Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 30 Outfielders from This Point Forward

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterJune 27, 2012

Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 30 Outfielders from This Point Forward

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    The following countdown touts my picks for the top 30 outfielders in fantasy baseball—from this point forward.

    To clarify, this listing is not necessarily a celebration of those who posted stellar stats from April 4-June 27 or those who were prominently featured in the preseason rankings.

    It's simply a compilation of the best assets moving forward. It's also a rundown of the 30 most appealing OF-eligible hitters to pursue in trades for the stretch run. (There are a lot of stars with dual-position versatility.)

    When originally crafting the list, I was surprised that neither Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer nor Shin-Soo Choo made the final cut. But in a season where the real depth at outfield runs almost 60 deep, hard choices had to be made somewhere.

    Enjoy the show!

30: Colby Rasmus, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 Stats: 14 HR, 44 RBI, 38 Runs, 3 Steals, .264 BA

    30-Day Stats: 9 HR, 25 RBI, 20 Runs, 0 Steals, .318 BA

    Skinny: Colby Rasmus, a one-time super-prospect with the Cardinals, garners the final slot over Nelson Cruz, Bryce Harper, Alfonso Soriano, Alejandro De Aza, Trevor Plouffe, Corey Hart, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Brantley, Michael Saunders, Michael Cuddyer, Shane Victorino, Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Willingham, Desmond Jennings and Josh Reddick, among others, for three main reasons:

    1. From a seven-, 15- and 30-day perspective, Rasmus has maintained a batting average of .342 or higher.

    2. Since May 10, the day after his batting average plunged below .210, Rasmus has tallied 11 homers, 32 RBI and 14 multiple-hit games, while expertly raising his average 58 points.

    3. In the last 30 days, Rasmus has a top-three ranking in runs, hits, homers, RBI, batting average, slugging and OPS, among other Blue Jays hitting regulars.

    Still, there is some guilt about slotting Rasmus over Trevor Plouffe. If only this was a top-31 countdown of outfield-eligible assets.

29: Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies

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    2012 Stats: 10 HR, 34 RBI, 40 Runs, 7 Steals, .282 BA

    30-Day Stats: 4 HR, 14 RBI, 21 Runs, 4 Steals, .337 BA

    Skinny: In the end, it was impossible to leave Dexter Fowler, a career .264 hitter, off this countdown.

    Not only has he posted prodigious marks in the last 30 days (above), but he's also on track to eclipse (or shatter) seasonal personal highs in runs (84), triples (15), RBI (45), batting average (.276), on-base percentage (.363) and OPS (.796).

    And that doesn't even account for Fowler's first-ever foray into double-digit homer production, boosting his slugging to .527—a remarkable figure for someone of Fowler's speed-first, power-second prowess.

    By season's end, Fowler may be one of the few outfielders with 85 runs, 20 homers, 15 triples and 20 steals.

28: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox

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    2012 Stats: 0 HR, 3 RBI, 4 Runs, 0 Steals, .192 BA (through seven games)

    Skinny: Ellsbury's shoulder injury (and subsequent two-month stint on the disabled list) can be viewed as a positive in certain fantasy circles.

    Obviously, we'd rather have him on the field, but the time away from the game has likely brought common sense to his adjusted projections.

    For example, a healthy Ellsbury would not have replicated last year's 32 homers or 105 RBI, but a spry Ellsbury can still score 18 runs and steal six bases per month, upon returning to the Boston lineup (July 15 target date).

    As a result, fantasy owners should prioritize making a trade play for Ellsbury (119 runs/.321 batting in 2011) sometime in the next 10 days.

27: Ben Revere, Minnesota Twins

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    2012 Stats: 0 HR, 10 RBI, 20 Runs, 15 Steals, .329 BA

    30-Day Stats: 0 HR, 9 RBI, 12 Runs, 12 Steals, .349 BA

    Skinny: The Twins were actually this close to landing three outfielders (Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe) in the countdown. But in the end, only Revere was, uh, revered enough to secure a spot for Minnesota.

