March 8, 2009
If I had to pick one word to describe the right-field rankings, it would be "upside." Many of the players listed in the top 10 are high on upside, while the bottom half of the rankings has more players who are either former greats, or players who have passed their peak years and have been pushed down by the up and comers. There are also a few who are injury risks; on draft day you'll want to weigh upside against the chance that many of these hitters could be injured at some point during the season.
In order to make these rankings, I used the 2009 weighted-mean PECOTA projections as a base, and tweaked the results as I saw fit. This isn't a descending list of projected 2009 VORP by any means. Make sure you check out the players' 75th- and 25th-percentile forecasts on their PECOTA cards, as those may help you to make decisions between players you might be debating over.
Since this keeps coming up in the comments, I want to say here that I am ranking the players at their primary position; if you don't see a player here, it's because he's either not good enough, or because he's been ranked at a different position. This allows me to cover more players for those of you in deeper leagues. Also, there will be one unified outfield list, but I'm going to cover each position individually first.
Rank Name Team PA R HR RBI SB AVG/ OBP/ SLG Beta 1. Corey Hart Brewers 612 89 23 85 23 .289/.343/.494 0.81 2. Nick Markakis Orioles 661 96 21 89 10 .286/.368/.466 0.81 3. Justin Upton D'backs 504 76 21 73 11 .278/.361/.506 1.07 4. Hunter Pence Astros 603 86 24 86 12 .286/.346/.491 1.01 5. Andre Ethier Dodgers 608 85 17 81 6 .292/.368/.464 0.82 6. Ryan Ludwick Cards 527 70 26 86 3 .264/.344/.500 0.94 7. Jay Bruce Reds 609 86 28 90 12 .283/.342/.509 0.93 8. Elijah Dukes Nats 507 82 19 65 17 .278/.386/.486 0.71 9. Milton Bradley Cubs 504 84 22 78 8 .294/.402/.525 1.12 10. Vlad Guerrero Angels 616 80 22 98 5 .296/.351/.478 0.77
Corey Hart is an easy pick for #1 in right field; he's one of the few five-category guys at the position who you can feel confident about. He may not have the ceiling of some of these other players, but many of those are also going to be better looking picks in 2010 than they are in 2009. Keep that in mind if you're in a keeper league and need to inject some youth into your lineup, but otherwise, Hart's the man. Nick Markakis won't steal as many bases, so he's behind by just a sliver, but his other stats could all end up being a little better.
Justin Upton has the highest ceiling on this list-you aren't named the successor to the Ken Griffey Jr./Alex Rodriguez class of high school players without reason-and given that he now has more experience under his belt, he should improve quite a bit. The one major sticking point is his contact rate-he struck out 29 percent of the time in 2008, and made contact just 68 percent of the time-and once he becomes more accustomed to recognizing pitches, he'll find his ceiling moving down within reach. PECOTA's projected average may be a little high, as it is with teammate Chris Young's, but the other categories should be fine, especially if he plays for a full season.
I wrote about why I think Hunter Pence's projection makes sense before I began these rankings. He's a good bet to show us some of the potential that he hinted at during his rookie season. Andre Ethier took significant steps forward during the second half of last year, hitting .335/.409/.583 over 247 plate appearances. My one worry is that a lot of that was BABIP-fueled (.374 during that time span), but if he can improve just a little on the .283/.351/.459 from the first half he's going to be solid. Those runs scored and RBI totals will be easier to reach now that Manny Ramirez is officially in town.
PECOTA has Ludwick down for fewer plate appearances than I expect him to have, which cuts into his counting stats. Besides that, he hit .299 last year without any BABIP shenanigans. Yes, his line-drive rate was high, but it's high for his career as well, so there's no reason to believe his average will drop this low. He's capable of being a four-category player again. If you draft Jay Bruce, be wary; I'm not sure that he'll hit as well as PECOTA thinks he will. This ranking is based on my belief that he'll turn a corner at some point during the year and become more consistent at the major league level, instead of having his raw talent carry him through short stretches as it did last year. Once he "gets it" though, he's going to be a fantastic hitter.
PECOTA likes Elijah Dukes, and is very confident that he can reach this level, as you can see by his Beta. He did hit .267/.417/.554 in the second half last year, though that was in just 127 plate appearances. Regardless, he has that kind of talent, and is slated to start in right field for the Nationals. If he can play an entire season for them, you're going to love what you get from him. If he had another 150-200 plate appearances like those from his second half last year, I would probably have him higher on the list.
