ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 24: Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers is honored on the field with the National League 2011 Hank Aaron Award priorto Game Five of the MLB World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Here are the profiles for my Top 25 outfielders for 2012. The profiles for outfielders 26-50 will follow on Wednesday.
1. Matt Kemp, LAD-Kemp had a monster 2011 season, and it will be difficult for him to duplicate that in 2012, but I can see him reaching the 30-30 club again. Kemp was the best all around hitter in baseball in 2011, hitting .324-.399-.586 with 39 HRs, 126 RBI, 115 runs and 40 stolen bases. Kemp benefitted from a career high BABIP of .380, but before you say he won't repeat that, please consider his BABIPs from 2007-2011:
HIs .380 BABIP was a career high for Kemp when playing a full season, and I don't think he can duplicate that in 2012, but he could still have an above average BABIP. Kemp was quoted recently as saying he wanted to cut down on his strikeouts and is shooting to go 50-50 in 2012. 50 home runs and 50 stolen base in the same season would be unprecedented. Could we see a 40-50 season from Kemp at some point? I see a 33-110-40-.300 season from Kemp in 2012.
The rest of my Top 25 Fantasy Outfielders for 2012 after the jump:
2. Ryan Braun, MIL-some fantasy writers will call Kemp's 2011 season a career year, and will rank Braun as their #1 outfielder in 2012, but I will stick with Kemp. Braun had his best all around season of his 5 year career as he joined the 30-30 club for the first time in his career. Some positive trends for Braun is that he is walking more, striking out less, and he hit more line drives and fly balls in 2011, which should help in the power stats. Braun just turned 28 on November 17th, so he is in the beginning of his peak years as a hitter, and should continue to provide excellent stats across the board. I see a 35-110-24-.315 season from Braun next season.
3. Justin Upton, ARI-Now here is a hitter who could move up from his already high ranking in 2012, as long as he can keep the strikeout rate under the 20% level. Upton had his best season as a big leaguer in 2011, and I think this is just the start for him. His walk and line drive rates were the lowest since he became a major league regular, and he hit more fly balls in 2011, but I think this is just the start of many seasons of .290-.370-.500 from Upton. I can see him going 32-100-25-.290 in 2012.
4. Jose Bautista, TOR-Bautista didn't hit 50+ HRs again in 2011, but he did hit a major league leading 43, but drove in just 103. He is one of the few hitters in baseball that walked more than he struck out in 2011, and he hit .300 for the first time in his career. Can he hit .300 again in 2012? I am not sure he will, as his BABIP was a career high .309 this season. The question for fantasy owners is whether his power has peaked and will continue to be pitched around in 2012. I doubt it as the Blue Jays lineup has plenty of hitters who can make a pitcher pay for walking Bautista. I can see Bautista approaching 40 HRs in 2012, but I don't see him hitting .300 again. Let's say 40-110-.285 in 2012.
5. Carlos Gonzalez, COL-Cargo did not repeat his breakout 2010 season, but he had an excellent year, hitting .295-.363-.526 with 26 HRs, 92 RBI, 92 runs and 20 stolen bases. He increased his walk rate to 8.9% from 6.3%, and reduced his strikeout rate to 19.4% from 21.2%, so it appears he is growing as a major league hitter and shows you can never give up on a prospect like the Diamondbacks and A's did. He does own some huge home/road splits:
Home: .331-.402-.597 with 16 HRs, 60 RBI, 61 runs and 11 SBs
Road: .252-.317-.440 with 10 HRs, 32 RBI, 31 runs and 9 SBs
I can see him repeating his 2011 stats in 2012, with a chance to improve upon them if he can stay healthy, but that seems to be something he cannot do. If I remember correctly, a few of his injuries were a result of him being aggressive in the outfield, running into walls, diving for balls, stuff like that, so he needs to learn to take it easy around the outfield walls going forward.
