Going 9 Fantasy Baseball: Clearing The Bases: Ranking the Outfielders

When I first started playing fantasy baseball, late 80s, it seemed like there were plenty of outfielders to go around, not so much anymore.  Sure there is a nice top 10, even 15, but after that the pickings get real slim real quick.  In most leagues two of the top four picks will be OFs (Braun, Kemp), four others could go in the 1st round (Bautista, Ellsbury, J. Upton, CarGo).  Doesn’t leave much top level talent now does it.  You would think with 30 teams, three starting OFs, that’s 90 starters, you would have to believe there would be 25-30 surefire players you would want to select, just not so.  I’m not saying you absolutely have to take one in the 1st round, but if you don’t and the top 10 or so are gone, I wouldn’t draft someone you’re not sold on.  The position is definitely top heavy, but the 20-40 range are all similar players, at least you can find some depth.

As always this list is designed for 10 team 5×5 leagues.  If I were playing in a points league than Giancarlo Stanton could certainly go a few levels higher because of his ability to hit 40+ home runs.  Jacoby Ellsbury may drop a couple of spots in a points league if you don’t believe he can hit 30+ HRs again.  That being said, I have seen Ellsbury go as high as 5th overall, obviously his value is at an all-time high.  We know he can steal bases and score runs, but if he can continue to hit for power, watch out.

  1. Matt Kemp, Dodgers:  Kemp has his detractors, is he a one-year wonder, what about the lack of protection in the lineup, plays in a pitchers ballpark.  Well one of the reasons, and possibly the main one, that Don Mattingly got the managerial job was because of his relationship with Kemp and the belief that he could get the best out of him.  Well after hitting 39 HRs, 126 RBI, 40 SB, 115 Rs, .324 AVG, and .985 OPS, I’d say Mattingly did a very good job.  Sure the one year wonder factor is there, but some players mature at their own pace, and the lineup/ballpark factors were there last season as well.
  2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee:  Only reason Braun wasn’t number one on my list is he has similar worries as Kemp.  Not so much the ballpark, but he lost a big presence in Prince Fielder and even though he wasn’t suspended for using PEDs, he is certainly going to hear about it in every ballpark he visits, and if he gets off to a slow start, there will be rampant speculation all over the place about what the reason why is.  That being said it’s really hard to find someone who can hit 30+ HRs and steal 30+ bases.  Losing Fielder could certainly have a negative effect on Braun but in the end I think he has a monster season because he wants to prove to everyone that he wasn’t on steroids during his MVP season last year.
  3. Jose Bautista, Toronto:  We covered Bautista when we ranked him number one at 3B.  The only reason Bautista doesn’t get into one of the top two spots in because of his lack of stolen bases.  While Braun and Kemp are capable of swiping 30+ bags, Bautista has never stolen more than nine in his career.  Still I’m not complaining one little bit if he ends up on my team.
  4. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston:  I’ve seen a few drafts now where Ellsbury is actually being taken ahead of Bautista, and you know what, it’s hard to argue with the logic.  If Ellsbury’s power is legit and he can hit 25+ HRs once again, then he is a five category players.  We all know he has speed to burn and could easily steal 30+ bases again.  In that offense he is a mortal lock for 100+ runs scored assuming he stays healthy, and with his power will come RBIs and a .300+ average.  What’s not to like?
  5. Justin Upton, Arizona:  When you look at Upton’s stats from last year, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 105 Rs, 21 SB, .289 AVG, .898 OPS, they are really good numbers, but I just have the feeling that this season they could even be better, especially in the RBI department.  Upton is a super talented player who won’t turn 25 years of age until August, wow does this kid have a bright future ahead of him.  The ball flies out of the ballpark in Arizona and the DBacks are slowly but surely putting top talent around him.  In keeper or dynasty leagues Upton could be a top five overall pick.
