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Cullen: Angels outfielder Trout the top choice

Scott Cullen
3/28/2014 2:59:57 AM
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For years, it has seemed that the outfield has been a plentiful supply of productive fantasy performers; it may no longer be quite the same source of offensive production -- perhaps due to an increased emphasis on defensive performance -- but that makes the good ones even more valuable, the best one, most valuable.

That most valuable of all players is the Angels' Mike Trout, who is in a class by himself. Over the past two seasons, Trout has scored 238 runs, 26 more than anyone else and his 82 stolen bases also leads the majors. His .324 batting average ranks second, while home runs (57) and RBI (180) are Top 25 totals. Put it all together and there is no one more valuable.

Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen and Baltimore's Adam Jones are next behind Trout in runs scored over the past couple seasons, but they also bring pop to the plate, speed to the basepaths and hit for average. In McCutchen's case, his .322 batting average over the past two seasons ranks third overall behind Miguel Cabrera and Trout.

There are a lot of outfield options that come with question marks -- lots of upside too, but definitely question marks. Will Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, presumably clean after a PED suspension, still be a masher? Prior to last season's injury and suspension-shortened campaign, Braun had four straight seasons with at least 25 home runs, 100 RBI and a .300 batting average, with double-digit steals each season, culminating with 30-30 seasons in 2011 and 2012.

The Dodgers' Yasiel Puig had an immediate impact as a rookie last season, crushing 19 home runs in 382 at-bats, and there is always the concern that such a starburst beginning to a career can lead to a sophomore slump. It's worth banking on talent, and Puig has lots, but beware that he may not automatically pick up where he left off in 2013.

Moving away from some of the more volatile picks near the top of the board, there are solid, but not overly exciting, veterans. Matt Holliday is consistent and Cincinnati's Jay Bruce provides reliable power. Even the Yankees' Carlos Beltran has been both productive and healthy in the past couple seasons, hitting 56 home runs in more than 1100 at-bats.

Other veterans come with some variance, with upside that makes them appealing. Texas' Alex Rios is one of five outfielders to have at least 40 homers and 40 stolen bases over the past two seasons; the Angels' Josh Hamilton had a miserable first season in California, but he's one year removed from a 43 home run season in Texas. Injuries have dinged new Yankee Jacoby Ellsbury from time to time, but he's also stolen 50 bases in three different seasons, while Toronto's Jose Bautista has played a total of 210 games in the past two seasons, yet has still slugged 55 home runs.

If you're looking to invest in potential, you can do far worse than targeting Washington's Bryce Harper, a supremely-talented 21-year-old who has hit 42 home runs in his first two big league seasons, but also plays so hard that injuries may be inevitable if he doesn't learn how to better pick his spots.

Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez had a breakthrough year as a 27-year-old in 2013 and he joins Trout as the only outfielders with at least 40 homers and 70 stolen bases over the past two seasons.

Pittsburgh's Starling Marte swiped 41 bases in his first full season, Tampa Bay's Wil Myers showed some power as a rookie, hitting 13 home runs in 335 at-bats. There are maybe a handful of outfielders that have the potential to hit more than 40 home runs and Miami's Giancarlo Stanton -- who has 37 and 34-homer seasons already -- is one of them.

Risk with potential is also attached to the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, who has missed 145 games over the past two seasons; the Mets' Curtis Granderson, who played only 61 games for the Yankees in 2013, but had back-to-back 40-homer seasons prior to that. The Braves' Jason Heyward had a 20-20 season in 2012 before injuries cost him 58 games last season, but Heyward has potential to put together a big power season.

Cincinnati speedster Billy Hamilton has to have some value, for no other reason than he's the most dangerous base-stealer in a generation. If Hamilton has even passable on-base numbers, his steals will tilt a category.

Some other young outfielders that might provide value later in drafts or in deeper leagues include the Angels' Kole Calhoun, the Twins' Oswaldo Arcia and the Brewers' Khris Davis.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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