Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
National 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.
Included in the steal that sent Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz to Jason Jennings in perhaps the winter's most lopsided deal, Taveras faces no reach challenge for either his centerfield spot or his leadoff job on the Rockies. Yes, he won't really add anything other than great defense to Colorado's playoff push, but he'll spearhead a renewed assault on the basepaths, as well as post superficially outstanding numbers reminiscent of Juan Pierre's days in Denver. Since Taveras also just turned twenty-five in December and demonstrated improved patience last summer, a breakout campaign also appears within his grasp. Also remember that Taveras rarely ran when hitting second last year, so don't be surprised if he blows past $30 with a .300/5/40/50 campaign.
Yes, Jones obviously slumped after his career year in 2005, but maintained his RBI and BA, even increasing both his runs and walks despite dealing with a sore back for the entire season. Now he heads into his walk year back in the grasp of Scott Boras, who almost certainly will look for a contract in the neighborhood of $200M/10 for Jones. Remember that Andruw, despite his eleven seasons in the majors, doesn't turn thirty until April and already owns 342 career homers and 1023 RBI. While he probably won't double those numbers by the time he retires, he at least appears keyed for a monstrous summer in 2007. With positive skill trends almost across the board and all the incentive in the world to stay healthy, Jones just might boost his BA to a level where his power numbers can carry him toward $30. My only real concern here involves the strong possibility that an out-of-contention Braves' team will deal the slugger to a contender, and regardless of past claims that he'll exercise his 5-and-10 rights to block any trade, Jones won't miss the chance to follow Carlos Beltran's example by carrying a new team into the playoffs. So exercise caution if your leagues doesn't let you keep players dealt to the AL, otherwise bidding as high as you feel comfortable to roster this potential .280/50/130 campaign.
Finally just stuck in right field despite limited defensive range, Hawpe blossomed in 2006, posting a solid .268/.370/.450 in the first half and then registering a .310/.392/.562 output in 290 at-bats after the break. While his strikeouts spiked, Hawpe's skills otherwise improved across-the-board, giving him an excellent chance to remain at this level for a few years. However, his difficulties with lefties also mean that he should platoon with Jeff Baker this summer, a situation that should boost his BA but cut his quantitative stats. Since I just don't see that much more growth here due to the expected playing time decrease, drop out of any bidding that hits $20.
Rather than following his dad into retirement as rumored, Moises instead opted for a one-year in New York for $7.5M in the hope of adding a second World Series ring to his Marlins' sparkler. Set to bat behind Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and David Wright, Alou should receive tons of RBI opportunities, along with an easier workload since the presence of Endy Chavez as the Mets' fourth outfielder insures Alou never needs to play the field when not feeling healthy. The 40-year-old still will suffer from moving to a harsher hitters' park, and after missing more than two months last summer with calf, ankle, back, and hamstring problems, he won't bat more than 400 times. However, Alou also owns .301/.368/.516 career averages, as well as the plate discipline necessary to sail gracefully toward the sunset with a reasonable echo if his 2006 performance. The best strategy for maximizing Alou's value involves stashing a decent reserve outfielder on your bench, perhaps even Chavez or Milledge, and then deploying your backup whenever injuries strike, potentially netting you a $25 return on one roster spot that cost you just $15 and a reserve-round pick.
After spending a couple of seasons batting behind players with OBPs rarely higher than .370, Drew enters the 2007 season set to bat behind three of the most prolific OBP sources in the game, players who averaged nearly a .410 combined OBP last year, which should provide Drew an RBI opportunity in the vast majority of his at-bats. Opting out of his contract with the Dodgers earned him no friends in Los Angeles, but signing for five years and $70M in Boston provides the 31-year-old to redefine his career in the middle of one of baseball's best lineups. Remember that few players possess comparable batting skills, and more importantly, that Drew batted 519 times in 2004, 494 times in 2006, and only slipped to 252 AB in 2005 due to a HBP that broke his wrist. As he appears fully healthy right now, Drew qualifies as one of the best RBI sources in the AL. Consider him a solid purchase anywhere around $20.
Despite seemingly moving into a great situation in St. Louis, Encarnacion allowed both his power and patience to ebb as he failed to take full advantage of a superb lineup slot behind Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen. He also needed surgery in December to repair a damaged tendon in his left wrist, which could result in a slow start to the season for Encarnacion. At least he managed nice improvement in his contact rate, though given his questionable health and his generally neutral skill trends, I don't expect Encarnacion to push beyond $20 unless the possibilities of free agent riches unexpectedly motivate the veteran to a career year.
