2012 Fantasy Baseball Preview: 5 Outfielders to Watch

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The outfield position is deep all the way across the field. Each team has at least 3 starters not including ringers and possible designated hitters with eligibility. Because of the vast amount of players to fill these positions there are plenty of players to go around.

For years these players were known as the guys you can count on to get you stolen bases and every once in a while you would get a power bat in the mix. However, now a days the best players in the league normally come from the outfield, including Ryan Braun (OF, MIL), Matt Kemp (OF, LAD), and Jacoby Elsbury (OF, BOS) of which all completed 30 / 30 seasons in 2011 which is remarkable.

However, just like in every other position on the field, there are good players in the outfield and bad ones. Today, we’ll take a look at the players I would draft in 2012. Remember these aren’t the top players at the position, just players that I wouldn’t mind starting on my roster.

5 Outfielders That I would draft in 2012:

Players come and go all the time. They can be highly touted in the minor leagues and flame out as they progress, or fail to progress for that matter. And sometimes they figure things out four seasons into their career and become that player you thought they would be. Alex Gordon (OF, KC) was one of those guys, once projected to be one of the best young third basemen in the league, Gordon reached the show and failed to live up to the hype. With four straight seasons of a batting average under .265, and less than 20 homers in each of those years, Gordon turned it around in 2011. Gordon barely missed a 20/20 season with 23 homers and 17 stolen bases. He was able to drive in 87 nearly 30 more than his previous career high, and scored 101 runs. A .303 average came along with a .376 on base percentage which helped many teams in all 5 fantasy categories. Maybe 2011 was a long time coming, as the previous two seasons were ended short due to injury, but now that he has found his swing and his production look for him to continue to rise.

Can you count on your hands and feet how many times you’ve seen a rookie of the year candidate one year fall into the dreaded sophomore slump in the next? Probably not, because it happens so often that it’s hard to keep track of how many times it does occur. Our next profiled OF had just that, a sophomore slump. Jason Heyward (OF, ATL) was the Braves first round pick, 14th overall in the 2007 draft and from the time he stepped on a professional ball field prognosticators raved about his talents. And he proved he could live up to the hype with a 18 homer 72 RBI .393 OBP rookie year. Unfortunately a slump and subsequently an injured riddled season followed as he finished with only 42 runs batted in with a .319 on base percentage in 2011. You should still believe in all the hype Heyward is generating. He is a very young and even with his regressed campaign last year he still smoked 14 homers in limited playing time. He isn’t going to steal you 20 bags, and probably won’t hit you 30 homers, but he has the potential for a 20 – 10 season and can hit in the high .200’s with an OBP upwards to .400. You’ll be able to get Heyward cheap, or late depending on the type of draft you’re in, but when you do, just watch as he turns your low end draft pick into high end value.

Another player with a 2011 slump was Shin-Soo Choo (OF, CLE) with a .259 average, 8 homers and 36 runs batted in. Several injuries and off the field issues resulted in Choo’s slump as he fought to deal with a drunken driving arrest he received in May. For some reason Choo could not wrap his head around the arrest and the injuries that followed. Over the three seasons prior to 2011 Choo surpassed the .300 mark in each year, with the last two seasons both resulting in 20 / 20 seasons. Choo has the right amount of power and speed to be a very good second outfield option for your roster, and if you’re lucky enough for him to be your third option that’s even better. All reports point to him being healthy and ready to change the outcome of 2011. Draft Choo in 2012, and sleep like a baby!

Nick Markakis (OF, BAL) has a 162 game average of 18 homers, 85 runs batted in, 9 stolen bases, and a .295 average with a .365 on base percentage. For years he has been one of the most consistent players on a very bad roster. In 2012, young players like Matt Wieters (C, BAL) and JJ Hardy (SS, BAL) are getting better and will certainly help Markakis to continue with his very consistent performances if not to make him better. One of the most noteworthy statistics has been his uncanny ability to stay healthy. Nick hass never missed more than 15 games in a season and has averaged 160 games played over his last three seasons. Markakis is reliable and consistent and as previously stated the offense around him is only getting better which should make his stats better. 

It is absolutely shocking that this next player is even on this list. For a decade now Ichiro Suzuki (OF, SEA) has been one of the most coveted players in fantasy baseball. With only four seasons of under a  .320 average (of which the lowest being .303) and stealing less than 40 bases only five times prior to 2011, it was a bit outrageous to see Ichiro with a .272 average and a .310 on base percentage. Despite his low average and on base totals, Suzuki was still able to steal 40 bags, score 80 runs and drive in 47 the highest runs batted in total in 4 seasons. 2011 was an abnormality to say the least, you don’t have the kind of career that Ichiro has had and then drop off to the extent that he did, look for a major bounce back season in twenty-twelve and make sure Ichiro is sitting pretty in your fantasy outfield. 

It is safe to say that the top guys in the league should definitely be on your roster if you are fortunate enough to grab them, including the 30 / 30 caliber players mentioned above. However a few out fielders with first round potential are finding themselves dropping into the second round and should easily be looked at as members of your roster. 

Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL) had an “off” season in 2011 which was shortened by the injury bug and he still smashed 26 homers and hit for a .295 average. Jose Bautista (OF, TOR) also has third base eligibility and after several less than stellar seasons has put together back to back outstanding campaigns, and is still finding himself slipping to the back end of the first, early start of the second. Finally, Justin Upton (OF, ARI) Is only 25 years old, had a 30/20 season in 2011 and is only getting better. I understand that other positions are more scarce than the outfield position but if these guys are the best players still on the board, then they will be the best if not the second best player on your fantasy team. 

Written by Justin Mandaro exclusively for The Fantasy Fix.
You can follow me on twitter @PeckinTheFix

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