Position Primer: Outfield

More primers: Starting pitcher

More OF analysis: Yahoo! OF ranks | Spin Doctors: Ryan Braun vs. Carlos Gonzalez

There are lots of delightful stories connected to the first rotisserie baseball league auction – or at least enough to fill a mildly disappointing episode of “30-for-30” – but my personal favorite is this: In fantasy’s inaugural season, one of the founding fathers assembled The $100 Outfield.

Then as now, if you’re spending 100 dollars on your outfielders, you probably haven’t budgeted so well. And if it’s 1980 and you’re dropping 100 units on Bobby Bonds, Dave Kingman and Ron LeFlore, then you’re doomed. (To be fair, LeFlore earned his imaginary payday, stealing 97 bases and scoring 95 runs. But the other two were busts).

You’ll be tempted to spend aggressively on your outfielders in 2011, no doubt, because this roster spot offers a significant number of five-category assets – just check the position stats below. In 2010, the average top-40 fantasy outfielder slugged 22 homers, swiped 20 bags, scored 88 runs, delivered 82 RBIs and hit .285. If that were a real person, Jim Hendry would give him $18 million a year for the rest of his life, plus a no-trade clause, plus a statue.

The elite outfielders are absolutely going to finish among the most valuable commodities in the fake game, as measured by to the year-end Yahoo! ranks. Last season, 27 of the 50 highest-ranked position players were outfielders. Fantasy baseball is ultimately a numbers game, and this is where a huge percentage of the numbers are. Braun, CarGo and Crawford deserve their first-round status; Hamilton, Holliday and Kemp aren’t far behind.

But with a talent-rich roster position like this, you’re wasting resources if you fill every outfield spot early in a draft or auction. Even in the deepest mixed leagues, plenty of useful outfielders will go undrafted; many others will be selected in the end-game, from the $1 bin.

In fact, at the 15-team Tout Wars mixed league auction last March, my original five-man outfield cost just $10. The big investment was Nick Swisher(notes), at five bucks. That team held a comfortable lead in the standings for most of the season, suffered an injury-related slump in September, but still managed to hold off Steve Gardner and Charlie Wiegert in the final weeks to win the title. (Barely, not without panic). And again: My outfield was purchased for only $10, later enhanced at minimal cost with Mike Stanton(notes) (via FAAB) and Nick Markakis(notes) (via trade). The plan going into the 2010 auction was to attack the talent-scarce positions early, then sketch in an outfield with leftovers. That’s a perfectly reasonable approach for 2011, too.

As you browse the middle and lower tiers below, you’ll notice that the outfield is essentially a stat buffet. If you’re looking for low-cost power upside, it’s there: Stanton, Jay Bruce(notes), Adam Lind(notes), Travis Snider(notes), Matt LaPorta(notes), Chris Carter. If instead you’re trying to find steals on the cheap, those are available, too: Jose Tabata(notes), Brett Gardner(notes), Michael Bourn(notes), Juan Pierre(notes), Rajai Davis(notes), Peter Bourjos(notes), Carlos Gomez(notes). And if you’re willing to take a chance on a high-mileage/slightly used veteran, then consider Vladimir Guerrero(notes), Manny Ramirez(notes), Carlos Lee(notes), Carlos Beltran(notes) or Hideki Matsui(notes). And dynasty league managers should be all over Mike Trout(notes), Bryce Harper(notes), Domonic Brown(notes) and Desmond Jennings(notes).

The point is, there’s something here for everyone. The position is overstocked and priced to sell …

Position averages, top 60 outfielders in year-end Yahoo! rank
2010, OF1 – 94.6 R, 26.4 HR, 93.5 RBI, 19.2 SB, .291 AVG
2010, OF2 – 81.0 R, 17.8 HR, 69.1 RBI, 21.3 SB, .278 AVG
2010, OF3 – 72.1 R, 15.7 HR, 70.1 RBI, 11.7 SB, .267 AVG

2009, OF1 – 95.4 R, 23.1 HR, 88.8 RBI, 23.2 SB, .296 AVG
2009, OF2 – 78.3 R, 20.4 HR, 74.7 RBI, 14.3 SB, .285 AVG
2009, OF3 – 70.7 R, 18.5 HR, 68.3 RBI, 9.4 SB, .265 AVG

(Note: Auction values are from the 2011 Yahoo!/PFW Draft Guide, with minor tweaks).

