Fantasy Baseball Right field and Left field Rankings
As I explained before we broke down centerfielders and corner outfielders separate because of the onslaught of young centerfielders. However, the argument can be easily made that the other reason to do it is the depth of talent at the corner spots. These guys are among the top of fantasy year after year. The depth of outfielder corners at the moment is just astounding from speed guys like Carl Crawford (Rays) to numerous power guys like Manny (Dodgers). To compete in modern fantasy you must have a guy or two from this list on any team you field.
Corner Outfield Fantasy Projections:
Ryan Braun (Brewers) is an all around fantasy guy, who's young and displays A LOT of power. In his first two seasons as a big-leaguer (264 games), the ex-3 rd baseman has 71 homers and 203 RBIs, with 29 steals, 183 runs, and a .301 average. He had what seemed to be a better year as a rookie if you compare his numbers to the amount of games he played, but that may have been because he was getting used to his new position in 2008. I can see Braun blasting 45 over the wall and 120 RBIs this year. His average probably won't move much from last year, .285, but he should break 100 runs and 15 steals with ease.
Matt Holliday's (Athletics) biggest advantages over most other corner outfielders is his speed and average. Don't get me wrong, he can hit the ball hard. But he just brings little extra that a lot of corner outfielders don't have. He was a monster in 2007, hitting .340 with 36 home runs and 137 RBIs. His numbers did drop last year (25 HR and 88 RBIs), but he went up in steals and still hit .321 with over 100 runs. He may have a tough start this year because he's with a new club, but he's definitely capable of a .320/30/115 year. He probably won't get up to 28 steals like last year, but he will stay in the double-digits and surely will pursue triple-digits in runs.
Manny Ramirez (Dodgers) was on fire last year when he moved to L.A. He fits in the Cali life-style perfectly...he's a flashy guy, and so are his numbers. Here are his average numbers for his past three FULL seasons: .310, 41 HR, 131 RBIs, 107 runs. Plus, last year with only 53 games with the Dodgers, he hit .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs. Hopefully that carries over this year. He's a definite top-5 fantasy outfielder.
Josh Hamilton (Rangers), Carlos Lee (Atros), Jermaine Dye (White Sox), Adam Dunn (Nationals), and Carlos Quentin (White Sox) are arguably the biggest power threats out of the bunch, although Hamilton and Lee are probably the best choices because they also hit for average. Alfonso Soriano (Cubs), Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Nick Markakis (Orioles), Nate McClouth (Pirates), Alex Rios (Blue Jays) and Bobby Abreu (Angels) are great picks, as they will not only give you at least 20 homers and 80+ RBIs, but double-digit steals, too. If you need to sacrifice speed for power, Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox), Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners), Carl Crawford (Rays), and Johnny Damon (Yankees) are the best ways to go...most of them also score many runs and hit for for high averages. If it's late and you need another outfielder or a utility guy, Corey Hart (Brewers), Xavier Nady (Yankees), Ryan Ludwick (Cardinals), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), and Pat Burrel (Rays) are usually available pretty late and are extremely vital as 4 th or 5 th outfielders in any league.
Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Jay Bruce (Reds), Chase Headley (Padres), Justin Upton (Diamondbacks), and Nate McClouth (Pirates)
Matt Kemp (Dodgers) is my top riser, and is just outside a top-10 corner outfielder. He got his first full-time season last year, and capitalized on it very nicely. He knocked out 18 and drove in 76, and both those categories going to ascend this year. His biggest threat is his speed, as he stole 35 bags last year (12 th in the MLB ans tied with HanRam). He might top a .300 average this year, and if he doesn't, it will be no lower than .285. He will also put up around 100 runs.
Jay Bruce (Reds) is an up-and-coming star. In just 108 games last year, his rookie season, Bruce blasted 21 homers and 52 RBIs. He didn't hit for much average (.254) but you would expect to see that go up at least 15 points this season. If he stays healthy and gets in 550+ at-bats, he can bargain for a 30/110 season, with 80 runs and around a .275 average. Not bad for a 21 year old.
Chase Headley (Padres) is a name not many people have heard of. He's just 24 years old, but he's got the potential to be a .300/20/80 player, with consistency. He hasn't played a full season yet, but this should be the year he does. He will play left field most of the time, and platoon with Kevin Kouzmanoff at the hot corner. If he shows up and holds a starting job, he's capable of big things, especially in the long tun. Another thing, he is only owned in 64% of fantasy leagues.
