My outfield preview will be different than the positional previews previously published. I will rank the top 50 outfielders in groups of 10, explaining the ranking of 1 to 2 members in each group. The focus will be on why my ranking deviates (higher or lower) from average draft position and/or another expert's ranking.
1) Ryan Braun
2) Grady Sizemore
3) Josh Hamilton
4) Carlos Lee
5) Manny Ramirez
6) Alfonso Soriano
7) Nick Markakis
8) Carlos Beltran
9) Matt Holiday
10) Ichiro Suzuki
A Closer Look
3) Josh Hamilton: At the end of the season, Hamilton could be No. 1 on this list. His 2008 numbers tailed off in August and September after losing leadoff man Ian Kinsler to injury. WIth another year of experience (and offseason conditioning) under his belt, don't be surprised if Hamilton's 2009 line looks something like this: .310, 100, 40, 150.
5) Manny Ramirez: The argument can be made that Manny Ramirez is the greatest hitter of our generation. We are all aware of how dangerous a motivated, focused Manny can be. Now safely resigned in Los Angeles, Manny has the home that loves him (and a short-term contract for a little extra motivation). With a healthy Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin setting the table and rising stars Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and James Loney, look for a classic, MVP-caliber Manny season. (Just Manny being Manny...)
11) Matt Kemp (LAD)
12) Jason Bay (PIT)
13) B.J. Upton (TAM)
14) Carl Crawford (TAM)
15) Alex Rios (TOR)
16) Curtis Granderson (DET)
17) Carlos Quentin (CWS)
18) Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)
19) Bobby Abreu (LAA)
20) Magglio Ordonez (DET)
A Closer Look
17) Carlos Quentin: Count me as a believer in Quentin's breakout performance in 2008. His wrist injury in August that cut short an MVP-caliber season was a fluke (he hit his hand on his bat in frustration after a fouling off a Cliff Lee pitch).
Quentin has always had a knack for getting on base (.413 through 4 minor league seasons and .394 last year in his first full season in the Majors). Combine that with his ballpark (US Cellular Field in Chicago ranked #2 in home runs allowed in 2008 according to ESPN's Park Factors metric) and you've got a young slugger, entering the prime of his career and coming off a monster season cut short by a freak injury. Watch Out.
19) Bobby Abreu: The Yankees were never a great fit for Abreu. Expectations were enormous for the Phillie import and even though he averaged more than 100 runs, 18 home runs, 100 RBI and 23 stolen bases, New York let him walk after 2008.
Now with the Angels, Abreu is no longer the biggest name (Vlad Guerrero) or the biggest story (losing Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriquez to free agency or the status of the pitching staff). He can get back to what he does best, 20/20 seasons with 100+ runs and RBI thrown together with a ton of walks (he's averaged 117 over 12 seasons). Let him fall past some of the trendier outfield options. Draft. Enjoy
21) Vladimir Guerrero (LAA): He's older than we all thought. He can still rake with the best of them, but keep your expectations in check - 80 runs, 25 home runs with a solid .300 average.
22) Corey Hart (MIL): He bounces back from last year's disappointing season. He goes 25 and 20 in an improving Brewers lineup.
23) Shane Victorino (PHI): Let's see—he hits in the middle of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. He'll steal 30+ bases and score 100 runs. He'll hit 10+ home runs. And his on-base and slugging percentages have gone up three years in a row. Draft and enjoy.
24) Andre Ethier (LAD): The real deal. One of Billy Beane's few mistakes as a GM was trading Ethier to LA. With a full season hitting in front of Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp, expect Ethier's numbers to put him in the top 25 outfielders by season's end. A steal for a player going 33rd amongst outfielders.
25) Johnny Damon (NYY): Moving from center to left field should save Damon's aging legs. While he isn't the player he once was, he still hits a top the mighty Yankees' lineup and will be good for 100 runs, double-digit home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a .280 average. Plus, he's played in 140+ games in every year since 1996.
26) Jermaine Dye (CWS): In 4 years with the White Sox, Dye has averaged 34 home runs, 95 RBI and 32 doubles. Ho Hum. He'll be 35 this year and he's got another big season in him.
27) Nate McLouth (PIT): I'm not as high on McLouth as some. Probably trade fodder mid-season (think Xavier Nady), he'll have to play very well to keep Pittsburgh stable of young talent off the field. But, that being said, 20-20 players don't grow on trees. Just temper your expectations.
28) Raul Ibanez (PHI): For the last four years he's averaged 90 runs, 24 home runs and 106 RBI...in Seattle. Now he's hitting in Philly's Band Box amongst Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins? I'm buying.
29) Chris Young (ARI): Big jump from the other Chris Young this year. Suddenly the Carlos Quentin deal isn't the most lopsided trade between the White Sox and the Diamondbacks ever.
30) Jay Bruce (CIN): His swing is a thing of beauty. His lineup screams breakout. But he's still very raw. He could end up in the top 20 outfielders or he could slide from this spot. Be prepared for some ups and downs in Bruce's first full season.
Lightning Round cont.
31) Vernon Wells (TOR)
32) Hunter Pence (HOU): He's streaky. If you draft Pence, be prepared to sit him for a couple weeks at a time as he yo-yo's from high to low. At the end of the season, Pence could be the most stressful 25-15 player in the baseball.
33) Adam Dunn (WAS): 40. Home. Runs. Every. Year. For. Five. Straight. Years.
34) Ryan Ludwick (STL)
35) Torii Hunter (LAA)
36) Lastings Milledge (WAS)
37) Xavier Nady (NYY): I'm drafting him here because of his lineup. He'll hit 20 + home runs and have ample RBI opportunities in the Yankee lineup.
38) Justin Upton (ARI): Upton will be 21 this season. Twenty-one. This kid is going to be a superstar. If you are in a keeper league, move him up 10 spots. Expect some growing pains, but, like his outfield mate Chris Young, this Arizona lineup is going places.
39) Conor Jackson (ARI)
40) Milton Bradley (CHC)
41) Delmon Young (MIN): Once again, a young prospect, over-hyped, who is now just entering his mid-20's. He'll be 23 in 2009. His high batting average and increasing OPS and run totals are signs of things to come. He may never hit 40 home runs, but he's only going to get improve on his 2008 numbers.
42) Pat Burrell (TAM): New lineup, no outfield, same stats. Pencil in 35 home runs, 90 RBI, 100 walks and a ton of strike outs.
43) Mike Cameron (MIL): 20-20 with a lot of strike outs. You could do worse.
44) Cameron Maybin (FLA): The real deal. Still very raw, but you'll get a bunch of stolen bases and runs hitting atop the Marlins order.
45) Adam Jones (BAL)
46) Brad Hawpe (COL)
47) Jayson Werth (PHI)
48) Denard Span (MIN): He plays. And he plays well. Minnesota has a dangerous line up and Span is the table-setter. Draft him late if he's still around (but be warned - he might not fall that far).
49) HIdeki Matsui (NYY): One more good season as a DH.
50) Shin-Soo Choo (CLE)