Fantasy Baseball Focus: American League outfielders
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Editor’s Note: Fantasy Baseball Focus is a breakdown of each league, position by position. Each team receives a fantasy analysis on the starter, backup and future prospect if there is one. In case you’re wondering, is there a schedule? Why, yes! Thanks for asking. On the right hand side of the page (your other right), look for the Fantasy Baseball Focus headline. Jamie Shoemaker will analyze the National League, while Dan Kirby handles the American League. Good luck in your fantasy leagues!
Outfield is always the deepest of all positions. It’s where you find most of the top run producers, as well as the power/speed guys. If you can land a player who can get you 30 HR/30 SB, it takes a lot of pressure off your later-round picks and gives your team balance. Of course, there are also many 20 HR/10 SB guys who can be just as valuable if you get enough of them. Whatever your strategy is, here is a breakdown of the position in the American League, along with a handy guide to help you during your draft.
For-sure pick – It means you’ll get consistency, nothing less, nothing more.
Sleeper – Underrated in drafts; can get in later rounds but might produce above-average stats.
Overrated – Might not produce at the hype he’s supposed to produce at.
Long-term value – Might not be the best bet for this year but excellent for keeper leagues.
Top 10 American League outfielders
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays — 2011 stats: 105 R, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 9 SB, .302/.447/.608
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox — 2011 stats: 119 R, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB, .321/.376/.552
3. Curtis Granderson, Yankees — 2011 stats: 136 R, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 25 SB, .262/.364/.552
4. Josh Hamilton, Rangers — 2011 stats: 80 R, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 8 SB, .298/.346/.536
5. Alex Gordon, Royals — 2011 stats: 101 R, 23 HR, 87 RBI, 17 SB, .303/.376/.502
6. B.J. Upton, Rays — 2011 stats: 82 R, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 36 SB, .243/.331/.429
7. Nelson Cruz, Rangers — 2011 stats: 64 R, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 9 SB, .263/.312/.509
8. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians — 2011 stats: 37 R, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 12 SB, .259/.344/.390
9. Desmond Jennings, Rays — 2011 stats: 44 R, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 20 SB, .259/.356/.449
10. Brett Gardner, Yankees — 2011 stats: 87 R, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 49 SB, .259/.345/.369
Starters: Markakis is as safe a pick as there is. While he won’t put you over the top in any category, he is durable and consistent year in, year out. He has averaged 160 games played over the last five seasons with a .296 average. He has also averaged 90 runs, 18 home runs, 87 RBI and 11 stolen bases over that span. Grab him in the middle rounds without worries. Jones had a career year last season, hitting .280 with 25 home runs, 83 RBI and 12 stolen bases. His 113 strikeouts to 29 walks scares me off a little as that kind of plate discipline will catch up to his batting average sooner or later. Don’t expect last year’s numbers in 2012, expect more like .260, 20 HR, 75 RBI and 8 SB. Reimold hit .247 with 13 home runs, 45 RBI and seven stolen bases over 87 games last season. At age 28, the 6’-4”, 215 lb righty can produce 25+ home runs if given enough playing time. A nice late-round pick due to his potential for a breakout season.
Backup: At age 34, Chavez is nearing the end of his career and should only be considered in deeper leagues. He can still hit for a good average and steal about 10 bases, but other than that, not a good option in standard leagues.
Starters: Will Ellsbury hit 30 home runs again? Probably not, but even if he puts up a .300 average with 110 runs, 20 home runs, 80 RBI and 30 stolen bases, he is still among the elite at his position. He fills the stat sheet and will be gone by the second round. A for-sure-pick even if his 2011 season came out of nowhere. Crawford had a very disappointing 2011 with career lows in almost every category. The huge contract, coupled with playing out of his comfort zone clearly took its toll on him. Having offseason wrist surgery, which will cause him to miss most of April, only adds to his struggles. He is a high-risk/high-reward pick, but be prepared for more disappointment in 2012. Crawford will be overrated because everyone will think he will bounce back this season. Sweeney doesn’t offer much fantasy value. He hits for a good average, but doesn’t hit for power or steal any bases. Only should be considered in deep leagues.
