You never lead with the top guy. Just one of the top guys.
Since we’re fantasy baseball nerds, we’ll be running down as much of a commentary as we can prior to your March fantasy drafts. If you’re having a draft before then, you’re violating a major man-law. Don’t do it. You’ll inevitably draft some guy who breaks his nads installing a hardwood floor or something. Here are our top-20 Outfielders for fantasy baseball 2014. We’re running this down similar to the guys at Razzball, though we could never pretend to be of the legendary status they’ve achieved.
1. Mike Trout: Until the younger bull knocks the old bull off the hill (Trout is the old bull in his age 22 season, didn’t you know?) you have to keep putting this guy here and leaving him alone. We just hope you were one of the lucky bastards who snagged him late and were able to keep him after that lackluster cup of coffee in 2011. That was so, so long ago. We figure Trout finally wins that MVP award, hits 30 homers, drives in around his career-high 97 and steals close to 40 while hitting around .320 again. No regression in sight.
2. Andrew McCutchen: There’s just no reason to move an MVP much when he’s entering that magical age-27 season. He wasn’t as Heavenly as his 2012 last season, but he was still remarkable and helped owners win a lot of leagues. What is there to say that hasn’t been said (that’s what we hate about these rankings at the top, everyone has these guys up here). McCutchen is a Ferrari, get him in your garage if you can.
3. Carlos Gomez: This is the guy we’re pretty proud of. He was our major sleeper heading into 2013, and he finally put it all together. What we love about Gomez is he’s a guy who seems to want those stats for you. He steals bases when his team is up big, he challenges for the extra base, he isn’t happy settling with that three-hit night. He plays the game hard and we think the power could enjoy another slight up-tick in 2014. The only thing about Gomez that sucks is when he takes away home runs from your other fantasy players playing center field. He owes Jay Bruce several.
4. Giancarlo Stanton: Big Mike struggled last season hitting .249, but he’ll enter 2014 with major motivation: play so well he can escape Miami for greener pastures and a mega-deal soon following. This will be the year that he eclipses 40 home runs if anyone does in the National league. This will be a .900 OPS season. This will be the year he finally plays like a first rounder. As they say on eBay, bid with confidence.
5. Carlos Gonzalez: 2010 seems so long ago when he finished third in MVP voting. Since then he’s missed time each season but was still spectacular when he was on the field. The only question with Gonzalez is health, if you believe he can stay healthy he will be stellar and steady. He’s not going to go out there and hit .260 at Coors Field. It’s just not going to happen. A solid first-round guy if he can play in 140-150 games.
6. Adam Jones: He’s in a great lineup, he’s in a nice hitter’s park, he’ll be just 28, and he’s baseball’s closest present-day version to Eric Davis. What we like most about Jones is his games played the past three years: 151, 162, 160.
7. Bryce Harper: Someday soon the nagging injuries that drive fantasy owners like us nuts will end, and Bryce Harper will have the biggest numbers of his young career. It’s not too much to ask for a player like Harper to post an average in the .280-.290 range with upwards of 35+ home runs and over 100 RBI and runs scored. We don’t look for him to steal many more than 10 – he’s bulked up – but that power is coming in a big way. He hit .344 and 9 HR in April last season. If he can put that together over a full year like he’s going to try to do……
8. Jacoby Ellsbury: We don’t like that he’s turning 30. We don’t like that he misses monstrous amounts of time about every other season. We do like that he is in that hitter’s park in the Bronx and think he offers 20-50 potential. Solid bet to be very good in the near-term. I want no part of him in a year or two though.
9. Jay Bruce: The Reds are going to have an average year. Jay Bruce is going to have a career year. He’s entering his age-27 season. He’ll get as close to 40 home runs as he has yet and he’ll hit around .275, and with Bruce what you’re buying is the consistency. A lock for 30+ home runs and 150 games played. His slumps will make you want to drown kittens. His hot streaks are other-worldly.
10. Ryan Braun: He’s really not going to miss a beat when he returns from his little hiatus in 2013. He’ll be the same old Braun, which is video-game numbers. It won’t be his career year, but short of that you’re getting one of the top sluggers in baseball with some steals, albeit a few less steals and probably a few less homers. All things considered, a guy we would love to have; even with the cheating!
11. Justin Upton: So now the world knows that he’s not the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr., and that’s okay! What Upton is, is just a pretty good player. And he’s going to be more comfortable in his second season in Atlanta. Something about Upton worries us a little bit; but when we think about it it’s just the poor taste he left in our mouth in 2012. Even then, he was pretty solid. He’s deserving of this high ranking.
12. Shin-soo Choo: He’s going to score a lot of runs out in that Texas heat and don’t be surprised if his numbers improve across the board in a lineup full of threatening hitters.
13. Yasiel Puig: There will be no in between for Puig in 2014. He does not simply maintain; he either becomes full-fledged fantasy superstar or completely collapses in his sophomore campaign. We’re talking .240 or .315ish with power and steals again. Either way, it’s going to be VERY entertaining. Biggest risk factor of anyone in these rankings.
14. Jose Bautista: He may be quickly approaching his decline. He is at an age where it is reasonable for a lot of players to lose bat speed and miss time to injuries. But we believe enough in Joey Bats’ skills to say he will provide one more glorious summer in the sun for fantasy owners. A return to the 30′s in HR, 100 RBI, and an OPS in the .900s for those that believe.
15. Jason Heyward: We don’t really plan to target him – which is why he’ll inevitably break out. If that’s not a good enough reason, keep in mind he’s playing for a monster contract. If you believe what the scouts originally said about Heyward back entering 2010, that huge year is coming this year or next.
16. Allen Craig: The guy with two first names always wrecks shit when he’s in the lineup. He’s a .300 hitting machine in a baseball town where everything seems to line up nicely for that organization. He’ll probably have a DL stint included, but if you can weather that storm you’ll get a .300 average, 20+ homers, near 100 RBI, and peace of mind rotating him between OF and 1B.
17. Matt Kemp: Another guy we don’t want to own, in part because his risk is not worth the overpay it will take to land him on draft day. If for some reason the bargain exists in the middle rounds – take a flier on the guy. The decline might only be a season or two away, but for now Kemp has something to prove and will be taking the field for a team with World Series expectations. It should be a nice year for the back of his baseball card.
18. Starling Marte: A lot of people out there will shy away from putting Marte in their top-20 because it’s too out on a limb. His power numbers should improve and he’ll be a realistic possibility for a 20-40 season. His average should not dip much further than .280 because speed like his doesn’t slump. An .800 OPS player who will be 25. The soon to be Pirates outfield of Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco could be a lot of fun.
19. Yoenis Cespedes: Why do I feel like the guy is probably older than his listed age of 28? He’s probably like 34, but these damn Cubans are ageless wonders with their chicken blood voodoo cocktails. If you want a projection on him an average of his first two seasons is fair to expect: 25ish HR, .265-.270, 81 RBI, 12 steals, 70 runs.
20. Domonic Brown: The bottom line is power comes at a premium these days in baseball. Gone are the days where any number of middle infielders slug 27 home runs for you and drive in 80-plus. For that, you’ll need to pick up a guy like Brown who should continue to hit home runs in bunches. If it wasn’t for an injury he would have easily entered the 30-homer club. He’ll be inducted in 2014.