As we work our way around the diamond ranking player for fantasy baseball output this season, it is time to turn our attention to the outfield. With many leagues requiring five OF starters, this certainly isn’t a position you want to take for granted. Do you prefer youngster Carlos Gonzalez, or steady-Eddy Ryan Braun at the top of your OF cheatsheet?
1. Carlos Gonzalez, COL – CarGo came out of almost nowhere last season. Well, not really, but he did make a huge jump in a short amount of time. When he was traded from Oakland to Colorado in the Matt Holliday deal, he was a much-heralded prospect that seemed to flounder in his first season with the Rockies. Then in 2010 he moved into elite company and seems poised to stay there for the next decade. He’ll contribute in all five offensive categories and is a legitimate first round pick.
2. Ryan Braun, MIL – Braun is getting kind of boring to watch. He hits over .300, more than 30 homers, more than 100 ribbies and steals almost 20 bases every season. Do you really want that on your team? Yeah, me too.
3. Carl Crawford, BOS – Crawford is hitting in a better lineup now that he joins the Red Sox. That means even more of what he was doing in previous seasons when he was with a patchwork lineup in Tampa Bay, although he may not feel the urge to steal as much.
4. Jason Heyward, ATL – In only his second season in the Majors, Heyward finds himself on the edge of the elite group of outfielders in baseball. If you can get him on your keeper team, he’d be well worth whatever investment is required. If you can get him on your re-draft team, go for it. He should only cost you a third round pick.
5. Matt Holliday, STL – Holiday seems to very comfortable in the St. Louis offense. He’ll hit over .300, more than two dozen homers, around 100 RBI, and will even steal around a dozen bases.
6. Justin Upton, ARI – Upton had a great 2009 and looked poised to step up to the elite echelon last year, but a shoulder injury ended a season that could only be considered a disappointment. This year should be a bounce back campaign and the season when Upton makes that next step up.
7. Matt Kemp, LAD – Similar to Justin Upton, the 2010 season was a disappointment for Kemp when great expectations were predicted. The tools are there, but his dedication is in question. If he gets his head into the game, there seems to be little that can hold Kemp from the top tier.
8. Josh Hamilton, TEX – It’s hard to nitpick about a guy that hit .359/32/100, won the MVP and led his team to the World Series, but Hamilton has a problem staying healthy. He accomplished all of that in only 518 at-bats. Just imagine what this guy can do if he can register over 600 at-bats.
9. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS – Hardly any power will be found here, but that’s not Ellsbury’s game. He’s all about speed and you can expect more than 50 stolen bases to go along with a batting average that will come close to .300.
10. Andrew McCutchen, PIT – McCutcheon is a guy who produces at a high level even though he is surrounded by a band of triple-A players. He’ll produce in all five categories, though the homeruns will barely break a dozen.
11. Shin-Soo Choo, CLE – Choo will also provide stats for all five categories, but will add a little more power and RBI with fewer runs and steals. Since Choo has avoided Korean military service, he is safe to hold for your keeper team.
12. Drew Stubbs, CIN – Stubbs is very quietly sneaking up on the rest of the top players. He’ll provide nice power and stolen base numbers, but he’ll drag your batting average down. If your batting average can take the hit, you’ll like the .260/24/77/33 line he will give you for an eighth round pick.
13. Jose Tabata, PIT – Tabata is a Drew Stubbs-lite kind of player. You’ll get a slightly better average, at the cost of some power numbers. He’s still a fine acquisition and can be had in the thirteenth round.
14. Nick Markakis, BAL – Markakis seems to have lost his power supply. He’s hit fewer and fewer homers each of the last three seasons following his monster 2007 campaign. He’ll drive in a lot of runs and hit for a good average, but he’ll only hit a dozen homeruns.
15. Carlos Beltran, NYM – It wasn’t so long ago that Beltran was among the elite outfielders. He was a five category guy that could really help your team. These days, he has two injury-ravaged knees and will likely require at least one day off every week just to make it through the six month grind. He still has a lot of talent, but the knees will limit his production both on the base paths and with fewer trips to the plate. The Mets already moved him to right field from center which should help.
