02/11/11 12:00 PM EST
Fantasy draft tiers: Outfield
Varied skill sets give owners plenty of options
By Matt Chaprales / MLB.com
All kinds of jewels can be discovered in the outfield.
From burners to boppers to five-toolers, the pool of talent is so vast and varied that owners can neglect the position completely in the first few rounds and still amass a group to be reckoned with.
This season is particularly special, as a new generation of superstars looks ready to blossom.
Braun seems to have traded some power for average over the last few seasons, but his high floor keeps him the No. 1 outfielder for another year. CarGo is a beast, but don't count on a redux of his mind-blowing '10, which was aided by an extremely favorable .384 BABIP. Crawford's new park and lineup in Boston set him up for a monster campaign, but speed is plentiful in the later rounds. And that Hamilton guy is pretty good.
Although Kemp ranked among the game's bigger disappointments last season, his line-drive and fly-ball rates were on par with his '09 numbers. An unlucky .295 BABIP appears to have been the culprit for his struggles, which would indicate a bounceback is in the cards. Cruz sports one of the best power/speed combos in the game but is something of gamble because of his injury problems. Upton has loads of upside while Holliday is the UPS of outfielders: He guarantees delivery.
Can anyone say youth movement? The players in this group are all prime-age or younger, and a career season from any of them would hardly be a surprise. Stanton and Bruce are the sluggers, each capable of clocking 30-plus home runs. Pence, Choo and Rios are the five-category studs. McCutchen is the speed demon. Heyward, meanwhile, seems destined to become all of the above.
The fact that an owner can look at the fourth tier of outfielders and see a potential 30/30 guy (Young) along with two of the game's premier base stealers (Ichiro, Ellsbury) is merely a testament to the trove of talent at the position. Indeed, when there are 30-homer guys like Werth and Lind available into the sixth and seventh rounds of standard mixed-league drafts, it's good times all around.
Most owners will be trolling for a second or third outfielder at this point. Either way, it's tough to go wrong with the names on this list. Upton, Victorino and Stubbs all have jets on the basepaths and power at the dish. Granderson does too, though with more of an emphasis on the power. Swisher and Ethier can be counted on break into their home run trots at least 25 times each.
Just a tick below the Tier 5 guys, the players on this list make rock-solid second or third outfielders. Of the three Mets, Pagan is probably (or improbably) the most appealing because of his ability to hit for a good average, swipe at least 30 bases and stay on the field -- something Beltran and Bay struggled with last year. Quentin is the heaviest hacker of the bunch, while Jones and Markakis can help out in the average department. At a bargain price, a healthy Sizemore could be the sleeper here.
Owners who realize they may have stocked up a little too much on heavy lumber and not enough on speed will be happy to see some sprinters among this group. Pierre and Bourn ranked first and second, respectively, in steals last year, and Gardner wasn't far behind. Span, Tabata and Jackson can all turn on the afterburners when necessary. Brown got some big league experience under his belt in 2010 and has 20/20 potential as an everyday player.
Not long ago, veterans like Hunter, Wells and Guerrero -- players clearly with something left in the tank -- wouldn't be buried in Tier 8 of a list like this. That means owners can breathe easier when building their outfield, as proven guys like the aforementioned trio and solid performers like Huff, Cuddyer and Kubel are sure to be hanging around well into the double-digit rounds.
Some of the outfielders in this tier won't even start in typical mixed leagues, which is pretty surprising considering the name value. Even at advanced ages, Berkman and Mags can still put the bat on the ball. Davis and Crisp are sleeper speed sources if they play every day. And of course, Manny is sure to be Manny in some capacity as the Rays' DH.
Tier 10: Scott Podsednik, Marlon Byrd, Franklin Gutierrez, Julio Borbon, Johnny Damon, David DeJesus, Raul Ibanez, Matt Joyce, Josh Willingham, Cody Ross, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Jonny Gomes, Desmond Jennings
Depending on the size and format of a league, these outfielders could range from late-round draft picks to waiver wire acquisitions.
Matt Chaprales is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.