The American League outfield has a wide mix of both talent and age. On one hand there is Mike Trout, and then on the other there is Vernon Wells. And that diverse situation is just on one team in the AL.
This is the first week of AL OF Tiered Rankings, and they’ll be coming out on the first Monday of every month. On the later Mondays of each month we’ll be looking at individual AL outfielders and examining them much more closely.
Putting Joey Bats first here was a pretty easy call. His transformation has been well documented, but it never ceases to amaze me that a man can reinvent himself on a random September day and then become one of the best hitters in baseball for the foreseeable future. Pairing Bautista with Ellsbury was something that I really wrestled with. I don’t expect 30 home runs again, but his combination of power and steals (I’m thinking 20 HR and 55 SB) and his .300 career average tilted me in favor of putting him here.
These three players are all a step below elite for one reason or another. Granderson’s long documented trouble against lefties was seemingly solved last year, but that was in a scant 200 plate appearances. Like Ellsbury, I don’t think Granderson’s home run rate is for real, and I’d expect closer to see 30, not 40 home runs this year. Granderson’s runs are elite, but his low average is what places him in the second tier. Hamilton and Cruz have plenty of power, but neither produce notable amounts in the stolen base department. Their inability to stay healthy also hampers their ranking here. For their combined careers, only Hamilton has ever had more than 550 PA in a single season, and he has just one season at 571 PA.
Zobrist’s eligibility in the OF and at second base really propel his ranking here. The fact that he is almost a lock to go 20-20 with 90+ runs scored doesn’t hurt either. Speaking of 20-20 potential, I have Choo ranked higher than most others. Choo’s career line of .290/.383/.471 is elite in this run environment. I don’t think that he will have quite that much power this year, but his average and on-base percentage still place him in the upper echelons of the AL OF. Jennings and Upton should both hit 15-20 HR and have 40-50 SB. Upton is due to begin rehabbing, and looks to join the Rays around April 20th. I think Gordon comes back down to earth a bit, but is still a very useful player.
Ichiro barely edges out Gardner here due to the difference in AVG. Although he isn’t leading off, Suzuki should still be a sound investment to hit .300. Jones, Kendrick and Markakis are all above average yet pedestrian options for your outfield. Crawford being out until possibly the first of May hurts his value here as well. Crawford should bounce back with nice rate stats, but his counting stats will be down due to missed time.
Swish seems to be the quintessential “better in real life than in fantasy” player. His power, average, RBI’s and runs are all very good, but not great. He’s never had a great season, but he’s had 5 seasons where has been worth at least 3 WAR. He’s a solid and dependable player, accumulating 600 or more PA in five of the past six years. Cespedes was the hardest player for me to rank, as he could work his way up to the first tier, or plummet to the last. It’s just so hard to know. ZiPS predicts 21 HR and 9 SB. I think he surpasses those numbers, but where his average falls is the key. He won’t stay up in the majors if his average plummets.
Crisp’s stolen bases are the only thing of note about his game at this point in his career, but finding players that can nab 40 bags for you late in the draft is always nice to have. Mike Trout is once again tearing up the minors, so hopefully the Angels do the right thing and call him up before June. With no timetable for his arrival, I can’t justify putting Trout any higher.
If you missed on out on getting Crisp, there is an excellent chance that Davis isn’t owned in your league (4% Yahoo! ownership rate). Though he won’t give you much in the power department, despite getting less than 350 PA, Davis still stole 34 bases last year.
Here we enter the realm of the replacement level players. If you are stuck with any of these players, I’d look to upgrade. Thames offers the most power and Cain should have the highest average. It’s hard for me to recommend any of these guys though…other than the obvious recommendation to trade or drop them.
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