Ryan Braun was pretty awesome last season, smacking more than 30 homers and setting a career high with 20 steals.
But if you don’t draft him in 2010, that isn’t a bad thing.
Sure landing Braun or Matt Kemp would be very sweet in any fantasy format, but you can survive nicely without them, draft studs at other, more shallow positions, and get somewhat lesser yet comparable production from a number of young OF who are starting to come alive in the MLB.
Much like my early value picks at catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop, here are a few guys I’ll be watching closely in drafts this season …
In the middle of the fantasy black hole known as Pittsburgh, there is a rising star that every manager should watch closely in the upcoming fantasy drafts … this being Andrew McCutchen. Getting an opportunity for regular playing time after the Pirates dealt Nate McLouth, McCutchen didn’t take long start turning heads, hitting .286 with 12 long balls, 22 steals and 54 RBI in 108 games. Imagine what he could do in a full season of action. McCutchen is the perfect example that you don’t need to go hog wild for a stud OF option early in your draft.
Carlos Gonzalez may be more known in fantasy circles than you’d hope out of a “value” player on this list … however, he’s still being undervalued in too many of the mock drafts I’ve seen. Looking at some of the smaller, yet perhaps more impressive stats, Gonzalez outproduced 2009 fantasy darling Matt Kemp in at-bats per runs scored, at-bats per home runs and almost the same at-bats per stolen bases. Cgonz finished with 13 homers and 16 stolen bases in just 89 games. Project that over a full season (especially considering he hit .320 with 12 homers and 24 RBI after the All-Star break), and you have an elite fantasy outfielder.
Chris Coghlan was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2009. More impressive to me was that he hit seven of his nine homers after the All-Star break and had a dependable reputation in the minors to swipe some bases (34 in the minors in 2008). Both stat lines tell me that Coglan could become a solid multiple category contributor in fantasy circles in the near future, and is worthy of some draft-day fantasy love from managers in all formats. Want more to like? Coghlan was second among all outfielders in second-half batting average.
You could spend a first or second-round pick on someone like Carl Crawford if you are worried about your stolen base production in 2010 … or you could wait a good many rounds to snatch Michael Bourn. He stole 61 bases in 2009, and while he doesn’t produce power numbers, he did show marked improvement in plate discipline last year (.285). There may not be much support in the Houston lineup to help drive Bourn home, but he will still produce plenty of value in fantasy circles this season. For more on speed options in fantasy baseball, check this out.
While there was plenty of real-life fireworks surrounding the Yankees acquiring of Curtis Granderson during the offseason, he continues to get very little recognition among fantasy gurus. That’s easy to understand considering Granderson’s .249 batting average was a decline for the third-straight season and his 91 runs scored was another lowpoint in 2009 … but it is hard to overlook how much better Granderson could produce in such a potent New York lineup … especially if he winds up as a leadoff or No. 2 hitter. Watch what happens on draft day, and if he falls far enough, he could be a good value with plenty of power and speed upside.
Want a deeper value pick at OF? Look no further than Drew Stubbs … as we share here.
Who are you targeting for your fantasy outfield? We’d love to hear in the comments below.