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Position Profiles: Outfield

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After a few down seasons, the position is once again stacked, thanks to the arrivals of instant studs like Jason Heywood and Mike Stanton. In fact, outfield is deeper than center field at the old Polo Grounds. (475 feet!) I actually like several OF options that didn’t even make out list, such as Raul Ibanez and Marlon Byrd. My strategy this year will be to grab one elite guy to anchor my outfield, then wait and go bargain hunting in the mid to late rounds. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive into the outfield rankings…

1. Carlos Gonzalez, COL, OF – There’s no shortage of legit candidates for the top spot. CarGo gets it because there’s a chance that he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.

2. Carl Crawford, BOS, OF – They should call Crawford “Swiss Army Knife” because there isn’t a tool he doesn’t offer. He could score 130 runs in Boston’s lineup.

3. Ryan Braun, MIL, OF – .303/25/101/103/14 is actually a down year for Braun. Look for the home runs to jump back over the 30 plateau.

4. Matt Holliday, STL, OF – There’s reason to celebrate if you land Holliday. He’s a model of consistency, so you can count on a .300 average with around 25 homers and 100 RBI.

5. Josh Hamilton, TEX, OF – I was both wrong and right on Hamilton last year. I called him a bust. Swing and a miss! But I also predicted he’d miss a lot of time with injuries, which he did. Play-it-safe types should avoid the Texas outfield altogether.

6. Nelson Cruz, TEX, OF – I’d love to see what this guy could do with 600 at bats. Unfortunately, he may never get there. He’s always dealing with some type of leg injury. Like Hamilton though, when Cruz is in the lineup, he flat-out mashes. Draft him early on and cross your fingers.

7. Shin-Soo Choo, CLE, OF – Nothing shaky about this Indian. He’s a “choo-in” for around .300-20-20. Maybe he’ll increase his runs in what should be a slightly better Indians lineup.

8. Matt Kemp, LAD, OF – Another option for the risk-takers out there. You could get first-round value out of Kemp if he cuts down on the Ks and boosts his BA back up to the .290s.

9. Jose Bautista, TOR, OF/3B – When a guy who’s 6’ 5” and 230 pounds hits 50 home runs, it makes sense. When Bautista does it at 6’ 0” and a buck 95, you have to wonder if he can repeat. Because no one’s buying it, he could still be a solid value in the power department.

10. Andrew McCutchen, PIT, OF – One of the few Pirates worthy of a roster spot, McCutchen took a nice step forward in his sophomore season. No reason why he can’t power up a little more and enter the 20-30 club.

11. Jason Heyward, ATL, OF – Heyward is ready to vault into fantasy stardom. He reminds me of Ryan Howard with more speed. Look out.

12. Justin Upton, ARI, OF – I actually owned Upton and Kemp in a league last season. Somehow I won, no credit to those guys. It’s like Upton was taking strikeout lessons from Mark Reynolds. The kid’s just 23, so improvement is likely.

13. Jayson Werth, WAS, OF – Werth is streakier than a naked guy running on the field, but he puts up big-time digits when it’s all said and done. Jump on this roller-coaster ride and enjoy 25 homers and 15 steals.

14. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS, OF – Lots of rankers are down on “The Ellsbury Dough Boy” because he was soft last season, suffering multiple rib injuries. I think Jacoby will be back in a BIG way.

15. Alex Rios, CWS, OF – The change of scenery resulted in a dramatic change in stats for Rios, who was one of the best bargains in last year’s draft. Now that he’s righted the ship, Rios should be back to swattin’ ‘em and swipin’ ‘em this season.

16. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA, OF – The lone bright spot in a dreary Seattle lineup. It’s utterly ridiculous that a player can log 214 hits in a season and only score 74 runs. Expect more of the same in 2011.

17. Andre Ethier, LAD, OF – Ethier is a solid power producer who might come on the cheap because he was limited by a broken finger last season. He’s a good bet for 30-100.

18. Mike Stanton, FLA, OF – I’m really hating myself for trading away Stanton in my keeper league. Could a 21-year-old really hit 40 home runs? I think he’ll definitely come close to 30. Think Adam Dunn…tons of long balls and whiffs.

