AL OF Tiered Rankings Update

As the first Monday in May (and every concurrent month afterwards), I bring you the updated American League outfield tiered rankings. The fluctuations here reflect the past weeks AL OF stock watches as well as what I envision as the player’s fantasy value going forward. As one may expect, previous players who I rated as being bullish have moved up, and vice versa with bearish players dropping down.

Tier One:
Curtis Granderson
Josh Hamilton

Granderson contributes significantly to every standard fantasy category. The only downside to Granderson is his mediocre average. The lack of steals so far in 2012 is more curious than worrisome at this early juncture. His ability to remain healthy and productive is the reason he is number one. Since 2006 he has only had less than 600 plate appearances in a season once, and in that year he still accrued 528 PA. The argument for Hamilton is that he has tied or superseded in Granderson in every statistic so far, including a .75 point batting average advantage. So why is Hamilton ranked #2? You should already know the answer to this: health. He has yet to go on the DL this year, but did miss a 3 game spell with back tightness. To say it another way: From 2008-2011, Hamilton has a total of 2,178 PA, or 544 PA per season while Granderson has garndered 2,558 PA for an average of 639 PA per season. Injuries are impossible to predict, but given the history of Granderson averaging ~100 more trips to the plate each season over the past four years tips the scales in his favor.

Tier Two:
Jose Bautista
Adam Jones
Desmond Jennings

Bautista slides out the top tier due to a slow start, but I fully expect him to bounce back in a big way. Given his fantastic BB% and K%, I don’t think his skills have deteriorated. Hang on to him and enjoy the next five months of Joey Bats rediscovering his power. I’ve been a long time critic of Jones, mostly based on his shaky defense in center field and his apparent hatred of the base on balls but I can’t argue against his 2012 performance so far. His walk rate is still poor, 4.1%, but he has managed to cut his strikeout rate down to a fantastic 13.0%. He isn’t even 27 yet and he is displaying a power trend upward from 2010 to 2012. His current ISO of .287 is over 100 points higher than any previous season, so I doubt he is a true talent .591 slugger. He also is five steals so far, but 3 caught stealing. I’m going out on a limb, but I think a 30 HR, .290 AVG with 15-18 SB isn’t an impossible season at this point in time for Jones. Jennings has flashed some power this year, but his main assets will be his steals and runs. I’ll be disappointed if he ends the year with less than 40 stolen bases and 105 runs.

Tier Three:
B.J. Upton
Alex Gordon
Yeonis Cespedes
Nick Swisher
Ben Zobrist
Austin Jackson

Despite starting the year on the disabled list, Upton hasn’t slide down yet. His power, runs and SB make for a handsome combination. If only he could get his AVG above .245 for a full season. It doesn’t appear as though he was rushed back from his injury either, as just yesterday he hit a homer run and stole a base, while drawing three walks on top of that. Cespedes continues to trouble me in his ranking, as he’s always seems one hot week away from tier two, or one slump away from being in AAA. I personally foresee a 20-20 season with a .260 average for him. After sitting out six games with a hamstring injury, Swish returned to the lineup yesterday and popped his seventh home run of the year. Swisher does have one 30+ HR season under his belt, and while we’re stating arbitrary marks, he also has a pair of 29 HR seasons. With this fast start, injury and all, I think Swish once again tops 30 HR with 90+ runs and 90+ RBI. His average won’t dazzle anyone, but his counting stats (other than steals) will be there at the end of the year. Jackson sneaks into the top tier here based on his runs and SB potential. I was skeptical of his contact rates (and I still am a bit worried) but he contributes too much in other areas for me to overlook him any further.

Tier Four:
Denard Span
Josh Willingham
Mike Trout
Ichiro Suzuki
Matt Joyce
Torii Hunter
Howie Kendrick

Span seems to finally be back in peak form. He currently sports a .309/.361/.382 line which compares favorable to his career line of .286/.361/.387. I think Span will finish the year with a .290 average and 20 SB. Factor in his runs and you have a very useful fantasy player. Willingham has been nothing short of brilliant so far in 2012. His .421 wOBA is second to only Josh Hamilton’s absurd .468. So why is he so far down? It’s the same reason that Hamilton wasn’t ranked number one: injuries. Only once in his career has Willingham eclipsed the 600 PA mark. Again, injuries are impossible to predict, but going off of his previous history, Willingham seems like a good sell-high candidate. Joyce has been quite the surprise for his fantasy owners thus far. Although always able to hit right handed pitching. Joyce is now flashing signs of life against fellow lefties. Rather than sitting versus southpaws, Joyce already has 30 PA against them this year, compared to 101 all of last year. It is hard to say if Joe Maddon just hasn’t found an effective platoon partner for Joyce, or if Joyce is the full time left fielder. Until otherwise, continue to start Joyce every day.