Outfield – Tiers
 
   Ryan Braun(notes) $41; Carlos Gonzalez(notes) $41; Carl Crawford(notes) $40; Josh Hamilton(notes) $35; Matt Kemp(notes) $34; Matt Holliday(notes) $34


   Shin-Soo Choo(notes) $31; Nelson Cruz(notes) $31; Justin Upton(notes) $30; Andrew McCutchen(notes) $28; Jose Bautista(notes) $28; Andre Ethier(notes) $27; Jason Heyward(notes) $26; Ichiro Suzuki(notes) $24; Alex Rios(notes) $24; Jayson Werth(notes) $24; Hunter Pence(notes) $22


   Jay Bruce $18; Chris Young $16; B.J. Upton(notes) $16; Delmon Young(notes) $16; Colby Rasmus(notes) $16; Nick Markakis $15; Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) $14; Corey Hart(notes) $13; Drew Stubbs(notes) $13; Shane Victorino(notes) $13; Michael Stanton $13; Curtis Granderson(notes) $12; Torii Hunter(notes) $10; Carlos Quentin(notes) $10


   Vladimir Guerrero $9 Ben Zobrist(notes) $9; Vernon Wells(notes) $9; Michael Bourn $8; Carlos Beltran $8; Brett Gardner $8; Aubrey Huff(notes) $8; Bobby Abreu(notes) $8; Nick Swisher $8; Jason Bay(notes) $7; Carlos Lee $7; Angel Pagan(notes) $7; Adam Jones(notes) $6; Grady Sizemore(notes) $6; Jose Tabata $5; Adam Lind $5; Juan Pierre $5


   Rajai Davis $4; Denard Span(notes) $4; Alfonso Soriano(notes) $3; Manny Ramirez $3; Andres Torres(notes) $3; Magglio Ordonez(notes) $3; Travis Snider $3; Domonic Brown $3; Michael Cuddyer(notes) $3; Jason Kubel(notes) $3; Desmond Jennings $3; Ryan Raburn(notes) $2; Austin Jackson(notes) $2; Dexter Fowler(notes) $2; Coco Crisp(notes) $2; Nyjer Morgan(notes) $2; Luke Scott(notes) $2; Logan Morrison(notes) $2; Sean Rodriguez(notes) $2; David Murphy(notes) $1; Peter Bourjos $1; Raul Ibanez(notes) $1; Johnny Damon(notes) $1; Franklin Gutierrez(notes) $1; David DeJesus(notes) $1; Omar Infante(notes) $1; Marlon Byrd(notes) $1; Tyler Colvin(notes) $1; Josh Willingham(notes) $1; Chris Coghlan(notes) $1; Hideki Matsui $1; J.D. Drew(notes) $1; Ryan Doumit(notes) $1; Matt LaPorta $1


   Ryan Kalish(notes) $0; Cameron Maybin(notes) $0; Eric Young(notes) Jr. $0; Lorenzo Cain(notes) $0; Alex Gordon(notes) $0; Garrett Jones(notes) $0; Nate McLouth(notes) $0; Brennan Boesch(notes) $0; Julio Borbon(notes) $0; Cody Ross(notes) $0; Jonny Gomes(notes) $0; Seth Smith(notes) $0; Matt Joyce(notes) $0; Pat Burrell(notes) $0; Jack Cust(notes) $0; Michael Brantley(notes) $0; Kosuke Fukudome(notes) $0; Scott Podsednik(notes) $0; Carlos Gomez $0; Ryan Ludwick(notes) $0; Roger Bernadina(notes) $0; Wil Venable $0; Brad Hawpe(notes) $0; Felix Pie(notes) $0; Fred Lewis(notes) $0; Michael Morse(notes) $0; Michael Saunders(notes) $0; Brandon Allen(notes) $0; Jon Jay(notes) $0; Melky Cabrera(notes) $0; Kyle Blanks(notes) $0; Juan Rivera(notes) $0; Conor Jackson(notes) $0; Andruw Jones(notes) $0; Nolan Reimold(notes) $0; Scott Hairston(notes) $0; Chris Carter $0; Emilio Bonifacio(notes) $0

