- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Here's a very scary statistic, folks: Of the 18 hitters on the Giants' 40-man roster at the time of Aaron Rowand's signing on Wednesday, only one hit more home runs in any single season than Rowand's 27 in 2007: Rich Aurilia, who swatted 37 in his miracle 2001.
That a case can be made that Rowand instantly becomes the Giants' most accomplished, valuable hitter gives me shivers. This once-proud franchise has become that thin on offense, and it plays in a noted pitchers' park. Not to knock on Rowand, a very good player, but he's more of a defensive whiz than an offensive leader, and with the Giants, surrounded by little in terms of lineup support, he can't help but suffer statistically. Hey, at least he cashed in; he'll earn $60 million over the next five seasons.
Getting out of Philadelphia's bandbox ballpark doesn't help his cause. Rowand was a .319 hitter with a .937 OPS in 80 games at Citizens Bank Park, compared to .299/.843 in 81 games on the road, in 2007. That came in his walk year, too, a career year for him, meaning a regression to his .286/.805 career rates seemed probable regardless of his home park. In San Francisco, Rowand might be hard-pressed to hit higher than .285 or belt more than 20 homers, so unless he gets closer to his career high of 17 stolen bases, his fantasy value will take a hit. Keep in mind that in spite of his 2007 career year, Rowand ranked 17th among outfielders on the Player Rater, so this was no fantasy stud to begin with.
Call Rowand somewhere in the No. 30 range among mixed-league outfielders, which lands him somewhat outside the top 100 overall. He's well worth No. 2/3 NL-only consideration, but in San Francisco, there's actually more downside than upside in him for 2008.
One bright spot: Rowand's impressive range and quality defense should help the cause of noted fly-ball pitchers Matt Cain (0.80:1 career ground ball-to-fly ball ratio) and Barry Zito (0.88:1). It might amount to only a tenth to a quarter run in ERA, but that can often mean an extra dollar's worth of fantasy value for a pitcher.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
23hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne