If you remember nothing else from our site on draft day, remember that outfield is not nearly as deep as you think it is, or as a lot of experts might have you believe.
I conducted a recent ESPN mock and, as usual, I concocted a crazy strategy. This time I picked three stud 30-30 type outfielders with my first three picks. I avoided Joey Votto, Ryan Zimmerman, etc. — all of the infielders I usually pick.
The team ended up being steals heavy, but it would have been competitive, as long as a couple “ifs” played out right. 2011 outfielder rankings have plenty of “ifs.” There are a couple even in the ADP top 5.
(Recent ADP in parentheses)
1. Carlos Gonzalez, COL (6.72): No way he repeats. I’d take Braun or Crawford first, unless you are in a keeper league.
2. Ryan Braun, MIL (9.10): His ground balls are up and his fly balls are down, but there is no outfielder more likely to go 30-30 in 2011.
3. Josh Hamilton, TEX (14.32): Until proven otherwise, Hamilton is one of the most injury-prone and inconsistent players in baseball. In the last four years he’s had two MVP-caliber seasons and two that make Jonny Gomes look like a star.
4. Carl Crawford, BOS (16.06): ESPN has Crawford as their OF1. The ESPNers overvalue steals, which fits in with a return to norm. Crawford hit more fly balls than usual and had less steal opportunities than usual in 2010. Don’t expect him to surpass 20 homers, but expect him to reach the 50-steal plateau.
5. Matt Kemp, LAD (22.58): Kemp’s 2010 BABIP seems very unlucky. He had established himself near .350, but last year dropped to around the league average. His contact rate was down and his speed indicators were low, too. Let’s rule out 30-30-.300 right now, but he has shown power gains and his average should bounce a bit. Probably a value at this spot.
6. Matt Holliday, STL (22.95): Solid four-category performer, but he’s not going to approach 28 steals again.
7. Shin-Soo Choo, CLE (26.44): Draft him and count 85-20-85-20-.300. The perfect kind of outfielder for your H-2-H league.
8. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA (31.81): I’d start a chant of overrated, but I’d be waiting all day for my Rabid Lemurs bobblehead to answer back.
9. Nelson Cruz, TEX (34.12): If he can keep that hammy under control and give us 500 at-bats, he’ll outplay this draft slot by a ton.
10. Andre Ethier, LAD (38.03): The future for Ethier-pickers: He’ll help you in four categories, but you’ll regret picking him this early.
11. Justin Upton, ARI (40.57): I went all-in on Upton last year expecting gains in his second full season in the majors. He disappointed, but that doesn’t mean I’m avoiding him this year. He’s only 23 and has a 30-30 or three in his bat-legs.
12. Andrew McCutchen, PIT (44.41): Everybody and there brother is shouting “BREAKOUT” for McCutchen. Indicators (BABIP, second-half contact rate, second-half HR/FB) point to improved power, sustained/improved batting average.
13. Jose Bautista, TOR (48.95): Bautista won’t hit 50 homers again, but if he goes 100-35-100-10-.270, he’s a good start. Seems overpriced, but that 3B eligibility helps. Don’t reach.
14. Jayson Werth, WAS (49.93): Hit .309 with 14 homers and nine steals in the second half last season. Could be the ringleader in a Nationals breakout.
15. Jason Heyward, ATL (51.81): Beware the second-year player, especially one doesn’t get a full year’s worth of seasoning in AAA. I’m looking in Justin Upton’s direction. Still, Heyward was better in the second half than he was in the first despite nearly identical at-bats. He also played hurt.
16. Alex Rios, CWS (59.20): Really fell off after a first half that had owners thinking about a 30-40-.300 season. His lack of consistency is nothing new. It’s a high pick for a big question mark, but he’s almost a lock for 20-25.
17. B.J. Upton, TB (66.01): Upton’s potential for a category killing .225 average must be mentioned, but the 26-year-old still has the potential for a 100-25-80-40 season. Feeling lucky? If you pick him in the 6th-7th round, you are.
18. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS (67.00): There’s no power here to speak of. Don’t buy speed at this price. If you need speed help later, pick up Rajai Davis off waivers.
19. Curtis Granderson, NYY (71.42): Back in 2006 and 2007 we were thinking Granderson was a 30-30-.300 hitter. Now be happy if you get 25-15-.260. Are people still paying for potential? Granderson is 30 now.
20. Jay Bruce, CIN (78.58): If you want to pay for potential, Bruce is still two away from his peak years and should hit 80-30-100-.270 this season.
21. Hunter Pence, HOU (82.57): Pence has shown up on a lot of my ESPN mock rosters. That means he’s going at a value. He’s done nothing but improve the last three years and he’s only 27.
22. Colby Rasmus, STL (92.59): His contact rate (68%) was abysmal last year, but Rasmus did improve his BB/K and took steps up in all of the 5x5s. If he had maintained his first-half play for all of 2010, he wouldn’t be nearly this cheap.
23. Torii Hunter, ANA (93.14): He’s not going to come close to 20 steals again. Keep that in mind and draft him for his average and power.
24. Grady Sizemore, CLE (96.59): It is highly unlikely Sizemore will ever be the player he was in 2008, even if he recovers fully from his injury. At the least, don’t expect him to bounce back to 100 percent this season.
25. Alfonso Soriano, CHC (97.69): Like Torii Hunter, Soriano’s skill set has changed dramatically as he’s gotten older. Soriano, however, left his average along with his speed in his early 30s. There are much better options at this price.
26. Chris Young, ARI (98.13): Batting average is scary, but Young is a legit 100-30-100-30 player. In the 10th round, you can’t get a 5-cat stud. You shouldn’t be able to get a 4-cat one either. Good value.
27. Vernon Wells, ANA (98.91): Don’t expect the steals to return, but at 32, there are a few more years of good production here if Wells can stay healthy.
28. Corey Hart, MIL (103.35): He’ll likely regress some, but not much. Hart will help you in three categories and will keep your average average.
29. Nick Markakis, BAL (106.63): Will never come close to his 30-30 promise. More like 15-10 with a .300 average. At 27, we could still see some minor gains, but the upside isn’t very up.
30. Michael Bourn, HOU (114.77): It is elite, but speed is Bourn’s only game. He could give you 90 runs. Bourn’s contact rate and BB/K have improved in each of the last three years pointing to a potential bump in average. Even with those bonuses, Bourn’s overrated at this spot.
Other players: There are many players with more value than Bourn after the top 30. They will be discussed more with our projections, but here is a small sample: Delmon Young, Shane Victorino, Drew Stubbs, Jose Tabata, Angel Pagan, Travis Snyder, Rajai Davis and Chris Coghlan.