Acquired last year from Oakland for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez in deal that clearly addressed needs for both teams, Ethier spent April posting a .349/.447/.500 performance with 1 HR, 12 RBI, and a 14:16 BB:K in 86 AB for AAA Las Vegas(PCL) before joining the Dodgers for the rest of the season. While he didn't offer particularly impressive power or speed, his respectable plate discipline supported a solid BA and decent all-around production. However, since Juan Pierre and Luis Gonzalez both appear assured starting spots, Ethier needs to continued developing in the majors to keep higher-upside players like Matt Kemp out of the lineup. Given that nothing in his minor league stats suggests a pending push toward 25 homers and therefore leaves him at risk of losing at-bats, Ethier just doesn't merit bids much above his 2006 value in any standard league.
Chicago's free agent binge affected Murton more than anyone as the additions of Alfonso Soriano and Cliff Floyd may permanently drop Murton into a part-time role with Felix Pie essentially ready to push Jacque Jones. The Cubs clearly want more power from left field than Murton provides, and despite his solid plate discipline, his 2.40 G-F gives him a fairly hard 20/80 quantitative ceiling. With his at-bats expected to drop toward three hundred and little room for growth in his 2007 stat line, Murton really only merits $6-8 bids even if you plan to shop him to rebuilding clubs in mid-season.
The deal that sent Kearns to Washington basically only cost the Nationals Bill Bray for both Kearns and Felipe Lopez since Ryan Wagner essentially replaces Gary Majewski. Jim Bowden's acquisition of two building blocks on offense for a lefty reliever will rank as one of the decade's best deals even if Kearns doesn't prosper with the Nationals. Of course, Kearns impressively boosted his plate discipline following the trade while understandably exchange power for a higher OBP. While that exchange makes him a better fit in an offense desperate for more baserunners, his roto value could suffer in the short-term considering he hadn't exactly exploded in Cincy. I still see a lot to like here, but I just don't see Kearns pushing beyond $20 this summer.
Serving as the Mets' fourth outfielder proved a perfect fit for Chavez, who easily posted the best batting and on-base averages of his career. However, he didn't run as much as expected, and although he enters 2007 in an identical role, Lastings Milledge should receive any extended action if any of New York's starters hits the DL. Chavez isn't a bad option to complete your outfield, but since he easily could regress to half his 2006 value, I see no reason to roster him prior to the endgame in any league.
Shifting to the outfield clearly looks like the right move for Willingham, who emerged as a competent cleanup hitter despite watching his contact rate plummet compared to his minor league marks. Willingham clearly possesses the power potential to smack twenty homers annually for several years, but given his age and development to date, I don't see much further upside here. I also worry that the expect team-wide sophomore slump in Florida will lead to notable erosion of Willingham's numbers that even batting behind Miguel Cabrera won't salvage. Bidding into the teens for Willingham simply offers you little chance of netting any profit on your investment.
Essentially a disaster for Houston, Wilson at least saw his power rebound with the Cardinals, and after receiving few offers in free agency, he re-signed in St. Louis last week for $1M. He almost certainly will break camp on the Cardinals' bench, and given Chris Duncan's need for a platoon partner and Jim Edmonds' difficulties with both staying healthy and left-handed pitching, Wilson should see a surprising amount of action this season. A reduction in his at-bats against right-handers similarly should spur a needed BA rebound, so although I don't expect him to emerge as an everyday player, Wilson at least seems set to echo this roto value in 2007 while possibly emerging as a great bargain given the minimal media attention over the winter that focused on this former $30 fantasy stud.
Finally given an extended shot in the majors after the Rays and Royals somehow ignored on his bat, Diaz posted a solid .327/.364/.475 performance with the Braves, serving as a primary pinch-hitter and platoon left fielder. Despite possessing a reverse platoon split, he'll return to that some role this summer, even possibly receiving a chance for full-time duty if Ryan Langerhans doesn't reverse his slump at the plate. With his .315 career minor league average fully supporting this level of production despite somewhat questionable skills, Diaz at least should echo these stats in 2007. With little media attention leaving him very undervalued, he looks like an excellent late-round bargain, possibly filling your last outfield slot for as little as $4-6.
