American League Outfielders: Updated Rankings

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been keeping such close watch on my AL outfielders beat, but it seems that no position in fantasy baseball has seen more fluctuation in the first month of the season than this one. There are former studs still hitting sub-.200 (here’s to you, Carl Crawford, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells) while lesser-thought of has-beens are piling up RBIs (hello, Jeff Francoeur, Alex Gordon and Johnny Damon). And that’s to say nothing of a fella named Sam Fuld who’s gone from complete after-thought to straight up legen — wait for it — dary.

How do we make sense of such who-could’ve-seen-this-coming-ness? Why, by updating the RotoGraphs AL outfielders rankings, of course!

Before we get to the new stuff, here’s a look back at our preseason ranks, if you feel the need for a refresher.

Now for Version 2.0.

TIER 1
Jose Bautista

That’s right, folks. Joey Bats has this tier all to his lonesome. Obviously the injury to Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford‘s killer (as in bad) start are part of the reason for that, but that doesn’t mean Bautista hasn’t continued to be insanely good — he leads the AL in average (.357), runs (25) and jacks (9), while pacing all of his sport in walks (30) and OBP (.530) — thus putting to rest any worries about 2010′s breakout being a fluke. If anything, he’s a whole lot better all-around. Oh yeah, he’s also actually ahead of his homer pace from a year ago, so a second consecutive 50-home run season from this dude actually seems reasonable. Really.

TIER 2
Carl Crawford
Josh Hamilton
Nelson Cruz
Jacoby Ellsbury
Curtis Granderson
Shin-Soo Choo
Ben Zobrist
Ichiro Suzuki
Carlos Quentin

I kept Crawford over Hamilton if only because the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. By that I mean, I’ll take the healthy, non-injury prone player going forward, even if he’s OPSing .482. … Cruz got off to that crazy start (4 HRs in his first 4 games) but has since cooled, and you have to wonder how much he misses Josh. … Granderson is not only not failing against lefthanders this year, he’s actually thriving (.962 OPS compared to .942 vs. righties). Doubtful that keeps up (8:0 K:BB), but if he can maintain an ability to at least put bat on ball against southpaws, he’s looking like a legit top 10 AL OF. … Choo hasn’t started to really hit yet, which makes the Indians hot start all the more befuddling, but there’s no need to worry: He’s still offering value with 4 homers and 6 steals. … Quentin has been stinging the ball (MLB-high 13 doubles), so he just needs to 1) stay healthy and 2) avoid whatever it is that other White Sox hitters are drinking.

TIER 3
B.J. Upton
Nick Swisher
Torii Hunter
Adam Jones
Alex Rios
Grady Sizemore
Alex Gordon

This is the most dichotomic tier. I’m still holding onto the possibility of good seasons for Upton, Hunter, Jones and Rios as they (hopefully) work through their slumps. But owning them at this point is frustrating in every sense of the word. And if they don’t pick it up in May, things will get ugly and people will get hurt. … Sizemore is surprising even those who were in his corner before the season started. Admittedly, I was not, having been burned too many times previously, but I can’t argue with a guy who looks healthy and has mashed 12 extra-base hits in his first 50 at-bats. … Gordon is right there with Quentin on doubles (13), and he’s hitting a robust .339, so maybe — just maybe — he is having that long-awaited arrival.

TIER 4
Jason Kubel
Josh Willingham
Luke Scott
Coco Crisp
Rajai Davis
Matt Joyce
Michael Cuddyer
Delmon Young
Sam Fuld
Bobby Abreu
Johnny Damon
Peter Bourjos
Ryan Raburn
Denard Span
Brett Gardner
Juan Pierre
Nick Markakis
Vernon Wells

