Fantasy Rankings: Outfieldby Ben Jacobs
March 18, 2004
Depending on how your league is set up, outfielders could make up half the picks in the first two rounds. There's depth in the outfield if you want to focus on the weaker positions early, but there's also some impressive talent at the top of the list. (Note: Rankings are based on 5x5 Rotisserie scoring).
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals: Without taking position into consideration, Pujols provides more fantasy value to your team than any other hitter in baseball. He doesn't steal much, but he more than makes up for that with his work in the other four categories.
In his three years in the majors, Pujols has hit .334 while averaging 38 home runs, 122.3 runs and 127 RBIs per season. There's no reason to think he'll be much worse this season. Expect an average of .330-.340, 38-40 home runs, 125-130 runs and a similar amount of RBIs.
2. Carlos Beltran, Royals: Beltran's not just the second-best fantasy outfielder this season, he's also the fourth-best position player overall behind Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Pujols.
Over the past three seasons, Beltran's hit .295 while averaging 26.3 home runs, 35.7 steals, 107.3 runs and 102 RBIs per season. In short, he does everything, and this will be his age 27 season, which is when many players have their best year. Expect an average in the .305-.310 range with 30 home runs, 30-35 steals, 105-110 runs and 105-110 RBIs.
3. Barry Bonds, Giants: Yes, he will turn 40 years old this summer. However, he has just had what is probably the best offensive three-year run in the history of baseball. If he's going to slow down anytime soon, there haven't been any signs yet.
A .289 career hitter after the 2000 season, Bonds has amazingly hit .345 the past three years. He should be able to hit .340-.350 again this season while providing another 45 or so home runs and scoring 110-115 runs. He stole the 500th base of his career on June 23rd last season and then didn't attempt another steal the rest of the season, so he may be done stealing bases entirely now that he's founded the 500-500 (or 600-500) club.
Aside from the possibility of no steals, there are only two bad things you can say about Bonds. The first is that his high walk total prevents him from driving in more than 100-110 runs and limits the effect his high batting average has. The other is that he's got to stop hitting like this at some point. That point probably won't be this year though.
4. Vlad Guerrero, Angels: Guerrero's back doesn't worry me in and of itself. However, the fact that he was always a low-percentage base stealer combined with the fact that he's coming off a back injury combined with the fact that his legs have been bothering him this spring means the Angels will probably give him a green light on the basepaths much less frequently.
He's still a great hitter and should provide a .315-.320 average, 30-35 home runs, 100-105 runs and 110-115 RBIs. However, don't expect more than 10 steals unless you want to set yourself up to pay for steals you never get.
5. Magglio Ordonez, White Sox: He'll probably never match his 25 steals from 2001, but Ordonez has been a consistently great hitter over the past five seasons, hitting .312 while averaging 32 home runs, 102 runs and 118 RBIs per seasons. And he did still steal nine bases last year.
Despite a down year in homers, runs and RBIs, Ordonez put up a batting average, OBP and SLG right in line with the rest of his career. He should hit around .315 again with 30-35 home runs, 10 steals, 105-110 runs and 115-120 RBIs.
6. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox: Ramirez is the best offensive player in the American League, but not everything he does translates into fantasy value. He's drawn 67 intentional walks in three years in Boston, but he might get more pitches to hit this year batting third with Nomar Garciaparra and probably David Ortiz behind him.
Even if he only does what he's been doing, however, you can expect an average around .320 with 35-40 home runs, 115-120 runs and 105-110 RBIs.
7. Gary Sheffield, Yankees: Sheffield provided the first "star player injured" headlines of the spring, but it looks like his thumb may not be any more of a problem than Jim Thome's finger. I'd say that Sheffield may not reach double digits in steals again if he's worried about damaging the thumb, he was apparently playing with the same injury from last July 10th through the end of the season and he stole six bases in 69 games during that span.
Sheffield was the second-best fantasy outfielder in baseball last year, but it may have been the best all-around season of his career and it's unlikely he'll match it at 35 years old. Still, he should hit .300-.305 with 30-35 home runs, 10-13 steals, 100-105 runs and 120 or so RBIs.