Top 5 outfielders

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Scott Pianowski
  1. Carlos Gonzalez – Ride that Rocky Mountain high   1. Ryan Braun – MVP potential, 30-15-.300 floor   1. Ryan Braun – Upside/floor earns the nod
  2. Ryan Braun – Hebrew Hammer no consolation prize   2. Carl Crawford – Five-category asset, in prime   2. Carlos Gonzalez – More numbers on road, please
  3. Carl Crawford – Not No. 3, more like 1c   3. Carlos Gonzalez – Let’s see it again, CarGo   3. Carl Crawford – How much will he run?
  4. Matt Kemp – 28/19 in ’10 is floor   4. Matt Kemp – Former Mr. Rihanna is 30/30 threat   4. Josh Hamilton – Pay for 130 games, max
  5. Josh Hamilton – Upside-to-downside covers huge range   5. Josh Hamilton – Order CarFax report before purchase   5. Matt Kemp – Life without Torre and Rihanna

Top 5 outfielders you’ll reach for

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Scott Pianowski
  1. Justin Upton – .300/26/20 at age 21!   1. Jay Bruce – Just 24, room to improve   1. Colby Rasmus – Sophomore jump was largely ignored
  2. Jason Heyward – .849 OPS at age 20!   2. Uptons! – Even better than the Gileses!   2. Jason Bay – Clear head equals easy profit
  3. Drew Stubbs – Cheapest 20/40 candidate in fantasy   3. Brett Gardner – He’s Ellsbury at better ADP   3. Dexter Fowler – Breakout likely in age-25 year
  4. Nick Markakis – Vlad protection helps rebound effort   4. Jose Tabata – Another forgotten Pirate with upside   4. Rajai Davis – Cheapest 45 steals on board
  5. Bobby Abreu – There’s another 20/20/100 in him   5. Dexter Fowler – Nice park, terrific skills   5. David Murphy – Makes most of Arlington undertow

Top 5 outfielders you’ll shy away from

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Scott Pianowski
  1.Jayson Werth – A rather hefty environment downgrade   1. Grady Sizemore – If he won’t run, unhelpful   1. Nelson Cruz – Too fragile for early rounds
  2. B.J. Upton – I always avoid Mr. Shoulda/Woulda/Coulda   2. Jacoby Ellsbury – He’s Gardner at worse ADP   2. Torii Hunter – Speed gone, other numbers ordinary
  3. Vernon Wells – Rarely puts together complete package   3. Cameron Maybin – Too much history between us   3. Jay Bruce – Breakout priced into ADP; expensive
  4. Nick Swisher – .280 BA repeat a pipe dream   4. Josh Hamilton – I’m more a Borbon guy   4. Carlos Beltran – Elite wheels might not return
  5. Michael Bourn – Many cheaper Bourn types available   5. Luke Scott – In birther-only leagues, maybe   5. Vladimir Guerrero – Pricy purchase after explosive year

Top 5 last-round outfield lottery tickets

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Scott Pianowski
  1. Manny Ramirez – Chip on shoulder? I’m in   1. Manny Ramirez – Deep discount, after .870 OPS   1. Lorenzo Cain – Small markets offer good value
  2. Magglio Ordonez – Setting table for Miggy, V-Mart   2. Alex Gordon – Post-post-post-hype sleeper?   2. Logan MorrisonNick Johnson(notes) without the injuries
  3. Raul Ibanez – .869 OPS in ’10 post-break   3. Carlos Gomez – Sadly, no on-base skills here   3. Franklin Gutierrez – Return to 2009 is possible
  4. Cameron Maybin – 13/19 in 548 ABs before 24   4. Eric Young Jr. – Crazy speed in minors   4. Ben Francisco(notes) – One break from 20-20 season
  5. Seth Smith – Old habits hard to break   5. Matt LaPorta – Yup, needed a fifth dude   5. Magglio Ordonez – Rope machine in catbird seat

Top 5 rookie outfielders for ’11

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Scott Pianowski
  1. Domonic Brown – He’s 15/15 easy, 20/20 maybe   1. Domonic Brown – Five-category potential, great lineup   1. Domonic Brown – Starting job his to lose
  2. Desmond Jennings – Alright, enough Triple-A already   2. Desmond Jennings – Temporarily blocked, still interesting   2.Desmond Jennings – How soon is now?
  3. Brett Jackson(notes) – Makeup to move up quickly   3. Chris Carter – Serious minor league power   3. Mike Trout – 2011 promotion unlikely, but not impossible
  4. Chris Carter – Huge power, huge BA liability   4. Michael Taylor(notes) – Not many obstacles in Oakland   4. Chris Carter – High ceiling despite messy debut
  5. Scott Cousins(notes) – .280/15/15 skills; ready for opportunity   5. Ben Revere(notes) – Nice speed/OBP combo   5. Brett Jackson – Not much blocking in Wrigley