Well we’re getting to that time! Opening day in the states is just around the corner, while the A’s and Mariners open up their season in Japan on Wednesday. With ballparks opening up all over the country in the next week, it only means that fantasy baseball leagues will be finishing up their drafts.
My best advice to drafting your outfield is the same as it is when it comes to starting pitching: get one stud and wait on the rest.
There are not only great outfielders you can get deep in your draft every year (because it’s typically the deepest position in the game annually), but there are also young studs that surprise some people that you can pick up on the wire during the season.
Because there are a plethora of outfielders and I (and you as a reader) only have so much time, I’m going to make these rankings as concise and as easy-to-read as possible. So peruse this list and then go get yourself a Dodger Dog. Enjoy!
Note: As long as I don’t have to over-pay, I am also taking a prospect with high upside over a veteran with a guarantee of average numbers, (ie. Alejandro De Aza over Marlon Byrd)
Note Two: I will only ‘rank’ my top 36 players, considering these players would be the only guys I would start immediately in a standard 12-team mixed league. Please use this guide in helping you to determine which outfielders to target, and who to stay away from–and not over-pay for–on draft day.
Guys I Love. (AndGreat Value Picks!)
Based on their ADP (average draft position), these players could be draft day bargains. Get ready to jump.
1 Jose Bautista (Tor) – He wins you a category, guaranteed. Also plays 3B.
2 Matt Kemp (LAD) – Could go 40/40.
3 Ryan Braun (Mil) – Consistent as any. Hopefully ‘roid free.
4 Jacoby Ellsbury (Bos) – Last year was no fluke.
5 Carlos Gonzalez (Col) – Produced great numbers two years in a row.
6 Justin Upton (Ari) – Still so young, could be the next Matt Kemp, or better.
7 Curtis Granderson (NYY) – Avg. around .260, but speed and power for real.
8 Matt Holliday (STL) – Consistently good. Last year’s injuries were flukey.
9 Josh Hamilton (Tex) – Amazing when he plays. Expect 125-130 games.
12 Michael Bourn (Atl) – Will win you ‘steals,’ while also hits for avg. and runs.
14 Michael Morse (Was) – Finally broke out in a big way. Expect .290/30/100.
16 Lance Berkman (STL) – The Puma isn’t done yet.
18 Alex Gordon (KC) – Finally lived up to expectations, in his peak years.
20 Adam Jones (Bal) – Keeps improving every year. 25/25 guy easy.
21 Carlos Beltran (STL) – Had a better OBP than Albert Pujols last year.
24 Andre Ethier (LAD) – Played hurt last year, ignore 2nd half numbers.
25 Shin-Soo Choo (Cle) – Played hurt as well.
33 Melky Cabrera (SF) – Everyone says he’s for real. Came into spring training determined to just play ball.
36 Martin Prado (Atl) – Hurt last year, but expect all-star numbers again in ’12.
Jason Kubel (Min) – Could have a career year if healthy. He’s in the desert now, not Minnesota.
Emilio Bonifacio (Mia) – Will steal 40+ and hit for a decent average. Plays infield spots too.
John Mayberry (Phi) – Had a huge debut last year. Will fill in for Howard. Love this guy.
Yonder Alonso (SD) – Couldn’t play in Cin because of Joey Votto. He’s been one of the top prospects in the game for years and will finally get his chance in SD. Scouts say he will hit for a high average with decent power.
J.D. Martinez (Hou) – Had great call-up last year. Expect good things.
Allen Craig – Looks like he’ll be ready to go in early April. Cards teammates say he would hit in the middle of the order of most lineups. He’s set for a big year.
Raul Ibanez – In a stacked Yankees lineup where he can also DH, the conditions are just right for a good year from a veteran that still has gas in the tank.
Dayan Viciedo – Perennial minor league slugger could have huge break out year.
Alex Presley (Pit) – Great speed, OK power. Should score a lot of runs. The Pirates aren’t your Pirates of old.
Vernon Wells (LAA) – Will rebound after poor and unlucky year. Expect .250/25/90.
Value Is Appropriate
These guys are being drafted close to their value. Feel free to grab at the right time, but do not reach.
10 Giancarlo Stanton (Fla) – Some risk with age, but could be home run leader.
11 Nelson Cruz (Tex) – See ‘Josh Hamilton.’
13 Andrew McCutchen (Pit) – Reliable across the board.
15 Jay Bruce (Cin) – Low average, great pop.
17 Hunter Pence (Phi) – Will have to lead the lineup in Philly with no Howard.
19 Carl Crawford (Bos) – Wrist needs to be healthy, if it is then watch out.
22 Jayson Werth (Was) – Will play more like Jayson Werth this year.
23 Jason Heyward (Atl) – 3rd year = no sophomore slump.
26 Brett Gardner (NYY) – Next best bet in steals behind Bourn.
28 Ben Zobrist (TB) – Plays multiple spots. Has speed and some pop.
29 Drew Stubbs (Cin) – Low avg, good homer totals.
30 Shane Victorino (Phi) –Flyin’ Hawaiian doesn’t dominate a category, but solid across the board.
31 Ichiro Suzuki (Sea) – Not the Ichiro of old, but will still get you at least 30 stolen bags and an average around .300. Had unlucky BABIP last year.
32 Michael Cuddyer (Col) – Had career year last year, now he’s in hitter-friendly Colorado. Plays multiple positions.
34 Cameron Maybin (SD) – Still very young. ‘Post-hype sleeper,’ could get 40 stolen bases with homers in the teens.
35 B.J. Upton (TB) – Will hurt your average, but help in steals and homers.
Howie Kendrick (LAA) – Plays 2B and will get you decent power/speed numbers.
Nick Swisher (NYY) – Bad average, but good for homers.