  6. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado:  In 2010 CarGo hit 34 HR, 117 RBI, 111 Rs, 26 SB, .336, .974 OPS in 145 games.  Last season, 26 HR, 92 RBI, 92 Rs, 20 SB, .295 AVG, .889 OPS in only 127 games.  Pretty similar numbers with the exception of AVG and OPS if you prorate the games missed.  That brings us to the biggest question about Gonzalez, can he stay healthy?  Well he did add muscle over the winter with the goal of staying in the lineup and also admits he can’t be as reckless in the outfield.  If CarGo is able to play 150+ games, than he is a steal no matter where you select him.
  7. Curtis Granderson, Yankees:  Granderson seems to be on the same path as Bautista in that as soon as he got together with a good hitting coach and fixed his swing, boom went the dynamite.  If you remember in late July early August of 2010 the Yankees benched Granderson for a couple of games in order for him to work on his swing.  Well what a move that turned out to be.  Granderson made some mechanical adjustments, was no longer an automatic out versus lefties and now is a true danger in the Yankee lineup.  It may be hard to expect 40+ HRs again, but 30+ should be doable.  We would like to see the AVG come up to the .280 range, but we will take his 20+ steals.
  8. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh:  Could this be the year that McCutchen finally announces himself as one of the better OFs in the game?  He doesn’t have to worry about financial security after signing a 6-year $51.5 million contract extension with the Pirates.  Now he just needs to show what he can do.  He’s going to have a breakout year soon.  We know he can run, stealing at least 22 bases each year in the majors.  He had his best power output last season with 23 HRs, although his average was only .259.  This is a superstar waiting to happen, although it may be a year to early.
  9. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami:  Speaking of a superstar, Stanton is a home run waiting to happen.  The man is country strong.  You know all of us who wonder how the new Marlins ballpark will play, better for pitchers or better for hitters?  With Stanton it just doesn’t matter.  He could hit the ball out of the Grand Canyon.  I would put the over/under at 40 and probably take the over.  Now he won’t hit for a high average, .259 and .262 in his two seasons in the majors, but those numbers won’t hurt you either.
  10. Matt Holliday, St. Louis:  Now we start with the, how will the Cardinal hitters react without Albert Pujols in the lineup?  It’s a fair question, but not one I worry about when thinking about Holliday.  What do I worry about?  How many games will he play?  Two of the past four years it’s been less than 140, and he always seems to be nagged by some minor injury.  Holliday missed 38 games last season but still hit 22 HRs and drove in 75 runs.  If he can play a full season, he’s more than capable of 30/100.
  11. Josh Hamilton, Texas:  It really is this simple with Hamilton, how many games do you think he will play?  More than 140, than bump him up quite a few spots on this list.  Less than 120 maybe move him down.  He’s an incredible talent who mashes in that lineup and in that ballpark when he is healthy, but like Jose Reyes, seems to be a DL move waiting to happen.  I have a hard time drafting players in a premium spot who I know will miss 20+ games.  I don’t need the headaches.   Last three years in Texas, he has missed 41, 29, and 73 games.  This is also a contract year for Hamilton, that usually leads one to believe that the player will stay in the lineup.  That logic didn’t work last season with Jose Reyes.
  12. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati:  If not for the .256 AVG last season we might all be singing Bruce’s praises.  32 HR, 97 RBI and a .815 OPS are his best numbers to date.  He also had eight stolen bases, but that’s not what you’re drafting him for.  If he can just pick that average up to the .270 range he could be a bargain for where he is being drafted.  Keep in mind he will only be 25 years old this season, just a baby still.
  13. Hunter Pence, Philadelphia:  Pence has to be one of the happiest people on the planet that he was traded out of Houston last season.  He goes from a team that is going to lose over 100 games to a team that could win it all, not to mention gets to play in a bandbox in Philadelphia, should certainly help his power numbers.  Pence is also the most likely candidate to bat cleanup until Ryan Howard returns.