16. Grady Sizemore, CLE – Like Beltran, Sizemore is attempting to come back after two lost seasons to injuries. Sizemore was also a five category guy, but his legs are also gone. Sizemore is likely to play most every day, but the left knee will limit his base stealing. He’s still good value as many have lost confidence in him over the last two years.
17. Shane Victorino, PHI – The Flyin’ Hawaiian is a good eighth round value. He’ll give you about three dozen steals to go along with a solid average and runs scored. His power is a little light, but he won’t hurt you in any category.
18. Jay Bruce, CIN – After three straight 20+ homer seasons, Bruce can’t hide any longer. He finally got the average up and a respectable ribbie total for a power hitter, and will likely continue down that same path. He’s being drafted in the fourth and fifth round, so watch him and pounce if he slides too far.
19. Delmon Young, MIN – Young finally took a big step forward to achieving his potential last season. Many big things were expected of the first pick of the 2003 draft and very little came from Young until 2010. He looks like a high RBI guy with a solid batting average, homer power and a few steals. He’s a good value in the seventh round.
20. Andre Ethier, LAD – He wasn’t as bad as last year or as good as the year before. Ethier should fall somewhere in between the two and produce a very solid .287/27/84 line. He’s being drafted in the third round, which is an assumption that 2010 was a hiccup and that he will better his 2009 campaign which is way too high for this guy.
21. Jayson Werth, WAS – Werth is a very nice player and one that is well worth owning, but not for a second round pick. He will struggle now that he isn’t surrounded by a powerful Phillies lineup or playing in that bandbox they call home. A .272/28/80/15 line is nothing to sneeze at, but it just isn’t worth the price it will cost to get him.
22. Carlos Quentin, CWS – It’s not that he’s struggled over the last two seasons, but 2008 was definitely the high water mark. The average will likely be a drag again this season but look for the homers to be north of 30 and the ribbies to top 100.
23. B.J. Upton, TB – The elder Upton brother seems to be an enigma to figure out what he’ll do each year. He is very consistent with his stolen bases (44, 42, 42), but his batting average has dropped three years in a row (.300, .273, .241, .237). His homerun numbers resemble a yo-yo (24, 11, 9, 18) but his RBI totals have hovered around the same mark (67, 55, 62). What will he do this year? No one really knows other than about 40 SB and some decent stats in other categories. It’s a risk whether he can help your power, so draft him if you feel lucky.
24. Chris Young, ARI – Young will help you in four categories, but drag down your batting average. If you can take that hit, you’ll get 20+ homers and steals each.
25. Nelson Cruz, TEX – A tremendously gifted player who also seems to be very frail, Cruz has never posted a 500 at-bat season. If he can, he will post big numbers. If he could get 600 at-bats, a monster season awaits. But since he’s going in the second round of many drafts, it might be prudent to let someone else ride that roller coaster.
26. Jason Bay, NYM – After losing much of 2010 to an injury, Bay should rebound with a strong season. It won’t be as good as the 2009 contract year, but something in the ballpark of .278/26/89/10 will play well. Also, expect regular days off to make sure he can make it through the season without wearing down too much.
27. Torii Hunter, LAA – The model of consistency, Hunter has been putting up similar numbers to the ones he is projected for this season. This is the kind of safe bet player that you should have on your team to add stability in case some of your high risk, high reward guys end up flopping.
28. Colby Rasmus, STL – The trade talks have died off and Rasmus can now focus on his game. No one in St. Louis really entertained the idea of shipping off such a talented player, but Tony LaRussa used it as a way to light a fire under the youngster’s butt to motivate him to live up to his potential. Don’t look for a major improvement over his 2010 campaign, but he will progress this season. If he slips into the seventh round, he’s a nice bargain.
