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Who are the biggest outfield sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?
Using Athlon Sports' Big Board as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers who roam the outfield to keep an eye on, as well some possible busts to potentially be wary of. Keep in mind that the "bust" tag doesn't necessarily mean that player won't produce, it's more an indication of concern that he won't do so in relation to his position on the Big Board.
Note: Outfield includes players who have OF eligibility, according to Yahoo!. The player's ranking on the Big Board (200 players ranked) is listed, if applicable. UR means player was not ranked among the top 200. Player rankings from 2012 referenced are from a Yahoo! league that uses the following batting statistics: R-HR-RBI-SB-AVG-OPS.
2013 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Sleepers
Lorenzo Cain, KC, OF (UR)
At first glance, Cain’s 2012 numbers (.266-7-31, 10 SB) look anything but impressive, but don’t lose sight that the young outfielder played in just 61 games last season. Adjust these rates over a full season (162 G or 650 PA) and you get a near 20-20 campaign (18 HR, 26 SB) with more than 80 RBIs and 70 runs scored. In fact, if Cain can stay healthy and show some improved plate discipline (56 SO in 61 G) in what would be full his first full season in the majors, it’s possible that the 27-year-old could provide a 20-30 season, while also contributing in runs and RBIs. Not bad for someone not even ranked in the top 200 currently.
Adam Eaton, ARI, OF (UR)
While he may not directly be the reason, Eaton’s presence and the production he provided (.259-2-5) in his late (85 at-bats) audition last season somewhat attributed to Arizona trading fellow outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young during the offseason. Slotted for leadoff in manager Kirk Gibson’s lineup, Eaton should offer plenty of value in the runs and steals departments, as he produced a .456 on-base percentage in three minor-league seasons and walked just as many times (14) as he struck out (15) last September in the majors. The plus production would come in batting average (.355 career mark in the minors, including .381 at Triple-A), and any sort of power he can provide. The bottom line is this kid seems to ooze potential and upside, so there’s no reason in taking a late-round flier on him, especially considering his value will probably only increase as Opening Day approaches.
Dexter Fowler, COL, OF (No. 178 overall)
Fowler raised his batting average more than 30 points (from .266 to .300) last season, even though his walk-to-strikeout ratio stayed basically the same (68:130 in 2011, 68:128 in ’12). The spike in batting average also was joined by career-bests in home runs (13) and RBIs (53), although his doubles dropped by nearly half (35 to 18) compared to 2011 for some reason. Still, the 27-year-old outfielder offers a little bit of everything, and if he decides to run a little bit more (12 SB in 2012) and continues to improve his plate discipline, there’s no reason to not expect him to be even better in 2013. Don’t forget, he plays his home games at Coors Field, where he’s a career .295 hitter.
Todd Frazier, CIN, 1B/3B/OF (No. 181 overall)
Frazier took full advantage of Joey Votto’s injury troubles to force Reds manager Dusty Baker to find a way to keep him in the lineup even after Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, returned. That’s what happens when you finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .273-19-67 line in just 422 at-bats. Baker has already told Frazier he’s the starting third baseman this season, so it’s entirely possible that Frazier could hit 25 or more home runs, post 90 or more RBIs and hit more than 30 doubles over a full season. His multi-position eligibility certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Corey Hart, MIL, 1B/OF (No. 195 overall)
Yes, Hart will most likely be out of the lineup until sometime in May (knee surgery), but that still leaves him plenty of time to produce for your fantasy team. Don’t forget, this is the same guy who hit 30 home runs and drove in 83 last season, while scoring 91 runs, and he did all of this in just 149 games. When he’s ready, he will go back to his post at first base and probably bat behind Ryan Braun in the Brewers’ lineup, so unless his knee doesn’t recover, there’s really no reason to think Hart can’t offer similar production compared to last season, when he was a top-75 player. And at this point, it appears you can get this production at a considerably reduced price.
Dayan Viciedo, CHW, OF (UR)
When putting together your fantasy outfield, what’s one of the things you are hoping for? Power, right? If that’s the case, then why not take a long look at Viciedo, the White Sox’ 24-year-old outfielder who mashed 25 home runs in his first full season in the majors. He does have a tendency to come up empty (120 SO, just 28 BB), but it may be a risk worth taking to land a potential 30-home run option late in your draft.
2013 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Busts
Carlos Beltran, STL, OF (No. 96 overall)
When Opening Day hits, Beltran will be 36 years old. While I still think he will contribute, I think his days as a no-doubt top-100 option could be over. Last season, Beltran was extremely productive, clubbing 32 home runs with 97 RBIs, 83 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. The batting average dropped to .269, however, and he struck out 124 times, the second-highest total in his 15-year career. Beltran doesn’t really run anymore, so you need the power and production from him to drive his fantasy value, and also the 151 games he played last season marked just the third time since 2005 he had done so. Age, injury history and signs of diminishing skills in some areas are enough reasons to give me pause when it comes to Beltran’s current Big Board standing, especially with a position like outfield that offers many alternative options.