19. Hunter Pence, HOU, OF – The Astros were a train wreck last season. Lost in the debris was a very solid season by Hunter Pence. He’s a four-category value at a three-star price.

20. Jay Bruce, CIN, OF – “The Solo Home Run King” hit 25 round-trippers, but only knocked in 70. The important thing is that Bruce elevated his BA by leaps and bounds. Now, if a few more Reds will get on base in front of Bruce, it’ll be breakout time.

21. BJ Upton, TB, OF – The Upton Brothers are more puzzling than a Rubik’s Cube. BJ has top-notch speed, but he tries to hit too many home runs, resulting in a high K-rate and a low batting average. Still, the 40+ SBs are nice.

22. Corey Hart, MIL, OF – After teasing owners with a solid start to his career, Corey Hart finally woke up, shook off the recent mediocrity and put together an impressive campaign. He’s got the size and the skills, so look for another solid stat line.

23. Chris Young, ARI, OF – Prior to 2010, Young’s ugly averages outweighed the benefit of his power and speed. Last year, he brought it up enough (.257) to become startable in fantasy leagues. There aren’t too many threats to go 30-30, so you could get a great value here if you can stomach the low BA.

24. Delmon Young, MIN, OF – If you’re looking for a player who’s on the way up, Delmon’s your man. It seems like he’s been around forever, but Young is just that, at 25. He won’t come cheap after knocking in 112, but you should get a jump in home runs.

25. Drew Stubbs, CIN, OF – LOVE this guy. He’s my super sleeper in the outfield. I’m sure I’m not alone on this call. A .255 batting average and 168 strikeouts leave room for improvement, but guys who go 20-30 in their first season have the chance to be special.

26. Shane Victorino, PHI, OF – A modest spike in homers and a steep decline in average leaves owners with some question marks about Victorino. With a steady track record, he should get back to hitting lines drives and batting in the .280s.

27. Ben Zobrist, TB, OF/2B – One of the biggest fantasy disappointments of 2010, Zobrist is primed for a comeback. Plan on stats somewhere in the middle of what he did the previous two seasons.

28. Colby Rasmus, STL, OF – Now in his third season, Rasmus fits the mold of a player ready to take his game to new heights. The power stroke developed in 2010, and with better health, he could make a run at 30 taters.

29. Juan Pierre, CWS, OF – Sometimes it’s all about opportunity. You knew Pierre was ridiculous on the base paths, but he was stuck being a fourth outfielder in LA. Then, the White Sox rescued him and he was an absolute “steal” in last year’s draft. This year, he may still be plenty affordable because he’s on the wrong side of 30.

30. Aubrey Huff, SF, 1B/OF – Can Huff deliver successful seasons back-to-back? Not if history holds true. But this time will be different. He’ll settle in to his role in the heart of the Giants order, putting up 20+ HR and up to 90 RBI.

31. Brett Gardner, NYY, OF – Only the Yankees could have a #9 hitter score 97 runs and steal 47 bases. Gardner’s a nice little two-category player who hasn’t popped up on everyone’s radar just yet, despite wearing the pin stripes.

32. Michael Bourn, HOU, OF – If you’re stacked in home runs and batting average, it may make sense to invest in this speedster. Bourn’s identity is a top SB producer, with no other positive skills.

33. Torii Hunter, LAA, OF – Torii still brings the lumber at age 35. The wheels aren’t what they once were, so don’t pay for a 5-category player.

34. Curtis Granderson, NYY, OF – Granderson is a stay away for me. It seems like he should steal more bases than he does. He doesn’t hit for average. And he doesn’t knock in runs like a true power hitter.

35. Carlos Lee, HOU, OF/1B – I have a feeling Lee isn’t finished. Watch him get back to 30 HR and outperform his average draft position (ADP).

36. Jason Bay, NYM, OF – Feels like Bay is a forgotten man after he missed much of last season with a concussion. He’ll be a sleeper for the first time in a while.

37. Andres Torres, SF, OF – A real waiver-wire gem in ’10. Torres excelled in the leadoff spot for the Giants. He contributes across the board and is a nice fourth outfielder, at least.

