Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Reality Check: Early look at outfielders

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Now's probably a good time to remind you that the purpose of this series looking ahead to the 2014 rankings is not to give a thorough overview at each position but to offer just enough to get the juices flowing.

Why? Because at this position, I can only scratch the surface. It's friggin' huge.

That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Every real-life team starts three times as many outfielders as shortstops or first basemen. And every Fantasy team starts at least that many. Standard Rotisserie teams start five.

Going 30 deep here won't reveal as many of my sleepers at the position as going 20 deep around the infield did, but it's a start. And judging by how much I wrestled with these rankings, it's more than enough to get the juices flowing.

Top 10 outfielders for 2014:
1. Mike Trout, OF, Angels
2. Andrew McCutcheon, OF, Pirates
3. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
4. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox
5. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
6. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
7. Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
8. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays
9. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins
10. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Reds

I settled on my top eight way back in early September, when I projected them to go in the first two rounds of 2014 drafts. Granted, I've made some changes to my overall rankings since then -- most notably at first base -- but I'm still happy with the way the outfielders line up. I don't know that there's even room for debate until Carlos Gonzalez at No. 3, and obviously, Braun and Harper will raise eyebrows just because of who they are. But upside sets those three apart.

Gonzalez, who'll still be in the thick of his prime at age 28, is a five-category player when healthy and just put together a 20-20 campaign in only two-thirds of a season. Granted, playing two-thirds of a season is nothing new for him. His career high in games played is only 145. But players that produce at his level, with his consistency, have become so rare that -- particularly in standard mixed leagues, where fallback options are always available on waivers -- you kind of just have to draft him and hope for the best. Maybe you get what you can out of him in the first half and then trade him at the All-Star break. His injuries always seem to come late.

"Hoping for the best" isn't entirely necessary with Braun and Harper. The reward far outweighs the risk for both. The chance to spend just a second-round pick on Braun -- a first round-caliber player from the moment he entered the league in 2007 -- is too good to pass up, regardless of how you feel about him personally. Not every player handed a PED suspension turns out like Melky Cabrera. The Harper pick is a bit more speculative, but obviously, his potential is through the roof. To do what he did at age 20 with a bad knee most of the year should only make you feel better about his future. He averaged 3.15 Head-to-Head points per game compared to Jones' 3.25, so even if he doesn't improve, no harm done.

Jones, after all, doesn't have anywhere near Harper's plate discipline, which means he has probably peaked as the .285-hitting, 30-homer guy he's been the last two years. Clearly, there's nothing wrong with that, but it puts him a step back from some of the multi-dimensional hitters at the position. You may wonder why a one-dimensional hitter like him ranks three spots behind a one-dimensional hitter like Ellsbury, especially since Ellsbury's one dimension (speed) is more common than Jones' (power), but it all comes down to Head-to-Head scoring. Ellsbury averaged 3.71 Fantasy points per game 2013, putting him about as far ahead of Jones as Trout is ahead of McCutchen -- not especially close, in other words.

Choo offers a stable alternative to risk-reward picks Bautista and Stanton, and maybe in Head-to-Head leagues, where walks count for something in their own right, he edges them out. But in Rotisserie leagues or any format shallow enough to justify the gamble, I'll take the guys capable of doubling him up in homers. Yeah, injuries have ended each of Bautista's last two seasons in August, and he won't be any more durable at age 33. But the CarGo argument also applies to him. For the promise of elite production at a position of considerable depth, I'm willing to get what I can from him and deal with the injuries later.

Next 10 outfielders for 2014:
11. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
12. Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
13. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers
14. Justin Upton, OF, Braves
15. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
16. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds
17. Allen Craig, 1B/OF, Cardinals
18. Hunter Pence, OF, Giants
19. Wil Myers, OF, Rays
20. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves

So why not Kemp? After all, his best is even better than Bautista's or Stanton's and certainly better than Choo's. Look, in a 12-team league, they're all No. 1 outfielders, so understand that anything I say against any of them is basically just nitpicking. But because I have to justify these rankings somehow, here goes: I feel like Kemp's concerns are ... more concerning, if you follow me. It's not just the one injury that could sideline him for six weeks. It's the stream of injuries that crippled him throughout 2013 -- the shoulder, the hamstring, the ankle, etc. -- and the lingering worry that he won't be the same player even when healthy.

After needing most of the year to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, he had only a week in mid-July when he hit for power before getting creamed by injuries again, and he hasn't had double-digit steals since setting a career high with 40 in 2011. I understand if he stays healthy and gets back to producing at a first-round level, he's the steal of the draft, but owning him was pure torture in 2013. And because his propensity for injury is likely to keep him from running so much going forward, those who value speed as much as power might be better off with Gomez, who was in line for first-round numbers himself before playing with a banged-up shoulder and knee in the second half.