8. Lance Berkman, Astros: This ranking may seem too high for him, but Berkman averaged 36.7 home runs, 110.5 runs and 121.5 RBIs per 162 games from 2000-2002, and he should bounce back from an off year.
He's only 28 years old and even his worst full season offensively was among the best in the league. His final numbers were pulled down mostly by an atrocious April in which he hit .208 with two home runs and four RBIs. This year, you can expect a .290-.295 average, 30-35 home runs, half a dozen steals, 110 runs and 120 RBIs.
9. Preston Wilson, Rockies: Coors Field sure is something, huh? Wilson's always had a nice combination of power and speed, but playing in Colorado helped him set career highs in batting average, homers and RBIs. His steals were down a little, but he still swiped more bags than most players who knock in 141 runs.
Wilson can't be expected to rack up that many RBIs again, but he can still be a fantasy powerhouse. He should hit .280 with 35 home runs, 12-15 steals, 90-95 runs and 120-125 RBIs.
10. Vernon Wells, Blue Jays: After giving everybody a taste of what he can do in 2002, Wells took the majors by storm last year. He was one of just four players (along with Pujols, Sheffield and Todd Helton) to have at least a .315 average, 30 home runs, 115 runs and 115 RBIs.
He might not have many seasons quite like that, but he's one of the most impressive young hitters in baseball and he bats third in one of the best lineups in the majors. He should hit .295-.300 with 27-30 home runs, 6-8 steals, 110-115 runs and 105-110 RBIs.
11. Brian Giles, Padres: A knee injury limited Giles to 134 games and ended an impressive four-year run during which he hit .309 and averaged 37.25 homers, 107.75 runs, 109 RBIs and 10 steals per season. He still hit quite well when he was able to take the field, however, and he's not done being a great hitter at 33 years of age.
Expect him to hit .295-.300 with 30-35 home runs, 8-10 steals, 100 runs and 110 RBIs.
12. Bobby Abreu, Phillies: If you miss out on Beltran and still want a dependable five-category outfielder, this is your man. Over the last five seasons, he's hit .309 while averaging 23.2 homers, 28.8 steals, 108 runs and 93.6 RBIs per season.
Last year, Abreu fell one run short of joining Beltran as the only players to have at least a .300 average, 20 home runs, 20 steals, 100 runs and 100 RBIs. He should provide an average around .300, 20-25 home runs, 20-25 steals, 100-105 runs and 110-115 RBIs.
13. Sammy Sosa, Cubs: Sosa is still a very good hitter, but the days of him hitting 50 or 60 home runs every season are probably over, as are the days of him posting a batting average above .300. A toe injury, a baseball to the batting helmet and the corked bat incident all contributed to last year's struggles, but he had already declined some in 2002.
He's now 35 years old, and the simple fact is that he's more likely to get worse than he is to get better. Expect a .280 average, 40-45 home runs, 105-110 runs and 115-120 RBIs and you shouldn't be disappointed.
14. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: Whether you think he deserved his 2001 MVP award or not, there's no denying that Ichiro was one of the best players in fantasy baseball that year. Not only did he lead the league in hitting and steals and score 127 runs, but his .350 average was weighted by 692 at-bats. Unfortunately, he's declined sharply since then and, although he's only 30, it doesn't seem likely that he'll turn it around.
That's not to say he's not valuable anymore, you just have to block that 2001 stat line out of your mind so that it doesn't affect your decision. Expect a .310 average, 10 home runs, 30 steals, 110 runs and 60 RBIs and you shouldn't get burned.
15. Chipper Jones, Braves: He doesn't usually get a lot of attention, but he always gets the job done. For six straight seasons, he's provided at least a .305 average, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs, and in five of those seasons he scored at least 100 runs.
He'll be 32 early in the season, but there's no reason to expect him not to have another season of that type. He should hit .300-.310 with 25-30 home runs, 100 runs, 105-110 RBIs and a handful of steals.
