Fantasy Baseball Preview: Outfield
Outfielders are where fantasy owners go for their one-stop shopping needs. Need power? Check out Carlos Beltran, Carlos Lee and Adam Dunn. Need average? Ichiro and Magglio Ordonez should have you covered. If you're looking for steals, Eric Byrnes, Curtis Granderson and Shane Victorino will do nicely.
But here’s the thing: while grabbing an outfielder to fill one or two voids is fine in the later rounds, you really want to get a player that offers the best overall balance. Matt Holliday, Grady Sizemore, Vladimir Guerrero, Carl Crawford and Alfonso Soriano are clearly the best, but don’t forget about guys like Granderson, Nick Markakis and (once he gets more experience) Chris Young.The more balanced your team is, the more stats you'll pile up as the season wears on. And even if you don’t get a player who is going to crack 30 dingers and drive in 100 RBI, players like Hideki Matsui, Corey Hart and Brad Hawpe are likely to give you .290-25-90-90 numbers, which is highly acceptable if you land some big hitters at other positions earlier in the draft.
*NOTE: All analysis based on standard 5x5 roto leagues
Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies
.326, 36 HR, 137 RBI, 120 runs, 11 SB, 126 K, 63 BB, 636 AB
Holliday has emerged as the complete fantasy package. In the past three seasons, he’s averaged 30 home runs, 102 runs and 113 RBI, all while hitting .326. His blend of power and consistency makes him a top-flight fantasy player, and at 28 he’s just now entering his prime. Now if he could only steal more bases….
Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels
.324, 27 HR, 125 RBI, 89 runs, 2 SB, 62 K, 71 BB, 574 AB
Vlad missed some time at the end of last season with a triceps injury and is getting up there in age (he turned 32 in February), but he’s still without a doubt a fantasy stud. His numbers from last year prove that his production isn’t on a decline, and with Torii Hunter now providing protection in the Angels’ lineup, he’s bound to have another solid season. It’s probably safe to expect .320-30-115 out of Vlad again this year. Too bad he doesn't run much anymore.
Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians
.277, 24 HR, 78 RBI, 118 runs, 33 SB, 155 K, 101 BB, 628 AB
So Sizemore’s average and home runs dropped last year – big deal. He posted a career high on-base percentage of .390, stole 30-plus bases for the first time in his career and is the only outfielder to post 20-20 seasons in each of the last three years. Don’t expect his RBI numbers to be very high, but he’ll cross the plate plenty of times, hitting in Cleveland’s lineup. At 25 years old, there’s nowhere to go but up. He has serious 30-30 potential.
Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays
.315, 11 HR, 80 RBI, 93 runs, 50 SB, 112 K, 32 BB, 584 AB
Fantasy owners had to take the good with the bad with Crawford last year. While he did hit a career best .315 and stole another 50 bases, his power production dropped and he struck out a career worst 112 times. If you think Alfonso Soriano is due for a major bounce back season, select him over Crawford. But just realize that if Crawford’s power production returns, he has the potential to hit 20 home runs, which certainly looks good with the gobs of stolen bases and solid average.
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
.299, 33 HR, 70 RBI, 97 runs, 19 SB, 130 K, 31 BB, 579 AB
Many considered Soriano the top fantasy outfielder heading into last season, but he was highly inconsistent and incredibly streaky. His home run numbers were there, but he failed to score 100-plus runs, and his stolen base production significantly dropped. The good thing is that he has a solid supporting cast and with that he should be primed for a bounce back season. We like Crawford’s stolen base and average potential better, but if you need power, Soriano will likely produce it again with another 30-plus home runs.
Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers
.302, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 122 runs, 26 SB, 141 K, 52 BB, 612 AB
Talk about a breakout performance. In just his second full season, Granderson became only the third player in history to have at least 20 homers, 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in a season. That kind of production – coupled with his age (27) – screams fantasy stud in the making. And the best part about Granderson is that he’s still fairly under the radar, so you could essentially draft him as a No. 2 outfielder yet get No. 1 production out of him.