  14. Nelson Cruz, Texas:  Everything you just saw about Hamilton, place here for Cruz.  Since joining the Rangers, Cruz has never played in more than 128 games.  Now he did work on his legs in the off-season to try and avoid the injuries that have plagued him, and perhaps it will work, but once again I would proceed with caution.  That being said, in those 124 games last season, Cruz hit 29 HR and drove in 87 RBIs, when you prorate those numbers, fantasy owners start to salivate and believe this will be the year he stays healthy.
  15. Lance Berkman, St. Louis:  Two sides to the coin with Berkman.  One side, the loss of Pujols will mean teams will focus more on Berkman to make sure he doesn’t beat them.  The other side, the loss of Pujols allows Berkman to play 1B which should keep his body fresher for the long season.  Really don’t think we’re going to see 31/94 again, but I do believe 25/85 is a possibility with a .290 AVG to boot, the added eligibility at 1B/CI doesn’t hurt any either.
  16. Michael Morse, Washington:  Morse announced his arrival to the baseball universe by hitting 31 HRs, driving in 95 runs and batting over .300.  Now the power is legit, even in Washington, but the batting average seems likely to decline.  His BABIP last season was an amazing high .344, an adjustment this season seems to be likely.  That being said, I’ll take the 30+ HRs and .275 AVG.
  17. Alex Gordon, Kansas City:  Gordon seems to have finally realized his potential.  We have been waiting for quite a few years for Gordon to be the player we thought he would be.  Some players just take longer to figure things out.  Now I don’t think the power numbers are going to get much higher, KC is not known as a hitters paradise, but the Rs and RBIs could as the offense gets better around him, and Bill Ivie of I-70 Baseball believe Gordon may even run more and could steal 30 bases.  That’s music to every fantasy owner’s ears.
  18. Michael Bourn, Atlanta:  When you draft Bourn, you’re drafting stolen bases.  No doubt about that.  Bourn never hit for power in Houston and that’s not going to change in Atlanta.  You want the 50+ SBs he will give you, which will go a long way towards winning that category, and Bourn can also help with runs and AVG.
  19. BJ Upton, Tampa Bay:  Upton is the kind of player that not only drives fantasy owners crazy, but the Rays as well as he has so much untapped potential.  Problem is he doesn’t always seem to care now does he?  We all know he can and will steal bases.  Something in the neighborhood of 40.  He will also hit a decent amount of home runs, think low 20s, but the batting average of .240 has got to improve.  The Rays hope so also as they need all the weapons they have on offense.
  20. Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland:  Now by anyone’s account Choo had a terrible season last year.  The question is why.  Was it because of the expectations?  Doubt it?  Was it because of the DWI he had early last year.  I’m going to go with that.  This is a 20 HR, 20 SB guy who should be able to bat around .300.  I’m feeling a bounce back season, don’t forget about him on draft day.
  21. Shane Victorino, Philadelphia:  Shane is not great in any one category, but can give you a little something in each category.  He will bat around .280, hit around 20 home runs to go along with 20 stolen bases and score in the vicinity of 100 runs.  Very similar to Choo.
  22. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay:  Zobrist was also previewed at second base.  He’s alternated good and bad years the past couple of seasons, which one will this be?  I don’t trust Zobrist in the OF, but he’s a nice upside option at 2B.
  23. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis:  Beltran leaves a pitchers paradise in Citi Field to a more neutral stadium in St. Louis.  One has to believe his numbers will improve although it’s unlikely he will ever be the stolen base threat he once was.  Still, 25 homers and 90+ RBIs could be in store if he can stay healthy.  The less time he plays in CF, the better.
  24. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay:  Jennings is one of the Rays top youngsters.  He came out of the shoot like the star he is expected to be but had problems in September as opposing teams figured out his weaknesses.  Now we get to see if he has made the adjustment.  Jennings should still be good for 50+ stolen bases with some pop to boot.  The average could be a work in progress however.
  25. Carl Crawford, Boston:  I just can’t leave Crawford off this list.  I understand his first season in Boston was a disaster and with this wrist injury the second may not be any better, but we’re talking about Carl Crawford here.  That being said, I’m not drafting him in any league unless he falls to me late where the risk is worth the reward.

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