Fantasy Baseball Focus: National League outfielders

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!

J-Hey is looking to get back to form. Word from Florida is "that familiar crack is back."

Even though the National League lost a few big boppers at first base, it still has plenty of power in the outfield. That’s the beauty of the outfield position, it’s the deepest position you will find. I’m going to run through the top outfielders you probably have interest in. If I leave someone off the list, it’s probably because they aren’t worth a rundown on why you shouldn’t draft them. If I do leave off someone you think is worth it, let me know below in the comments.

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-ten outfielders

  1. Ryan Braun, Brewers — 2011 stats: 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, .332 AVG
  2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers — 2011 stats: 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, .324 AVG
  3. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies — 2011 stats: 26 HR, 92 RBI, 20 SB, .295 AVG
  4. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks — 2011 stats: 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB, 39 doubles
  5. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins — 2011 stats: 34 HR, 87 RBI, 30 doubles
  6. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates — 2011 stats: 23 HR, 89 RBI, 23 SB, 34 doubles
  7. Jay Bruce, Reds — 2011 stats: 32 HR, 97 RBI, 27 doubles
  8. Hunter Pence, Phillies — 2011 stats: 22 HR, 97 RBI, 38 doubles, .314 AVG
  9. Michael Morse, Nationals — 2011 stats: 31 HR, 95 RBI, 36 doubles, .303 AVG
  10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals — 2011 stats: 22 HR, 75 RBI, 36 doubles, .296 AVG

Atlanta Braves Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward, Martin Prado

Starters: The Braves are excited about having Bourn in the lineup for a full season, and fantasy owners are excited he’s the catalyst for the Braves for a full season, as well. Bourn’s value wasn’t where it was in 2010, and any player who played on Houston’s team took a hit in overall draft position. Getting traded to Atlanta was the best thing for teams in keeper leagues, and he’s almost a lock to lead the league in steals. If you are in a category league, he’ll lock your steals down every week, probably by himself. He’ll hit for a high average, and look for him to score well over 100 times this year, as well. Heyward had a rough sophomore year last year, hitting .227/.319/.389 (wow!), and the sad thing is, his draft value will probably stay the same. He has too much hype, too much potential to drop any. Reports out of Braves camp is he’s back to normal and healthy. If only he can produce that way. Long-term value just because he will produce at some point. Prado, like Heyward, had a rough year. Battling injuries and adjusting to a new position has hindered Prado a bit. Prado’s greatest value was that he got on base a lot, and he doesn’t strikeout much. Those in strikeout leagues, where they hurt you, he’s a good option. Those in leagues where that doesn’t matter, he’s a low, mid-level pick.

Miami Marlins — Logan Morrison, Giancarlo Stanton, Emilio Bonifacio

Starters: Stanton comes into the season as one of the favorites to lead the league in home runs. Given Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are now in the AL, it’s not a reach for Stanton to claim that title. He had 34 HR in his first full year but was a disappointment in the RBI category (87) and strikeouts (166).  Stanton offers a little bit of speed, as well, stealing five bases with five triples. For-sure pick and long-term value. With Jose Reyes setting the table for the Marlins, look for his RBI totals to top 100 this year. Morrison broke out in his sophomore season, jacking 23 HR, 72 RBI and 25 doubles in only 123 games. His only downfall was that he batted below .250 on the year, and I look for that to be closer to .270 average. Like Stanton, Morrison will benefit from the Marlins offseason signings. Bonifacio will get the chance to see if he can start off where he finished last year when he hit .305/.364/.403 in the second half, where he also added four homers and three triples while stealing 24 bases (40 total). Nice second half, but would like to see it throughout a full year. He’ll be sandwiched between Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez to start the season, which isn’t a bad spot to be. Sleeper.

New York Mets — Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Scott Hairston

Starters: Bay figures to be the most prominent Mets outfielder, although that’s not saying much. Bay was a mainstay in hitting 30 HR a year until he made the trip to the Big Apple. His last two years have been injury prone — not finishing more than 125 games, and he hasn’t hit more than 12 HR in a season since. To put it more in perspective, he has decreased in every category. Want to hear the shocking part to all of this? People will still draft him in the first 10 rounds. Yes, it’s true; apparently moving and lowering the fences of Citi Field will increase every category and add 20 HR back on his total. Yeah … can you say overrated? Pretty much like everything in NY. (Zing!)

