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NL Outfielders: Day Five
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National League Outfielders without 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.

68.  Cody RossLAD/CIN/FLOAge: 25B:R   T:L

Initially kept on the Dodgers' roster last spring, Ross found himself DFA'd after only two weeks and subsequently dealt to the Reds for Ben Kozlowski. He lasted just two more weeks on his new team before a bruised finger resulted in a three-week DL stint, though after just three days back in the majors, he then joined his third franchise of the year when Florida bought him from Cincinnati. Ross spent the rest of the year as a defensive replacement for Josh Willingham and a platoon right fielder thanks to his .245/.300/.588 performance against lefties. He probably will return to a similar role this summer, and though I don't see much further upside here, Ross should post a better batting average and just might exceed $5 with a little luck. Consider him decent roster filler in standard NL leagues.

69.  Ben JohnsonSD PadresAge: 25B:R   T:R

Nearly a starting outfielder for the Padres last year, Johnson instead returned for two different stints with AAA Portland, where he managed a .268/.348/.439 performance with 7 HR, 22 RBI, and a 23:55 BB:K in 198 AB. He also spent July on the DL with shoulder issues, which never allowed him to earn any significant playing time in San Diego. The Padres sent him to the Mets in November for Heath Bell and Royce Ring in a deal that makes Johnson a likely candidate to serve as New York's fifth outfielder and a possible platoon partner for Shawn Green. However, he also could lose his spot to a veteran like David Newhan, so while I still see some potential here given his respectable minor league numbers, Johnson's short-term fantasy future seems somewhat bleak. Treat him as little more than roster filler barring a sudden increase in his at-bats.

70.  Eli MarreroCOL/NYMAge: 32B:R   T:R

While Marrero ostensibly remained productive with the Rockies, he posted a reserve platoon split in minimal playing time and probably best served the franchise as the trade bait that netted the Rockies Kaz Matsui from New York. Marrero lost his roster spot outright when the Mets acquired Ricky Ledee, concluding his campaign with an unimpressive .182/.282/.394 output in 33 AB in New York. He wisely returned to his initial organization on a minor league deal and could serve as both a backup catcher and option all four corners. However, unless he somehow managed to win a platoon job with someone like Chris Duncan or requalifies at catcher, Marrero won't belong on anyone's roto roster for any extended period.

71.  Jeff SalazarCOL RockiesAge: 25B:L   T:L

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Colorado for my comments on Salazar.

72.  Chris DenorfiaCIN RedsAge: 26B:R   T:R

Denorfia, though fully deserving of a starting job after excelling in the minors during 2005, appeared buried last spring behind Ken Griffey, Austin Kearns, and Wily Mo Pena while Adam Dunn started at first base. The mid-March trade of Pena for Bronson Arroyo only resulted in a shift of Dunn from first to left as Scott Hatteberg claimed the open lineup slot. Denorfia even almost opened the year in the minors despite superb qualifications as a fourth outfielder, only breaking camp in the majors due to an injury to one of new GM Wayne Krivsky's many veteran pick-ups. He eventually served three stints at AAA Louisville(IL), totaling a .349/.409/.484 performance with 7 HR, 45 RBI, 15/16 SB%, and a 34:41 BB:K in 312 AB that once again proved he belongs in the majors. Instead of ceding Denorfia the everyday job he deserves, Krivsky instead shifted Griffey to right field, installed Ryan Freel as the everyday centerfielder, and then acquired Josh Hamilton in the Rule 5 draft, essentially condemning Denorfia to serving as no more than the Reds' fourth outfielder even if he outplays guys like Norris Hopper and Jerry Gil. The good news here is that Denorfia only needs at-bats to blossom, making him a superb sleeper and potentially outstanding mid-season trade bait if you can grab him for a couple bucks in the spring.

73.  Jose HernandezPIT/PHIAge: 37B:R   T:R

Clearly viewed as little more than a utility infielder, Hernandez spent most of last season with the Pirates before Pittsburgh sold him to the Phillies for the stretch run. He didn't impress in Philadelphia and eventually returned to the Pirates on a minor league deal for 2007. Expect him to echo these stats this summer, though with his thirty-eighth birthday approaching, Hernandez simply possesses scant fantasy potential at best. I strictly view him as short-term roster filler, and unless he regains an infield qualification, he really won't belong on anyone's squad.

74.  Choo FreemanCOL RockiesAge: 26B:R   T:R

Colorado finally cut bait on their 1998 first round pick after watching him fail to break a .700 OPS in his third straight extended stint with the Rockies. Of course, the Rockies only released him last week, but after his repeated failed to impress above Double-A, Freeman appears unlikely to find more than a minor league deal. With neither much speed nor power in his current skill set, he won't merit any fantasy consideration until he can manage to post decent stats in the majors.

75.  Jose Cruz, Jr.LA DodgersAge: 32B:S   T:R

Surprisingly cut from Los Angeles following the Dodgers' deadline acquisition of Julio Lugo, Cruz shockingly didn't sign anywhere for the stretch run despite his .353 OBP. Although neither his power nor speed really impress anyone, his excellent walk rate gives him solid value for MLB teams, albeit not in roto leagues due to his low BA. The one-year deal Cruz landed with the Padres probably returns him to a platoon role in both the left field and leadoff slot, splitting time with Terrmel Sledge unless either player enjoys an excellent spring. With PETCO unfortunately providing little hope of a BA rebound for Cruz, he doesn't look like anything more than decent roster filler heading into camp.

76.  Eric YoungSD/TEXAge: 39B:R   T:R

Eric Junior's slow progress through the Rockies' system probably prompted Eric Senior's apparent retirement given the minute chance that the two will play together in the majors. Eric Senior still possesses decent speed and plate discipline, but his awful batting average prompted his release from San Diego in August. He only briefly surfaced with Texas in August, and after failing to land so much as an NRI to date, likely won't return to the game. Young departs baseball after fifteen big league seasons owning respectable .283/.359/.390 career averages, along with 465 stolen bases that place him forty-third on the all-time list, decent numbers who didn't earn a starting job until he turned twenty-five.

77.  Todd LindenSF GiantsAge: 26B:S   T:R

Although Linden no longer shows the long-term promise he possessed when San Francisco selected him with the forty-first overall pick in 2001, his .283/.389/.460 performance with 5 HR, 24 RBI, and a 29:44 BB:K in 187 AB for AAA Fresno(PCL) last summer again demonstrated that he belongs in the majors in some capacity. With no options remaining, he seems certain to spend this summer as the Giants' fourth outfield, possibly receiving plenty of playing time given the fragility of Barry Bonds and Dave Roberts. Of course, he still hit thirty-four homers as recently as 2005, and thanks to his respectable plate discipline, he certainly could blossom as a post-hype sleeper. He looks like a good target in keeper leagues, as well as a decent endgame pick-up in single-season contests where you need an extra outfield with decent power potential.

78.  Tony Gwynn, Jr.MIL BrewersAge: 23B:L   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Milwaukee for my comments on Gwynn.

79.  Chris YoungARI DiamondbacksAge: 23B:R   T:R

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

80.  Lastings MilledgeNYNAge: 21B:R   T:R

Included in virtually every trade rumor involving the Mets for the past year, Milledge appears at least temporarily stuck between the veteran starting trio of Carlos Beltran, Moises Alou, and Shawn Green and quickly rising top prospects Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez. However, Milledge also possesses more upside than any of these guys except Beltran, especially after posting a .277/.388/.440 performance with 7 HR, 36 RBI, a 13/23 SB%, and a 43:67 BB:K in 307 AB for AAA Norfolk(IL) last summer. While his inconsistency prompted the Mets to acquire Green in August, Milledge needs little more seasoning and only needs an injury in the majors to Pipp either Alou or Green. If he hadn't lost his rookie eligibility, Milledge would rank behind only a couple of NL prospects this season, though ironically his sophomore status makes him a decent sleeper, particularly in leagues where you can't bid on minor leaguers and can't retain non-rookies. Even without blazing speed or dramatic power potential, solid plate discipline makes Milledge a good gamble in almost any league, especially if you can grab him at a relative discount and then auction the almost-certain 2008 starter to rebuilding teams in early summer.

81.  Charlton JimersonHOU AstrosAge: 27B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Houston for my comments on Jimerson.

