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March 2, 2010

Fantasy Focus

Left Fielder Rankings

by Marc Normandin

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Left field is a very deep position-though there are just a few elite options, like any other position, the four- and three-star tiers are overflowing with quality, while the one-star tier has more to do with playing time constraints then a lack of ability. If most of those players had the plate appearances of a two- or three-star outfielder, they would most likely qualify as well. This list goes 57 deep As for the previous rankings in the series, check out first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, and catchers. Now, here are the changes to this year's ranking system:

  • Players are no longer ranked by number (the 1-20 system). Instead, I am implementing a tiered system using stars (five stars is the best, one is the lesser of your options). These stars are equal across positions to make comparisons between them easier-for example, there are three five-star first basemen, but there may be more or fewer than that at other positions-if it comes to it, the first player at a position may be a four-star option. You can derive positional scarcity from the number of four- and five-star players available and make decisions from there. Players are loosely ordered within tiers, with my first preference to my last.
  • I am no longer just covering 20 players per position-each list may be a bit different in length, but this list of left fielders is 57 players long. This should let players in AL- or NL-only league be as prepared as those in mixed leagues. There are two things I did to make this happen. First, I used the depth charts as my guide (this is also where the projections listed come from) and picked the starting player for every team at the position, giving me a minimum of 30 guaranteed choices. Second, for players with multiple position eligibility, I included them in the list for each position. It is possible they will have different star ratings at different positions, though, so make sure you reference the correct set of rankings. Victor Martinez is a three-star first baseman-it's a very crowded position, and his numbers are very average for it-but at catcher, where the talent pool is shallower, Martinez is worth more. This allows me to show you at which position a player is most valuable. If there is anyone I missed that you want to know about, please ask me about them via e-mail or in the comments, and I'll get back to you with my thoughts.


Five Stars
Player            PA  AVG/ OBP/ SLG  R  HR RBI SB
Carl Crawford    662 .298/.354/.458  91 14  72 45
Ryan Braun       684 .306/.373/.583 104 38 110 18

Braun is set to lead left fielders in every category except average (though he's close) and stolen bases (though he's still well above the average there as well). Crawford is above or well-above the average in every category, and is a huge source of runs as well as one of the most productive players in the game with those stolen base totals. You can't go wrong with either, but if you can pick up Crawford, at least you won't have to worry about relying on less talented players for your steals.


Four Stars
Player             PA  AVG/ OBP/ SLG  R HR RBI SB
Matt Holliday     667 .303/.391/.506 91 23 102 13
Shin-Soo Choo     646 .279/.388/.452 83 16  78 14
Carlos Lee        608 .307/.362/.512 70 26 106  6
Jacoby Ellsbury   553 .301/.358/.430 78  8  47 45 
Nyjer Morgan      598 .288/.347/.381 73  4  40 34
Adam Lind         556 .279/.345/.494 82 29  97  2
Manny Ramirez     556 .270/.378/.452 65 18  70  1
Travis Snider     553 .251/.333/.457 68 22  64  3
Denard Span       678 .295/.378/.421 92  9  64 24
Jason Bay         630 .258/.372/.471 88 26  89  9
Rajai Davis       551 .284/.341/.415 68  7  51 41

If Holliday had a bit more homer power or could steal 25 or so bases, I would pop him into five-stars, but he just misses on both counts, so here he is atop the four-stars. Choo's power output from his weighted mean strikes me as low, so let's consider him a candidate for hitting his 70th percentile (.290/.397/.473) or his 90th (.303/.410/.505).

Lee is slowly slipping, but he hasn't fallen yet, and he's a reliable source of RBI, power and average. Ellsbury is an average offensive left fielder, but those steals make him a valuable fantasy asset. If he can keep his OBP up he'll bring in more runs than that, so here's hoping he's able to match his forecast and improve on last year's so-so rate.

Morgan's career year may have been 2009, but that doesn't mean he's going to disappoint in 2010. That forecast is lacking in power, but he makes up for it in stolen bases-remember that R and RBI are down in these projections when looking at someone like Morgan, who is deceptively productive for fantasy purposes. Lind doesn't swipe any bags like the last few guys discussed, but he will bludgeon the ball so he can slowly trot instead. He is set to DH this year, but still has his outfield eligibility, so don't forget he's not relegated only to Utility spots just yet.

PECOTA dislikes Ramirez about as much as the Boston media was told to when he was dealt from the Red Sox, but just like then, I don't understand the hate. Age is the obvious factor, but 2009 is a good sign that he's not done mashing just yet-his 90th percentile of .298/.413/.534 isn't exactly out of reach, and, in fact, looks a good deal like 2009. Snider is expected to produce the kind of season I thought he was in line for last year-he'll be better than that forecast by the midpoint of the season, if not sooner. Span doesn't have a lot of pop, but he hits enough for the runs and steals he will pick up-if you haven't figured it out yet, left field is one of your best chances to pick up steals for your team, without sacrificing production.

