Braun, Kemp lead crop of top fantasy outfielders
Fantasy owners holding the No. 4 or 5 slot in deeper mixed-league drafts cannot afford to pass on Braun. It's not like he's a notch above first basemen
In case you hadn't heard, Kemp is the first Dodger in franchise history to amass 25 HRs, 25 steals and 100 RBIs (which is why he earned a No. 6 ranking in last year's countdown). He's also the only outfielder who's a reasonable lock for 20 HRs/100 RBIs/30 steals/100 runs. Put it all together and he's the perfect choice late in Round 1.
If Holliday had signed with the Mets in the offseason -- instead of the Cardinals -- perhaps his ranking wouldn't be so high. (How's that for tenuous?) The reason: He would have foolishly abandoned the best lineup protection that money can buy -- namely
Crawford likely won't eclipse 15 HRs again while playing for the Rays (he's a free agent at season's end), and he might never rack up 80-plus RBIs at any other point in his career. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives with Crawford, provided the hamstrings remain intact and Tampa Bay manager
Pick up any preseason magazine right now, and you'll find Sizemore mired somewhere between 12th and 18th in the outfielder rankings. Simply put, either the fantasy community as a whole has lost total confidence in Sizemore's old capacity for 30/30 -- or I have seriously misjudged the quality and quantity of the 2010 outfield class. Here's hoping it's the former.
This is probably my shakiest pick of the top 10. Yes, Ellsbury is a lock for 50 steals/95 runs/.295 average with the Red Sox; but if he pulls a hammy or experiences a prolonged slump during the season, he's nothing more than a slightly older version of
In my warped world, the free-agent-to-be Werth will either have a top-5 season ... or suffer a
Upton would probably be a top-3 pick in leagues where slugging percentage and OPS were favored over batting average; but good luck finding such a league in mainstream fantasyland. Bottom line: Upton's .300 average in 2009 feels like an aberration; but lucky for us, his 30/30 potential at age 23 is all too real.
In a perfect world, the 30-year-old Cruz would have a longer track record of fantasy dominance; but right now, we can only daydream incrementally better numbers from 2009 -- his first full season in the majors.
This will likely be Lee's last season as a top-10 outfielder; but that doesn't mean he shouldn't go out with a bang -- or at least be the wonderfully consistent stud of the last five years (steals excluded).
I'd feel a lot better about Ichiro's fantasy prospects if he were a lock for 100 runs -- especially with
Don't let the No. 12 ranking be a
If anyone outside the top-10 is primed for top-5 billing this time next year, it's the 25-year-old Jones -- a relative lock for 20/25 if he stays healthy for 150 games. Of course, staying on the field is easier said than done for Jones. This is the beauty of fantasy countdowns, though, where optimism reigns for on-the-cusp superstars.
For a few dollars more ... Bay abandoned the comfy confines of Fenway Park for cavernous Citi Field. For a few dollars more ... Bay is not a top-5 outfielder in fantasyland. For a few dollars more ... Bay is no longer a lock for 25 homers or 100 runs. For a few dollars more ... oh wait, you get the idea.
In mixed leagues, Victorino has solid value. In NL-only leagues or leagues where owners place a major emphasis on speed, Victorino will not disappoint -- even though he's already inked a lucrative three-year extension.
Nick the Stick had been a model of efficiency in his short MLB career ... before the random disappearance after Sept. 1 (2 HRs/12 RBIs/.233 BA). But we're not giving up the ship with Markakis, even if he's not the Orioles' most prodigious outfielder.
In some ways, Hamilton seems like the oldest twentysomething athlete in professional sports, but that doesn't necessarily portend meager fantasy prospects (at least in this countdown). When sizing up Hamilton's production of 2008 vs. 2009 ... I'm leaning toward the monster production of two years ago. (Warning: This glowing paragraph has no bearing on the Home Run Derby.)
Cleveland is just one
Of the top 20 outfielders, no one has regressed more than B.J. in the last three seasons. Seriously, how does one drop 60 points in batting average in their mid-20s? And how does someone not collect 80 runs in their sleep, as part of the Rays' power-packed lineup? That aside, we're not losing faith with the hyper-competitive Upton just yet. If anything, he'll be a certifiable steal in Round 7 of mixed leagues.
