Now, more than ever, it is important to have more than one skill set as a major league baseball player. No longer can you mash 40-plus home runs and be deficient in every other area. You can steal the world in bases, but if you can’t find a way on base consistently (On-Base percentage), draw walks, and hit for average there will be someone who knows about it. And they will be ready to exploit this.
It’s no different in Fantasy Baseball. As you prepare your rosters take note of key statistical elements that could make or break your season. Here are my top-five outfielders that, if you own just one, will give you the ultimate leg up in your league.
- Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers, Stat Line 2011: 39 HR’s, 126 RBI, 40 SB, .324 BA: Before I get started let me make one thing perfectly clear: Matt Kemp should have been the Most Valuable Player award winner in 2011. Period. End of discussion. The numbers he put up were beyond ridiculous, and to do it with little to no help makes it all the more amazing. Folks, this is a man who darn near won the triple crown last year. Very few people reside in that neighborhood as far as ability to do so, and there aren’t many so young who are currently do it. Obviously, he is going to be my number one choice but lets take a closer look at his incredible season and relate it to how it will help you as a manager. Starting with the percentages, his .324 batting average was third in the National League, his OBP of .399 ranked fourth, and he was first in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which measures the single number of wins a player adds to his team in a given season, at 10. His On-base-plus-slugging (OPS) added up to .986 and his OPS+ (which measures his output compared to league averages) was a staggering 171. What this means for YOU as a manager is you’re getting a player who is entering his prime, hungry to improve on last years totals, and is in a place that he loves for the next eight years. He can carry your categories by himself from night-to-night and that always makes for a very happy team manager.
- Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays, Stat Line 2011: 43 HR, 103 RBI, 132 BB, .302 BA: What a difference a tweak to your batting stance can make. Jose Bautista is the most fascinating story to me because he went from a player who averaged 15/52/.242 as a stat line to, literally, the most feared hitter in baseball. How do I come up with that title for him? It’s pretty simple, really. Take a look at his walks the last two years alone (232). In 2011, 24 of his 132 walks were of the intentional variety, which led the league. His WAR was at 8.1, which ranked first in the American league, and his OPS was an unfathomable 1.056 and his OPS+ of 181 just made things ridiculous by the end of it all. While his power numbers took a slight dip, he also had fewer chances to swing the bat, while also cutting down slightly on his strikeout totals. I ranked him second because he doesn’t give much value in the speed department (18 the last two years) and he still needs to show me he can manage an average above .280 on a consistent basis. Bautista brings a lot to the table as far as statistics. he is one who can bring in 100-plus RBI’s and a boatload of home runs. His slugging, OBP, and OPS should also be a boon to fantasy owners as long as he keeps the walks up and shows continued progress cutting down on his strikeouts. Lets also not forget he had 92 extra base hits. That goes a long way in filling some empty columns some nights.
- Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, Stat Line 2011: 33 HR, 111 RBI, .332 BA, 33 SB, 2011 MVP: I know I’m gonna hear it from a lot of you. How can I put the National League MVP third on this list? Well, I’m going to make a few of you even more upset because I almost made him fourth. Yes, I will admit his positive test for PEDs made me a bit suspicious of what he actually accomplished. He’s always been a phenomenal player, but that is something I look at very seriously. Especially considering his numbers so far this spring (.067 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI in eight games) and how I can’t even trace it back to him being a perennial slow starter (.250 & .325 in 2010 and 2011). Now, PEDs accusations aside his numbers from the year before were something every player wants. His OPS+ of 166 was good for third in the National League and he enhanced a dimension of his game that most didn’t think possible. His steals total of 33 put him in the yearly 30/30 conversation. Which makes his increase in walks and him cutting down on strikeouts even more dangerous because he can produce more runs. Ultimately, though, one of the main reasons I have Braun so low is because he will now be flying solo in Milwaukee. I am very interested to see the kind of numbers he produces without Prince Fielder protecting him on a nightly basis. We’re already seeing the dividends being paid in Detroit with Fielder protecting an already dangerous Cabrera. Now We will need to see if Braun is capable of being a one man show.
- Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox, Stat Line 2011: 32 HR, 105 RBI, .321 BA, 39 SB: When I say this some will look as though I am insane. But at this stage I am a huge fan of Jacoby Ellsbury. Here is a guy who, when healthy, is a top five fantasy producer. The key in that prior statement: when healthy. Last season Ellsbury, who missed most of 2010 and was rumored in multiple trade discussions during the subsequent offseason, put everything together. He can run (stole 50 and 70 bases in 2008 and 2009), he can hit (career .301 hitter), he gets on base (.354 career OBP) and if you draft a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, just sit back and watch the total bases pile up (364 in 2011). By him adding some pop to his game he has made himself into an elite fantasy option. He was second in the American League in WAR as well at 7.2 (fourth in MLB behind Braun), proving his value. I am inclined to draft him number one or two in any league. The reason he is so low is because of that one line: If he is healthy.
- Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies, Stat Line 2011: 26 HR, 92 RBI, .295 BA, 20 SB: Kind of my dark horse pick, although Carlos Gonzalez has made himself a name among fantasy vets, he’s certainly the kind of guy who can fall in your lap if someone isn’t focused enough. The 2010 batting champ took a hit in production, but his hit still amounted to him hitting close to .300 and having an OPS of .889. He has speed (20 SB in 2011 and 66 since 2009), he also has shown a knack for getting on base (.376 and .363 OBP in 2010 and 2011), but his home/road splits are whats keeping him from next level production. He strikes out more, hits sixty points lower, and hits for less power on the road than at home. I still take him because by years end the numbers (however Coors inflated they may be) will be there. If he can bring those numbers a little closer he very well could be higher on this list in 2013.