Now that the Bill James-enhanced Fantasy Baseball Prep Chapter has finally come to a close, I've been shifting through CBS Sports and Marcel projections over the past few days to really key in on the "popular" choices for breakout players and potential slumping players for the 2009 season.
While I continue working through this, however, I wanted to write a bit about someone who's name I've seen brought up quite a bit on the message boards and who I didn't really mentioned in my outfield prep post. Again, it's worth mentioning that an "average" outfielder has a Fantasy Points / Plate Appearance of 0.81 pts/pa.
The Nationals' Elijah Dukes had a problem getting opportunities in 2008. This has to do with a number of issues: first, he has a horrible attitude (best example came against the Mets at mid-season when he felt Mike Pelfrey was throwing at him...), second, he has a problem with consistency, and third, he has enough off-field issues to last multiple seasons.
So why the hype? Why are owners, in the cold of January, hyping someone who may not even be a regular for the Nationals in 2009?
Bill James: 0.89 pts/pa
CBS Sports: 0.83 pts/pa
Marcel: 0.82 pts/pa
I guess that about sums it up...
While Dukes isn't head-and-shoulders above average, he has shown the potential to be if given the at-bats. Two years ago, while working for WFUV as a Yankees' beat reporter, I bumped into Dukes, then a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Now, I've seen some big baseball players, but Dukes is one of the biggest guys on the field. If talent were determined by the shier size of a player, Dukes would be among the tops in the game. However, for some reason, he's yet to "put it all together" (you've heard this so many times before... but I truly believe it when it comes to a guy with, seemingly, all the tools, like Dukes).
So, who should you look to rank Dukes ahead of, if given the ABs?
Marcel projects Dukes' .82 pts/pa ahead of Hunter Pence (.81), Eric Byrnes (.80), Mike Cameron (.79), and Shane Victorino (.79) -- most of whom will be drafted in points leagues (especially if strikeouts are of a minimal penalty).
For CBS Sports, Dukes barely edges Vernon Wells (.82), while also placing ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury (.81), Johnny Damon (.81), and Hunter Pence (again).
Bill James provides the most liberal, abstruse projections with Dukes' .89 pts/pa topping those of Bobby Abreu (.88), Nate McLouth (.87), Curtis Granderson (.86), Magglio Ordonez (.85), and Pat Burrell (.84), just to name a few (of the guys who will DEFINITELY be drafted before Dukes).
When all is said and done, the most you can do (at this point, anyway) is wait and see what happens in Spring Training for the Nats. As of now, they're rolling into the season with Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Pena, Josh Willingham, Austin Kearns, and Dukes... while also being rumored to have interest in free agent Adam Dunn and the Yankees' Xavier Nady. Now, I was never adroit to numbers games, but I don't think you're going to have very much sucess fitting upwards of 7 major leaguers in 3 outfield spots.
To conclude, there's a bit too many pieces to this puzzle to derail my circumspect approach to a player like Dukes. I know a lot of fantasy participants out there love him, and it's not hard to see why... but until Adam Dunn signs with another team, the Yankees trade Nady to the Mariners/Pirates, Josh Willingham converts back to catcher, and Wily Mo Pena retires... I'm going to remain an innocent bystander even with the risk of being burned by Elijah Dukes.