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I’ve sort of been dreading my OF ranks analysis because I knew it had to be an opus – there is simply too many dynamic things happening with a multitude of players that keeping this short will be impossible. Because I’m lazy, I’ve put the outfielders in three easy categories – no muss no fuss!
Players people will think I’m too high on:
Over the last three seasons (including an injury shortened 2008), Carl Crawford (OF rank: 1, overall rank: 3) has averaged a .297 AVG, 14 HRs, and 44 SBs. He has moved to a hitter friendly ballpark and line-up. While he has stolen a ton of bases against the inept Red Sox backstops, I think Crawford will be a 20-50 player next season with a good average, 100 runs and upside to 70 SBs. He has the ability to be an absolute star in two categories (SBs and Runs), above average performer in two others (AVG and RBIs) and can hold his own in HRs. I’ll be shocked if he isn’t in the top 5 come the end of the season.
After winning his way out of conscription, Shin-Soo Choo (5, 15) is poised to take the fantasy world by storm. Choo has averaged 79 runs, 19 HRs, 16 SBs, 81 RBIs and a .302 average over the last three years. Oh and he’s also posted a sterling .397 OBP. I don’t think the Indians can be as bad as they were last year. Given Choo’s skills, if he is surrounded by average players he should hit/walk his way to 90-100 runs/RBIs, all the while going 20/20 and posting a .300 AVG. Seems like the current version of Bobby Abreu to me.
One of the greatest things ever happened to me on twitter – Hunter Pence (11, 24) responded to a tweet of mine. Pence has hit 25 HRs on the dot the last three years and has improved his SB rate and frequency each season. He’s also hit .282 on the dot the last two years and is entering his age-28 season. He seems like a shoo-in for a 90 run/RBIs season with 25+ HRs, 15+ steals and a .280 average. I’m not sure why he would be the 81st person off the board in early mocks.
I’m guessing you’re noticing a power/speed combo trend in my rankings. If so, it should come as no surprise that I’m high on Bobby Abreu (24, 50). Since 2007, Abreu has averaged 18 HRs and 25 SBs a year. Sure, his average dipped a ton last year (from .293 to .255), however his BABip was about .040 points lower than his career. While his LD% was a bit lower than normal, he didn’t hit anymore ground balls than usual, so I expect his average to rebound somewhat. I’m pretty confident that he can hit near .270, approach 20 HRs and steal 20+. With his OBP, he’ll be a threat to post 90+ runs and could knock in another 90. Something tells me Abreu will be on a lot of my teams, again.
I’m going to be the grand marshal at the Nick Swisher (25, 54) pimp parade. I will grant you that Swisher’s .335 BABip and thus .288 AVG is not sustainable (his career BABip is just .286). However, he is a legitimate 30 HR player nestled in a powerful line-up who knows how to get on base. He seems like a sure 90 run/RBI bet with a near .260 average. He won’t steal you a base, but the HRs/runs/RBIs will be more than helpful to most teams as a top tier third outfielder. In reality, he is Adam Dunn-lite.
Last year, in just 108 games, Nelson Cruz (10, 22) hit 22 HRs and stole 17 bases – that’s astounding. The year before, in 128 games, he hit 33 HRs and stole 20 bases. Quite simply, if Cruz can play 150 games or so he’ll be a top five fantasy contributor. Unfortunately, you can’t really make that bet. Typically, someone with his injury history would be knocked down a bunch in my rankings. However, even if you get 110 games from Cruz, you’re looking at a very similar player to Shin-Soo Choo. If you’re a gambling man and love to go after upside, I suggest you grab Cruz. While he’s a bit old (30), he still should have a few great years hitting in Texas.
I almost didn’t include Drew Stubbs (17, 41) because I figured everyone would talk about him. However, as the guy who called Carlos Gonzalez an 8th rounder last year, I think Stubbs has that kind of ability to overpay his draft slot. Currently the 155th player off the board at Mock Draft central, I have him comfortably in the top five-six rounds. Owing to his near 30% k-rate, I don’t think we can expect much of an average over .260. However, he could, legitimately, go 20-40, or 20-50. I think the floor is 20-30 (which he did last season). At only 26, Stubbs sure seems to have a bright future ahead of him. Given his ballpark and batting mates, he has good run/RBIs upside as well.
I don’t know what to make of Colby Rasmus (26, 57). He seems to be the predominant answer to “who is 2011’s CarGo?” However, I’m not quite sure the 24-year-old is ready to make that kind of leap. That said, I do think he will outperform his current ADP (91). Still, I just don’t see his career trajectory as that of Gonzalez. He reminds me a lot more of Jay Bruce. At 21, Bruce showed all the promise in the world, hitting 21 HRs in just 108 games. However his sophomore campaign would not go as expected – he’d bat .223, battle injuries/demotions and appear in just 101 games. Of course a fair amount of bad luck (.221 BABip) played a part in that disappointing season. Nevertheless, I see some warning signs with Rasmus – last season he had a .354 BABip – it was .280 the year before. He didn’t hit anymore line drives, but did significantly increase his HR/Fb% (from 9.4 to 14.8). Given those two things and a k-rate that will be north of 24%, I don’t think he has the exceptional power upside people think. I see Rasmus more as a .260 hitter with 20 HRs – i.e., a slightly better version of Bruce’s sophomore campaign. So, I’m in the odd position of both calling Rasmus a sleeper but trying to guard against a fair amount of hype that thinks he can be a top 20 performer.
Logan Morrison (76, 164): I must admit that this is slightly fueled my LoMo’s interesting twitter presence. I also own him late in my long-term keeper league. That said, LoMo has a career .383 OBP in the minors – and has basically posted .400+ OBPs at AAA and AA. In just 287 PAs last year, Morrison posted a .280 AVG and .390 OBP. LoMo is clearly a much stronger play in OBP leagues. That said, he could score 80+ runs given that OBP and post a decent average. He won’t steal any bases and might not hit double digit homers, but he’ll get on base and score – something that is useful later in drafts.
David Murphy (87, 194): Remember how injury-prone Nelson Cruz is? Well, the main beneficiary of his brittleness is Murphy. In 471 PAs last year, Murphy went .291/.358/.449 with 12 HRs and 14 SBs. I see no reason why he can’t put up those numbers again this year, even as only the fourth outfielder. However, if someone in that outfield (ahem Hamilton) gets hurt, Murphy could be in for a lot of at bats, which would bring power and speed. In deeper leagues, he’s a cheap grab already. In more shallow leagues, if anyone in the Rangers outfield gets hurt, Murphy should be immediately plucked from the wire.
Seth Smith (105, 233): I bet it’d surprise you to learn that Smith appeared in 133 games for the Rockies last year and slugged 17 HRs. He also went just .246/.314/.469 (a year after posting a .293/.378/.469 in similar at bats). Last year, Smith had a .256 BABip – for his career that number is much closer to .300. He did hit fewer line drives in what appears to be an attempt to increase fly balls (they went up 6%). However his HR/FB% went down a point. In short, it’s hard to tell exactly what Smith is doing with his swing. However, if his BABip goes back to where it is typically, he should be a near .280 hitter with 15-20 HRs. That’s not bad for the price tag.