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Free Talent All-Stars: Outfielders

Following up on this morning’s post about the Free Talent Infield, here’s a look at an outfield and designated hitter that could have been assembled for the baseball equivalent of nothing.

Left Field: Matt Diaz

Diaz makes this team in spite of being pretty awful so far in 2008 thanks to the success he’s had the past two years. After the 2005 season, the Royals gave up on Diaz, designating him for assignment and trading him for Ricardo Rodriguez, whom you’ve rightfully never heard of. Diaz turned into quite the effective outfielder for the Braves, breaking out of his preassigned role as platoon player with a stellar 2007 season. He’s hyper aggressive (swings at 43.17% of pitches outside the strike zone), but his ability to drive the ball when he makes contact makes up for some of that. He’s not a true all-star, but the return the Braves have gotten from him compared to what they gave up make him a Free Talent All-Star.

Center Field: Josh Hamilton

Like Ludwick, we’ve already profiled Josh Hamilton here on FanGraphs, and you’ve almost certainly heard his story a few hundred times by now. As a Rule 5 selection by the Reds, he’s been one of the biggest success stories of that draft in its history, and after being shipped to Texas, he’s now laying claim to being the best player in the American League West. You’ll probably want to be okay with hearing Hamilton’s story, because he’s going to be a big star for the next decade.

Right Field: Ryan Ludwick

I noted Ludwick’s strong start last week, and he hasn’t slowed down since. He’s hitting .336/.413/.739 so far in 2008, giving the Cardinals a legitimate weapon to drive in on base machine Albert Pujols. Interestingly enough, before he became a freely available talent and signed with the Cardinals in 2005, he was traded (in a package) for fellow Free Talent All-Star Carlos Pena back in 2002. Perhaps the lesson of that trade should be not to give up on prospects who don’t hit the ground running so easily.

Designated Hitter: Jack Cust

I’m scared to put anything here – anytime I write about Jack Cust, he hits .900 for the next several weeks and A’s fans descend like a swarm of locusts. So I’ll just say that the A’s picking up Jack Cust for cash has turned out pretty well for them.