When it comes to the outfield, there are numerous strategies. Go for the elite outfielders or take your time and fill your late round picks with decent producers. One thing is for sure in this season’s outfield draft: there will be stolen bases available in the later rounds as teams start running more now that we are in an era where the pitchers have caught up to the hitters a bit (PED’s?).
Here’s a look at our fantasy baseball sleepers for 2012 at the outfield position. If you want to see our overall top 75 outfielders for 2012, click here.
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers — Outfielders 2012
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels — It’s tough to think of Mike Trout as a sleeper give that he has been the #1 Top Prospect in all of baseball. In fact, he doesn’t even have a guaranteed position with the deep Angels outfield that includes Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos, and Torii Hunter. Add to that a .220 average in 40 games last season and he may not be #1 everywhere. That being said, Trout was named the 2011 Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America after hitting .326 with 18 doubles, 13 triples, 11 home runs, 82 runs scored and 33 stolen bases for Double-A Arkansas last year. Some more time at Triple-A would probably help, but Mike Trout is too good to not break with the Angels out of Spring Training and get 400 at bats this season.
2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals — As if there hasn’t been enough hype around Mike Trout, consider Bryce Harper who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated during high school and described as “Baseball’s Lebron!” Harper played at Hagerstown and Harrisburg (BallparkBob’s hometown) last year and hit .297 with 17 homers and 58 RBI, 26 stolen bases in 109 games. He’ll likely start the season in Triple-A, but if the Nationals are contending with their improved lineup, expect him up to the Bigs in June where he’ll make an impact this season and be a great, inexpensive keeper for 2013.
3. John Mayberry, Jr., Philadelphia Phillies — Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr. smacked 15 homers in 2011, with 49 RBIs, 37 runs scored, eight steals and a .273 batting average in 267 at-bats. That gave the Phillies the impetus to allow veteran Raul Ibanez to walk into free agency. We’ve upped our Mayberry Jr. 2012 projections to 25 home runs and 90 RBI.
4. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics — It’s surprising that Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes backed off of the opportunity to play in the Little Havana section of the new Marlins Ballpark, but he chose Oakland instead for 4 years and $36 million plus no salary arbitration in his fifth season. That’s not as big of a deal given that Cespedes is already 26 and just a year away from his baseball prime. It will be interesting to see what the Athletics do with current center fielder, the outspoken Coco Crisp, on a team that is simply loaded with outfielders. Signing Cespedes is definitely a move away from Billy Bean’s Moneyball philosophy. How good is he? Cespedes hit a record 33 home runs to go along with a .333 average and 99 RBIs in 90 games last season. He was also Cuba’s starting center fielder during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, batting .458 in six games.
5. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays — Desmond Jennings is a five tool guy who put in 247 at bats last year for Tampa where he was .259/10/25/20. Project that out to a full season and Jennings is 20 home run 40 stolen base player.
6. Alex Presley, Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates have not already anointed Presley as a starter, but we think he’ll come out of Spring Training as the starter in left field. The 26-year-old outfielder certainly put together a 2011 season that would warrant the chance. At Triple-A Indianapolis, Presley batted .333 with 31 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs, 58 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. After the call to the Pirates, he played in 52 games, hit .298 and added 4 homeruns and 9 stolen bases.
7. Bryan LaHair, Chicago Cubs — Bryan LaHair will not be an outfielder this year, but will be the Cubs regular first baseman, but his 14 games in the outfield last year will qualify him. LaHair’s 38 homers and 109 RBI at Triple-A last year, gives Cubs fans a reason to smile.
8. Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds — In only 279 at-bats, the left fielder drilled 18 homers and drove in 50 runs last year for the Reds. Chris Heisey will be pushed for playing time by Ryan Ludwick, but it appears to us that Heisey is the pure winner in that battle.
9. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals — The Royals thought enough of Lorenzo Cain to send Melky Cabrera packing. Cain was .312/16/81/16 at Triple-A last year. As the Royals’ starter in center field, Bill James’ projects him at .284/10/52/22.
10. Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres — In Cameron Maybin’s first season with the Padres, he hit .264 with nine home runs, 40 RBIs and a career best 40 steals; 26 of those stolen bases came after the break. He will get a lot of chances to run in 2012 after completing his first full season as a starter.
11. Jason Bourgeois, Houston Astros –Jason Bourgeois stole 17 bases in 102 first half at-bats, and fantasy owners were drooling when the trade of Michael Bourn opened up a full-time role. But the speedster hit just .157 in August, but rebounded with a .341 batting average and seven steals in September. He’s likely a guy to pick up and put on your streaker list to go up and down on your roster if you can stand to be without his stolen bases for some time.