Kubel is really enjoying the opportunity to play everyday (.354/.406/.510), and with all the problems the Twins are having keeping players healthy, the regular run will continue and the solid stats should, too. … Crisp has gone cuckoo for stealing bases ever since he got to Oakland (32 in 290 ABs last year, and 8 in 96 so far in ’11), but he’s a guarantee to get hurt at some point, and he only has AHHH walk, let alone many walks that would necessitate an entire walk rack, so I’m selling high while he’s healthy and hitting .290+. … Cuddyer has, um, 4 RBIs, but that could make his owner an easy trade target, especially in leagues where he’s already gained eligibility at 2B (7 games played) … Ah, Sam Fuld. Who better to be our first newcomer to the ranks? With his AL-high 10 SBs, I’m starting to think this could last for the first half before the pixie dust wears off. Still, from what I’ve heard, Sam Fuld can eat just one Lay’s potato chip. … This tier is loaded with speed guys (Bourjos, Span, Gardner and Pierre, in addition to the aforementioned Crisp and Fuld), which goes to show you just how much less valuable the stolen base category becomes once your draft is over and the numbers often don’t equate to the price.

TIER 5
J.D. Drew
Jeff Francoeur
Franklin Gutierrez
David Murphy
Brennan Boesch
Michael Brantley
Juan Rivera
Melky Cabrera

Ho hum here. Nothing really exciting, which is why Drew — the definition of boring baseball player — heads this crop. Sure, Francoeur’s sssssmokin’ now (.308, 6, 21), but he doesn’t need sssssomebody to stop him*; he’ll take care of that all by himself. We’ve seen this movie before. … One of my perennial faves, Murphy’s been just sorta eh (.763 OPS) while getting more play in place of Hamilton. More than likely, the Rangers won’t push Hamilton when he returns in a few weeks, so Murph should still be fine for those who need him. … Boesch has put 2010′s killer (again, as in bad) second half (.163/.237/.222) behind him. And he’s certainly going to have a long leash with the way Magglio Ordonez is (not) hitting, as you’ll see below. … I panned Melky Cabrera a month ago, so I felt bad and included him in the rankings and gave him one of those green up arrows to mend fences. Hopefully, he’ll stop making me look silly soon.
*That’s right. Two, count ‘em, two references to The Mask in one sentence.

TIER 6
Austin Jackson
David DeJesus
Sean Rodriguez
Travis Snider
Brent Lillibridge
Conor Jackson
Milton Bradley
Corey Patterson
Magglio Ordonez
Michael Saunders
Julio Borbon
Mike Cameron
Jarrod Dyson
Felix Pie

Jackson is just not good (his 35.7% K rate is absolutely atrocious). For those of you who didn’t see this (.188 average) coming, well, you should have. … One of the bigger disappointments is Snider, who just can’t seem to cut it in the bigs despite a bat that can be dangerous. I would not be surprised to see him stuck in Triple-A for a while (again), especially with the Blue Jays outfield depth. … Welcome to the ranks, Lillibridge, Jackson (comma Conor), Bradley, Patterson, Cameron and Dyson. … Back to Magglio. Maybe it’s just that he’s inhabited 2010-second-half Boesch’s body and is continuing from there? I mean, how else do you explain a “professional hitter” with the following stats: .151 batting average, .380 OPS (THREE-EIGHT-ZERO!!!), 2 runs and 1 extra-base hit in 73 at-bats? Like, Zoinks.

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

Again, this list contains players who have played fewer than 20 games in the outfield but do/will/could qualify, depending on your league’s eligibility specifications. Lind is having himself a nice season coming off a dreadful year. I’m not ready to fully count on him, but his K rate (19.1%) is back down to his 2009 levels following a jump in 2010 (25.3%). … Moreland makes his first appearance here, and he’s probably OF-eligible in many leagues. For leagues in which he’s not yet, you’ll want to keep tabs: He’s at 14 outfield games and counting. And his .874 OPS will help whether at 1B or OF.

NO LONGER RELEVANT
Manny Ramirez
Ryan Kalish

Toodles, Manny. Enjoy retirement. … Kalish didn’t make the Red Sox out of camp, and now he’s got a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder. Not good.

PROSPECTS
Desmond Jennings
Lorenzo Cain
Ben Revere
Josh Reddick
Chris Carter
Eric Thames
Brandon Guyer
Andy Dirks
Carlos Peguero
Nick Weglarz
Greg Halman
Michael Taylor
Mike Trout
Joe Benson

This last tier is as much for fun as it is for utility in deep AL-only leagues. As you may know, I handle the weekly Mining the Minors column that highlights prospects and other minor leaguers who may factor into the 2011 season at some point, thus making them worthy of your fantasy consideration on the principle of opportunity. I figured it would help to have an American League outfielders-only version of this to give folks an idea of which players are most likely to impact this season. I tried to rank ‘em starting with the most-ready to contribute, while also taking talent into account.