Despite the obvious risks of both further injury and possibly even indictment-related suspensions, Bonds seems capable of batting another few hundred times. The odds of him breaking Aaron's record in 2006 seem somewhat remote, but since he only needs to repeat his 2006 performance, the mark certainly appears within reach. Since the Giants also maintained their veteran core while supplementing their impressive young starter corps with Barry Zito, another solid season from Bonds even could give him one last shot at a ring. While he obviously possesses the most value in sim leagues due to his outstanding OBP, he still adds decent power in standard roto, albeit not to the level where he still warrants bids much above $15 due to the obvious downside of owning any 42-year-old with a growing history of health issues.
Considering Francoeur just turned 23 last month and watched his contact rate rise from .77 to a .80 mark last summer, I fully anticipate a BA rebound over his .271 career mark. Yes, he remains one of the least patient hitters in the game, but with impressive raw power and an unquestioned job in Atlanta's increasingly offense-deficient lineup, Francoeur's emergence as a potential cleanup hitters represent the franchise's best hope of weathering the inevitable departure of Andruw Jones next fall. As I don't expect to see a true breakout from Francoeur for another year or two, pushing beyond about $18 this spring leaves you little margin for profit. However, if you see him available in keeper leagues around $20, invest in Francoeur now since I anticipate him approaching $30 in either 2008 or 2009.
Never a good fit for an Arizona club desperate to clear outfield slots for rookies, Green finally departed the desert with a little more than $6M in cash for New York in an August deal for Evan MacLane that saved the Diamondbacks about $7M in 2007 while clearing right field for Carlos Quentin. Now the Mets appear in a similar situation with Green blocking Lastings Milledge from a deserved everyday job. Green just isn't a real power threat any more, and though he still retains some plate discipline, even playing in a seemingly comfortable environment in New York likely won't produce any significant rebound. Batting behind Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Moises Alou might improve his RBI totals, but he otherwise appears a poor bet beyond the $14-16 range.
Even in a year when PETCO played as the second-best park for left-handed power hitters in the game, Giles slipped to a career-low slugging percentage as his batting average crashed nearly forty points to a similar low point. Perhaps he just lost concentration after signing his three-year extension for $30M last winter, but no further excuses seem justified after the Padres' signed little brother Marcus to play second and bat ahead of Brian. We at least can expect a push toward a .390 OBP and .450 SLG, though asking for anything above those marks from the 36-year-old Giles seems unrealistic. He really looks much more like a $16-18 player than anyone capable of doubling his roto value from 2006.
Houston appears set to enter the season with clear starters at every position except center and right field, where Chris Burke and Scott appear the leading candidates to play, ahead of Jason Lane, Mike Lamb, and Hunter Pence, who appears virtually certain to spend the summer at AAA Round Rock. Current expectations place Scott in a platoon with Lane, yet Scott posted an OPS over 1.000 in July, August, and September while finishing the year with a perfectly respectable .240/.397/.380 against southpaws, decent numbers in a lineup with too many OBP holes. Yes, many analysts discount this performance, but Scott registered .286/.363/.603 averages in 398 AB in 2005 and then echoed those marks with a .299/.400/.541 output in 318 AB last spring. I can't see him hitting worse than his .272/.351/.472 MLE marks, and given his overall plate discipline and power potential, we could see an OPS over .850, albeit without particularly impressive quantitative stats due to his uncertain playing time. Since he also remains at risk for a trade to one of the many clubs seeking left-handed power, don't plan to bid past $15, especially in leagues where you lose crossovers.
In Charlie Manuel's first season managing the Phillies, Burrell walked once in every 5.7 AB, struck out once in every 3.5 AB, and registered an RBI about once every 4.78 AB, resulting in .281/.389/.504 averages and an .893 OPS that ranked as the second-best mark of his career. Last summer, Burrell walked once every 4.7 AB, again struck out every 3.5 AB, and drove home a runner every 4.86 AB, leaving him with .258/.388/.502 averages and an .890 OPS that ranked as the third-best mark of his career. My point is that Burrell's skill haven't budged and he remained a perfectly capable #3, #4, or #5 hitters, but just because his salary shoots from $9.5M to $13M in 2007 and $14M in 2008, Manuel and Pat Gillick spent the season demonizing their left fielder. They repeatedly demeaned him for his strikeouts instead of praising his power production and ironically eviscerating Burrell's trade value to the point where they couldn't give him away this winter. Only when the market exploded did Phillies' management realize that Burrell's skills weren't readily replaceable, especially for a team desperate to provide protection for Ryan Howard. If simply left alone in the lineup without everyone focusing on his whiffs, Burrell should remain at the 30/100 level, as well as perhaps pushing his BA toward .280 and his roto value near $20, making him a good investment anywhere in the teens.