You follow me so far? Believe it or not, I think the first 12 are pretty straightforward. Even if you don't agree on the order, you can't really argue the players. The next 18, though? Oh boy ...

Holliday is probably the linchpin. The approach you take with him says a lot about the approach you'll take with the rest of the position. It comes down to trusting the seen vs. trusting the unseen. Based on what we've seen, he's as productive as ever, ranking 10th among outfielders in Head-to-Head leagues and eighth in Rotisserie, but if the regression finally comes in his age-34 season, he could get lapped by some of the up-and-comers at the position.

Clearly, I'm banking more on the seen since the only two up-and-comers I rank ahead of Holliday are the ones who've shown me the most, at least in terms of ceiling. Bruce has been steadier than Upton, but that's precisely the problem. Upton's fluctuations in batting average give me reason to think his peak first-round caliber. Bruce has most likely peaked as a .260-hitting, 30-homer type. Puig probably isn't as far ahead of Myers as these rankings would have you believe, but he's predisposed to a higher batting average and should also steal more bases. Plus, let's not downplay the role of perception here. Hype alone will keep Myers on the board three rounds longer than Puig.

Why reach for him if you don't have to? The sophomore jinx was plenty real for Anthony Rizzo in 2013, so no need to force the issue, especially with players as reliable as Craig and Pence still on the board. Pence may seem a little low to some, but understand he's coming off a dream season. He might have the slight edge on Craig in terms of power, but I trust Craig to hit .300 more than I trust Pence to steal 20 bases.

Next 10 outfielders for 2014:
21. Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies
22. Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
23. Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks
24. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Rays
25. Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals
26. Alex Rios, OF, Rangers
27. Shane Victorino, OF, Red Sox
28. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
29. Alex Gordon, OF, Royals
30. Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Angels

Notice I skipped Heyward in that last group? That's because I think he has more in common with Brown. The two would be studs by now if not for all their health and consistency issues. Brown might seem like the safer bet of the two coming off a breakout year in which he hit 27 homers, but Heyward himself hit 27 homers in 2012. And he was the more productive of the two over the final two-thirds of 2013, performing about like Craig in terms of Head-to-Head points per game from June 1 on.

Marte also broke out in 2013 -- and without all the speed bumps Heyward and Brown have encountered in their careers -- but what Heyward and Brown offer in terms of power is rarer than what Marte offers in terms of speed. Plus, I'm always wary of players who break out with plate discipline as bad as Marte's. It's something opposing pitchers may learn to exploit.

But again, I'm nitpicking. If I drafted Marte, I'd still trust him to start for me every week. I'm using the versatile Prado and Zobrist as the cutoff for that distinction. Most likely, you'll draft them at one of the many of the other positions they're eligible to play, so their versatility rightfully influences their ranking here. You could argue I'm even undervaluing Prado a bit considering he ranked eight among outfielders in Head-to-Head leagues and 13th in Rotisserie after the All-Star break, but the home run hitters and base stealers are sure to get more love on Draft Day.

As for who to trust with those last few spots, it depends what you mean by "trust." All the remaining players have noticeable flaws, but some are more related to age (Werth, Rios, Victorino, Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Beltran) and others to production (Cespedes, Gordon and Desmond Jennings). When in doubt, I usually go the upside route, but in this case, I'm not sure upside is synonymous with youth.

Werth and Victorino were so good to close 2013, with Werth compiling an MVP-caliber .990 OPS after returning from a hamstring injury in early June and Victorino reverting to his Phillies form after an injury forced him to abandon switch-hitting in August, that I feel like they're most deserving of an early-to-mid-round pick. I don't trust them completely, but at that stage, the price is right.

I suppose you could argue Cuddyer was right up there with them in terms of productivity, but 2013 was such an outlier for him that I don't have much hope of him repeating it at age 35. And Beltran had another subpar second half, hitting .277 with a .758 OPS. At age 36, he's at the edge of the cliff.

If I pushed this list to 36, Cuddyer and Beltran would make the cut, as well as Coco Crisp, Alfonso Soriano, Josh Hamilton and probably Curtis Granderson over Jennings and Austin Jackson. And if they win jobs out of spring training, rookies George Springer and Billy Hamilton won't be far behind. I'm also high on Christian Yelich. He put together a .370 on-base percentage as a 21-year-old rookie, stole 10 bases in 240 at-bats and will most assuredly hit for power once he adds muscle to his scrawny build.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Mariners RF Nelson Cruz slams 20th home run of season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:23 pm ET) Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz went 2 for 5 with a home run and two RBI in Wednesday's in over the Padres.

Cruz hit a two-run home run in the ninth-inning to help cap what turned out to be a four-run inning for the Mariners who won 7-0.

