2008 Pre-Season Outfield Rankings
After a near-MVP season, Matt Holliday has risen to the top of the outfielder rankings. (AP Photos)
1. Matt Holliday, COL – Holliday just missed out on his first MVP Award, and although he struggled in the playoffs, there’s no doubt he’s arrived as a major offensive stud. Note, however, that 25 of his 36 homers came at Coors, where he also hit 75 points higher.
2. Vladimir Guerrero, LAA – Despite the occasional minor health woe, Guerrero has stayed fairly durable over the years, and he tied his career high with 45 doubles last year. Unfortunately, the doubles binge was not an incremental gain, as his homers slipped, but with an eighth season of a 950 OPS or better, Vladdy’s predigree is unquestionable. Now if only the Halos would get him that long awaited protection in the batting order. Perhaps Torii Hunter will help in this regard.
3. Carl Crawford, TB – Because of his speed, BA and modest pop, Crawford is one of the most sought-after commodities in all of fantasy baseball. While his steals slipped a bit last year, he has become a more productive hitter and he finished with a career-best .315 BA. Here’s a scary thought – he’s 26 and is closing in on 300 career steals already.
4. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA – Ichiro has been the model of consistency since arriving in Seattle from Japan, racking up a boatload of Gold Gloves while perennially challenging for the batting title and being among the league leaders in swipes. Fantasy gold, baby.
5. Carlos Lee, HOU – Now that Miguel Tejada is an Astro, Lee – already one of the most prolific run producers in the game – will be that much more dangerous. Lee set a career high in hits last season, hits for power and average and generally is good for double digits in steals. Oh, and he’s played 162 games three straight seasons. Money in the bank.
6. Grady Sizemore, CLE – Since 2004, exactly two centrefielders have hit .280 and accumulated at least 75 dingers – Sizemore and Aaron Rowand. He still strikes out too much, but Sizemore took a big step forward in his on-base skills last year, adding to an already impressive across-the-board game.
7. Carlos Beltran, NYM – One of two players in Royals’ history to lead the team in RBI for three straight seasons, Beltran was unable to match his power surge of 2006 when he set a career best in homers. Still, he had his highest SB total since 2004 and he hit well over .290 after the break.
8. Eric Byrnes, ARZ – Part of a great group of young Diamondback outfielders, Byrnes put up a stellar season, one which would have been even stronger had it not been for a horrible August and September. Still, power (30 doubles, eight triples, 21 homers), speed (50 SB) and average (.286) is always an irresistible combination.
9. Adam Dunn, CIN – Forty-homer seasons are becoming a safe bet for this slugger (that’s four straight), so no wonder the Yanks tried to pry him loose last summer. Dunn, who even cut his prodigious strikeout rates, is coming off perhaps his finest season.
10. Alfonso Soriano, CHC – The Cubs shelled out $136 million to land Soriano last offseason, and they didn’t exactly get the kind of return they were hoping for in Year One of the deal. First, he missed a month with a quad injury, an injury that really cut into his production. The news wasn’t all bad, however. Soriano trimmed his K rate and maintained his solid power totals, thanks to a massive September (14 homers) that could portend great things for 2008.
11. Manny Ramirez, BOS – Manny’s power numbers dropped substantially last season, but before we write him off, consider this elite list: Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Jim Thome. Those are the only four players who have more home runs than Ramirez since 1997. After enjoying his first 100-walk season in 2006, Man-Ram slipped badly last year, so if he can re-establish his patient approach, the long balls will return.
12. Nick Markakis, BAL – After his first .300 season, one in which he stepped up his power game and developed a running game, Markakis is virtually the only untouchable Oriole now. I’m a bit concerned about the rising K rate, but this is just a 24-year-old, and the sky is the limit here.
13. Curtis Granderson, DET – Granderson enjoyed a season for the ages last year with 84 extra-base hits, including at least 20 doubles, triples and homers – a tremendously rare occurrence. His leap as a hitter makes you wonder if he might have peaked already. Granderson is young enough to still have upside, but I have my doubts if he’ll be able to duplicate his 2007.