Tier Five:
Nick Markakis
Nelson Cruz
Brett Gardner
Shin-Soo Choo
Seth Smith

Be it injuries or ineffectiveness, none of these players have hit anywhere near their expected numbers. Cruz is the most alarming, as his refusal to walk has manifested itself in a fifth straight season of declining BB%. For you fellow (not to mention patient) Gardner owners, he is due to make his first rehab appearance today. Though there isn’t a time table for his return, Joe Giradi thinks it could be as few as “two or three games.” If you play in an OBP league, both Choo and Smith look much better, but have still been lackluster.

Tier Six:
Marlon Byrd
Josh Reddick
David Murphy
Colby Rasmus
Alejandro De Aza
Nolan Reimold

Byrd offers the most steady contributions and most likely the highest floor, but his ceiling is relatively low. Reddick has flashed power and even some speed, but his contact and walk rates force me to be skeptical of his fantasy value. If only outfield assists were a fantasy statistic, Reddick would rank higher. Rasmus remains a tantalizing collection of tools, but he has yet to have that big fantasy breakout season. Rasmus’ strikeout rate is elevated and his walk rate is down compared to last year and his career averages. His SwStr% is up and his contact both in and out of the zone are down. All of those things worry me. He is still only 25, so there is hope yet, but I’m beginning to wonder about him. Buck Showalter has said that he expects Reimold to return to the team around May 14th, and assuming no setbacks, that seems like a reasonable time period. If Reimold can stay healthy for a full season after he returns, that will go miles to bolster my faith in his game. I’m not a huge believer in his game, but I can see his 20 HR upside.

Tier Seven:
Cody Ross
Peter Bourjos
Rajai Davis
Michael Saunders
Jeff Francoeur
Coco Crisp
Eric Thames

Ross climbs to tier seven based mostly on playing time and his home park. I’m not a full believer in his ability as a first division starter, but I can’t ignore the starting left fielder for the Red Sox. Davis only has 36 PA, but has made it into 21 games already. His SB:CS is pretty rough right now, 3:2, but for his career he has a 78% success rate. Expect a cheap 30-35 bags out of him this year. With his recent move to the DL, Crisp continues to drop in the rankings. His “batting” won’t be missed much, as he currently sports a .194 AVG and just five runs scored on the year. The lone bright spot has been his 4:0 SB/CS ratio. When he returns, you can expect another 25 stolen bases out of him. I fully expect Crisp and Davis to have similar SB numbers, though ironically enough, Davis may finish with the better AVG. Thames hasn’t done anything to earn a promotion to tier seven from my first rankings where I had him tier eight, but a collection of injuries and awfulness have moved him up by default.

Tier Eight:
Jacoby Ellsbury 
Brennan Boesch
Delmon Young
Ryan Raburn
Carl Crawford
Alex Rios
Lorenzo Cain

We have two 60-day DL players, Cain who won’t be back until late May, and a collection of hitters who have failed to live up to that title. Other than injuries, the saddest thing here is Alex Rios. In the mid 2000’s I guzzled the Rio kool-aid. Little did I know that drinking that kool-aid would give me a two year fantasy draft hangover effect. Despite cutting his already low walk rate, Rios has in fact been able to maintain an equal K/BB ratio by also cutting back on his strikeouts. He is walking at a career low rate, but he is also striking out at a career low rate. His AVG has bounce backed from 2011, but his power has yet to full reappear and his days of 30+ stolen bases appear to be long gone.




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41 Responses to “AL OF Tiered Rankings Update”

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  1. oilcanboy says:

    No Cody Ross?

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  2. CJ says:

    Have Markakis. Could drop him for Joyce right now. Jump on it?

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    • David Wiers says:

      No bench slots? Markakis is probably worth keeping around unless you play in an uber shallow league. For the short term at least, Joyce seems like the better option.

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      • CJ says:

        12 team H2H. Fairly shallow (C, 1B-SS, 3 OF, 2 UT, 4 SP, 2 RP, 2 P, 3 BN). No bench slots for position players right now. Using it all on SPs as I’m facing top team in league and without playing match-ups and trying to get a lot of decent performances he is likely to blow me out of the water this week. May go back to a bench position player next week. Rest of OF is Stanton and BJ Upton. Have LaHair as one of my 2 UT spots as well.

