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2014 Draft Prep: Outfield profiles

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Al's profiles: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | SSs | 3Bs | OFs | Ps

Remember when outfield was a deep position?

The outfield pool does not lack for players with high-end potential, but don't let that bounty lull you into thinking you can wait to fill your outfield slots as you prioritize other needs. There are few sure things at the position, so as a result, you just may start to think that "boring" (e.g., Adam Jones, Hunter Pence) is the new "exciting" and pursue previously uninspiring players with some of your earliest picks.

Mike Trout is in a class by himself, and while Andrew McCutchen probably won't match Trout's power, he, too, should be among the very top picks due to his durability and well-rounded production. After those two are off the board, it's something of a free-for-all, with your options ranging from the steady Jones/Pence types to a much larger group of riskier players. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton could all produce like first-rounders, but all have dealt with their share of injuries. Bryce Harper and Yasiel Puig could both be among the elites, but given their limited track record, they pose their own risks. And Ryan Braun ... well, it's hard to know exactly what to expect from him in the post-suspension era.

Things don't get much easier in the quest for No. 2 and No. 3 outfielders. Reliable types like Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Holliday and Jay Bruce dot the landscape, but most of the options offer at least as much risk as reward. A few of the more enticing, but also more treacherous, outfielders from the middle tiers are the main focus of this set of projection profiles. Specifically, Domonic Brown's scorching first half of 2013, Alfonso Soriano's surprising resurgence, Curtis Granderson's migration to the National League and Yoenis Cespedes' deflating sophomore season all have the potential to give Fantasy owners fits this draft season. The projections for each are included here, as well as the explanations behind the numbers.

Because the outfield pool is so riddled with risk and uncertainty, it's important to target the ones you want -- whether it's because you trust them or because you can't resist their upside -- as early as possible. There may not be a way around feeling some Draft Day angst as you fill out your outfield slots, but the intent of providing these six profiles is to arm you with information that can help you make some of those picks with confidence.

Yasiel Puig, Dodgers

2014 5x5 projections: .291/.357/.532, 30 HR, 72 RBI, 97 Runs, 18 SB in 560 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 15.8 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 8th among outfielders; 485 Fantasy Points, 7th among outfielders

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Puig set some unrealistic expectations for himself by hitting .391 in the first half last season, but just because he fell off his pace in the second half doesn't mean he can't be a top 10 outfielder. He managed to maintain his home run and doubles power after the All-Star break, thanks in part to an elevated flyball rate, and Puig's .373 post-break on-base percentage was built on a surging walk rate and a .323 BABIP that he is fast enough to maintain.

The projection assumes that Puig can come close to maintaining his 35 percent flyball rate (per FanGraphs.com) from the second half, while moving closer to the elevated home run-to-flyball ratio (HR/FB) he exhibited in the first half. It also assumes some improvement in his strikeout rate, as he made much more frequent contact during his limited time in the minors. Perhaps the biggest question mark raised by Puig's projection is whether he will hit the target of 18 stolen bases. His 11 for 19 success rate on steals last year raises doubt as to whether he will be efficient enough to merit a projected increase, but with possibly a larger presence in the leadoff role this season, he may get more steal opportunities.

If he hits his projection, Puig will pay off as a top 30 pick overall, and there could be even more upside there. He's not the safest use of a second- or third-round pick, though, should he fall short on his potential for batting average or steals.

Domonic Brown, Phillies

2014 5x5 projections: .291/.348/.527, 29 HR, 91 RBI, 74 Runs, 7 SB in 520 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 14.0 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 20th among outfielders; 448 Fantasy Points, 22nd among outfielders

Brown's projection assumes that he can approximate last season's per-game power output, even though his 23-homer first half looks like an extreme outlier on his big league resume. Brown had hit for power in his minor league career, and after last season's resurgence, improved health plus a new batting grip sound like plausible explanations for a legit comeback. Though his end-of-season numbers were far less impressive than those he posted in the first half, it's important to note that Brown's numbers didn't tail off substantially until after his return from a concussion in August.

Not only can Brown pick up where he left off, toying with a 30-home run season, but he could improve on last year's .272 batting average. Brown has yet to post a BABIP above .300 in the majors, but the source of his subpar rates has varied from year to year, suggesting bad luck rather than a chronic problem. The Phillies' lineup may struggle to provide run production opportunities for Brown, but with a batting average closer to the .300-plus marks from his prospect heyday, he still has a good shot at a 90-RBI season.

