As a stark contrast to the previous position, outfielders are a plenty. There are three types of players at this position: power guys, speed guys and guys that do a little bit of everything. As you’ve noticed from other rankings, there’s a premium on players how sport the power stats. This is simply because it is more difficult to replace power through a waiver claim than it is to replace the speed stats, like steals. My outfield rankings will be broken into two pieces since it’s a large group. Here are players 1-10, with a wrap of players outside the top-ten to follow:
1. Jose Bautista: Joey Bats! This dude is incredible. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t buying him last year since he didn’t have a track record of awesome seasons before his 2010 breakout. But he did it again last year and I’m officially a convert. Look at these numbers: .302 average, 43 homeruns, 20% walk rate and an OPS of 1.055. These numbers are almost irreplaceable from any other player, making this Blue Jay truly elite. Some say he’ll regress some, but I don’t see it happening if he stays healthy. His peripheral stats suggest he didn’t get lucky and that his outcomes are true. He’ll go early, and for good reason.
2. Matt Kemp: finally utilizing the potential that’s been seen in him for years, Kemp had a huge 2011. He ended up one homerun shy of 40-40 and nearly took home the Triple Crown. Unlike Bautista, I am predicting a slight regression. A couple less homers and steals, plus a reduced average still leaves you with a very special player. Kemp has the athleticism to do big things and I expect him to be in the “elite” category again for the Dodgers.
3. Curtis Granderson: the Yankees are lucky to have this guy in his prime. He was great last season, slugging 41 homeruns, driving in 119, scoring 126 and stealing 25 bases. Those stats are silly and I don’t think he’ll match them this time around, but it’ll be close. A dynamic force, you know he’ll produce in that New York lineup. He’s worth an early pick again this year and I don’t see him making it out of the second round in many drafts, and definitely not out of the third.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury: you could make a very, very compelling argument that Jacoby should have been the AL MVP in 2011. A total surprise of power arrived and his speed numbers stayed healthy, although down a little. I don’t think he’ll hit 32 homers again, but 25 are a reasonable expectation. He’s stealing less with Crawford and Gonzalez in the lineup, so the days of 60+ steals are probably gone, but he can take 40 as long as the Red Sox let him run. Always a contact guy, you can expect low strikeouts and a high average, too. An impressive player who will help you in many categories.
5. Justin Upton: here’s another young guy who has all the talent in the world and appears to be tapping into it. The Diamondbacks should be a strong in 2012 and Upton is a big reason for that. Justin is capable of hitting 35 homers and stealing 25 bases, plus driving in nearly 100 while hitting over .300. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! His strikeouts are bit high, but that’s a common trade-off when you’re dealing with players who hit for power.
6. Josh Hamilton: he’s a special player on a great team, meaning his value should be very high. If he can stay on the field more, he can be an MVP-type player. A full season would be something like .300/34/120, but his injury history makes me realize that a full season is somewhat unlikely. He’s worth an early pick regardless, since his production is top-notch. Just be sure you don’t count on him to carry you’re entire team, because he’ll hit the DL at some point.
7. Carlos Gonzalez: after a jaw-dropping 2010, CarGo was just “very good” in 2011. His talent and athleticism are fantastic; he just tends to be a bit injury-prone. A .300+ hitter, he can go 30-30 if he stays healthy for the Rockies. They should be a good offensive club this year, especially given that they play so many games at Coors Field. This guy is solid with the potential to be great.
8. Lance Berkman: I know, he’ll likely play first base most of the season, filling Albert’s void. He’ll still be listed as an outfielder, though, and that’s where he played in 2011, which was a very good season for a very good hitter. Long considered one of the game’s best “pure hitters,” Berkman helped lead the Cardinals to the World Series crown last year. He’s unlikely to be a .300/30/100 guy again this year, but I don’t expect a huge drop off. Pujols leaving the lineup will have some ripple effects for everybody. Lance has a long injury history, so expect to need to go to your bench at some point to replace this aging slugger.
9. Andrew McCutchen: the Buccos are a force to be reckoned with, at least when this guy’s at the plate. A true dynamic force, Andrew can hit the long ball and steal bases while putting up good walk numbers and hitting for a respectable average. 30-30 is not out of the realm of possibility for him and represents a best-case scenario. If other players can mature at the plate around him (Tabata, Walker and Alvarez come to mind), he could be very valuable. If nothing else, he’s one of the more fun players to watch day in and day out.
10. Carlos Beltran: a once top-three overall talent, Beltran is looking to be a solid contributor for St. Louis these days. He’ll play a corner outfield spot, which will likely keep him healthier as his days in center are long gone. The Cardinals’ lineup will be strong again and Beltran can still rake when he’s healthy. I like him to be a solid player who can hit for average and put up a little power, too. Sure, he’s not 40-homer guy, but a line of .300/28/95 line is good, especially this far down the list.