38. Carlos Quentin, CWS, OF – Careful here. Quentin has had one huge season and has followed that up with two iffy, injury-plagued ones. He’ll give you some pop, but keep in mind, he’s never lasted 500 at bats.

39. Nick Swisher, NYY, OF – Swish netted a career year in 2010. I’m not convinced that he can maintain the batting average, which may be why he’s still not getting a lot of love in early drafts.

40. Rajai Davis, TOR, OF – Davis came surprisingly close to pulling off the unfathomable feat of having more stolen bases (50) than runs scored (66). He’s in the same group as Bourn and Pierre, but should go a bit later.

41. Bobby Abreu, LAA, OF – Abreu was sneaky-good in 2010, just squeaking into the 20-20 club. Not bad for a 36-year-old. Expect good all-around numbers again, with a slight decline.

42. Vernon Wells, LAA, OF – Wells made headlines when he went to the west coast to join the Angels. In 2010, he proved he was finally over a wrist injury that had been sapping his strength. Still, I don’t expect a repeat of the 31 home runs. Mid-20s is more like it.

43. Manny Ramirez, TB, OF – Another big name way down on the list. Ramirez was an interesting addition for the Rays. As a DH, he won’t have to worry about cutting off outfield throws. About 20-25 HR with solid RBI production is doable.

44. Adam Jones, BAL, OF – A whole lotta hype, not much to show for it. Jones flashes his talent in small spurts. If he can stretch those out, he could surprise. I’m not buying in just yet.

45. Austin Jackson, DET, OF – Jackson was the prospect who came over from New York in the Granderson deal. Funny, he was better than Granderson last season. A touch of power would raise Jackson’s stock a bunch.

46. Carlos Beltran, NYM, OF – I waited…and waited…and waited for Beltran last year. Then he did nothing. At 33, he’s not done. I just don’t trust him to stay healthy.

47. Angel Pagan, NYM, OF – For the first time in his career, Pagan landed a season’s worth of at bats, due to injuries to Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran. He over-delivered, swiping 37 bags. The Mets have some OF prospects on the way, yet Pagan should be able to hold them off and give you 10 HR and 30 SB.

48. Dexter Fowler, COL, OF – The Rockies will be counting on Fowler to set the table this season. A dozen homers and 25 steals are a possibility.

49. Magglio Ordonez, DET, OF – Maggs is still an offensive threat at age 37. Think .300/20/80/75.

50. Ryan Raburn, DET, OF – Here’s another Geek sleeper. Too bad he doesn’t qualify at 2B anymore. 25 home runs isn’t out of the question.

51. Jose Tabata, PIT, OF – Another good source of speed that you can get late. Tabata had 19 SB in just over 400 at bats. That translates to 30 over a full season. And he was just a rookie.

52. Nick Markakis, BAL, OF – What happened to this guy? After coming into the league with so much promise, Markakis is now eroding into JD Drew. Not pretty.

53. Travis Snider, TOR, OF – It may take another year for Snider to be fantasy-ready. Look for some homers, but a low average.

54. Grady Sizemore, CLE, OF – If you’re in need of a miracle late in your draft, Sizemore is a possibility. Otherwise, I’d rather own Scott Sizemore.

55. Coco Crisp, OAK, OF – I liked what Coco was doing before he went down with a broken pinkie finger. Consider him when you’re looking for cheap steals.

56. Nyjer Morgan, WAS, OF – One more base stealer for you. Morgan is lightning on the base paths, but getting there can be a problem.

57. Michael Cuddyer, MIN, 1B/OF – Nothing to see here. A decent hole-plugger to have on your bench.

58. Denard Span, MIN, OF – If you’re going to get a leadoff type, look elsewhere. Span doesn’t give you enough steals to make up for his lack of stats everywhere else

59. Chris Coghlan, FLA, OF – A 10-10 player who can hit for a decent average and score runs for you. Give him a mulligan for last year.

60. Tyler Colvin, CHC, OF – Let’s round things out with this sophomore who slugged 20 homers in his rookie year. If the Cubs give the kid at bats, he’ll give you long balls.

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