In the first of a weekly series, I'll be analyzing two different players of the same position who are available in at least 50 percent of both ESPN and Yahoo! leagues. If you're torn between who to add, this column should offer some insight into each players' strengths, weaknesses and prospects going forward.
The following duel is between two previously middling outfielders who are excelling in the early going thanks to some newfound playing time.
Josh Reddick ( Oak-OF | 14% ESPN and 12% Yahoo)
Banished to the bay area by the Red Sox in the offseason, Reddick went unnoticed in many fantasy drafts after a mostly milktoast 2011 in which he found himself battling for playing time in right field with the corpse of J.D. Drew. He slugged seven homers in 254 AxBs with a .280/.327/.457 slash line but was unable to impress enough to be seen as anything more than a trade chip in the ill-fated Andrew Bailey deal.
Reddick carries name appeal, but nothing in his statistical profile dating back to the minors really jumps out at you. He hit 18 homers in Triple-A in 2010 but batted just .266. He's stole 14 bases while jumping between three Single-A and Double-A teams in 2008. But in terms of actual category juice, Reddick leaves much to be desired. Savvy owners may have tried to talk him up and get owners - probably Red Sox fans - to throw more than a buck at him at auction drafts, and only in the deepest of snake leagues was he likely plucked up. After all, his average draft position (ADP) of 399, according to Mock Draft Central, placed him the John Jay/Jordan Schafer range - both of whom have also exceeded expectations - and he was waiver wire fodder in shallow mixers.
However, his first 100 at-bats in Oaktown is a large enough sample size for owners to take stock in the four homeruns, nine RBI and three stolen bases he's accumulated. He's currently sitting pretty in the No. 3 hole in the Athletics' lineup, although with a struggling Coco Crisp and the usually anemic Chad Pennington setting the stage for him he's unlikely to embark on many RBI opportunities. His anti-Moneyball K/BB rate (17/3) is also worrisome, and suggests his current .276 batting average is unlikely to improve any time soon. But he couldn't have landed in a more ideal situation to consolidate his skills, and he's likely to see at least 450 ABs in the desperate-for-offense A's lineup. As of right now he's a fourth outfielder with third outfielder upside, but at age 25 he could exceed expectations if the stars align.
Gerardo Parra (Ari-OF | 44% ESPN and 31% Yahoo)
Parra boasts a very Reddick-esque skill set of potential power and speed, although with less pop and better wheels. With Diamondbacks outfielders dropping like cicadas in the hot Arizona sun, Parra has shifted from his role as fourth outfielder to everyday starter and table-setter. He has since seen his ownership level skyrocket in that span because, well, eight steals in 72 at-bats tends to get you noticed.
He's unspectacular with the bat, and it would appear that even the two homeruns he's swatted this year are more a result of a slightly elevated HR/FB rate (12 percent) than actual power potential, especially given that he hits the ball on the ground nearly 50 percent of the time. His plate discipline is just as unimpressive as Reddick's (14/4 K/BB ratio), so don't expect much average growth beyond his current .264 clip.
Parra's value rests on two factors at the moment - the health of Chris Young, who has yet to begin a rehab assignment for his right shoulder contusion - and manager Kirk Gibson's continued willingness to give him the green light on the basepaths, which, given his propensity to not get caught (15-for-16 success rate in 2011, only been caught once this year) is likely to continue.
With continued extended playing time and some skills growth, you could be looking at a someone slightly above a poor man's Shane Victorino. If he's able to approach 10 HRs, let's call him an unemployed-moved-back-home-to-save-money man's Victorino.
VERDICT: You're more likely to get 30 steals from Parra than 20 homeruns from Reddick, giving Parra the slight edge in category juice. And while neither player should be expected to hit for average, Arizona's more potent offense will to create a greater opportunity for Parra to accumulate runs. If both players are still available in your league, Rico Suave is the better bet for return on investment.
Written by Matt Gelfand exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Follow Matt's fantasy baseball adventures on Twitter: @GelfBHQ.