Justin Upton (Diamondbacks) is the more powerful, yet slower Upton brother. Justin hit 15 over the wall and knocked in 42 in only 108 games last year. He missed two months thanks to an oblique injury. A bit like Jay Bruce, Upton doesn't have speed, nor did he hit for average. His average should go up quite a bit, and so should most of his other numbers, except steals. He's fitted for a 25-30 home run season, which means his RBIs and runs will go up too if he pops out that many. We just need him to stay healthy.
Nate McClouth (Pirate) had the biggest jump in numbers from 2007 to 2008 out of all my risers. Take a look at the contrast between 2007 and 2008. 2007- (137 games) .258, 13 HR, 38 RBIs, 62 runs, 22 steals. 2008- (152 games) .276, 26 HR, 94 RBIs, 113 runs, 23 steals. Pretty big upturn if you ask me. He's going to steal 20+ bases, no doubt, and he shouldn't see any downside in the other four categories. He's still young, at age 27, so he could be coming up to his prime in his career. Don't be surprised to see a 30/115 season from this riser.
Jose Guillen (Royals), Eric Byrnes (Diamondbacks), Jeff Francoeur (Braves)-(not listed above)
Jose Guillen (Royals) was once a top-15 outfielder a few years back, as long as you forget about 2006 (in which he played only 69 games and hit .216). He was a pretty consistent 25 home run guy who hit for a good average and scored a lot of runs. In 2008, he did great with runners in scoring position with 97 RBIs, slightly dropped in homers from 2007 (23 in '07 to 20 in '08), but suffered severely in the average and runs area. From 2003 to 2007, excluding 2006, Guillen batted .294 and averaged 82 runs in those four years. Last year, he hit .264 and scored 66 runs. Looks to me like he might be losin' it.
Eric Byrnes (Diamondbacks) isn't looking forward to a fun season in 2009...he's trying to find himself playing time between Chad Tracey and big man Connor Jackson, listed right in front of Byrnes in my rankings above. In 2006 and 2007, Byrnes combined for a .276 average with 47 homers, 75 steals, 162 RBIs, and 185 runs. At this point, Byrnes was looked at like a top-10 pick, mainly because of his ability to steal (50 steals in 2007). Last season, he was injured, a lot, and split time with Jackson. Not that it really mattered anyways...Eric hit .209 with 4 steals in just 52 games. He did have 6 homers, 23 RBIs, and 28 runs, which aren't bad numbers for the dilemmas he was dealing with. But the drop in A) playing time, B) average, and C) steals shows Byrnes is in for a steady decline.
My last faller isn't even on the list above, but I think he could be in the top 30 if he plays up to his potential. Jeff Francoeur (Braves) was phenomenal in his first few seasons with Atlanta. He had back-to-back seasons of 100+ RBIs and combined for 48 homers in the two years. He even played for the USA team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Last year, however, he batted .239 with 11 home runs, and just 71 RBIs. He's not a slow runner, either, but had NO steals in 2008. To go from .293 to .239, 19 to 11 homers, and 105 to 71 RBIs, at his young age, might show that Francoeur needs to really step it up this year to keep his job. He is a very talented right fielder, so that might keep him on the field.
Others and Sleepers:
Hunter Pence (Astros) isn't exactly a sleeper (owned in 100% of leagues), but he's a type of guy who's name isn't thrown around too much when it really should be. He's projected to hit close to 30 homers and drive in nearly 90, as well as have double-digit steals. He's a decent hitter for average and will bring you 70+ runs, too. Take this into thought...his average draft pick is 89.4. He is a 2 nd or 3 rd spot outfield choice being drafted as a 4 th or 5 th spot. By the end of this season, don't be stunned to see him become a top-15 outfielder.
Adam Lind (Blue Jays) is a nice sleeper, owned in only 87.2% of leagues and has an avg. draft of 226. Last year he hit .282 in 88 games, which shows how much his contact is going up. This being said, his other numbers are bound to incline. If he gets a full season under his belt, which is probably going to happen this year, he is surely competent of a .280/20/80 and 70 run season
Nelson Cruz (Rangers) has officially been named as the starting right fielder for the Texas Rangers. He could easily be called a riser, but his name isn't quite popular enough yet. By the end of this year, I guarantee he will be in the top-20 on the list above. Get this...last year in only 31 games, Cruz hit .330 with 7 bombs and 26 RBIs and 19 runs. Let's say he does that consistently all year long...his numbers would look like this: .330, 33 homers, 124 RBIs, and 91 runs. Yeah, I know...it's not very likely, at all, that a guy is that consistent all year long, but for him to even have the potential to put up those numbers just shows what he can do. His average draft pick is 207 and he is only owned in 54.5% of leagues. One of the best free agents available right now, no doubt.
By: Tony Falcioni
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