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March 22, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Fantasy Tier Rankings: AL Outfielders
These are the American League outfielder rankings for 2012. Check out our previous closer, AL starting pitchers, NL starting pitchers, catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, and NL outfielder installments.
As a reminder, five-star players are generally going to be your star-level producers that will be selected within the first couple of rounds, usually worth upward of $30. Four-star players are the next step down, worth more than $20. Three stars are worth more than $10, two stars will be in the single digits, and one star will be roster-filler and late-round fliers. Of course, this is just a general guideline. While the rankings will generally follow PECOTA, I will deviate when I feel strongly that a player will over or underperform his PECOTA projection.
I’ve also decided to give my choice for a value pick in each tier—a guy who I think will be worth more than your leaguemates do, or a guy who I believe stands a good chance of beating his PECOTA projection.
For reference, the dollar values were created by our PFM using a league format of 12 teams, 5x5 scoring, and 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify. We’ll be providing values for both mixed leagues and AL-only/NL-only leagues. While this is the industry standard format, your own league structure may differ, in which case you can customize the PFM to your own needs.
Also, please note that for players who are eligible at multiple positions, the dollar values listed are representative of their most valuable position. So for a guy like Howie Kendrick who qualifies at second base, his dollar values aren’t directly comparable to A-Jax if you’re drafting him as an outfielder. His ranking, however, is indicative of where he would fall as an outfielder.
We’ve had the Bautista discussion before. In summary, I really like him. PECOTA doesn’t. I also really like Granderson and am a big believer in his 2011 power. I thought he was unlucky in terms of home runs in 2010, and his 2011 season seems to confirm that. I talked about him in depth after the season over at CardRunners (now DraftDay).
For the most part, I do not buy into Ellsbury’s power last year, but he’s still plenty valuable even if he only hits 10 homers.
Five-Star Value Pick: Granderson.
It’s a big Four-Star group, and they’re all pretty much known quantities.
I was really hoping Shin-Soo Choo was going to be a bargain this year, but people are drafting him as if his 2011 never happened. As I suggested in an early off-season chat, and as mentioned in Baseball Prospectus 2012, Choo hit a ton of balls to center field last year. Prior to that, his bread and butter power was to the pull field, so it stands to reason that his power will drop when he’s hitting so many balls to center. He went on the DL in the second half with an oblique injury (twice, actually), and if he was having difficulty with the oblique prior to the DL, it’s possible that a limited range of motion caused this spray pattern. A healthy Choo may be a good bet to rebound this year.
I discussed Alex Gordon in the same DraftDay article as Granderson.
Four-Star Value Pick: Nick Markakis never lived up to the high expectations many had for him, and now that he’s nearing 30, it seems unlikely that he ever will. He’s morphed from a high-upside youngster to a boring player who doesn’t do anything exceptionally. He contributes a bit in each category, though, and that makes him a valuable target.
I’m pretty down on Alex Rios this year, even if he’s solidly in the Three-Star tier. I know he had some injury issues last year that could have affected him, but his power performance makes me really worry. After showing power to all fields prior to 2011, his power was strictly pull in 2011, and they were hit much shallower than he used to hit them. With Alejandro de Aza and Kosuke Fukudome around to cut into his playing time, I’d be wary about drafting Rios.
I talked about why I like Mitch Moreland in the first base rankings article. He’s even nicer as an outfielder.
I expressed how I was a Brennan Boesch believer back in July, and my point still stands. He’ll post a solid average, solid power, and have a great spot in a very good lineup (or at least a very good top half of a lineup, assuming he bats second).
Three-Star Value Pick: I can’t believe there’s not more sleeper love for Dayan Viciedo. Super hyped when he came over from Cuba, he’s spent most of his career in the States working on his game in the minors. He made big strides there in 2011, improving his patience and cutting down on his strikeouts (and upping his walks), and if that carries over to the big leagues, he’s in terrific shape. He’s always had outstanding raw power, and if he can be selective about what he swings at, he stands a good chance of having a breakout season.
Mike Carp was the Two-Star Value Pick for first basemen, so I won’t repeat myself too much here, but I want to point out again that I really do like his power. Cheap power late is always appealing to me.
By the same token, cheap speed late is appealing as well. Ben Revere should have a long leash this year, especially with how many guys figure to be injured in Minnesota, and he’s got wheels. He also has a good slap bat (not to be confused with a slap bet) that should allow him to meet or exceed his PECOTA-projected batting average.
People really seem to like Lorenzo Cain as a speed sleeper, but he seems a little risky for me. His stolen-base numbers in the minors were never great, and as much as the Royals like to run, 15 projected steals is nothing to push old women and children out of the way for as you dash down the aisle looking for a late-round speedster. The Royals have alternatives if his bat doesn’t play, which is a possibility.
Two-Star Value Pick: In an AL-only league, I love David Murphy as a single-digit buy. He’s kind of boring and is technically a fourth outfielder, but he’s the best fourth outfielder in baseball on a team with Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. Over/under on 75 DL days between them? I may take the over. Plus, Texas’ third starting outfielder isn’t settled right now, and Murphy could well take a starting spot.
I believe in Thames’ ability to exceed his PECOTA projection, particularly the average, but there are a lot of guys vying for playing time in Toronto, perhaps only exceeded by the situations in Anaheim and Oakland.
Like Thames, Reimold could be a big value if he plays full-time. The additions of Endy Chavez and Wilson Betemit cut against his ability to do so, but there’s enough risk in Baltimore where there are a number of situations that could find him playing every day.
I love Luke Scott’s power, but the move from Camden Yards to Tropicana Field will hurt a bit. He’s also coming off pretty serious surgery, but for what he’s likely to cost, I’ll gladly take the risk.
One-Star Value Pick: Raul Ibanez has had a rough couple seasons, but if there’s ever a place for him to bounce back, it’s Yankee Stadium. His pull power will play very well to New York’s shallow right field. And with DH at-bats pretty wide open, good early play should cement Ibanez a lot of playing time.
With over 1,600 player comments in Baseball Prospectus 2012, you might find it difficult to read through them all before draft day arrives. To help you out, I’ll point you toward some of the most insightful comments for this position. These are the guys that I’d highly recommend flipping to in your copy of the book and reading before you sit down at the draft table.
Be sure to read the BP2012 comments for these AL outfielders: Brennan Boesch, Shin-Soo Choo, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Gordon, Desmond Jennings, Nolan Reimold, Alex Rios, Luke Scott, Travis Snider, Eric Thames, and Dayan Viciedo.