Obviously Fantasy Baseball doesn’t get as much love from my site as Fantasy Football, but Football is over for a while, and Fantasy Baseball drafts have already begun. If you need a little help with your positional rankings for “points” leagues, this is the place to go. Rotisserie leagues are different, so don’t get them confused. Here are rankings for leagues that reward points for total bases (1 per base) steals (1) RBI (1) BB (1) Runs (1) Strike Outs (-1)… I’m putting them in Tiers, because that’s the only way rankings should be organized – hope you enjoy!
Outfield is not a position crowded with top heavy performers – at least not last season. Of the Top 10 only Carlos Beltran and Manny Ramirez make the list. Not even 100 points separate 2nd and 21st on the list of outfielders, and there are tons of young guys that could make a splash. Think of last years top 20, you’ll find guys like Josh Hamilton, Nate McLouth, Carlos Quentin, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Ludwick, Brian Giles, Shane Victorino and more in this season’s top 25… These are names that nobody thought would enter the fray, or nobody picked like a Top 25 fantasy outfielder – and there will be more this year. My point is this, if you are drafting early, I would save my money or 1st round draft picks for non-outfielders. Overspending for a position of strength is silly, especially with guys like Andre Eithier, Xavier Nady, Brad Hawpe, and Milton Bradley will fly way under the radar, and guys like Carlos Lee, Soriano, and Vernon Wells will have lost value because of injury filled seasons – that’s not even mentioning youngsters like Carlos Gomez, Cameron Maybin, Nelson Cruz and Denard Span. The outfield spot isn’t stuffed with top producers, but it does have a flurry of startable players – that screams quarterback, and that means don’t ever reach. That being said, I would love some of these top stars, I’m just willing to let them fall to me.
There’s a little exert about each player in my Top 3 Tiers – I have also listed a fantasy upside and downside for each player in my Top 5 Tiers – they correlate with the upside and downside that I think each player could accumulate this coming season, barring injury.
Here’s my Top 30….
1. Josh Hamilton – I may be the only one with Josh Hamilton as my top rated fantasy outfielder, but that’s a limb I don’t mind climbing out on – hell, I’ll jump up and down on that sucker and see how it holds. In his first full season in the Majors, all Josh did was club 32HRs with 130RBI while batting .300+ – But even more amazing, I watched this guy swing the bat. Yes folks, it’s not all about numbers, and I’m willing to say that there are very few players with the power upside of Hamilton – he can make a wood bat crack with the best of them. I think he’ll hit more HRs, have more RBIs, and strikeout less in 2009 – that gets him to the top spot in my points league. What people don’t realize about Hamilton is his athleticism is off the charts – he’s faster and more agile than most anyone knows, and his numbers will prove it this season. (Fantasy Upside: Not reached yet, but… .315, 45HRs, 145RBI, 15SB – Downside – .290, 30HRs, 120RBI, 5SB)
2. Grady Sizemore – I have a lot of love for Grady’s game because he does it all. Also, I tackled this guy a couple times in high school, so there’s that personal connection that moves him that much further up my list. Grady is only 26 and garnered career highs in HRs and RBI last season with 33 and 90 respectively. As a leadoff hitter, those 91 RBI are impressive. He managed his worst batting average of his career, but that’s one of the most ridiculous stats in baseball. That will go up this season and I’m predicting his big numbers stay about the same – his power stroke is magic. This super-athlete could hit 40-40 before his career is over. (Fantasy Upside: .300, 35HRs, 100RBI, 40SB – .268, 28HRs, 78RBI, 30SB)
