Let’s get right to the rankings. (Note: Rankings based on 5×5 Rotisserie scoring.)
1. Vladimir Guerrero, Angels: There’s not much to say about Guerrero. He simply does everything you could ask for. He hits for average, hits for power, steals bases, scores runs and drives in runs. He answered the questions about his bad back by playing 156 games last year.
Guerrero’s still only 29 years old, so he should still be in the prime of his career. You can pretty much count on him to hit .325-.340 with 35-40 homers, 12-18 steals, 110-125 runs and 115-130 RBIs.
2. Carlos Beltran, Mets: Beltran’s got more speed than Guerrero, but he doesn’t have close to as good a batting average and he’s only shown 40-homer power once. He also may suffer from moving to a pitcher’s park after playing in hitter’s parks the rest of his career.
I think Beltran will improve his batting average, but will see a drop in power. I’d expect a .280-.290 average with 30-35 homers, 40-45 steals, 110-120 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
3. Bobby Abreu, Phillies: Abreu had been very good for a long time, but he was really great last year for just the second time (2001 being the other time). He hit .301 with 30 homers, 40 steals, 118 runs and 105 RBIs.
He’s 31 years old now and I don’t think he’ll be quite as good as last year, but he’s still going to help you in every category. He should hit .300-.310 with 25-30 homers, 30-35 steals, 110-115 runs and 100-105 RBIs.
4. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox: Ramirez is about as consistently good a hitter as you could hope for. He’s hit at least .300 eight out of the last nine seasons, he’s hit 35-plus homers in six of the last seven (the exception being when he hit 33 in 120 games in 2002) and he’s knocked in at least 120 runs in five of the last seven seasons (and he had more than 100 in the other two).
He turns 33 years old in May, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down. You should be able to count on him to hit .310-.320 with 35-40 homers, 100-110 runs and 120-130 RBIs. The only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases.
5. Carl Crawford, Devil Rays: Crawford was one of the seven or eight best fantasy outfielders last year and in addition to the fact that a couple people ahead of him will likely be worse, I also like Crawford’s chances of being better.
He’s only 23 years old, and he’s improved every aspect of his game — batting average, patience, power. I think he can definitely hit .300-.310 with 12-15 homers, 50-60 steals, 100-110 runs and 60-65 RBIs.
6. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: Suzuki is like Crawford, but with a higher batting average and fewer steals. He’s not going to hit .372 again, just because it’s really hard to have a batting average that high, but he’s going to have a good average.
Suzuki is 31 years old, but he’s been very consistent in each of his non-batting average categories the past three years. He’s had eight homers twice and 13 once, he’s scored 111 runs twice and 101 once, his steals have gone 31, 34, 36 and his RBIs have gone 51, 62, 60. He should hit .330-.340 with 8-10 homers, 30-35 steals, 110-115 runs and 60-65 RBIs.
7. Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: I was dead wrong about Cabrera last season. I thought his 2003 season was very good for somebody his age, but that it would be another year or two before he had a season that was very good for somebody any age. Instead, he went out and hit .294 with 33 homers, 101 runs and 112 RBIs.
Cabrera doesn’t even turn 22 until mid April, so there’s no telling how much better he could get. He might just match last year or even decline a little, but he definitely has the potential to hit .310 with 40 homers and 120 RBIs. I think it’s more likely he’ll hit around .300 with 30-35 homers, a handful of steals, 100-105 runs and 110-120 RBIs, but even that’s really good.
8. Gary Sheffield, Yankees: Sheffield’s an excellent hitter and you could probably put him ahead of Cabrera, but I’d rather have the young guy with the great potential than the aging guy with something of an injury risk.
Sheffield is 36 years old and while it didn’t really hurt his value last year, he does have a balky shoulder. I’d expect him to hit .300-.310 with 30-35 homers, 5-10 steals, 100-110 runs and 100-110 RBIs, but he could decline a bit from those numbers.
9. Juan Pierre, Marlins: He doesn’t have even the modest power of Crawford and Ichiro, but Pierre just has too much speed to ignore. After his impressive 2003 season, he was even better as a hitter last year and he’s still only 27 years old.
