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Average and Adam Dunn

Fantasy players love sluggers. And few sluggers have been more consistent than Adam Dunn, who has cleared the 40-HR mark five years in a row, with exactly 40 dongs the past four seasons. He’s also been right around the 100-RBI mark that same time span. Up until last year, he’s also been right around 100 Runs scored. But his fantasy value took a hit last year as he dropped from 101 R to 79 and saw his AVG fall from .264 to .236.

Dunn reached base via a hit or walk 239 times in 2007 and 244 times last year. But that increase of five was reached thanks to 22 extra walks. Dunn suffered a 47-point drop in BABIP, which led to a .262 mark last year. Most of that damage occurred in June, when his BABIP was .190 even after eliminating the 39 strikeouts in 87 at-bats. Interestingly, Dunn snapped out of his funk after Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi trashed him on a radio show, saying, “We’ve done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn and there’s a reason why we don’t want Adam Dunn.

“Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much?” Ricciardi said to the caller. “Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much?”

Ricciardi’s rant occurred right before an Interleague Series between the Reds and Blue Jays. Up until the series against Toronto, Dunn was mired in a 6-75 (.080 AVG) slump. He went 4-12 versus the Blue Jays and hit .249/.387/.529 for the remainder of the season.

Because Dunn is so consistent with his HR and RBI, where he rates as a fantasy hitter depends a lot on his AVG. He provides fourth-round value if he hits in the .260s, like he did in 2004 and 2007. But when that mark drops into the .230s, like it did in 2006 and 2008, he’s only giving owners seventh-round (or later) value.

What makes Dunn so intriguing to fantasy players is that you can match him with certain players and come up with a really nice combination. He is a fine complement to Jose Reyes or Ichiro Suzuki, to name just two guys who will give you AVG and SB but who may be lacking in HR and RBI.

So, where should you draft Dunn in 2009?

A lot will depend if you (or any other owner in your league) decide to punt steals. But even ignoring that for a moment, it’s hard to think about drafting him before the end of the fourth round. There is simply too much variability in his track record to think about him in the first three rounds.

Even the fourth round is a bit of a stretch, unless you are trying to make up power and can take the AVG and SB hit. But if Dunn is still sitting there at the end of the sixth round any team, regardless of its makeup to that point, should consider adding him because he’s likely to bounce back in BABIP and AVG in 2009.

And if Dunn signs with the Cubs, he may be worthy of even a higher draft pick. He has a lifetime .664 SLG mark in Wrigley Field in 217 at-bats, the highest mark for any stadium in which he has more than 66 lifetime ABs.