Tiers, Not Fears: Outfield

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Photo Credit: Red3biggs

It’s no secret that there are a lot of great fantasy options in the outfield. The position is deep as hell, which is why I always tell people not to go too crazy overvaluing the top OFs. Sure there’s something comforting about selecting Matt Kemp or Ryan Braun with your first round pick knowing that you will get dynamite production, but doing so comes at a cost to the rest of your roster. Let’s put it this way, if I spend my first three picks on a SS, 2B, and 3B, and wait until the last three rounds to create my outfield, I can still yield a competitive team. Show me a fantasy owner who goes all OF early, and I’ll show you a fantasy owner who has more gaping holes than a gaggle of freshly DP’d porn stars.

On the flip side, the depth of the OF position presents a lot of intriguing possibilities in the mid-to-late rounds. That is why we have 128 players ranked for this edition of “Tiers, Not Fears.” I hope you brought a bar of soap, because it’s about to get real dirty.

More after the jump:

The “Top Dog” Tyrants
1. Jose Bautista
2. Matt Kemp
3. Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Justin Upton
5. Ryan Braun
6. Carlos Gonzalez
Ay, I told you OF had a lot of great options. Each one of these players is capable of finishing the year as the top player in fantasy. Believe that … Bautista deserves the honor of being the no. 1 fantasy pick in 5×5 formats. Joey Bats is coming off back-to-back .300-plus ISO seasons. The rest of the players in this tier all combine for one career .300 ISO season. Sure he doesn’t have the speed of any of the other players on this list, but he’s 3B eligible and is the most feared hitter in baseball for a reason … When you publicly announce that you are going for a 50/50 season, it’s usually scoffed at, unless you are Matt Kemp. Don’t get it twisted, I don’t think for a second he’ll actually reach that mark, but he has plenty of reasons to be confident. He was one HR shy of 40/40 last year and posted a career-best 10.7 BB%. He still swings and misses more than one would like (12.8 SwStr% last year) and that could compromise his BA, but he’s still a diesel fantasy option … I’ll admit it, I did not believe Ellsbury would put up the type of power numbers he did last year. I’ve heard for years that Ellsbury would develop power at some point due to his tight swing, but I just figured Bill Of Goods, Inc. was pushing this product. Ellsbury was every bit as good as Braun last year, so your boy had to munch up on some crow sandwiches. The five-category star will probably hit closer to 22-25 HRs this year, but his all around production in Boston’s lineup will make him a sure-fire top three OF … People may think that putting Upton ahead of Braun is lunacy, but that’s because they don’t have the predictive powers of No-Star-Damus. Braun’s coming off a career year, but he’s probably “only” stealing 22-25 bases in 2012, which is well within Upton’s reach (21 in 2011). Upton is coming off his best season yet, with career highs across the board. He also cut his K% down to 18.7 percent (23.9 career). Braun is still in his prime, but what you see is what you get. He’s an incredible player, but there’s no going up from his 2011. Upton, on the other hand, is turning 25 in August and still has considerable upside. Braun is the safe pick in this scenario, but Upton is the perfect gamble play. Worst case scenario, Upton is a top five OF who produces pretty close to Braun’s numbers. If you strike it rich on this pick, well, you may just have the top OF in fantasy. This is a risk worth taking … I can’t say the PED story will affect his production. To say that he will flash less power based on him taking fewer or no PEDs is pure speculation (even if it does make sense). However, it is worth pointing out that prior to 2011, his ISO was on a steady decline each season after his rookie campaign. Oh and then he tests positive for, like, 30 dudes worth of testosterone during his career year. Braun still looks like a 30/20 player, but the players ahead of him deserve to be there … Though many people view CarGo’s 2011 as a “down year,” he actually had a really productive season. In 127 games, Gonzalez hit .295 with 26 HRs, 20 SBs, 92 RBIs, and 92 Rs. He had a bunch of nagging injuries in 2011, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His five-category stuffing ability makes him worthy of this tier.

The “Still Beastly” Squadron
7. Curtis Granderson
8. Giancarlo Stanton
9. B.J. Upton
10. Josh Hamilton
These dudes may not be in the top tier, but they are all capable of being truly elite fantasy options … You can’t expect Granderson to recreate 2011, but 30 HRs, 20 SBs and over 100 Rs and RBIs are within reach. The one thing that keeps him out of the top tier is his strikeout rate (24.5 K% last year) … Stanton is only 22 f’ing years old and already has a .275 ISO season under his belt. With Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes hitting in front of him, there should be plenty of RBIs coming his way. Of course, while the power numbers should be monstrous, the BA may be atrocious. Stanton rocked a 27.6 K% and 15.2 SwStr% last year, and his .314 BABIP looks suspect considering his 16.3 LD%. Still, the power potential is crazy … Even if Bossman Junior just repeats last year’s numbers, he’ll be worthy of this tier. He’s posted an ISO over .185 the last two seasons (23 HRs in 2011) and is good for 35-40 SBs. That type of power/speed combination is hard to come by, and it could get even better as the normally underachieving Upton is entering a contract year … Hamilton is also in a walk year and immensely talented, but I can’t put him any higher on this list because of his fragility. He’s played over 140 games once. Sure he’ll put up great numbers when he’s healthy, but the injury-risk puts him at the bottom of this tier.