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      • David Wiers says:

        Oof. H2H. That’s rough.

        In your case, I think I would take Joyce over Markakis, but don’t expect Markakis to be on the WW long. Someone will pick him up. I’d explore every trade option before dropping him.

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      • CJ says:

        Cool. Thanks for the help.

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  3. Tom says:

    Where is Austin Jackson?

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  4. jake says:

    Missing Austin Jackson. Where would you place him?

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  5. Matt K says:

    Marlon Byrd at tier six is laughable, and De Aza is playing himself closer to tier 5 than tier 6.

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    • David Wiers says:

      As stated in the initial paragraph, these rankings reflect a combination of what the players have done and what I think they will do for the rest of the season.

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      • Matt K says:

        yeah, Byrd has so little left in his tank, I just don’t expect him to produce close to any of the others levels. just my opinion, I suppose, and you’re entitled to yours. And I understand that a lot of people are tempering expectations of De Aza, but he’s always shown great obp numbers, and if you’re a leadoff guy with speed getting on as often as he does… I just see so much more from him going on into the future. oh, and the power that he’s shown is just gravy.

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  6. Mike M says:

    Nolan Reimold?

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  7. Marc says:

    Where does Cody Ross fit in? Considering the current health (and perpetual fragility) of both Ellsbury and Crawford, you’d have to assume a full-time role all year for this guy. Given the lineup situation, and park factors, I see a guy that could challenge for 25 homers, 85 runs and 95 RBI… his OPS could progress from career highs, meaning north of .800 should accompany the increased counting stats, and he’s not a batting AVG drain either. Based on your comps, a 5th Tier ranking with a shot the the 4th looks right. If Seth Smith and Nick Markakis are in the conversation with Nelson Cruz, then so is Ross; and when it’s all over it’s bit a stretch that if he matches/beats his career highs in Florids that he’ll surpass most of your Tier 4 names.

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    • Marc says:

      Spelling error: it’s NOT a stretch to say he should out produce his career best year in Florida.

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  8. David Wiers says:

    Meant to schedule for later, not post now. Editing now. Sorry all.

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    • Marc says:

      I don’t mean to be contrarian, and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but to put Ross in a class that includes platoon luminaries such as Rajai Davis and Eric Thames, and a guy that should be sent to AAA (Bourjos) is just wrong. Furthermore, to put him in whole tier beneath his own inferior teammate, Marlon Byrd, is also wrong. Nothing against Byrd- he’s stabilized that OF defense, and he’s not an easy out and all, but he does nothing well for fantasy. Seth Smith away from Colorado is also, like Byrd, not going to do anything particularly well for fantasy. Ross has shown fantasy value, and for all the other reasons I’ve already mentioned, he deserves a lot more credit (despite what looks like a current mini-slump).

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      • David Wiers says:

        Totally fair to disagree, thanks for stating it in a civilized way. My reasoning for putting Byrd above Ross is that Byrd has the higher career AVG and OBP. Using a weighted mean calculator of their AVG/OBP from 2009-2011 I get a .284 AVG and a .333 OBP.

        For Ross I get a .261 AVG with a .322 OBP.

        Byrd is a slump, but that is mostly due to a .195 BABIP. If that regresses to a RoS .300 BABIP, I think Byrd will be the superior roto player, despite the SLG advantage that Ross has.

        Does that make sense?

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      • Marc says:

        Yes I do think that makes sense; I suppose it comes back to a value judgment on whether you prefer AVG or SLG. It’s funny, when Byrd was traded to the Red Sox and asked about his struggles in Chicago this year he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I’m a career .280 hitter, do you think I’m gonna hit .184 all season?” A very fair point and it’s nice to see a major leaguer acknowledging the stats and even displaying an understanding of “regression.” You are correct in that Byrd has had a higher OBP, and that based on past performance he should continue to do so. However, I still say his OBP is tied to AVG, which can be influenced by luck: ZIPS has Byrd’s BB% at about 4.8%, Ross’s at about 7.7%, so any increase in mean AVG by Ross and decrease by Byrd will put them at about the same OBP, granted Byrd may hit for a higher AVG the rest of the way. However, Byrd is 34, and coming off that ugly injury last year, and while Ross is not young, he’s still within his prime years. Regardless, I can’t get past the SLG% differences: Byrd doesn’t make hard contact and should occupy the bottom 3rd of the order, where Ross can really crank it, and should hold his own nearer the middle of that lineup, thus giving him a fairly big edge in terms of HR, R, and RBI. The eye-test tells me Ross is the better bet, and in my humble opinion, it isn’t that close. Still, Byrd is a good major league player that people were overly sour on, there I agree with you.

