Unlike third base and shortstop this year, outfield is extremely deep. In 2010, the average top-40 fantasy outfielder hit 22 homers, stole 20 base, scored 88 runs, knocked in 82 RBIs and hit .285. This speaks volumes to the depth of the position.
While first- and second-round talents such as Braun, Crawford, CarGo, Holliday and Kemp are exciting to own, you’re probably better off filling your infield spots early in the draft.
The likes of Alex Rios, Jacoby Ellsbury, Drew Stubbs, Ichiro Suzuki, Andre Ethier, Jay Bruce, Hunter Pence and Nick Markakis can all be drafted much later in the draft, and offer valuable production. Here’s the top 30:
1. Ryan Braun (OF – MIL): Improving plate discipline suggests possible improvement on three-year averages (102 runs, 31 HRs, 108 RBI, 16 steals, .303 batting average) in 2011.
2. Carl Crawford (OF – BOS): 20-HR, 50-steal, .300-average potential in Fenway.
3. Carlos Gonzalez (OF – COL): First player to post at least 110 runs, 35 HRs, 110 RBI, 25 steals and a .330 batting average since Ivan Rodriguez recorded a 116/35/113/25/.332 line in 1999 with the Texas Rangers.
4. Matt Holliday (OF – STL): Despite playing the last two seasons in Oakland and St. Louis (not Colorado), his three-year averages (99 runs, 26 HRs, 100 RBI, 17 steals, .315 batting average) are better than those of Kemp, Hamilton and Upton.
5. Matt Kemp (OF – LAD): BB/K ratio was 15th worst last season, while his strikeout rate was 12th highest, and his contact rate was the sixth lowest. BABIP 49 points below career average could explain his “down” season, but full potential won’t be reached without improved plate discipline.
6. Shin-Soo Choo (OF – Cle): One of three players to post 20/20/.300 line in 2010. Given healthy returns from Sizemore and Santana, Choo could be just fourth 100/20/100/20/.300 player in last three years.
7. Josh Hamilton (OF – Tex): Missed 73 games in 2009 and 29 games in 2010, but still posted MVP numbers. .390 BABIP (among other things), however, suggests a regression in 2011.
8. Nelson Cruz (OF – Tex): Has played in only 267 out of a possible 486 games over the last three seasons, yet he’s averaged 21 HRs, 13 steals and a .292 batting average per year. A change in his running style will hopefully pave the way for his first full season and a possible 30/20/.300 campaign.
9. Jason Heyward (OF – Atl): Injuries have been a concern with him as well, but there’s no denying his talent. Sixth best walk rate in the majors (14.6 percent) last season as a 20-year-old, and appears primed to approach an eye-popping 100/25/100/15/.300 line in 2011.
10. Justin Upton (OF – Ari): His 30/30 potential didn’t suddenly disappear. 23-year-old still has plenty of room to grow, and has reportedly taken on a “rigorous strengthening program” this offseason to solidify his health.
11. Andrew McCutchen (OF – Pit): Improved plate discipline and recognition of breaking pitches last season are very encouraging. Poor man’s Carl Crawfordshould approach 100 runs, 20 HRs, 35 SB and a .300 BA in 2011.
12. Alex Rios (OF – ChW): Once an unreliable, over-hyped player now has four consecutive seasons of at least 567 at-bats. His three-year averages (81 runs, 18 HRs, 79 RBI, 30 SBs, .275 BA) support his 89/21/88/34/.284 2010 campaign and prove he’s one of the most dynamic fantasy outfielders in a loaded White Sox lineup.
13. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF—Bos): Top-20 2009 season (94/8/60/70/.301) is well within reach in 2011 after Boston’s leadoff hitter missed all but 18 games last year due to a lingering rib injury.
14. Drew Stubbs (OF – Cin): Quietly posted a 22-HR, 30-steal season that went unmatched in 2010. Rare combination of “above-average raw power, and plus-plus speed”—according to Baseball America—makes him a 30-HR/40-steal candidate likely batting near the top of a loaded Reds lineup in 2011.
15. Ichiro Suzuki (OF – Sea): Has averaged 39 steals over the last five seasons and has hit .350 twice in the last four. Additions of Cust, Olivo to the Seattle lineup and expected emergence of Smoak, Ackley should help Ichiro score 100 runs in 2010.
16. Andre Ethier (OF – LAD): Broken finger that sidelined him for two weeks last season wasn’t 100 percent until September, but he still posted 23 HRs, 82 RBI, .292 BA line. Little protection in the Dodgers’ lineup, and will be counted on to carry the offense with Matt Kemp.
17. Jay Bruce (OF – Cin): Career AB/HR rate of 18.63 (compared to Miguel Cabrera’s AB/HR rate of 18.09) only hints at Bruce’s power potential. If his 2010 second half splits (15 HRs, .306/.376/.575), are any indication, he’s finally due for a monster season.
18. Hunter Pence (OF – Hou): One of only three players in 2010 to post at least 90 runs, 25 HRs, 90 RBI, 15 steals and a .280 batting average. Incredible display of consistency in games played (157, 159, 156), home runs (25, 25, 25), batting average (.269, .282, .282), and improving stolen base efficiency over the last three seasons makes him a reliable and well-rounded fantasy option.