The “Talented, Yet Flawed” Felons
11. Ben Zobrist
12. Andrew McCutchen
13. Michael Morse
14. Nelson Cruz
There’s no lack of skill with these players, but they all come with some form of risk … Zobrist places high on these rankings because of his 2B eligibility. He was one SB shy of a 20/20 season in 2011 while posting impressive counting stats (99 Rs and 91 RBIs). Tampa Bay’s offense should be better in 2012. The risk with Zobrist is that he only has two “good” fantasy seasons under his belt and he did come out of nowhere prior to his breakout 2009. He also posted the worst GB% (45.4), FB% (35.0), and K% (19.0) of his career in 2011 … A wildly popular fantasy player, McCutchen is a bit overrated. 2011 was a career-best season, but he swung and missed more often while watching his BA slip to .259. He also seemed to be the beneficiary of some good fortune as 11 of his 23 HRs were considered “just enough” or “lucky” according to ESPN Stats & Information Group (specifically, He still has a nice mix of speed and power, but he’s not in the same class as the Grandersons and Uptons of the world … The power Morse has shown in the last two years is legitimately elite. He had a .247 ISO and 21.2 HR/FB in 2011, putting him among the most powerful sluggers in baseball. He also bats cleanup for a solid Nats lineup. That said, the 30-year-old is not about to catch any pitchers by surprise this year and expect adjustments to be made. Specifically, anticipate a heavier dose of breaking pitches as Morse murdered fastballs in 2011 but was vulnerable to off-speed offerings. Couple that with his lucky-looking BABIPs the past couple of seasons (he hits a lot of grounders), and you can pretty much chuck that .304 BA from last year out the window … One of the premiere right-handed power hitters in baseball, Cruz is a tremendous fantasy asset when healthy. Problem is, he’s never played 130 games in a season and is particularly prone to hamstring injuries (which are a bitch). The fact that he hits in Texas’ offense and can steal 12-15 bases helps launch him into this tier.

The “ADP” Assassins
15. Desmond Jennings
16. Shane Victorino
17. Hunter Pence
18. Alex Gordon
This crew has the potential to significantly outplay their ADP, making them solid targets as OF1s if you want a high upside player without the lofty price tag … Jennings has been injury-prone throughout his career, so there is some risk involved. Still, it’s hard to pass on a player with 15-20 HR and 30-40 SB potential. He’ll likely hit leadoff for the Rays and is a perfect fit there thanks to his plate patience (10.8 BB% last year) … Contract years usually mean dick to me, but after showing the best power of his career, I’m all in on Victorino. He had a .212 ISO, which many assume he won’t repeat. That may be true, but only four of his 17 HRs last year were of the “just enough” variety according to ESPN Stats and Information Group. The change in his approach at the plate helps explain why he is slugging more bombs. His 41.2 Swing% was a career-low, and helped him post a career-high 9.4 BB%. Philadelphia’s offense is still good enough to support his counting stats, and with the potential to steal 25+ bases, Victorino is capable of filling up the stat sheet … I’ve never been a Pence fan. He’s mad doofy when he runs, and hits too many damn ground balls (51.8 GB%). However, it’s impossible to dismiss his production in Philly last year (52 games, 236 PAs, .324 BA, .237 ISO, 11.0 BB%, and .405 wOBA). A 25/10 season is a safe expectation … Admittedly, your boy Dudley Do Work never saw an Alex Gordon breakout coming. I’m a long-time Gordon hater, but the numbers don’t lie. The most encouraging aspect of Gordon’s 2011 is how he handled lefties. He owns a career .234/.312/.401 line against southpaws, but last year he rocked a .278/.358/.471. You can’t really expect a power boost since eight of Gordon’s 23 HRs were of the “lucky” variety and, let’s face it, Kauffman Stadium isn’t about to do him any favors. Still, the fact that he can swipe bags helps to make him a bona fide five-cat contributor.

