Positional Breakdown Preview – Outfielders
As fantasy baseball draft season is now going full bore, let’s go position by position and analyze some of the players we expect to exceed or underperform compared to their draft slots. Rather than writing up one sleepers & busts article, we’re going to give you some sleepers and potential busts at every position. Here's a full look at our outfield rankings for 2012.
Outfielders To Watch
Much like Jim did with the relievers (and I suspect he'll do for the starters), we're looking at a position that's much deeper than the infield spots. A standard twelve team league is generally going to see more than fifty outfielders drafted, so we're not going to look at everyone. We'll take a look at the elite four or five before looking at some guys who could be pleasant surprises.
The Elite: Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez
Basically, we're looking at any outfielder that should be drafted in the first two rounds as an elite option. Each of the players above is well-rounded in terms of power and speed except for maybe Bautista (though his 9 SB last year say otherwise).
- There's absolutely no way that Kemp repeats last season's performance. That's not a slight on his talent, though. Kemp hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 HR, 40 SB, 115 Runs, and 126 RBI last season. To expect anyone to repeat those numbers is asking a bit much. He's a safe top five pick who could go as high as first overall.
- There are some question marks surrounding Braun, who had the bizarro PED suspension scare in the offseason. He's also been battling a nagging groin injury this spring, though he's expected to be ready to go for the regular season. Like Kemp, he contributes across the board, and is coming off of a season that saw him hit .332/.397/.597 with 33 HR, 33 SB, 109 Runs, and 111 RBI. He's a true five category contributor who probably goes in the top five.
- Ellsbury's power spike last season is something to be a little concerned about. He suddenly went from being a 10 HR/50+ SB guy to a 30/30 guy last season. As he's just coming into his prime, we have to believe that some of the power spike was for real, but don't bank on 32 HR again. He'll hit for average, steal a ton of bases, and hit about 20 HR. Toss in 100 Runs and a ton of RBI for a leadoff man (he won't match his 105 from a year ago, but 80 isn't out of the question) and he'll be a stud even if the power slips. I'd look at him as more of a second rounder, which means I probably wouldn't get him.
- While Joey Bats watched his HR total slip from 54 to 43 (and his RBI total drop as well), he was arguably a better player in 2011 than he was in 2010. Bautista improved his average from .260 to .302 while maintaining a Bondsian 20.2% walk rate (see: bonus in OBP leagues... .447 last season!). He doesn't have the speed that the rest of the guys in this group have, but his power is unmatched. He should challenge for the league lead in HR again in 2012, and the average spike is for real. Why? Because he's improved his discipline and pitch recognition.
- Upton seems a little lost on this list, as he's never had a 100 RBI season and has hit .300 just once in his career. He also hasn't shown the overwhelming SB production that Kemp or Ellsbury have, as he's turned in just a couple of 20 SB seasons. What puts him in this group is the fact that he's still on the way up. Upton is still just 24 and is coming off of a .289/.369/.529 year with 31 HR and 21 SB. We're getting close to the point where we've seen everything he can do, but we're not quite there yet. This should be the year that he truly finds another level.
- Cargo didn't exactly build on his massive 2010 season, but he did show that he's more than capable of repeating it. The power and speed are there for him to post a couple of 30/30 seasons, which tend to be even more impressive when you toss in a strong average (.298 career). .300/30/100/100/30 isn't out of the question, which makes him a great pick who probably lasts until early in the second round.
Presley is more of a deep league play, but we've got to like anyone who has shown he can hit for average with double digit power and the potential to steal twenty bases. Give him 500 AB near the top of the Pirates' order and he could end up a Top 50 outfielder.
We covered him with the first basemen. Here's what I had to say:
Post hype sleepers are always a good way to go. Belt’s big league numbers from last season (.225/.306/.412) are kind of hard to look at. The pundits will point to the fact that his manager never really gave him much of a chance. In order for Belt to become the star that the Giants envisioned, he’s going to have to be given time to adjust without feeling like he won’t be in the lineup for two weeks if he has an 0 for 4 day. As awful as his rookie year was, Belt’s OBP matched Aubrey Huff’s production while he slugged 42 points higher. There’s a big bat here, and Bruce Bochy is going to run out of excuses for pulling him out of the lineup. Expect 500 AB, a solid .270 average with a high OBP, 25 HR, and 80 RBI. He just needs the chance to adjust to the level.
Even if it's at two deep positions, Belt's dual eligibility is an added bonus. Go get him!
John Mayberry, Jr.
Mayberry played well enough to start every day despite limited action last season. With Ryan Howard out until possibly the All Star Break, Mayberry will have his shot this season as a first baseman. In just 296 plate appearances in 2011, Mayberry hit 15 HR with 8 steals. Don't expect those numbers to double if his at bats do, but there's a solid 20+ HR player with enough speed to make a difference here.
There isn't any one tool that will blow you away, but Cain does a little bit of everything. The speed's there to steal 20 bases. The power is there for him to hit 15 to 20 HR. He's hit .300 between AAA and the majors the past couple of seasons. With Melky Cabrera's move to San Francisco in the offseason, Cain won't only start in CF for the Royals... He'll also bat near the top of a loaded young order.
Everyone loves LoMo. I like him, too, but I don't see a 30 HR guy here. Morrison's .221 ISO last season was way out of character compared to anything he's done since he played in A ball back in 2007. He'll improve on the average and keep a big OBP, but Morrison's ceiling is probably that of an Andre Ethier type. Many are projecting him to be better than Ethier already.
In a solid hitter's park, Cabrera posted career bests in all of the 5X5 categories last season. His 18 HR were five more than he'd ever hit. His 102 Runs were 36 more than he'd ever scored in a season. His 87 RBI were 14 more than he'd ever driven in. His 20 SB were seven more than he'd ever swiped in a season. His .302 average was 22 points higher than he'd ever hit. A trade to the Giants, where he'll have a more difficult park to hit in and inferior lineup support, should see him return to the Melky of old.... that makes him a solid NL Only or deep league play.
It all depends on how you define bust. Will Grandy hit 20/20 this season? Maybe. I feel safe saying he'll hit 20 HR. I'm iffy on the SB. What he absolutely won't do is hit 40 HR, score 125+ runs (136 last year), or drive in 110+ (drove in 119). The .267 lifetime hitter who hit .262 overall in a career year will hurt your average a bit, too. Would I take him in the fifth or sixth round? Absolutely! The problem is that he's going in the second.
Jim tells me he'll be back with the conclusion of this series (covering SP) Monday.