    Yes, Revere's been invisible with homer and RBI to date; but what fantasy owner wouldn't kill for monthly tallies of 12 runs, 12 steals and .350 batting from this point forward?

    And with an on-base percentage that consistently ranges from .351 to .378, Revere's monthly run production will most definitely be closer to 20 than 12 for July, August and September.

    Without a doubt, Revere's a gamble here; but I'm willing to take the leap of faith.

26: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 17 HR, 51 RBI, 41 Runs, 4 Steals, .253 BA

    30-Day Stats: 6 HR, 21 RBI, 17 Runs, 1 Steal, .250 BA

    Skinny: If this listing only accounted for seasonal stats, Jay Bruce would have missed the final cut.

    But given his strong power numbers for the season, superb 30-day marks with on-base percentage (.355), slugging (.511) and OPS (.867) and a track record of statistical success, it's easy to expect sizable numbers from this point forward (can't stress that enough).

    It also helps that Bruce, in line for his first 33-homer, 100-RBI season of his career, still has 40-plus games at Cincy's Great American Ballpark.

    Put it all together, and Bruce should come close to fulfilling his top-20 prophecy from the preseason.

25: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 9 HR, 38 RBI, 39 Runs, 11 Steals, .297 BA

    30-Day Stats: 5 HR, 14 RBI, 20 Runs, 6 Steals, .324 BA

    Skinny: Before we rattle off reasons to love Alex Rios from this point forward, let's start with a stat that's hopefully more quirky than worrisome:

    During the May 27-June 26 window that elicited five homers, 14 RBI, 20 runs and six steals, Rios stunningly collected only one walk for that 30-day period. That's 103 plate appearances...with just one free pass.

    (Think about that for a second...and then attach extra appreciation to his current OPS of .802.)

    Rios's curious plate discipline aside, he's been a tremendous asset for the White Sox and fantasy owners in need of a reliable No. 3 outfielder.

    And if given the choice to gamble on Rios's behalf, I'd love his chances for 20 homers, 75 RBI, 78 runs, 23 steals and a .293 batting average by season's end.

24: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

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    2012 Stats: 5 HR, 24 RBI, 45 Runs, 3 Steals, .271 BA

    30-Day Stats: 1 HR, 6 RBI, 23 Runs, 2 Steals, .350 BA

    Skinny: Forget about Gordon's seasonal numbers or lack of power in the last 30 days. He's an absolute slam dunk for great (or dare I say 'monster') fantasy numbers from July to September.

    Exhibit A for my hubris lies with Gordon's seasonal (.367) and 30-day marks (.442) with on-base percentage.

    Exhibit B involves Gordon's Joey Votto-esque success with the walk-to-strikeout ratio since May 28 (16/13). It's a prime indicator the Royals outfielder is extremely comfortable at the plate and ready to replicate his five-category output from last year—on a per-week basis.

    Bottom line: With 12-team leagues that start five outfielders, Gordon is a must-have on the trade front. Use that low homer count to fleece Owner B in other categories.

23: Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2012 Stats: 11 HR, 47 RBI, 35 Runs, 1 Steal, .298 BA

    30-Day Stats: 7 HR, 24 RBI, 18 Runs, .295 BA

    Skinny: From my research, Kubel is this countdown's only hitter to have his seasonal batting average improve from .083 to .338 in just a few weeks.

    But that's not why he made the list—as remarkable as that turnaround may be.

    Pendulum swings in batting aside, Kubel has been a rock-solid asset for the Diamondbacks all season, his first campaign in the National League.

    The power numbers are steadily on the rise, his seasonal OBP (.371) is among the MLB's best for outfielders and he's a good bet to flirt with a .900 OPS through September.

    In fact, it almost looks like Kubel is doing his best to replicate that stellar 2007 season with the Twins—28 homers, 103 RBI, .300 BA, .369 OBP, .907 OPS.