Hunter might never launch 30 homers again, but the 35-year-old has evolved into a more dynamic (read: more diversified) fantasy threat in recent years, which explains his imperceptibly better ranking than
If you can get past Granderson's low OBP, high strikeout rate and painful track record against left-handed pitchers, then you'll enjoy reaping the rewards of 115-plus runs and 25-plus homers this season ... thanks to his placement in the prodigious Yankees lineup.
With an on-base percentage that has climbed steadily in the last three years -- including the .370 in 2009 -- I am reasonably certain that Lind will approach 175 hits and .300-plus average this season. As for the 35 homers ... that's an
Keeper-league owners would be wise to move heaven and earth to acquire McCutchen for the next 3-5 years ASAP ... unless you enjoy buying on the bubble down the road. On some levels, McCutchen draws comparisons to a younger Granderson; but I liken him to
If Ethier channels his 2008 self and hits .300 or above this season, then he'll be a major steal on draft day. After all, what's not to love about 30-homer, 100-RBI, 90-run potential, year-in and year-out? And that doesn't even cover his back-to-back seasons of .500-plus slugging. Boom!
If fully healthy, Beltran would have easily garnered a higher ranking in this countdown. But an ambitious May return from knee surgery has knocked him back -- not unlike
How bad was Soriano last year? In two separate instances, I dumped him in a deep-rostered fantasy league for
Just like last year, I'll make a gentleman's bet with the world that Dunn will finish with 38-41 HRs, 98-103 RBIs AND 3-4 stolen bases. He's that consistent, regardless if he's trade-deadline fodder for the sad-sack Nats.
I was going to write a paragraph about how Pence continues to be underrated force. But then it dawned on me that a 28th ranking isn't necessarily a glowing endorsement of his diverse talents. Perhaps he'll move up 4-5 slots before spring training ends.
Hart should have no problems returning to his old form -- where 20/20 was the norm. He's 28 and hasn't sustained a major injury that would curtail his production. Plus, he has the luxury of being in the National League's most potent lineup.
Speaking of 20/20, the Colorado-Oakland trade involving
There are two ways of looking at Quentin's fantasy prospects for 2010: The optimist would point to his MVP-quality season of 2008 (36 HRs, 100 RBIs, 96 runs) -- in just 130 games. The pessimist would point to Quentin's injury-prone ways -- which includes the '08 campaign -- and deem him an unreliable source for success this year. This one's almost too close too call.
In a perfect world, we'd be able to confidently predict Bruce's numbers based on 150 games played. And in that perfect world, we could gauge whether or not he'll be a regular All-Star with the Reds. But with only 209 MLB games under his belt, it's still too early to project greatness (or mediocrity) for the 2007 version of the Next Great Thing.
Steroids or no steroids, I'm amazed that Man-Ram still has relevance in fantasyland. His home-run potential has been artificially enhanced, he's lazy on the basepaths and looks like he's never worked out with weights or run three consecutive miles a day in his life. Plus, he's 38. Ouch.
If it appears strange to see a player in his late-20s with a .939 OPS and 42-homer pace from '09 this low in the countdown, you're not alone. Simply put, this is based on the assumption that Jones will likely endure some kind of sophomore slump. Hope we're wrong.
How's this for taking both sides of an argument? On one hand, I'm not dismissing Zobrist's All-Star breakout from 2009 (27 HRs, 91 RBIs, 17 steals, 91 runs, .297 BA). After all, Zobrist has been a highly regarded staple of the Rays' fertile farm system for many years ... and finally, at age 28, he's making the most of his opportunity. On the flip side, I believe that Tampa Bay scored a major coup in acquiring
I have very little to say about Damon here.
McLouth regressed in runs, homers, RBIs, steals, batting average, strikeouts, slugging, OBP and OPS last year. For what it's worth, he also regressed in preseason ranking amongst the outfielders from 2009-10. Put it all together, and we're skittish about being too positive about the season ahead -- even if McLouth finally becomes an integral cog on a playoff-contending club.
If you're seeking career highs in homers and/or RBIs from Span in 2010 ... perhaps you'd be more comfortable grabbing the 39th and 40th-ranked guys. But if you're expecting career highs in runs, steals and average ... this might be your fantasy lottery ticket after Round 11.
Cuddyer owes an improved preseason draft ranking to his 32 homers from 2009 ... and
I should have probably gone the veteran route (