Outfield is the deepest position in fantasy baseball and because of that, there tends to be a lot of good ones available in the later rounds. There’s also a segment of fantasy baseball owners (I being a part of that group), who don’t go after outfielders early, specifically because of the limited talent at positions like catcher, short stop and second base.
While it would be nice to have a guy like Giancarlo Stanton or Matt Kemp, taking them ahead of guys like Robinson Cano or Troy Tulowitzki doesn’t make sense to me. If you can draft two of the best players at their position you should definitely take advantage of that.
With the abundance of outfield talent spilling over into the late rounds while everyone else is drafting other positions because they got their outfielders early, there are a few guys worth highlighting on your draft day cheat sheet under this important position.
Norichika Aoki, Milwaukee Brewers
It’s not every day that you see a 31-year-old rookie make the top five of the Rookie of the Year voting, but that is exactly what Aoki did last season. In 151 games last season Aoki hit .288 with a .433 slugging percentage. While Aoki only had 10 home runs, he did well in plenty of other categories; with 30 steals, 81 runs, 50 RBIs and 37 doubles. He also has a solid strikeout to walk rate as he was walked 43 times while only striking 55 times.
Aoki is currently being taken in the 20th round or higher in most mock drafts around players like Kevin Youkilis and Colby Rasmus. Drafting him in the 18th or 19th round wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins
Josh was willing to go HAM last season and actually found himself with a silver slugger award at the end of 2012 alongside outfielders Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Despite the low average (.260) and high strikeout totals (141), Willingham was able to garner 35 homers, 110 RBIs and 85 runs. These numbers alone warrant a much higher selection in the draft, and while I see a drop in his overall numbers, I would still draft him ahead of guys like Eric Hosmer, Ike Davis and Curtis Granderson.
Willingham is going off the board in the early teen rounds, but don’t let him get to that point.
Ichiro Suzuki, New York Yankees
Don’t let Ichiro’s age get to you. He was able to put together a season in 2012, not far from his better years in Seattle. Ichiro only played in 67 games last season for New York but hit .322, with 28 runs, 13 doubles and 27 RBIs. He also had an OBP of .340 and the last time he was close to that he was an All-Star that had multiple MVP votes. I wouldn’t expect him to be an All-Star this year but if he repeats a season like last year with a full schedule, he could end up having one very productive season for your fantasy team.
Ichiro is being drafted around the 20th round in most drafts. Do yourself a favor and use your 18th round pick on him.
Dodgers outfielders not named Matt Kemp
While Matt Kemp is going off the board between the middle and end of the first round, there are three other Dodgers outfielders who offer more value when you look at where they’re being taken.
Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig are three guys who are all going off the board after round 15 and that just shouldn’t be the case for Ethier and Crawford. When healthy, Crawford and Ethier are good for an average just under .300, 70-80 runs, 60-plus RBIs and 30 or more doubles apiece.
Yasiel Puig is the third sleeper of the group and the most interesting on at that. Although he is expected to start the season in Triple-A Albuquerque, Puig has opened a lot of eyes this spring and if he keeps it up, will be in L.A in no time. Puig is hitting .527 this spring and at one point had 10 hits in 11 at-bats. While he hits consistently well (a league leading 29 hits this spring) he also has the speed and power to match, with three home runs, five doubles, two triples and four stolen bases this spring.
Don’t let Ethier or Crawford go past the 15th round and be sure to draft Puig with one of your last picks. Puig will be given the chance this year, the only question is when?
Have any questions or disagree with my take? Let me know. You can reach me on Twitter@ThisJustM or leave a comment below.