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March 25, 2013

Fantasy Tier Rankings

American League Outfielders

by Mike Gianella

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Today we continue our positional tier rankings. Last offseason, Derek Carty tackled the tiers by himself; this spring, we've decided to attack them as a team. Players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by the number of stars.

Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be earl- round selections, and they're projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. As was the case with our positional rankings series, the positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of the projected PECOTA values.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from our PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we'll allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

You can find the previous Fantasy Tier Rankings posts here:

We have split the outfielders into two articles. The American League tiers are below; you can find the National League tiers here. 

Five Star

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Mike Trout

LF,CF

ANA

$39.01

$36.74

695

106

21

77

45

0.288

There are a couple of players in the four-star tier you could make an argument for here, but Trout is so far ahead of the rest of the pack that he deservedly stands alone. Even with the fair amount of regression that PECOTA builds into Trout’s projection, he still nearly holds $10 more of value over the next best outfielder in AL–only leagues and trails only Ryan Braun in mixed formats.

Four Star

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Josh Hamilton

LF,CF

ANA

$19.08

$23.23

620

80

27

90

8

0.277

Jose Bautista

RF

TOR

$25.91

$25.19

620

93

35

101

7

0.255

Adam Jones

CF

BAL

$16.31

$22.26

638

77

23

83

12

0.274

Jacoby Ellsbury

CF

BOS

$20.56

$26.91

611

86

13

58

38

0.287

Yoenis Cespedes

LF,CF,DH

OAK

$21.11

$24.99

615

81

28

88

15

0.272

Ben Zobrist

2B,SS,RF

TBA

$18.70

$20.71

668

83

18

79

18

0.253

Curtis Granderson

CF

NYA

$10.47

$18.10

535

72

25

77

13

0.244

Desmond Jennings

LF,CF

TBA

$13.25

$21.39

620

84

12

54

37

0.244

Alex Rios

RF

CHA

$12.76

$21.21

605

73

18

71

22

0.267

Michael Bourn

CF

CLE

$18.58

$26.06

706

90

4

47

52

0.26

Alex Gordon

LF

KCA

$16.34

$20.78

669

90

19

73

11

0.267

Austin Jackson

CF

DET

$14.04

$20.78

700

86

11

64

20

0.271


Just like in 2012, this is a rather deep group of outfielders. Depending on how long Granderson is out, he may or may not belong in this group; everyone else definitely belongs.

Bautista has the best chance of all the hitters here to move into the five-star category with Trout, but his batting average and lack of serious speed should keep him from doing so. He’s the American League version of Giancarlo Stanton: a strong power hitter whose deficiencies shouldn’t be forgotten so much that you push him into the top tier. Fortunately, there is enough power in the American League that it is very unlikely that you will do this.

PECOTA doesn’t like Hamilton very much for 2013, and I’m definitely in agreement. While Hamilton has always been a very good hitter, 2010 was his only epic season, and now he’s moving from a hitters’ haven to a pitchers’ paradise. Hamilton’s production is going to fall off considerably ibn his new venue, and while this isn’t enough to recommend staying away, caution is advised.

Four-Star Value Pick: Despite his excellent season in 2012, Rios still comes across like something of a forgotten man in shallower fantasy leagues. Nevertheless, Rios should be good for nearly a 20/20 season, and even if the batting average drops, he won’t lose a significant amount of value. While Jennings and Jones are going to be more desirable picks, Rios out-earned them last year and could easily do so again.

Three Star

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Mark Trumbo

1B,LF,RF,DH

ANA

$15.98

$21.10

606

76

31

91

5

0.258

Shane Victorino

LF,CF

BOS

$11.32

$20.45

584

78

12

56

27

0.273

Nelson Cruz

RF

TEX

$16.84

$22.33

559

77

28

84

13

0.266

Melky Cabrera

LF

TOR

$4.81

$15.80

551

70

13

56

12

0.28

Josh Willingham

LF,DH

MIN

$9.68

$16.95

568

74

25

81

5

0.249

Chris Davis

1B,RF,DH

BAL

$13.91

$19.85

591

74

29

89

2

0.266

Michael Morse

LF,RF

SEA

$5.12

$14.93

566

65

22

77

1

0.262

Nick Swisher

1B,RF

CLE

$7.04

$15.09

611

73

22

79

2

0.247

Brett Gardner

LF,OF

NYA

$10.59

$21.57

582

75

6

47

46

0.258

Nick Markakis

RF

BAL

$8.73

$17.46

622

72

15

74

6

0.284

Josh Reddick

RF

OAK

$0.77

$12.46

533

60

20

69

6

0.24

Ichiro Suzuki

LF,RF

NYA

$12.99

$22.58

631

78

8

51

31

0.29

Coco Crisp

CF

OAK

$12.67

$22.49

572

79

10

47

44

0.256

Alejandro de Aza

CF

CHA

$18.24

$24.21

644

88

13

61

29

0.279

Torii Hunter

RF

DET

$13.19

$19.78

604

82

20

69

10

0.275

Lorenzo Cain

CF

KCA

$3.56

$16.09

531

67

9

48

23

0.274

Michael Saunders

LF,CF

SEA

-$3.37

$9.93

512

58

12

50

16

0.224

Josh Shepardson didn’t talk about him in his first-base tier article, so I’ll tackle my reservations about Trumbo here. While it’s generally a bad idea to cherry pick parts of a season to fit a thesis, Trumbo’s awful slump in the last two months of 2012 flashes all sorts of warning signs. Pitchers stopped throwing Trumbo strikes, and he started hacking at everything. The power might still be there, but a .230 batting average with diminished home-run totals wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

The perpetual injury bug keeps Crisp from moving up any higher, but every year he’s an extremely reliable source of speed and provides enough pop to make him more than just a cheap mixed-league option.