6. Andrew McCutchen, PIT-perhaps my second favorite player in baseball, McCutchen was my second round selection in the Fake Teams Dynasty League draft. McCutchen disappointed a bit in 2011 as he hit just .259-.364-.456, but showed off more power by hitting 23 HRS, driving in 89, scoring 87 runs and stealing 23 bases. I think he can steal more bases next year, and one fantasy writer has projected a 30-30 season from McCutchen in 2012. I can see a 25 HR - 35 stolen base season from him, while Bill James projects a 19 HR, 74 RBI, 97 runs and 27 stolen base season from him.
7. Curtis Granderson, NYY- who saw this type of season coming from Granderson in 2011? I know I didn't. Granderson had an MVP-type season for the Yankees this season, hitting .262-.364-.552 with 41 HRs, 119 RBI, 136 runs and 25 stolen bases. He lead the American League in RBI and runs scored and was second, behind Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, in home runs in 2011, all career highs. The question for fantasy owners is can he do this again? I say no, but he should be able to put up a 30 HRs -20 stolen base season in 2012.
8. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS-Ellsbury came out of nowhere to hit 32 HRs this season, surprising many fantasy owners. He also had an MVP-type season in 2011, hitting .321-.376-.552 with 32 HRs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored and 39 stolen bases. His ISO jumped from .114 in 2009 (excluding his injury-filled 2010 season) to .230 in 2011, his SLG% jumped from .415 in 2009 to .552 this season, and his HR/FB rate jumped from 4.6% to 16.7% as well. I wonder if some Ellsbury owners traded him mid-season thinking the power was a fluke? That is what fantasy owners will have to decide on draft day 2012. I don't see him hitting 30+ homers again, but could see a 18-85-100-45 type season from him in 2012.
9. Carl Crawford, BOS-wow, what a bust he was, huh? He had his worst major league season by far, and many will be calling him a bounce back candidate in 2012. I think he will bounce back, because no one saw THIS from him before the 2011 season started. I ranked him as my #1 outfielder last March, and boy was I wrong. Crawford hit .255-.289-.405 with 11 HRs, 56 RBI, 65 runs and 18 stolen bases in 130 games in 2011. Crawford turned 30 in August, which was his second best month of the season, so he certainly hasn't peaked, and the Red Sox lineup is still one of the best in baseball, so he should return to the Carl Crawford we knew before the 2011 season. I can see him going 15-75-100-40 in 2012.
10. Alex Gordon, KC- Gordon had a breakout season in 2011, hitting .303-.376-.502 with 23 HRs, 87 RBI, 101 runs scored and 17 stolen bases in 2011. Many will point to his .358 BABIP as a reason why he won't repeat his 2011 performance in 2012, but even if it drops, he still flashed plenty of power as his 72 extra base hits indicate, so he can still be a very productive fantasy hitter in 2012. I can see him going 25-90-90-20 in 2012.
11. Mike Stanton, FLA-if Matt Kemp is my favorite player in baseball, and Andrew McCutchen is #2, then Stanton is #2a. Stanton had a solid first full season in the big leagues in 2011, hitting .262-.356-.537 with 34 HRs, 87 RBI, 79 runs and 5 stolen bases. Stanton just turned 22 years of age in early November, meaning he has 56 career home runs by the age of 21. Is it possible he could have 100 home runs by the age of 22? Sure, why not? He is one of the most powerful hitters in all of baseball. Bill James projects him to hit .273-.366-.568 with 39 HRs, 103 RBI and 88 runs scored in 2012. I think he can exceed 40 HRs in 2012.
12. Jay Bruce, CIN- Bruce is starting to reach the potential that many experts felt he had when he was called up to the big leagues a few seasons ago. Bruce hit .256-.341-.474 with 32 HRs, 97 RBI, 84 runs and 8 stolen bases in 2011. Bruce strikes out more than you want, but he also walks a good deal as well. Bruce turns 25 in early April, so he has yet to reach his peak years as a hitter, and his home run totals have grown in each of the last two seasons. We have yet to see Bruce with an above .500 SLG, so it's just a matter of time before we do. I can see a 35 home run season from Bruce in 2012.