Because of his limited and uneven track record, other owners may balk at taking Brown among the top 25 outfielders, but he could very well finish the 2014 season with that distinction.

Alfonso Soriano, Yankees

2014 5x5 projections: .251/.303/.468, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 79 Runs, 13 SB in 590 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 13.8 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 22nd among outfielders; 427 Fantasy Points, 31st among outfielders

After producing the first run of player projections in the fall, there is always a handful of players whose projected numbers force me to do a double-take. Soriano was a notable member of that group this offseason.

Inconsistency, questionable plate discipline, age ... there has been no shortage of reasons why I've distrusted Soriano in recent years, but a surprisingly favorable first-run projection had me taking a closer look at his trends. For the first time since 2005-06, Soriano has played in more than 150 games in back-to-back seasons, and that has gone a long way towards helping his counting stats. He has also been extremely consistent on a year-to-year basis in terms of power production, and he has actually increased his HR/FB ratio four years in a row.

Owners already know not to expect Soriano to hit much above .250, but even with some dropoff in his HR/FB ratio, another 30-homer season is attainable. Soriano probably won't come near last season's 84 runs or 18 stolen bases, but all that means is that he drops out of the top 12 outfielders, where virtually no one expects him to reside anyway.

Curtis Granderson, Mets

2014 5x5 projections: .226/.314/.443, 32 HR, 91 RBI, 89 Runs, 16 SB in 580 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 13.8 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 24th among outfielders; 440 Fantasy Points, 22nd among outfielders

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The days of Granderson hitting even .250 with 20 steals are probably behind him, but that doesn't mean he can't still be a top 25 outfielder. Prior to last season, Granderson had been on steady 30- plus home run paces, and who knows what he could have done last year if not for the broken forearm and pinky sustained on two separate plunkings? It's doubtful that Granderson will match the 40-homer power from 2011 and 2012, but he may not lose as much clout as some fear as a result of his crosstown move. Yankee Stadium is nearly unparalleled as a home run haven for lefty hitters, but even in his away games, Granderson managed to hit 37 homers over those two big power seasons. Citi Field, as a neutral homer park for lefties, shouldn't dampen Granderson's home run total too much.

Granderson may also not be completely done as a stolen base source, as he was 8 for 10 in steal attempts in only 61 games last year. Even with a .220s batting average, Granderson can do enough in the other categories to offer a reasonable return if you take him within the first 90 picks. Aside from a stolen base projection that could be optimistic, there is probably not much risk in drafting him based on his projected numbers.

Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics

2014 5x5 projections: .277/.327/.486, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 78 Runs, 6 SB in 535 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 12.7 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 33rd among outfielders; 407 Fantasy Points, 41st among outfielders

Cespedes represents one of the toughest dilemmas to deal with when creating projections. He's a third-year player who has produced very different results in each of his first two seasons. Given that Cespedes is still only 28 and not facing age-related decline, there is a strong temptation to heavily discount last season and expect a return to his 2012 levels.

There's good reason to expect Cespedes to rebound, particularly in batting average and doubles, as he suffered from subpar -- and likely unlucky -- batting averages on flyballs (.050) and line drives (.659) in play. I don't have Cespedes making a full recovery to his .292 batting average from 2012 because he did have more trouble making contact with pitches in the strike zone last year, and that contributed to his strikeout per at bat rate shooting up from 21 to 26 percent. After missing out on half of his 14 stolen base attempts from a year ago, a rebound in the steals category looks even less likely.

Even with a partial rebound, Cespedes is a top 40 outfielder in Rotisserie leagues, and should he stay healthy enough to play in far more than 135 games, he will be one in Head-to-Head leagues, too. There's room for Cespedes to reach a higher ceiling than that, but there are enough danger signs that should keep owners from viewing him as the top 20 Roto outfielder that he was as a rookie.

Christian Yelich, Marlins

2014 5x5 projections: .269/.347/.410, 13 HR, 46 RBI, 81 Runs, 18 SB in 580 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 10.5 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 55th among outfielders; 393 Fantasy Points, 45th among outfielders

With seven home runs in an abbreviated 49-game season in Double-A, Yelich showed a glimpse of his potential future power. Based on what Yelich did in his 62-game debut with the Marlins, that future may take awhile to get here.

