The All-Star break is as good a time as any to update our American League Outfielder Rankings. (Note: That means outfielders who play only in the AL, so please don’t flood the comments with oblivious flabbergastery over the complete and utter disrespect for not including Jay Bruce. For that, go here.) Given the timing, let’s go ahead and call this our second-half ranks. While performances to date do matter, the intent here is to, as Doc Brown might say: “Get a clear perception of humanity (i.e., fantasy performance). Where we’ve been (April, May, June), where we’re going (July, August, September), the pitfalls (Carl Crawford), the possibilities (Curtis Granderson), the perils (Shin-Soo Choo) and the promise (Mike Trout). Perhaps even an answer to that universal question: Where is [insert name here] ranked?”
If you’re so inclined, here is the previous version of these rankings.
After slumping a bit in June (.258 BA, .835 OPS, 4 HRs), Bautista finished the first half of the season by hitting .369 with 10 homers, 19 RBIs and 18 runs in the final 18 games prior to the break. Unquestionably in a class by himself. Except when it come to home run derbies.
This tier stays mostly unchanged, with each of these players putting up — or in the still-injured Crawford’s case, at least being capable of putting up — elite numbers in either power or speed. The return to health and dominance (at least on a per-game basis) of Hamilton has been a welcome development for his owners. Despite his worst-player-in-the-world tendencies during day games (.391 OPS!), Hamilton still smashed 10 HRs and tallied 36 RBIs since June 1. … His outfield mate, Cruz, also an injury recoverer this year, has been similarly productive since that same date (10 HRs, 31 RBIs), and with a subpar-for-him .264 BABIP, he .243 BA could rise a bit, too.
Zobrist falls back one tier, but he’s still incredibly valuable with his unique 2B/OF eligibility and Top 10 runs scored total (59) … Ditto for Joyce dropping a level. The inflated BABIPs from April (.404) and May (.426) finally came back to Earth (.211 in June and .105 in July), and so did his fantasy production. A good OF3 going forward, for sure. But I don’t want him as my No. 2 OF if I can help it. … Boesch has made me a believer. He’s shown improvements from last season overall, and while some will fear another second-half disaster, I don’t think it happens. He’s become the Tigers best outfielder. By a lot.
It’s now-or-never for Rios. Dude’s dead-last among qualified AL outfielders in OPS (.572), but he also owns the fourth-lowest BABIP (.221) in all of baseball. So he could start getting lucky soon. Of course, his June BABIP was a respectable .279, and his OPS for the month climbed to all of .685. And yet his K rate for the year is at a career-low 9.9%, so don’t some of the balls he’s putting into play — and there are a lot of them — have to start dropping? I’m still holding out hope that he can put together a second half in which he approaches double digits in homers and steals. With a player as divisive as Rios, you’re either with me or against me. And I can’t fault you if you’re in the latter group. … Gardner and Davis have been lumped together in these rankings for much of the year. They’ve both managed to put up solid stats in the primary category owners targeted them for, while simultaneously frustrating those same owners with streaky (and sometimes rather poor) play overall. But if you’re hurting for SBs for the rest of the season, I could see either of them leading baseball in that stat. … Welcome back to semi-relevance, Mr. Markakis! After advising owners that he could be cut a little more than two months ago, he’s hit .350 since June 1. Of course, that’s come with just 3 HRs, 19 RBIs and 4 SBs, so it’s not like he was doing much else. I don’t think there’s any second-half surge coming here, but if you need batting average help, his overall line (.292/.339/.379) is still low enough that you could buy cheap. But I stand by my early-season advice.
Look, Raburn has been atrocious this year. The average is .213. The K rate is 31%. And the .281 BABIP doesn’t suggest he’s due for any sort of improvement due to regression to his mean. But he’s got the Zobrist eligibility factor (2B/OF), and here are his second-half stats the past two seasons: .310 BA, .933 OPS and 10 HRs in 2009; and .315, .900 and 13 last year. If you buy into that sort of thing, he can be had for a song. Even one like “We Built This City.” … With the recent trade of Juan Rivera (more below) and the reconversion to third base of Bautista, Thames has a clear path to PT. He’s striking out a bit too much (26%), but the pop is there with 12 extra-base hits in just 104 ABs. There’s solid upside here for a guy who wasn’t a big-time prospect and didn’t get much pub — unless you’ve been following along at home.
The top five here stand out for their mix of potential and production. Snider, Rodriguez, Dirks and Reddick all have openings to get near-everyday run, which makes them intriguing and worth a gamble as starters in AL-only leagues. (Caution: Reddick could lose time if the Red Sox decide to use the trade deadline to mend what has been a terrible outfield this year, aside from Ellsbury.) … As for Trout, well, I would like to think he actually has a chance to wrest the starting CF job from Bourjos — let’s face it, Bourjy wasn’t exactly tearing it up with the stick, and Trout is nearly as good on D — but I don’t think he’s close to ready. Seems like a wasted add in re-draft leagues. … Poor Choo. The broken finger pretty much kills any chance he had of bouncing back in the second half. Just not his year. In keeper leagues, though, he makes an attractive target for team’s building for 2012.
The only two in this portion who would be north of Tier 4 are Lind and Trumbo, who has managed 6 games in the outfield. In leagues with a 1- or 5-game minimum, there’s a nice 17-homer bat that qualifies at OF now. He really is having an underrated rookie season. I mean, heck, is anyone talking about him for AL ROY? (Even if Michael Pineda has that thing sewn up.)
Hey, getting traded to the National League will do that.
Jennings’ never-ending stay in the minors will get a little bit longer with news of his fractured finger. Never a bastion of health, this likely keeps Jennings out of the majors until August. … On the flip side, with apologies to Endy Chavez, there is somewhat of an opening in center for the Rangers, and Martin — a Cuban defector who signed a 5-year deal just two months ago — was recently got promoted to Triple-A. Just sayin’.
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