As January comes to an end and pitchers and catchers embark on warmer weather down south, fantasy baseball draft boards and dreams of greatness will slowly come out of hibernation.
For those eager managers looking to get a leg up on the competition, here is a list of five young National League outfielders to target this spring.
Staton Will Likely Stop 30 HR This Season
2010 Stats: .276, 28 HR, 66 RBI, 12 SB, 85 R
In his second full season with the Cardinals, Rasmus improved in all five statistical categories, including raising his batting average from a poor .251 in 2009 to a respectable .276. Improvement is what you hope to see each year from young players; however, it is somewhat rare to see improvement across the board like Rasmus provided last year.
The addition of Lance Berkman to the outfield should also help Rasmus this season. I anticipate that Rasmus may bat second in the lineup in front of Pujols, Holliday and Berkman, which leads me to believe that he will see a lot of pitches to hit and will likely score more than 100 runs in 2011.
I predict that he will continue to improve on his power numbers and average, and could top the 30 HR mark for the first time in his career. Even more enticing from a fantasy perspective is his speed potential, as he quadrupled his stolen base numbers from 2009. Look for Rasmus as a solid No. 2 or 3 outfielder in mixed leagues and a possible breakout candidate for 2011.
Staton Will Likely Stop 30 HR This Season
2010 Stats: .259, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 5 SB, 45 R
Stanton made his major league debut on June 8, 2010 for the Florida Marlins after much speculation and fanfare in the minor leagues. Ranked 16th overall on Baseball America’s 2008 Top 100 Prospects list, Stanton quickly became famous for mammoth home runs and his equally mammoth physique.
Although his rookie batting average and RBI production were not spectacular, he did display the much-hyped power as he hit 22 home runs in only 359 at bats.
With the departure of Dan Uggla to the rival Braves, Stanton may move into the fourth spot in the lineup behind Hanley Ramirez. A move to the clean-up spot would give Stanton a excellent chance to drive in 100 runs this season. In addition, I look for Stanton to deliver a more respectable .275 batting average with at least 30 home runs this season as he becomes more comfortable in the majors.
Stubbs Stole 30 Bases in 2010
2010 Stats: .255, 22 HR, 77 RBI, 30 SB, 91 R
As the Reds’ first-round pick of the 2006 amateur draft, Drew Stubbs was taken for his mix of blazing speed and power that made him a star at the University of Texas.
In his first full year in the majors, Stubbs showed his power and speed by smashing 22 long balls while swiping 30 bases as the Reds went on to win the NL Central.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Stubbs had a sub-par .255 batting average that submarined many a fantasy squad last season.
If Stubbs can avoid the proverbial sophomore slide and instead improve on his poor batting average, he could emerge as a top 20 outfielder in 2011.
2010 Stats: .277, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 11 SB, 83 R
As the most highly-touted rookie in 2010, Heyward burst onto the scene in 2010, hitting a three-run home run off Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano. He continued his hot streak throughout the first two months of the season, earning Rookie of the Month honors in both April and May. It appeared that Heyward was on pace for a historic rookie year, yet as the year went on his numbers became quite pedestrian.
Heyward is an immensely talented player; however, he fizzled out in the second half of the season and fell just short of Buster Posey in the Rookie of the Year voting. If you look past all of the hype and take a closer look at the numbers, one will discover that his power numbers were actually disappointing, considering the fact that he had over 600 plate appearances in 2010. In addition, his run-production numbers were well below what one might expect.
Of all the players on this list, Heyward is by far the most popular and will likely be the first taken in most drafts. He is certainly a talented player; however, he appears to be a little overvalued when you look at his first year's body of work. Heyward is certainly a stud in the making, but I would rather target Rasmus or Stanton later in the draft as they appear to be better values.
2010 Stats: .346, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB, 37 R (28 Games With Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
The departure of Jayson Werth will likely open the door for the Phillies to promote Brown from Triple A to become the team’s everyday right fielder. Brown is rated as the No. 15 overall prospect by Baseball America and had a scorching .346 average for Lehigh Valley in 2010.
The Phillies are quite high on this prospect and will likely make him the starting right fielder on opening day; however, the fact that he is left-handed will cause some concern for an already left-handed-heavy lineup.
Brown is by far the most raw of the five players listed in this article and the least likely to produce solid numbers in 2011. For those in keeper and deep NL-only leagues, Brown is a nice sleeper to target late in the draft.
This article was originally published on www.kramericasports.com, the home of free fantasy news, rankings and advice.