Clearing The Bases
Welcome to the first day of spring and if you live in the Northeast well then you know it’s about 30 degrees and snowing, not exactly good news for MLB, when the season will begin in about 10 days. Today we will complete our rankings with the outfielders. I’m not going to rank designated hitters as the only one that really deserves mentioning is David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz still is not completely recovered from his Achilles injury from last season, and hasn’t played in spring training as of yet. Worst case scenario is that he misses the first month of the season, best case, just a few games. Truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. As for OFs, one thing I’ve learned in my early drafts, the well dries up quickly, keep that in mind when it comes time for you to decide upon an OF and a player at a deeper position.
1. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers: If you would’ve asked me who my number one pick was two weeks ago, I would’ve stated Braun without hesitation, but now, I’m worried. It does seem that MLB has a target on his back, and wants to make an example out of him in regards to his possible PED use. We are hearing more and more each day about the investigation into Biogenesis and I’m starting to get that sneaky feeling Braun could get suspended sooner rather than later. Now, I did have a draft last night, non money league, where I had the third overall pick. I told myself before the draft that I would take Braun if he was there, but that I really wanted someone to take him with the first two picks and I would grab Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. I ended up with Braun but if this had been a money league, I can’t say I would’ve made the same decision.
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: Much was made about Trout reporting to camp 8-12 pounds heavier than he was last season. Was never really worried about this, what I was concerned about is whether or not he will make the adjustments that will necessary to put up big numbers again this season. You just know that pitchers and coaches across the league have been watching tape of him all off-season, trying to find a flaw in his swing. Baseball is a game of adjustments after all. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to take him top three, maybe even top two.
3. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies: Why CarGo over McCutchen? Just like his power potential more. CarGo just needs to put together a full season, stay healthy, play 150+ games. Would be nice if Troy Tulowitzki could also. The humidor in Coors Field doesn’t seem to have had the same effect the past couple of years, ball is flying out again. He can hit all five categories, even if you don’t want to take him before McCutchen or Kemp for that matter, he shouldn’t get out of the 1st round.
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates: McCutchen really announced himself on the national scene last year with 31 HR, 96 RBI, 20 SB, .327 AVG, with an OPS of .953. He’s a surefire 1st round pick who has gone as high as 4th in some drafts. I love the player, do worry if he will slow down some as the season rolls along as he is not the biggest of players, but that is just nitpicking. Bigger concern might be that there isn’t much of a lineup around him.
5. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: Kemp is a player that I am actually hoping falls to me in the 1st round of drafts (unsuccessful so far). There are some worries, legitimate, about his shoulder injury. He is playing in spring training and should be full go for Opening Day. I’m more worried that the hamstring injuries he suffered last year could have an effect on his running game this season. Could the Dodgers tell him not to steal as much, especially now with Hanley Ramirez out for 6-8 weeks.
6. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: Is Bautista completely over the wrist injury that ended his 2012 season prematurely? Seems to be as he is having an extremely productive spring. We all know about the improvements the Jays made this off-season. This lineup can flat out mash and will score a ton of runs and Bautista will be a huge part of that. Look for a big year, 40+ HRs wouldn’t surprise one bit.
7. Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels: Hamilton could be the ultimate boom or bust player. How does he react to a change of scenery? Do the Angels have a strong supporting cast for him? They certainly have a lineup that won’t solely rely on his production. The ball doesn’t travel, especially at night, in Anaheim like it does in Texas, so his power numbers could see a drop off, and Hamilton certainly took some heat for not being selective enough at the plate last season, swinging at far to many pitches not in the strike zone, there is also that injury concern as he seems to get hurt each and every season. He more than likely won’t make it out of the 2nd round, but I’d rather let him be someone else’s problem.
8. Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves: Upton is yet another player coming off an injury impacted 2012 season. He didn’t miss many games, but the thumb injury never completely healed and certainly sapped some of his power. Now he has been traded to play with his brother in Atlanta. Have a feeling he is going to pick up right where he left off before last season began as one of the best young players in the game and a possible superstar. One thing to remember however is that he goes from a hitter’s park in Arizona to a pitcher’s one in Atlanta.
9. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: Insert your Marlins jokes here. Yes they are a depleted team. Yes they don’t have much of a lineup around him, but he’s still going to hit 40 HRs, just might not be many guys on base when he does.
10. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: Now this is a kid who could/should be flying up draft boards. Some are touting him as a possible MVP candidate and although I’m not sure I would go that far I also wouldn’t argue with those who do. I’m a fan, and do believe he’s ready to make that next step. He can do it all, although I’m not sure 35+ HRs is in his future, not this year anyway, Won’t take him in the 1st round, but anytime after that is good with me.
11. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles: Will Jones become the next superstar? He has the talent to be able to hit all five categories although we would certainly like to see more than the 86 RBIs he had last season, be nice if he could steal a few more bases also. This is why he’s not quite in the Carlos Gonzalez’ or Andrew McCutchen class but I do believe he is headed that way.
12. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves: Heyward is an interesting case. There is not one category in which he excels in, but he might be someone who ends up in the top 15 in each. The AVG certainly needs help as .270 won’t hurt your fantasy team, but won’t help it either. The good news however is that most projections have Heyward closer to a .300 AVG this season. I don’t see him jumping to the lines of a 1st round OF, but he’s valuable, and wouldn’t be a bad anchor for your fantasy team.
13. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds: If not for Bruce’s AVG, he could easily vault into a fantasy superstar. He will hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 HRs with 40 not being out of the question. He has the ability to steal double digit bases and with the additions to the Reds lineup should drive in over 100 runs and could score close to the same. Definitely someone I’d like on my team.
14. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals: Some are viewing Holliday as the safe pick in the OF. Well if 27 HR, 102 RBI, and a .295 AVG is safe, I don’t mind if I do. Sure Holliday lacks the upside of some other players and he doesn’t really steal bases anymore but still, there is something to be said for knowing what kind of numbers your selections will put up. At least there are no guessing games. Holliday has also played at least 155 games in five of the last seven seasons.
15. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics: Now if you’re looking for a player who could only get better, one with upside, than Cespedes could very well be your man. His first season in MLB saw him post 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, and bat .292. Pretty impressive indeed. Now you might be worried about him making adjustments in his 2nd season. Normally I would also, but remember, Cespedes is 27 years old. He’s not some rookie coming from AAA ball but rather a professional who played in the Cuban league. I have him ranked at 15 here but really believe he cracks the top 10 as soon as next season.
16. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox: Well, is Ellsbury going to be the player he was in 2011 this year? You know, when he hit 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB, .321 AVG, and scored 119 runs or will he be the player he was last season when he missed more than half the season due to injury and wasn’t all that productive even when in the lineup? Now I think Ellsbury rebounds, but not to the numbers he had in 11 but will hit all the cats once again. He is also a free agent after the season, so there is plenty of incentive to have a big year and stay on the field.
17. B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves: In my mind Upton comes with quite a few warning flags. He’s had the reputation of being someone who hasn’t always given it his all. He’s changing leagues which can lead to an adjust period. He has his best season in a contract year and he has always been a drag on your average. Is there upside, of course. He can be a good source of power and speed and playing with his brother (Justin) can be nothing but a positive as far as I’m concerned.
18. Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers: This is where you start to feel the drop off at OF. I like Jackson, nice player, but doesn’t have major upside. Sure he plays in a great lineup and should score over 100 runs but what happened to his SB, only 12 last season. Have to wonder if he was told to take it easy on the bases as the Tigers don’t want him thrown out with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hitting behind him.
19. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Hard to complain about a player who will hit you 20+ HRs, steal double digit bases, won’t hurt your AVG, and depending upon your league requirements, could qualify at 2B, SS, and OF. I’m a big fan of position flexibility, makes things much easier when injuries occur, and we all know they are coming.
20. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals: Craig had the unenviable task of trying to replace a future Hall of Famer in Albert Pujols, and you know what, he did a pretty good job. Craig had 22 HR, 92 RBI, and batted .307 in 119 games, numbers that could get a nice bump if he can remain healthy and play 150+ games. Now that being said, health is a question mark and so is his ability to make adjustments. Opposing teams will prepare for him this season as he won’t catch anyone by surprise. Also has 1B eligibility.
21. Sin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds: I’m always wary of players who switch leagues. More times than not it seems to take them a little bit to make the adjustment to pitchers they haven’t seen on a regular basis. That being said Choo is hitting in a bit time hitter’s ballpark and in a very good lineup. If he bat’s leadoff however that could hurt his run production and there won’t be many runners to drive in. Another negative is that he may play CF this season. He is not a CF and could take his defensive woes into the batters’ box.
22. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays: Will this be the year that Jennings breaks out and becomes the player we have all heard he could be since being called up? Maybe, and the Rays certainly need it after losing B.J. Upton. At the very least Jennings is going to steal 30+ bases with double digit HRs, but that is the floor, 20/40 is certainly not out of reach.
23. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals: Beltran can hit, everyone knows that, what we don’t know is how many games he will play. The Cardinals will more than likely monitor his playing time, perhaps giving him one day off per week to try and keep him healthy. Fantasy owners probably shouldn’t complain about this as it’s better to miss one game a week rather than have Beltran end up on the DL. I would take 140 games of Carlos right now and the 25 HRs, 90 RBIs, that come with it.
24. Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox: Rios’ name has slowly been crawling up draft boards and why not. He hit 25 HR last season along with 91 RBI, stole 23 bases and actually batted over .300. If he can put those number up again he deserves to be up a few spots. The AVG scares me, have my doubts on whether or not he can do that again, but everything else seems legit. What’s even better is that you don’t have to draft him early as quite a few owners still don’t believe so he does seem to fall in some drafts.
25. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins: Raise your hand if you saw Willingham hitting 35 HR and driving in 110 runs last season? Put it down liar. No one saw this coming. Josh has always been known as a professional hitter but not one who would put up those kinds of numbers. I do believe we might see some regression, but I’m talking 30 HR, maybe 95-100 RBI, and I would certainly take that. Willingham has many disbeliever as he seems to last into the double digits of most if not all drafts.
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