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The outfield is where you're most likely to find the most coveted of fantasy players = the so-called 5x5 (HR/RBI/SB/AVG/Runs) talent. This season all of the top nine OFs are capable of delivering to some degree in all these categories, but one big fish is a better swimmer than the rest.
1. Mike Trout, LAA: Inarguable. He slipped moderately in SBs and runs last year - his two categories with stratospheric potential - but blame the latter on the woeful Angels offense, since his AVG was slightly higher at .326, and 110 walks ballooned his OBP to .399. He is the best HR/RBI/SB/AVG/R investment overall in fantasy baseball; 30/100/50/.320/120 is very doable.
2. Andrew McCutchen, PIT: Along with the guy at No. 3, one of only two 20 HR/20 SB guys in the last three seasons (though Trout will join them this year, then likely blow past them in the long run). His HR power may be on the wane, but a .330 AVG, 20 HRs, 100 RBI, 30 SBs is within reach.
3. Carlos Gonzalez, COL: His .302 AVG, 26 HRs, 70 RBI and 21 SBs is remarkable for only 110 games played. It makes him look like a cinch for 35/100/30 if he plays 162, and therein lies the risk - he has never played more than 145 games in his career, living up to his injury-prone tag.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY: Could make a case for him at No. 3, especially in his new HR-friendly home, if he weren't also an injury risk. After Trout, he's the only other 20 HR, 50 SB threat on this list, though he could fall just short of both. Still, something like 18 HRs/75 RBI/45 SBs/ .300 AVG works for me.
5. Adam Jones, BAL: His SBs will top out around 15, the only thing keeping him from being at least two spots higher. 30+ HRs each of the last two season, and has 100 RBI/100 runs potential.
6. Carlos Gomez, MIL: Those who gambled last year after a heady second half of 2012 were rewarded. Could easily steal 40 bases again, and line of 20 HRs/70 RBI/90 runs is achievable.
7. Ryan Braun, MIL: Many questions, some not even having much to do with his baseball skills. Yet, a contrite attitude (finally) and his relatively consistent strong numbers for a partial season last year suggest a solid year, probably better than teammate Gomez in every category except SBs.
8. Bryce Harper, WAS: Hype has dissipated, but what's left is potential for 25+ HRs, 80 RBI, 20-25 SBs. Power numbers could get a boost if he hits fifth as planned. AVG is the enigma - could be anywhere from .270 to .300, depending on how he's matured.
9. Yasiel Puig, LAD: Last year had the biggest single month anyone in fantasy baseball has seen in a long time, yet he's lower on many draft lists due to injury questions, maturity questions and a horrible late-season slump. I like him as an outside shot at 30 HRs, which earns him this spot, but potential is there for .300 AVG, 80 RBI, 20 SBs if everything goes absolutely right.
10. Giancarlo Stanton, FLA: He rescued a terrible 2013 season with 24 HRs, most of them after fantasy managers lost patience. The trouble is we expected 40+ HRs. We may get it this year, but lack of speed and an AVG ceiling of about .265-.270 keeps him at the edge of the top 10.
11. Shin-Soo Choo, TEX: Range of opinions here as some see 30 HR/30 SB/120 runs potential. Could prove a real bargain here if he nudges his numbers just a bit from last year, which would mean 25 HRs, 25 SBs, 110 runs, but as a likely leadoff man, RBI opportunities are limited.
12. Justin Upton, ATL: Massive power, wildly inconsistent. Looked like a 50 HR man through his first 50 games last year, then settled for 27, but still young. 30 HRs/90 RBI, 15-20 SBs could happen.
13. Jose Bautista, TOR: Still formidable HR power could get you 30+ dingers, but limited AVG potential and lack of SBs clearly mark him as a No. 2 OF.
14. Alex Rios, TEX: Broad category talent to be in the top 10, but career-long inconsistency hasn't helped, which is probably why we can't trust a career-high 42 SBs in 2013. I do like him as a 20 HR/30 SB candidate, with overall value influenced by where he hits in relation to Prince Fielder.