22: Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 5 HR, 28 RBI, 42 Runs, 8 Steals, .317 BA

    30-Day Stats: 2 HR, 6 RBI, 12 Runs, 1 Steal, .300 BA

    Skinny: The injury-riddled Braves may be shorthanded with starting pitching these days, but they're also the only club to boast three outfielders in this countdown.

    First up is Martin Prado, the dual-position threat (3B/OF) whose idea of a 30-day hitting "slump" is .300.

    At this stage, Prado is a reasonable candidate to post career-highs in runs (100), RBI (66) and batting average (.320); regarding steals, he's setting new personal records with each theft.

    Need a quiet and versatile stud for the stretch run? The line forms behind Prado...and the No. 7 asset in this exclusive listing.

21: Hunter Pence, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Stats: 13 HR, 43 RBI, 52 Runs, 4 Steals, .275 BA

    30-Day Stats: 2 HR, 13 RBI, 19 Runs, 1 Steal, .296 BA

    Skinny: Slugging/OPS marks aside, Pence's numbers have been trending upward in the last 45 days, a factoid that almost justifies my wayward preseason prediction of Pence capturing the National League batting title.

    But I digress.

    The injuries with Phillies hitters have been well documented in fantasy circles; but Pence still deserves credit for leading the club in runs, hits, homers and RBI—especially with catcher Carlos Ruiz's dream start to the season (10 HR, 41 RBI, 35 runs, three steals, .361 BA).

    Bottom line: It's not too late for Pence to fulfill my preseason prophecy of a top-12 ranking; at the very least, he's a reasonable play for 26 homers, 107 runs and 17 steals.

20: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 33 RBI, 46 Runs, 8 Steals, .270 BA

    30-Day Stats: 2 HR, 14 RBI, 14 Runs, .299 BA

    Skinny: Who among us can resist the siren song of a possible Upton explosion, at the mere sight of a 15-day run of glory (two homers, 11 RBI, .346 batting)?

    Given the kid's track record for statistical goodness and Carlos Gonzalez-like capacity to carry real-world and fantasy teams in sustained bursts, it doesn't take much goading to bet on Upton's game from this point forward.

    Of course, if Upton's middling slugging percentage (.393) doesn't improve soon—say over the next 20 days—then all bets are off on the desert dynamo fulfilling the promise of a top-20 ranking.

19: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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    2012 Stats: 17 HR, 46 RBI, 41 Runs, 4 Steals, .274 BA

    30-Day Stats: 6 HR, 12 RBI, 13 Runs, 2 Steals, .242 BA

    Skinny: Need a little pick-me-up from Stanton's sluggish 30-day numbers?

    Just hearken back to his off-the-charts production in May (12 homers, 30 RBI, 23 runs, .343 batting. 1.198 OPS), a run of statistical awesomeness that few outfielders could duplicate under the most optimum of conditions.

    That alone should carry you through the dark days.

    When he's on a roll, there is no sweeter sight than Stanton raking homers at every fair-territory nook of the Marlins' new stadium.

    Whatever knee problems plagued him in April have apparently dissipated, and once again, Stanton has become a viable candidate for 40 homers (justifying a certain guru's preseason boast).

18: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 11 HR, 36 RBI, 40 Runs, 10 Steals, .282 BA

    30-Day Stats: 5 HR, 13 RBI, 17 Runs, 1 Steal, .369 BA

    Skinny: In the immortal words of LeBron James: It's about damn time!

    Back on May 30, Jason Heyward was toiling in the Braves lineup, batting .230 and looking nothing like the sparkling rookie of 2010 or a top-20 fantasy pick (among outfielders) from a few months ago.

    But then something stoked the fire within for Heyward, Atlanta's leader in runs, doubles, triples, homers, batting average, OBP, slugging (.679) and OPS (1.072) since May 27.

    And now, it wouldn't be a shock to see the third-year man-child collect 24 homers, 76 RBI, 84 runs, 24 steals and a .288 batting average by season's end.