Cruz is hitting .350 with seven hits, a home run and four RBI over his last five games.


Mariners 2B Robinson Cano gets four hits, home run in win
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:16 pm ET) Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano enforced his will at the plate during Wednesday's win over the Padres.

Cano went 4 for 5 with a home run, a double and three RBI. Cano broke a 0-0 tie in the sixth inning with a solo home run off Padres starter James Shields. He singled home a run in the seventh and doubled one home in the ninth innning.

Cano entered Wednesday's game hitting just .185 over his last seven games. The 4 for 5 performance boosted his batting average to .247 on the season.


Padres SP James Shields allows two runs in loss to Mariners
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:02 pm ET) Padres starting pitcher James Shields  picked up his third loss of the season on Wednesday, despite a solid outing against the Mariners.

Shields threw 6 2/3 innings, allowed four hits and two earned runs before being pulled from the game. He held the Mariners scoreless through five innings, but a Robinson Cano home run in the sixth inning was his first mistake.

Shields (7-3) has a 4.14 ERA with 123 strikeouts and 35 walks in 104 1/3 innings of work this year.


Mariners SP Taijuan Walker fans seven in dominant showing
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:57 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher Taijuan Walker was simply dominant on Wednesday against the Padres.

Walker allowed just one hit over six innings of work, while striking out seven batters and picking up his seventh win of the season. Walker didn't allow any runs and needed just 76 pitches to get through six innings.

Walker (7-6) has a 4.34 ERA with 90 strikeouts and just 26 walks in 91 1/3 innings this season.


D-Backs P Patrick Corbin could make start Saturday
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said pitcher Patrick Corbin could make his season debut this Saturday against the Rockies, according to the Arizona Republic

Corbin has been sidelined for over a year after enduring Tommy John surgery in 2013. 


Orioles OF Delmon Young designated for assignment
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:47 pm ET) The Orioles announced that outfielder Delmon Young was designated for assignment on Wednesday.

Young was struggling at the plate recently, registering just two hits over his last 19 at-bats.


Mariners to make rotation decision with Hisashi Iwakuma return
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:26 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma seems primed to return to the rotation after making his third minor league rehab start on Tuesday. Seattle will now have to make a decision on how Iwakuma's return will alter its rotation, per MLB.com.

Iwakuma has gone 1-0 with an 0.93 ERA in two Tacoma starts and also gave up just one run in 3 2/3 innings in an initial start with Class A Everett.

"He did OK. It was better than the last outing," manager Lloyd McClendon said of Iwakuma's start on Tuesday, when he allowed just one run with six strikeouts. "The velocity got better each outing. I know he touched 91 last night, and that's a good sign. He's moving in the right direction."

Iwakuma did suffer a blister on his throwing hand on Tuesday, but that's a common issue he regularly deals with because of the pressure he puts when he throws split-finger fastball. McClendon, though, will take that minor setback into account.

"That certainly will be part of the evaluation, and then we'll go from there," McClendon said. "I don't want anybody pitching around anything. We need him 100 percent, and hopefully he will be 100 percent."

The Mariners could potentially experiment with a six-man rotation if they can't identify an odd-man out before Iwakuma's return.


Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury returns to lineup for second rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:11 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be in the lineup for his second rehab game with Class-A Tampa on Wednesday, per MLB.com.

Ellsbury was held out of Tuesday's game because he was suffering from "general fatigue" in both of his legs. He is on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury.


Marlins SP Jarred Cosart to return to rotation Saturday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:06 pm ET) Marlins starting pitcher Jarred Cosart will return to the rotation on Saturday against the Cubs, the Miami Herald is reporting.

Cosart (1-3) has a 4.12 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 43 2/3 innings this season.


Padres' Brandon Morrow (shoulder) to throw from mound Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:02 pm ET) Padres right-hander Brandon Morrow will likely throw a bullpen session on Thursday, the first time he'll take to a mound since having his rehab assignment shut down in early June. Morrow has been on the disabled list since May 3 with a shoulder injury.

"That was frustrating," Morrow said, per MLB.com." I am pretty confident in this time that you know it's not just not sore but actually stronger. Like I said, I am feeling great, and that's all I can say. I am getting off the mound in the next couple of days, so we'll know more then. I am fully confident everything will go well with that."

Despite Morrow heading to the mound on Thursday, it is still unknown when his rehab will resume, and his return to the Padres' rotation remains unclear.

"You got to stay the course, that's the whole thing. He is a worker," interim manager Pat Murphy said. "When you are dealing with a shoulder or an elbow, all the little things that go into that, all the muscles that go into that and how it affects the rest of your body, it's the little adjustments ... it's those little things that make all the difference in the world, which is why it takes a little bit longer to get yourself right. We would love to have him back."


 
 
 
Rankings