13. Josh Hamilton, TEX-Hamilton hit .298-.346-.536 with 25 HRs, 94 RBI, 80 runs and 8 stolen bases in 2011, but dealt with an an assortment of injuries and had offseason hernia surgery. He will turn 31 in May and I am curious how much longer we can expect All Star type numbers from him. Bill James projects him to hit .310-.369-.549 with 27 HRs, 95 RBI and 83 runs in 2012, and I can see him reaching James projections.
14. Ben Zobrist, TB-Zobrist had a solid season at the plate in 2011, hitting .269-.353-.469 with 20 HRs, 91 RBI and 99 runs and 19 stolen bases. He increased his home run total from 10 in 2010 to 20 last season, proving his 2010 power outage was a one year slump. HIs HR/FB% jumped, as a result, from 6.0% to 12.4%. What really jumps out for me is the increase in doubles from 28 to 46 in 2011, leading me to think there is more power to come from the 30 year old outfielder. I can see him putting together a 20-20 season in 2012, and possibly approach 25 home runs, which he showed he can do in 2009.
15. Matt Holliday, STL- Holliday was a bit of a disappointment for fantasy owners in 2012, as he missed time due to appendicitis. Holliday hit .296-.388-.525 with 22 HRs, 75 RBI, 83 runs scored and just 2 stolen bases. Gone are the days of 30 HRs and double digit power for Holliday, but he is still a solid 4-category hitter. He is not going to steal many bases for fantasy owners in 2012, but he should return to the 25-95-.300 hitter we saw in previous years.
16. Hunter Pence, PHI- I had pence a bit lower in my rankings till I took a closer look at his 2011 stats. Pence hit .314-.370-.501 with 22 HRs, 97 RBI, 84 runs and 8 stolen bases last season. Pence benefitted from a .361 BABIP in 2011, so I expect his batting average to drop from .314 to a .280-.285 level. He should hit in the middle of the Phillies lineup in 2012, and i see him hitting .285 with 20 HRs, 90 RBI, 85 runs and 10 stolen bases in 2012.
17. Shane Victorino, PHI-Victorino was probably the Phillies MVP in 2011 as he hit .279-.355-.491 with 17 HRs, 27 doubles, an astonishing 16 triples, 61 RBI, 95 runs and 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts. He experienced a drop in stolen bases last season and I wonder if the loss of first base coach Davey Lopes had an impact on his stolen base totals. The 16 triples were a career high for Victorino, and shows he still has speed on the basepaths. Victorino won't be a source for RBI, but is solid across the board in the other categories. He could approach a 20-20 season in 2012, with the home run total more risky than the stolen base total.
18. Shin-Soo Choo, CLE-Choo's 2011 season was one to forget as he was injured and was arrested with a DUI, resulting in a sub-par performance at the plate. He hit just .250-.344-.390 with 8 HRs, 36 RBI, 37 runs and 12 stolen bases in 313 at bats, this after hitting .300 in each of his previous three seasons. His string of consecutive 20-20 seasons was halted, but he could return to the 20-20 club in 2012, if healthy. I think he can return to being the .300-.400 hitting in 2012.
19. B.J. Upton, TB-Upton is what a guy who will probably never be an asset in the BA category, but provides solid to very good stats across the other 4 categories. He hit .243-.331-.429 with 23 home runs, 81 RBI, 82 runs and 36 stolen bases in 48 attempts. Upton is a candidate to be traded this offseason and could find himself in the National League should the Nationals decide to pursue him. Upton has the power and speed to go 20-40 in 2012, which is valuable, but his BA will drag down your team batting average a bit.
