- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
In Sunday's afternoon game against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates started Xavier Paul and Garrett Jones in the corner outfield spots. Neither of them is having a strong season. As the Pirates-Phillies game was heading into extra innings, the Ryan Ludwick trade was announced. Ludwick certainly isn't a star player himself, but on a team starved for power -- only Andrew McCutchen and Saturday acquisition Derrek Lee have more than 10 home runs -- Ludwick can, in theory, help.
Ludwick comes to Pittsburgh via the San Diego Padres with only 11 home runs, but surely Petco Park has played a role there. Ludwick hit 17 home runs for the Padres and St. Louis Cardinals last season, 22 in 2009 and let's just assume the 37-homer behemoth campaign from 2008 was an outlier. Ludwick isn't a great fantasy option, but he is an upgrade on what the team currently has -- notably Paul -- though he's not having a great season by any means. Jones actually has a higher OPS than Ludwick.
Fantasy owners can expect Ludwick to hit either fifth or sixth in the batting order, depending on where first baseman Lee ends up. Pirates No. 5 hitters -- generally Lyle Overbay and Pedro Alvarez -- entered Sunday hitting a pathetic .198 on the season, so either Ludwick or Lee should be able to trump that. As I wrote with Lee, he's not exactly joining a star lineup, so don't expect a ton of RBI opportunities, but Ludwick should see an uptick in his statistics merely by leaving San Diego. In road games this season Ludwick is hitting .258, as opposed to .218 at home. His OBP is poor everywhere. If you get 10 home runs and 30 RBIs the rest of the season, consider that a blessing (seven home runs and 24 RBIs instead?). It probably comes with a .250 batting average.
I'm more interested in what the Padres do in left field, frankly. I blogged recently about first baseman/outfielder Kyle Blanks potentially being the team's top power hitter the rest of the season, and I stand by that. With Jesus Guzman overachieving at first base, look for Blanks to play regularly in left field. Cameron Maybin and Will Venable are set in the outfield as well, and fantasy owners will still enjoy their stolen bases. Those begging for Chris Denorfia to play regularly are likely to be disappointed. Denorfia would probably be overmatched with regular at-bats anyway; he's hitting .159 in July with one extra-base hit. He's better served in his current role as fourth outfielder.
Eric Karabell looks at the fantasy implications of the Pittsburgh Pirates acquiring Ryan Ludwick from the San Diego Padres.