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Fantasy Baseball 2013: Outfield Primer

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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So there's a new name atop the OF ranks in 2013 (USAT Images)

Last season, the players who ranked first, second, fourth and sixth in terms of overall fantasy value were all outfielders. This spot gave us one player who went 30/40 in home runs and stolen bases (Mike Trout), and another who went 40/30 (Ryan Braun). Seven different outfielders gave us 20/20 seasons. Thirty-seven outfielders finished with at least 35 homers-plus-steals.

Simply put, this position is a smorgasbord of stats. Among the outfielders, you'll find several of our game's most useful multi-category contributors — guys like Trout, Braun, Kemp, McCutchen, Heyward, Harper, both Uptons and both Car-Gos. You'll also find a collection of high-quality category specialists in the outfield — burners like Ben Revere and Michael Bourn, power hitters like Adam Dunn and Chris Davis.

Whatever you need, you can get it at this position. Don't let the scarcity crowd talk you out of the upper-tier outfielders, because the elite players at this spot are beasts, fantasy's most productive assets.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Of course it's also true that you'll be able to find OF talent in the free agent pool throughout season, so it's not essential (or recommended) that you assemble the $100 outfield. Just make sure not to ignore this high-yield spot in the opening minutes of your draft, because you'll miss out on 30/30 types. Like this dude...

Matt Kemp is coming off shoulder surgery, scuffling so far this spring (2-for-17, 8 Ks), yet the three of you have him No. 3 in your outfield ranks. If we were in a draft room today, right now, would still take him ahead of McCutchen and CarGo?

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Matt Kemp, bandwagon jumping NFL fan (USAT)

I'm pretty sure Funston would do it, because he snagged Kemp in the first round of the Friends & Family draft earlier in the week. But let's just verify...

Brandon - Verified. Yep, Kemp still leads that group on my ranks. He should be ready to roll after a couple more weeks of working back into the swing of things. And I see a whole lot of run production potential in that lineup with Han-Ram, A-Gon and (eventually) Carl Crawford added to the mix.

Dalton - Yes, I would, although not necessarily with confidence. CarGo obviously has his own concerns with durability, and I also have some worries about McCutchen, whom I view as more of a 20-25 HR guy than last year's 30+ version. Plus his SB success rate has decreased every year he's been in the league. Kemp is a something of a gamble, but his ceiling is also probably the highest.

Brad - Honestly, we're really splitting hairs between Kemp, McCutchen and CarGo. But I would down a Dodger Dog at No. 3 if presented the opportunity. The Bucco bested Kemp in per-game, but I'm not sold on him launching another 30-plus homers. If Kemp logs 550-plus at-bats, he should finish in range of .300-35-100-100-22. And if that comes to fruition ... Game. Set. Match.

What's your preferred approach at this position in a mixed draft? Would you ever consider going OF-OF-OF at the top (again, like Funston in the F&F), or do you generally wait to fill your outfield spots?

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Scott - Position eligibility is a useful tie-breaker in early rounds — when two commodities are close to even, I default to picking the infielder. There's plenty of time to double back and fill the outfield, and some respectable starters might even be free agents in medium-sized mixers (looking at you, Ruggiano).

Dalton - While I wouldn't call outfield a thin position, many outfielders are used to fill your roster (including several in the Util spots), so it's also not as deep as you'd think. I have no problem grabbing them early and often. I don't think it's crazy to open your draft OF-OF-OF, if those are the three best players on your board at the time.

Andy - Well, I won't typically pass on a four or five-cat player at the top of the draft, simply because his position goes deeper than most. In my view, the scarcest commodities in our game are guys who have a legit shot at 30-30-.300 seasons. You'll find a handful of 'em in the outfield (but, um ... not so many that I'm likely to go OF-OF-OF).

[Need expert advice while filling out your brackets? Or do you just need more Brad Evans in your life? Watch "Tourney Bracket Live" on selection Sunday.]

There's always cheap speed to be found at this position. Give us a high-volume base-stealer from the late rounds, please, with a few thoughts on their 2013 fantasy potential. Let's go ADP of 235.0 or greater...

Andy - First of all, the trick with these cheap-speed guys is that they're often severe liabilities in two or three categories, so you can't load up on 'em. But in a deep format, sure, I can find a home for Cameron Maybin or Juan Pierre. I'm plenty interested in Leonys Martin, too, a talented young player in a friendly park. Martin probably wouldn't be a high-volume base thief (as teammate Craig Gentry would), but I like that he's not completely bankrupt in the power cat's.