16. Garrett Anderson, Angels: He was always a lot more valuable in fantasy leagues than in real life because he provided a decent average and nice power, but didn't walk at all. His recent spike in batting average, however, has made him a very good hitter in real life and an even better fantasy option.
He still doesn't walk at all (his career high is 34), so I don't know how sustainable his batting average is, but I don't see why he can't hit around .300 again. He should also provide about 30 home runs, 85-90 runs, 110-115 RBIs and a half-dozen steals.
17. Aubrey Huff, Devil Rays: How he didn't make the All-Star team last year is beyond me. The Devil Rays finally get a hitter who's good enough that they don't have to find a player by default for the "every team gets an All-Star" rule, and instead of him, the team sends a reliever who had a 4.05 ERA and six blown saves at the break.
Anyway, Huff deserved to be an All-Star last year, and he'll deserve to be an All-Star again this year. Expect a .300 average, 30-35 home runs, 90-95 runs and 105-110 RBIs.
18. Juan Pierre, Marlins: There's only one reason he's ranked this high. Sure, he'll score a lot of runs and he should help your batting average, but if you draft Pierre, you're drafting him because of his steals -- 158 of them in the last three seasons.
I don't think he'll swipe 65 bags again, but he should lead the league in steals for the third time in four years. Expect a .300 average, 45-50 steals and 100-110 runs. And the other two categories? Try not to think about those, but you might get two home runs and 45 RBIs if you're lucky.
19. Andruw Jones, Braves: Jones had one year where he did all the things everybody thought he would do. In 2000, he hit .303, smacked 36 home runs, stole 21 bases, scored 122 runs and drove in 104 runs. Every other season, however, there have been parts of his game that aren't that helpful. If you can get over the fact that he just might not be the second coming of Willie Mays, however, then you can appreciate that he's still a darn good hitter.
Jones isn't quite 27 years old yet, and he's still averaged 35.25 home runs, 104.5 runs and 104.5 RBIs per season over the last four years. Expect more of the same, or maybe a little better, this year as he should hit .275-.280 with 35 or so home runs, 100 runs, 110 RBIs and a handful of steals.
20. Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks: Even if the 57-home run breakout of 2001 was a fluke, Gonzalez has had an excellent five-year run in Arizona. He's 36 years old now, but he should still be able to produce if he can stay healthy, especially since he no longer has the pressure of being the team's only real hitter.
The problem is that staying healthy part, as Gonzalez is going to try to play with a partially torn ligament in his elbow. If he can avoid Tommy John surgery, he should be able to take advantage of hitting in front of Richie Sexson and hit .295-.300 with 30 home runs, 100-105 runs, 100 RBIs and a handful of steals.
21. Shawn Green, Dodgers: Green had his worst season since 1998 last year, but at least part of that was due to a shoulder injury that he had surgery for in the off-season. He's still only 31 years old and should be able to bounce back nicely.
He's more than capable of hitting .285-.290 with 35 home runs, 8-10 steals, 95-100 runs and 105-110 RBIs. You might think those projections are a little high, but they could be conservative if he's fully recovered from last year's ailments.
22. Richard Hidalgo, Astros: After a huge dropoff in production from 2000 to 2002, Hidalgo bounced back last year with a season that was pretty close to as good as his 2000 performance. He may regress a little this year, but he's definitely a better hitter than 2001 and 2002 indicated.
Expect him to hit .285-.290 with 25-30 home runs, 7-10 steals, 85-90 runs and 90-95 RBIs. He's not really worth the contract the Astros gave him, but you don't have to worry about that.
23. Scott Podsednik, Brewers: Podsednik's performance last season was completely out of the blue, but that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve this ranking. Most of Podsednik's value comes from his steals, and he's been a good basestealer throughout his career.
He probably won't come close to hitting .314 again, but he'll be fine as long as he keeps running when he does get on base. He should hit .285-.290 with 8-10 homers, 35-40 steals, 95-100 runs and 55-60 RBIs.
24. Rocco Baldelli, Devil Rays: Baldelli faded as his rookie season progressed and he'll need to improve his discipline at the plate, but his season was about as good as you could expect from a 21-year-old who had played just 40 games above Class A in his career.