3. Carlos Beltran – How ESPN rates Beltran as the 11th best outfielder last season is beyond me. He’s magic in rotisserie, as he does it all, and he finished atop the OF list in points leagues be a pretty nice margin. He had his lowest HR output in the last 3 seasons, managing only 27 long balls, but he also had his highest batting average, played his most complete season since 2002, and did everything for the Mets. Carlos might not be the 40-40 guy many hoped he’d be, at 31 he may have reached his high point, but this guy is always good, and always better going down the stretch. Also, his Ks and BBs are very similar, so he won’t lose you points there. (Fantasy Upside: .285, 33HRs, 116RBI, 25SB – Downside: .274, 27HRs, 110RBI, 20SB)
4. Carlos Lee – This is a guy that always puts in work. He was touted as the only sure thing .300-30HR-100RBI outfielder headed into 2008, and despite missing 40+ games Lee finished only 2HRs short of that mark. Amazing. He’s not the flashy stud athletic outfielder that people seem to hop on bandwagons to top picks, but he’s going to get his making him probably the safest pick in Fantasy Baseball. (Fantasy Upside: .320, 32HRs, 120RBI, 10SB – Downside: .285 30HRs, 100RBI, 6SB)
5. Ryan Braun – Braun, one of the most impressive young stars in the game, hasn’t gotten close to his full potential. While getting a40 more at bats in 2008 than he did in his rookie season of 2007, Braun just barely eclipsed his rookie of the year totals in HRs and RBI – going from 34 and 97 to 37 and 106. I have reason to believe that his 3rd season in the big show will be his most impressive. The more comfortable he gets the better his numbers will project. If he can shrink his strikeout numbers he’ll really be something special. (Fantasy Upside: .325, 42HRs, 120RBI, 15SB – Downside: .285, 35HR, 105RBI, 14SB)
6. Manny Ramirez – Manny is arguably the most talented hitter in baseball. His numbers after Boston, and especially those in the playoffs – were amazing. In 53 games with the Dodgers, Manny hit .396 and mashed 17HRs while batting in 53… Those are freakish numbers. This is also a guy that can hit anything, drove in 100 plus RBI in 12 of his last 14 seasons, and spends lots of time working on his craft. But there’s contract stuff, there’s Manny being Manny, and that makes him the closest thing to Terrell Owens that fantasy baseball has. All that being said, I’d love this guy on my team, and chances are he’ll mash pitches throughout 2009. He’s also the closest thing to Barry Bonds that today’s baseball has. He could also not sign a contract and disappear to Planet Man-Ram – or sign a contract that he’s not happy with and play with poo-face all season long. Lots of questions move him farther down that his numbers suggest. (Fantasy Upside: .340, 45HRs, 140RBI, 3SB- Downside .296, 35HRs, 110RBI, 0SB)
7. Matt Holliday – I don’t know what to expect from Holliday. The guy has a sweet right handed swing, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him do just fine in Oakland. However, baseball is a numbers game, and you have to acknowledge the fact that he played in Colorado his entire career and didn’t hit nearly as well on the road. He’s now in Oakland where offensive fantasy players go to die. Since 2006 when Matt became one of the most consistent young hitters in the league, and 2007 when he turned in his second straight .326+, 34HR+, 114RBI+ season – he took a step backwards last season. He still hit .320, he struck out less and walked more, and he stole twice as many bases as any other season (28 compared to 14 back in 2005) but he hit only 25HRs with 88RBI – I expect his Oakland numbers to be more similar to that than his ’06-’07 stats. But his body of work over those previous seasons is impressive and he can be drafted that way. (Fantasy Upside: .340, 36HRs, 130RBI, 28SB – Downside: .320, 25HRs, 90RBI, 10SB)
8. Nick Markakis – Stud. He is protecting a poor lineup, but this kid is a 180 peice tool box. He’s just 25 years old, and his power numbers should improve. His power was down a bit in 2008, but his walks were way up, his average was a little better, and he hit more doubles in less at bats. He only had 10 SB, which might get people off the idea that he’s going to be a 30-20 guy, but he doesn’t hurt you anywhere and helps in all areas. If his lineup improves, he’ll get even better. (Fantasy Upside: .315, 28HRs, 115 RBIs, 18SB – Downside: .300, 20HRs, 87RBI, 10SB)