Curtis Granderson, NYY, OF (No. 99 overall)
At the risk of kicking a man who is already down, the fact that Granderson will be out until at least the early part of May (broken forearm) should be enough to push him down draft boards. He still currently ranks among the top 100 overall, which is still somewhat high in my opinion. The ironic thing about Granderson is that he’s gone from a speed and power option to become a guy who mainly hits home runs. Don’t get me wrong, 84 round-trippers over the past two seasons is extremely valuable to have, but he went from 25 stolen bases in 2011 to just 10 last season. What’s more, his batting average dropped from .262 to .232 in 2012, and he hit just .212 in the second half. A left-handed swinger, Granderson didn’t enjoy near as much success against fellow lefties last season (.218) compared to 2011 (.272), and he struck out nearly 200 times. Besides the injury, my concern with Granderson is he’s become power-hungry, not surprising since he plays his home games at cozy Yankee Stadium. He’s come up huge in this area the past two seasons, but if the batting average continues to drop and the balls stop flying out as regularly, then what do you have? I’m not entirely sure, but it could look something a lot like the 2010 version – .247-24-67 with 76 runs and 12 stolen bases. Does that look like a top-100 player to you?
Josh Hamilton, LAA, OF (No. 19 overall)
Hamilton is certainly paid a like a top-20 player (5 years, $123 million), but will he produce like one for his new team, the Angels, in 2013? I’m a little skeptical based on the fact that even though he’s played just six seasons, he will be 32 in May, meaning age may become more and more of a factor. This could especially be the case for a guy like Hamilton given his past history. There’s also the matter that he struggled after the All-Star break last season, when he posted a respectable, but not remarkable, .259-16-53 line. But perhaps the biggest reason for my skepticism has to do with his change of home venues. At Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Hamilton is a career .315 hitter with 83 home runs in 332 games or one every 15.4 at-bats. At Angels Stadium, albeit with a much smaller sample size, he has hit just .260 with five home runs in 38 games, or one every 30 at-bats. Hamilton will still get to play some games at his former stomping grounds, and he still should produce as a part of a stacked Angels lineup, but I wouldn’t draft him like a top-20 player.
Torii Hunter, DET, OF (No. 161 overall)
Hunter is certainly no spring chicken, as the veteran outfielder will turn 38 this summer, but he put together somewhat of a renaissance season (.313-16-92) in 2012. He’s moved on to Detroit now, where he’s a career .262 hitter in 305 at-bats at Comerica Park. A guy who was a safe bet for at least 20 home runs from 2001-11, will probably have a hard time surpassing last season’s total of 16. The most glaring “red flag,” if you will, regarding Hunter’s production from last season, however, is his ridiculously high BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .389. Considering his previous high in that category in a full season was .336 (back in 2000), it appears that some of Hunter’s production can be attributed to some good fortune. His career BABIP is much closer to .300, so it’s safe to assume a degree of regression in that area this season, which in turn will impact his overall production. Depending on where Hunter falls in the Tigers’ lineup, he could be a valuable fantasy producer for your fantasy team. Just be sure to temper your expectations and be wary of drafting him based on what he did last season.
Hunter Pence, SF, OF (No. 101 overall)
The swing sure doesn’t look pretty, but for the past five seasons, Pence has gotten the job done, hitting between 22-25 home runs and driving in an average of 89 runs during that stretch. In fact, last season was his first with 100 or more RBIs and he scored the second-most runs (87) of his career. So why sound the alarm on him as a top-100 player? For one, his batting average dropped 71 points (.324 to .253) last season alone as he struck out 145 times. He’s just a .259 career hitter at AT&T Park, his home venue, and hit just .220 there last season. He’s never been a huge power guy (career-best of 25 HR), and his home park certainly won’t help in that respect, and he also has basically stopped running (18 stolen bases in 2010, 12 combined in 2011-12). He made the most of his RBI opportunities last season to get to 104, but if the batting average continues to drop or even stays where it was, he will be hard-pressed to match that production in 2013.
Mark Trumbo, LAA, 1B/3B/OF (No. 108 overall)
Trumbo was an All-Star, both in real life and in fantasy, in the first half last season, as he mashed his way to a .306-22-57 line. The second half was a different story, however, as he stumbled to a .227-10-38 showing through the dog days of summer. As far as 2013 goes, Trumbo’s biggest issue is that he doesn’t really have a set spot in the lineup, since most of his at-bats figure to come as the DH. The Angels have plenty of other candidates, such as Vernon Wells, who can swing the bat, so if Trumbo struggles out of the gate, he may be hard-pressed to even match his 544 at-bats from last season. The uncertainty surrounding his opportunities alone calls into question his chances of producing along the lines of a borderline top 100 player. And that’s without bringing up his contact issues (153 SO, 36 BB).
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013
Fantasy Baseball 2013: Which Injured Players are Worth Drafting?