He should be able to keep his batting average the same at the least, and while he might steal fewer bases, he'll probably also hit more homers. Expect a .290-.295 average, 15-20 home runs, 20-25 steals, 90-95 runs and 80-85 RBIs.
25. Torii Hunter, Twins: This is higher than most people would rank him, but even if he only bounces back slightly from last, he'll come close to deserving this spot. Even though it was an off-year for him, he did improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio, which could help him if he doesn't abandon what he learned.
This ranking is based on an expectation of a .275 average, 25-30 home runs, 10-15 steals, 90-95 runs and 105-110 RBIs. If you don't think he's capable of doing that, then you'll want to drop him in your rankings.
26. Carlos Lee, White Sox: Whereas Hunter declined despite an improving walk rate, Lee improved despite a declining walk rate. That's why I expect Hunter to bounce back nicely and Lee to regress a little.
Still, Lee has the ability to be a good all-around hitter, and he'll provide value in several categories even if he doesn't match what he did last year. He should hit .275-.280 with 25-30 home runs, 10-15 steals, 90-95 runs and 105-110 RBIs. Really, he should be very similar to Hunter. I just happen to have a bit more faith in Hunter.
27. Jim Edmonds, Cardinals: When I first started putting this list together, there was no way I thought Edmonds would end up ranked this low. However, he's getting older and he doesn't do some things as well as he used to. He's also obviously not getting less injury-prone, as you might be able to tell from the fact that he just appeared in his first Spring Training game on Wednesday.
Expect a .275-.280 average with 30-35 home runs. It looks like Tony LaRussa might bat Edmonds second this season, which would probably mean 100-105 runs and 85-90 RBIs.
28. Johnny Damon, Red Sox: I expect Damon to improve upon last season's performance at least slightly, but he'd be ranked nearly this high even if he didn't. The only thing that could really hurt his value, besides a serious injury, is if he doesn't hit at the top of that powerful Boston lineup.
There's no indication that he won't, however, so you can expect an average around .280, 10-15 home runs, about 30 steals, 105-110 runs and 65-70 RBIs.
29. Carl Crawford, Devil Rays: At this point, he's kind of like a poor man's Juan Pierre without as much patience at the plate. However, he's only 22 years old, so he has time to develop more patience and he'll end up with more power as well.
For this season, he should provide a .280-.285 average, 5-8 home runs, 35-40 steals, 80-85 runs and 55-60 RBIs. That's probably a conservative estimate on the steals, but it's better to underpay than overpay.
30. Mike Cameron, Mets: After getting terrorized by Safeco Field for four season, Cameron has finally escaped to the friendly confines of Shea Stadium. Friendly for pitchers, that is. Some guys just can't get a break, but getting out of Seattle should still help Cameron, who was affected by that park more extremely than you'd expect.
Now that he's in a better environment, he should hit around .265 with 25-30 home runs, about 20 steals, 85-90 runs and 95-100 RBIs.
31. Randy Winn, Mariners: The man who will take over in center field at Safeco is going to have a tough time replacing Cameron's defense, but this is a fantasy ranking, so you don't care. Winn seems to be the butt of some jokes because his All-Star appearance was as the de facto Devil Ray, but he's really not a bad hitter.
He doesn't really hurt you in any category, as you can expect a .290-.295 average, 10-15 home runs, 20-25 steals, 95-100 runs and 70-75 RBIs.
32. Dmitri Young, Tigers: Young knows what it's like to be the lone All-Star representative from a bad team, but he definitely deserved his appearance last season. He might not quite match those numbers, but he should be aided by the improvements to the lineup around him.
He'll hit .290-.300 with around 25 home runs, 80-85 runs and 90-95 RBIs. As an added bonus, he played 16 games at third base last year, so he might qualify to play there in your league this season.
33. Carl Everett, Expos: It's not good when you have a reputation as being injury-prone and suspension-prone, but Everett has calmed down some since his heyday as "Crazy Carl" in Boston. More importantly, he showed last season that he can still be a good hitter.