The “Flawed, Yet Talented” Tycoons
19. Matt Holliday
20. Jay Bruce
21. Mark Trumbo
22. Chris Young
23. Michael Cuddyer
24. Shin-Soo Choo
These players are all capable of delivering great fantasy numbers, but there’s a wart or two attached to each of them … Though he’s good for 25 or more HRs, Holliday’s ADP is way higher than it should be. He no longer threatens for double-digit SBs and is 32 years old. Keep in mind he hasn’t had a 30 HR season since 2007 … Bruce Strength has serious power upside and is part of an impressive Reds lineup. The strikeouts aren’t pretty (career .256 BA), but his overall numbers will place him among the top 20 OFs in fantasy … It’s a shame Trumbo doesn’t have a starting job locked up, but something has to give with the Angels. You don’t let a bat like Trumbo’s sit on the bench (.223 ISO and 29 HRs last year), so look for the Angels to make a trade if everyone comes out of Spring Training healthy … Coming off back-to-back 20/20 seasons, Young is starting to develop into a reliable fantasy option. The BA is usually not pretty (career .240), but the rest of his 5×5 numbers work … Cuddyer makes it this high on the list because of his 2B eligibility. The owner of a career .180 ISO, Cuddyer should benefit from playing in Coors Field and hitting behind the likes of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez … A two-time 20/20 baller, Choo suffered through an injury-plagued 2011.  The fact that he can hit for a decent BA and contribute across the board is useful, but he’s missed time with injuries before. I’m not all in, but at this point of the rankings/tiers, he deserves this spot.

The “Leap of Faith” Lunatics
25. Ichiro Suzuki
26. Drew Stubbs
27. Michael Bourn
28. Brett Gardner
29. Colby Rasmus
30. Corey Hart
You can talk me into the idea that these players are all more valuable than what their ADP suggests, but it does take a leap of faith to believe monster years are in store for this bunch … This is honestly the highest I’ve ever had Ichiro in three years. Ichiro has been an highly overrated option over the last few seasons as a player who, in the end, could only do three things well in 5×5 leagues. Now he will hit third in Seattle’s lineup, which makes things a lot more interesting (especially since this Seattle offense is the most intriguing it’s been in years). Ichiro is said to have created a “wider stance” to generate more power; to which I respond, “Yeah, your mom created a wider stance for me.” Ichiro is 38, is coming off a career-worst season, and is using a new batting stance that may or may not work. There’s obviously a lot of risk, but I may actually end up with Ichiro on one of my teams for the first time in like five years simply because he may end up being a decent power/speed source … Stubbs has the power/speed combo that we all like (15/40 last year), but the strikeouts are off-putting. His K% sat at a Chris Davis-esque 30.1 percent, which actually makes his .243 BA somewhat impressive. I’m high on a lot of Reds players this year, but my enthusiasm for Stubbs isn’t as strong (especially since he may end up hitting in the lower part of the order if the Ks continue to pile up … With two 60 SB seasons under his belt, Bourn is one of the elite base poachers in fantasy. Of course, his HR and RBI contributions are meager. Plus, Atlanta’s offense is pretty underwhelming on paper, so him hitting leadoff for the Braves isn’t a huge upgrade from the Astros. Also disconcerting is the fact that his walk rate dropped in 2011 (7.3 BB%; over 9.0 percent previous two seasons) … Derek Jeter’s presence in the leadoff spot is keeping Gardner from doing serious work in fantasy. Because he usually hits ninth, Gardner’s run scoring potential is capped, even in an explosive Yankees lineup. Another concern is his struggles against lefties. He hit .233 against southpaws last year (.243 career). I still like Gardner a lot because of his speed, but his lack of power and poor spot in the lineup hurt his 5×5 value … No longer in Tony LaRussa’s doghouse, Rasmus has CF all to himself in Toronto. He’s shown impressive power in the past (.222 ISO in 2010) and has the wheels to steal 15 bases. Strikeouts and inconsistency have plagued him in his young career, but the Blue Jays have shown a knack for developing good players out of other teams’ castoffs … Hart may end up stating the season on the DL after getting arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Not the right way to kick off the season. When Hart returns, he may end up hitting leadoff and he fared well there in 63 games last year (.301 BA and .250 ISO). However, he probably won’t steal more than 10 or 12 bases, even at the top of the lineup. He also made less contact last year and saw his Swinging Strike Percentage (SwStr%) climb.

