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NL Outfielders: Ben Francisco, Lance Berkman

As a RotoGraph positional correspondent, I’ll be updating the National League outfielder rankings and discussing all things NL OF here going forward. Since it’s a little early to be changing up the rankings, let’s just talk about a couple of outfielders that might deserve to be owned in more leagues.

Lance Berkman (33% owned in Yahoo, 97.4% in ESPN)
This is a strange one. I would actually argue that he deserves to be owned in fewer than 97.4% of leagues because I don’t think the outfield will do his body good. With knee and back problems already in his past, roaming the expansive outfield in St. Louis will probably mean more missed games over the course of the season, and his muted power upside and average-ish averages mean he shouldn’t be owned in almost every league – that sort of ownership level suggests dependability and consistent ability.

On the other hand, someone has to get the RBI in that lineup and Berkman is currently batting fourth with Matt Holliday out. He should probably be owned in more than a third of leagues. He’ll get his outfield eligibility next week, and he’ll play in mixed leagues with five outfield slots, or as a bench play in three-outfield leagues. Anything deeper than that, he’s probably already owned.

Ben Francisco (9% owned in Yahoo, 7.5% in ESPN)
This is not to suggest that you should pick up Francisco because he hit that home run on Sunday, but maybe you should pick him up because he hit that home run Sunday. Another way to put it: pick him up because he’s played in all three games so far this season. It’s not looking like a platoon right now with Domonic Brown out. Whispers of a platoon are warranted, maybe – he does have a .763 OPS against righties, and .808 against lefties – but he’s only just now crossing over the 1200 PA threshold for his career, so nothing is set in stone. And, anyway, his .263/.324/.440 line against righties works in most leagues, too. It comes with power and speed, which makes it easier to take the poor batting average. There are many worse ways to fill that bench/outfielder spot, and in deeper leagues he needs to be gone like right now. In fact, I might take Francisco over Berkman, considering their ages, upsides, and statistical profiles. At least Francisco will steal you a couple bases along the way while ‘cruising’ to a nigh-.270 batting average with mid-teens power. Even if he ends up platooning with Brown once the youngster returns, he’s a decent short-term pickup with all-year upside.