Playing home games in Montreal might help keep him out of the media's spotlight, and playing 22 games in Puerto Rico will certainly help his offense. If he can stay relatively healthy, you can expect a .290-.295 average, 25 home runs, a handful of steals, 80-85 runs and 90-95 RBIs.
34. Trot Nixon, Red Sox: Nixon had been steadily improving since 1999 when he regressed significantly in 2002. Then, he bounced back with by far the best season of his career. He'll turn 30 soon, so he's going to decline somewhat, but he's still a good hitter (especially if the pitcher's right-handed instead of left-handed).
He does have a habit of picking up nagging injuries, and he already has a bulging disc in his back. If he can stay healthy enough to play around 140 games, he should provide a .290-.295 average, about 25 home runs, 4-5 steals, 80 runs and 85-90 RBIs.
35. Larry Walker, Rockies: Walker can still be a force at the plate when he's healthy, but he's fully healthy less and less often. He's average just over 140 games per season the last three years and he hasn't played as many as 145 games in a season since 1997.
If he can play around 140 games, which is probably the high end of the spectrum for him, and avoid playing in pain too often, he could hit .295-.300 with 20-25 home runs, half a dozen steals, 90-95 runs and 85-90 RBIs.
36. Corey Patterson, Cubs: Patterson was in the middle of a very nice year when a knee injury ended his season after 83 games. He should be back close to full strength, and speed, this year.
If his knee doesn't remain a problem, you can expect a .285-.290 average and at least 20 homers and 20 steals. He'll be batting second most of the time this season, so he should score 95-100 runs and drive in 70-75.
37. Shannon Stewart, Twins: All jokes about him getting MVP consideration because of his magical ability to completely turn around the pitching staff of the team he got traded to aside, Stewart's a good hitter. He doesn't have the stolen-base speed he used to, but he hits for a good average, has some pop and scores runs.
If he can stay healthy, which has been a problem for him in his career, he should hit around .300 with 10-15 home runs, 5-10 steals, 100 runs and 65-70 RBIs.
38. Hideki Matsui, Yankees: The fact that he drove in 106 runs notwithstanding, "Godzilla" was a King Kong-sized disappointment last year. The player who had averaged nearly 40 home runs per season his last seven years in Japan could only manage to knock 16 balls out of the park last year.
He'll probably improve a little bit in his second season in the States, but I think it's safe to say that he's not going to be a star here. Expect him to hit .280-.285 with around 20 home runs, 75-80 runs and 90-95 RBIs.
39. Milton Bradley, Indians: We always heard about Bradley's talent, but we hadn't seen much of it in 217 games and 717 at-bats in the majors before last year. Injuries limited him to 101 games last season, but he at least showed that he can be a successful big league hitter.
Even if he can stay healthy enough to play a full season, Bradley will probably decline at least a little. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a .295-.300 average, 10-15 home runs, 15-20 steals, 75-80 runs and 65-70 RBIs.
40. Cliff Floyd, Mets: Floyd's always a productive hitter and he always gets hurt. To expect anything different would be more than a little bit silly. The only question is whether injuries will limit him to 140-145 games or under 120 games.
If he can play close to 140 games, he should give you a .285-.290 average, 25 home runs, half a dozen steals, 80-85 runs and 95-100 RBIs.
41. Austin Kearns, Reds: The fact that Kearns saw his average drop by 51 points in his second season, but hit more home runs in fewer games would seem to indicate that he changed his style of hitting. If he did, however, the new style didn't give him more power. It simply took away a bunch of his doubles and triples and added some home runs.
The key for Kearns is really just to stay healthy. If he does that, he'll be of value in one way or another. If he plays 125-130 games, you should expect a .275-.280 average, about 20 home runs, 6-8 steals, 70-75 runs and 75-80 RBIs. If he can play 140-145 games, he could get up to 25 home runs, 10 steals, 80 runs and 90-100 RBIs.
42. Juan Gonzalez, Royals: Gonzalez is another player who could be great, but has to stay healthy. He's only played 152 games combined the last two seasons and has reached 140 games just once in the past four years.
