Overachieving outfielders or owner miscalculations?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We saw quite a few amazing performances during the 2012 baseball season, many of which took us by surprise. It's the job of the fantasy owner to determine if those same guys, who came out of nowhere to dominate last year's fantasy roster, will do it again in 2013.
Below you will find eight outfielders who performed well above expectations, at least those by Yahoo league fantasy owners. In each case, the player finished the season ranked more than 100 spots higher than his preseason rank.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (223/1) - This one seems pretty easy to diagnose. Fantasy owners didn't jump for Trout on Draft Day because he started the season with the Salt Lake Bees of the Pacific Coast League. Those who took a late-round flier were rewarded with one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory. Playing just 139 games, Trout still led the league in runs (129) and stolen bases (49) while averaging .326 with 30 home runs, 83 RBI and a .963 OPS. Expectations are over the top for 2013 because of his rare speed and power combination. He'll likely be the first player off the board despite his inexperience and he has all the tools to repeat last year's stunning performance.
Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox (168/16) - There was almost nothing in his 2011 statistics (.227, 13 HR, 44 RBI, .613 OPS) that screamed "he's going to have a career year," but that's what happened. In 2012, he went out and posted numbers similar to 2007 - the last time fantasy owners were happy about having him on their roster. Rios has rarely put together back-to-back productive seasons, so expect a drop in your return if you invest in Rios for 2013.
Josh Willingham, Minnesota (204/41) - Willingham's 2012 season was the best of his nine-year career, putting up career highs in runs (85), home runs (35), RBI (110) and OPS (.890) despite playing half his games in what is considered a pitcher's ballpark (Target Field). As long as Justin Morneau is protecting his back, Willingham should continue to produce, though expecting a repeat of 2012 may be a little bit too much. Thirty homers and 100 RBI are attainable goals.
Torii Hunter, Detroit (170/48) - At 36 years old and certainly on the decline, not much was expected of Hunter, and in the first half of the 2012 season he didn't produce. However, after the All-Star break and a resolution to some family problems, Hunter blew up, batting .350 with an .866 OPS over the final 73 games. In the offseason, he signed with Detroit when it appeared the Angels had no money to spend on the free agent. If he bats in the second spot between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera, he should see a lot of good pitches to hit, and even at this point in his career he could repeat what he did in the second half of 2012.
Austin Jackson, Detroit (193/53) - After a mediocre 2011 season, Jackson produced at a level we haven't seen before. Sure, he scored 103 runs in his rookie season just like he did in 2012, but this time he showed much more power (65 extra base hits, including a career-high 16 homers) which resulted in a stunning .856 OPS. Manager Jim Leyland wants him to run more, the last remaining area of improvement fantasy owners need for him to blossom into a fantasy stud. In the Tigers' well-stocked lineup, Jackson should be a 100-run, 20-homer, 75-RBI, 20-stolen base guy on a yearly basis.
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs (234/73) - Not much was expected of Soriano following an average 2011 season, but the Cubs' outfielder fooled almost everyone by posting his best power numbers since 2008. Unfortunately, he'll never be the fantasy superstar he was from 2002-2006 because he can't run anymore. He's also likely to finish the season with a team other than Chicago, so be careful not to put too much stock in last year's performance.
Angel Pagan, San Francisco (235/82) - Pagan didn't get much attention, but he was a nice late-round selection last year. He batted .288 with 95 runs, 29 stolen bases and led the league in triples. Most fantasy leagues don't include triples as a category, however, instead using homers, and that's a tough assignment playing in spacious AT&T Park (he hit just one home run in his home ballpark in 79 games).
Josh Reddick, Oakland (327/99) - In his first season with more than 300 at- bats, Reddick thrived despite the less-than-favorable ballpark, smacking 32 home runs with 85 RBI. Beware, however, he did most of his damage in the first half and it appeared pitchers caught up with him as he batted just .215 with 12 homers and an ugly .647 OPS after the All-Star break. Sometimes playing too much can expose a weakness and this might be one of those times.
Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee (344/107) - Until last season, Gomez had never hit more than eight homers in a season, but in getting his first chance as a full-time outfielder in Milwaukee, Gomez responded with 19 homers to go along with 37 steals. He did most of his damage out of the seventh hole and it appears he'll stay there rather than move to the top of the lineup. We think his 2012 numbers are repeatable.