17: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox

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    2012 Stats: 6 HR, 40 RBI, 36 Runs, .266 BA

    30-Day Stats: 2 HR, 14 RBI, 12 Runs, .262 BA

    Skinny: You'd think fantasy owners everywhere would be smiling ear-to-ear over Gonzalez's dual-position versatility (1B/OF)—the result of the Red Sox playing the first base/third base shuffle with Kevin Youkilis and rookie Will Middlebrooks.

    But with Gonzalez's across-the-board dip in production, it's hard to celebrate the versatility of a big dog with no bite.

    Of the top 20 overall players from the preseason, Gonzalez and Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum rank 1-2 on the 'disappointment' scale.

    But in the wake of the Youkilis trade to the White Sox—enabling Gonzalez to return to his natural position (first base)—there's new optimism that Gonzo will recapture his old fantasy mojo for July, August and September.

    At least that's what I'm banking on. Gonzalez is way too talented to struggle against middling American League pitching all season...especially at Fenway Park.

16: Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 30 RBI, 40 Runs, 7 Steals, .312 BA

    30-Day Stats: 2 HR, 13 RBI, 11 Runs, 1 Steal, .270 BA

    Skinny: Jackson is a good bet to shatter personal highs in homers, RBI and batting average, but his fantasy greatness goes deeper than that.

    With a .400 on-base percentage and OPS comfortably north of .900, Jackson is actually well ahead of the developmental pace of his center-field predecessor in Detroit, Curtis Granderson (for their age-25 seasons).

    And with his uncanny capacity for balancing out the ledger with doubles, triples and homers, it's easy to see how/why Jackson is on the fast-track to perennial all-star berths.

    Of equal importance, A-Jax is moving toward an annual spot amongst the top-20 outfielders.

15: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 21 HR, 43 RBI, 51 Runs, 4 Steals, .243 BA

    30-Day Stats: 7 HR, 18 RBI, 20 Runs, 2 Steals, .220 BA

    Skinny: It's penny-wise, but pound-foolish to let Granderson's low batting average obscure his sublime potential with three major categories.

    Barring injury, he's a reasonable candidate for 42 homers (a career high), 85 RBI and 104 runs by season's end; and if these projections come to fruition, a bump in steals and batting average is proper, as well.

    Just like Jacoby Ellsbury belting 32 homers last year (after hitting zero in 2010), no one had any delusions of grandeur about Granderson replicating his 2011 marks in runs (136) and RBI (119). And with that rationalization, I've been able to enjoy Grandy's overall production.

    Back to hitting for a second: How is it possible for a premium power hitter—with 25-steal potential—to boast an OBP rate that's 100 points higher than his batting average? Especially when opponents cannot afford to hand out free passes in the Yankees' vaunted lineup?

    In this case, it's fun to block out all negative thoughts...and just enjoy the positive aspects of Granderson's fantasy game. It's just like the parent who raised a world-class wood drifter.

    Just focus on the good things in life.

14: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 12 HR, 47 RBI, 50 Runs, 3 Steals, .301 BA

    30-Day Stats: 2 HR, 15 RBI, 19 Runs, 1 Steals, .370 BA

    Skinny: I can appreciate Holliday's seasonal stats from any angle. But the two figures that really stand out involve his 30-day progress in OBP (.459) and OPS (1.003).

    Is this a short-term burst of excellence? Or is Holliday, at age 32 and 4,558 at-bats through a stellar career, once again a viable candidate for 24 homers, 95 RBI, 100 runs and a .300 batting average?

    It's a good problem to have, wondering if Holliday can produce a reasonable facsimile of his all-world numbers from 2006-08 with Colorado (95 homers, 339 RBI, 346 runs, .329 batting)?

    Or is he simply enjoying a short run of glory that will boost his trade-market value to sky-high levels?

    I can't wait to see how things shake out in the next few weeks.

13: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 12 HR, 28 RBI, 30 Runs, 2 Steals, .355 BA

    Skinny: Finally, we have some legitimate controversy with an elite ranking.