The “Combustible” Co-Op
31. Carl Crawford
32. Jayson Werth
33. Emilio Bonifacio
34. Cameron Maybin
35. Brandon Belt
36. Howie Kendrick
This list is full of intriguing players, but the one thing they all have in common is that they might fall flat on their face in 2012 … I told y’all he’d be bust in 2011, and the same holds true for 2012. Truthfully, I do feel Crawford will be better than he was last year, which admittedly isn’t asking much. However, the speed decline is for real. Playing all those years on turf will do that. While 30 SBs is possible, it’s no lock. Keep in mind that he’s probably hitting no higher than sixth in the batting order, so it remains to be seen how often he’ll be asked to run. In fact, one of the rumblings we all heard when the Sox first signed Crawford is that he would be reigned in on the base paths to ensure his legs last the duration of the contract. As for the power boost people expected, don’t hold your breath. Crawford isn’t a pull hitter, so the HR spike people anticipated last year isn’t about to materialize in 2012. Overall, he’s a solid fantasy player, but he’s not worth the price … While a 20/19 season seems reasonable for Werth in a down year, it could get much uglier this season. He’s turning 33 in May and trended negatively in 2011 in K% (24.7), BB% (11.4), BA (.232), LD% (16.8), and GB% (43.0). He’ll remain useful in fantasy, but don’t expect him to sniff his PHI numbers … Bonifacio makes it on this list due to his SS eligibility. Many view him as a borderline utility player in the bigs, but the improvements in his LD% and walk rate have me believing in a productive 2012. Of course, he’ll be hitting near the bottom of the lineup and really only offers above-average SBs, but at a position as thin as SS, we’ll take it … With 40 steals in 2011, Maybin is getting a lot of love in draft rooms. People figure the young OF can only get better. Problem is, he strikes out a lot (25.2 K% last year) and posted a career-worst 12.3 SwStr% last year. His 15.9 LD% in 2011 didn’t reveal a player making consistently good contact, which puts his BA at risk. The speed should still be there, but a regression is very possible … Belt has nothing left to prove in the minors, so this is a big year for him. He has huge potential, but playing time may be an issue as Aubrey Huff is still kicking around. Inconsistent PAs for a young player can be a killer, so here’s hoping the Giants roll with Belt as an everyday player and let him learn the game … You can’t trust dudes named Howie. Especially when they have a major league career littered with injuries and underachieving results. Kendrick finished the season strong last year and now has Albert Pujols hitting behind him, but the lack of walks (career 4.2 BB%) and abundance of ground balls make him a bust candidate based on his ADP.

The “Bounce-Back” Brothers
37. Nick Swisher
38. Andre Ethier
This duo is looking to bounce back and they could be relatively inexpensive power options for fantasy owners …In a contract year, I’m expecting Swisher to do work in New York’s lineup. He cut down on the Ks last year, has a career .213 ISO, and should have plenty of RBI opportunities as the sixth hitter in the Yankee lineup … I always though Ethier was overrated. People sweated his power, but he’s only topped 25 HRs once. Still, with Matt Kemp ahead of him and the ability to hit for power and average, Ethier could turn a profit on his ADP.

The “Hard To Tell” Hooligans
39. Lance Berkman
40. Peter Bourjos
41. Carlos Beltran
42. Adam Jones
It’s tough to say what these players will be in 2012. Honestly, I don’t have a ton of faith in these dudes, but it’s feasible for them to turn in productive fantasy campaigns … Berkman produced numbers last year that were in line with his career stats, but buyer beware. He’s 36 years old, struggled mightily against lefties in the two seasons prior to 2011, and will be without Albert Pujols. A part of me appreciates the long, reliable career Berkman has enjoyed. However, the logical, old-people hating part of me thinks there is no profit to be gained on rostering Berkman … With the potential to hit 15 HRs and steal 30 bases, Bourjos has that always enticing power/speed potential. Unfortunately, he swings and misses too often (11.4 SwStr% last year), does a terrible job of getting on base (5.8 BB% in 2011), and has Mike Trout breathing down his neck. Most disturbing is the news that Bourjos will need hip surgery at the end of the season, so he obviously isn’t 100% healthy … Beltran is slated to hit second in St. Louis and his plate patience (as well as his power) last year was right on par with his career marks. Yet it’s hard to get too excited about a player with a history of leg injuries. Beltran’s SB potential looks like toast, and his power may be relatively modest as Busch Stadium is more of a pitcher’s park … Only 26, Jones posted career-highs in HRs (25) and ISO (.185) in 2011. Of course, some cold water deserves to be splashed on this power surge. 10 of his 25 HRs were of the “just enough” or “lucky” variety according to ESPN Stats and Information Group. Considering his plate patience is still pretty weak (4.7 BB% last year and 13.0 SwStr% career), I have a hard time understanding why people are so interested in Jones.