It's probably overly ambitious to expect any more than 120 games from him, but if he can play even that many, he should give you a .285-.290 average, 25-30 home runs, 65-70 runs and 75-80 RBIs. His last four seasons indicate that his performance can be all over the place, so don't take him too early and expect him to play like it's the late 1990s again.
43. Adam Dunn, Reds: When Dunn hit 19 home runs in 66 games in 2001, most people felt it was just a matter of time before he hit 50 homers in a season. Since then, he's regressed to the point where people are wondering if he'll ever hit for a high enough average to make his power worthwhile.
He'll never be a .300 hitter, but he's only 24 years old and he has a tremendous amount of talent. His average should bounce back somewhat this season, allowing people to focus more on his better attributes. He should hit .250-.255 with 30-35 home runs, 10-15 steals, 75-80 runs and 95-100 RBIs.
44. Jeromy Burnitz, Rockies: After a terrible 2002 season, Burnitz had a very good half-season with the Mets and an awful half-season with the Dodgers last year. He turns 35 in April, but playing half his games in Coors Field will allow him to bounce back from his Dodger Stadium-induced slump.
Depending on whether he plays 125-130 games or 145-150 games, he should hit 30-40 home runs. He'll probably only post a .250-.260 average and a handful of steals, but he can score 65-70 runs and drive in 95-100.
45. Ryan Klesko, Padres: After three impressive seasons in San Diego, a shoulder injury limited him to 121 games, a .252 average and 21 home runs last year. He should be healthy enough this season to hit .270-.275 with around 25 home runs, a handful of steals, 65-70 runs and 80-85 RBIs.
46. Raul Mondesi, Pirates: Mondesi never lived up to the expectations everybody had for him, but he does have 264 home runs and 229 steals in his career. He's still just 33 years old, and he's always been at least useful as a fantasy player.
It might have been better for the Pirates if they hadn't signed Mondesi and let their younger players get a chance, but they did sign him so you might as well consider him. He's only played fewer than the 143 games he played last year once since 1995, and you can expect a .265-.270 average, around 25 home runs, 15-20 steals, 70-75 runs and 75-80 RBIs.
47. Brad Wilkerson, Expos: He's been very consistent the last two seasons, hitting .266 with 20 homers and seven steals and then .268 with 19 homers and 13 steals. This will be his age 27 season, so he might have a career year, but you know the minimum you can expect to get from him.
He should hit .270-.275 with 20-25 home runs and about 10 steals. The Montreal lineup is going to be better than people expect, so he should score 90-100 runs if he leads off or drive in 90-100 runs if he bats fifth.
48. Jacque Jones, Twins: He may still get traded since the Twins have a glut of young outfielders to replace him with, but he's in Minnesota for now and he'll be fine if he stays there. He's not going to duplicate his 2002 season, but he'll hit for a solid average and provide a nice combination of power and speed.
Expect a .290-.295 average, 18-20 home runs, 10-12 steals, 75-80 runs and 65-70 RBIs.
49. Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: I have no doubt that Cabrera is going to become a star hitter in time. Unless you're in a fairly deep keeper league, however, there's no reason to pay this season for what he's going to do in four or five years. He's still just 20 years old and he hit .268 with a dozen home runs in 314 at-bats last year, so it would take a huge improvement for him to make a real fantasy impact this year.
He'll probably improve a little bit, and hit .275 with 18-20 home runs, a handful of steals, 60-65 runs and 85-90 RBIs.
50. Bernie Williams, Yankees: It may be surprising to see him ranked this low, but Williams is 35 years old and he's not aging particularly well. If he recovers from last year's injuries, he can still be an effective part of the Yankee offense, but his days of being a top-notch fantasy option are over.
Expect him to hit around .285 with 15-20 home runs, five or six steals, 75-80 runs and 90-95 RBIs. He'll probably be better than Cabrera, but there's a chance that Cabrera could really break out and there's a good chance that Williams will have some injury problems.
Ben Jacobs can be reached via e-mail.
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