American League Outfielders: Updated Rankings

Two weeks into June, it’s about time to update our rankings for American League outfielders. Again. Also in this installment? An apology to Melky Cabrera.

But first, here are the preseason ranks and here are May’s.

Now, for the ones you really want.

TIER 1
Jose Bautista

Okay, Bautista hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts this month (.222 BA, .722 OPS), and he only recently broke what had been a 13-game homerless stretch — at one point, he was actually tied for the major-league home run lead! — but the guy is sporting a 12:6 BB:K ratio in June, and his next 5-homer week feels like it could come at any time.

TIER 2
Curtis Granderson
Jacoby Ellsbury
Carlos Quentin
Josh Hamilton
Carl Crawford
Nelson Cruz
Ben Zobrist
Matt Joyce

Granderson jumps to the top of this tier on the strength of his 10-homer May and his newfound ability to batter left-handers — his OPS vs. southpaws (1.056) this season completes a stunning turnaround that began in 2010’s second half. … Combined with the 50-steal pace everyone expected, Ellsbury’s pop — his 21 doubles and 7 homers will easily best his career-highs in those categories (27 and 9, respectively) — has him looking like the AL’s best all-around outfielder. … Quentin jumps ahead of Hamilton, Crawford and Cruz because, unlike those three — none of whom I’m all that worried about, despite their first two months — he’s been healthy, has avoided prolonged slumps and has piled up 37 extra-base, tying him for first in baseball. I’m sold. … Welcome to the big-time Mr. Joyce. He’s jumped not one — but two! — tiers. There’s a part of me that thinks he’ll slide back down to Tier 3 as his .373 BABIP falls and his average drops closer to .300 (or under), but he’s earned the benefit of the doubt for now.

TIER 3
Shin-Soo Choo
Adam Jones
Alex Gordon
B.J. Upton
Grady Sizemore
Nick Swisher
Torii Hunter
Josh Willingham
Michael Cuddyer

Choo falls a tier because his OPS continues to do the same, dropping from .725 in April to .681 in May to — ick — .453 in June. And he recently let on that his May arrest and DUI charge is affecting his play. This could just be one of those years, a la Paul Konerko in 2003 and Mike Lowell in 2005. … Jones and Gordon have sustained their strong starts, so they leapfrog a few others into the top end of this level. … Conversely, Swisher and Hunter have maintained their slow starts, but something tells me they’ll figure it out enough to post solid digits as OF4s in 10-team play or as OF3s in deeper leagues. … Willingham (10 HRs, 41 RBIs — both top 5s among AL OFs) and Cuddyer (1.086 June OPS and 2B eligibility) each get a tier bump for their specialty skills.

TIER 4
Alex Rios
Ichiro Suzuki
Jason Kubel
Luke Scott
Brennan Boesch
Jeff Francoeur
Melky Cabrera
Rajai Davis
Johnny Damon
Bobby Abreu
Michael Brantley
Coco Crisp
Brett Gardner
Nick Markakis
Denard Span
Juan Pierre

Ichiro is the biggest faller this time around, dropping from Tier 2 to Tier 4 in one fell swoop, thanks to a useless .262 average and .622 OPS. I’ve never been an Ichiro proponent — too much value tied up in just average and steals — and if he’s not hitting .330, he’s dead weight in your lineup. FYI: He’s hitting .212 since May 1. … Just when it looked like Boesch was about to start his 2010 tumble all over again (.186 BA, .551 OPS in May), he’s bounced back with an impressive June (.380, 1.136), including 4 homers, his highest tally for a month since last June’s 8. Also worth pointing out his odd splits: Boesch, a lefty, has a career .338 BA and .918 OPS for his career…against lefties. If he can ever figure out how to handle right-handers (.243, .707), there could be a sneaky breakout candidate here. … Francoeur and Melky move up a tier because, well, they deserve to, much as it pains me to admit it. With 9 HRs and 8 SBs, Cabrera is on pace to have a career year I certainly didn’t see coming. If you did, congrats. I feel like I owe him an apology. He just might not be the least valuable player in baseball after all.

TIER 5
Vernon Wells
Delmon Young
Peter Bourjos
Ryan Raburn
Ben Revere
Austin Jackson
Brent Lillibridge
Corey Patterson
Franklin Gutierrez
David Murphy
J.D. Drew

Wells’ groin injury kept him out just under a month, so he gets knocked down a peg. But while I don’t expect the average to do owners much good, he could be a very cheap source of power, as his two-homer game on Monday showed. A good candidate to make it back up to Tier 4. … Another injury returnee, Young, doesn’t have much going for him despite his .333 June average. The 7:1 K:BB rate this month and 1 homer don’t bode well going forward, and 2010 is looking like an aberration. … After being mentioned in the Propsects tier last time around, Revere gets welcomed to the ranks. His batting average/steals combo should play for owners looking for 20 or so swipes going forward from their fifth outfielder. Just don’t expect any power. … Lillibridge has made himself into a useful reserve guy who can fill in at OF and 2B, while offering decent pop (7 HRs) and serviceable speed (6 SBs), it’s just that he’s limited in fantasy value by his real life backup role.