20. Desmond Jennings, TB-Jennings made Rays fans wonder why Rays management waited so long to call him up in 2011, as he hit .259-.356-.449 with 10 HRs, 25 RBI, 40 runs and 20 stolen bases in just 247 at bats. He reached first base 72 times, via a walk or a single, and attempted a stolen base 26 times, roughly 36% of the time, which bodes well for 2012. I don't think he will be a big home run hitter, but he could approach 15 home runs and steal 30+ bases with a .260-.270 bating average. He owns a solid eye at the plate as he walked in almost 11% of his at bats, while striking out 20% of his at bats. Jennings had better strikeout rates in the minors, so we could see him strikeout less in 2012.
21. Corey Hart, MIL- despite just 14 at bats in April due to injury, Hart had a very productive season for fantasy owners in 2011. He hit .285-.356-.510 with 26 HRs, 63 RBI, 80 runs and 7 stolen bases in 492 at bats. He cut his strikeout rate from 22.8% to 20.7%, and increased his walk rate from 7.3% to 9.3% in 2011. Hart's OBP has trended up the last few years, and after an OBP of .340 i n 2010, Hart had an OBP of .340 or higher in each of the 5 months he was healthy in 2011, with 3 of those months over .350. It appears he has an improved eye at the plate, and I think he is capable of 30 HRs in 2012. He could be a Top 20 Outfielder in 2012.
22. Chris Young, ARI-where should a guy who has gone 20-20 the last two years be ranked heading into 2012? If he hit for a better batting average, he would be ranked higher. Last season, I ranked him in my top 15, but dropped him to 21 due to the batting average hit he bestows upon fantasy owners. Here is what I wrote about Young in my review of my 2011 Outfielder Rankings:
15. Chris Young, ARI- Young followed up his 27-91-94-28 season in 2010 by hitting .236-.331-.420 with 20 HRs, 71 RBI, 89 runs scored and 22 stolen bases this season. I am not sure Young will ever hit more than .240-.250, but he has a reduced his K rate in the last two seasons, from 26.5% in 2009 to 21.8% in 2010 to 21.1% this season. Young also increased his BB rate from 11.1% in 2010 to 12.1% in 2011, so he is doing things right at the plate. If he can ever have a year where his BABIP surges over .300, he could have a monster year.
I am not sure he will ever hit .270, but if he did, he easily could put up a 30-30 season for fantasy owners. I see another 20-20 season from Young in 2012 with a batting average around .250.
23. Nelson Cruz, TEX-Cruz had a postseason for the record books in 2011, hitting 8 home runs in total, 6 coming in the ALCS. Cruz played in just 124 games in 2011, but hit .263-.312-.509 with 29 HRs, 87 RBI, 64 runs and 9 stolen bases. Cruz is no longer the stolen base threat he once was, as his stolen bases have dropped from 20 in 2009 to 17 in 2010 to 7 last season. But, what Cruz does give fantasy owners is power. His ISO is consistently around .250, but has trended down every year since 2008:
Bill James projects Cruz to hit .277-.339-.517 with 31 HRs, 92 RBI, 76 runs and 14 stolen bases. I don't see him stealing that much, but Cruz is certainly capable of a 30 home run season.
24. Michael Morse, WAS- Morse surprised Nationals fans and fantasy owners with his breakout 2011 season, hitting .303-.360-.550 with 31 HRs, 95 RBI, and 73 runs scored. He was 10th in all of baseball with an ISO of .247 with names like Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Mike Stanton and Prince Fielder ahead of him, so he is in good company. The question of for fantasy owners will be whether he can duplicate his 2011 performance in 2012. If he can, he will be several spots higher in these rankings. I project him to hit in the .275-.285 range with 25 HRs and 85 RBIs in 2012.
25. Jason Heyward, ATL-Heyward was ranked high amongst outfielder rankings heading into the 2011 season, but he disappointed from the start. I wrote about Heyward in my 2011 Bust Series awhile back here, but will be writing about him in a different light for 2012 drafts. Heyward was hampered by a shoulder injury most of the season, and I am counting on him being completely healthy with my ranking here. As we approach spring training and 2012 fantasy drafts, we will know more about his health, but he has proven to be an injury risk throughout his minor league and major league career. If healthy, he could go 25-90-80-15-.290 in 2012.