Continuing my series of rankings updates, it’s time to look back at my preseason outfield rankings and update them for the rest of the season. Keep in mind that this is a list of who I think will be the best outfielders for the rest of the season, not who I think have been the best outfielders so far this season. (Preseason ranking in parentheses.)
1. Vlad Guerrero, Angels (4): Guerrero’s first half of the season has alleviated any concern you could have had about him. His back hasn’t been a problem (he’s on pace for 160 games), he’s hitting as well as he used to in Montreal (and as well as almost anybody else in the AL) and he hasn’t completely stopped stealing bases.
2. Albert Pujols, Cardinals (1): How great must a player be if he’s hitting .304 with 22 home runs, 72 runs and 60 RBIs in his first 83 games and you think to yourself, “He should do better the rest of the season?”
3. Carlos Beltran, Astros (2): If you drafted him looking to help your team in every category, you can’t be disappointed. He’s on pace for 39 homers, 28 steals, 116 runs and 119 RBIs. The only place in which he’s not approaching expectations is with his .276 batting average, and that should go up at least a little.
4. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox (6): He’s simply the best offensive machine in the AL. The only thing that prevents him from being a more valuable fantasy player is that he doesn’t steal any bases. He does everything else you could want from a hitter though.
5. Bobby Abreu, Phillies (12): Abreu was a top-15 fantasy outfielder last year because he hit .300 and had a 20-20 season while totaling 200 combined runs and RBIs. This year, he’s hitting .306 and he’s already just two home runs and a steal away from his sixth consecutive 20-20 season. He also already has 131 combined runs (71) and RBIs (60).
He’ll probably slow down at least a little bit, but he’s definitely having his best year yet at the age of 30. He’s got a chance to set career highs in every offensive category besides batting average and triples.
6. Barry Bonds, Giants (3): All the walks make him more valuable to the Giants than he could ever be if teams pitched to him normally, but they also make him less valuable to a fantasy team than he should be by decreasing his RBI opportunities and limiting how much his league-leading batting average impacts your team.
7. Magglio Ordonez, White Sox (5): He’s hit when he’s been healthy this year and he’s healthy right now, so there’s no reason not to expect him to hit well the rest of the year. I’d guess a .310-.315 average, 15-18 homers, 40-45 runs and 50-60 RBIs the rest of the way.
8. Gary Sheffield, Yankees (7): Sheffield’s on pace to meet all of my preseason expectations but one. After reaching double digits in steals 10 of the last 11 seasons, Sheffield has just one theft so far this year. Even if he’s stopped stealing, however, he’s good enough with the bat to be a top 10 outfielder from here on out.
9. Sammy Sosa, Cubs (13): Sosa would be right on pace to provide the .280 average, 40-45 homers, 105-110 runs and 115-120 RBIs I predicted if he hadn’t gotten hurt. He’s healthy again now and he’s getting his timing back nicely if his four homers in 35 at-bats in July are any indication. Expect him to produce like the Sosa you know and love the rest of the way.
10. Johnny Damon, Red Sox (28): While Damon’s in the midst of the second-best fantasy season of his career, he’s also on pace to steal his fewest bases since 1997. Still, he’s in the top 10 in the AL in both steals and batting average and trails only Guerrero in runs. He’s also hit 10 homers and is on pace to drive in 87 runs from the leadoff spot.
He’ll likely decline somewhat, but even that could possibly be overcome if he regains his aggressiveness on the basepaths.
11. J.D. Drew, Braves (NR): I can’t believe I’m putting him here, but Drew’s problem has always been staying in the lineup, not producing while he’s there. He’s still only on pace for 145 games, but he’s also on pace to set career highs in home runs (39), runs (121) and RBIs (102).
It’s not like these are unrealistic numbers for him, either. He hit .323 with 27 homers, 80 runs and 73 RBIs in a 2001 season that was shortened to 109 games by injury. Had he played 145 games that year and maintained that pace, he would have finished with 36 homers, 106 runs and 97 RBIs.
12. Matt Lawton, Indians (NR): Another player whose large assortment of injuries has overshadowed the fact that he’s generally performed well when he’s been healthy. He’s hitting .305 with 15 homers, 16 steals, 68 runs and 49 RBIs. I don’t think he can quite keep up this pace, but I could see him finishing with a .300 average, 25 homers, 25 steals, 115 runs and 85 RBIs.
13. Miguel Cabrera, Marlins (49): I was dead wrong about Cabrera. I thought it would take him some time to turn into a star hitter, especially since he wasn’t quite as good as everybody seemed to think last year, but he’s matured very quickly.
He’s hitting .295 with 20 homers, 59 runs and 59 RBIs, and I can’t believe he’s only 21 years old. I still expect him to slow down a little and maybe finish the year hitting .285 with 32 homers, 95 runs and 100 RBIs.
14. Garret Anderson, Angels (16): His bat has been fine when he’s been in the lineup this year, so he should have no problem producing at his expected rates for the rest of the year.
15. Carl Crawford, Devil Rays (29): He’s on pace to improve upon last year’s numbers in just about every single offensive category. He may hit a slump somewhere in the second half, but he’s still going to lead the majors in steals and I don’t see his batting average falling below last year’s .281 mark.