The rest of the outfield will probably start the season with the likes of Torres and Hairston (who you shouldn’t draft) and will most likely finish with the likes of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Cesar Puello.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Nieuwenhuis starts the year in the majors, to be honest. Torres and Hairston aren’t exactly flashy, and the Mets don’t stand a chance in hell of winning, so why not give the promising prospect a shot. He was spending some quality time at triple-A last year and had a season-ending injury that required surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. He was having one of his better seasons, hitting .298 at the time with six homers going into 50 games or so. He’s an interesting pick. He’s got a huge frame at 6′-3″, 215 pounds and has decent power. Given a full season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 15 HR, but I don’t think his average will top .270, and he strikes out too much for my liking. Puello has stellar baserunning skills with some pop. He needs to work on making contact more often, but we could see him up in the bigs by mid-summer.

Philidelphia Phillies — Domonic Brown, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino

Starter: Like Bourn, Pence owners were ecstatic to see him head to Philadelphia. Being surrounded by better players and protection in the lineup usually yields better results. It showed, too. In 50 games, he batted .324 with 11 HR. He’s a for-sure pick. Steady numbers. The same goes with Victorino, he’s a for-sure pick. I’d take him on any team I have. He doesn’t strike out much, swipes bases, hits for decent power (15-20 HR) and gets his share of runs and RBIs. Brown is the odd-ball of the group, as he’s a far from a sure pick, but I like his potential and upside better than what else the Phillies might throw out there to start the season. In a full, healthy season, Brown can put up similar numbers to Victorino, he just strikes out more often and will probably have a lower average as a result of less contact. Everything else will be identical. But that’s a perfect scenario.

Will Bryce Harper start on opening day, or better yet, will he produce? (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

Washington Nationals Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Roger Bernadina

Starters: Werth did what every critic and human thought he would do with his first year in Washington … sucked. Werth’s numbers dropped in every category, including a 60-plus point drop in batting average. He’s never hit over .300, and we can expect a little better season, but he’s not worth the money. Bernadina isn’t worth drafting, hits like Werth with little power. It’s hard to not get excited about superstar Harper (long-term value), knowing he can push a contending fantasy team into contention. It’s unknown if he will start the season in the majors or if they will bring him up after a month or two to delay service time, but once he’s up, he should be in your lineup. Expect 15-20 homers with just as many stolen bases in his short time up.

Chicago Cubs Brett Jackson, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus

Starter: Reed Johnson, Byrd, DeJesus are all about the same player and each one will battle each other for playing time all year, which isn’t good any way you look at it. Jackson figures to get a shot at starting this year. He’s definitively a sleeper, and he hit .274/.379/.490 with 20 HR, five triples in only 115 games between double-A and triple-A last year. Soriano isn’t a .300 hitter anymore, and he’s actually declining every year in that category. One year he might hit 30 home runs, one year he might hit 40 doubles, one year he might even walk more than 40 times, but we do know one thing: He will kill your on-base percentage and you have no idea what to expect out of him. Overrated.

Cincinnati Reds — Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Ludwick

Starter: Bruce enters his fifth season after putting up arguably his greatest season in 2011. Other than his slash line declining, he belted 32 HR, 27 doubles, 97 RBIs and actually walked 71 times. The free swinger still struck out 158 times, so for those in leagues where that hurts, stay away. He slimmed down this offseason, so we’ll see how that translates for him. I expect similar results from him, just know the strikeouts will be there, too.  So, you think Bruce strikes out a lot … Stubbs struck out over 200 times last year (that’s almost Mark Reynolds numbers!), but he did decline in almost every category. I do see him returning back to 2010 form, in the neighborhood of 20 HR with a .250/.310/.420 line. Ludwick is far from his 2008 form in which he hit 37 HR with a line of .299/.375/.591, and you will be lucky to see the same line as Stubbs, just not as many Ks.

