|New uniform, but Hamilton still packs that same, sweet-swingin' bat of his.|
And he also comes with a lot of baggage.
(photo courtesy of Mike McCann's Field of Fotos)
Since I play in a league that requires to draft a LF, CF, and RF, I thought I would rank the outfield in this manner.
1. Ryan Braun: Another year of PED allegations is haunting yet another offseason for Braun. However, until there is something more concrete, apropos to possible punishment by the Commissioner's Office, there simply is no reason to drop Braun from the top spot.
2. Mike Trout: Phenom extraordinaire, Trout has proven to live up to the hype that was bestowed upon him last season. Would like to see him improve his approach at the plate, but the raw projections are predicting another huge year for the young Angel.
3. Carlos Gonzalez: Injury concerns are always a concern for CarGo, but he's only 27 and is ready to enter his prime of his career. Just like Trout, would like to see more patience at the plate, but his raw numbers alone, along with his age, are good enough to place him in this tier.
4. Josh Hamilton: Well, let's see: wrong side of 30, injury-prone outfielder, bad 2012, second half, choked in the postseason, and there's always that chance that he can be easily swayed to revert back to a dark past (alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.). Nevertheless, when he has all of those issues under control, the guy can definitely rake. However, as one will notice, he's not even the best LF on his own team.
5. Matt Holliday: Just like Hamilton, Holliday can still rake, but unlike Hamilton, he's proven to be a gamer as he has been able to play through a variety of injuries that would derail an average player. However, at 33, those injuries might be catching up to him. Add to the fact that he struck out more times than ever in 2012 and his BB:K was it's lowest since 2007 and I just feel obligated to warn you, the reader, to be wary of this guy. However, he's a "safe risk" to have on your team, but a risk nonetheless. If I were stuck in a situation where Holliday was the best player available in my slot, I would highly likely go after a younger, up-and-coming player at that position to hand-cuff with Holliday.
6. Yoenis Cespedes: Cespedes proved to be a major factor last season with the Oakland A's. He could threaten to have a 20/20 season in 2013, but the potential, raw, power numbers that he can produce is enough of a reason to draft this player.
7. Alex Gordon: Gordon has turned around his career after it looked like he would become a "bust" for the Kansas City Royals. His raw, counting stats are nothing to brag about, but a respectable contact rate to go along with a projected OPS between .820-.840 makes Gordon a solid pick at this position.
8. Martin Prado: Like mentioned before for the 3B, there is nothing flashy about Prado, but what he lacks in power, he more than makes up for it in versatility, superb contact rate, and a stout patience at the plate.
9. Josh Willingham: His power is never in question as he has proven to possess ample amounts of it at three, different, pitcher-friendly ballparks. Age is a concern as he recently turned 34 years-old and injuries are magnified with Willingham; more than the other 30+ year-olds who've had a history of injuries. However, when healthy, Willingham is a legit source of power of the 30/100 variety.
The rest of the field:
- Desmond Jennings (who can put up good, solid numbers, but low on-base% and OPS means many slumps and struggles.
- Melky Cabrera (PED use)
- Mark Trumbo (even in the OF, there are better options than this strike-zone illiterate)
- Brett Gardner (speed, but no power)
- Shane Victorino (age, decrease in production)
- Jason Kubel (age, decrease in production)
- Carl Crawford (injuries, dramatic decrease in production)
- Michael Morse (power, strikes out too much, jury is still out)
- Carlos Quentin (power, but injury concerns)
- Logan Morrison (power, but injury concerns)
- David Murphy (solid numbers, but in platoon system)
- Ichiro Suzuki (speed, but lacks power, age has sapped his contact rate)
- Juan Pierre (speed, but lacks power, age concerns)
- Ryan Ludwick (power, but age concerns)
- Lucas Duda (good potential, but awful on defense)
As you can see, the Third Tier at LF is larger than the other positions, but doesn't provide greater depth at the position, per se. It offers a good mix of power and speed, but for a lot of these players, except for Jennings, the attributes are always exclusive from each other. There are a lot of question marks with all of these players, but at their best, they can become solid players. At their worst, they can cost you the season. Choose wisely.
Keep an eye on:
- Starling Marte (until I see that he's been officially named the starting LF for the Pittsburgh Pirates, I'm not ready to move him up to the Third Tier yet. And even so, he will struggle mightily in 2013).
- Matt Joyce (in daily leagues when he's hitting against right-handers)
- Jonny Gomes (in daily leagues when he's hitting against lefties)