.276, 33 HR, 112 RBI, 93 runs, 23 SB, 111 K, 69 BB, 554 AB
Like many veterans who reach their early 30s, you know exactly what you’re getting out of Beltran. He’s going to give you around 30-plus homers, 100-plus RBI and a fair amount of stolen bases. But he’s also going to miss time due to nagging injuries, and his average is consistently going to be in the .270 range. He’s a solid pick who will fill up the stat sheet more than your typical slugger, but his ceiling has likely been reached.
.363, 28 HR, 139 RBI, 117 runs, 4 SB, 79 K, 76 BB, 595 AB
Can Mags do it again? That's the obvious question. And in that new ferocious Detroit lineup, you may be tempted to think he can. Granted, Ordonez would be hard-pressed to match last year's average, even with the added help, but he shouldn't have to hit .360 again to drive in 120 runs in the heart of that lineup. Still, there's a good chance he'll be a bit overrated on draft day, so be careful.
Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox
.296, 20 HR, 88 RBI, 84 runs, 0 SB, 92 K, 71 BB, 483 AB
What happened to the Manny Ramirez fantasy owners all know and love? Has his production started to decline? Have age and injuries finally taken their toll? While 2007 was certainly a disappointing year for Manny owners, he’s still one of the best hitters in the game, and he could very easily bounce back this season. In fact, due to his poor ’07 performance, you might be able to grab him a round or two later than he should go. And if he responds by hitting 30-plus long balls again, you’ll look like the fantasy genius you believe you are.
.303, 32 HR, 119 RBI, 93 runs, 10 SB, 63 K, 53 BB, 627 AB
It’s amazing how Lee slips under owners’ radar on draft day. He has five consecutive seasons with 30 or more homers and three consecutive seasons with more than 110 RBI. The big guy will even throw in 10 to 15 stolen bases a year, and has held an average of .290 the past three seasons. He doesn’t have the greatest supporting cast, but that didn’t stop him last year, did it?
B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays
.300, 24 HR, 82 RBI, 86 runs, 22 SB, 154 K, 65 BB, 474 AB
Welcome to the big-league party, B.J. In his first full season, Upton became a 20-20 player while also hitting .300. At only 23, he already has the makeup of a complete player, and the best part is he still has room to grow. If he doesn’t hit a sophomore slump, he should at the very least put up similar production to what he did last year, which is perfect for your No. 2 outfielder.
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
.351, 6 HR, 68 RBI, 111 runs, 37 SB, 77 K, 49 BB, 678 AB
Ichiro is perfect for Rotisserie leagues because his final numbers are going to be there, but he’s a bit overrated in head to head formats. Owners will look at his average, runs and stolen bases and figure he’s a complete player. But he doesn’t hit many long balls or drive in many runs, so value him accordingly.
Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds
.264, 40 HR, 106 RBI, 101 runs, 9 SB, 165 K, 101 BB, 522 AB
Looking for Ichiro’s polar opposite? Dunn’s it. His average is never anything to write home about and he’s not going to steal many bases, but he’s Mr. Power. He’s hit 40 home runs and averaged 100 RBI and 102 runs in each of the past three seasons. Over the past four years, he’s fourth in home runs and 18th in RBI. He’s also entering his prime at 28, so his power numbers should stay consistent.
Alex Rios, Toronto Blue Jays
.297, 24 HR, 85 RBI, 114 runs, 17 SB, 103 K, 55 BB, 643 AB
The 27-year-old Rios had a breakout year in 2007, launching a career-best 24 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He has plenty of power potential, should score a decent number of runs again hitting atop the Blue Jays’ lineup, and appears to be a consistent .300 hitter to boot. Given his age, we think the sky is the limit for Rios this season.
Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles
.300, 23 HR, 112 RBI, 97 runs, 18 SB, 112 K, 61 BB, 637 AB
All right, so Markakis had a scorcher of a second half last season, hitting .325 and blasting 14 long balls. But can he do that for an entire season? He’s yet to put together a full year, but he’s also only entering his third season. Alex Rodriguez was the only other player to hit .300 with 20 home runs, drive in 110 RBI and finish with 15-plus stolen bases last season. Markakis has loads of potential; now he just has to remember the season starts in April and not July.
Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
.291, 29 HR, 116 RBI, 80 runs, 0 SB, 137 K, 81 BB, 516 AB
Hawpe broke out last season, smashing a career-best 29 home runs and knocking in 116 RBI. He was also benched against tough lefties, though, which can be a little irritating in head to head leagues, plus he doesn’t steal any bases. Still, he’s entering his prime and owners can probably expect an average of around .290, with 25 to 30 home run potential and 100-plus RBI again.
Hunter Pence, Houston Astros
.322, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 57 runs, 11 SB, 95 K, 26 BB, 456 AB
Pence is yet another young outfielder who offers power, average and stolen base potential, but he’s also entering his first full season as a starter and thus is a bit of a question mark. Just based on potential, he could easily project to be a .300 hitter who belts 20 home runs and steals 15-plus bases. But once again, that’s based on potential. Snag him as a top 20 outfielder, but understand you might see some ups and downs as he tries to adjust to becoming an everyday player.
Gary Sheffield, Detroit Tigers
.265, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 107 runs, 22 SB, 71 K, 84 BB, 494 AB
Ready to play Russian roulette? In 2007, Sheff was brutal, scorching hot and then terrible again as he battled through injuries and a transition to DH. Many think he’s done, and hey, he very well could be. But is it a stretch to think he could post one more .290-30-100-100 season, especially in the Tigers’ stacked lineup? No owner is going to feel good about selecting a 39-year old injury risk that may be well past his prime, but he could also wind up being a terrific steal late in the draft.
.287, 28 HR, 107 RBI, 94 runs, 18 SB, 101 K, 40 BB, 600 AB
Okay, so Hunter had a career year in 2007, hitting .287 with 28 long balls and 107 RBI. But he was also in a contract year and he faded badly down the stretch. He’s still a viable top-20 outfielder, but understand he might not duplicate the same production as he had last year. To be safe, you can probably count on .280-25-90 and 20 stolen bases.
Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks
.237, 32 HR, 68 RBI, 85 runs, 27 SB, 141 K, 43 BB, 569 AB
Young’s average was brutal last year, but he’s still a pup and once he gains experience he should find his stroke. He’s actually a perfect risk as a third outfielder, because at the very least you’ll get good power numbers, a fair amount of steals and decent run production with him hitting in the leadoff spot, but he could also raise his average a significant amount as he gains more big league at bats.
.295, 24 HR, 81 RBI, 86 runs, 23 SB, 99 K, 36 BB, 505 AB
Keeper alert! In his first full season, Hart almost reached the 25-25 club, while also coming close to a .300 average. He’s a big boy at 6-foot-6 and once he fills out, his home runs could increase. Although, with size usually comes a decrease in speed and quickness, so he might not swipe as many bases as he did last season. He’s a solid third outfielder who could produce his first 100 RBI and 100 run season this year, while also belting 30 home runs and hitting close to .300.
Eric Byrnes, Arizona Diamondbacks
.286, 21 HR, 83 RBI, 103 runs, 50 SB, 98 K, 57 BB, 626 AB
If Byrnes could get his average and RBI numbers up a bit, he’d easily be in the stars category. The issue with Byrnes is that even though his final numbers looked good, most of his high average and power production came in the first half of the season, while he swiped more bags in the second. It’s almost like he changed what kind of player he was at the halfway point. Given his age, he might take a step back this season, so don’t overvalue him.
Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates
.247, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 78 runs, 4 SB, 141 K, 59 BB, 538 AB
Bay has plenty of upside still, but he really struggled last year while battling tendonitis in his surgically repaired right knee. If he’s healthy, he could rack up numbers similar to that of his 2006 season (.290-30-100-100), which would make any owner do back flips. However, at 29, he could also be heading for a bad stretch and could crash and burn. He’s worth the risk as a third outfielder.
Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays
.245, 16 HR, 80 RBI, 85 runs, 10 SB, 89 K, 49 BB, 584 AB
Crash and burn. After posting a .303 average with 32 home runs and 106 RBI in 2006, Wells only managed .245-16-80 after signing a lucrative seven-year deal with the Jays. One could say he’s due for a major bounce back season, but don’t forget he battled eye surgery and a torn labrum in his left shoulder last year. If he’s completely healthy and can return to 2006 form, he’ll be one of the best steals of the draft. But that’s a big if.
Hideki Matsui, New York Yankees
.285, 25 HR, 103 RBI, 100 runs, 4 SB, 73 K, 73 BB, 547 AB
Matsui appears to be on a decline, but he’s still a solid hitter and offers more than enough punch for a third outfielder. He’s also in a stacked lineup and should come close to 100 RBI and 100 runs again this season. He’s an injury risk, but he’s usually consistent and reliable.
.222, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 83 runs, 5 SB, 138 K, 70 BB, 572 AB
Was there a bigger fantasy bust last year than Jones? Normally a player seeking a contract has a monster season before reaching a big payday. Jones did the opposite, turning in the worst performance of his career. So what’s to be expected of Jones this season? Well, he’s still seeking a long-term contract, so maybe this is the year he explodes. To be safe, assume .250-30-100, but with the potential to smack 40-plus long balls if he can find his stoke again.
Jermaine Dye, Chicago White Sox
.254, 28 HR, 78 RBI, 68 runs, 2 SB, 107 K, 45 BB, 508 AB
Dye burned owners last year by posting a .254 average with 28 home runs and 78 RBI after hitting .315 with 44 long balls and 120 RBI in 2006. Assuming he’ll suddenly bounce back to 2006 form would be a mistake, but he should fare better than he did last year. Take him as a third outfielder and maybe he’ll put up No. 2 production.
.262, 22 HR, 78 RBI, 84 runs, 3 SB, 131 K, 100 BB, 539 AB
Tons of people are high on Swisher this year, and for good reason. For starters, he’s entering his prime at 27, and even more intriguing -- he’ll play in a hitters’ ballpark next season. He has excellent power potential and could score 100-plus runs in Chicago’s lineup, but don’t expect his average to top .270.
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
.343, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 47 runs, 10 SB, 66 K, 16 BB, 292 AB
Kemp is a highly intriguing prospect after finishing the 2007 season on a high note. He has the potential to slug close to 20 home runs this year and bat around .280, but he’s also incredibly green and will get his first shot at a full-time role. View him as a potential breakout candidate, but note that he could face some major highs and lows.
Delmon Young, Minnesota Twins
.288, 13 HR, 93 RBI, 65 runs, 10 SB, 127 K, 26 BB, 645 AB
Young made owners want to pull their hair out in the first half of the season, but he did rebound after the All-Star break. He has good power potential, and hitting in a lineup that features Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau certainly won’t hurt his opportunities. Will his attitude get in the way of his potential? Or is this the year he explodes by putting it all together?
Melky Cabrera, New York Yankees
.273, 8 HR, 73 RBI, 66 runs, 13 SB, 68 K, 43 BB, 545 AB
Cabrera might not seem like an exciting player, but he has the potential to hit .280 with 10-plus dingers and drive in close to 80 runs batting at the bottom of the Yankees’ All-Star lineup. He’s especially intriguing to those in keeper leagues, considering he’s only 23 and ready to embark on his third full season. Could Cabrera be one of the big surprises in 2008?