The Brewers' crowded outfield provided Ned Yost with sufficient reason to bench Jenkins in August, but with no takers for his $7M salary this winter despite his scorching September rebound, Jenkins looks very likely to begin the year starting in left field and hitting fifth in Milwaukee. He actually didn't perform too badly in 2006, demonstrating the best overall patience of his career and only lacking the power formerly present his skill set. If he platoons with Kevin Mench or even Brady Clark as expected, Jenkins could flourish in a more limited role, likely providing a needed veteran presence in a lineup of eager youths. While expecting more than a .280/20/85 season seems a little optimistic, I also consider Jenkins a potentially superb sleeper, especially if concerns regarding his playing time halt bidding in the $12-14 range rather than the $15-17 he probably deserves.
Initially handed the starting centerfield job despite an unimpressive spring, Duffy stumbled out of the gate to the tune of a .194/.255/.276 performance that resulted in his demotion after six short weeks. His refusal to report to the minors landed him on the restricted list and possibly even contemplated retirement due to extreme dissatisfaction with Pirates' coaching staff. He eventually joined AAA Indianapolis(IL) in July, whereupon he set the circuit on fire with a .349/.415/.509 output, along with 13/16 SB% and a 10:13 BB:K in 106 AB. Pittsburgh recalled him at the trade deadline and then watched Duffy register .282/.345/.366 averages down the stretch while stealing 23 bases in 24 attempts. Despite that mediocre OBP and negligible power, he again enters camp promised a starting job, though I can't say further difficulties at the plate for Duffy would surprise me in any way. Let's assume he'll see about 400 AB between his inevitable benchings or demotions, swipe perhaps two dozen bases, and probably finish with a roto value in the high teens. Given the Pirates' general lack of outfield depth, Duffy also shouldn't receive less than 300 at-bats under any circumstances, so if you stop bidding around $15, you'll at least own a decent third or fourth outfielder with $30 upside if everything breaks in his favor.
After setting the single-season strikeout mark in 2004 with 195 whiffs, Dunn fell one K shy of equaling that record last summer. His contact rate fell to an abysmal .65 mark, and even though his skill set also featured a .20 walk rate, 4.18 #P/PA, and a career-best .59 G-F, along with solid speed skills and his third straight year at forty homers, Dunn's overall value collapsed because of the nearly two hundred trips he took straight from home plate to the dugout. The two-year extension he signed last February for a total $18.5M at least somewhat accounted for this possibility by anticipating his downside, but even the Reds didn't expect him to post a .229/.360/.416 performance in the second half. Perhaps the best news here is that Dunn, given his previous success in spits of his high strikeout totals, at least appears fully capable of rebounding toward a .950 OPS. Treat Dunn merely as a reasonable $20 buy if you can counter the BA drag, preferably with one of the Rockies' young studs like Atkins or Holliday who appear assured of another year at .300.
Rarely has nepotism so directly resulted in a World Series championship, but Duncan, the son of Cards' Pitching Coach and long-time Tony LaRussa consigliere Dave Duncan, fully justified his selection in the first round of the 1999 draft by contributing desperately needed power production to a sagging St. Louis squad. After earning every promotion he received in the system and enjoying a couple of stints in the big leagues earlier in the season, Duncan reached The Show for good at the beginning of July and then proceeded to post .295/.374/.604 averages in the second half. Yes, he probably belongs at first base due to his rather deficient defensive play, but with the fairly fleet Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion capable of covering most of the outfield, Duncan should prosper as the Cardinals' primary left fielder, albeit one who rarely faces any southpaws. Although I don't envision him holding a .290 BA due to his .75 contact rate, Duncan appears fully capable of approaching a .280/25/70 season while possibly holding double-digit roto value, which makes him a decent investment anywhere in the $6-8 range
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