16. Lance Berkman, Astros (8): He’s having a great season offensively, but a disappointing fantasy season. He should improve upon his home run, run and RBI numbers and then he’ll be right where you would expect him to be.
17. Brian Giles, Padres (11): He’s been hurt by San Diego’s new park (.515 SLG at home, .454 on the road), but I still think he can reach 30 homers this season and provide close to as much offense as people expected of him before the season.
18. Hideki Matsui, Yankees (38): Apparently, he just needed a year to adjust. He’s actually only on pace for seven more extra-base hits this season, but the distribution is a little more along the lines of what people expected. After hitting 42 doubles and 16 homers (with one triple) last year, he’s on pace for 28 doubles and 32 homers (with four triples) this year. That makes for a much nicer fantasy season.
19. Adam Dunn, Reds (43): Dunn grabbed everybody’s attention as a rookie in 2001 when he smacked 19 homers in 66 games. Nobody noticed that he only hit .262, because he’s one of those players who can have a great offensive season with that kind of average. He’s hitting .263 this year, but he already has 25 homers, 56 runs and 53 RBIs. It’s taken longer than some people expected, but there’s a real chance we could finally see Dunn hit 50 home runs.
20. Jose Guillen, Angels (NR): So, I guess last year’s performance with Cincinnati wasn’t a complete fluke. He’s not the .337 hitter he pretended to be for 91 games, but I guess he is capable of hitting around .300 with good power. In Anaheim’s lineup, doing that will allow you to score a lot of runs and drive in a lot of runs.
21. Melvin Mora, Orioles (NR): He should have been seventh on my third base ranking, but I forgot about him, so he goes here. I still don’t think he’s really this good, but he’s definitely shown over the last two seasons that he’s somehow turned into a very good hitter.
22. Jim Edmonds, Cardinals (27): With Pujols and Scott Rolen around, Edmonds is almost a forgotten man in St. Louis’ offense, but he’s hitting .284 with 21 homers, 52 runs and 56 RBIs. He hit 39 homers last year and he’s on pace to do so again this year, but with better marks in every other category.
23. Scott Podsednik, Brewers (23): His batting average has fallen off precipitously from his rookie season, but he’s on pace to double his home run total and improve his stolen base total by 50 percent. He was good last year and he’s been good this year, just in slightly different ways.
24. Jeromy Burnitz, Rockies (44): Ah, the magic of Coors Field. Not only is Burnitz hitting for the best average of his career, but he’s also on pace for his best home run and RBI totals since 1998. As long as he doesn’t get traded, he’s a top option the rest of the way.
25. Richard Hidalgo, Mets (22): I never would have thought he’d make this list a month ago, but he’s been rejuvenated (again) since his trade to the Mets. He was hitting .256 with four homers, 21 runs and 30 RBIs in 58 games before the trade, and he’s hitting .314 with eight homers, 16 runs and 16 RBIs in 22 games since.
Fell from top 25
Preston Wilson, Rockies (9): Has been hurt most of the season and hasn’t been himself even when he’s been able to play. His home park gives him a chance to turn his season around, but you certainly can’t count on him at this point.
Vernon Wells, Blue Jays (10): He’s played well enough when he’s been healthy, but he’s likely to be out for another three or four weeks. That pretty much kills his chances of being one of the top 25 outfielders from here on out.
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners (14): He’s doing just fine with a .321 average and 21 steals, but the declining production all around him in Seattle’s lineup has him on pace for just 85 runs, which would be his first season with fewer than 110. He’s also tended to decline in the second half, and that’s certainly not a point in his favor here.
Chipper Jones, Braves (15): Just baffling. He’s only 32 years old, so he shouldn’t be falling apart like this after six straight seasons with a batting average above .300.
Aubrey Huff, Devil Rays (17): I expect him to be better for the rest of the season than he has been so far this season, but his stock has still taken a hit with his performance thus far.
Juan Pierre, Marlins (18): He’s on pace to score 15 fewer runs and steal 25 fewer bases than he did last year. Since those are the two biggest aspects of his game, that’s obviously a bad sign.
Andruw Jones, Braves (19): If you pulled the worst total in each of the five categories from Jones’ last five seasons (.251 average in 2001, 26 homers in 1999, four steals in 2003, 91 runs in 2002 and 84 RBIs in 1999), you’d have approximately what he’s on pace to do this season (.250 average, 28 homers, four steals, 89 runs and 95 RBIs).
Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks (20): Once again, he’s been OK, but his teammates are killing him. He’s hitting .270 with 15 home runs, but he’s on pace for just 78 RBIs. There’s also the lingering potential of a season-ending injury hanging over him at all times.
Shawn Green, Dodgers (21): I don’t know how it could be possible, but it’s starting to look like he’s just done at age 31. The contrast between his 2001-2002 seasons and his 2003-2004 seasons is just staggering.
Rocco Baldelli, Devil Rays (24): His performance thus far has been decent in four categories (.289 average, seven homers, eight steals, 48 runs), but 36 RBIs isn’t nearly good enough for somebody who doesn’t excel at any category. I still think he’ll become an excellent fantasy player in time, just not this year.
Torii Hunter, Twins (25): I thought he’d bounce back from a disappointing season, but he’s actually regressed even more in every category except batting average and steals.