Here we go! I will take you through my top 30 outfielders fifteen at a time. This is where it gets to be a little more controversial. Some value certain players over others. I am high on a few players that others don’t really care for. And conversely, there are a few players you wont find me drafting that others really like
1) Matt Kemp (1.69)– He is the consensus #1 outfielder and overall player this year in fantasy baseball. He wont last past the first 3 picks, and will often be taken #1. And for good reason too. He is as close to a lock for 30-30 as you will find in the game. His BABIP last year (.380) was very high, so don’t expect him to hit .324 again. However, a nice .280-.290 average is well in reach.
2) Jacoby Ellsbury (8.81)– Ellsbury had a MVP-caliber season last year and helped many fantasy owners lock up their championship. Last year he was being drafted in the 2nd or even 3rd rounds of drafts. You will not be so lucky this year as he is going in the middle of the 1st round. The one thing we all want to know is, is his power surge last year legit? I think it is. If you look at his GB/FB ratio, it has decreased each year he has been in the league. That means as he is maturing as a hitter, he is starting to become more of a fly-ball hitter whereas when he came up he would try and beat out grounders for infield hits using his speed. I like Ellsbury to be in the 20’s as far as HR are concerned.
3) Justin Upton (9.02)– If you are in a keeper league, you need to seriously consider taking Upton ahead of Ellsbury and Kemp. He is 3 years younger than both and on the same exact path with the same exact skill set. Don’t let his 2010 stats scare you away. He is still figuring things out at the plate, but he hit 31 HR and stole 21 bases last year and he still hasn’t reached his full potential. He has 5 years until he hits 30, which means he will be a top 5 OF for 5 more years with an upside of being an overall top 3 pick most of those.
4) Carlos Gonzalez (13.95)– The scary thing about CarGo is that he only played 127 games last year, but still put up enough numbers to keep himself among the elite. While most were disappointed with him last year, I thought he had a fantastic year. Consider that when he went on the DL, his owners were able to plug in a guy for a month. You can find someone on waivers that will hit you 4-5 HR and give you 15 or so RBI in that time frame. Combine those stats with the ones that CarGo put up, and you basically have an elite OF. If I were picking at the end of the 1st round, CarGo would be a guy I would target.
5) Jose Bautista (4.32)– I already profiled Bautista in the Third Base rankings. You should note that he will likely be solely OF-eligible in 2013 and beyond with Lawrie taking over at 3B.
6) Mike Stanton (22.82)– Again, in Keeper/Dynasty leagues, I might be willing to take Stanton ahead of Bautista. At age 21, he hit 34 HR. There haven’t been many players to have done that over time. Temper your expectations however, he is a small slip away from being another Adam Dunn. His average will likely hover around .260 which means he will contribute solidly in 3 categories (R, HR, RBI), while being a non-factor in 2 (AVG, SB). Who knows? Maybe he figures out how to hit for average, but his extreme GB/FB rate shows that he sells out for the Home Run which won’t be of any help to his batting average.
7) Curtis Granderson (19.28) – An MVP-caliber performance would usually have you higher on the list. His 41 HR and 25 SB was matched by only one other guy really (Kemp), and that guy is being drafted #1 in most leagues. His batting average is not going to improve, but the power-speed numbers are repeatable for Granderson. His BABIP (.295) appears to suggest his average might improve, but he is such an extreme fly-ball hitter/strikeout artist that he just doesn’t put many balls in play. Look to draft him mid-to-late 2nd round. I would also try to pair him with a high average guy like Votto or Gonzalez in the first round.
8) Andrew McCutchen (26.27) – He plays for the Pirates. It sucks. I can’t wait until he gets traded to the Yankees or Red Sox. Still, he has a lot of value to offer. His 23 SB last year was a bit low for him looking at his career average. He is easily capable of stealing 30 this next year. I would say his power (23 HR) was right on the money for what we can expect from him next year. His .296 BABIP was low last year leading to a disappointing .259 batting average. He will likely hit somewhere close to .280 if a few more of those line drives fall in for hits next year.
9) Jay Bruce (40.58) - Bruce is a guy whose career is on the rise. He is only going into his age-25 season, and he had career highs in almost every scoring category last year. His average will likely be between .260 and .280 depending on his BABIP, but even .260 doesn’t hurt your team that much if he is hitting 30 HR with 100 RBI. He is currently going behind Matt Holliday, which I think is outrageous, so make sure you aren’t that guy.
10) Matt Holliday (37.54) – I think line-up protection tends to be overblown by most in the fantasy world. Sure, Pujols left, which means less RBI opportunities possibly for Holliday, but he is still the same guy he was last year. His main issue is his health. He had a career-low in AB last year with only 446 due to injuries. He still managed to hit 22 HR and drive in 75 runs. A healthy year would make that 25-30 HR and 90-100 RBI. I think most would take that in a heartbeat.
11) Alex Gordon (61.74) – I think at 62, he would be a fair pick to make. His .361 BABIP helped him with his high average last year, but his power numbers and SB total was right on track with what he should do in 2012. Even with some regression in the average, he will be a solid producer in all 5 standard scoring categories. In the 5th round, that isn’t easy to find.
12) Josh Hamilton (31.47) – The upside with Hamilton is an all-world hitter that would easily be a first round pick. The down-side is he easily could struggle to find 450 AB because of injury and not be worth the 3rd round pick you used. He is a high-risk-high reward type of guy. You will not win your league by picking only players that are sure bets. You have to take risks. Hamilton would fall in that category.
13) Shin-Soo Choo (64.92) – I bet you can’t say that name 5 times fast. If Choo is really going as late as 64 in leagues, then I think he is another risk that I would love to take. His year last year was bad, even when he was healthy. But injury-ridden seasons often go just that way. When healthy, Choo is an easy 20-20 guy that contributes in all 5 categories. He was going in the 3rd round just last year. You could easily be getting 3rd round talent with a 5th round pick. Don’t be the guy that takes Jennings or Bourn ahead of Choo. Balanced teams wins championships.
14) Hunter Pence (44.72) – A move to a better line-up and better hitter’s park should help Pence out a lot with his counting stats. He made a big jump last year, but I think his best year will be 2012. His average last year in an Astros uniform was driven heavily by a high BABIP, but once he went to Philly, it normalized. The one thing that makes you go hmmm, was his precipitous drop in SB last year. Being in more of a run-producing role, he wasn’t given the green light as much. I wonder if that changes in Philly this year.
15) Adam Jones (75.53) – Jones improved in almost every scoring category last year. He is going to be a contributor in all 5 categories. His counting stats wont be elite until he plays for a team that is actually good. Still, he is young and improving which makes him a good investment on draft day.
This marks the halfway point for outfielders. I will touch more on the next 15 in the next segment. One thing that separates the top 15 from the bottom 15, is the fact that they all are solid to elite in multiple categories. One thing I have always believed in is building a balanced team and not relying on specialists (unless that specialist is so elite in their skill set, it could help you win a category). Stay thirsty my friends…