In the world of fantasy baseball, outfield is by far the most diverse of positions and perhaps the easiest position to fill. No other position offers such an extensive array of speed, power and average that can be had all throughout the draft. 2011 is no exception to the rule of “outfield prestige” as several outfielders look to shed their sleeper status and step into complete fantasy predominance. In this article, I will spotlight a few outfielders not named Jason Heyward on whom you should keep an eye come draft day, as well as a few names you should probably look past.
Welcome back to the Cafe’s annual “2 Up, 2 Down” series, where Cafe members highlight two players per position expected to outperform projected draft slot, as well as two players that should not be drafted at their typical rank.
Drew Stubbs, Reds
Often overlooked by his colleague Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs truly displayed his talents in 2010. In fantasy baseball, players who have the ability to steal bases and hit the ball out of the park come at a premium, and Drew Stubbs is just that type of player. Last season Stubbs stole 30 bases while hitting 22 home runs and driving in 77 runs, as well as scoring 91 runs hitting in front of the illustrious Joey Votto. These were extremely respectable numbers for the 25 year old, who entered the year as one of my personal favorite sleepers. However Stubbs looks to even better those numbers in 2011. If he is able to better his plate vision and reduce his strikeout rate, which was substantial in 2010, Stubbs is looking at a stellar season, perhaps 5th or 6th round value. Expect him to give you Alex Rios type numbers, a 20/30 season with 80 RBIs. He should also score a plethora of runs hitting atop that dangerous Reds lineup. If he’s able to better his batting average and reduce his strikeout rate, Drew Stubbs is an ideal draft target in 2011.
Jose Tabata, Pirates
Despite hitting in a less-than-stellar lineup, Jose Tabata proved himself worthy of fantasy relevance in 2010. Since getting called up in June, he impressed with a great ability to hit for average, steal bases and even occasionally hit the long ball. With his average draft potion being where it is, his name screams sleeper. Between his time in the majors and the minors, Tabata showed huge base stealing prowess as he managed to swipe 44 bags in 57 attempts. With that said, his athleticism and keen ability to swipe bases alone makes him a remarkable fantasy asset. Keep in mind that he won’t hit for too much power, as he posted an OPS of just .746 last season. For now, Tabata’s only real fantasy significance is in the realm of steals, but hopefully he’ll be able to develop some power, probably providing your team with 10 or so home runs. In 2011, Jose Tabata looks to emerge as a reliable fantasy option and is one of my personal favorite sleepers in 2011.
Nick Markakis, Orioles
Over these last couple of seasons, Markakis has proved himself to be reliably mediocre for fantasy teams. Over the last two seasons, he has slugged a mere .445 but continues to be regarded as a top outfield option, going in the 7th to 10th rounds. At one point many people considered him a 20/20 candidate, but those days are surely over. While Markakis can certainly hit for a decent average (.295 over the last 2 seasons) and is prolific at getting on base, his bat still leaves a lot to be desired. He has only managed to hit 30 home runs over the last two years, and he drove in just 60 runs last season. Markakis is by no means a bad fantasy option, but owners should definitely look for someone else who will provide their team with more value. Players such as Mike Stanton, Colby Rasmus, Delmon Young, Drew Stubbs and Carlos Lee should all post better numbers than Markakis in 2011.
Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers
Corey Hart’s always been a curious fantasy baseball option, holding distinct 20/20 potential. In 2010, Hart most certainly impressed fantasy baseball owners with terrific first half numbers (an OPS of .918 with 21 homers). Unfortunately, he seemingly disappeared in the second half as his OPS dropped to .789, which certainly represents his normal self. Hart still finished the year with respectable numbers, posting 31 homers and 100-plus RBIs, but fantasy owners have to wonder if his disappointing second half is a sign of things to come in 2011. I fully expect Hart to return to his normal “20/20” self, minus the 20 stolen bases. Hart’s 2011 stat line will most likely read 20 homers, 80 RBIs, a .280 average and 10 steals, numbers which belong to a player lower than Corey Hart’s current average draft position.
Bryan Williams is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Bryan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of MasterX1918.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!