.309, 27 HR, 89 RBI, 105 runs, 6 SB, 119 K, 47 BB, 612 AB
Some are going to be intrigued with Rowand after posting career-bests in homers, RBI, runs, at-bats, walks, on-base percentage and hits. But remember, he was heading into a contract year, played in a hitter’s park, and now joins one of the worst lineups in the league. He’s more likely to hit .285 with 20 dingers and 75 RBI (which certainly isn’t bad, but isn’t great), than to duplicate the .309-27-89 he posted last season.
Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies
.281, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 78 runs, 37 SB, 62 K, 37 BB, 456 AB
Owners wanted to cheer Victorino last year as much as they wanted to strangle him. It always seemed that he would go 3 for 3 with two stolen bases one night, and then 0 for 4 with three strikeouts the next. Regardless, he did have a breakthrough season, and now that Michael Bourn is in Houston, the starting right field job should belong to Victorino. We expect a small dip in production, but he could near a .275 average with 10 long balls and 30 stolen bases again.
Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta Braves
.293, 19 HR, 105 RBI, 84 runs, 5 SB, 129 K, 42 BB, 642 AB
Given his production last year, we might have Francoeur rated too low, but given his age (24), we think he might not break out for another year or two. He’s a solid starter, but don’t assume he’s a lock to bust out. Given his high strikeout rate, his average might drop some from last year, but his power numbers might rise, too. Select him as a third outfielder, but be careful of putting too much stock into his potential.
Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs
N/A (Played in Japan in 2007)
Careful here – don’t buy into the media hype on Fukudome just yet. He’s certainly an intriguing fantasy prospect, but he’s not a lock to be the full-time right fielder and not every Japanese player turns out to be Ichiro or Hideki Matsui. He could post numbers in the range of .290-19-81 hitting in a solid Cubs’ lineup, but he could easily be an overpaid bust, too.
.254, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 59 runs, 4 SB, 128 K, 40 BB, 452 AB
Some owners might be tempted to take Hall as a third outfielder based on his 35-homer season in 2006, but his drop last year shows that he’s just a low-end fantasy option. He could muster 20 home runs and 75 RBI, but his average is likely to hover in the .260-range and he’s battled ankle injuries in the past. Hall’s worth a look if you need power, but chances are there are better options available.
Gary Matthews Jr., Los Angeles Angels
.252, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 79 runs, 18 SB, 102 K, 55 BB, 516 AB
After posting a .313 batting average and a career-high 19 home runs in 2006, plenty of folks figured Matthews would come back to Earth last year – which he did. He might get you 15-plus home runs and 15 stolen bases, but his average will probably hover around .260 and he won’t reach 90 runs or 90 RBI. He is, however, a safer risk than some of the young pups in this category.
Travis Buck, Oakland A’s
.288, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 41 runs, 4 SB, 66 K, 39 BB, 285 AB
Buck played well when he got opportunities last year, flashing good plate discipline and .300-hitting potential. He doesn’t offer a ton of power, but if he gets 500 at bats this year, he could potentially hit 15 dingers and drive in 80 runs.
Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
.221, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 17 runs, 2 SB, 37 K, 11 BB, 140 AB
He’s not a lock to start, but Upton has immense potential and could wind up belting 15 homers and driving in 60 RBI with limited time. He also has decent stolen base potential and hitting in a solid Arizona lineup could provide plenty of run scoring opportunities, too. Until he matures and gains more experience, his average won’t be much to praise.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
.292, 19 HR, 47 RBI, 52 runs, 3 SB, 65 K, 33 BB, 298 AB
The former No. 1 overall selection has had a tough climb back to the majors after a reported heroin addiction, but he flashed enough potential last year to be considered a viable fantasy option. He might start the season as a platoon player, but could essentially earn a starting role if he improves his performance against lefties. Given his potential, he could hit upwards of .290 again with 20-plus dingers and 70-plus RBI.
Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds
.277, 30 HR, 93 RBI, 78 runs, 6 SB, 99 K, 85 BB, 528 AB
Everyone knows the story on Junior – he’s still got the power potential, but he’s going to get injured at some point during the season. It’s a guarantee. However, he did total 528 at bats last year -- his highest since 1999 -- and he’s once again a candidate to reach 30 dingers. As always, however, he’s an injury risk and his average will probably stay in the .275-range.