Pittsburgh Pirates — Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, Gorkys Hernandez, Nate McLouth

Starter: McCutchen was placed in the three-hole most of the year, and he responded well. Belting career highs in home runs (23) and runs batted in (89). He walked more, but he also struck out more, basically washes in the end. He did decline in average last year, dropping 30 points, but his on-base percentage and slugging percentage stayed the same, so I assume that his average was just a bump in McCutchen’s fantasy value. He will do fine, and you should draft with confidence. For-sure pick. Tabata looks like he’ll be a lock to start the year as the starting LF. He doesn’t have much upside except for a few steals. He could steal 30 in a full season. Presley isn’t a sure lock but I believe, in due time, he will be. He helped win a few categories for me in a category league last year. In just 52 games, he hit .298/.339/.465 with six triples, nine stolen bases and 12 doubles. He played well, hard and smart. He hit well in the minors, almost the same as he’s hitting now. I’d take him in my league. Sleeper. Hernandez came over from the Braves in a trade for McLouth. He used to be a five-tool player but, lately, has regressed a bit. He’ll get a shot if someone goes down with an injury or if McLouth struggles. McLouth is the best sleeper you will find. He never turned it around with the Braves, but I firmly believe he still has it in him. Something was up there, you see it from time to time — a player just doesn’t perform for a certain team. Everywhere else, he did; that team, he didn’t. I think that’s McLouth’s case here. A reunion with the Pirates is about as good as it can get for McLouth. He’ll be loved, not booed … for once again.

St. Louis Cardinals — Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay

Starter: Beltran is definetly aging and most thought he was done before last year. He helped some fantasy owners who gambled on him and put up a .300/.385/.525 line with 22 long balls, 39 doubles and six triples. I don’t expect the same with the Cardinals this year; maybe on the long balls, but not the line. Still, he’s an interesting option. If he falls in the draft, go for him. Holliday, even with a wrist injury last year, put up better numbers than most who played 162 games. Expect 20-plus homers, 40 doubles, 100-plus RBI and an occasional steal here and there. He’s not going to move far from his slash career line of .315/.388/.541. For-sure pick. Jay played in 159 games last year, while that’s good, he also didn’t put up worthy fantasy-baseball stats. If you’re just looking for average, you can go with him as he hit .297. But he has very little pop and doesn’t offer much on the base paths either.

Milwaukee Brewers — Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Norichika Aoki, Nyger Morgan

Starter: Braun had one of his best seasons last year, hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 long balls. He’s a five-tool player as he stole 33 bases, as well. Braun is overcoming a rough offseason in which he failed a steroid test and later had it reversed due to a technicality in the testing process. Not sure that erases the blemish from his name, but, oh well. Great news for fantasy owners, though, as he’s the closest sure thing you’ll ever get to. For-sure pick. Hart was slated to play some outfield and 1B but is shelved for four weeks after undergoing surgery on his right knee. Hart put up big numbers last year, hitting .285 with 26 long balls. Aoki comes over from Japan, where he was a three-time batting champion and gold glover, but will have to compete for a starting spot on the Brewers. He’s even been referenced as “a good pinch-hitter,” so don’t get your hopes up too much. It’s a wait and see situation. Morgan, AKA T-Plush, won’t do anything for your fantasy baseball team except for a few steals and a decent average, but you’ll have the most colorful player in the league, if that gets you any points.

Houston Astros J.D. Martinez, Jason Bourgeois, Brian Bogusevic, Jordan Schafer

Starter:  Martinez got the call late last year and boy did he take advantage of it. In just 53 games, he hit six long balls with 35 RBIs. In the minors, he hit for a high average (.342 over three seasons) and had good pop. It’s not unrealistic to see 20-plus homers and 100 RBI out of Martinez. Sleeper. Just know he will have his bouts and will strikeout more than you want. Bourgeois is back in the mix at CF and RF but is only useful on your team if you are looking for steals. Bogusevic is about the same, and Schafer finally gets a fresh start. He’s on a mission to grab the CF job again, and I firmly believe he will win it, but he has to avoid the injury bug. Risky pick but does have some upside.