The only real question is whether his 65 steals in 2003 were something of an aberration, as he’s “only” had 45-47 in his other three seasons. This year, I’d expect him to hit .310-.320 with a few homers, 45-50 steals, 100-110 runs and 45-50 RBIs.
10. Jim Edmonds, Cardinals: Edmonds sometimes gets overlooked, but he’s really a great hitter. As good as he’s been since joining the Cardinals, however, last year was his best season. He’s 34 years old now, and I have to think he’ll decline at least a little bit.
I still obviously expect Edmonds to be good, but not quite 42-homer good. He should hit .290-.295 with 33-37 homers, 5-8 steals, 90-100 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
11. Corey Patterson, Cubs: I’m not just impressed that Patterson showed the best power and speed combination of his career last year, I’m also encouraged that he showed a lot more patience at the plate with 45 walks.
He’s only 25 years old and has excellent speed and power potential, and it looks like he may be ready for a breakout season. I’d expect Patterson to hit at least .275-.280 with 25-30 homers, 30-35 steals, 90-100 runs and 75-80 RBIs.
12. Hideki Matsui, Yankees: After a disappointing first season in the majors, Matsui showed what all the fuss was about last year. He hit .298 with 31 homers and 107 RBIs, making him one of the best outfielders in baseball.
Matsui’s only 30 years old, and I think he’ll be at least as good as last year, and maybe even a little better. He should be able to hit .295-.300 with 30-35 homers, 100-110 runs and 110-120 RBIs.
13. Adam Dunn, Reds: Dunn has monster power and although he’ll never hit for a great average, he can hit well enough that he won’t kill you there. He’s also indicated that he might try to steal more bases this season.
Dunn’s only 25 years old, and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t have a 50-homer season sometime in the next three or four years. This year, he should be able to hit .260-.270 with 45-50 homers, 10-15 steals, 100-115 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
14. Carlos Lee, Brewers: Lee has been a good hitter for a while, but he finally put together a season where he hit for average, hit for power and showed patience at the plate last year. Moving to Milwaukee won’t help him, but I like that he took a step forward in several parts of his game.
Lee’s still in his prime at 28 years old, and the fact that he can steal some bases is a definite bonus. I think he’ll hit .290-.300 with 30-35 homers, 10-12 steals, 85-90 runs and 100-105 RBIs.
15. Barry Bonds, Giants: If he was completely healthy, he’d be third on this list. I had him seventh before the report that he might be out until midseason, or even for the entire season. He’s clearly a huge risk now, but he’s got huge potential as well. If he does only miss the first month to six weeks, as was originally thought, he can still be a very helpful player.
Keep in mind that in 2002, Bonds only played 130 games and still hit 45 homers with 111 runs and 90 RBIs. Even if he only plays 120 games this season, he could still easily hit .340-.350 with 35-40 homers, 100-110 runs and 85-90 RBIs. If he only plays half the season (80 or so games), your team will definitely suffer, so you need to decide how much you’re willing to risk on his health.
16. Johnny Damon, Red Sox: Damon had a great season last year, hitting .304 with 20 homers, 19 steals, 123 runs and 94 RBIs. Unfortunately, he’s not going to match those numbers this year. Fortunately, he still hits leadoff for the Red Sox, which will allow him to score a ton of runs and drive in more runs than most leadoff hitters.
Damon’s not that old at 31, and he’s not much of an injury risk as he’s played at least 145 games in nine consecutive seasons. I expect him to hit .285-.290 with 15-18 homers, 18-22 steals, 110-120 runs and 75-80 RBIs.
17. Scott Podsednik, White Sox: Podsednik’s a strange case. He came out of nowhere to hit .314 with 43 steals in 2003, then last year his average plummeted 70 points and his steals skyrocketed by 27. What’s he going to do this year? Good question.
I think his batting average will recover at least a little bit, and that he’ll probably steal a few less bases. My expectation is a .265-.270 average with 10-15 homers, 55-60 steals, 90-100 runs and 50-55 RBIs.