Chris Young (Ari) – Like Swisher, only an even worse average.
Jeff Francoeur (KC) – Might not put up last year’s numbers again, but
Nick Markakis (Bal) – Decent across the board.
Austin Jackson (Det) – Probably a Desmond Jennings-light.
Angel Pagan (SF) – Could match Melky’s numbers. Not a bad player. Good speed.
Peter Bourjos (LAA) – ‘Fastest white guy alive’ could have big year if he gets on base. A young Scott Podsednik possibly.
Alex Rios (CHW) – Should bounce back a little after an awful ’11.
Corey Hart (Mil) – Will probably start year on DL, but when he plays he’s a great, cheap home run source.
Delmon Young (Det) – Could do worse.
Josh Willingham (Min) – Really good numbers besides the lower than average ‘avg.’.
Brandon Belt (SF) – Still very young, could break out in ’12.
Brennan Boesch (Det) – People love his power potential.
Torii Hunter (LAA) – Aging, but could still get you 20 HRs.
Coco Crisp (Oak) – Cheap steals.
Mark Trumbo (LAA) – Will play some 3B, and could still hit 30 HRs.
Yoenis Cespedes (Oak) – No one knows if he will be for real, but the hype sure is exciting.
Jose Tabata (Pit) – Should rebound after injury plagued ’12.
Lucas Duda (NYM) – Scouts and stat geeks love his potential. Could hit for good average and power.
Seth Smith (Oak) – Could put up Josh Willingham-like numbers.
Carlos Lee (Hou) – Numbers keep declining with his age, but could still put up some production.
Logan Morrison (Mia) – If he hits as well as he tweets we’ll all be in b’ness.
Matt Joyce (TB) – If he can put together full season, then he’ll be house hold name. Had monster first half last year.
Denard Span (Min) – Great buy.
Dexter Fowler (Col) – Speedster, but needs to get average up.
Alejandro De Aza (CHW) – Solid prospect should compete for Rookie of the Year.
Marlon Byrd (CHC) – Don’t pay for him like the Cubs did and you might be OK with a him as a serviceable 3rd/4th outfielder.
Alfonso Soriano – Power is still there, that’s about it.
Andres Torres (NYM) – Serviceable.
Will Venable (SD) – Serviceable.
Ty Wigginton (Phi) – Streaky player always has a great month or two. Will fill in for Ryan Howard.
Ryan Raburn (Det) – Has had a monster spring. Solid 3rd or 4th outfielder.
These guys have solid numbers, but be careful. They’re going much higher in drafts than they should, considering their value.
27 Desmond Jennings (TB) – A lot of risk with lack of experience. Could be better than Carl Crawford though.
Colby Rasmus (Tor) – Reports say his attitude is horrible, the power potential is still there.
Carlos Quentin (SD) – Will miss 4-6 weeks to start the year. Low average.
Jason Bay (NYM) – Don’t trust him any further than you can throw him.
Michael Brantley (Cle) – There are better options here with lower risk.
Mitch Moreland (Tex) – Analysts still believe. I’m skeptical.
Mike Trout (LAA) – He’s great, but where will he play?
Late Round Gold Mining. AKA Deep Sleepers!
Lorenzo Cain (KC) – Analysts raving about him. His spring OPS is off the charts.
Mike Carp – Had a great two months at the end of last year in his debut.
Ben Revere – Former No. 1 draft pick is putting it together. Has elite speed.
Bryan LaHair (CHC) – Will surprise a lot of people.
Jason Bourgeois (KC) – Has elite speed. If he gets playing time and he hits get ready to jump on him right away.
Chris Heisey (Cin) – Literally has potential to hit 30 home runs.
Eric Thames (Tor) – Will most likely hit in the middle of a good Jays lineup.
Josh Reddick (Oak) – Has had terrific spring after impressive 2nd half of ’11. Love him for a late-rounder.
Jesus Guzman (SD) – Will be one of the best late finds in drafts for 2012. Hit over .300 in his debut last year with decent power. Will fill in for Carlos Quentin and Kyle Blanks, who are injured.
The rest of the league
I wouldn’t bother looking at any of these players unless they’re your back-up in an incredibly deep league. These guys are second-string, at best.
Manny Ramirez – Oak
Gerardo Parra – Ari
Jon Jay – STL
Jordan Schafer – Hou
Bobby Abreu- LAA
Aubrey Huff – SF
David Murphy – Tex
Nolan Reimold – Bal
Garrett Jones – Pit
Cody Ross – Bos
Andrew Jones – NYY
Rajai Davis – Tor
Domonic Brown – Phi
Bryce Harper – Was
David DeJesus – CHC
Hideki Matsui – Oak
Juan Rivera – LAD
Brian Bogusevic – Hou
Ryan Ludwick – Cin
Ryan Sweeney – Bos
Roger Bernadina – Was
Nyjer Morgan – Mil
Luke Scott – TB
Chris Denorfia – SD
Craig Gentry – Tex
Casper Wells – Sea
Leonys Martin – Tex
Franklin Gutierrez – Sea
Kosuke Fukudome – CHW
Chris Coghlan – Mia
Jerry Sands – LAD
Bryan Petersen – Mia
Nate Schierholtz – SF
Tyler Colvin – Col
Juilio Borbon – Tex
Willie Bloomquist – Ari
Trayvon Robinson – Sea
Jonny Gomes – Oak
Juan Pierre – Phi
Andy Dirks – Det
Tony Gwynn – LAD
Grady Sizemore – Cle
Kyle Blanks – SD
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Josh Helmuth is the sports editor and lead baseball writer for CraveOnline and has won ‘The League Of Champions’ fantasy baseball league four out of six years. You can follow him on Twitter @Jhelmuth and you can subscribe to CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.