9. Carlos Quentin – He has one hell of a 3/4 season last year – no doubt about that. Had he continued instead of sustaining an injury he was probably in line to become the AL MVP. Still that was just one season. In 480 at bats Carlos mashed 36HRs with 100RBi and a .288 average. He’s only 26, but neither of his previous major league stints projected him anywhere close to those numbers – so, you’re definitely taking a chance on a guy that could mash once again or go back to his 20HR upside… I tend to think he’ll continue to hit nice power numbers, but projected totals of 44+ seem a little high. (Fantasy Upside: .288, 44HRs, 125RBIs, 9SB – Downside: .250, 18HRs, 70RBI, 3SB)
10. Nate McLouth – What a year for this Pirate. Nate started off as hot as anyone, and despite a mid-season post all-star break slump, he managed a .276 average with 26HRs and 94RBIs. Better yet, he seemed to get better after struggling mid-season. When teams started understanding that he had more than expected, they pitched him different, not giving him as many pitches to hit. McLouth struggled with that for a while, but started taking what people gave him toward the end of the season, giving me hope for a repeat performance in 2009. But only time will tell. He’s a risky early pick, but could have some nice value in drafts. (Fantasy Upside: .285, 28HRs, 100RBI, 25SB – Downside: .266, 19HRs, 78RBI, 20SB)
11. Jason Bay – Jason will be undervalued. He’s perfect for Boston’s Green Monster and was a very consistent force for the Red Sox. He struggled for a year and a half in Pittsburgh, but injuries had something to do with that, and he looks like the Jason Bay that was a first round pick as a Pirate slugger headed into 2007 before he hit .247 in his worst season as a major leaguer. But he fought back last season and managed 31HRs, and a .286 batting average in 155 games between Boston and Pittsburgh. All his numbers improved while in Boston, except maybe HRs which basically stayed the same. But he is part of quite a lineup for the Sox, and I expect another nice year from Jason. (Fantasy Upside: .299, 35HRs, 120RBI, 11SB – Downside: .280, 29HRs, 100RBI, 7SB)
12. Alfonso Soriano – Soriano is a frustrating guy to own, he’s streakier than a lazy 3rd graders undies and has the upside of any young slugger in the league. I’d say that he’s best to own late, because that’s when he usually has more upside that dirty undies, but you never know with this guy. Still, he might be found at great value. He’s 1st round material that might last until round 4, and at that point even I might give him a shot. If you want to roll the dice, and I’ve been known to go straight for Yhatzees – then Soriano is your kind of guy. In just 109 games in 2008 he managed 29 bombs and 75RBI – those are good stats for a season. Still, Fons is not young anymore (33) and is probably not the guy flurting with 40-40 (or even 30-30) that he was earlier in his career. Still, his 109 game stats show what he can do if he stays healthy. Ifs and buts. Will you take that chance? (Fantasy Upside: .299, 40HRs, 104RBI, 30SB – Downside: .277, 33HRs, 75RBI, 20SB)
13. Raul Ibanez – Raul Ibanez could be dynamite in Philadelphia. That park launches home runs, and he’ll be protected with some big bats in that lineup. If he did what he did in Seattle last season, I’m willing to bet he’s got a chance to really impress in Philly. His upside and downside are both good. (Fantasy Upside: .295, 33HRs, 123RBI, 4SB – Downside: .285, 20HRs, 95RBI, 1SB)
14. Vladamir Guerrero – Vlad may have had a down year last season, but that down mark still consisted of a top 15 mark in fantasy points per at bat. It may be ridiculous to think this, because he’s been declining, but I expect a better season from Vlad in ’09- and for the first time he won’t be overvalued by a couple rounds. (Fantasy Upside: .329, 33HRs, 129RBI, 10SB – Downside: .303, 27HRs, 91RBI, 2SB)
15. Carl Crawford – I almost promise that Carl Crawford will be undervalued, which will be quite different from the last couple seasons – but if you watched the playoffs last season, sporting a healthy Carl Crawford, then you understand why I put him here. His upside is higher than anyone on this list – sans maybe his outfield mate.