If Cain can stay on the field, this projection looks low. He flashed power in the minors in 2011 and maintained that power when he did play in 2012. He’s a cut above your typical mixed-league, borderline-speed play.

Three-Star Value Pick: Saunders isn’t even being drafted in some standard mixed leagues, which is ridiculous for a guy with 20/20 potential. The HR/FB rate speaks to some regression in the power department, but the BABIP and the drop in strikeout rate are legitimate, and Saunders should hold down a regular outfield gig in Seattle all year long.

Two Star

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Dayan Viciedo

LF

CHA

$2.09

$13.57

508

59

22

71

1

0.266

Emilio Bonifacio

CF

TOR

-$3.87

$11.60

468

53

4

37

27

0.26

David Murphy

LF

TEX

$4.82

$15.88

561

65

15

66

12

0.271

Drew Stubbs

CF

CLE

-$3.93

$10.87

433

54

10

40

25

0.232

Colby Rasmus

CF

TOR

$3.55

$13.90

561

65

21

73

6

0.242

Peter Bourjos

CF

ANA

-$3.17

$10.99

481

54

11

48

17

0.248

Michael Brantley

CF

CLE

-$0.30

$13.21

574

62

6

49

18

0.268

Matt Joyce

LF,RF

TBA

$0.63

$12.26

503

62

18

65

7

0.246

Justin Maxwell

LF,CF

HOU

$3.87

$14.98

504

67

19

61

22

0.219


Murphy has finally reached the point of his career where he can’t be considered underrated. He’s never going to go 20/20, but automatic double-digit homers and steals with a solid batting average is worthy of a double-digit AL-only bid.

If Bourn and Gardner are too rich for your blood, Bonifacio is probably the play. Maicer Izturis has a shot at the second base job, but on this Jays roster, he’s probably a better fit for a utility slot than Bonifacio is. In a full-time gig, Bonifacio could steal 40-50 bags.

There are a few players in this tier that have three-star upside, but more than a few have one-star crash-and-burn potential. Stubbs is only a couple of years removed from near top-tier status, but another season of terrible contact and he could disappear entirely. Rasmus has one great season under his belt and little else. Bourjos’s defense should keep him on the field and he has 40-steal potential if nothing else, but the hip injury that magically “went away” this winter should give his potential owners pause.

Two-Star Value Pick: Viciedo fits the “post-hype sleeper” profile well. He is never going to be a superstar, but has the potential to provide solid power at a price well below those of some of the bigger names who are ahead of him on draft lists.

One Star

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Aaron Hicks

CF

MIN

-$11.94

$5.29

399

49

6

31

14

0.227

Andy Dirks

LF,RF

DET

$0.84

$14.10

502

57

13

59

13

0.277

Leonys Martin

CF,OF

TEX

-$8.98

$7.95

365

45

7

36

16

0.266

Chris Young

CF

OAK

$2.12

$13.57

535

65

17

63

16

0.229

Jeff Francoeur

RF

KCA

-$5.70

$8.80

462

51

11

49

8

0.256

Seth Smith

LF,DH

OAK

-$3.30

$9.30

471

60

14

51

5

0.248

Franklin Gutierrez

CF

SEA

-$4.82

$9.15

504

58

9

42

14

0.24

Jonny Gomes

LF,DH

BOS

-$7.52

$7.25

388

48

15

51

5

0.239

Nate McLouth

LF

BAL

$1.94

$13.18

504

69

17

55

13

0.24

Rajai Davis

LF,RF

TOR

-$14.86

$6.07

268

35

3

21

25

0.261

Wil Myers

RF

TBA

-$5.65

$8.04

454

51

15

57

3

0.242

Myers’s projection is obviously predicated on if/when the Rays call him up to the majors. An early call-up isn’t out of the question, but Rays watchers believe that June is more likely due to Myers’ defense being a less than finished product. Even with Myers’ power ceiling, a June call-up makes him a one-star player.

It looks very likely that Hicks is going to break camp with the Twins, but his low minor-league batting averages make me believe an adjustment period is coming. The steals should keep Hicks viable in deeper leagues, but his mixed-league credentials are questionable.

Davis looks like an AL-only guy, but every year, he exceeds his PECOTA projection and steals a bushel of bases. He does nothing else, but as long as his average doesn’t fall off a cliff, he’s going to be a bargain.

One-Star Value Pick: Nearly every one of the players here could fit the profile of a value pick, but each also has the potential to collapse. Dirks is the best candidate to maintain a regular job all season long and provide the value built into that PECOTA projection. Injuries limited his base-stealing ability in 2012, and while Jim Leyland isn’t going to give Dirks the green light, healthy wheels mean that Dirks could still be good for 10-15 steals.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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