        Sorry to split hairs on lower-ish tiered OFs! Thanks for the reply- cool!

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      • David Wiers says:

        If the internet wasn’t explicitly for splitting hairs on baseball opinions then I’ve been doing it wrong my entire life!

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  9. geo says:

    Cain is six to eight weeks away. That’s not late May. All Star break, maybe.

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  10. Sam says:

    So no Ryan Sweeney? I know, BABIP-inflated numbers, but still.

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    • David Wiers says:

      I actually left him off on purpose. Despite being the starting RF for the BoSox, I don’t think he is worth owning in 12 team mixed. 14 mixed sure, but even the guys in tier 8, from a counting statistic point, I like more than Sweeney. If he keeps his AVG around .320 or so, he’ll be on the June rankings. He might even make the bullish list in the coming weeks, but he won’t be a good source of HR, RBI or SB.

      If you pick him up now, you’re sure to only catch him as he regresses back, and as you noted, once his BABIP comes back down to earth, is he really worth owning?

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      • Sam says:

        I guess I just would think that current success, even if fueled by luck, might have boosted him at least to Rajai Davis/Eric Thames status. At least he’s currently playing nearly every day. To each his own, though. And to be fair, I don’t have him on any teams right now, although that’s true for nearly everyone in your Tiers 6 through 8 as well.

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      • Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

        This is an AL-Only post though. In an AL-only league you wouldn’t own him?

        Heck, even if you just ride him while hot, he’s better than your entire tiers 7 & 8.

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    • Marc says:

      Ryan Sweeney is a nice player. He’s always hit for a nice AVG, and he plays a plus RF. But let’s not get carried away with him in fantasy; BABIP aside, AVG aside, he’s never hit for power nor shown much in the way of SBs. He looks the part to hit and run, but it’s just not his game. He’s never been a full-time guy for one reason or another, and his career bests (2008-09) project to about a 10-10 season if he were given full time, but that might be a stretch. Just look at what he’s done over the past two years and there isn’t reason for optimism: over 567 ABs in 2010-11, he hit a grand total of 2 HRs, and stole 2 bags (also caught stealing 2 times). In virtue of his development and lineup situation, I think he can hit .300 or better and have reasonable Rs scored, but that’s essentially what an “empty average” player looks like. And he’s never been a big OBP guy (his career trends suggest that a 40-50 BB season is about his ceiling there). He just doesn’t do anything particularly well for fantasy, so his exclusion from this column is reasonable.

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  11. shibboleth says:

    Had Thames and Boesch in my mixed 12 team and let Thames go for Tabata. He had nothing in the way of counting stats….

    I’m holding out hope that Boesch finds his groove out there in Detroit, though.

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  12. ML says:

    the granderson sb seems to be a bit fluky, at least from watching them everyday. He’s either popping hrs and xbs, or arod/cano’s counts are not “running” counts. I recall a couple (one this past weekend) instances where he’s been on the move and the ball was either put in play or there was a strikeout to end the inning.

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    • David Wiers says:

      The Yankees have only 20 total SB/CS, which ranks in the bottom 3rd of MLB. Maybe Girardi just doesn’t like the running game?

      Can’t say I blame him. With Cano, A-rod, Tex hitting, why risk the out on the basepaths?

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      • sirvlciv says:

        I don’t know why he’d suddenly hate running when everyone ran a fair bit last year.

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  13. R says:

    No Luke Scott?

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  14. laura says:

    no Carp?

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  15. Weiner Hoover says:

    Cruz is going to be a top 10 Al OF for sure, and probably better than that. Can’t believe you have him this low.

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    • donut says:

      yeah I don’t really get it either. Why is Cruz a whole 2 tiers below Austin Jackson and Swisher? Injuries always seem to hurt his value a bit, but what he gives you over 120 games plus 40 games of ww fodder is pretty valuable.

      What is the scoring assumed here? Cruz’s patience hurts his run #’s but other than that doesn’t matter much in a 5×5. I know he has not started well, but to put him below the Denard Spans of the world seems a bit silly.

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    • Slevin Kelevra says:

      I bet against you

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    • David Wiers says:

      Good sir, I would happily take that bet.

      Cruz is on the wrong side of 30 (turns 32 this July) and has never been a superstar. His AVG/OBP has never been impressive, he’s never driven in 100, or even 90 for that matter and is striking out at an all time high.

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  16. Andy says:

    Nothing on McCutchen?

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  17. Slevin Kelevra says:

    LOL @De Aza in tier 6

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