14. Torii Hunter, LAA – Considered one of the “good guys” in the game, lifelong Twin Hunter said Adios to Minny when the Angels came knocking with $90 million over five years. Of course, the perennial Gold Glover picked an ideal time to enjoy one of the finest seasons of his career, setting personal bests in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles and RBI and slugging over .500 for the first time since 2002.
15. B.J. Upton, TB – Okay, so he’s no longer a shortstop. That’s the bad news. The good news is he enjoyed a breakout season and achieved a level of consistency we’ve been anticipating for what seems years. He flashed his just-scraping-the-surface power and developed much more patience while enjoying his first .300 season. Did we mention he’s just 23?
16. Alex Rios, TOR – Rios enjoyed a second straight fine year as he continues to develop into a very productive ballplayer with improving on-base skills. Yet, the Jays are talking about dealing him to the Giants for Tim Lincecum, a deal that likely will never happen now that the Giants have landed Rowand.
17. Magglio Ordonez, DET – Maggs had an MVP season last year, but unfortunately, he opted to do so in a season when virtually any accomplishment would have to take a backseat to A-Rod’s exploits. Ordonez enjoyed one of his finer power seasons, and has remained durable the past two seasons after two injury-marred years.
18. Bobby Abreu, NYY – Abreu still brings a vast array of tools to the table, not the least of which is his durability. Even so, the Yanks are expecting him to arrive at camp in better shape than he did last year. Abreu no longer a 30-homer threat, but he is still capable of wracking up big numbers in the extra-base hit department.
19. Delmon Young, MIN – Sure, we expected to see more power by now, but I think we need to put things in perspective with Young. He’s 22 and has just completed his first full season as a major leaguer. There’s a lot to be excited about, perhaps most of all the fact that he’ll get a fresh start in Minnesota.
20. Vernon Wells, TOR – Shoulder woes dogged Wells all season, but he ostensibly corrected that issue with post-season surgery. Does that mean he’ll return to 2006 levels this year? I doubt it, but we’ll certainly see a far better player than we did in 2007.
21. Hideki Matsui, NYY – Godzilla, long an iron man, has run into major injury issues the past two years, and while he only missed 19 games last season, a knee injury made him a shell of himself down the stretch. Still, if an “off year” is 100 runs and 25 homers with a .285 BA, I’ll take that, thank you very much. I suppose there’s some worry that over half his homers came in one month of the season, but if Matsui’s knee is sound, I’m expecting a big year. And don’t worry about the rumour of him headed to the Giants for Lincecum – it ain’t gunna happen.
22. Brad Hawpe, COL – Hawpe enjoyed a breakout season, but his run total was limited by hitting sixth in the lineup. Should he get the opportunity to move up higher, I like him even more from a fantasy perspective, as his overall development as a hitter is coming along very nicely. From the sounds of it, though, Hawpe is locked into the six hole. He’s right in his power prime.
23. Juan Pierre, LAD – The Dodgers were unhappy enough with Pierre in centrefield that they went out and signed Andruw Jones, shifting Pierre to a corner, most likely left field. You’ve got to love the speed that Pierre keeps bringing, however. He enjoyed the finest base stealing season of his career from a success rate standpoint in 2007, and I don’t seem him slowing down next year. He’ll retain great fantasy value as long as he helps you take home first in the SB category.
24. Aaron Rowand, SF – The Giants, desperate for a hitter with Barry Bonds not expected back, shelled out $60 million for five years of Rowand’s services. With his contract ending, Rowand picked a great time to set career highs in virtually every offensive category, but how will he fare as the go-to guy in this offense? Well, I don’t think his BA will slip that much; Rowand will likely bat .300 again, especially with the gains in batting eye he’s shown. But 27 homers is highly unlikely to be repeated. I’ll be surprised if Rowand reaches 20 this year. The RBI and runs will plummet too, in a much weaker offense.
25. Jason Bay, PIT – Thanks to Russell Martin’s huge year, Bay was denied his third Tip O’Neill Award in four years (given to Canada’s top ballplayer). But let’s face it – Bay was just a shell of himself in 2007. Both his power and on-base numbers took precipitous falls last year. We’re expecting a big rebound from Bay in 2008, perhaps not to 2005 levels, but certainly splitting the difference from 2006 and last year.
