning at least a platoon job by season's end. Unfortunately for Choo, the free agent market treated platoon outfielders badly, allowing Cleveland to sign David Dellucci and Trot Nixon for less than $7M combined. The two veterans will start in the outfield corners, and if the club keeps twelve pitchers as expected, I see just a single roster spot in question, which almost certainly will go to Ryan Garko as Nixon's platoon-mate via Casey Blake's position flexibility. Owners in deeper leagues should seek to add Choo in a reserve round, possibly nabbing a swell long-term keeper thanks to his lower profile after losing his rookie status, but despite my strong faith in his potential, Choo appears unlikely to contribute significantly in 2007.

50.  Shannon StewartMIN TwinsAge: 32B:R   T:R

Along with Ron Belliard, Stewart remains the highest profile free agent position player still unsigned, though with clubs like the Rangers, Angels, White Sox, and even the Marlins looking for veteran outfield help, he should land a contract by the start of camp. Of course, after missing the majority of 2006 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, a mirror injury to his health issues in 2004, Stewart doesn't look like more than a decent platoon player for a solid left-handed starting outfielder. Yet with a reverse platoon split, along with negligible power and speed, he really merits very little playing time at this point. Regardless of where he signs, bidding more than a couple bucks on Stewart even in the endgame prevents from rostering one more player who possesses at least some upside.

51.  Delmon YoungTB Devil RaysAge: 21B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Tampa Bay for my comments on Young.

52.  Trot NixonBOS Red SoxAge: 32B:L   T:L

The ten-year Boston veteran signed a one-year deal with the Indians after watching his power completely disappear in recent years. Nixon still owns superb base skills, highlighted by his excellent plate discipline, but he appears stuck platooning in right field with Casey Blake due to an inability to hit left-handers and the perennial health issues which prevent him from addressing his weaknesses at the plate. He also seems set to hit second in Cleveland, an interesting move for Nixon after several seasons batting fifth and sixth for the Red Sox. Jacobs Field actually over some advantages over Fenway, however I just can't envision Nixon pushing $20 in this environment. Even the potential increase in Nixon's runs scored shouldn't lead you to bid into double digits for someone who should rank no higher than your fourth outfielder in AL leagues.

AL Outfielder Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Hideki Matsui easily looks like the best investment among today's players, followed closely by high-risk, high-upside Delmon Young. Keeper league owners should target Wily Mo Pena and Joey Gathright, though both players also possess plenty of upside in regular leagues in the $5-10 range. Playing time developments during spring training could affect the majority of these guys, so while several of them should emerge as decent bargains, wait until you see a truly fantastic deal before allocating more than one outfield slot to anyone lacking $20 upside.

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