12. J.D. Martinez, Houston Astros — Astros rookie outfielder J.D. Martinez went deep six times, drove in 35 runs, scored 29 times and hit .274 in his initial Major League action during 2011. For a team that will struggle to score runs in 2012, Martinez is a solid sleeper.
13. Lucas Duda, New York Mets — Lucas Duda has shown power since coming to the Big Leagues. He’s hit 14 homers over the past two seasons and 385 MLB at bats. With the fences coming in at Citi Field and Duda earning a regular spot in the Mets’ outfield due to the departure of Carlos Beltran, he’s a solid 2012 sleeper.
14. Mike Carp, Seattle Mariners — Mariners outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp finished the 2011 season with 12 homers, 46 RBIs, 27 runs scored and a .276 batting average in 290 at-bats. That gave Carp the highest average on a team that includes Ichiro.
15. Nolan Reimold, Baltimore Orioles — In three seasons with the Orioles, Nolan Reimold is only a career .256 hitter, but I like his 13 bombs in just 256 at bats last season. He should get most of the starts this season and is capable of 25 homers if he plays 140 games.
16. Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers — Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch hit .283 with 16 homers, five steals, 54 RBIs and 75 runs scored in an injury-shortened 2011 season. With Prince Fielder in the lineup, Boesch is going to get more RBI chances in 2012.
17. Chris Gentry, Texas Rangers — Chris Gentry will battle Cuban defector Leonys Martin for the center field job in Texas. This is going to be a very interesting situation to watch in Spring Training. Gentry has more experience and his 18 stolen bases in just 64 games last year makes him an intriguing fantasy baseball sleeper.
18. Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers — We give the slight edge to Gentry to win the center field job in Texas based on slightly more experience, but Martin is a force. The Cuban moved from Rookie to the Rangers last year, spending most of his season at Triple-A. Bill James projects Martin to be a 28 stolen base guy in 2012.
19. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres — Yonder Alonso will get his first real chance at starting every day in 2012 with the Padres. He hit .296 in the minors last year and .330 in 96 AB’s with the Reds. He can hit 10 home runs and bat .275 in San Diego.
20. Jose Tabata, Pittsburgh Pirates — After batting .299 in his rookie season, Jose Tabata hit .266 with 18 doubles, four homers, 53 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 2011. His season ended in early September with a broken hand. Not a lot of power in Tabata, but he should hit .280 for you and could steal 25 bases. And, being a Pirate means he’s not top of mind for your fantasy baseball managers.
21. Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox — The Cuban Dayan Viciedo has been up for two seasons with the White Sox and played in 67 games with 206 at bats. His average is .282 with 6 homers and 2 stolen bases. At Triple – A last year, Viciedo was .296/20/16/2. He’ll be the regular in right this year for the White Sox.
22. Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics — Josh Reddick was traded from the Red Sox for Andrew Bailey and he’ll get a chance to play every day in Oakland. In three seasons, and 375 at bats, he hit .248/10/37/2.
23. Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians — Shin-Soo Choo struggled with injuries and a much publicized DUI in 2011, but Choo has hit .300 or better in three full seasons. At age 28, he’s in his prime and will bounce back with another .300+ year.
24. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves — Braves outfielder Jason Heyward struggled in 2011, hitting .227 with 14 homers, nine steals, 42 RBIs and 50 runs scored. Heyward ended up sharing some of his right field playing time with Jose Constanza by the end of the season, but at age 22, he’s got an amazing future ahead of him. He may have overtrained in the off-season prior to last year as he bulked up by 21 pounds. Heyward will report to camp at a much leaner 235 this season as opposed to the 256 where he started last Spring.
25. Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants — If you like talented players going into their free agent year, then Angel Pagan is your man. In six Major League seasons, Pagan owns a .279 batting average with 33 home runs, 209 RBIs and 95 stolen bases. Firmly entrenched as the San Francisco leadoff hitter, a move out of the Mets locker room and into the Giants may help.
26. Darnell McDonald, Boston Red Sox — With the trade of Josh Reddick to the Athletics, Darnell McDonald will likely be the starting right fielder for Boston on opening day.
27. Ryan Kalish, Boston Red Sox – Ryan Kalish would likely have won the right field job, but he had labrum surgery in November which will keep him on the shelf early in the season. This is a good opportunity to handcuff players in the late rounds of your draft. Kalish will ultimately win the right field spot from McDonald.
28. Jordan Schaefer, Houston Astros — Jordan Schafer has enough speed (24 steals in 469 career at-bats) to warrant mixed-league attention if he can get a full-time role in 2012. But he can’t steal first base and Schafer’s .228 career batting average in the Bigs and .269 highest average in the minors could keep the 25-year-old from securing regular work, even on a bad Houston club.