26. Raul Ibanez, SEA – Ibanez’s runs and RBI were hurt on a weak Mariner team last year, so expecting a bounce back to a degree is reasonable. But of bigger concern is that some of his homers are turning into doubles. What I’d really like to see is a move away from Safeco, for that will boost Ibanez’s value more than anything.
27. Jeff Francoeur, ATL – Less homers and more doubles is not a trend you like to see, but Francouer is young enough for me not to worry. He’s a very productive hitter who should continue to improve and the fact that he started swiping the odd base last year while showing a marked improvement in his patience bodes well for his overall development. Expect Francoeur to be top 20 outfielder this time next year.
28. Shane Victorino, PHA – Victorino showed modest improvements last year, but the fact that his batting eye was much better is very promising as he develops into one of the game’s better top-of-the-order threats. If he can continue that trend, perhaps the Phils will finally move him to the top of the order, allowing Jimmy Rollins to take over as the three-hole hitter.
29. Andruw Jones, LAD – Jones, coming of the worst season of his career, takes over as the new Dodger centerfielder. Let’s hope Jones can rediscover the patience he was showing when he starting breaking through with superstar numbers, because if he keeps flailing away like he did last year, things will go even further south. I like his prospects in Dodger Stadium, no longer a pitcher’s park, so expect Jones to rebound back to at least .250 with over 30 homers.
30. Chris Young, ARZ – Talented and tender-aged Young has tremendous potential and he should mature along with the rest of these baby snakes. The power and speed are already fantastic. Now if he would just show mediocre on-base skills, Young’s runs would soar well over 100.
31. Pat Burrell, PHA – Burrell is expected to again bat fifth in the potent Phillies’ lineup, meaning he’ll be in line for plenty of RBI. He played a bigger role with the team last season, returning to the 30-homer plateau for the third time in his career. Better yet, he actually cut his strikeouts and enjoyed his first .400 OBP season. If Burrell continues to show improvements in his batting eye, he could surpass his career year of 2002 this season.
32. Johnny Damon, NYY – For the second straight season, Damon’s batting average slipped, and at age 34, we have seen the best that he has to offer. Because of his steals, he’ll still make a big contribution to your team, but don’t expect him to couple the thefts with a .300 BA any longer.
33. Ken Griffey Jr., CIN – Griffey, one of the most popular players in the game, rebounded nicely last year, cracking 30 dingers for the ninth time in his career. The patience he showed last year will stead the aging and brittle Griffey very well as he takes one more kick at the can to hold off Father Time.
34. Corey Hart, MIL – Hart, who remains under control by Milwaukee for the next four years, is part of a great young core of talent the Brewers have put together as they attempt to take the next step and secure a playoff spot. Given a full-time gig last year, Hart broke through as one of the more pleasant surprises in the game. His power/speed/average combo made many a fantasy owner drool, and there’s definitely room for growth here.
35. Josh Willingham, FLA – A key component of the seemingly never-ending Marlin rebuilding efforts, Willingham’s BA has been sliding south the past couple of years, but he should score plenty of runs in an improving Florida offense this season.
36. Kosuke Fukudome, CHC – The Cubs landed the biggest NPB prize this offseason, signing Fukudome to a four-year, $48 million deal. He’s dealt with some injury issues in recent years, but no one doubts his ability to produce when he’s in the lineup. In nine seasons in Japan, Fukudome is a lifetime .305 hitter.
37. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS – Hotshot rookie Ellsbury, who had an immediate impact on the Boston attack, had been talked about as trade bait in Sox’ attempt to land Johan Santana, but that notion seems to have cooled. Wherever he’s playing, expect Ellsbury to pile up serious runs as an offensive instigator of the first order. He’s the real deal.
38. Jermaine Dye, CWS – Undeterred by his offseason, the Sox poured money into Dye, giving him a two-year, $22 million extension last summer. Obviously, they have faith in his ability to bounce back to his MVP-type performance in 2006, but I definitely want to see Dye show more patience next year if he’s going to rebound.
39. Jose Guillen, KC – Guillen will miss the first 15 games of the season with a PED-related suspension, but that didn’t stop the Royals from spending $36 million for three years of his time. He enjoyed a tremendous bounce-back last season, although his power wasn’t overwhelming for a corner outfielder.
