MLB '09 preview: Outfield (cont.)
16. Nick Markakis, Orioles
Nick the Stick has been a model of efficiency in his short MLB career. He's essentially a lock for 94 RBIs, 102 runs, 11 steals and .303 average. And if he could ever hit the 30-HR mark in a given season ... he'd be a shoo-in for the top-7 outfielders.
17. Carlos Quentin, White Sox
Not to be too critical here, but I would be shocked if Quentin repeated his across-the-board fantasy goodness from '08. Yes, he can bash 36 HRs again. Yes, he can rack up 100 RBIs and 96 runs again. And, of course, he could again hit .288 while getting protection in the ChiSox' lineup. I just doubt he'll repeat the 5x5 feat this year.
18. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
In April '08, as a 20-year wunderkind, Upton tallied 5 HRs, 15 RBIs and 14 runs, while hitting .340 in 97 at-bats. Assuming he can replicate that production over 4-5 months this year -- as a 3-year MLB vet at the ripe age of 21 -- that alone warrants a top-20 ranking. Just be weary of one cold, cold month along the way.
19. Delmon Young, Twins
From Mr. Upton ... we go to Mr. Upside. Young has all the physical tools to consistently flirt with 20 HRs, 85 RBIs, 100 runs, 15 steals and a .290 average. But his laissez-faire attitude (at least that's my perception) almost always leads to unmet expectations. Well, I am taking a leap of faith on Young this season -- which isn't so bold, when considering the Twins' excellent lineup of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Jason Kubel (and Adrian Beltre sometime in August?). The time is now for Young's major breakout ... and I want to be in on the ground floor.
20. Shane Victorino, Phillies
On the surface, Victorino doesn't wow you with his numbers. He seems like a virtual lock for 13 HRs, 61 RBIs and a .294 average -- better-than-average stats. But the Flyin' Hawaiian's ranking hinges on the very-likely potential of posting 110 runs and 40 steals in the Phillies' powerful lineup.
21. Bobby Abreu, Angels
I don't like Abreu's chances of garnering American League MVP honors this year (something he hinted at upon signing with the Angels) ... but there's no doubt a healthy, happy and motivated Abreu is a virtual lock for 20 HRs, 20 steals, 100 RBIs and 100 runs in that lineup.
22. Vladimir Guerrero, Angels
Vladdie has been a Hall of Fame-like pillar in the Angels' lineup for many years. But he's beginning to show some noticeable cracks in his fantasy foundation -- even though he's still a lock for 26 HRs, 95 RBIs, 93 runs and .300 average. He's no longer a demon on the basepaths, and his RBIs are on the decline. Under no circumstances should he be your No. 1 outfielder.
23. Chris Young, Diamondbacks
You could have set your watch to Young's sophomore slump last season (22 HRs, 85 RBIs, 85 runs, 14 steals) after almost breaking into the 30-30 Club in '07. That aside, Young is still a sublimely talented fantasy force (minus the batting average) ... and only a fool would think he won't see a bump in at least three categories. Without a doubt, Young has the capacity for 27 HRs, 88 RBIs, 82 runs, 19 steals this year.
24. Nate McLouth, Pirates
If you're waiting for me to denigrate McLouth's chances of repeating his all-world output from '07 (26 HRs, 94 RBIs, 113 runs, 23 steals, .276 average) ... you might be here a while. McLouth "only" struck out 93 times in 597 at-bats last season (a marked improvement from '07); he's also the engine that makes the Pirates offense go and has the desirable physical tools of a classic 5x5 performer. However, I'm expecting a slight dip in runs scored ... something in the neighborhood of 106.
25. Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
It isn't hard to project Magglio's fantasy numbers on a yearly basis -- especially when taking the '07 season (28 HRs, 139 RBIs, 117 runs, .363 BA) out of the equation. Ordonez is a creature of habit; he's also an underrated, yet bankable star who's a virtual lock for 23 HRs, 108 RBIs, 92 runs, 6 steals and .302 average this season.
26. Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Guillen scores big in this countdown for two reasons: One, he perpetually posts solid 5x5 numbers across the board. Two, he'll have 1B/3B/OF eligibility as soon as April 15, now that he's Detroit's starting left fielder. Looking ahead, I think he'll rack up 18 HRs, 83 RBIs, 84 runs, 11 steals and a .293 average this season.
27. Hunter Pence, Astros
Did you know ... that Pence forged new career highs in four categories last year (25 HRs, 83 RBIs, 78 runs, 11 steals), his second season in the bigs? And yet, the sophomore campaign was widely considered a mild buzzkill, given his mediocre average (.269) and the Astros' much-publicized September swoon. Bottom line: Pence is a top-20 performer with top-40 hype ... meaning you could probably wait until Rounds 7 or 8 of mixed-league drafts to secure his all-around services.
28. Jermaine Dye, White Sox
Speaking of under-the-radar studs, Dye is a must-have for the fantasyland owner who wants to commit minimal resources to home runs/RBIs -- and yet expects to finish reasonably high in the standings. Sure, Dye is prone to the occasional cold snap, but he has also evolved into a lock for 34 HRs, 101 RBIs, 85 runs, 5 steals and a .288 average.
29. Adam Dunn, Nationals
(Note: Dunn only has OF eligibility right now, but he's slated to be the Nationals' everyday first baseman in '09) Assuming Dunn makes it through the season relatively injury-free, I will make a gentleman's bet with the world that he'll finish with 38-41 HRs, 98-103 RBIs AND 7-8 stolen bases. He's that consistent, no matter which ballpark he calls home.
30. Elijah Dukes, Nationals
For obvious reasons, there are varying opinions on Dukes' fantasyland impact, let alone his chances of avoiding scrapes with the law for an entire season. But I have chosen to take the high road with Eli ... and he could easily carry the Nationals offense with a Bo Jackson-like year of 29 HRs, 103 RBIS, 88 runs and 17 steals. Seriously.
31. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
It pains me to rank Ichiro this low in the countdown, especially since he's still a fantasy stud in batting average, runs and steals. However, given his slight dip in the above three categories and his blatant disregard for HRs and RBIs ... I cannot shake the feeling that his days of top-10 goodness have come to an abrupt end.