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It will surprise no one when I rank Mike Trout, OF, LAA, as the No. 1 overall fantasy baseball player in a few weeks, so even fewer people will be surprised that he's the top fantasy OF:
1. Mike Trout, LAA.
Makes a fantasy adviser's job easy: Won the 2014 AL MVP, as expected, with 36 HRs, 11 RBI, 16 SBs, 115 runs, .287. Can't ask for mush more, though a boost in SBs and average would be nice. Interesting 2014 stat: .377 OBP 55-point drop from 2013's insane .432.
2. Andrew McCutchen, PIT.
2013/2014 stat comparison: HRs - 21/25, RBI - 84/83, doubles - 38/38, average - .317/.314. Biggest difference was in games played - 157/146, suggesting growth if he stays healthy this year. Interesting 2014 stat: 16 SBs. Can he do 30/20 HRs/SBs this year?
3. Giancarlo Stanton, MIA.
Matched career-high 37 HRs, exploded for career-high 105 RBI. Hit a surprising .288 and got a whopper contract with a young team that should score more this year. Still only 25. Interesting 2014 stat: 13 SBs. We knew about the power. This one was a shocker.
4. Carlos Gomez, MIL.
Like McCutchen, remarkable 2013/2014 similarities: HRs - 24/23, RBI - 73/73, SBs - 40/34, average - .284/.284. Unlike No. 2, these numbers might be the best he can do, though he certainly can reach them again. Interesting 2014 stat: 95 runs a career high.
5. Jose Bautista, TOR.
May have discovered the Fountain of Youth, hitting 35 HRs, 103 RBI, .286 average, and scoring 101 runs at age 34 after a two-year slide. Interesting 2014 stat: 155 hits was a career high.
6. Michael Brantley, CLE.
Rankings elsewhere suggest people aren't trusting his breakout 2014: 20 HRs, 97 RBI, 23 SBs, 94 runs and a .327 average. Heading into key 27-year-old season. Interesting 2014 stat: All of them were career highs, but to pick one - 200 hits in 156 games.
7. Adam Jones, BAL.
Machine-like production of 25+ HRs, 80+ RBI, .280+ average four years straight, though SBs slid from 16 in 2012 to 14 in 2013 to seven last year. Interesting 2014 stat: Only 19 walks, leading to .311 OBP, lowest since 2008.
8. Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY.
SBs are most responsible for this ranking. 39 SBs last year was down from 52 in 2013, but HRs were up to 16 from nine in 2013. He was finally healthy most of last year, and can do better in both stats. Interesting 2014 stat: .271 average down 27 points from 2013.
9. Yasiel Puig, LAD.
Mercurial in the best and worst ways. His hot streaks can carry a fantasy team for weeks, but occasional cold streaks, injuries and odd behavior lessen his value. Interesting 2014 stat: HRs down from 19 to 16, despite playing in 44 more games (148 total) than in 2013.
10. Bryce Harper, WAS.
Could this be his big year? Shipwrecked by injury in 2014 and slow to collect stats on his return, he did turn a corner as the season wound down, and also hit three HRs in the postseason. Interesting 2014 stat: 22 years old throughout this season.
11. Corey Dickerson, COL.
Late-season riser who may have helped fantasy teams on the bubble make the postseason. Hit 24 HRs, with 76 RBI, eight SBs, .312 average. Dying to see what he can do in more than 130 games. Interesting 2014 stat: .567 slugging percentage, .592 in day games.
12. George Springer, HOU.
During a brief stay in 2014 before getting hurt, he showcased HR-crown power - in 78 games, 20 of his 68 hits were four-baggers. He may still need to work out some kinks this year to lift a .231 average. Interesting 2014 stat: 114 strikeouts in same brief stretch.
13. Matt Kemp, SD.
New home isn't a hitters' park, but neither was his old home, and he's convinced a lot of us that his MVP-level game is back. Could be a sneaky bargain this low if other Padres get on base and/or knock him in. Interesting 2014 stat: 38 doubles tied career high.
14. Hanley Ramirez, BOS.
SS star is supposed to play left field in Boston. We'll see how that goes, but he should get OF fantasy eligibility early on in any case. Numbers from half a season last year project him close to 20/100/20 HRs/RBI/SBs. Interesting 2014 stat: .817 OPS.
15. Nelson Cruz, SEA.
Last year's 40 HRs, 108 RBI, 87 runs, 166 hits all career highs. His power should survive his new pitchers' park home, but no SB potential, and 2014's .271 average is near his career average. Interesting 2014 stat: .525 slugging percentage his highest since 2010.