Scott - This is basically the Juan Pierre question — you can land him at pick 255 in Yahoo! leagues, and the going-nowhere Marlins have no reason to red-light him. May we all age so gracefully (but hopefully on a better team). Starling Marte is another late pick of note, if he can reign in that strikeout problem. And I've already drafted Emilio Bonifacio three times (though I've paid more for him than the 235 ADP tag, and I'm generally using him at second base).

Brad - There are several phenomenal SB values, including the likes of Juan Pierre, Cameron Maybin and Leonys Martin, but Sharpie me in for Starling Marte. The young Buc has looked terrific this spring, is blessed with 30-plus SB wheels, and, unlike many late-round speedsters, will contribute meaningful numbers in additional categories — particularly homers. A final tally around .265-14-55-85-35 is achievable. Bargain.

How about cheap power? Let's have three names from beyond pick 235 who might deliver 25 or more bombs.

Scott - Tyler Colvin has a shot at 35 homers if the Rockies put him in the lineup and leave him alone. Jockeying Jim Tracy was the source of all pain; it's too early to say what kind of manager Walt Weiss will be. Houston slugger Chris Carter (not yet OF-eligible, but he will be soon) is a dirt-cheap source of power, and Drew Stubbs could easily get to this number if the Indians don't mind the holes in his swing. One more name for the sleeper file: Domonic Brown, Yahoo! ADP 242. New swing, regained confidence.

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Carlos Gomez 2.0, now with power (USAT)

Brandon - Dayan Viciedo is the obvious first choice. He hit 25 home runs last season, and he's still ascending on his career arc. I'd also go with Cody Ross, who is always a decent bet for mid-20s power, and he's moving to a nice hitting environment in Arizona. And Ryan Ludwick hit 26 home runs in just 422 ABs for the Reds, plus he has a track record that can back up that kind of outburst.

Andy - There's no shortage of mid-20s power in the outfield ranks — from Garrett Jones (ADP 240.7) down to Carlos Quentin (260.6). One of my preferred deeper plays is Dayan Viciedo, a 24-year-old coming off a 25-homer campaign. Viciedo does his home hitting in a favorable environment; it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him reach 30 bombs before he turns 27.

Carlos Gomez delivered 56 combined homers-plus-steals last season, yet fantasy drafters don't seem to care — not even a little. Gomez isn't drafted as a top-30 outfielder. What gives?

Brad - As the Piano Man has repeatedly crooned, Gomez is a more affordable version of CarGo. What's not to like? He's entering his power prime at 27, was once a highly regarded prospect, and is locked in to everyday work. His BA will again hover around .255-.260, but a 20/35 campaign isn't unattainable. He's a steal of a deal at his current 131.1 Y! ADP.

Andy - The jump in power for Gomez actually occurred in 2011 — batted ball rates here — but he only stepped to the plate 258 times that season. I think the pop is real, and you already knew about Gomez's speed. Draft without fear or hesitation.

Brandon - I think it has to do with how late it took him to bloom. And because his breakout was so far out of the norm, I'd worry a little about whether it was sustainable – meaning, he managed to stay locked-in for an extended period of time last year. But is that the new norm, and something he can just pick back up where he left off last season? I have him at No. 33 among outfielders, and he's No. 37 in Yahoo! ADP. So I'm a little more bullish than the average bear.

OK, let's see your top-10 outfielders for dynasty drafts. Feel free to offer an explanation about any inclusions or omissions.

Scott - The top two is a doozy. I'm giving Mike Trout the slightest edge over Bryce Harper, but there's no right answer there. The rest of the group: 3) Ryan Braun, 4) Andrew McCutchen, 5) Giancarlo Stanton, 6) Jason Heyward, 7) Justin Upton, 8) Adam Jones, 9) Matt Kemp, 10) Jay Bruce.

Brandon - 1) Mike Trout, 2) Bryce Harper, 3) Giancarlo Stanton, 4) Jason Heyward, 5) Ryan Braun, 6) Andrew McCutchen, 7) Justin Upton, 8) Matt Kemp, 9) Carlos Gonzalez, 10) Yoenis Cespedes. It's a pretty strong group of young outfielders in the league right now. It was tough to leave Desmond Jennings off the list. And as for Braun, Kemp and CarGo being further down the list than you might expect, I'd take the extra half-decade of prime production that Trout, Harper and Stanton have to offer, if it was a dynasty draft.

Dalton - 1) Bryce Harper, 2) Mike Trout, 3) Giancarlo Stanton, 4) Ryan Braun, 5) Matt Kemp, 6) Jason Heyward, 7) Andrew McCutchen, 8) Justin Upton, 9) Oscar Taveras, 10) Carlos Gonzalez. I also considered Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Adam Jones, and wouldn't argue over rearranging Nos. 4-10 much at all. My top-three, however, I feel pretty confident about.