Arizona Diamondbacks — Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jason Kubel

Starter: Upton comes in as one of the, if not top, outfielder in the NL. He’s got pure talent and a five tool star. He had his best season last year, belting 31 HR with 88 RBI and hit .289/.369/.529. For-sure pick that will even steal 20-plus bases but he will strike out around 130 times. So, those in leagues that matter, be wary. Young is a similar player to Upton but will hit for a lower average (around .250). Power and stolen bases are there, but the average isn’t. Also, he will strikeout more than Upton. Both good picks in leagues where Ks don’t matter. Kubel is like Young, doesn’t strikeout as much and won’t steal any bases. He doesn’t have speed, so his doubles and triples are significantly lower than Upton and Young. Great outfield bunch, tons of power, but all have their weaknesses on a fantasy team.

Colorado Rockies — Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin, Dexter Fowler

Starter: Gonzalez has one of the sweetest swings in the league. He’s a five-tool player and usually drafts in the top 10, but injuries plagued him last year. Even with the injuries, he still put up significant numbers and managed to hit around .300. He’s a for-sure pick, and if you don’t have him on your draft board somewhere, you won’t win. Expect 2010 numbers. Cuddyer had good power in the Metrodome, so fantasy owners are probably salivating over Coors Field. He should increase a bit in his numbers, but don’t get too excited … ah, screw it, get excited. He should hit 25-30 homers if he stays healthy. Colvin and Fowler will likely compete for the final position. Fowler provides speed and Colvin can provide power. Fantasy owners want a turned-around Colvin; he can produce like a Cuddyer if he can get his head straight.

Los Angeles Dodgers — Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jerry Sands, Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Starter: Kemp’s line is sick: .324/.399/.586 with 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 steals. Just draft him, a for-sure pick. Ethier had a down year last year in terms of power, but he’s still going to produce. Expect his numbers to turn back around for the positive. He could be picked up in lower rounds (well not that low) and will produce as the old Ethier. Sands and Gwynn should compete for the final spot. As noted above with Colvin, fantasy owners (and probably Dodgers fans) want Sands to start. He’s got tremendous power, hits the gaps and has good potential. He will strikeout a lot, and Gwynn’s only good for stolen bases.

San Diego Padres — Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin

Starter: The Padres solidified their outfield and sent a “we’re serious” message to the rest of the NL West when they traded for Quentin. In only 118 games last year, Quentin belted 24 long balls, 32 doubles and hit .254/.340/.499 on the year. His only knock is health, only playing more than 130 games twice in his six-year career. He doesn’t strike out much either, which makes him a great play in most formats. If he could actually finish a whole season, lets say 150 games, he’d be a top-10 MVP candidate. Venable is like Quentin in the injury department and lacks all the power tools that Quentin has. He will get you around 20-plus steals but has a low career average. He should only be starting in the deepest of leagues and will likely compete with Kyle Blanks, Chris Denorfia, Mark Kotsay for playing time. I was one who had Maybin on my very, very deep keeper league last year. He hit 24 doubles and the biggest surprise was his 40 steals, which kept him in my lineup all year. He just signed a five-year extension with the Pads and, hopefully, his power develops, too. As I said, I had him in a very deep league.

San Francisco Giants — Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Francisco Peguero, Gary Brown

Starter: Not going to lie. I’m not a fan of the current, and what will likely be, opening day outfielders. Cabrera and Pagan are your headliners. Pagan is a fantasy headache and so is Cabrera. Although, Cabrera had his best year last year, belting 18 long balls, 87 RBIs and stealing 20 bases. He hit .305/.339/.470 on the year. I’m very skeptical on his performance, considering he was only one year removed from his horrible year in ATL. If you check his stats, it seems that every other year he has a good year, so, in turn, this year will suck. Overrated. Pagen will steal bases … that is all. Peguero (#2-ranked prospect for the Giants) should be up soon and might even start the year in the outfield. He’s got more pure power than Cabrera and Pagan, and he hits for average, as well. He also has speed, sprinting to six triples in only 71 games in Richmond. Brown (#1-ranked prospect for the Giants) is probably further along. He will likely get a call-up around September or if the Giants are tired of Pagan or Cabrera. He’s like Peguero, power and speed (stole 53 bases, 80 RBIs last year) and should be picked up as soon as he comes to the majors. Both are sleepers.

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