40. Nick Swisher, CWS – Hamstring issues and a suspension cost him a couple of weeks, but Swisher continued his emergence as one of the better OBP machines in the AL – making him a prototypical Billy Beane disciple. Although he was unable to duplicate his 2006 power breakout, he is just entering his prime power years, so expect a bounce back. The question is, now that Swisher is arbitration eligible, how much longer will he remain in Oakland? [And sure, enough, almost immediately after we wrote this, Swisher was dealt to the White Sox. Hitting in Cellular will provide a boost to his numbers; reflected here in his ranking.]
41. Willy Taveras, COL – When healthy, Taveras was able to cut his strikeout rate and his BA soared as a result. The former Astro prospect is one of the steadier sources of steals in the game today.
42. Michael Cuddyer, MIN – Michael Cuddyer is part of a group of four corner outfielders vying for two spots in Minnesota, so he can ill afford to take another hit in the power and speed categories as he did last season. Given his improved batting eye, I’m expecting Cuddyer to enjoy a career year, at least in terms of batting average, but if his numbers against righties continue to fade, he could be in serious trouble as far as PT goes.
43. Hunter Pence, HOU – Pence provided a glimpse into the future for the Astros last season, showing great power potential. I’d like to see him cut his Ks, but with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio gone, Pence looks like the future face of the franchise.
44. Jeremy Hermida, FLA – Hermida, who spent most of 2007 batting sixth, could be moved into the two-hole, where his run total should improve dramatically. I’m a bit worried about his rising strikeout rate, but Hermida is just 23 and has tremendous power/average potential.
45. Lastings Milledge, WAS – The Nats truly believe that the Mets’ problem child is the kind of impact, middle-of-the-order bat they can build around. Milledge is certainly young enough to turn into a star, but questions about his attitude continue to dog him. Still, Milledge showed enough overall development at the plate last year to make us think New York’s trash could be Washington’s treasure.
46. Rocco Baldelli, TB – Are you getting sick of waiting for a return on your investment from this guy? He’s played just 127 games over the past three seasons because of injuries, yet he’s only 26 years old. Last season was a writeoff for Baldelli, as his power completely disappeared, and he looked lost, striking out far too often. Yet, with his talent, and relative youth, we can’t dare give up on him just yet.
47. Matt Kemp, LAD – Kemp made great strides as a hitter last season; no wonder the Dodgers were loathe to part with him in any off-season deals. Double-digit homers and steals in less than a half-season worth of at-bats? This is a guy you’ve got to watch closely this year.
48. Barry Bonds, FA – Assuming he actually continues his career, let’s hope it’s with an American League club, where he won’t be pulled from the field in the seventh inning every night for defensive purposes. If Bonds gets the at-bats, he’s proved he’ll be productive. Oakland refuses to go away as the likeliest candidate for his services.
49. Jason Kubel, MIN – Kubel, part of a crowded Minnesota outfield, had a productive season, showing he’s all the way back from his horrific 2005 injury. Assuming he can carve out 450 or more at-bats, consider Kubel a major breakout candidate for 2008.
50. David DeJesus, KC – DeJesus stayed healthy last year, but his numbers slipped dramatically. Still, he’s young enough to bounce back and perhaps continue to develop his speed game.
The Best of the Rest
51. J.D. Drew, BOS
52. Bill Hall, MIL
53. Melky Cabrera, NYY
54. Colby Rasmus, STL
55. Cameron Maybin, FLA
56. Austin Kearns, WAS
57. Gary Matthews Jr., LAA
58. Jay Bruce, CIN
59. Adam Jones, SEA
60. Franklin Gutierrez, CLE
61. Moises Alou, NYM
62. Matt Diaz, ATL
63. Felix Pie, CHC
64. Wily Mo Pena, WAS
65. Jerry Owens, CWS
66. Corey Patterson, BAL
67. Chris Duncan, STL
68. Mike Cameron, FA
69. Garret Anderson, LAA
70. Coco Crisp, BOS
71. Ryan Church, NYM
72. Mark Teahen, KC
73. Jim Edmonds, SD
74. Josh Hamilton, TEX
75. Dave Roberts, SF
2007 Rankings Archive