PECOTA's fascination with Bay's decline seems a bit premature to me-yes, he's leaving friendly Fenway Park for spacious Citi Field, but he's also leaving behind the American League East's rotations and the AL's superior level of talent. Maybe he won't reach his upper level forecasts, but a .470 slugging percentage seems low. I need to clarify something with Davis' ranking-if he picks up the number of plate appearances PECOTA is projecting for him here, he's worthwhile. That may be a big if though, as Davis will be platooning in right field, and part of his additional playing time may require center fielder Coco Crisp to miss time. That's why you see him below similar hitters who are projected for fewer steals here in the fourth tier, as I'm not entirely sure I trust the playing time.


Three Stars
Player             PA  AVG/ OBP/ SLG  R HR RBI SB
Adam Dunn         630 .246/.384/.487 75 31  90  2
Carlos Gonzalez   428 .280/.340/.475 69 16  69 14
Carlos Quentin    570 .273/.378/.519 84 30  90  4
Josh Hamilton     567 .294/.366/.532 77 27  91  7
Nolan Reimold     528 .273/.350/.492 63 24  65  8
Jason Kubel       501 .282/.357/.488 72 23  88  2
Juan Rivera       492 .280/.328/.465 53 19  68  2
Alfonso Soriano   492 .269/.333/.471 59 19  53  8
Brett Gardner     453 .272/.364/.384 78  6  38 38
Chris Coghlan     638 .288/.374/.436 79 12  71 15
Lastings Milledge 607 .278/.344/.422 66 16  62 18
Juan Pierre       559 .294/.343/.382 69  4  38 34
David DeJesus     662 .282/.356/.423 82 12  68  7
Jack Cust         556 .238/.379/.469 70 27  69  2
Johnny Damon      545 .278/.362/.440 73 15  55 12
Conor Jackson     545 .283/.374/.441 71 14  70  9
Josh Willingham   542 .256/.369/.460 65 20  68  4
Luke Scott        542 .263/.347/.473 62 24  73  1
Daniel Murphy     542 .281/.340/.457 60 15  71  5
Kyle Blanks       542 .258/.346/.443 69 21  79  2
Raul Ibanez       528 .278/.351/.468 61 18  72  1
Seth Smith        438 .278/.370/.469 55 13  56  6
Milton Bradley    438 .275/.395/.454 56 15  52  3
Scott Hairston    422 .255/.314/.453 49 17  51  7

Dunn has the same caveat in left that he has at first-if you could guarantee the higher batting average, he would be worth an earlier look. Gonzalez is a player who I think is capable of launching himself into four-star territory due to very balanced totals, but for now his forecast looks more like that of a three-star guy. Hamilton and Quentin were two players I wanted to stick a tier above, but concerns about how well they bounce back from injury have me holding back a bit. They are capable of much more than this ranking should they prove healthy, I'm just wary of spending a pick on them given how much other talent there is available for this position.

I caught PECOTA drawing little hearts on the back of its notebook with the words "Nolan Reimold" written inside. His weighted mean is pretty nifty, but if he were to hit his 70th percentile (.291/.369/.523) then I may look a little silly for including him here. Kubel isn't a very exciting option, but at least you know what you're getting: power, R and RBI. Rivera strikes me as very similar to Kubel, so if you miss out on one, go for the other. Soriano is certainly down a peg from where you would expect him in previous seasons, but I have ongoing concerns outside of his injury issues in 2009 that make me less than optimistic about him. Since it's just one year though, riddled with injuries to boot, I'll accept this forecast for now.

As long as he's getting the full season of playing time, Gardner is a good substitute for someone like Ellsbury, though he doesn't have as much power. I would rather have Gardner than some of the speedy options below him. Coghlan came out of nowhere to win the Rookie of the Year Award in the NL last year, and his fairly balanced attack nets him a spot right smack in the middle of the rankings. Milledge is being ranked on his potential more than this forecast, but I won't be drafting him this year, as we're in a fight until he delivers on the promise of that potential.

If someone is going to let Pierre play a full season then that's their demon to wrestle with, but someone in your league can take advantage of all of the stolen bases that creates. DeJesus has all of Ellsbury's hitting ability without any of the base running success, so he's hard to get excited about-a full season of PA and solid counting stats make him decent enough, though. Cust will get you homers, but his batting average will sting. As long as he has runners to drive in, his RBI total should make you happy too.