    We're all aware of Kemp's otherworldly numbers before a pair of hamstring injuries shelved his progress for weeks on end. But with a fingers-crossed return date of July 20, does that leave Kemp (seasonal OPS: 1.163) enough time to live up to the standards of this lofty ranking?

    We're talking about other elite hitters having an 18-day head start (factoring in the All-Star break) on a superstar who could easily re-aggravate his leg injuries at any point of the season, even when handling the most mundane of baseball tasks?

    I'll say yes, on the caveat that Kemp returns before July 25. Anything after that would just be a loss-leader situation, rankings-wise.

12: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 10 HR, 55 RBI, 36 Runs, 1 Steal, .291 BA

    30-Day Stats: 1 HR, 14 RBI, 9 Runs, 1 Steal, .252 BA

    Skinny: Ethier may have been a high-profile omission on some of my all-star teams for April, May or the season at large, but no other outfielder is more deserving of the No. 12 spot in this countdown.

    And I say that with full knowledge of his 30-day slump in four of the five main categories.

    Mini-funk aside, Ethier has been a fruitful mid-round draftee for the savvy owner who realized last year's output in homers (11), RBI (62) and runs (67) was a misleading truth about Ethier's long-term potential.

    Yes, he's now 30 years old. Yes, he recently signed an $85 million extension with the Dodgers (coinciding with the slump); but I have total faith in Ethier's powers to bounce back and make a realistic run at 110 RBI by season's end.

11: Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 37 RBI, 52 Runs, 10 Steals, .352 BA

    30-Day Stats: 3 HR, 13 RBI, 16 Runs, 1 Steal, .320 BA

    Skinny: I recently encouraged Melky Cabrera to "take a bow" for his once-in-a-lifetime spurt during the month of May (51 hits, .443 batting, 1.141 OPS).

    Four weeks later, I'm begging everyone to drop what they're doing and find a creative avenue to land the Giants star, via trade.

    By any reasonable means necessary.

    These are the spoils that accompany a 30-day window where Cabrera bats a ho-hum .320, without eliciting any reaction from the masses (positive or negative).

    It's almost as if we've come to expect Cabrera to steal five bases, collect 17 runs and hit .320 every month.

    We also expect Melky to continually punish the Royals for executing one of the most lopsided trades in franchise history, surrendering Cabrera—at the top of his market value—for a fourth-rung southpaw (Jonathan Sanchez) and 25-year old pitching prospect (Ryan Verdugo).

10: Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 25 RBI, 50 Runs, 20 Steals, .312 BA

    30-Day Stats: 3 HR, 10 RBI, 17 Runs, 6 Steals, .327 BA

    Skinny: Here's the best way to describe Michael Bourn's incredible season, which conveniently comes with a run at unrestricted free agency in December:

    From an outfielders-only standpoint, Bourn is the strongest candidate to pull off the rare triple play of capturing titles in runs, steals and batting average. At the very least, he's a healthy lock to finish top-five in all three categories.

    And this countdown will attest, there is no lack of supreme depth or any glaring holes from this listing of ready-to-dominate outfield assets.

    Bottom line: If you're in dire need of homers and RBI for July, August and September, the first high-end trade chip should be Bourn. He would deliver on any wish for big-time power.

9: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 20 HR, 58 RBI, 47 Runs, 7 Steals, .312 BA

    30-Day Stats: 5 HR, 17 RBI, 16 Runs, 2 Steals, .347 BA

    Skinny: It would have been incredibly foolish to ignore the stealth production of Beltran, on the basis of age (35) or that he simply can't maintain this prodigious hitting pace, while subconsciously trying to fill the void of Albert Pujols' absence in St. Louis.

    Right? Meh.

    I have always marveled at Beltran's sublime five-tool talents; and I will never forget the devastating run he had with the Astros in the 2004 playoffs.

    But as Beltran approaches the autumn years of his career, there's a new way to appreciate these gifts: His all-world consistency from a 15-day (.396 batting), 30-day (five homers, two steals, .347 batting) and seasonal standpoint (in line for 38 homers/18 steals/.300 batting).