The “You Want To Believe” Brigade
43. Torii Hunter
44. Austin Jackson
45. Jason Heyward
46. Jose Tabata
47. Jason Bay
48. Alex Rios
Against my better judgment, I like this group of players. Will I be investing a pretty penny to obtain them? Hell naw. But, if the price is right, they can earn a spot on one of my many championship winning clubs … He’s turning 37 in July, but the hope is that Pujols’ presence will boost Hunter’s numbers. Even though his ISO dropped to .167 in 2011, his 15.2 HR/FB was in line with his career numbers, so there should still be some power left in his bat … Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon had this to say about his work with Austin Jackson during the offseason, “I came away from this project probably more excited than by any project I’ve done in my seven years here.” Jackson apparently shortened his leg kick and adjusted his stance, but it remains to be seen what kind of effect it will have on his performance. While he is good for 22 or more steals and has Jim Leyland’s full support as the leadoff hitter, the strikeouts remain the chief concern in Jackson’s game (27.1 K% in 2011) … Heyward has shown glimpses of stardom here and there, but overall his major league career to date has been medicore (1,079 PAs, .255/.362/.427, 20.5 K%, and 15.7 LD%). The fact that he’s battled injuries and has only 20 AAA PAs under his belt does not bode well for his 2012 value. He’s still an unreal talent and I do believe he’ll be better, but I’m not anticipating a true breakout this year … It was a rough 2011 for Tabata, whose GB% shot to an astounding 61.2 percent while his LD% sat under 17 percent for the second straight year. That type of weak contact will not work, no matter how fast a mu’fucka is. At least he increased his BB% (10.5) and Contact% (84.2). Continued improvement in those areas, coupled with his speed, could make him a nice fantasy option in 2012 … Call it the fences at Citi Field being moved in or call it a gut feeling (I swear it ain’t just gas), but I think Bay enjoys his best season as a Met in 2012. That doesn’t mean he’s a lock for 30 HRs again, but he’s better than the sub-.150 ISOs he’s put up in his two years in New York. Bay can swipe double-digit bags and hasn’t forgotten how to get on base (11.0 BB%). The price is worth it as I don’t think Bay has just lost all of his pull power … Rios had a 21/34 season just two years ago and like Bay, I don’t think he’s suddenly lost all that ability. That doesn’t mean 2011 was a fluke. He was truly, truly terrible and the peripheral data proves it. That said, Rios upped his contact rate last year and is still a 20/20 threat if he gets his act together.

The “You Could Do Worse” Yokels
49. Lucas Duda
50. Yoenis Cespedes
51. Josh Willingham
52. Alfonso Soriano
Even though this list has its fair share of question marks, you may end up saddling up with one of these guys (pause) … One of my favorite power sleepers, Duda’s HR potential is legit (.295 ISO in minors last year). He also offers the chance to hit for a pretty good BA thanks to his plate patience. His horrific defense and the concussion symptoms that he suffered last fall are worth monitoring as his playing time could be jeopardized, but if he’s on the field, he should turn a nice profit … We don’t really know what Cespedes will be, but the power/speed potential has me intrigued enough to rank him just inside the top 50 … Willingham has always been an underrated power source, but he’s getting more respect now after posting a .232 ISO with Oakland. Like Quentin, strikeouts are a concern and his BA will probably suck … The Fons’ has a laughable contract, but he still has the power to be useful in fantasy (.226 ISO last year and at least 20 HRs every year since 2002).

The “Underwhelming, Yet Interesting” Interns
53. Logan Morrison
54. Matt Joyce
55. Mike Carp
56. Nick Markakis
57. Dexter Fowler
58. Carlos Quentin
59. Coco Crisp
60. Dayan Viciedo
61. Ben Revere
62. Angel Pagan
63. Alex Presley
None of these players will carry you to a fantasy title and all of them have some red flags, but they carry enough value to make for decent gambles when filling out the end of your OF corps … Dudley Do Work isn’t sweating Logan Morrison the way most fantasy owners are. While his power numbers last year look nice (.221 ISO and 18.1 HR/FB), don’t be lured in. He underwent knee sugery in December and the power was pretty inconsistent throughout his minor league carer (.174 ISO). Plus, the dimensions in Miami’s new ball park are expansive, so power numbers will be harder to come by … Joyce has a career .223 ISO and 11.2 BB%. He even stole 13 bases and posted a career-high 21.2 LD% last year. So why isn’t he ranked higher? The chief reason is his poor numbers against lefties. He owns a career .196 BA versus southpaws. Between that and the high number of infield flys he hits, Joyce’s batting average is always at risk (career .259). Besides, the struggles against lefties could force him into a platoon situation … Carp posted a .190 ISO last year playing most of his games at Safeco Field. He put up very good power numbers in AAA (albeit in the PCL) and appears to be in line for a fair amount of playing time in Seattle. Strikeouts may prove to be an issue for Carp, but he certainly looks capable of being a sneaky power source … Markakis barely provides double-digit HRs and SBs. The only reason he sits in this position is because he hits in a good spot in Baltimore’s lineup … People talk about Fowler’s speed, but until he becomes more efficient on the base paths, he’ll always be an underwhelming SB option (caught stealing nine times in 21 attempts last year). With meager power, Fowler is lucky he’s hitting leadoff for a top-heavy Colorado offense … Petco Park obviously limits power, but players with Carlos Quentin’s power still find a way to hit bombs regardless of the field. Of course, he always gets hurt and will already miss up to the first month of the regular season recovering from knee surgery. Still, he’s in a contract year and 20 or more HRs are still very possible if he can stay relatively healthy … While he is good at stealing bases, Coco Crisp isn’t good for much else. Yeah he can hit for a decent BA, but he’s injury-prone and doesn’t hit for much power … Viciedo has hit 20 HRs in each of the last two seasons in the minors, but he’s a bit of a mystery. Although he upped his walk rate last year and is playing in a hitter’s park, he’s also a fat oaf who swings at anything. This is where I feel comfortable drafting him … He has no HR or RBI potential, but Ben Revere could steal 40 bases and makes enough contact to hit .290 or more. He is the front-runner for the LF job, but could also play center since Denard Span is still recovering from a concussion … Pagan is hitting leadoff and can steal 30 bases, so he has some value. He’s also injury-prone and part of a weak Giants offense, however, so tempter your expectations … 20-plus SB speed and a high contact rate make Presley an interesting sleeper on paper. However, for a guy who will likely hit near the top of the lineup, he does a shitty job of getting on base (5.6 BB% last year) and has Nate McLouth waiting on the bench just in case.