18. Sammy Sosa, Orioles: Sosa could actually be quite a steal this season. I know he’s 36 years old and I know he’s been steadily declining the last few seasons, but he did hit 35 homers in just 126 games last year and now he’s moving to a park that’s great for homers from right-handed hitters.
If he can stay on the field for 130-140 games, I have no doubt that Sosa can hit .270-.280 with 40-45 homers, 80-85 runs and 100-110 RBIs. The risk is whether he can stay healthy, and that’s why he’s ranked here instead of half a dozen spots higher.
19. Vernon Wells, Blue Jays: Wells was significantly worse last season than in his breakout 2003 season, but he was dealing with some injury problems. He’s still only 26 years old, and he has tremendous talent. He’s not only healthy now, he’s talking about joining the 30-30 club.
It would be nice if he does steal 30 bases, but I wouldn’t count on it. Still, he should definitely be able to hit .290-.300 with 30-35 homers, 10-15 steals, 100-110 runs and 95-100 RBIs. He could also surpass those numbers and it wouldn’t surprise me.
20. J.D. Drew, Dodgers: Drew is definitely an injury risk, but he’s also a very talented hitter. He can hit for average, hit for power and steal some bases. The only thing he’s never done is play more than 145 games, and last year was the only time he played more than 135.
Moving to Dodger Stadium won’t help Drew, but it shouldn’t hurt him too much either. The real question is whether he can play 140-150 games. If he can, he should be able to hit .290-.300 with 25-30 homers, 10-12 steals, 100-110 runs and 90-100 RBIs.
21. Jason Bay, Pirates: I felt better about this ranking before Bay got hurt, but I still think he deserves this spot. He might miss Opening Day, but he shouldn’t miss nearly as much time as he did last season, and he hit .282 with 26 homers, 61 runs and 82 RBIs last year.
As long as Bay can still play 130-140 games, and I think he will, he should be able to hit .280-.290 with 30-35 homers, 5-10 steals, 75-80 runs and 100-110 RBIs. There’s just a little more risk associated with him now.
22. Andruw Jones, Braves: Jones gets labeled a disappointment a lot because he didn’t develop into the great all-around hitter people thought he would become, but he’s still a nice offensive threat. He only hit 29 homers last year, but he averaged 35 a year the previous four seasons.
Jones turns 28 years old in April, so he’s definitely still in his prime. He should be able to hit .265-.275 with 30-35 homers, 8-10 steals, 90-100 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
23. Brian Giles, Padres: After missing 28 games in 2003 due to injury, he struggled last year with his performance. It wasn’t really Petco Park either, as Giles posted pretty similar numbers at home and on the road last year.
Basically, Giles is getting older (34) and he’s probably starting to decline a little. I think Giles will bounce back some and hit about .280-.290 with 25-30 homers, 8-10 steals, 90-100 runs and 90-100 RBIs.
24. Lance Berkman, Astros: Berkman’s probably going to miss the first six weeks or so of the season, which is the only reason he’s not about a dozen spots higher on this list. He’s an excellent hitter, and he’ll still be able to help your team even if he only plays 120 games.
Assuming he does play 110-120 games, I’d say Berkman should be able to hit .300-.315 with 20-25 homers, a handful of steals, 75-80 runs and 80-90 RBIs. If he comes back a little early, it will be a bonus, although it’s also possible he could be out longer.
25. Garret Anderson, Angels: After being one of the healthiest players in the majors from 1996 to 2003 (missing a grand total of 42 games in eight years), he missed 50 games last year and he’s still apparently struggling with injuries this season. He’s a good hitter, but he’s now an injury risk as well.
I don’t think Anderson will get back to the production level he had in 2002 and 2003, but he should be able to produce when he’s playing. If he can play 140 or so games, he should be able to hit .290-.300 with 23-27 homers, a few steals, 75-85 runs and 85-90 RBIs.
