It’s still too early to say whose hot starts are real and whose are going to evaporate like a puddle in the sun when the weather warms up, but there are injuries to account for and high risk draft plays that are clearly not going to pan out. In that spirit, here are a pair of outfielders that should be available in all but the very deepest leagues.
Cody Ross (ESPN: 10 percent owned, Yahoo!: 11 percent owned)
It isn’t as though Jacoby Ellsbury was keeping Ross out of the Red Sox’s lineup before he got hurt, but having one fewer body in the Sox’s outfield for the foreseeable future does make Ross a more appealing property. Carl Crawford is almost ready to rejoin Boston’s lineup, and it can be reasonably assumed that once he’s major league ready, he’s going to get his job in left field back full time. If Ellsbury were still available, that would leave Ross fighting with Darnell McDonald, Ryan Sweeney, and Jason Repko for the right field spot, and while I think he’d get the majority of the starts in that situation, it becomes much easier for Bobby Valentine to rest Ross more often when he has so many other workable options.
With Ellsbury on the shelf, Sweeney no longer threatens Ross’ playing time, since Sweeny can’t play center field. Repko is really a fourth outfielder and/or defensive replacement, and if Ross can’t outhit McDonald to keep the center field job, well, things will have taken a turn for the worse at Fenway. At this point, Crawford can take back his left field job when he’s ready without pushing Ross anywhere.
Ross’ upside is in both his power and his position in the Red Sox order. ZiPS has him down for 18 HR, which seems reasonable to me, though 83 of his 102 career home runs have gone to left field, meaning he’s going to be playing a lot of wall ball with the Monster. Hitting behind Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz should give Ross plenty of RBI opportunities, even if he loses a HR or two to the Monster. He’s not worth shoehorning into a good outfield, but he’s definitely worth grabbing as either a bench option or as a backend starter in deep leagues. His walk rate — which has climbed steadily since 2009 — makes him an even better option in OBP leagues than he is in traditional leagues.
Nolan Reimold (ESPN: 2.5 percent owned, Yahoo!: 16 percent owned)
To call Reimold one of my sleepers would be disingenuous; he was one of my cicadas: very deep and very asleep, mostly due to playing time concerns. He has played in eight of the Orioles’ 10 games so far, though he came in late in two of those games, so those concerns may not be totally misplaced. That said, if he continues to hit .323/.323/.613 with home runs in three consecutive games, he shouldn’t have to worry about Endy Chavez continuing to take over his playing time.
He won’t, of course, continue to hit that well, but if he can hold the line for even a week or two more, it may make him a more permanent fixture in the Orioles’ lineup and relegate Chavez to a bench role. Unfortunately for Reimold, with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis locking down the O’s other two outfield spots, he may be battling Chavez constantly whether he hits well or not. For that reason, I don’t love him as a weekly league option for the time being. Daily players will obviously have the flexibility to move him in and out of the roster as necessary — this is one of those times where following beat writers on twitter becomes almost requisite — but I fear for the week where the O’s have six games and Reimold only starts four of them.
ZiPS likes Reimold’s power potential, listing 20 home runs as a reasonable total for him, and I tend to agree. He doesn’t bring a ton of other categories to the table, but if he can hit in the .265-.270 range instead of the .254 ZiPS projects him for, I think he brings enough to the table to be worth rostering for those in need.