16. Carlos Gonzalez, COL.
Another injury-shortened season for the onetime multi-stat star leaves me searching for the right ranking. A 20/100/20 season seems possible if he plays 140 games or so, but he hasn't done that since 2010. Interesting 2014 stat: .238 average in 70 games.
17. Jason Heyward, STL.
Perfect new team for a young player who improved his walk and strikeouts rates last year. 11 HRs, 58 RBI, 20 SBs suggest this ranking is way too high, but I like him for 20/90/25 with 90 runs hitting second in STL. Interesting 2014 stat: .351 OBP high since 2010.
18. Hunter Pence, SF.
He dropped a few spots after his broken hand in spring training. Never a stat leader, he's a great everyday player who somehow is always busy contributing something fantasy-wise. Interesting 2014 stat(s): 106 runs and 10 triples both career highs.
19. Starling Marte, PIT.
Difficult to rank this high with 13 HRs last year probably being the best he'll do with that particular stat, but 30 SBs and .291 average demand attention. Interesting 2014 stat: 41 steal attempts last year were 15 fewer than in 2013.
20. Charlie Blackmon, COL.
Dickerson stole his thunder a bit, but Blackmon, an early-season fantasy surprise we all ignored until the last possible minute, made a name for himself last year with 19 HRs, 72 RBI, 28 SBs. Interesting 2014 stat: Started off with a whopping 1.076 OPS last April.
21. Justin Upton, SD.
His value theoretically goes up with Kemp in the same lineup. I tend to rank him lower than elsewhere because he suffers long slumps between power binges. Thing was: He still ended up with 29 HRs, 102 RBI. Interesting 2014 stat: .833 OPS highest since 2011.
22. Billy Hamilton, CIN.
Another getting higher rankings elsewhere - and with 56 SBs, I get it - but after hitting just .250 last year, he remains one-dimensional, and worse, had too many weeks of one or no SBs between busier stretches. Interesting 2014 stat: 23 times caught stealing.
23. Yoenis Cespedes, DET.
Will his new home park affect his numbers? His slugging percentage and OPS were higher last year in cavernous Oakland than after he got traded to Boston. Health is a recurring issue. Interesting 2014 stat: 100 RBI went largely unnoticed, split between two teams.
24. Matt Holliday, STL.
Very consistent fantasy contributor had a slight downturn last year, going from 22 HRs in 2013 to 20 in 2014, 94 RBI to 90, and .300 average to .272. Still. 20+ HRs five straight years, 90+ RBI in four of last five. Interesting 2014 stat: 37 doubles highest since 2010.
25. JD Martinez, DET.
Nobody seems to believe his stunning 2014 fantasy output - 23 HRs, 76 RBI, .315 average, .553 slugging percentage in 123 games - was for real. We'll see what he can do with a full season. Interesting 2014 stat: .912 OPS was sixth among OFs with 400+ at bats.
26. Jay Bruce, CIN.
Coming back from a big injury makes for a tough ranking. 30+ HRs three straight years before 18 HRs and career-low .217 average in 2014. So we're betting on a rebound. Interesting 2014 stat: 12 SBs, first time in his career with double-digit SB.
27. Christian Yelich, MIA: A top-20 outfielder in waiting. His status as a leadoff man limited his HRs and RBI to nine and 54 - he can do better with both - and 94 runs, 21 SBs and .284 average last year. Interesting 2014 stat: .362 OBP.
28. Jorge Soler, CUBS.
His 2014 stint, while impressive, was just too short for a higher ranking. I think RBI could be his best category, but for that he needs the rest of the young Cubs to get on base - a tall order. Interesting 2014 stat: 14 of his 26 hits were for extra bases.
29. Kole Calhoun, LAA.
Another late-season riser last year offering some great value. With 90 runs in 127 games, he easily would have had over 100 for a full season. 17 HRs, 58 RBI should grow as well. Interesting 2014 stat: .325 OBP stat was pretty low for a guy slated to lead off this year.
30. Brett Gardner, NYY.
A borderline fantasy value and perennial waiver wire injury replacement for years, Gardner finally put it all together last year: 17 HRs, 58 RBI, 21 SBs, 87 runs. Interesting 2014 stat: .422 slugging percentage was a career high.
Sleeper: Avisail Garcia, WHITE SOX.
Injury-shortened 46-game season last year means that outside of Chicago, his fantasy value might be lost in the XXL shadow of Jose Abreu, but a breakout seems imminent. Interesting 2014 stat: 29 RBIs suggests near 100 for a full season.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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