26. Aaron Rowand, White Sox: Rowand had a very good season last year, hitting .310 with 24 homers, 17 steals, 94 runs and 69 RBIs. He’s 27 years old now, so he should be putting up one of his best seasons this year, but I think he’ll have trouble hitting quite that well again.
I think Rowand can match that production in four of those categories, but I expect his batting average to fall a bit. I’m looking for him to hit .295-.300 with 20-25 homers, 15-20 steals, 90-100 runs and 70-75 RBIs.
27. Torii Hunter, Twins: Hunter’s not going to match his 2002 production again, but he’s still got power and speed and can be a very nice fantasy player. He’s only 29 years old, so there’s not reason to expect him to decline, and he’s had two 20-20 seasons in the last three years.
The real thing you need to worry about with Hunter is his average dropping to .250 like in 2003, or his steals dropping into single digits. I don’t think either will happen, and he should hit .265-.270 with 20-25 homers, 15-20 steals, 80-90 runs and 80-90 RBIs.
28. Jose Guillen, Nationals: I didn’t think Guillen would be able to match his 2003 performance, but he came pretty close to doing so last year. After hitting .311 with 31 homers and 86 RBIs, he hit .294 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs.
At this point, I think you have to consider Guillen a good hitter, and expect him to keep the run of the last two seasons going. He should be able to hit .285-.290 with 25-30 homers, 75-80 runs and 90-100 RBIs.
29. Moises Alou, Giants: Alou has a few plusses (he hit 39 homers last year, he’s a career .300 hitter), but he has a lot more minuses. He’s 38 years old, 29 of his homers came at Wrigley last year, he won’t be playing in the same lineup as Bonds for at least a month and maybe significantly longer.
I don’t see any way at all that Alou comes close to producing the kind of numbers he had last year. My guess is he’ll hit .280-.285 with 25-30 homers, 75-80 runs and 85-90 RBIs.
30. Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: The odds of Ordonez actually being the 30th-best fantasy outfielder seem pretty slim to me. It seems like he’ll either be healthy, and he’ll be among the top 15 or 20 fantasy outfielders, or he’ll be hurt, and he won’t even crack the top 50.
He could hit .315 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs, or he could hit .280 with a dozen homers and 50 RBIs. My advice would be to draft him with an expected value of a .300 average, 20-25 homers, 70-75 runs and 85-90 RBIs, and be thankful for anything extra. If you go in expecting more than that, the odds you’ll be disappointment rise significantly.
31. Randy Winn, Mariners: There’s nothing really special about Winn. He’s just a solid fantasy outfielder who does a little bit of everything but not a lot of anything. He’s been very consistent the last three seasons, so there’s not much risk in him losing a lot of value, but there’s also not much hope of him gaining a lot of value.
Basically, Winn should hit .290-.300 with 10-15 homers, 20-25 steals, 90-100 runs and 75-80 RBIs. He’ll almost certainly finish the season ranked somewhere between 25th and 35th among fantasy outfielders.
32. Steve Finley, Angels: First of all, Finley’s not going to hit 36 home runs again this season. I’m actually worried about Finley declining significantly because he’s 40 years old, but he’s aged very well so far and I don’t see any telling signs that this will be the year.
That age definitely makes him risky, but it’s hard to find players after the stars at the top who don’t have risks. Finley should be able to hit .265-.270 with 20-25 homers, 10-15 steals, 70-75 runs and 90-100 RBIs (it sounds like he’ll be hitting fifth). He could fall well short of those numbers, but he could also greatly exceed them.
33. Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks: Even though he couldn’t come close to matching his 57-homer 2001 season, Gonzalez was a very productive fantasy outfielder until injuries slowed him down last year. He was only able to play 105 games, and he hit just .259 with 17 homers and 48 RBIs.
Gonzalez is a risk because of the injuries and because he’s 37 years old, but he can definitely hit when he’s healthy. If he’s able to play 140 games, he can give you a .290-.300 average, 25-30 homers, 80-90 runs and 90-100 RBIs. I don’t think I’d count on getting those numbers from him, but they’re certainly possible.