Matt Diaz, Atlanta Braves
.338, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 44 runs, 4 SB, 63 K, 16 BB, 358 AB
He has to hold off Willie Harris and prospect Brandon Jones, but it appears that with Andruw Jones’ departure, Diaz has a real shot to earn the Braves’ centerfield spot. Still, he probably won’t total more than 450 at bats, and while he does have intriguing average and power potential, he might not get enough opportunities to be a reliable fantasy option.
Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies
.256, 30 HR, 97 RBI, 77 runs, 0 SB, 120 K, 114 BB, 472 AB
Even with a great second half surge last season, nothing has changed with Burrell in three years. He’ll give you home runs and decent RBI production, but he’s also going to strike out a butt load of times, his average will fester around .260, and he won’t steal any (as in zero) bases. Select him knowing exactly what kind of year you’ll get from him.
.277, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 29 runs, 18 SB, 21 K, 13 BB, 119 AB
Bourn’s average, RBI and home run potential are almost non-existent, but hitting leadoff for the ‘Stros will offer plenty of stolen base and run production opportunities. View him solely as a stolen base and run hound.
Rocco Baldelli, Tampa Bay Rays
.204, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 16 runs, 4 SB, 35 K, 9 BB, 137 AB
Could this be the year Baldelli finally stays healthy? Just based on the past couple seasons, probably not, but you might want to take a flyer on him late in the draft if you have an opening on your roster. He has the potential to be a .300 hitter who pops 15-plus home runs and steals 10-plus bases, but don’t view him as anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Mark Teahen, Texas Rangers
.285, 7 HR, 60 RBI, 78 runs, 13 SB, 127 K, 55 BB, 544 AB
This will be the year for Mark Teahen – he’s the perfect sleeper! Okay, so that probably sounds a little familiar and after struggling in 2007, you don’t want to hear he’s a sleeper candidate again, but he is -- sort of. Draft him late and stock him on the shelf. If he realizes his potential, maybe he’ll hit .290 with 15-plus home runs again, like he did in 2006. If not, toss him without any regrets.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
.353, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 20 runs, 9 SB, 60 K, 40 BB, 116 AB
While Ellsbury is intriguing based on his postseason play last season, keep your expectations low. He’s only 24, hasn’t played a full big league season yet, and might not even start this season. If you’re looking for stolen base production, Ellsbury might be a nice option late in the draft. But other than that, he might not even total 450 at bats this season.
Randy Winn, San Francisco Giants
.300, 14 HR, 65 RBI, 73 runs, 15 SB, 85 K, 44 BB, 593 AB
Winn isn’t going to get anyone excited about life, but you could do worse than .300-15-65 late in the draft. His average, home run and stolen base production should stay relatively the same, but unfortunately so should his RBI and run totals hitting in a terrible Giants’ lineup.
.246, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 16 runs, 2 SB, 21 K, 4 BB, 65 AB
Jones has sleeper written all over him, but he doesn’t have much of a supporting cast in Baltimore. He’s highly regarded as a five-tool player with good pop and stolen base potential, but he’s just so young, and as of right now, it’s hard to predict how his first year is going to play out. Do you take him over a more proven commodity like Winn? The payoff could be bigger, but you could get burned, too.
Cameron Maybin, Florida Marlins
.143, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 8 runs, 5 SB, 21 K, 3 BB 49 AB
Looking at the numbers, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why even list this guy?” Well, because “this guy” is supposed to be the next five-tool player. Called up late last year in Detroit, Maybin looked overwhelmed at times. And who could blame him – he was only 19. Now in Florida after being included in the deal that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Florida, Maybin is looking to earn a starting role in Florida. He’s probably too green to draft, but he’s worth keeping an eye on as the season wears on.