Walks keep some hitters fantasy-relevant

Updated: July 7, 2011, 2:58 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

I admit to being an unabashed fan of what Los Angeles Angels outfielder/designated hitter Bobby Abreu remains able to do at the plate. (In the field, of course, is quite another matter.) Abreu is 37 years old and although he's not nearly as productive as he used to be in his Philadelphia Phillies days, he still walks, still runs and still warrants a place in pretty much every fantasy league. One of the leagues in which I enjoy Abreu uses on-base percentage as a category, and few are as consistent year after year as this fellow.

Abreu drew a pair of walks on Wednesday and scored a run. Although he's clearly in decline, on pace for the worst power and run scoring numbers of his career, and is relatively useless against lefty pitchers, he's also sixth in baseball in walks and should end up with more than 20 stolen bases, which he's done every year since 1999. We pay for consistency, too. In an effort to show blog readers that it's not simply about the home runs -- though we all love Joey Bats -- the fact is Abreu's plate discipline remains outstanding even in advancing years and despite the fact pitchers know he's probably not taking them deep too often. He's fantasy's No. 40 outfielder on the Player Rater. Considering he was a 15th-round choice in ESPN average live drafts, it works for me.

The Angels rank last in baseball in runs scored from their leadoff spot, though part of that problem is the lack of run-producing prowess following them, with Abreu chief among them. The team's leadoff options are 16th in baseball in OPS. Abreu should be leading off. He's 10th in baseball in on-base percentage and the nine guys ahead of him all have considerably more extra base hits. The Angels possess right-handed power lower in the order, with Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo, and Abreu hits left-handed, but I'd still lead him off.