The “I Don’t Really Want To, But I Have To” Mob
64. Lorenzo Cain
65. Jason Kubel
66. Brennan Boesch
67. Carlos Lee
68. Mitch Moreland
69. Jeff Francoeur
70. Melky Cabrera
71. Michael Brantley
We can’t shit on these players completely as they are (for the most part) full-time starters with some redeeming qualities, but let’s face it, you won’t be jumping for joy if you end up with one of these suckas … Cain could conceivably steal 20 bags in a good season, but he might not hit double-digit HRs. Even if he hits leadoff, I’m not buying that the Royals are a good enough offense to make him a breakout candidate … It boggles the mind that people think Kubel will have a good season. Yes Chase Field is a hitter’s park, but his power was never that great aside from one big season in 2009. He had a .161 ISO last year and owns a .188 career mark. He’s also never played 150 games and his K% has continued to trend negatively … Jim Leyland loves Boesch and he’ll likely hit second in front of the big bats in Detroit. Still, Boesch is a pretty middling fantasy option in most formats and even with a steady diet of fastballs, the upside just isn’t that great … Lee’s numbers last year don’t look that bad on paper (.275 BA, 18 HRs, 94 RBIs), but this is a player clearly on the downswing of his career. His ISO, HR/FB, and LD% were all career-lows and he’s turning 36 in June. It’s mind boggling that he’s going among the first 50 OFs … Texas is committed to Moreland, which gets him into this tier. Still, he had wrist surgery in November, has underwhelming power for a 1B, and is likely hitting in the lower part of the order … Though Francoeur was a 20/22 player last year, he was caught stealing 10 times, so the odds of him swiping that many bases again are slim. His BB% and K% also got worse, and though his .191 ISO in 2011 was the highest mark since his rookie campaign, it will be hard for him to repeat that production at Kauffman Stadium … An 18/20 season with 102 Rs, 87 RBIs, and a .305 BA is really, really good. I just can’t see Melky doing it again. He was caught stealing 10 times in 2011 and, let’s be honest, last year will probably stand as the best campaign of his career … Brantley is another high-contact hitter with 20 SB potential. He’s the likely leadoff hitter in Cleveland and has posted good walk rates in the minors (career 11.8 BB%), but he had surgery on his right hand last August and offers little power.

The “Worth a Chance” Crew
72. J.D. Martinez
73. Eric Thames
74. Nyjer Morgan
75. Jerry Sands
This tier consists of players who have some upside and come cheap … The Astros are plugging Martinez in as their left fielder and all indications are he’ll hit third. Yes Houston’s offense blows, but the three hole is a good spot to be in, regardless of the lineup. Martinez was never much of a hyped prospect, but he had a good minor league career (career .342 BA and .209 ISO). He’ll likely go undrafted in a lot of leagues, but is worth keeping an eye on … Thames is an interesting character. In 2010, he broke out in AA by whacking 27 HRs with a .238 ISO. In 2011, his workouts consisted mostly of yoga as he wanted to stay flexible and limber, but that had some negative affects on his fantasy value. His power went away and he wore down as the season went along, reporting that he felt weaker. Thames bulked up during the offseason and says he’s committed to keeping himself strong. If he flashes the kind of power he showed in the minors, he could be a very nice deep sleeper. He’ll have to beat out Travis Snider for the LF job in Spring Training, but that shouldn’t be too hard … Unfortunately, Carlos Gomez is still in the picture so it doesn’t appear that Morgan has the CF job all to himself. Sure he doesn’t take many bases (career-worst 4.4 BB% last year), offers no power, and he seems to have lost a step on the base-paths. No one is saying he’ll carry your fantasy team with everyday PAs, but he seemed to provide a real spark to the Brewers last year and their offense will need all the help it can get with Prince Fielder gone. He’s only two years removed from a 34 SB season and is a high-contact hitter who can hit for a good BA … It’s no secret that the Dodgers need more pop and Jerry Sands can provide plenty of it. He has an astounding .290 ISO throughout the minors and knows how to get on base (11.0 BB% last year). He strikes out more than you’d like to see, but he’s only 24 and could improve in that respect. Sands may start the season off in the minors, but with his kind of power, he deserves to be on everyone’s radar.