    In other words, Beltran is the perfect outfield anchor in 12-team leagues.

8: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 18 HR, 50 RBI, 35 Runs, 4 Steals, .320 BA

    30-Day Stats: 11 HR, 30 RBI, 18 Runs, 1 Steal, .313 BA

    Skinny: As a small consolation, Mark Trumbo can relish in being this countdown's top-ranked asset with three-position versatility (1B/3B/OF). He can also rejoice in performing at an All-Star level for April, May and June.

    The above kudos are a reflection of Trumbo's high-end proficiency since the season's opening bell.

    In May alone, Trumbo trumped the other third base-eligible fantasy stars in homers (second), RBI (seventh) and batting average (third). Heck, the slugger even tallied three steals for the month!

    And for June, Trumbo is flirting with back-to-back months of double-digit homers and an OPS north of 1.000. And to think, Trumbo could have been had by any owner for nine full rounds back in March.

    What a treasure!

7: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 Stats: 24 HR, 57 RBI, 51 Runs, 4 Steals, .233 BA

    30-Day Stats: 12 HR, 25 RBI, 21 Runs, 1 Steal, .242 BA

    Skinny: Don't pay much attention to Jose Bautista's progress with batting average. He's an elite figure in the realms of walk-to-strikeout ratio (48/50), on-base percentage (.391 since May 27) and homers (12 in the last 30 days).

    At the time of this writing, Bautista is only one of four MLB hitters to notch 50 RBI and 50 runs (Carlos Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Dan Uggla). So, in this special case, let's forget about batting average. That category will take care of itself soon, to the point of guaranteed respectability by season's end.

    Instead, let's focus on the totality of Bautista's three-category potential: He's on track for 48 homers, 125 RBI and 103 runs by Sept. 30, signifying three straight seasons of 43 homers and triple-digit production in RBI and runs.

    That should be more than enough to justify Bautista's below-the-penthouse ranking at this point.

    Bottom line: Chicks may dig the long ball...but fantasy gurus love assets with steady track records of success.

6: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

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    2012 Stats: 19 HR, 40 RBI, 49 Runs, 10 Steals, .298 BA

    30-Day Stats: 5 HR, 9 RBI, 15 Runs, 2 Steals, .278 BA

    Skinny: The Orioles should be applauded for recently signing Adam Jones to a lucrative contract extension.

    Not only is he the key to a Baltimore playoff run this season, but Jones is also the primary building block for a franchise that may have the requisite pieces to contend for the next five, seven or 10 years.

    (At least it's Jones's ship to captain until Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy earn big-league promotions sometime in the next 18 months...but we'll cross that bridge at a later date.)

    From a 30-day perspective, Jones' numbers essentially sync up to his season-long prowess. Throw in a .344 on-base percentage for the season, despite a poor walks-to-strikeout ratio (16/52), and Jones has a great shot at finishing the season with an OPS above .900.

    If you have the means to acquire Baltimore's breakout star in a blockbuster trade, I highly recommend it.

5: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 29 RBI, 44 Runs, 21 Steals, .335 BA

    30-Day Stats: 3 HR, 17 RBI, 26 Runs, 13 Steals, .368 BA

    Skinny: One could successfully argue that Trout, who turns 21 on Aug. 7, deserves to finish as high as second or as low as 10th here. But I'm extremely happy with a ranking that, in all honesty, hasn't been a great surprise.

    For all of March and April, I touted Trout's near-lock capacity for 20 homers and 20 steals in just a four-month campaign. I also predicted that he'd be the next 40/40 dynamo. And even if he falls short of cracking 13 more homers from June 27-Sept. 30, the following point has already been established:

    Trout is the next runaway-train superstar in baseball. Ahead of Bryce Harper. Ahead of Giancarlo Stanton. Ahead of Anthony Rizzo. Ahead of any hitter who's currently carving up the minor leagues.