Backups: Kalish hit .252 with four home runs, 24 RBI and 10 stolen bases over 53 games in 2011. The 23-year-old could see his playing time increase with Crawford being out and can offer good stolen bases numbers along with a solid batting average. However, over the course of the season, he won’t get enough playing time to warrant a spot in standard leagues. In deeper leagues, he can provide great value, especially early on. Ross is a good source of power in deeper leagues, and he will also get more playing time with the Crawford injury. Use him early, then spot start him in deeper leagues.
Starters: Rios has all the talent in the world but can’t put it together consistently. After an outstanding 2010, in which he hit .284 with 21 home runs, 88 RBI and 34 stolen bases, he hit just .227 with 13 home runs, 44 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 2011. Too risky for my taste, but if you get him late, he could pay off nicely. Viciedo is a tank at 5’-11” and 230 lbs. He hit .296 with 20 home runs, 78 RBI and a .856 OPD over 505 plate appearances for triple-A Charlotte in 2011. He also shows a good approach at the plate with 85 K/45 BB over that span. Still just 22 years old, the power potential is great, and he could see some significant time at DH this season if Dunn’s woes continue. Not going to steal bases, but should hit for a good average with enough power for a deeper league roster spot. De Aza is a very good hitter. Over 53 games in 2011, he hit .329 with four home runs, 23 RBI, 12 stolen bases and a .920 OPS. At age 28, he is entering his prime, and could put up a line of .290 with 10 HR, 55 RBI and 25 SB over a full season. Could be a nice late-round steal in deeper leagues.
Backups: Lillibridge provided nice value in 2011 as he hit .258 with 13 home runs, 29 RBI and 10 stolen bases in just 216 plate appearances. Whether or not he can do it again in limited time remains to be seen. Still, he is a good option in deeper leagues. Fukudome was just signed by the White Sox. As a Cubs fan, I can say, without bias, stay away from him.
Starters: Sizemore, the one-time fantasy stud, has battled serious injuries over the last three seasons missing 276 games. At age 29, it remains to be seen if he can get anywhere close to the type of player he was. Until he can put together another full season, look somewhere else in standard leagues. In deeper leagues, he is worth a late-round gamble. After putting up nearly identical numbers in 2009 (.300/ 20 HR/ 86 RBI/ 21 SB) and 2010 (.300/ 22 HR/ 90 RBI/ 22 SB), a broken thumb and an oblique injury caused Choo to miss almost half of the season. Fully healthy, and ready to go, count on Choo to post numbers similar to 2010. Brantley hit .266 with seven home runs, 46 RBI and 13 stolen bases over 114 games in 2011. He has a ton of speed, can hit for a good average and can get you 10 home runs. A very solid option in deeper leagues.
Backup: Duncan is a good pickup in deeper leagues as he will qualify at both first base and the outfield depending on your league’s rules. He hit .260 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI over 247 plate appearances in 2011. He might end up getting more playing time at first this season than the outfield but could put up 25 home runs given enough playing time.
Starters: After coming over from the Twins last season, Young hit .274 with eight home runs and 32 RBI over 40 games for the Tigers. The former first-overall pick of the 2003 draft is still just 26 years old and hasn’t entered his prime yet. Hitting behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will give him plenty of RBI opportunities this season and I can see a line if .290, 20 HR and 100 RBI with room for more. A sleeper pick for 2012. Jackson strikes out a ton (351 over 304 career games) but he does steal bases and plays everyday. If your league counts triples, he has 21 over his first two seasons. His average will hurt you though, and he doesn’t steal enough bases to make him a top-tier guy. A solid option in standard leagues, but don’t grab him until the later rounds. Boesch is fully recovered from thumb surgery and could have a monster year if he hits behind Cabrera and Fielder. The 6’-4”, 230 lb lefty has enormous power while also hitting for a good average due to his solid approach at the plate. He hit .306 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI before the break last season before struggling to end the season. I could see a line of .280, 25 HR and 90 RBI in 2012.
Backup: Dirks hit .251 with seven home runs, 28 RBI and five stolen bases over 78 games last season. The 26-year-old should only be considered in deeper leagues as he doesn’t offer much value.
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