19. Jose Bautista (3B/OF—Tor): His 54 HRs in 2010 were 17 more than that of Joey Votto, and five more than Albert Pujols’ career high. Third-highest fly-ball rate (54.5 percent) led to alarmingly-low .233 BABIP. Assuming a regression in his home run total, a lower fly-ball rate will follow. This will aid his BABIP, but further dent his actual batting average.
20. Shane Victorino (OF—Phi): Low BABIP (.273) in 2010 resulted in career-low .259 batting average. Eighteen HRs and 34 steals, however, remained valuable to fantasy teams. Given an average amount of luck, 15 HRs and 30 steals, he’s a top-75 player. His run-scoring and run-producing totals will fluctuate based on where he hits.
21. B.J. Upton (OF—TB): One of only two players to steal 40 bases in each of the last three seasons. Increasing home run total is encouraging, but declining contact rate and batting average, in addition to soaring strikeout rate raises concern. Still, the 26-year-old is a 20/40/.250 threat.
22. Chris Young (OF—Ari): Improved batting eye (.257 batting average , 11.1 walk rate in ‘10) fueled near-30/30 season. Twenty-five HRs and 25 steals are reasonable again, though he’s unlikely to top a .260 batting average.
23. Jayson Werth (OF—Was): Last year’s ridiculous home/road splits suggest he won’t fare as well at the neutral Nationals Park in a less-potent lineup.
24. Vladimir Guerrero (OF—Bal): Career numbers at Camden Yards (23 runs, nine HRs, 30 RBI, .333/.400/.611 in 126 at-bats) suggest the move from Arlington won’t hurt his value much. Surprising durability (at least 520 at-bats in six of the last seven seasons) indicates he’s capable of his seventh season of 27 HRs, 90 RBI and a .300 batting average in the last eight years.
25. Nick Markakis (OF—Bal): Despite disappointing 2010 (12 HRs, 60 RBI in 709 PA), he ranks 18th in runs (94 per season), 19th in batting average (.299) and 24th in RBI (90 per season) among qualified batters since 2007. Strikeout rate is on the decline, while his contact rate is up. At age-27, 2011 is the first of his prime years.
26. Delmon Young (OF—Min): Batting average with runners in scoring position (.355) last year fueled 21-HR, 112-RBI, .298 campaign. Common sense would point to Morneau’s absence as a key factor for the inflated RBI total, but a whopping 48 of them came out of the seven hole in ’10. Now entrenched as the Twins’ No. 5 hitter behind Mauer and Morneau, the 25-year-old should post a Markakis-like 90/20/90/.300 line.
27. Colby Rasmus (OF—STL): Increased HRs, steals, walk rate and batting average from rookie season to 2010. Substantial drop in contact rate and rising strikeout rate, however, will limit his value going forward. Spot in Cardinals’ order in front of Pujols should yield 90 runs, but 30-HR, 10-steal potential won’t be reached without improved plate discipline.
28. Ben Zobrist (1B, 2B, OF—TB): Advanced batting eye (14.0 percent walk rate) and fly-ball rate (38.1 percent) remained in tact last year, but deflated HR/FB rate (6.0 percent) and unfortunate BABIP (.273) kept him from repeating 2009 line: 91 runs, 27 HRs, 91 RBI, 17 steals and a .297 batting average.
29. Curtis Granderson (OF—NYY): Elevated fly-ball rates (49.3, 47.2) and deflated BABIP (.275, .277) over last two seasons have led to more power (30, 24 HRs), but less-than-appealing batting averages (.249, .247). Mechanical adjustment last August yielded 14 HRs with 34 RBI in the last 48 games.
30. Mike Stanton (OF—Fla): 110 HRs over three levels in last three years (including 22 in 359 at-bats with the Marlins last season) . Light-tower power makes 21-year-old a valuable keeper/dynasty league asset, though he should produce now too; 30-35 HRs are reasonable given 600 PAs.
The best of the rest: Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Nick Swisher are old reliables you can count on…Corey Hart is due for a regression, and an early-season DL stint will certainly support that…Manny Ramirez, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore and Adam Lind are all bounce-back candidates, though Beltran and Ramirez are the most intriguing…Rajai Davis, Brett Gardner, Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn all offer league-leading stolen base potential…Angel Pagan and Vernon Wells will attempt to legitimize their 2010 campaigns…Adam Jones, Jose Tabata, Travis Snider, Domonic Brown, Tyler Colvin and Logan Morrison are the future of this position.
Image courtesy of: Steve Paluch
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Tags: Alex Rios, Andre Ethier, Andrew McCutchen, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, Carl Crawford, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Young, Colby Rasmus, Curtis Granderson, Delmon Young, Drew Stubbs, Hunter Pence, Ichiro Suzuki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Heyward, Jay Bruce, Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, Mike Stanton, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Ryan Braun, Shane Victorino, Shin-Soo Choo, Vladimir Guerrero