Pick a prospect (for 2013 only): Wil Myers or Oscar Taveras?

Brad - Oscar is certainly no fantasy grouch. He's a legitimate five-category contributor who is one Carlos Beltran groin explosion away from statistical stardom. The odds are long he'll break spring with the senior club, but he should become a roster staple no later than mid-June. Stash. Stash. Stash.

Andy - There's no wrong answer here. Taveras' minor league stats basically make him look like Baby Pujols, so it shouldn't surprise anyone if he has a terrific half-season in St. Louis. But since his arrival probably (but not necessarily) depends on injuries, I'm gonna go with Myers, in a photo finish. The Rays will need Wil's power bat in the lineup; I'm expecting to see him by June, easy.

Scott - Tampa Bay likes to yellow light its prospects, but St. Louis probably won't have that luxury in 2013 (I want no part of Carlos Beltran as he enters the Fred Sanford years). Thus, I go Tavares, expecting him to get the first call to action.

Here's another two-part finale: 1) Please name your all-time favorite defensive outfielder, and 2) tell us about the best defensive play you've ever seen from an outfielder.

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Brandon - A two-part question that has just one answer for me — Ken Griffey Jr. Back before the Kingdome worked his knees to the bone, Griffey was a human highlight reel in centerfield. His over-the-wall robbery of a Jesse Barfield home run was a clinic in efficiency – he didn't waste a motion from the moment the ball was struck. Of course, I have to give Ichiro the best defensive throw from the outfield I've ever had the privilege to witness.

Scott - Dwight Evans is without question the best defensive right fielder of the post-Clemente era — I will not debate this. Mastering right field in Fenway Park is no small feat. (Evans had other skills to boast of. When asked in the team yearbook to name his greatest feat, he said "driving in Boston over 10 years without a scratch.") I don't want to hear any Jim Edmonds rhetoric; Gary Matthews Jr. made the best catch I ever saw: Enjoy it in all its glory here. Sorry about that, Mike Lamb.

Brad - 1) Ken Griffey Jr. tracked balls like no other in his prime. For nostalgic reasons, he takes the cake. (I spent an entire summer shredding Upper Deck packs in '89 trying to score his rookie card). 2) Willie Mays' iconic over-the-shoulder catch still resonates, but Mike Trout's re-DONK ladder-climbing robbing of J.J. Hardy last season is the single greatest defense play I've seen. No contest.

Andy - Gary Pettis was a personal favorite, a crazy-fast player who has a closet full of Gold Gloves. My favorite all-time defense play, without question, is this one. But that obviously isn't the best. For degree-of-difficulty, I'll take something from the Bo Jackson collection, thank you very much.

Dalton - There are a lot of candidates, but my all-time favorite defensive outfielder is probably Andruw Jones. Most associate OF highlights with robbing homers and plays made at the wall, and, while he was plenty good at that, Jones took away so many hits by his incredible ability to attack liners moving forward. Crazy that such an athlete had a career change so suddenly, still in his prime. Here's my favorite defensive play by an outfielder.

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Position averages for the top-60 fantasy outfielders, last three years

2012, OF1 – 95.5 R, 28.8 HR, 90.0 RBIs, 17.4 SB, .284 AVG
2012, OF2 – 81.1 R, 22.4 HR, 80.9 RBIs, 11.4 SB, .276 AVG
2012, OF3 – 71.0 R, 15.7 HR, 61.1 RBIs, 18.0 SB, .273 AVG

2011, OF1 – 95.6 R, 26.9 HR, 93.9 RBIs, 20.9 SB, .293 AVG
2011, OF2 – 77.7 R, 19.1 HR, 68.3 RBIs, 19.1 SB, .269 AVG
2011, OF3 – 67.9 R, 13.6 HR, 60.6 RBIs, 13.5 SB, .265 AVG

2010, OF1 – 94.6 R, 26.4 HR, 93.5 RBIs, 19.2 SB, .291 AVG
2010, OF2 – 81.0 R, 17.8 HR, 69.1 RBIs, 21.3 SB, .278 AVG
2010, OF3 – 72.1 R, 15.7 HR, 70.1 RBIs, 11.7 SB, .267 AVG

(Please note: We’re treating the outfield as three positions here, with “OF1” representing the 20 highest-ranked players. Outfielders who ranked 21-40 were the OF2s, and 41-60 were the OF3s).

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