We’ve been screwing around in the wading pool with all of the various infield positions, but now it’s time to slide on some floaties and plunge into the murky abyss. The vast Outfielder Ocean. It’s inhabitants are as varying as the inhabitants of the Mariana Trench (the deepest part of the ocean where life barely exists, for those who aren’t down with their oceanology.) You’ve got giant whales lumbering around (Carlos Lee), violent predators (Jose Guillen, Delmon Young), and puny prey (Juan Pierre, Kenny Lofton).
Perusing the outfielders is mush like stepping into Super Wal-Mart, except you don’t feel like killing yourself afterward. There’s merchand…Jesus, enough of the metaphors, jackass. Let’s break out some sleepers and busters:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury – Boston Red Sox – If everyone knows he’s a sleeper, does that player still remain a sleeper? In this case I’ll say yes, because I don’t think everyone realizes the kind of player Ellsbury has the potential to be, especially playing for perennial contender Boston. Last season Ellsbury only showed up in 33 games, if we project his numbers from 2007 into a 145 game season in 2008, his stat line looks like this: 91 runs, 14 home runs, 83 RBI, and 41 stolen bases. Quite a deal at his current ranking of #42 among all outfielders.
2. Josh Hamilton – Texas Rangers – This guy’s had a GREAT spring. Add that to the fact that he belted 19 home runs in 90 games all the while maintaining an almost .300 batting average, and I get VERY excited. Hitting in a light Rangers lineup, the pressure will be on Hamilton to perform. But he’s projected out to hit 33 out of the park this season. I like those odds from someone you can get in the middle rounds of a draft.
3. Chris Young – Arizona Diamondbacks – I was at a double header for the Mobile BayBears (formerly the Padres Double-A affiliate) where the BayBears were playing the Birmingham Barons (White Sox affiliate). I sat there and watched Chris Young steal 4 bases in the first game, then in the second game he smacked two home runs and stole two more bases. I knew right there we were going to see big things from this guy, and sure enough, three years later, here we are. Young’s average isn’t pretty, it’s not even 2 AM, Goldschlager, back alley doable. But, who cares when I feel good projecting out 30 home runs and 35 stolen bases from the 22nd ranked outfielder. Look out, Soriano.
4. Jerry Owens – Chicago White Sox – Ladies and gentlemen, meet the next Juan Pierre. Jerry Owens might hit like Jerry’s Kids, but he runs like Jesse Owens. The kid has all but earned the starting spot in center for the White Sox, and stole 32 bases in 93 games. Assuming Owens holds on to the starting gig all season, expect 50+ SBs, but not much else. What’s even more interesting, he’s only owned on 11% of ESPN teams.
5. Jacque Jones – Detroit Tigers – He fell off the map after a piss poor season being shuffled around in a crowded Cubs outfield last season. Well, for now, he’s got a starting gig in Detroit’s powerful lineup and, once again, if you look historically last season was Jacque’s only bad season since 1999. He’s not too old pick up where he left off in 2006 when he slugged 27 dingers. And, as the 84th ranked outfielder he can be had for the price of an Oreo cookie.
1. Bobby Abreu – New York Yankees – It wasn’t that long ago that I was singing the praises of people like Abreu. The type who can hit and run. But, then I had an epiphany. If you look at HRs and SBs as singular stats, 16 home runs isn’t very many and neither is 25 stolen bases. On top of that, Bobby will be 34 this year, right around the time where players not named Kenny Lofton start slowing down on the base paths. If he pulls a 15/20 season this year, that doesn’t bode well for the 14th ranked outfielder.
2. Eric Byrnes – Arizona Diamondbacks – Ummm… Did this guy take a Fred McGriff video baseball course in 2006 or something? How often do you see a 30 year old run of the mill player suddenly break out into superstardom? Not often, and I’m often very leary of those who do. You can view him as the 20th ranked outfielder, or you can view him as a guy playing way above his potential, like me. He had a great 2007 with 21 HRs and 50 SBs, but jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick, do you HONESTLY think he can pull that off again considering that he’s never done it before in 8 seasons?
3. Aaron Rowand – San Francisco Giants – Face facts, Aaron Rowand isn’t that great of a fantasy player. He’s a hell of a guy to have on your REAL baseball team, but stats wise, he’s average to subpar. The best thing he ever did for himself was bust his nose open. Now he’s playing in San Francisco where good careers go to die. I’m afraid those 27 homers he hit last season to get him up to 43 on the outfielder rankings will probably be more than he hits in the next two seasons.
4. Johnny Damon – New York Yankees – Coming into 2008, Johnny Hero doesn’t even have a position solidified. He’s penciled in at DH, but so are Giambi and Shelley Duncan. On top of that, Damon’s been on a fairly steady decline since joining the Yanks. He may still be a viable fantasy player, but I can’t see any reason whatsoever to put him as the 35th best outfielder.
5. Rick Ankiel – St. Louis Cardinals – Who didn’t love this story last year? If you didn’t love seeing Rick Ankiel come back from being a monumental flop as a pitcher to become a slugging outfielder, you don’t love baseball and you should go back to Communist Russia where bear skin hat wear you. But, come on, this is the epitome of shortsightedness. Ranked number 50 among outfielders, people are actually expecting another miracle. Well, I guess there’s probably some people out there who won a million dollars in the lottery and wish they had’ve held out for the 10 million dollar drawing.