TIER 6
Sean Rodriguez
Nolan Reimold
Magglio Ordonez
David DeJesus
Juan Rivera
Andy Dirks
Carlos Peguero
Ryan Sweeney
Sam Fuld
Endy Chavez
Justin Ruggiano
Travis Buck
Andruw Jones
Casper Wells
Greg Halman
Julio Borbon
Conor Jackson
Felix Pie

A forgivable offense, but perhaps we were all a little too hasty in proclaiming Mr. Fuld a legend. Since his .289, 10-steal April, he’s hit just .174 and has as many CSs (4) as SBs (4). To boot, he’s losing PT to rankings newcomer Ruggiano, and Desmond Jennings has to come up at some point. … Reimold and Peguero offer some power upside, if you’re desperate in deep leagues; while Dirks has been useable, too, but banking on regular playing time for any of these newcomers is foolish. … Chavez, meanwhile, has been good enough (.386 average and 3 steals) for the Rangers to send Borborn back to Triple-A. But this has small sample size written all over it, especially from a 33-year-old journeyman.

BONUS TIER
Adam Lind
Howie Kendrick
Vladimir Guerrero
Mitch Moreland
Hideki Matsui
Jack Cust

Lind’s return to health has been a boon to his owners. He’s cut his K rate considerably from last year’s horror show, but it’d be nice if we saw some more of his 2009 doubles total (46) rather than the, uh, 6 so far this year. … Kendrick got some action in left field while Vernon was out, and while he’s cooled considerably since his 6-homer April, the eligibility makes for a nice little bonus. … Cust wasn’t heinous in May (.822 OPS), but his power has been disturbingly absent all season (.322 slugging). If he loses time at DH to Mike Carp (who may also see run in left fiend and earn a rankings spot by July), then Cust will be useless even to owners in OBP leagues.

DROPPED OUT
Travis Snider
Michael Saunders
Jarrod Dyson
Mike Cameron
Milton Bradley

PROSPECTS
Desmond Jennings
Eric Thames
Josh Reddick
Rene Tosoni
Chris Carter
Brandon Guyer
Michael Taylor
Lorenzo Cain
Mike Trout
Joe Benson




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Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11


28 Responses to “American League Outfielders: Updated Rankings”

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  1. geo says:

    You were so pained with your apology to Melky you apparently couldn’t even finish your sentence. “He just might not be the…” …what?

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  2. Andy says:

    Shane Victorino? Seems like he is always forgotten and shouldn’t be.

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  3. Jonas says:

    Right. I hate to continue this NL theme here, but my question is somewhat relevant.

    Is Logan Morrison better than Adam Jones?

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Jonas: I think I like LoMo more. Jones probably offers a little more in HRs for 2011 (although, Morrison’s power has come on sooner than expected), and Jones clearly has the edge in SB. But Morrison’s plate discipline means he’s got less risk, and a much better shot to actually hit .300, even though Jones is doing that for now. It’s close. If we did a combined version of these ranks, I think they’d be in the same tier.

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      • Jonas says:

        After looking into this a little more, Fangraphs projects Jones to hit 12 more HRs, while Morrison should hit around 8 more. How can this be squared with Morrison’s higher ISO numbers? Is Morrison’s ISO number too high?

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      • Jason Catania says:

        Even though Morrison’s hit fewer homers (by just 3), he’s got the same number of doubles (12) and triples (1) as Jones — and he’s done all that in about 60 fewer at-bats. Hence, LoMo’s slightly better ISO to date. I’d bet Morrison out-doubles Jones by a good margin going forward, but the homers will be similar — both should hit another 8-12. If you’re looking purely for homers, Jones is probably the better bet this year, but Morrison projects to be one of those guys who winds up hitting 25 homers a year even though he never approached that in his minor league career. And Morrison has more batting average upside.

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  4. Mike says:

    I see the tiers up there, but I need to drop one of Choo, Rajai Davis, and Swisher. Choo is the least productive of the three and yet he’s ranked higher on the list. I really don’t want to drop the other two.

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Mike: I still think you hang onto Choo. Depends on your league, though. AL-only? 10-team? Etc.

      And what other OF types are floating around in FA? Because if there are others in the Swisher vein — .250, 20-25, 80 guys — then he might be the drop. I’m figuring you need Rajai for his SBs?

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      • Mike says:

        Thanks Jason. I’ll keep Choo and drop Swisher. It’s a 14 team mixed league with only 3 outfielders starting so there is decent outfield depth. I need Rajai for the steals as you assumed as Figgins and Jeter were supposed to be my steals guys.