15. Jay Bruce, CIN: The last guy on this list who probably can guarantee 30 HRs - he's done it three years in a row.
16. Starling Marte, PIT: Wouldn't surprise me if he ended up in the top 10, or somewhere south of this spot. 40 SB potential, but no better than 15 HRs and 50 RBIs hitting leadoff caps his value.
17. Matt Kemp, LAD: Will the precipitous decline continue? He doesn't even look like a 20 HR/20 SB guy at this point, but the talent is there. So is lineup protection if he can stay healthy. Big "if."
18. Jason Heyward, ATL: Has yet to fulfill his hype, but I'd argue this is his year. Strikeout rate was down last year, and barring injury, he is 20 HR/80 RBI/15 SB talent, conservatively-speaking.
19. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK: If you're an optimist, he could break through for 30 HRs, 100 RBI, 15 SBs this year, though his AVG ceiling is probably .265-.270. He disappointed last year after a swell rookie season, and I think he'll end up a little shy of the optimists' figures.
20. Hunter Pence, SF: If you wait long to draft OFs, there's always Pence. A folk hero for his ridiculous running style and more-than-obvious enthusiasm, he's a quiet multi-category stud with potential for a 25 HR/90 RBI/ 20 SB year, maybe better if he leaves San Francisco.
21. Allen Craig, STL: Gets a much higher ranking as a 1B. Has little speed, but should hit above .300 with strong potential for more than 100 RBI, though perhaps fewer than 20 HRs.
22. Matt Holliday, STL: Rough start last year for one of the most consistent fantasy OF players, but still managed impressive .300 AVG, 22 HRs, 94 RBI. I'll guess very similar numbers this year.
23. Wil Myers, TAM: Partial season sample last year confirmed hype. A 25 HR/100 RBI season is in his future. This year? And don't discount his chance to reach double-digit SBs.
24. Domonic Brown, PHI: Finally made good on several seasons of hype in 2013, though some are already calling that campaign of 27 HRs, 83 RBI a career year. 30/90 looks pretty close to me.
25. Carlos Beltran, NYY: Another low-lying bargain. He doesn't steal bases anymore, but playing in Yankee Stadium could bring him back into 30 HR/100 RBI territory for the first time since 2007.
26. Desmond Jennings, TAM: Once looked like a candidate for 20 HRs/40 SBs. After a couple years showing flashes of that potential, but not enough consistency, I think he comes close this year, but AVG and RBI are his weak points.
27. Carl Crawford, LAD: Seeing some big names in the bargain bin here. He looked great early last year, and could yield 30 SBs this year if healthy.
28. Josh Hamilton, LAA: Arguably the biggest bust of 2013, with HRs dropping from 43 to 21. If he gets 30 this year, we'll call it a comeback and a steal as a third OF.
29. Leonys Martin, TEX: A fairly unheralded 36 SBs last year has us dying to see what he can do if he has a little more plate patience (just 28 walks in 2013). Wouldn't be surprised to see him fight Trout and Ellsbury for the American League SB title.
30. Brandon Moss, OAK: The 30-HR man with 1B eligibility has roughly more or less the same fantasy value as five or six other guys, but maybe this ranking will give his parents something to pin on the fridge.
Just missed: Curtis Granderson, NYM: Had he settled with one of the Chicago teams, I would have ranked him in the top 30, but his dubious power, declining SB fortunes and mediocre AVG landed in the worst possible place - a home park that makes hitters look like they're swinging underwater.
Sleeper: Avisail Garcia/Adam Eaton, WHITE SOX: The Sox have made some intriguing, possibly great moves, and I'm convinced one of these guys is going to be a fantasy stud this year. Both have intriguing late-round value, Eaton for SBs, Garcia for everything else.
Sleeper who's not really a sleeper: Billy Hamilton, CIN: His brief big-league tryouts haven't amounted to much, but he's supposed to the best base-stealer in years. Some experts are projecting 50-60 SBs, but the Reds will need to give him enough ABs, and it's questionable whether he's a good enough hitter to earn them. Someone in your league will draft him - it's just a matter of when.
Previously in the Draft Guide:
* The Pitchers & Catchers Report Report.
Next week: RPs.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Aug 16, 2017