16. B.J. Upton – Upton is a stud. He mashed in the playoffs, having one of the best post-seasons in some time. B.J. had an injury that cut into his 2008 power, but I think his career numbers will be closer to those in 2007 than ’08. I like his upside risk. (Fantasy Upside: Not yet reached, but… .300, 32HRs, 95RBI, 40SB – Downside: .273, 15 HRs, 75 RBI, 29 SB)
17. Johnny Damon – Johnny Damon is almost guaranteed to be undervalued headed into ’09. Right now ESPN has him ranked 20th – but he’s got a chance to be magic. That lineup and team is chalked full of talent, and Tex is likely to bat about 50 points higher than Giambi did last season, that’s going to be about 20 more runs for Damon right there. (Fantasy Upside: .316, 20HRs, 94 RBI, 31 SB – Downside: .275, 12HRs, 65 RBI, 18 SB)
18. Curtis Granderson – The Tiger power train that was supposed to arrive in ’08 will likely show up in ’09. A full season of health should keep Granderson in the Top 20. (Fantasy Upside: .302, 23HRs, 74 RBI, 26 SB – Downside: .270, 19HRs, 66 RBI, 10 SB)
19. Vernon Wells – Vernon Wells is an interesting case. The guy only had 427 at bats in ’08 (injury) and he still rocked 20 bombs with 78 RBI. In 2007 he had 16 HRs and 80 RBI in 584 at bats. ’08 suggests that you should expect more of Vernon’s 2006, 2003, and 2002 numbers – that would make him a great pick as the 19th OF taken – however, there’s always those other years…. (Fantasy Upside: .317, 33HRs, 117 RBI, 17 SB – Downside: .275, 16HRs, 72 RBI, 4 SB)
20. Alex Rios – The upside vs. normal production pick. Everyone sees it in Alex, will he get it? (Fantasy Upside: Not yet reached but… .305, 30HRs, 100RBI, 32 SB – Downside: .291, 15HRs, 79RBI, 15SB)
21. Magglio Ordonez – Always a chance to absolutely mash. (Fantasy Upside: .360, 35HRs, 139 RBI, 6 SB – Downside: .298, 21HRs, 103RBI, 1SB – or hurt I guess, but just twice in the last 11 seasons)
22. Ichiro Suzuki – Never less than 100 runs as a MLB player. (Fantasy Upside: .372, 13HRs, 68 RBI, 45 SB – Downside: .310, 6 HRs, 42 RBI, 33 SB)
23. Jay Bruce – In just over 400 at bats, Bruce mashed 21 HRs with 52 RBI in 2008. Will he exceed all previous numbers in a full 2009? Yeah, I think so. (Fantasy Upside: .280, 33HRs, 85RBI, 10SB – Downside: .255, 25HRs, 65RBI, 5SB)
24. Corey Hart – Hart may look like a caveman, and a very close relative to those Geico clowns, but he can do it all on the baseball field. As a 6’6″ monster Hart is a base stealer, a triple hitter, a HR guy, and has managed at least 80RBI in each of his first full seasons. He didn’t hit as well last season, but every guy has a down year, and Hart’s tools are obvious. If he can up his walks and down his Ks, by taking some time to recognize a pitch, he’s in. (Fantasy Upside: .295, 29HRs, 100RBI, 23SB – Downside: .270, 22HRs, 88RBI, 19SB)
25. Andre Eithier – This kid has one of the prettiest swings in baseball, and that has a little to do with me expecting bigger things from him. There’s not much wasted action in his bat, and he hangs in the zone like Doug and freaking Mark (Local radio show drop). If Manny comes back he’ll be even better, but even without Ram, Andre’s .305 BA, 20HRs, and 77RBI are all bench marks for the season and I expect them to be exceeded. He’s just 26 and coming in on his prime. (Fantasy Upside: .315, 27HRs, 105RBI, 6SB – Downside: .300, 20HRs, 80RBI, 2SB)
26. Ryan Ludwick – Ludwick was out of his norm last year, no doubt about that, but then again, playing consistently in the MFL is out of Ryan’s norm for his career. It was his first MLB season with more than 303 at bats. IN 2007, with just 303 at bats it’s not like he was powerless, he hit 14HRs and 52RBI with a .267 average. He’s just 30 and he has some quality hitters to bat in. He may be a one year wonder, you can never really know, but his consistency throughout last season predicts a solid ’09 campaign. (Fantasy Upside: .299, 37HRs, 115RBI, 6SB – Downside .265, 24HRs, 88RBI, 4SB)
20. Nelson Cruz – Love this kid.
21. Matt Kemp – Great upside, lots of strikeouts.
22. Adam Dunn – Low average, high strikeouts, monster power.
23. Justin Upton – Amazing talent.
24. Chris Young – See above.
25. Shane Victorino – Consistent player will score lots in Philly.
25. Xavier Nady – If he stays in New York and plays daily, he’ll be a freaking steal.
26. Cameron Maybin – Will be overhyped a bit, doubt he’ll bat .500 in 2009.
27. Jacoby Ellsbury – Also a bit overhyped, struggled in the 2nd half, but great tools in a good lineup.
28. Jeff Francoeur – I’m thinking Jeff is still the guy we thought he was.
29. Pat Burrell – Power is there, but for how much longer?
30. Denard Span – This kid was great in ’08.