We don’t want to give you ranking fatigue here, but it is useful to tier your positional ranks. I like to get the last guy in a tier — especially among closers, where the production is so volatile and tied specifically to role. But even among outfielders, the idea is that you’ll get a guy that’s equal-ish to another group, but you’ll get him cheaper.
We split the National League and the American League so that you’ll get the best coverage of the position. There are a lot of outfielders, after all. And yes, some of these guys will have moved since the consensus ranks. Focus more on the tiers than the placement of the players within. That was more intuitive, and probably a little bit reactionary.
To the tiers.
What a dinner. You’ve got power and speed from most of them, or just power (squared) from Giancarlo. (Imagine for a second if there were multiple Giancarlos.) It’s the power and speed combo that separates this pack from the next group down — especially since each of these players is within a loogie’s distance of 30 home runs. You know what’s kind of interesting? The only American Leaguers that would make this tier are probably Mike Trout and Adam Jones. Says something for the American League that you might have to stretch a bit to get Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista into your top tier — and you’d still come up short. The National League has some elite outfielders. Maybe this will help move the overall needle back towards the senior circuit.
Surf and turf even without the name brand are still pretty awesome, and each of these guys could be a lesser number one, provided you went infield first. Holliday’s wheels are gone, and even if he’s been relatively healthy recently, he has to be considered a health risk at 33. Choo (I wrote Choooo the first time by accident) and Bruce in the same outfield is pretty nice. The power-friendly home park might help Choo push to the top — after all Holliday isn’t likely to hit much more than 25 out himself — and Bruce is 26. He’s ready to rock. B.J. Upton (I wrote Uptown the first time by accident) is probably the only guy in this tier that has a real, obvious negative — his batting average — but he also should have counting stats that fit with the first tier guys. Allen Craig and Adrian Gonzalez will both have good batting averages, and though I don’t believe Craig’s necessarily an injury risk, I do have concerns about Gonzalez’ shoulder. I hesitated before putting them here, but as outfielders, they are excellent second-tierers even with question marks. So what if Gonzo only hits 19 out. If he hits .300+, and drives in all those ducks on the pond in Los Angeles, he wouldn’t fall more than a tier. And he obviously has more upside than that.
Surf and Turf Tacos
I like tacos. I like these guys. Kind of. I’d rather sit down, unless I lucked out and got the best taco stand in La Jolla. And some of these guys could really be perfect. What if Jayson Werth‘s declining strikeout rate holds and his power comes back? What if Beltran’s knees stay in one piece? What if Hunter Pence‘s decline was just a hiccup? What if Starling Marte doesn’t need plate discipline to succeed? What if Martin Prado‘s power likes living in Arizona? What if Carlos Gomez keeps all of his power gain? What if Carl Crawford‘s elbow ligament stays in one piece? What if Andre Ethier has another crazy power year? What if Juan Pierre… okay, not much upside there. But heck, either him, Adam Eaton and Ben Revere constitute a powerful argument against paying much for steals earlier in the draft.
Surf and Turf at a Chain
You know, with the right cook, you might even get a decent surf and turf at a chain. I mean, flash fry the shrimp and don’t overcook the steak and hey, I’m on board. With the right kind of eye, you could see some of these guys leaping tiers. Matt Carpenter might be a full-time second baseman with outfield eligibility, but until he IS that, it’s hard to bank on it. Dom Brown looks real nice this spring. Real purty. You still can’t forget all those false starts when you appraise him. Todd Frazier strikes out a fair bit, but what if he hits .280+ instead of .260+? Then he’s not just a third base sleeper, he’s one in the outfield as well. Morrison needs to hit some line drives. What if Justin Ruggiano can survive his BABIP regression and still hit .260+? Then his power and speed will work. Fowler, Jay and Span are perfectly fine real-life players, but neither adds enough speed and power in 5×5 leagues (Fowler is more attractive in OBP leagues for sure.) Cody Ross, Ryan Ludwick, Jason Kubel, Carlos Quentin, Alfonso Soriano, Garrett Jones and Corey Hart — pray to the health and platoon gods if you own them. It’s a mini old man tier!
Huge upside. Huge downside if you spend much on him. He might only get 50 plate appearances this year unless someone goes down in front of him. But if he gets more, he makes contact and has power and speed. Quit drooling.
This is a mini tier. There’s probably not a lot of rejected surf and turf out there. The American League does this brand of player better, actually: the iffy outfielder that might get more playing time than your average backup or platoon guy. That’s because they have more games with a designated hitter, probably. But anyway, it’s worth breaking these guys out from the last tier below them. Because these guys do have the chance to either take the larger side of a platoon, or even approximate a full-time role. Parra is probably the defensive replacement on the corners, and the primary injury replacement in Arizona. He also has a non-zero chance of being the opening day starting center fielder, even if Adam Eaton is the better defender there. Travis Snider, Lucas Duda and Delmon Young might even be starters when they are healthy, but they have obvious flaws that keep them from being sure bets. They obviously don’t belong in the same tier as Chris Denorfia, a right-handed backup, but they also don’t quite belong in a group with Carlos Quentin. Call these guys the tweeners, and one of the more interesting groups for National League only leagues.
I own Fernando Martinez as my worst player in AL-LABR, but that’s a twelve-team five-outfield American League only league. He used to be in this tier until I remembered the Astros moved. I own Kirk Nieuwenhuis in my 20-teamer, 28-keeper league, but I picked him in the 35th round. Gregor Blanco might even start for his team most days! He won’t have a fantasy-friendly batting average, though, and his power and speed probably won’t be a ton of help. Marlon Byrd is old and took a year off. Tyler Moore and Gary Brown have different kinds of upside, but upside nonetheless. The other guys — their teams probably hope they don’t need to play them much. So that means you shouldn’t either.