Milton Bradley would be ranked higher if not for the ongoing injury concerns. PECOTA says he'll reach 500 plate appearances, so he should have quality counting stats, but leaving Texas will sting a little, and any kind of serious injury would put a damper on those numbers. Vladimir Guerrero may not be the fantasy monster of years past, but he's still a quality pick for R and RBI, though I was worrying about that before the Angels signed Bobby Abreu.
Rank Name Team PA R HR RBI SB AVG/ OBP/ SLG Beta 11. Ichiro Suzuki Mariners 484 65 3 36 20 .292/.338/.359 0.90 12. J.D. Drew Red Sox 464 67 13 60 4 .269/.374/.451 0.74 13. Alex Rios Jays 643 87 19 83 21 .275/.332/.459 0.80 14. Jayson Werth Phillies 500 83 22 67 14 .283/.380/.511 0.96 15. Bobby Abreu Angels 574 88 14 67 19 .289/.372/.447 1.13 16. Randy Winn Giants 508 70 8 52 14 .297/.359/.421 0.83 17. Jermaine Dye White Sox 500 66 25 84 3 .271/.333/.503 1.06 18. Magglio Ordonez Tigers 552 70 17 81 2 .296/.360/.468 0.90 19. Brad Hawpe Rockies 502 74 23 76 2 .285/.384/.514 0.84 20. Brian Giles Padres 475 62 9 51 2 .280/.376/.415 1.01
Ichiro is such a rare kind of player that PECOTA does not know how to handle him effectively; this forecast is very low. Just 484 plate appearances? Just 65 runs and 20 steals? He had 43 steals last year-PECOTA's issue may be that he had just nine thefts in the second half (in 10 attempts), but considering he was 34 for 37 in the first half, it's hard to believe that his legs just stopped working all of a sudden. He was also driven in over 100 times last year at the top of a poor Mariners' offense, so expect more than 65 from him this time around. J.D. Drew is already having minor back problems, and is less loved by PECOTA than Bradley. Drew is one of those players that I would rather watch do well on someone else's team rather than see him get hurt and mess up my own.
Alex Rios had issues with his power in the first half last season, but his second half showed us that he still knows how to swing the stick, as he hit a homer every 22.4 at-bats. He'll steal bases, and as long as he keeps the loft in his swing, he'll hit bombs, though the Jays' offense is going to be so awful that counting on him for too many runs and RBI might be a bad move. PECOTA is a little overboard on Jayson Werth; he kills lefties, but still doesn't do so hot against right-handers (.255/.360/.407 last year), so the only way to get those rate stats out of him is going to be by limiting his playing time severely, and that won't help you much.
Bobby Abreu may not be the great five category player he used to be, but he should still pick up some R and RBI in the middle of the Angels' lineup, and he may even put together another 20-20 year. The Angels lineup does have its issues though, and that cuts into his value nearly as much as his age does. Randy Winn isn't spectacular in any one category, but he is solid across the board, and much more valuable in NL-only leagues than in mixed ones. Jermaine Dye is tough to project; yes, he hit .292/.344/.541 last year, but he also hit .254/.317/.486 the year before that, and had arguably the most productive season of his career the season before that one. He hit .276/.326/.516 in the second half after a monster first half, so this projection should give you a good idea of what to expect.
PECOTA expects Magglio Ordonez to shave a bit off of his line, resulting in fewer homers and RBI. If you have more faith in him than this, feel free to bump him up on your list. This spot isn't meant to be discourteous to Ordonez at all; it has much more to do with the incredible wealth of talent at the position than it does with any lack on Ordonez' part. Brad Hawpe shouldn't play full time because of his platoon split, and he doesn't merit a high draft spot unless he plays enough to boost his counting stats. Last year, the split disappeared, but he also looked far more mortal against the right-handers that he normally destroys, which canceled out any benefit the improved split might have had.
Brian Giles may not be the underrated superstar of old, but he's still useful in NL-only leagues. He also has more value if you use OBP or OPS, thanks to the high number of walks he draws. Assuming he picks up 650 plate appearances (he had 653 last year) you're looking at a prorated 85 runs, 12 homers, 70 RBI, three steals, and a .280 batting average. Not bad for a guy you can pick up very late in the draft.