Friday, February 29, 2008

Matt's Stats: Baseball Preview Edition

Grapefruit and Cactus League play is now in full force and with that comes the official time when all Owners start preparing for their draft. This week we have a preview of the outfielders. Unlike with the other positions, many leagues start up to 5 or 6 outfielders, so with that in mind here are separate rankings for the top NL and the top AL outfielders in MLB.

NL Outfielders:

1) Matt Holliday (OF - Colorado Rockies) - Holliday has always been good but he had a career year in 2007 carrying the Rockies through the September hot streak and Rocktober on the way to Colorado's first World Series appearance. Last year, Matt Holliday hit the second most HR of any NL outfielders (36 HR), led all NL OF in RBI with 137 RBI (18 ahead of 2nd place), led all NL OF with 120 Runs (15 more then the next closest), led all outfielders with a .340 avg., and even gained a respectable 11 SB during the season. Holliday clearly had the best season of any NL OF in 2007, and there is no reason to think that there should be any decrease in stats. Holliday has improved in every major category in all 4 years he has been in the majors, and as a result don't be surprised to see an increase to 40+ HR this season, as well as more RBI with the young players in Colorado continuing to improve and get on base in front of Holliday. All of this clearly adds up to making Holliday, for the first time in his career, an automatic first round pick in all formats.

2) Carlos Beltran (OF, New York Mets) - Beltran may have had an off year in a few categories last year (34 less runs scored then in 2006 and 8 less HR then in 2006), but the rest of his numbers were there, and if his unusual talking this spring is any indication, Beltran is ready to rock and lead the Mets back to a division title. Beltran is a safe end of first round pick, he will hit .275, get about 37 HR, hit 115 RBI, and collect about 20 SB as long as he stays healthy. Don't ignore Beltran on draft day, as he is still clearly one of the best fantasy producers at the position.

3) Alfonso Soriano (OF, Chicago Cubs) - Many who drafted Soriano with one of the first picks in last year's draft were disappointed with Soriano's production. He clearly did not live up to the hype, but don't let that cause you to miss out on one of the top players in this year's draft. Soriano was slowed last year by injuries and getting used to Chicago, but once healthy and adjusted he hit .320 with 14 HR and 27 RBI in the month of September. If you are in the back part of the first round, make sure to draft Soriano or you may regret it for the rest of the season. Expect stats closer to his 2006 season when he hit 46 HR and ran for 41 SB.

4) Carlos Lee (OF - Houston Astros) - Houston may like their Mitchell Report players and they may have a bad team, but don't forget Lee who has nothing to do with any of that. Lee took a lot of money to sign with Houston before the 2007 season, where he did what he always does...he hit, totalling 32 Hr, 119 RBI, with a .303 avg. This all-star is definitely worth an early round pick and projects as one of the best outfielders in the game this season.

5) Brad Hawpe (OF - Colorado Rockies) - Even with a humidor it never hurts to have a bunch of Rockies on one's fantasy players, and with that it mind Hawpe is the 2nd of 5 Rockies on this list. Like Holliday, Hawpe really came into his own last year hitting .291 with a career high 29 HR and a career high 116 RBI. Hawpe is 28 years old and entering his prime so don't forget about Hawpe who seems like an easy pick to hit 30 HRs for the first time in his career.

AL Outfielders:

1) Carl Crawford (OF - Tampa Bay Rays) - The Junior Circuit may not have the power numbers out of the OF position that the Senior Circuit has, but when it comes to batting avg. and SB these AL OF will really help your Fantasy team, as is seen with Crawford. Crawford may hit 20 HR one day, but that is not why you are drafting him. He is guaranteed to hit .300, get 50 SB, and score close to 100 Runs and this is enough to make him a first round pick on draft day.

2) B.J. Upton (OF - Tampa Bay Rays) - It may not be saying much but this year, Tampa Bay clearly has their best team in Franchise history. One of the reasons why is that they have one of the best outfields in all of MLB. Upton for years was a top prospect and finally broke out last year hitting .300 with 24 HR, 82 RBI, 86 Runs scored, and 22 SB. The Rays lineup should be improved this year giving Upton greater RBI opportunities, allowing him to get his first 100 RBI season in 2008. Some owners may be used to ignoring Tampa Bay on draft day, but don't make this mistake! There are a lot of good Rays playing this year, and Upton is one of the best.

3) Magglio Ordonez (OF - Detroit Tigers) - Ordonez is an easy pick and is clearly one of the best outfielders in the majors. This Ordonez is the exact opposite of ex-Met Rey Ordonez in his offensive ability, meaning that he can actually hit. In 2007, Magglio hit a league leading .363 with 28 HR and 139 RBI and now will get to bat in an even better lineup in 2008. Ordonez may be 34 years old, but he still has a few more big years in him, making Ordonez an excellent early round selection on draft day.

4) Vladimir Guerrero (OF - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) - Vlad has probably been the most consistent player in the majors over the last 10 seasons and is a great value pick in Round 2. Guerrero is a lifetime .325 hitter and has averaged 35 HR and 113 RBI during that 10 year period with the Expos and Angels. Barring an injury, and with added protection in the lineup this year from Torii Hunter, Guerrero will put up those same numbers again. Take Guerrero on draft day, and that's one position you don't have to worry about for the rest of the year.

5) Alex Rios (OF - Toronto Blue Jays) - Rios is another player who has continued to improve during all four years of his career. In 2007 Rios had a career high in runs scored (114), HR (24), RBI (85), and SB (17), while hitting an impressive .297. Rios, at the age of 28, is another player just entering his prime, who should be able to get to 100 RBI for the first time in his career as he continues to improve. Playing in Canada, Rios has kind of flown under the radar, but don't forget about him. Rios is one of the best outfielders in the American League.

That's all for now, stay tuned for the Starting Pitchers Preview next week. As always, if anyone has any questions specific to their teams or leagues, post them in the comments section and I will be happy to answer them in next week's column. Have a Great Weekend!!

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