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Avoid in 2013: Outfielders Edition

Can you trust Hunter Pence in 2013?
Can you trust Hunter Pence in 2013?

Some players excite you. Some players don’t.

When I think of the Orioles Nick Markakis, I instantaneously break into an intense session of jaw-numbing yawn. He’s the ultimate "whatever guy." He doesn’t dazzle you in any one facet of the game, and assuming they’re the same thing, he doesn’t razzle you.

You’re not running to your laptop to see if he hit another double, and you’re not frantically reaching for your iPhone to see if his career batting average is still hovering around .295. Yeah, he’s good, but he’s not great. Not knowing if he’s on Twitter and not curious enough to find out, I promise you that you will not be tweeting Mr. Markakis any time soon with heaps of praise for putting your fantasy baseball team over the top.

He’s Nick Markakis. You can live with him and you can live without him, with the latter being the preferred choice in fantasy. After years of Markakis addiction, I avoided the temptation to roster him in 2012 even after seeing this impressive beard. And what have I missed? Not much. Markakis has hit .298 with 13 home runs, 59 runs, 54 RBI and one steal, good for the 66th ranked outfielder on the ESPN Player Rater.

Unless you’re playing in one of those leagues in which you purposely roster bad players, I suggest staying away from Markakis in 2013 and beyond. In addition, you should avoid the following outfielders who I believe are in the beginning stages of a downward spiral of extreme boringness. At best, these guys are No. 3 outfielders.

More yawn-filled banter after the jump:

Hunter Pence, Giants

Even before the Phillies traded him to the Giants (and before the Astros traded him to the Phillies in 2011), Hunter Pence’s status as an elite outfielder was starting to come into question. From 2008 to 2010, Pence hit an average of 25 home runs with 82 runs and 82 RBI. But back then he was providing double digit steals, peaking at 18 in 2010. In 2011, that number went down to eight and this year it’s even lower at five. Pence’s days of double digit steals are probably over.

Since the trade from the Phillies, Pence’s numbers haven’t been pretty, and they're even worse at San Francisco's AT&T Park:

Home 19 19 80 69 9 15 3 1 1 13 0 8 22 .217 .304 .333 .637
Away 25 25 111 99 12 24 8 1 3 22 1 7 24 .242 .306 .434 .741
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/18/2012.

While Pence has increased his production in San Francisco (mostly due to a better lineup), AT&T Park is absolutely killing his power – as demonstrated by one home run in 80 plate appearances at home. I knew Pence’s batting average would suffer coming to an extremely pitcher-friendly park, but a .217 BA is ridiculous and I’m starting to doubt if he’ll ever match his career .287 BA again.

If Pence stays in San Francisco for the long haul, we may be looking at a guy who hits 15 to 20 home runs annually instead of 20 to 25. Hey, that sounds a lot like Nick Markakis!

Nick Swisher, Yankees

Ok. I admit to owning Nick Swisher in a couple of leagues this year, but I’m here to say that the Swisher sweepstakes, for me, ends in 2012. There’s something comforting about drafting a player who’s consistent. For Swisher, that consistency has been 20 home runs, 80 runs and 80 RBI year in and year out, including a two-year stretch of 29 home runs in 2009 and 2010.

This year, Swisher has once again reached the 20-homer plateau, but his strikeout rate has reached an all-time high (23.4%), and he’s walking at a much lesser rate (15.0% in 2011, 11.4% in 2012). Pair that with the highest GB/FB rate in his career, and you can’t be too optimistic that Swisher is going to be better in 2013 when he turns 32 years old.

Then there’s the batting average. Since 2008, Swisher’s average has been .219, .249, .288, .260 and .255. As consistent as his counting stats may be, you can see the same logic does not apply with his average. At best, you can expect a .260 BA going forward, and even that is generous. You’ll also have to deal with his maddening hot and cold streaks over the course of a full season. In head to head leagues, this is especially not fun.

This may be Swisher’s last year with the Yankees, and whether he lands in a hitter’s ballpark or not, 2012 may also be the last year you can count on Swisher’s consistency to round out your outfield. Hey, maybe he’ll join Markakis in Baltimore and start a band called "Double Your Nick Pleasure, Double Your Nick Fun!"

Andre Ethier, Dodgers

Andre Ethier happily signed a five-year, $85 million extension with the Dodgers this season, but don’t be fooled into thinking you're going to get elite fantasy production from the Dodgers outfielder not named Matt Kemp. Even after his breakout season of 31 home runs and 106 RBI in 2009, I’ve fallen in the anti-Ethier camp. Had I bought in, it probably would have come at a hefty price, and judging from the following numbers, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

Over the last three years, Ethier has averaged 17 home runs, 69 runs and 76 RBI. Not bad. Not great. Does that sound familiar? What stands out to me is there isn’t one single category that Ethier provides elite production in. Without the name, Ethier could very well be waiver wire fodder in 10-team leagues. While Nick Markakis has never hit more than 23 home runs, he does have two seasons of 100-plus RBI in seven seasons. Ethier has one such year in seven full seasons and is one year older.

So maybe Ethier has been "out-Markakis-ing" Nick Markakis before Nick Markakis was Nick Markakis. Regardless, Ethier isn’t worth buying just for the name.

One more stat to throw at you: In 2012, the league average strikeout rate is 19.7% and the league average walk rate it 8.0%. Ethier is currently at 19.7 and 8.4, respectively.

Now go get some rest. You’ve earned it.

Apologies to Nick Markakis.