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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
Report: Padres 'in touch' with Phillies regarding Cole Hamels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Padres are "in touch" with the Phillies in an attempt to land pitcher Cole Hamels, FOX Sports reports.

The Padres have made plenty of upgrades across the roster since general manager A.J. Heller took over, and it's possible they don't have the ammunition to land the Philadelphia ace in a deal. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he didn't expect Hamels to be traded before the start of the season. Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.


Report: Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Orioles have signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, CSNBaltimore.com reports.

Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, spent 2014 with York of the independent Atlantic League, posting a 1.54 ERA and 34:11 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over 55 appearances.


Rangers' Matt Harrison expects to open season on 60-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Saturday that he expects to open the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from spinal fusion surgery, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"My job is to just get as healthy as I can and get myself right so I don’t have something happen like it did last year when I tried to come back," Harrison said. "I’m just going to focus on that and get ready to contribute whenever it may be."

Harrison is dealing with some stiffness in his right side, which will cause him to throw from a distance of 90 feet for a second consecutive week rather than progress to 105 feet. He hopes that he'll get his hips to rotate more and loosen up with more stretching and more throws from the 90-foot distance.


Report: Rays sign Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Rays have signed pitcher Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal with an invitiation to spring training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Belisaro made 62 appearances with the White Sox in 2014, posting a 4-8 record, 5.56 ERA and 47:18 K:BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings. He'll compete for a bullpen spot during the spring.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke hasn't decided whether to opt out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said Saturday that he's yet to decide whether to opt out of his contract at the end of next season but added, "There's not really better options anywhere besides here," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Greinke is set to make $23 million in 2015, and he's due another $71 million over the following three seasons if he remains under his current contract. The Dodgers said earlier this offseason that they wouldn't discuss a contract extension with the pitcher during the winter.

Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207:43 K:BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings in 2014.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez hoping to bounce back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez can't wait to get on the field and get past the 2014 season.

"I can’t wait," Jimenez said at Saturday’s FanFest event. "Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There's nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team."

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore in 2014, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 125 1/3 innings pitched. 

"It was pretty hard, coming in with a new team and signing a contract like that and not to do what everyone is expecting you to do, it’s hard," Jimenez said. "It’s hard not to be there for the team, but regardless what happened, I fought a lot. I think I was trying to find a way to survive to be there for the team and do whatever I can do the best. We got really far. I didn’t help a lot, but I tried to do whatever I could with whatever I had."


Royals' Alex Gordon plans to take it slow in recovery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is still recovering from his wrist surgery this offseason and plans to take it slow in his rehab.

"We really don’t have a timetable," Gordon said. "We’re just going to see how it feels. Obviously, it’s spring training. So we don’t want to rush anything. If it feels good, we’ll be aggressive with it. But if it’s not feeling good, we’ll take it slow."

Manager Ned Yost wants to continue to take things slow with Gordon.
"We’ll just take it slow," Yost said. "We’ll see how he feels. We’ll play him one day. Then we’ll give him a day off. Play him another day, five or six innings, then give him a day off. We’ll just see how he’s doing."
Gordon hit .266 in 2014 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI.

Angels, Garrett Richards settle on $3.2 million for 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have agreed to a contract for 2015 for $3.2 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Richards was asking for $3.8 million while the Angels offered $2.4 million. Richards posted a 13-4 record in 2014 with a 2.61 ERA and 164 strikeouts for Los Angeles.


Orioles' Manny Machado expects to be ready for spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is progressing through his rehab and says he's "ready to roll" for the upcoming season.

"I have a lot of time to get ready. That is the key: having a regular offseason," Machado said Saturday. "Was doing my rehab in Sarasota and then went to Miami to do my regular weightlifting and get ready for the season. Been exciting. Looking forward to spring training."

Machado has taken part in baseball activities for the past few weeks since having surgery on Aug. 27 after tearing a ligament in his knee.

"It will be awesome," he said of the prospect of having a normal spring. "I'm dying to get back on the field. Spring training is key for a lot of players to get your at-bats and your reps. I think some take it for granted but it's a very big key for success for the year."

Machado hit .278 in 2014 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI for Baltimore.


Bud Norris remains without update for contract extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris said Saturday nothing has changed between he and the organization for a new contract.

"I haven't heard anything of that," Norris said. "I don't see a reason why I'd want to leave, but that's out of my control."

Norris and the Orioles are preparing for arbitration, when Norris filed for $10.25 million and Baltimore offered $7.5 million. He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA and 139:52 K:BB ratio in 165 1/3 innings over 28 starts in 2014.


 
 
 
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