The “They’re Still Alive” Association
76. Martin Prado
77. Delmon Young
78. Jordan Schafer
79. Vernon Wells
Thought these dudes were dead or at least out of baseball? Surprise … Now that he’s only eligible at 3B and OF, Prado’s 10-13 HR power doesn’t really play. His BA is his biggest strength and that can be a crap shoot (.260 BA in 2011) … It sounds like Delmon Young will hit behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in Detroit, but I’m not buying a breakout season here. His plate patience is still terrible and the most power you will see out of him is 20 HRs … Schafer comes into the season as the starting CF and with a true breakout season, he could hit 10 HRs and steal 30 bases. However, Jason Bourgeois could steal away PAs and the team is in rebuilding mode so anyone who is sucking will likely be replaced quickly … It’s a good thing Wells came up with 25 HRs and a .194 ISO last year, because he would’ve been buried a few tiers down otherwise. His walk rate and K% worsened in 2011, and the Angels have options if Wells stinks up the joint in 2012 (Bobby Abreu and Mike Trout).

The “Don’t Sleep” Delinquents
80. Yonder Alonso
81. Andres Torres
82. Brian Bogusevic
83. Alejandro De Aza
You won’t ready many write-ups on any of these players coming into the season, but they should be monitored nonetheless … Alonso doesn’t have the type of power you’d like to see from a first baseman (.173 ISO in minors), and the fact that he’s now playing in Petco Park doesn’t help matters. However, he seems locked into the starting 1B job in San Diego and has the plate patience to hit for a good BA. While the power hasn’t materialized in the pros yet, he is a big dude who could develop some more pop … A 34-year-old coming off a terrible campaign doesn’t look appealing, but Torres may surprise people. He’s the likely leadoff hitter in NY, knows how to get on base (10.6 BB%), and has 20-plus SB speed. He’s even shown good pop in the past (.211 ISO in 2010), so Torres may prove to be quite a bargain … The Astros protected Bogusevic against right-handers last year, letting him get just five ABs against them in 2011 (182 PAs total). It remains to be seen if Houston views him as a permanent platoon player, but he has the upside to hit 10 HRs and steal 20-25 bases … De Aza is in the mix for the starting LF gig, and he has the speed to steal 30 bags while rapping double-digit HRs. Yeah he’s been a reserve player for most of his career, but he made enough strides last year to warrant a shot at starting on a rebuilding White Sox lineup.

The “Even Cheaper Power” Posse
84. Aubrey Huff
85. Garrett Jones
86. Luke Scott
Dollar store? More like the bargain box of your local thrift shop … OK, so a .125 ISO hardly constitutes as “power,” but he did register a .216 mark in 2010, so it’s conceivable that he can be a low-cost source of HRs yet again … The Pirates have no other viable options to handle 1B duties, so Garrett Jones should have a prominent role in the offense yet again. With a full season of ABs, he should hit 20 or more HRs … Signed as the primary DH for Tampa Bay, Scott owns a career .230 ISO. Alas, you have to hope he stays healthy (over 140 games played once) and keeps himself out of a platoon (career .240 BA versus lefties).

The “Trying To Avoid a Platoon or Benching” Goons
87. Nolan Reimold
88. John Mayberry
89. Chris Heisey
90. Will Venable
These players have talent, but are trying to shine in the face of threats to their playing time … When you are in a competition with journeyman Endy Chavez, you know shit ain’t going well. While Reimold does have some power (.206 ISO last year), he struggles making hard contact when he isn’t hitting HRs (13.6 LD% and 14.8 IFFB% last year) … Mayberry has the backing of Charlie Manuel and has 20/10 talent. Of course, the team has a pair of options capable of handling LF duties (Laynce Nix and Domonic Brown) … Heisey had a .233 ISO ISO last year, but because manager Dusty Baker loves veterans, the arrival of Ryan Ludwick could prove problematic. Keep an eye on it … The only reason Venable winds up in this tier is because he has some power/speed potential (think 15/25) and is the likely leadoff hitter. Just don’t expect him to have a long leash if he sucks.

