Outfield is in transition mode. The days of Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Lee being considered elite outfielders are over. In 2010 we usher in some new names atop the position.
Despite this, outfield is actually better right now than it has been over the past couple of years. The reason? Improved depth. No longer will you struggle to find productive outfielders late in your draft.
The good thing about the position is that it’s full of players with different skill sets. Unlike positions with all power and no speed (first base) and positions with a lot of speed but not a lot of power (shortstop), outfield has many players with power, speed or a combination of both.
What does this mean? Grabbing an outfielder early is not imperative. If you miss out on any of the Tier One guys, don’t panic and grab a third baseman, shortstop or second baseman. The flexibility and depth of the position will make it hard to come out of the draft without an outfield that you can be proud of.
Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp have the skill sets that make every fantasy manger giddy: power and speed with a great average. … Matt Holliday and his future managers are sure glad he’s back with St. Louis. Imagine what he’s going to do in a full year with the Cardinals. … Justin Upton looks an awful lot like Braun and Kemp, but he’s not quite there yet. That could easily change this year. … Next come the speedsters: Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. Crawford has reached his power potential; Ellsbury has not.
Grady Sizemore (CLE), Ichiro Suzuki (SEA), Jason Bay (NYM), Curtis Granderson (NYY), Ben Zobrist (TB), Jayson Werth (PHI), Nick Markakis (BAL), Adam Lind (TOR), Shin-Soo Choo (CLE), Carlos Lee (HOU), Nelson Cruz (TEX), Bobby Abreu (LAA), Andre Ethier (LAD)
Grady Sizemore has the skill set to be in Tier One, but the low batting average and injury concerns push him to Tier Two. … You know what you’re going to get out of Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Lee and Bobby Abreu: consistency and production. … Tier Two also welcomes last year’s breakout players: Ben Zobrist, Jayson Werth, Adam Lind, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz and Andre Ethier. In case you were wondering, they’re all for real. … Being a pull hitter, Jason Bay’s numbers will not suffer in Citi Field. … Expect an increase in power and batting average for Curtis Granderson, just understand that he may sit against lefties more often than not. … Can Nick Markakis develop more power? I believe this is the year he puts it all together.
Torii Hunter (LAA), Josh Hamilton (TEX), B.J. Upton (TB), Adam Jones (BAL), Adam Dunn (WAS), Shane Victorino (PHI), Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Manny Ramirez (LAD), Jay Bruce (CIN), Hunter Pence (HOU), Raul Ibanez (PHI), Carlos Quentin (CHW), Michael Cuddyer (MIN), Nate McLouth (ATL), Jason Kubel (MIN)
Tier Three has the potential to pay huge dividends for your team. Look for Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce to continue to make strides as they get more experience. Drafting one of them may give you an elite outfielder at a fraction of the price. … Even though it seems as if B.J. Upton has been around forever, he’s only 25 years old. I haven’t given up on his power yet. … You don’t need to be young to have potential. Josh Hamilton and Carlos Quentin both disappointed last year, but if they can stay healthy, don’t be surprised if their numbers return to 2008 levels.
Michael Bourn (HOU), Alex Rios (CHW), Johnny Damon (DET), Carlos Beltran (NYM), Chris Coghlan (FLA), Alfonso Soriano (CHC), Denard Span (MIN), Carlos Gonzalez (COL), Nyjer Morgan (WAS), Nolan Reimold (BAL), Ryan Ludwick (STL), Julio Borbon (TEX), Corey Hart (MIL), Brad Hawpe (COL)
Almost everybody in this tier can steal a base. You have the speedy, leadoff men in Michael Bourn and Nyjer Morgan, who will steal you 50+ bases. You also have guys who can steal 20+ bases and add in some pop to boot (Alex Rios and Carlos Gonzalez). … Don’t forget about Johnny Damon or Carlos Beltran (after he returns from injury). They still have the ability to hit over 20 home runs and steal 15-20 bases. … The two big sleepers in this tier are Julio Borbon and Ryan Ludwick. According to Ron Washington, the center field and leadoff starting jobs are Borbon’s to lose. He stole 19 bases last year in only 157 AB’s. As for Ludwick, expect him to rebound with a full year of Pujols and Holliday hitting in front of him. It also can’t hurt that Big Mac is his new hitting instructor.
Jason Heyward (ATL), Garrett Jones (PIT), Drew Stubbs (CIN), Rajai Davis (OAK), Franklin Gutierrez (SEA), Juan Pierre (CHW), Travis Snider (TOR), Dexter Fowler (COL), Juan Rivera (LAA), Jermaine Dye (FA), Mark DeRosa (SF), Nick Swisher (NYY)
Widely regarded as baseball’s top prospect, Jason Heyward could have a Braun/Evan Longoria type impact. If he makes Atlanta’s Opening Day roster, feel free to skyrocket him up your draft board. … Drew Stubbs, Rajai Davis and Juan Pierre will get you nearly as many steals as Bourn and Morgan but at a discounted price. … Watch Colorado’s spring training closely. If Dexter Fowler can win a starting outfield spot, he could turn into a hot commodity. The same goes for Travis Snider in Toronto. … Franklin Gutierrez isn’t just a defensive wizard. He’ll get you 15 home runs and 15 steals with a pretty good average and will be available at the end of your draft.