***

So which AL outfielder’s ranking is just plain too high? Who do you think belongs to be moved up a tier or two? And most importantly, is anyone missing? Hit the comments to give your take.




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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


27 Responses to “American League Outfielders: Updated Rankings”

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  1. Vinny says:

    Jason Bay?

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  2. Steve Balboni says:

    Snider should be in the prospects tier.

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  3. adohaj says:

    Kubel higher only because you say the solid stats will continue

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  4. Charlie says:

    Could make a case for Michael Brantly at the bottom of tier 4 or at least top of tier 5. Batting .309, walk rate is up to 11.8% with a sustainable .337 BABIP. On pace to steal about 25 bases in an improved Indians lineup, hitting leadoff when Sizemore is out.

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  5. JTin says:

    I’m thinking of dealing Quentin – got him for cheap, and need starting pitching. Quentin for Brett Anderson a fair deal?

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    • Jason Catania says:

      This is probably worth it. I’m still cautious of Anderson’s injury history, but when he’s right, he’s a top 12 AL SP or so. Don’t think of Anderson as a true ace, though, because of his health and his lack of premium Ks. For all other purposes, though, he’s a solid No. 2 and a great No. 3 fantasy SP.

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    • ryan says:

      The phils will take him off your hands…We need a right-handed bat to play better than Ben Fransisco, and we could package up Joe Blanton and some decent pitching prospects for you…No way your getting Brett Anderson…Financially, Anderson means more to the A’s than Quentin means for you guys, and Quentin’s stellar year seems like a long time ago..unless Quintin stops getting hurt and starts hitting left-handed pitching I dont see you getting any upper-echelon pitcher for him..who knows though, I wouldnt be surprised if Carlos just starts mashin again before the trade deadline and drastically increases his trade value..thats’ why I do think he would be a good fit for us in philly..

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  6. jr05s says:

    Casper Wells?

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Thought about adding Wells, but he hasn’t gotten quite enough of a chance just yet. Figuring that he’ll see more PT, though, as Ordonez continues to suck up Comerica. In which case, Wells is on Version 3.0.

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      • jr05s says:

        Is Wells worth the pick up if your dropping Jesus Montero in a deep AL-only league?

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      • Jason Catania says:

        jr05s: I say go for Wells, so long as it’s not a keeper league. (Guessing it’s not because that would just be a silly question to ask if it were.) I still think Wells has to hit .250 with 15-18 homers and 65 RBIs or so because he’ll play everyday. Montero has less of a chance to get to the Yankees lineup now that Cervelli is back, too.

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  7. Justin says:

    Is Joyce’s BABIP a cause for concern?

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    • Jason Catania says:

      A little bit mainly because it’s not going to be .420+ al year. But he is hitting line drives over 27% of the time, which is well above his career rate — basically, he’s swapped some fly balls for liners in his batted ball %s. That makes me feel better about it than if he had such a high BABIP while still hitting flies 40-50% of the time, which would be much more luck-related. If the line drives continue, Joyce could be in line for a breakout as many have been expecting.

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  8. Adam says:

    Matt Kemp?

    I guess Bautista is in Tier 1 alone if you just leave Kemp off the list all together.

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  9. CCW says:

    Matt Laporta?

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Only logged 7 OF gms in 2010, so he’s not OF-elig in most leagues. If he is, though, I’d put him somewhere in TIER 5, right around Boesch/Brantley.

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      • CCW says:

        He’s eligible in Yahoo leagues. Yahoo is quite liberal, but it’s also quite popular…

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  10. das_bill says:

    Where is alfonso soriano?

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  11. RiverAce says:

    Domonic Brown has to be #1 on the prospect list. He’s poised to come up and rejuvenate the Phillies corner OF spots.

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  12. RiverAce says:

    Ahh geeezzzz this is an AL list. Freaking Mondays….

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