29. Hunter Pence, HOU – A lot of fantasy players are looking for this to be the bust out season for Pence, but it will be not be as big of a breakthrough as many are expecting. Since there is very little offensive firepower around him, opponents don’t have to pitch to Pence all the time. If he learns patience, he will take a small step forward, but he’s probably not worth the fourth round pick typically required to get him.
30. Alex Rios, CWS – Rios provides quality numbers at all categories. He’ll hit .275/20/80/30 but will cost a fourth rounder. He’s a solid value for the cost.
31. Mike Stanton, FLA – In 100 games, Stanton hit 22 homers for the 2010 Florida Marlins. He will continue to hit homers at a similar pace and drive in close to 100 runs, but there’s not much speed and the batting average will not help your club. Still, the power is nice and he’s worth taking a chance on.
32. Curtis Granderson, NYY – Granderson struggled in his first four months as a Yankee, but then put it all together for the final two months. Look for him to parlay that into a good second season in pinstripes to the tune of .259/29/72/15.
33. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA – Ichiro is starting to show his age. He was always great at putting up a very high batting average over a large number or at-bats, helping your team batting average in two ways. Throw in 40+ stolen bases and you’ve got a guy worthy of a second round pick. However, the batting average is dipping perilously close to .300 and the steals are likely to be under 40 this season, meaning he isn’t worth what it will take to draft him. Let someone else be disappointed with Ichiro.
34. Angel Pagan, NYM – Pagan finally got the chance to play every day in 2010 and showed what he could do. He’s not a superstar, but he will quietly post very solid numbers in the ballpark of .284/12/68/28. He should be available in the early-teen rounds of most drafts.
35. Juan Pierre, CWS – Pierre will offer very little to your team other than batting average and steals. He has no power and won’t drive many in, but he’ll play every day and should be a benefit to your team and can be had in the ninth round.
36. Adam Jones, BAL – We’re all waiting for the bust out year that will one day happen, but 2011 won’t be that season for Jones. Even though he’s played in the Majors for 5 seasons, he’s still only 26 years old and has a lot of great baseball ahead of him. He will slightly improve on last season’s numbers, but a .281/21/75/10 line doesn’t translate to a monster season. That is more likely to happen in 2012.
37. Nick Swisher, NYY – One of the main players discussed in Moneyball quietly goes about putting up good numbers in New York. Swisher doesn’t seem to mind being a relative afterthought behind other big names on the Yankees roster, and that might help you on draft day. He’ll club around 30 homers but his average probably won’t break .270. He’s still a solid value in the ninth round.
38. Denard Span, MIN – Good average, good speed, not much power is Span’s game. He’s very dependable if you are looking for a speedster in the 11th round.
39. Michael Bourn, HOU – Bourn’s game is stealing bases and scoring runs. His batting average will be so-so and there is no power here. He’s going ahead of Juan Pierre in most drafts, but Pierre will be better for your average, so wait an extra round to grab the better player.
40. Austin Jackson, DET
41. Corey Hart, MIL
42. Vernon Wells, LAA
43. Garrett Jones, PIT
44. Domonic Brown, PHI
45. Raul Ibanez, PHI
46. Nate McLouth, ATL
47. Ryan Ludwick, SD
48. Logan Morrison, FLA
49. Johnny Damon, TB
50. David DeJesus, OAK
51. Carlos Lee, HOU
52. Bobby Abreu, LAA
53. Julio Borbon, TEX
54. Marlon Byrd, CHC
55. Will Venable, SD
Best of the Rest
56. Brett Gardner, NYY
57. Cody Ross, SF
58. Alfonso Soriano, CHC
59. Michael Cuddyer, MIN
60. Franklin Gutierrez, SEA
61. Jason Kubel, MIN
62. Travis Snider, TOR
63. Tyler Colvin, CHC
64. J.D. Drew, BOS
65. Jeff Francoeur, KC
66, Peter Bourjos, LAA
67. Jonny Gomes, CIN
68. Chris Coghlan, FLA
69. Manny Ramirez, TB
70. David Murphy, TEX