82.  Ryan LangerhansATL BravesAge: 26B:L   T:L

Like probable platoon partner Matt Diaz, Langerhans owns a neutral platoon split at best, and after really slipping in the second half, he'll need a good spring and a fast start to remain in his current job. The good news is that he bumped his walk rate from .11 to a .16 mark, and if he boosts his contact rate from his .71 mark to the .77 rate he owned in 2005, he could blossom in his third year in the majors. However, with a fairly low overall ceiling and limited quantitative upside, he desperately needs an improved BA even to approach double-digit value. Despite theoretically claiming the greater half of the left field platoon, he also appears quite overvalued compared to Diaz, so unless Langerhans slips to you in the endgame for a couple of bucks, grab Diaz instead at the same price for double the fantasy potential.

83.  Nelson CruzMIL/TEXAge: 26B:R   T:R

Stolen by the Rangers in the Carlos Lee deal, Cruz should emerge as the most valuable long-term acquisition by either franchise from that swap. He posted a .302/.378/.528 performance with 20 HR, 73 RBI, 17/23 SB%, and a 42:100 BB:K in 371 AB during his second summer at AAA Nashville(PCL). While he stumbled in Texas due to inconsistent playing time, Cruz appears the most likely candidate to emerge as Frank Catalanotto's platoon partner this summer. He even could land a full-time gig if Sammy Sosa and Jason Botts bomb in spring training. With his well-balanced batting skills and respectable defensive acumen, Cruz should emerge as the Rangers' long-term solution in one of the outfield corners. Buying him anywhere under $5 will look like an absolute steal by the fall, and rebuilding clubs should consider bidding toward $10.

84.  Scott ThormanATL BravesAge: 24B:L   T:R

In each of the past three years Thorman returned to the affiliate where he finished the previous season, proceeded to pound the ball to the tune of around an .850 OPS for a couple of months, and then progressed to the next rung on the Braves' minor league ladder. He inevitably stumbled after this promotion, managing an OPS below .750 at Double-A, Triple-A, and then last summer with Atlanta. Yet with the Adam LaRoche trade clearing no less than a platoon job for Thorman on the Braves, he appears set to echo the .298/.360/.508 averages he registered at AAA Richmond(IL) last year. Thorman only turned twenty-five last month, and if he can hold the .91 G-F he posted in the majors, we should see nothing less from Thorman than numbers resembling the .278/13/45 line from LaRoche's rookie year. I also suspect Thorman will finish 2007 with stats far more in line with the Braves' expectations than those of most analysts, so consider him an excellent investment for anything under $10.

85.  Fred LewisSF GiantsAge: 25B:L   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: San Francisco for my comments on Lewis.

86.  Scott HairstonARI DiamondbacksAge: 26B:R   T:R

Out of options and therefore essentially guaranteed a job with the Diamondbacks in 2007, Hairston certainly deserves the opportunity after spending the past three summers just pounding the ball at AAA Tucson(PCL), including a .323/.407/.591 performance with a 52:78 BB:K in 381 AB in 2006. While he might have won a job last year if he hadn't needed labrum surgery on his left shoulder in 2005, he also unfortunately finds himself fairly buried on the club's depth chart. Carlos Quentin and Chris Young both will play every day, leaving Hairston to fight for at-bats with Eric Byrnes and Jeff DaVanon even as Carlos Gonzalez rapidly approaches Arizona. I hope GM Josh Byrnes will find a way to deal Eric Byrnes, at least giving Hairston one more shot at an everyday job, but a trade somewhere like Minnesota, Texas, or Cincinnati probably offers him the best chance to emerge as a regular. Despite Hairston's significant long-term upside, I can't support bidding beyond the $4-6 range and even then suggest you talk up his potential value before dealing him to the first rebuilding team in your league.

NL Outfielder Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: While most of today's outfielders will possess little roto value this year, several merit significant attention from savvy owners, a group led by Chris Young, who could hit $20 as the Diamondbacks' starting centerfielder. Nelson Cruz also looks like an excellent investment with the Rangers, as does Scott Thorman with the Braves. Of course, the post-hype post-rookies here rank as the best bargains. Lastings Milledge, Scott Hariston, Chris Denorfia, and Todd Linden all could double their expected fantasy salaries if they gain full-time jobs, making them superb targets in spring drafts, as well as outstanding choices for owners seeking good 2008 keepers to use as mid-2007 trade bait.

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