    Simply put, there is no reasonable trade price for Trout in keeper leagues; and even though he's ranked fifth here, I'd only want Josh Hamilton over Trout to finish out this season.

    Maybe.

4: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2012 Stats: 13 HR, 46 RBI, 40 Runs, 14 Steals, .341 BA

    30-Day Stats: 5 HR, 21 RBI, 12 Runs, 4 Steals, .340 BA

    Skinny: From an individual standpoint, McCutchen is having one of the most remarkably balanced seasons of any hitter.

    From a team prism, it's a miracle the Pirates are in third place in the National League Central (38-35) and contending for a playoff spot. It's hard to go places with that anemic lineup (only three other hitters have OBPs above .300). Or with that patchwork pitching setup (3.43/ERA/1.28 WHIP).

    Of course, McCutchen doesn't pitch...but if he did, perhaps, Pittsburgh wouldn't be counting the days before Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Mark Appel comprise one of baseball's best one-two-three pitching trios. Or when McCutchen and super-prospect Starling Marte rank as one of MLB's top outfield duos.

    In the meantime, the good people of western Pennsylvania can hope that McCutchen keeps the Pirates in the pennant race and posts career highs in homers (23), steals (33) and batting average.

3: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

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    2012 Stats: 17 HR, 54 RBI, 53 Runs, 10 Steals, .331 BA

    30-Day Stats: 7 HR, 18 RBI, 16 Runs, 3 Steals, .380 BA

    Skinny: It's not a shock that Gonzalez leads the Troy Tulowitzki-less Rockies in runs, hits, homers, RBI, batting average, OBP, OPS and steals (tied with Eric Young Jr.).

    But the separation between CarGo and the runner-up in each category (excluding steals) is quite profound.

    Here's another absurd factoid about Gonzalez: His 30-day run of seven homers, 18 runs and .330 batting is actually the low end of a prodigious hitting bubble that captivated fantasy owners a few weeks ago.

    Put it all together, and it's impossible to find any tangible separation between Gonzalez (1.066 OPS since May 28) and the No. 2 overall outfielder.

    It's essentially a dead heat.

2: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

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    2012 Stats: 20 HR, 52 RBI, 47 Runs, 13 Steals, .311 BA

    30-Day Stats: 7 HR, 18 RBI, 15 Runs, 4 Steals, .309 BA

    Skinny: For fantasy owners who crave top-10 numbers in all five categories, Ryan Braun could be the premier asset among outfielders.

    That aside, No. 2 is still a great place to be when sizing up all the talent at this position, especially for a season in which Braun has made little noise about his play—or the fallout from a failed offseason drug/PED test. (The 50-game suspension was eventually overturned.)

    Yes, Braun had one three-homer night against the Padres in early May; but by and large, his elite standing has been the product of superb, yet almost ho-hum consistency in all five categories.

    Looking into the future, Braun is a reasonable bet for 39 homers, 108 RBI, 103 runs, 27 steals and a .312 batting average.

1: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Stats: 24 HR, 67 RBI, 48 Runs, 6 Steals, .317 BA

    30-Day Stats: 4 HR, 14 RBI, 11 Runs, 2 Steals, .216 BA

    Skinny: Leave it to Hamilton to slog through a horrific 30-day slump (.216 batting) and still comfortably grab the No. 1 spot among outfielders.

    Of course, it helps that he belted homers on consecutive nights against Detroit (June 25/26), just hours before this countdown was published.

    Even during periods of hitting lethargy, Hamilton's penchant for signature streaks at the right time has become the stuff of legends.

    Which brings us to the downside and upside of Hamilton's nine-homer, 18-RBI explosion from May 7-13 (spanning seven games):

    The downside: Since that stellar run, Hamilton has collected only six homers and 22 RBI, passable numbers for an elite bat.

    The upside: Hamilton still strikes fear into opposing pitchers like no other hitter in fantasy, with the possible exceptions of Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Matt Kemp, when healthy.