I heard through the grapevine that the lot of you are looking to Xtreem and I for fantasy advice. Yes, like thirsty wanderers in the desert of fantasy baseball who have found the well of knowledge, rest assured that the knowledge water… yeah, this analogy is not going anywhere.
So I was tasked with putting together the top 15 outfielders for the 2013 Fantasy Season to continue with our series – after Xtreem threw out an awesome analysis on the third base position yesterday. I followed his lead and grabbed the ESPN and Yahoo rankings as baselines, and then I went ahead from there.
Since most fantasy leagues use the standard fantasy categories of runs scored, home runs, RBI, stolen bases and batting average, I went with those categories in my rankings, as well. True, fantasy leagues can be set up to include any number of offensive categories, but the vast majority of leagues just stick with standard scoring, so I will as well. Two items to keep in mind: fantasy is offense only, so defense isn’t factored in the rankings, and because we’re using the standard fantasy categories, these rankings won’t represent the players’ real offensive value. (Xtreem mentioned this yesterday, but it was worded well, so I left it in for clarification.)
Gather the pitchforks, there was no Colin Cowgill! Now jokes aside, I am not an expert, but here goes…
15. Adrian Gonzalez (95/25/110/1/.302) – Many leagues will allow Adrian Gonzalez OF eligibility because he played 18 games in RF during the 2012 season, and this is a great draft to grab him. Gonzalez was once one of the most feared hitters in the entire MLB, hitting nearly 40 HRs every year with an average that hovered around .300. Although he hit a career-low in HRs with 18 in 2012, Gonzalez was still able to post a .299 average and drive in 108 runs. He also slammed 47 doubles, which is an overlooked stat. Gonzalez will never provide anything in the stolen base department that is worth mentioning, but I honestly think he is in line for a return to form with solid numbers across the board. The Dodgers look solid going ahead and Gonzalez should be a big part of that offensive unit.
14. Yoenis Cespedes (75/25/91/22/.280) – Quickly, name the three players that had double digit home runs and steals with a .300 average in the second half of 2012. Give up? Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, and Mr. Cespedes. Speaking as one of the owners who rolled the dice on Cespedes last year, I was rewarded with a solid season from a player that actually looked to improve as the season went along. He cut down on his swing-and-miss rate by 7% in the second half, and stole 12/16 bases after July 1st. I figure that his average will drop a little bit, but Cespedes played liked a seasoned athlete in the second half of last year and could actually improve on his numbers… However, I will not get ahead of myself just yet.
13. Jay Bruce (90/39/104/8/.260) – There is no mystery about Jay Bruce. Draft Jay Bruce, and you draft a guy that will immediately boost the power numbers for your team – but at the cost of a weaker average. Bruce, however, resides in a strong lineup and this provides him not only the opportunity to score runs, but to drive them in as well. If you can stomach the average, which is definitely not as bad as it gets, Bruce is a bonafide power threat and definitely worth an early draft pick.
12. Jacoby Ellsbury (88/19/60/35/.280) – Drafting Jacoby Ellsbury could be the biggest risk you take all year – but it could definitely turn out to be the difference between a championship or barely missing the playoffs. When healthy, Ellsbury is the type of player that every owner salivates over because he is passable in all five major categories, and is not too far removed from a ridiculous 2011 campaign where his fantasy line was 119/32/105/39/.321. Of course, it is impossible to ignore all the time he has spent on the DL over the past four years, so where exactly does that leave Ellsbury? It is all left up to you, of course, but if you asked me, I’d take the risk.
11. Justin Upton (100/22/75/18/.281) – I feel like Justin Upton is always on the brink of breaking out, yet he can never put all the pieces together for too long at one time. I have always avoided him during drafts myself, but this is the year where it is likely he could put it all together. He is surrounded by a ridiculously strong supporting cast and no longer has to deal with the cloud of trade rumors hanging above his head. Coming off a strong second half, the younger of the Upton brothers may finally have found himself in a good position to shatter old expectations…but for now, I think I will stay conservative.
10. Adam Jones (90/30/84/15/.280) – The consensus on Adam Jones is that he is a top-15 outfielder, and what reason is there to argue against at all? Jones was able to succeed as part of that amazing Orioles run in 2012, and he just happens to be going into that magic age-27 season in 2013. If Adam Jones posted the stat line I projected in 2013, I doubt many people would be surprised nor would they be complaining. The only knock I think I can understand against Jones is that he has basically reached his peak – but fantasy owners would still welcome him onto their teams if he could consistently post the numbers he did last year. He is a solid choice across the board, but keep an eye on his runs scored this year.
9. Jason Heyward (96/30/91/24/.265) – I had some trouble deciding between Heyward and Jones – and as you can see, I gave J-Hey the edge here. Heyward will no doubt post a lower average in comparison, but he bats in a lineup that is noticably more potent. This will not only lead to more RBI chances, but more runs scored as well, because I think the Braves will be outscoring the Orioles in 2013. Heyward will also likely steal a handful more bases than Jones and demonstrate the star potential that had scouts drooling over him when he made his debut a couple years ago. I hate to heap such praise on the product of a division rival, but Heyward has a lot of things going right for him moving forward and should contribute to any fantasy team in 2013.