The “Yes, We Actually Ranked These Dudes” Society
91. Denard Span
92. Juan Rivera
93. Jason Bourgeois
94. Tony Campana
95. Bryan LaHair
96. Jon Jay
97. Craig Gentry
98. Ty Wigginton
99. Travis Snider
100. Allen Craig
101. Johnny Damon
102. Ryan Raburn
103. Josh Reddick
104. Franklin Gutierrez
105. Rajai Davis
106. Trevor Plouffe
107. Kyle Blanks
108. Domonic Brown
109. Ryan Ludwick
110. Mike Trout
111. Eric Young Jr.
112. Bobby Abreu
113. Casper Wells
114. Bryce Harper
115. David DeJesus
116. Marlon Byrd
117. Leonys Martin
118. Collin Cowgill
119. Seth Smith
120. Grady Sizemore
This tier is just far too large (and full of too many scrubs) for me to break down player-by-player, but I’ll do my best to highlight some of the names I know people want to hear about … Concussions are no joke, and the fact that Span admitted he still has some “bad days” in regards to his symptoms shows he’s still not over it … Bourgeois, Campana, Davis, and Young Jr. don’t have starting jobs, but they all have plus-speed that could be of great help to fantasy owners in 2012 … Trout and Harper will both get drafted way higher than they should, but they will merely end up being wastes of roster space in 2012. Both still have a long way to go in their maturation and to expect either of them to come in and contribute right away is foolish. Trout is the better gamble since he has more seasoning in the minors, but his power has been modest in the pros and he’ll really only provide you with steals … Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin are battling for the CF gig in Texas. Gentry is a hell of lot more interesting because of his electric speed (18-of-18 SBs last year in just 153 PAs). Martin? Maybe he can steal 20 bases, but he’ll be a pretty middling fantasy option if he starts … The most interesting players in this tier are Allen Craig, Josh Reddick, and Trevor Plouffe. Craig and Reddick can both hit for power and average. Plouffe will probably have a terrible BA, but he’s eligible at SS and has legitimate HR ability …  Kyle Blanks and Casper Wells both have impressive power credentials in the minors. Other similarities include the fact that they each play in pitcher’s parks and are not cemented in starting roles at the moment.

The “Young Ducat” Hustlas
121. Kyle Hudson
122. J.B. Shuck
123. Brandon Guyer
124. Ezequiel Carrera
125. Alex Castellanos
126. Tim Wheeler
127. Anthony Gose
128. A.J. Pollock
These players are all immensely talented and could contribute in 2012. They aren’t worth drafting in most mixed leagues (though you definitely need to know these names just in case), but keeper league owners should be all over these guys (pause) … Hudson is a three-cat guy at best, but with 40 steal potential and advanced plate discipline, he’s someone who can help fantasy teams. He may sound like a scrub since he was released this offseason after being put on waivers by the Orioles. The Rangers signed him to a minor league contract, however, and if he gets playing time, he could surprise a lot of people … With the Houston OF possibly going through many changes in a rebuilding year, Shuck could get a shot (especially in CF where Jordan Schafer is the incumbent). He’s another three-cat guy with good plate patience and wheels … Desmond Jennings is injury-prone, Matt Joyce could suck, and Guyer could become fantasy-relevant. There’s some 15/25 potential with Guyer, so remember his name … The Indians knew Grady Sizemore would miss time again, which is why they have Felix Pie, Ryan Spilborghs, and Fred Lewis. None of those bums are even ranked here, yet their veteran presence means all of them are ahead of Carrera on the depth chart. It’s a shame, because Carrera stole 35 bases in 82 AAA games last year (with a 10.3 BB%) … Castellanos rocked a .253 ISO in AA last year between the Cardinals and Dodgers organizations. He also possesses 20-plus SB speed. Jerry Sands will get a look before him if a call-up happens, but if Castellanos rakes in AAA, keep an eye on him … If Dexter Fowler sucks (which, judging by his track record, is very possible), Wheeler could get the nod in center. He’s got the power/speed mix (33/21 season in AA last year) and a strong AAA showing would accelerate things … The Blue Jays have a ton of OFs, but if Anthony Gose ever gets an opportunity, he could do work. He has 60-steal potential and popped 16 HRs in 137 AA games last year … Arizona’s A.J. Pollock isn’t a flashy, big-name prospect, but he looks like a very capable fantasy option when he hits the bigs. In AA last year, he stole 36 bases, 103 runs, and hit .306. He also has a reputation for being a valuable clutch hitter.

*Last updated March 19th, 2012.


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.