Outfield is often perceived as the deepest position in fantasy, and by the number of quality players, it definitely is. But certain leagues that you play in will require you play three, four, or even sometimes five outfielders, the talent can thin out fast.
You want to be sure that you get two really solid outfielders, but it isn’t imperative to grab superstars at all of your OF spots.
Every year, there are a bunch of young guys who enter the league in the outfield, and there are usually a few that come out of nowhere (Ryan Ludwick and Nate McLouth come to mind in ‘08).
The following is a list of where you can expect outfielders to be taken in the first 10 rounds. Due to how long this article would have been, rounds 11-20 will follow.
Grady Sizemore might be the only place you can go if you are looking for someone who could go 40/40. Batting average and strikeouts are a bit of a concern, but he should do better with both in 2009. Should go no later than the sixth overall pick.
There were questions going into 2008 whether Ryan Braun could duplicate his monster rookie season. His average might have dropped some, but he hit 37 homers, drove in 106 runs, and stole 14 bases. There’s no reason he can’t continue to improve, or at worst hit those same numbers again. A good selection at pick No. 7.
Josh Hamilton was the feel-good story of 2008 not just because of his return from his addictions, but because of his massive production. His numbers fell way off in the second half, but it would be hard not to be happy with what he gave you. He will go at the end of the first round or the first couple picks of Round Two.
Matt Holliday is being picked in the very beginning of the second round in many drafts, but I’m not sure he should be. After a near MVP season in ‘07 he took a big step back in ‘08. Now he’s out of Colorado and into much more of a pitchers park. Expect .310/23/95/20 steals. Good numbers, but this is too soon.
There is a ton of hype surrounding B.J. Upton after the display he put on in the playoffs. Fantasy players are counting that the shoulder surgery he had will bring back his 20 home run power, and you know he can steal 50 bases. He has been somewhat inconsistent and injury-prone so far, but he has one of the highest ceilings in the league.
Carlos Beltran isn’t going to steal you 40 bases anymore, but he could bring you 35+ home runs, a .285 average, 10-15 stolen bases, and 120 RBI. He was able to play a full season in 2008, and if he is able to do that again you should be able to pencil in his numbers before the season even starts. A solid late second round pick.
Now that he finally has a team, Manny Ramirez can take his place as a good second round pick. Ramirez is one of the most consistent hitters of this generation, and although he won’t bring you any stolen bases, the guy is an absolute masher at all of the other categories. He won’t keep up that end of the year pace, but .333/40/140 is possible.
Alfonso Soriano owners have seen his numbers drop over recent seasons and I think his name is contributing to his draft position. Regardless of what his manager says, I don’t see him stealing 30 bases and his homers and RBI have been falling for three seasons. He is still a great fantasy player, but I think he is being drafted on reputation. Definitely a third- or fourth-rounder if you are looking for good value.
Carlos Lee never seems to get the credit he deserves. He has been a .300/30/100/10 machine over the past six years, and even missing two months last year couldn’t stop him from hitting 100 RBI. Don’t worry about his injury, he will be durable again. Before last year, he had only missed one game in the previous three seasons.
Ichiro Suzuki is usually selected here, but I couldn’t do it with the talent that is left. He does help you out with stolen bases and runs scored, and his average is usually good. Last year he hit .310, and that’s not high enough for a guy who hits for no power and drives in few runs. He’ll steal 40 bags, but he’s 35 now and those steal numbers will have to start declining soon.
Carl Crawford is lasting longer than he should due to his injuries last year. But Crawford has the capabilities to hit .290 with close to 20 HRs and 80 RBI. He also stole 50+ bases in four of out of five years from 2003-2007 and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t go right back to that production in 2009. A GREAT pick in the third round.
Nick Markakis keeps getting better. Now the anchor of the Orioles batting order, Markakis’ batting average has improved in each of his three seasons. He has consistently been in the low 20s in homers, and he will steal 10-15 bases. He has been extremely durable so far in his career, and the only bad thing that I can find is that his RBI went down by 25 in 2008. He is a stud, though, and should be grabbed in the middle of the third round.
Jason Bay was in danger of falling off the fantasy map in 2007, but was completely resurected upon arriving in Boston. Bay did his best to emulate Manny Ramirez, as he had his third 30 homer, 100 RBI, 10 steal season in his career. This might be a little early for Bay, but if Ortiz is able to come back and provide protection for him, there’s no reason to think he won’t be great again.
Carlos Quentin has promised to try to control his temper from now on. It was that temper that caused him to miss the last month of the season after breaking his wrist. Quentin was a breakout star in ‘08, and given what was expected of him when he came into the league, getting back close to those numbers is a definite possibility.
There is no question about Matt Kemp’s playing time in 2009. Even during a season of uncertainty, Kemp still had great stats. Many expect his stolen base numbers to come down just a little bit, but look for his power numbers to increase. It may be a bit of a stretch for 2009, but a 30/30 season could be in his future.
After it appeared that he was ready to fulfill his expectations, Alex Rios‘ power took a step back in 2008. The good news was he stole a career-high 32 bases to make up for the drop in home runs. A safe prediction would be an average of his last two seasons, which would put his average in the .290s and gives him a chance at a 25/25 season.
Vladimir Guerrero certainly isn’t what he once was (especially the steals), but he is still a valuable fantasy player. The fourth round is a little too soon for me, as his stats have begun to deteriorate. His home run total was his lowest since the team was in Montreal, and his batting average has been sliding as well. I believe this trend will continue and I would only pick him two or three rounds later.