Damon isn't the fantasy asset he used to be, but he's still more help than hurt. Being out of the Yankees lineup hurts his stock a bit as well, but the Tigers aren't exactly a lineup full of clawless kitties, either. I'm afraid to say anything positive about Jackson, as it seems like every Diamondback I think will do well falls apart. Like many of the three-star guys, he's a balanced option. Willingham and Scott are pretty similar-they won't tank your average as much as Cust, but they won't provide the same level of power either. Murphy has first base eligibility, but I like him better for left despite the depth here. His bat plays here more naturally, given how powerful first base is. If Blanks could keep his rate of homers from last year I would have him much higher than this, but expecting him to hit 40 homers in his second season while playing half of his games at Petco Park may be a bit much.

Don't be the guy who overdrafts Ibanez because you think his first half of 2009 was legitimate while his second-half problems with trying to bounce back from injury than reality. I don't ask for much. Smith would be a better option over 600 plate appearances rather than what he's slated for, but he's still useful in deep leagues. The same goes for Bradley and Hairston-both of these guys would do better in these rankings with more playing time. Hairston is center field-eligible, and his bat plays even better there than in left.


Two Stars
Player             PA  AVG/ OBP/ SLG  R HR RBI SB
Chase Headley     630 .268/.353/.438 67 17  69  7
Rick Ankiel       519 .255/.314/.456 68 22  69  4
Carlos Guillen    513 .270/.367/.450 63 16  63  4
Mark DeRosa       511 .272/.353/.446 70 15  65  2
Ryan Raburn       471 .269/.348/.486 69 20  64  7
Marlon Byrd       578 .288/.355/.441 64 14  71  6
Skip Schumaker    638 .287/.349/.401 76  9  50  4
Drew Stubbs       638 .237/.320/.360 72 10  45 28
Delmon Young      528 .300/.330/.444 63 15  70  7
Melky Cabrera     442 .273/.341/.404 50 10  53  9
Chris Dickerson   433 .251/.355/.420 48 11  38 12
David Murphy      394 .278/.353/.461 47 12  48  5
Jeremy Hermida    373 .271/.356/.456 46 13  41  4
Matt Diaz         433 .288/.353/.424 43  9  47  8

The two-star tier has some solid options. Headley is eligible for left because of 2009, though he will also be third base-eligible. His bat works better for third, and while I don't think it will happen (mostly due to Petco Park) his 70th percentile of .282/.373/.465 would be very nice to see. Ankiel is no help in batting average, but he has a lot of power potential. If he can stick for a full year, I see him contributing more than many people expect. Guillen won't play there this year, at least not much, but he's still eligible in left-PECOTA seems optimistic enough about him continuing with what he's been doing. DeRosa is a better option at one of the 37 other positions he is eligible for, but this is the one the Giants are playing him at, so there's that.

I would like this Raburn forecast much more if it wasn't based on his playing somewhere different on the diamond every single day. If the Tigers use him like their own DeRosa, then that's doable, but if he sits on the bench for a few days at the time, you won't see these kinds of totals. I wish Byrd stole bases, because it would complement his line much better. Since he doesn't, here he is. Schumacher is good for runs and batting average, but that's about all. He's better suited to second. Stubbs is intriguing because of his speed, but he'll need to hit better than forecasted if he wants to be anywhere besides the two-star tier.

Young is taking his sweet time improving, but PECOTA sees signs of life this year. Cabrera rated well in fantasy leagues last year, but this year's forecast doesn't inspire much confidence-he's also leaving that lineup in NY, which hurts his value. The rest of these players would be more intriguing with more playing time-I don't think all of them are going to hit their projected PA given the other players manning the position (or positions, given they are outfielders).


One Star
Player             PA  AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Jose Bautista     598 .250/.352/.435 72 20  63  5
Felix Pie         333 .270/.326/.445 46 10  42  5
Gerardo Parra     338 .281/.337/.413 37  5  35  6
Ryan Spilborghs   292 .273/.359/.430 41  6  34  5
Michael Brantley  308 .277/.347/.367 46  4  33 18
Scott Podsednik   479 .275/.337/.381 54  5  36 14

There's nothing wrong with any of these players, honestly. This is the strongest group of one-star players I've ranked thus far, but they all have playing time concerns that keep them from sitting anywhere else. Pie's forecast seems a little much, but he can't prove PECOTA right if he's not playing all of the time. Bautista's projected season would be his best in years-I have an easier time believing some of his lower percentile forecasts than that weighted mean, which is why he's down here. Podsednik is the other playing time exception, but no one wants a sub-.400 SLG outfielder that isn't stealing 30-40 bases-I have a hard enough time convincing myself to spend a pick on the ones that do.

51 comments have been left for this article.

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Fantasy Article Team Health Reports: C... (03/02)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Catcher... (02/28)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Right F... (03/03)
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