Rather than dwell on some potentially bad news, let's get to the good news first. As a 21-year- old, Yelich hit a healthy .288 and got on base at a .370 clip. While I didn't project him to return to those levels, they do represent an achievable upside. Those marks were helped along by a .382 BABIP and 11 percent walk rate, and given his history of line drive power and patience, he could approach those levels again. Simply because a .380-plus BABIP is extremely hard to replicate, I have Yelich projected to hit .339 on balls in play, but as good as that would be, he could greatly exceed it.

Then there's that matter of his projected power numbers, which seem more befitting of a middle infielder. Aside from his brief foray into Double-A ball, Yelich has profiled as an extreme ground ball hitter, and last season's 11 percent flyball rate with the Marlins was lower than DJ LeMahieu's and Jamey Carroll's and barely higher than Jonathan Villar's (he of the 12 extra-base hits in 210 at-bats).

Maybe Yelich takes a step forward this year, but maybe it's a small one, and the Marlins' lineup probably won't help him much with run production. Because Yelich has some batting average and stolen base potential, he's worth having on your radar in standard mixed leagues, but because of his possible shortcomings, he should merely be considered as an endgame option.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Twins' Byron Buxton doubles twice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:27 pm ET) Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton doubled twice on Wednesday against the University of Minnesota.

Buxton came into last season ranked as one of the best prospects in the minors. He had injury issues, which ended his season early. While Buxton is still considered the Twins top prospect, he was passed by other players in the overall prospect rankings due to the injuries. 

Buxton seemed to be 100 percent on Wednesday, doubling twice during the contest. He scored one run and drove in one RBI. The 21-year-old should open the season in the minors, but could debut as early as this season depending on his performance. 


Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:22 pm ET) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:36 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:30 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:55 pm ET) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:52 pm ET) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:26 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


Report: MLB split on whether Josh Hamilton should go to rehab
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:24 pm ET) Major League Baseball is split over whether Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton should go to rehab, according to the Los Angeles Times

The four person panel assigned to Hamilton's case are deadlocked, and the group will have to bring in an arbitrator in order to break the tie. The panel first must decide whether Hamilton violated any rules, and then must agree on a course of treatment. The panel has not been able to agree on the latter of those conditions, which is why an arbitrator is necessary. 

If Hamilton is sent to rehab, he would receive his full salary for 30 days, and then half his salary over the next 30 days. If he's suspended, but does not have to attend rehab, Hamilton would not be paid during the suspension. 

MLB is also trying to determine whether Hamilton should be charged as a fourth-time offender of the drug policy. If that's the case, Hamilton could be suspended for the entire season.

Hamilton, 33, admitted to MLB that he experienced a relapse a few months ago, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Hamilton has dealt with drug and alcohol issues throughout his career, and was suspended for three seasons after failing drug tests as a minor-leaguer. He met with officials in New York in February regarding the incident. 


Mets' Curtis Granderson re-working his swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:06 pm ET) Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson is re-working his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long, according to the New York Post

Granderson and Long have a history. The two worked together with the Yankees. Long rebuilt Granderson's swing, turning him into a massive home run hitter from 2011 to 2012. Now, they are looking to repeat the process.

"This is actually very similar to the first time we started making adjustments," Granderson said. "The idea is we want to get to the strongest position as consistently as possible with as little movement as possible."

Long went into detail, saying he's trying to get Granderson to "preset" his hands. "Get him in the perfect hitting position so the hands are ready to fire and he can go as efficiently as possible from point A to point B," Long said.

Granderson said everything is "still a work in progress," but he feels like Long's drills are getting through to him.

The 33-year-old Granderson hit .227/.326/.388 over 564 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Yunel Escobar ahead of schedule in position transition
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:02 pm ET) Nationals infielder Yunel Escobar was informed when he was traded from the Athletics he was switching from shortstop to second base for this season. Escobar has put in extra work to get himself ready for live action this spring at second, the position he's played since 2007, reports MLB.com.

"He is a big man and has real light feet. He is very bouncy, live body," defensive coordinator and advance coach Mark Weidemaier said. "He has taken to the footwork well, as far as turning double plays. There are things we have to polish a little bit, but he is way ahead of the game for me. He has taken to it like a duck to water. It's very natural to him."

Manager Matt Williams is planning to start Escobar at second Thursday.

"He is going to play. He needs to play games and get game experience and get back in the flow of [being on] the other side of the diamond," Williams said. "He is ready to go, I know that."


 
 
 
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