Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
While most infield positions struggle to find many multi-talented fantasy players, the outfield position is always loaded with these kind of players. This year is no different. In fact, any of the top-three on the list could be 40-40 players if they wanted to put personal goals above team goals. And there is power everywhere you look.
That is also the reason you DON'T pick an outfielder with the first overall picks - there are too many talented players available which lessens everyone's values.
Grady Sizemore, Cleveland - As I said above, Sizemore is capable of a 40-40 season. His only downside is leading off places an upper limit on the RBI total and the fact that he will have 750 plate appearance makes it difficult to bat over .300.
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs - In the perfect world, Soriano would stay healthy and post a 46-41 season like he did in 2006 for the Washington Nationals. Alas, we live in the real world and Soriano played in just 109 games last year after 135 the previous season. He's still got the speed and power, but has been hampered by leg and hand injuries. If you draft him where his talent would place him, you better bring your "lucky charm" with you all season long to keep him healthy.
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets - Beltran puts up solid numbers every year, but whether it is the big contract or unreasonably high expectations, he doesn't get the fantasy respect that he deserves. Since coming to New York in 2005, Beltran has averaged 104 runs, 29 HR, 104 RBI, 20 SB and hit a solid .275.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee - I wrote a piece last summer, demonstrating that Braun's first 212 major league games were better than Albert Pujols' first 212 games. Pujols led in runs (154-148), hits (294-269) and average (.327-.313), but Braun led in HR (60-50), RBI (171-159), SB (24-6) and OPS (.923-.906). Braun struggled in his first pennant race (he also hurt his back) and hit just .208 in September, but he ended up the season with 92 runs, 37 HR, 106 RBI, 14 SB and batted .285. He's only 25-years-old so his peak years are still in front of him.
Matt Holliday, Oakland - Holliday has put up very good numbers as a member of the Colorado Rockies, but now he has moved on to the Oakland Athletics where the batting order is not as powerful and the ballpark is less "hitter- friendly." Holliday still hit over .300 on the road last year, but the power numbers showed a big difference in home versus road (15 HR, 59 RBI in 286 AB in Colorado vs. 10 HR, 29 RBI is 253 AB on the road). On the other hand he might steal even more bases than the 28 he swiped last season.
Manny Ramirez, Free Agent - Though still a "man without a country", Ramirez will eventually find a home before the first ball is thrown out and will hit like he always does - spectacularly. After he and the Dodgers get done playing a game of chicken, he'll be smacking the long ball in LA and turning the Dodgers lineup into a dangerous team. In 229 AB for the Dodgers, Manny hit 17 HR, knocked in 53 runs and hit a stunning .396. He was even better in the playoffs which is why if LA wants to make any noise this season they'll have to work something out. From a hitting standpoint, which is to say a fantasy standpoint as well, there isn't a fantasy roster out there that wouldn't be better off with Manny in the lineup.
Josh Hamilton, Texas - Hamilton was good for a half-a-season in 2007 with Cincinnati, but he really came into his own last year in Texas scoring 98 runs, hitting 32 HRs, knocking in 130 runs and hitting .304. I don't want to bring up the Home Run Contest jinx, but he only hit 11 homers the rest of the way after hitting 21 long balls in the first half. Will his power go the way of Bobby Abreu, or will he be one of the ones to buck the trend? I'm betting on a big season.
Carlos Lee, Houston - Since 2000, Lee had played in less than 150 games in a season one time, so it was just bad luck when a Bronson Arroyo shattered his finger in six places requiring season-ending surgery. "El Caballo" was on a monster pace, having already posted 61 runs, 28 HRs and 100 RBIs in 115 games. If you extrapolate that to his normal 154-game season that would have been equal to 82 runs, 37 HR, 134 RBI while hitting .314. I'll happily take those numbers.
Nick Markakis, Baltimore - In the off-season the team signed Markakis to a six- year extension showing just how much confidence they have in their 25-year-old rising star. His runs scored, doubles, batting average and slugging percentage all increased for the second consecutive year. With three full seasons under his belt and the ability to both hit with some power and steal some bases, Markakis has the potential to reward a fantasy owner with a big season. Of course, potential is what gets coaches fired when it doesn't pan out as expected.
Jason Bay, Boston - It's hard to imagine how good it must have felt to be traded from a perennial also ran to a World Series contender, but Bay's statistics might give us a clue. His batting average increased as did his slugging percentage. His runs scored and RBI pace were also better than when he played his home games in the Steel City. With a full season in the heart of the Red Sox lineup, I'm expecting big things from Bay in 2009.
Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels - Guerrero smacked 27 homers and drove in 91 runs while batting .302 or better for the 12th straight season. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Stop expecting Guerrero's hitting ability to suddenly drop off! This year will be more of the same.
Alex Rios, Toronto - Rios dramatically increased his stolen base totals (32-17) which made up for the fact that his home run totals was significantly down (24-15). It could have been because the team surrounding Rios didn't exactly strike fear into the opposing pitcher. If Vernon Wells and Scott Rolen could stay healthy it would certainly help. On the other hand Toronto faces some pretty good pitching staffs over the course of the 162-game schedule. If he can just get back to the 24 HR pace of 2007 he'll be a very good value.