Curtis Granderson is a dynamic young talent whom I like a lot. Two seasons ago he was just the fourth player to have 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs, and 20 steals. He missed 20 games last season and still nearly matched his home run total from the year before. He is back to healthy again, and could easily have a 25/100/25 season with a .285 average.
I think Shane Victorino gets picked here because of the way he plays the game, because his stats don’t back it up. He is basically a .280 hitter who cracks 10-15 homers and steals 30 bases with very few RBI. Given the guys who will be picked after him, it just doesn’t make sense.
Corey Hart’s average took a noticeable drop in 2008, but his 20/20 statistics remained the same. He was a .280-.290 for most of the rest of his career, so it is conceivable that his average will go right back up this coming season. He isn’t the sexiest pick in the world, but is a good safe pick at this point of the draft.
Jacoby Ellsbury had a really tough second half, but overall still had a great year. With the trade of Coco Crisp, Ellsbury has no competition for playing time, and he should be able to get back to 50 steals. The Red Sox are also hoping he can improve on his .280 average and get his home runs close to fifteen.
Nate McLouth had an amazing season, but if you look at his minor league stats, there is nothing in his history that suggests that he should have hit 26 home runs. His career high at any level before last year was 13, and he nearly tripled his RBI total from 2007. It is possible that McLouth could repeat his performance, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Bobby Abreu is a reasonable pick here, but I still feel there are better options available at the position. Abreu is about a .290 hitter, with 15-20 homers, and 100 RBI. Even though he is just about to turn 35, Abreu has still able to steal at least 20 bases for the last ten years. He’s consistent, but there are younger players with higher upside than what Abreu will give you.
Adam Dunn is one of a few places you can go and basically guarantee yourself 40 home runs. The only problem with picking Dunn and getting those homers is that he will crush your batting average, bring you almost no speed, and for a guy who hits 40 home runs, his RBI total is low. If your team is in need of power, then Dunn is a good pick, if not I would go in another direction.
Magglio Ordonez will give you solid numbers across the board, but none of them are outstanding. He did win a batting title in 2007, but other than that season he has generally has hit somewhere between .290-.310. Expecting another .363 season would be having unrealistic expectations. A great second or third outfielder for your team.
Hunter Pence is one of the rising young stars in this league. Not only did he have a very good rookie season (25 homers, 83 RBI), but there is reason to believe that he could improve further. Given his minor league statistics, it wouldn’t be a giant leap of faith to look for a 30/20 season from Pence with an increase of his average by about 20 points.
Ryan Ludwick was the very definition of a breakout star in 2008 as he more than doubled his previous career highs in home runs and RBI. The Cardinals finally gave the career journeyman a chance to play every day, and he ran with it. He was a power hitter in the minors so the 30 homers could be duplicated, but his average of near .300 is most likely a stretch to happen again.
Is it smart to take Jermaine Dye here over a younger guy with more upside? It is a question of philosophy. Dye is a fairly safe pick, and a good bet to hit 25-28 homers and drive in 90+ runs. However, he is 35 and has an injury history a mile long. Is it better to take a younger player who is less proven? That is what I would do.
Jay Bruce would definitely be one of those young guys that I would target. The best hitting prospect in the National League in 2008, Bruce didn’t disappoint with his power numbers. Given his minor league statistics, you should expect Bruce’s .251 average to take a significant jump up. Bruce is definitely a guy who you could see a good increase in his statistics.
Vernon Wells missed over 50 games due to injury but was still able to hit 20 homers and drive in 78 runs. Wells has been known to have some really great season, but unfortunately he has had some really awful ones too. And when Vernon gets in a cold spell, it usually lasts the whole season. He has had a wide array of injuries over his career, and that adds to the caution of picking him too soon.
Chris Young was a valuable fantasy commodity after he almost went 30/30 in 2007. Fantasy owners were able to look past his .237 average when you are getting those kind of numbers. But Young’s speed and power also took a significant step back last year, making his poor batting average much more of a factor. He is still just 25 years old, so the sky is still the limit for Young, he just needs to work on his plate discipline. A good risk in the ninth round.
Torii Hunter has certainly taken a step back from where he was a few seasons ago, but he is still a pretty damn good fantasy outfielder. He did have his worst (healthy) statistical season of the decade in 2008, but he was still just a couple of steals away from 20/20 and still hit nearly .280. If Hunter can bounce back just a little, he is an amazing pick in this round. And at 34 years old that is an attainable prediction.
Johnny Damon has been on a good year/bad year pattern for about five seasons now, and 2008 was a good year. He hit over .300 for the first time in three seasons, and his 17 homers and 29 steals were a good return from a subpar ‘07. He’s not my favorite fantasy player, but if you feel that he can duplicate those numbers again in 2009, that is decent value in the tenth round.
Raul Ibanez might offer you no speed, but the guys has been a pretty consistent power hitter. He may seem like he’s been around since the Stone Age, and that’s because he has. But Ibanez has hit at least 20 homers and driven in over 100 runs over the past three seasons. He now goes to Philly, where his home park might allow him to get back closer to the 30-homer plateau. A small word of caution, he will turn 37 in June, and playing DH is no longer an option.
Andre Ethier has gotten a little bit better each season, and there’s reason to believe that he can still improve a bit more. He will never be a big power hitter, but Ethier certainly projects as a guy who can hit .320 or better and will probably top out at 25 home runs. He will turn 27 shortly after the season starts, which is when many experts project players have their breakout seasons.
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