8. Giancarlo Stanton (84/45/93/5/.270) – Stanton could be the MLB HR King in 2013 – and the only reason that it comes into question is because the Marlins had yet another fire sale last offseason and have left Stanton with very little to work with. He will likely have to deal with being pitched around more often than anyone in the league moving forward, and although his power numbers should not suffer that much, the other fantasy stats likely will. Don’t worry too much about his home ball park being a
n embarrassment spacious place, because he was able to bat over .300 with 16 HRs there. This could be a dangerous year in terms of people overpaying for Stanton while he suffers based on pure circumstances, so tread carefully.
7. Josh Hamilton (100/35/117/6/.293) – Maybe I just like Josh Hamilton more than most, but I always find a silver lining in drafting or trading for the guy. Hamilton might be making the transition from Texas to Anaheim, but man, that lineup is stacked. He comes with some injury risk and some years behind him – and you probably will not see him crack the high .300 level for his batting average anymore. However, Hamilton has legendary power and can hit home runs wherever in the world his home ball park is. He does show some red flags, considering his increasing strikeout rate during the second half of 2012, but at least one more all-star caliber season lies in reserve for Josh Hamilton.
6. Carlos Gonzalez (95/25/87/25/.303) – We all know the drill with Carlos Gonzalez – he is a talented player who jumps even further into the spotlight because of Coors Field. Minor injuries here and there have derailed overall solid campaigns for Gonzalez, who pushes the envelope on touching a 30/30 season eventually. A healthy 2013 could mean he finally reaches that plateau. Nothing much has changed for CarGo – he can get you 25 home runs, 25 steals, a .300 average with some higher end runs scored and RBI numbers. Just be careful with how you play him on road trips. I never really drafted the guy because of his severe road/home splits, but his overall numbers obviously merit a high pick.
5. Andrew McCutchen (102/26/90/24/.301) – Did somebody ask for Carlos Gonzalez without the awful home/road split? Well, you got your wish. I think MC is one of the better all-around hitters in the game today, as he excels as making solid contact when he does hit the ball, resulting in a high line drive rate and enough home runs to satisfy most fantasy owners. His average from last year is definitely in line to drop due to a high BABIP, but there’s a ton to love about MC and there is reason to believe he can still hover around a .300 average. The Pirates lineup could use a little boost, but McCutchen can still be a potent addition to fantasy teams this year.
4. Matt Kemp (99/35/100/20/.300) – The hamstring injuries that Kemp dealt with last year might be enough to scare off enough even the most loyal Dodger fan, but Kemp can still produce at a high level. He was always considered a desirable player in fantasy, with the basic speed/power combo but with 40/40 potential at times – and a .300 average to boot. I am not as down on Kemp’s legs as most people are, so I’m giving him a little hope here with a 20-SB projection. Kemp could be a risky pick considering he is also coming off shoulder surgery, so keep tabs on the way he performs this Spring. A healthy Matt Kemp is a no-doubt first-rounder, and even though in a down year he can still provide pretty good numbers, you do not want to overpay.
3. Jose Bautista (101/43/120/5/.260) – It feels unnatural to doubt Jose Bautista at this point, even coming off an injury shortened season. His wrist injury slowed him down and eventually led to surgery last year, yet he still managed to hit 27 home runs in 332 ABs. If not Giancarlo Stanton, it could very well be Jose Bautista taking the title of MLB’s HR King in 2013 if he returns to form. Bautista was on a ridiculous tear in the last few years and the frequency at which he was launching home runs was unmatched in the post-steroid era. So far this March, he is showing no ill effects from his wrist surgery, so the general conclusion seems to be that Jose Bautista will remain a first-round pick.
2. Mike Trout (120/27/65/43/.290) – If not for the numbers tailing off towards the end of the 2012 season, not only might Mike Trout be your top fantasy outfielder and player, some people might actually have built shrines to him. However, it is not inconceivable to think that we saw Trout’s best season as a pro athlete last year. Trout, going in to next year, will be pressured to meet the standards of his rookie year – which might have been the best one in MLB history. That being said, a bad year for Mike Trout will likely amount to something among the top-5 of all outfielders and a repeat of last year is still not out of the question. By the time you blink, Trout’s name will be off the board – and in a few leagues, he will go first as well.
1. Ryan Braun (106/34/112/30/.314) – PED accusations aside, Ryan Braun is a fantasy stud and there is literally nothing else to say on the matter.
So a few things to note before you try to hurt me:
- The notable omissions were BJ Upton, Bryce Harper, and Matt Holliday. Harper is ranked fairly high by most experts – and this is key to why I dropped him out of the top 15. Cespedes has the potential to produce at the same level or even better than Harper does this year – while Adrian Gonzalez could be undervalued. On the flip side, Harper is going to fly off the boards due to the hype machine that permanently surrounds him and I would not recommend getting caught up in that. If he falls to you, feel free to jump on him – and if you’re in a keeper league, by all means, stretch for him. He will eventually breakout into a perennial MVP caliber player…but I just do not think it is in the stars for this year.
- Matt Holliday is a safer type of pick who can still get you great production, but be careful with his lingering back injuries. BJ Upton will likely produce at a high level, but his average is always unsightly and he is streaky as all hell. Ben Zobrist and Allen Craig might also be lower-end players to target who can get you top-15 production in one way or another with position flexibility, and you might be able to survive with some names like Josh Willingham, Nelson Cruz, Austin Jackson, or Hunter Pence who all have later ADPs.
- Michael Bourn and Brett Gardner are solid for SBs but will not help with power or average, while Chris Davis and Josh Reddick can provide some extra pop – but beware their averages as well.
If all goes well, you all will see some work on the top starting pitchers soon enough.