Right field has long been the home to some of the most prodigious sluggers in baseball history. Legendary home run hitters such as Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Mel Ott, Roger Maris, and Sammy Sosa all called right field home during their tremendous careers. But recently, as teams have begun to find power from other positions, the number of dominant sluggers in right field has dwindled. In 2006, only two right fielders topped the 30 home run mark (Jermaine Dye with 44 and Vladimir Guerrero with 33), the lowest total since the beginning of the second Live Ball Era. Right field has become a position of flexibility with several 20/20 threats lurking throughout the league. Here is a look at two of these new generation right fielders who should find their way onto fantasy teams in 2007 and two that you might think twice about reaching for.
Alex Rios – Blue Jays
Rios broke out in 2006, finally showing the skills that made him a first round pick of the Blue Jays in 1999. A .330 average with 15 HRs and 9 SBs before the All-Star break had Alex on pace for a tremendous season. His deep second half slump should be enough to push him back off of nearly every fantasy owner’s radar, and leave him hanging around draft boards until the later rounds. He will likely spend a majority of the time batting second in a potent Blue Jay lineup, which bodes well for an increase in some of his secondary numbers. Look for Rios to produce in the neighborhood of .290/20/75/75/15.
Nick Markakis – Orioles
Many may think only of Markakis as the answer to a difficult piece of baseball trivia, but what they could be missing out on was his development as a hitter after being dropped in the Orioles’ lineup following a horrible start to the 2006 season. In the second half of the season, he found his power groove to right and right-center and scorched opposing pitchers with a .532 Slugging Percentage, 14 HRs, and 17 Doubles. While the power aspect began to develop as expected, his base-running skills have yet to catch up. Once projected by minor league scouts to be a player capable of 20 steals a year, Nick has stolen only 27 in what amounts to 3 full seasons of major league and minor league action. If Markakis can continue to play to his strength as a hitter, a .300/20/85/85/5 season should be within reach.
Bobby Abreu – Yankees
After Abreu’s midseason trade to the Yankees, he regained the form that made him a consistent first or second round pick in previous seasons. Batting in the meat of the powerful New York lineup, Abreu is almost assured of producing solid secondary stats, but both his power and stolen base numbers continue to gradually fade. With the likely price for Abreu being a late second or early third round pick, you are better off looking for a solid contributor much later in the draft than overspending on someone like Abreu. Don’t expect much more out of Abreu than a line similar to .290/20/90/85/20.
Magglio Ordonez – Tigers
Once a major offensive force, Ordonez finds himself in a park that has heavily drained his fantasy impact. Still a great contributor on the road, Ordonez slugged 90 points higher and hit twice as many HRs away from the confines of Comerica Park. He will still provide solid numbers in average and the secondary statistics, but don’t be the one to reach for his production on draft day. He will produce enough to be right on the cusp of the Top 100, so take a look at him in the ninth or tenth round of a twelve team mixed league. A projected line of .295/25/85/95/5 is still solid production, but a far cry from his days on the South Side of Chicago.
There you have it – two players to look for late in your draft, and two more to avoid. Good luck to you all, and check back for more Two Up, Two Downs.
Jason Nelson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Jason in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Tavish.
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