34. Lew Ford, Twins: Ford has been nothing short of amazing, hitting better in the majors in 188 games over the last two seasons than he did in 100 games in AAA in 2002 and 2003. Not that he was a bad hitter in AAA, he just didn’t have as good an OPS there as he has had so far as a major-leaguer.
Ford was late getting to the majors, but he’s still only 28 years old and in his prime. He might not be quite as good as he’s played so far in the majors, but I he’s left no reason to think he’s not a good hitter. He should be able to hit .290-.300 with 12-15 homers, 15-20 steals, 80-90 runs and 70-80 RBIs.
35. Dave Roberts, Padres: Roberts has only averaged a shade over 375 at-bats per season the last three years. Despite that, he’s averaged 41 steals. That means he’s averaged a steal every 9.2 at-bats. If he ever got 500 at-bats in a season, that would work out to 54 steals.
Luckily for him and fantasy owners everywhere, he’s finally with a team that wants him to play every day. He’s not a sure thing to get 500-plus at-bats (he’s had some injury problems and he’ll be 33 at the end of May), but this seems like his best chance. I’d expect him to hit .260-.265 with a few homers, 50-55 steals, 80-90 runs and 40-50 RBIs. He’s like Podsednik only with less power and more risk.
36. Larry Walker, Cardinals: Speaking of risk, Walker’s an excellent hitter who just can’t stay in the lineup enough. He’s 38 years old and he only played 82 games last year, and he’s only averaged 126 games per season since he became a full-time player (not counting the strike years).
So, he was never able to stay healthy, and now he’s old to boot, but he can still hit. He probably won’t play more than 125 games, but he can still easily hit .300-.310 with 20-25 homers, 5-10 steals, 75-80 runs and 70-75 RBIs.
37. Coco Crisp, Indians: After a couple years of getting attention for his name, Crisp got attention for his game last year, as he hit .297 with 15 homers, 20 steals, 78 runs and 71 RBIs in just 139 games. That’s pretty similar to what Winn does, except that Crisp is only 25 years old and still has the potential to get better.
I don’t know that you can really count on Crisp for that much power, but he certainly has speed. I’d expect him to be pretty close to what he did last year, say a .290-.300 average, 10-13 homers, 20-25 steals, 80-85 runs and 60-65 RBIs.
38. Jacque Jones, Twins: Jones has combined a .300 average and mid-20s homers, he’s combined a .300 average and double digit steals, and he’s combined mid-20s homers and double digit steals. If he could put all three things together in one season, he’d really have something going.
Jones turns 30 in April, so he’s probably not going to have a real breakout season any time soon, but he can be very useful if he keeps giving you some combination of what he’s done the last three years. I’d expect a .275-.280 average, 20-25 homers, 10-12 steals, 70-75 runs and 80-85 RBIs.
39. Geoff Jenkins, Brewers: Jenkins finally stayed healthy enough to play more than 135 games (157) last year, and suddenly he struggles at the plate. After hitting .296 with 28 homers in 487 at-bats in 2003, he only hit .264 with 27 homers in 617 at-bats last year.
Still, Jenkins can be a very good hitter and he shouldn’t be declining yet at 30 years old. If he can play 140-150 games again, I think he can hit .275-.280 with 30-35 homers, 80-90 runs and 100-110 RBIs. To be safe (injury-wise and production-wise), you should probably only expect 25-30 homers, 75-80 runs and 80-90 RBIs.
40. Trot Nixon, Red Sox: In case you hadn’t picked up the trend yet, Nixon’s another play who can really hit, but has trouble staying healthy. Despite only playing 134 games in 2003, he hit .306 with 28 homers, 81 runs and 87 RBIs. Last year, thought, he was only able to play 48 games.
Nixon turns 31 in April, but he can still be a very productive player when he’s in the lineup. The problem is his struggles against lefties and his struggles staying healthy. I’d expect him to play 130-135 games and hit .290-.300 with 25-30 homers, 75-80 runs and 80-90 RBIs, but he’s a little more risky than Jenkins.