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      • Jason B says:

        If you could trade one, you might try to move Swisher (maybe a Yank fan will nibble? Has more value in an OBP league, too) or Choo (someone looking to buy low, betting on a return to form). I think you would get more for Choo, definitely, and Swisher, probably, than Davis if you can move one and get something useful in return. Much more name value/recognition with the other two.

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  5. Total Dominication says:

    Why is Gardner so low?

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    • rlb02a says:

      Because fielding doesn’t matter in fantasy.

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      • xrayxtals says:

        What about R, SB and AVG? Are those categories?

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      • Jason Catania says:

        I sorta bunched a lot of the steals guys together in Tier 4, and Gardner didn’t really stand out from the pack. His SB% is iffy this year, which means he’s not even doing his one elite skill all that well, as opposed to say Crisp and Davis, who have more flaws but also look like they will legitimately approach 40 SBs. Steals, to me, are the one category that has the biggest dropoff from draft value to in-season value, so I tend to devalue those types. Especially with offense as low as it is.

        Now that Gardner will get some run atop the Yanks lineup with Jeter out, he’s got a shot to improve in runs. And he’s been good since his awful April, so there are things to like. I just need to see it first, then adjust his value later.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        He’s batting .282 with a .364 OBP, and that’s after a .194/.280/.403 April. He batted .303 in may and he’s batting .395 in June. If you’re playing head-to-head he’s been a beast.

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  6. Paul Rocco says:

    Jason,
    Fellow 2000 NY State Champ here. Hope all is well! I have read a few of y our articles and really enjoy seeing you get your name out there. I am a huge fantasy guy and have been in an 12 team AL only league since 1997. I kept Frenchy for $6 this year and he has been a monster. I think he needs a little more love, especially after his 2 stolen bases last night. I have been projecting a .265, 25 homeruns, 75 RBI, 10 SB season from his since spring training. He just needed to be in the right setting and we all know he has the potential. With overall team batting averages as low as it is this year, a .265 batting average would currently put you in 3rd place in my league. He is currently on pace for nearly 100 RBI’s, was recently put into the 4 hole, K.C.’s lineup has improved drastically with Hosmer and Moustakas (Cain to come later this season), and he has never been an injury risk. He needs to be above Willingham, heck I’d even put him ahead of Alex Gordon. Thoughts?

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Rock! What’s up, man? Thanks for reading and checking in.

      You make a good point on Francoeur. And hey, I DID bump him up a tier! In a way, with offense being as down as it is, there’s value in a guy like him who can rack up the counting stats (HRs, RBIs, runs and some steals) just because he plays 150 games. The rate digits aren’t going to be high, but then again, not many players’ are either.

      I’m not sure he’s going to continue hitting much above .250 — the walk rate is right around his career pace (about 5.0%) — but a possible 20-20 season is pretty darn useful. (Better chance at the HRs than the SBs.) And it’s not like the Royals have (m)any better OF options, so he’ll get the 600 ABs this year. Think of him as an accumulator. The Eddie Murray of the 2011 fantasy season.

      Oh yeah: Go Trojans.

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  7. Braun says:

    Braun?

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  8. Mr. Thell says:

    It’s hard to say Swisher has maintained his slow start. Dude has an .870 OPS over the last 30 days. I’d say he’s turned it around, at least for the time being.

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Agree on some level, Mr. Thell. That’s why I kept Swish in Tier 3. Also, I mentioned him as a Buy Low guy a month ago. So I like the guy. Still, I think you could argue that his counting stats (HRs at 6 and Runs/RBIs at 28 each) remain below expectations. Much of his value this year has been tied up in his walk rate (.350 OBP is well above his .227 BA). His May was just as bad as his April, but his June has been great, so signs of a breakout are there. Just need to see him continue this before stating he’s clearly put his slow start behind him.

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  9. Jonathan says:

    Ichiro is having a terrible year, but I don’t think he is a dead weight. Specially when you’re talking about the M’s lineup.

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  10. john says:

    crawford for bay… crawford suits citi field and theo ditches the awful contract. win/win?

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  11. es0terik says:

    Though I love seeing Blue Jays get included on lists like these, I think it should be noted that though Adam Lind CAN play the outfield, he definitely doesn’t anymore, and probably won’t. He’s become a permanent first baseman and the Jays already have an overflowing outfield.

    I also love how you noticed Eric Thames. It’s getting tiring seeing all these prospect rankings and nobody’s mentioned him until now. The guy has 0.6 WAR in just 112 Plate Appearances, and that’s with being pushed around different positions (LF, RF, DH), pushed around different leagues (Minors, then MLB, then Minors, then MLB), and of course a slow start that isn’t foreign to rookies when they first get up to the big leagues. Even after all this into account, a 0.6 WAR in 28 games (though a small sample size) DOES translate into 3.5 WAR at the end of a full season. That’s already a phenomenal amount of WAR period, and given the fact that he’s still only a rookie, you can’t ask more from the guy. Really, really high potential for this kid.

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