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2015 Fantasy Landscape: Outfield

Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley was one of the biggest breakout stars last season. What does the outfield position have to offer in 2015?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Outfield is where you'll find some of the game's most versatile players, and where many fantasy baseball owners go when they want a "sure thing" in the first round of drafts. I'm not giving anything away when I say Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Gomez are the industry-wide consensus top four.

The first three need no explaining, while Gomez cemented himself among the elite four with another elite season in 2014. One name not mentioned already but trailed only Trout in standard formats was Cleveland's Michael Brantley, who broke out with a .327 batting average and 20 home runs, 94 runs, 97 RBI and 23 steals.

I'd by lying if I said I knew that Ben Revere finished 2014 as a top-10 outfielder, but that's exactly what he did: hitting .306 with 71 runs and 49 steals. Ryan Braun and Justin Upton are barely hanging on to top-10 status, while the near futures of Bryce Harper and Carlos Gonzalez, a pair of first-round talent last year, are clouded.

Breakouts from last year include Colorado's Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon, but I only think one Rockies OF is in line for another top-20 season in the outfield. Miami's Christian Yelich has top-25 upside, while Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison bursted on the scene in a big way.

It wasn't all smooth sailing, however, with Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce and Wil Myers among the disappointments in 2014. You can throw others in the mix, but those four stood out to me as outfielders who really bit their owners last year.

New faces in new places include Nelson Cruz (Mariners), Jason Heyward (Cardinals), Michael Morse (Marlins) and San Diego's brand new outfield of Upton, Myers and Matt Kemp.

The Great Divide (AL/NL)

The big fish, Mike Trout, resides in the American League, but six out of the top-10 outfielders and nine out of the top 15 in the upcoming Fake Teams Consensus Rankings (set to publish in three hours) are from the National League. That's not to say you can't get find good outfielders in the Junior Circuit.

Jose Bautista and Adam Jones have routinely been among the top fantasy outfielders, and top offensive bats in the game. The emergence of Michael Brantley and, to a lesser extent, George Springer, who still has much to prove, gives the AL a boost. Jacoby Ellsbury again could be elite with a healthy and full season, and there are steady options like Alex Gordon lurking in the middle rounds. Lets not forget Hanley Ramirez, who will play left field in Boston and possess rare SS-OF eligibility.

You'll find a lot more speed in the NL, headlined by Billy Hamilton, Ben Revere, Denard Span and Starling Marte You might want to look elsewhere for steals in the AL, as only five everyday outfielders in the AL (led by Ellsbury's 39 steals), finished with more than 20 steals (compared to nine in the NL).

Jarrod Dyson and Rajai Davis each had 36 steals in part-time roles, however.

While speed is more plentiful in the NL, power is easier to find among the AL counterparts. Nelson Cruz led everyone with 40 home runs in 2014, but expect to see his power numbers decline significantly now that he's calling Seattle his home. Stanton, of course, is the king of pop in the NL, but four out of the top-five outfielder to lead the league in home runs all come from the AL.

The Draft Strategy

Loading up in the outfield is a strategy I see many owners try. While it's nice to corner the market at any position (well... probably not catcher), remember that outfield is a deep position. Going outfield heavy could result in missing better values at a depleted position, like in the middle infield. I'm currently in the process of the world's slowest mock, and was able to obtain a nice-looking outfield without specifically targeting the position: Michael Brantley (third round), Carlos Gonzalez (fifth), Alex Gordon (eighth), J.D. Martinez (ninth) and Melky Cabrera (15th).

In case you were wondering (you probably weren't but here it is), my first two picks were Jose Abreu (ninth overall) and Anthony Rendon (16th). I'm a big proponent of value-based drafting, and the outfield represents the perfect opportunity to find value. In five-outfield leagues, I do prioritize, ever so slightly, grabbing a couple of top-20 outfield guys. But, after that, I'm not overreaching for an outfield because there's a run or I'm the last guy to draft my third or fourth outfielder.

In leagues larger than 10 or 12 teams, you might want to start looking at the position earlier; in bigger leagues you will notice that the outfield selection is worse in the later rounds. Basically what I'm saying is you don't want to be the guy picking straws between Melvin Upton Jr. and Andre Ethier, or, in the worst-case scenario, both!

Daniel Kelley will debunk everything I just told you with his personal draft strategy on Wednesday.

The Newbies

There's never a shortage of outfielders, and the influx of potential roamers in the outfield again is high. Ray will scream high atop the mountains for George Springer, who blasted 20 home runs in half a season last year. Unfortunately, there's little wiggle room to acquire the 25-year-old's services. Springer is going in the third round, according to NESN.com's NFBC Average Draft Position.

Colorado's Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon really emerged as go-to fantasy options in the outfield, and I think one has a good chance of doing it again. Can Jorge Soler back up his strong rookie performance? Can Gregory Polanco build on his strong start and slow finish to 2014?

Mookie Betts is slipping in fantasy drafts as the season grows closer because of playing time concerns, while we're not quite sure what we'll get out of Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, who could see time in the outfield.

Big-time prospects include Kris Bryant, who new manager Joe Maddon said will get playing time in the outfield this spring, and Joc Pederson, who is in a crowded Dodgers outfield but clearly possesses some of the top upside in Los Angeles. Steven Souza, now in Tampa Bay, is perhaps my favorite long-term play that's not getting enough love with an ADP of 234.14.

What's Next

We have a lot of great outfield content coming in the week ahead from the talented group of writers here at Fake Teams, including rankings, "sleepers," targets/avoids, player profiles and much, much more. Be sure to check back real soon as Ray releases Part 1 of the Fake Teams consensus ranks, which covers the top-50 fantasy outfielders in 2015.

Time Slot/Day

Monday 3/02/2015

Tuesday 3/03/2015

Wednesday 3/04/2015

Thursday 3/05/2015

Friday 3/06/2015

7am

State of the Position (Alex)

Top 25 Outfielder Prospects (Jason)

Top 100 Outfielder Rankings, Part 2 (Ray)

Outfielders to Target (Staff)

Outfielders to Avoid (Staff)

10am

Top 100 Outfielder Rankings, Part 1 (Ray)

Prospect Profile:Dalton Pompey (Jason)

Outfielder Profile: Starling Marte (Daniel)

Prospect Profile: Manual Margot (Brian)

NL/AL-only Sleepers (Ray)

12pm

Outfielder Profile: George Springer (Rob)

Outfielder Profile: Michael Brantley ()

2015 Outfielder Draft Strategy (Daniel)

Outfielder Profile: Mookie Betts (Tim)

Outfielder Profile: Mookie Betts (Tim)

2pm

Outfielder Profile: Yasiel Puig ()

Outfielder Profile: Billy Hamilton (Nick)

Outfielder Eligibility (Jason)

Outfielder Projections from Steamer (Ray)

Rankings Rumble: George Springer (Brian/Ray)

4pm

Outfielder Profile: Shin-Soo Choo (Tim)

Outfielder Profile: Curtis Granderson (Tim)

Outfielder Profile: Jorge Soler (Alex)

Outfielder Profile: Jason Heyward (Jack)

Outfielder Profile: Dustin Ackley (Tim)