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Josh Reddick Returns

An afterthought in most drafts heading into the season, Reddick's return to health is paying dividends--for the Athletics and for fake team owners.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

A casual stroll through the Fake Teams archives can tell you plenty of good things about Josh Reddick. For instance, in 2014 Reddick had a hard hit rate of 20.2 percent, good for 26th-best in the majors. Mike Trout was 25th at 20.3 percent and the leader was Troy Tulowitzki at 24.1 percent. For reference, the MLB average is roughly 17 percent.

Reddick was largely an afterthought heading into 2015, as he was slotted as the 68th outfielder in the Fake Teams consensus rankings. At this early juncture of the season, please give some love to Brian Creagh, who had Reddick ranked as the 34th-best outfielder. No one else ranked him aggressively, including yours truly.

So far in 2015, Reddick is duplicating his hard hit rate. If you are keeping up with Timothy Finnegan's hard hit leaders, you would know that Reddick has a 22.5 percent hard hit rate, which is good for 37th overall in the majors. So we know the guy can square up on a baseball.

So why the big fat disappearance after his breakout 2012 season? For those lacking in memory, Reddick slugged 32 home runs that season en route to a .245/.305/.463 line. He was a dirt-cheap power source and fantasy difference-maker. The reason? Good health. Simple as that. Reddick played a career-high 156 games in 2012 and had a career-high 611 at-bats. Since that time, he has managed only 114 and 109 games over the last two seasons. And he began this season on the disabled list due to a right oblique strain. Luckily, that ailment was minor and Reddick was activated on April 12th. He hasn't skipped a beat since then.

But before I get all rainbows and unicorns on you, let's discuss the fleas.

Reddick is a career .249 hitter with a .309 on-base percentage. The reason for the low OBP, besides the average? An ordinary walk percentage of 8.0 percent. Even in his banner 2012 season, Reddick had an 8.2% walk rate. The man is just plain average in that department. He is also injury-prone, having had wrist and knee troubles over the course of his career.

So why an article, then? Well, in my humble opinion it is not smart to sit around and wait for a guy to get injured. I like to play for today, and today Reddick is a Top 75 commodity in the fake game--and the 22nd-best outfielder on the strength of his 2 home runs and .367/.433/.550 line. He is off to a blistering start. He is only 28 years old. And according to a recent interview with A's beat writer Susan Slusser, he is more mature than ever and that has been a major boost to his overall game. In a nutshell, Reddick is focusing more on recognizing pitches and using the whole field to hit (instead of trying to crush home runs to right field every time). Slusser quoted Reddick as saying:

"Maybe it's a sign of maturity, growing into the player I can become--going up there knowing I don't have to try to hit home runs."

Reddick owns a career ISO of .186, which is not elite but is above average. His average and OBP are sure to drop, but even if he reverts to career norms his power will play well in the fake game. And for a guy who is open to altering his approach at the plate to become a more complete hitter, it seems there is hope for a slightly better showing in the average and OBP department in 2015. As a fake owner, I would trade a few dingers for a more complete player.

So how actionable is Reddick? He is currently 34% owned on Yahoo, which is stinking low for a guy who has produced OF2 numbers thus far. I would add him in any sized league at the moment, and ride the wave while he is healthy. Apparently ESPN players are slightly more savvy, as Reddick is available in only 42% of leagues. Same rules apply, though. Add where you can.

As for trading, I would not endorse giving up a consistently healthier commodity in order to acquire Reddick's services. While I think it is smart to take advantage of the hot streak, banking on Reddick remaining healthy for a full season seems a dicey proposition. I flipped Anthony Gose for him in one league, for the sake of reference. In summation, take advantage where you can. And if Reddick stays healthy and matures, watch out!