Do-it-all Trout leads loaded outfield
Angels star hits for high average, slugs homers, scores runs and steals bases
When it comes to fantasy baseball, no other position sports a more eclectic mix of options than the outfield. Whereas other positions tend to specialize in certain statistical categories, the outfield has players who can either boost your power numbers or hit for average, while chipping in a substantial amount of stolen bases -- or, in some cases, do all three.
The key to putting together a successful outfield is to strike a healthy balance, instead of leaning entirely on a group of power-hitting corner outfielders or speedy center fielders. That becomes a much simpler task if you're able to land Mike Trout with your top pick, but options remain plentiful for those who are less fortunate.
TIER 1: Trout
Trout not only finds himself a cut above the rest in the outfield, but the 22-year-old Angels superstar is the top overall option in all of fantasy baseball. Trout squashed any concerns of a potential sophomore slump in 2013, posting a .323/.432/.557 slash line with 27 home runs, 97 RBIs, 109 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. As if fantasy owners needed another reason to draft the Halos outfielder, Trout also led the American League last year with 110 walks.
TIER 2: Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Bryce Harper, Carlos Gomez
If you miss out on Trout, this stacked second tier has its share of worthy alternatives starting with the defending National League MVP McCutchen, who is an impressive all-around talent in his own right and has been one of the game's top outfielders over the past three years. After the top two options, selections will depend entirely on your team needs and personal preferences.
Ellsbury seems poised to breakout as a speedster atop the Yankees' lineup, while Jones has established himself as a consistent offensive force and is coming off a career year with the Orioles. Gomez, too, is coming off the best season of his career and is another viable power-speed threat.
If you're more of a risk-taker, Gonzalez is more than capable of producing elite numbers if he can stay healthy, and Braun hit 41 homers and stole 30 bases in 2012 before an injury and suspension cost him most of last year. And, of course, there is Harper, who is hoping to leave behind his knee woes from a season ago and put together a complete superstar-level campaign.
TIER 3: Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig, Alex Rios, Jason Heyward, Matt Holliday, Justin Upton, Jose Bautista, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Kemp, Hunter Pence, Yoenis Cespedes
As will be a recurring theme with outfielders throughout your draft, choosing between these third-tier players will again come down to personal strategy. Puig figures to garner the most attention of this bunch after bursting onto the scene last year. Though he cooled off down the stretch, Puig still finished the year hitting .319 with 19 home runs after joining the Dodgers in June. If he can find a way to further improve his plate discipline -- and avoid the dreaded sophomore slump -- Puig could be one of the game's most exciting players this season.
Puig, however, is far from the only high-risk, high-reward pick in this group. Stanton is always a threat to lead the league in home runs, but he is coming off a disappointing 2013 season in which he was limited by injuries for the second straight year. The same applies to Kemp, Bautista and Cespedes -- a trio of sluggers capable of putting up MVP-type numbers when healthy, yet, like Stanton, each has struggled with health concerns for the last two seasons.
Rios is coming off his second straight productive season, including a career-best 42 steals last year, and seems to have fully moved past his disastrous 2011 season. Choo, his new Rangers teammate, constantly gets on base -- a trait that should bode well for his fantasy value in Texas.
TIER 4: Starling Marte, Wil Myers, Alex Gordon, Curtis Granderson, Billy Hamilton, Austin Jackson, Shane Victorino, Carlos Beltran
Myers proved last season he's capable of producing at a high level offensively, en route to earning AL Rookie of the Year honors. If you need to fill stolen-base needs, look to fellow youngster Hamilton. The Reds speedster is a legitimate threat to lead the league in stolen bases, even with moderate on-base skills.
Granderson is hoping a move across town to Queens will rejuvenate his career after injuries limited the veteran to just 61 games last season. Prior to 2013, he had topped the 40-homer mark in each of the previous two years, so feel free to roll the dice if you believe he can stay healthy. Meanwhile, Beltran will look to continue his steady offensive production in his return to the AL.
TIER 5: Domonic Brown, Desmond Jennings, Leonys Martin, Josh Hamilton, Jayson Werth, Nelson Cruz, Alfonso Soriano, Norichika Aoki, Ben Revere, Coco Crisp, Michael Bourn, Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter
Possibly the most diverse tier, any player at this level is a gamble. There are players such as Hamilton and Bourn hoping for bounce-back seasons after down years, while veterans Soriano, Crisp, Hunter and Cuddyer will all aim to repeat impressive '13 campaigns. Brown and Cruz are viable power threats, though the latter remains a free agent following his suspension-plagued 2013 season.
TIER 6: Angel Pagan, Kole Calhoun, Brett Gardner, Michael Brantley, Will Venable, Adam Eaton, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera, Khris Davis, Josh Willingham, B.J. Upton
Gardner hopes to benefit from hitting in a revamped Yankees lineup, while Upton will look to regain his dual-threat form following a forgettable debut season with the Braves. Calhoun and Davis, meanwhile, could be worth taking fliers on as the sluggers figure to get plenty of at-bats in everyday roles with the Halos and Brewers, respectively.