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Crisp on DL; A's outfielders intriguing

5/2/2013

Entering Wednesday, the No. 3 option on the Player Rater was none other than Oakland Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp, the same fellow who has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. This creates quite the trouble for fantasy owners: On one hand, here's one of the most valuable players in all of fantasy a month into the season, someone owned in all leagues hitting .283 with five home runs, eight stolen bases and a whopping 24 runs scored. Then again, we all know Crisp isn't the third-best player (now fifth as of Thursday) in fantasy. He was a 20th-round choice in ESPN live drafts, a helpful player who provides stolen bases but certainly not an irreplaceable one.

However, for many dealing with one of the myriad other and better injured players, the wise move Thursday is to cut Crisp despite his awesome start to 2013. Look at all the fantasy monsters who still have that annoying asterisk next to their names, signifying DL status: Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Reyes, Jason Heyward, Ryan Zimmerman and Zack Greinke top the list, but there are at least 15 names I can find that I'd prefer to stash in my one and only DL slot. If you've got a deep bench and nobody relevant on it, of course you hold on to Crisp, but the point is his solid April shouldn't force you into a decision that could haunt you later.

Crisp is on pace for 28 home runs, 45 stolen bases and 134 runs scored, so it might seem odd to move on from that, but only the stolen bases reflect reality based on his career numbers and durability concerns. He's even drawn 17 walks against seven strikeouts, an impressive rate. In Crisp's first three seasons for the Athletics, he averaged nine home runs, 40 steals, 63 runs and, most importantly, only 110 games. Sorry, but that is Crisp, a fun but brittle player. It's possible his DL stint lasts only two more weeks, but then again, what happens when he returns? He's a streaky player, one who generally relies on speed, and this is a crowded and wonderful Athletics outfield. He was a clear sell-high choice a few days ago, but now that he's on the DL, the injury being suffered in the epic extra-inning game on Monday, good luck with that.

On Wednesday, the Athletics used Yoenis Cespedes in center field, which probably doesn't become a regular thing, but there's little worry about this player. Cespedes is a top-20 outfielder. Veteran Chris Young is a terrific outfielder, full of intriguing power and speed at the plate, but he's not a lock to hit his weight half the time. Young has achieved three 20-homer, 20-steal seasons since 2007. He's currently hitting a lame .172, but we can attribute some of that to an identical .172 batting average on balls in play. Young won't win a batting title, but he can hit .240 and already has four home runs and five steals, enough to make the batting average cost worthwhile.

The other notable struggler in the Oakland outfield is Josh Reddick, and many fantasy owners have already given up on him despite his 32 home runs, 85 RBIs and 11 stolen bases from a year ago. Reddick is hitting .148, though a .183 BABIP -- what is it about Oakland outfielders and BABIP? -- doesn't help. Reddick's power seemed a bit inflated in 2012, and 20 of his home runs came in the first half of the season, 10 last May. Like Crisp, he's going to have to hit to earn playing time on this team, because the Athletics do have options. Brandon Moss generally plays first base but can move to a corner outfield spot, and Seth Smith hits right-handers and deserves playing time, so Reddick, who doesn't have an extra-base hit in a week, is running out of time. He did draw three walks on Wednesday, but it's tough to make a mixed-league case for him.

For now, Cespedes is the only Athletics outfielder who must be owned in all leagues. I'd try to keep Crisp around if somehow your team has no other DL-eligible players more valuable, or bench room, but don't be afraid to move on despite his noteworthy numbers. Moss is near 100 percent owned in ESPN standard mixed leagues, but I suspect that will change. I think he can hit .275 with 30 home runs, but there will be bad streaks, too. Reddick is among the most dropped players, and for good reason, but remember he had a 10-homer May last year. He's capable of hitting 30 home runs again. Young is the wild card; we know he can provide 20 home runs and 20 steals, and he's the biggest threat to Crisp's playing time.

One final Athletics note: Left-hander Brett Anderson is obviously talented, but one skill he clearly lacks is health. And it is a skill. Anderson came back from Tommy John surgery last season and showed promise in six starts. That's the problem, to some degree; he always shows promise. In his first 68 career starts his ERA was 3.57, his WHIP 1.24. And he's only 25. But he sprained his right ankle a few weeks ago, kept on pitching, was scratched from Monday's start but entered in relief later in that game, reinjured himself and now is on the DL. And he was pitching poorly. A 16th-rounder in ESPN ADP, I've dropped him already, expecting fewer than 25 starts. It's always something injury-wise with Anderson. Right-hander Dan Straily, hardly a top prospect before he started striking everyone out in the minors last year, replaces Anderson, but he's got to avoid the home runs. He's permitted 13 in nine career starts, although the strikeouts keep us intrigued. Make him a spot starter for now.