Best NL Fantasy Baseball Outfielders for 2013
The following is a list of the top National League fantasy baseball outfielders for the 2013 season. The rankings are based on personal opinion formed while watching a tremendous number of National League baseball games. The list will be updated as the off season progresses, roster moves are made, and spring training rolls around.
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24. Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
The 29 year old Pence appears to have peaked as a player with his best years now behind him. 2012 was supposed to be his big 30 homer, 120 RBI year, but it never really panned out the way everyone was hoping it would, especially the Phillies. They were expecting an impact hitter when they acquired him from Houston, but they realized their mistake after a short cup of coffee and decided to ship him off to the Giants. Overall for the season he batted .253 with 24 homers, 104 RBI, and 5 stolen bases. If he stays in San Francisco expect his numbers to drop some due to the negative effects of his new home ballpark. I expect Pence will hit .270 with 20 homers and 80 RBI. It also appears the days of double digit stolen bases are also behind him. Don't reach for him.
23. Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres
Maybin was one of my top ten NL outfielders before the start of last season but ended up disappointing me and everyone else that bought into him as a break out candidate. He started the season batting lead off, but hit so poorly that his average fell below .200 and Bud Black was forced to move him down to the 7th or 8th spot to reduce the carnage. Then assorted nagging injuries hampered him in the second half. He finished at .243 with 8 homers, 67 runs, 45 RBI, 26 stolen bases, but only a .306 OBP. On the bright side his strike out rate dropped from 22% in 2011 to 19.6% in 2012. He is still young enough to turn it around but this isn't the first time we've heard this about Maybin. Another bright spot is that the Padres appear poised to be an offensive force in 2013. If Maybin can stay healthy and improve his OBP he could have a monster season.
22. Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers
Crawford came over to the Dodgers in the big Boston salary dump. When he was traded he was on the long term DL and never played a game for the Dodgers in 2012. The 31 year old played only 31 games for Boston and batted .282 with 5 stolen bases. He never really did much for Boston, but hopefully he can return to the form he had in Tampa Bay where he was a dominant fantasy player. With Victorino out of the picture Crawford is now clearly one of starters. However, he is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, so there are question marks around his chances contributing fully this season.
21. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 30 year old Ethier is in the same situation as Victorino and Crawford. There is one too many starting outfielders on the Dodgers. Kemp is untouchable, so one of these other three will have to go to free up playing time. Either was demoted to a certain extent last season when all of the trades were made and Gonzalez and Hanley came to LA. He suddenly found himself batting 6th instead of 3rd or 4th. Pay close attention to see how this plays out in spring training. Overall in 2012 Ethier batted .284 with 20 homers and 89 RBI.
20. Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies
Fowler had his best season last year but it was also maddening due to a series of nagging injuries that kept him constantly out of the lineup in the second half. It was one thing after another. He ended up killing many fantasy owners by missing the entire last 2 weeks of 2012 with a wrist injury. The slightly built Fowler lifted weights with Giambi and Helton during the off season and the work paid off as his power numbers jumped across the board. Overall he batted .300 with 13 home runs, 11 triples, 72 runs, 53 RBI, 12 steals, and a it looks like a misprint .863 OPS. The center field job is his. Now all he has to do is stay healthy.
19. Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres
Quentin makes for a risky pick with his injury history. In seven seasons he has never played more than 131 games or had more than 480 at bats. If he could only stay healthy he would be a monster, but knee problems continue to plague him. However, the Padres for some reason seem confidant in his health as they signed him to a three year extension in last July. Overall in 2012 Quentin played in only 86 games and hit 16 home runs with 46 RBI. The Padres could be one of the surprising offensive teams in 2013 with their potent lineup repositioned fences and Quentin will most likely be in the middle of all the fireworks batting fourth. If only he could stay in the lineup.
18. Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks
The 30 year old Kubel revived his career in Arizona. After hitting only 12 homers in 2011 he roared back last season to bat .253 with 30 doubles, 30 home runs, and 90 RBI. At one point last season Kubel was actually leading the NL in RBI for his new team and was batting .290 as late as July 31st. However, he slumped badly to end the season batting only .171 with only 18 RBI in August and September. Even though he fell off the pace he still ended up with a solid season overall in his first year in the NL and is a lock for 25 home runs and 90 RBI in 2013.
17. Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants
In a round about way the Mets and Giants swapped center fielders during the off season with Pagan leaving New York for the Bay Area and Andres Torres taking the opposite trip. However, the Giants clearly came out on top in the covert deal as "Crazy Horse" Pagan put together a solid campaign for his new team. In 154 games the 31 year old filled up the stat sheet by batting .288 with 38 doubles, 15 triples, 8 home runs, 95 runs, 56 RBI, and 29 steals. He will go into spring training as the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter and I expect him to hit .280 with 7 homers and 25 steals.
16. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
Older players should be lining up to play in St. Louis as it appears the fountain of youth is located somewhere just beyond the right field wall. First Lance Berkman in 2011 and then Beltran in 2012, these older, broken down players somehow are able to rejuvenate their careers with the Cardinals. Last season the 35 year old Beltran came out of the gate on fire and ended up overall batting .269 with 32 home runs, 97 RBI, and 13 steals. Injuries are always a concern with him, even in St. Louis, but he should have enough left to provide 20 homers and 80 RBI.
15. B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
The Braves really gutted the top of their order by not signing Bourn and trading Prado. To make up for this they signed BJ Upton to play centerfield in 2013. Hopefully, they don't expect him to fill the hole at the top of the order because getting on base is not one of his strengths (.336 career OBP and only .298 last season) and he also strikes out a lot (over 160 punch outs each of the last three seasons). On the bright side he is still only 28 years old and hit 28 homers and stole 31 bases last season, so he is a good source for these counting stats. I expect he will go 25-25 this season, but don't look for much help with batting average. It will be interesting to see how many strike outs the Braves' new outfield racks up this year. With the two Upton's and Heyward they may combine for close to an astounding 450 K's this summer, which will help keep steamy Turner Field cool during the dog days of August.
14. Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers
You know what you are going to get with Hart, but don't expect anything more at this stage in his career or you will be disappointed. Just ask fantasy owners that drafted him in previous seasons hoping for the breakout year. It never came. It doesn't mean there isn't value here because there is. For example, last season he batted .270 with 30 homers, 83 RBI, and 5 steals. It just means that age age 31 it's unlikely he has any room left for improvement. Expect around 25-30 home runs, 80 RBI, and a .275 average and you won't be disappointed. Hart is also eligible at first base in most leagues where he played 103 games last year. Reports are coming out that he had surgery on his knee and may miss several months. Stay tuned for more information.
13. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals
Craig is one of the more unheralded names on the list but could be one of the break out players of 2013 if the Cardinals give him the chance to play every day and accumulate 600 plate appearances. In only 119 games and 469 at bats last season he batted .307 with 22 home runs, 35 doubles, 92 RBI, and an .876 OPS. The 28 year old Craig is also eligible at first base where he played 91 games last season which adds to his value. If Berkman goes to another team, which would make him the starting 1B then his value could rise a few spots.
12. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks
Prado is seemingly eligible at every position on the diamond after having played 119 games in the outfield, 25 at third base, 13 at shortstop, and 10 at second base during the 2012 season. He is both one of my favorite baseball players for his unselfish style of play and one of my favorite fantasy players for the way he quietly accumulates points in all categories. In 156 games last season the 29 year old right hander batted .301 with 42 doubles, 6 triples, 10 homers, 81 runs, 70 RBI, 17 steals, 58 walks, and only 69 strike outs. He was recently traded to Arizona and will most likely move to third base. Expect a boost in production due to the hitter friendly environment of his new home ballpark.
11. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
The 20 year old Harper did nothing but impress me with his attitude and style of play after being called up last season. Based on reports from the minor leagues, I thought we were going to see the next Barry Bonds in terms of personality and arrogance, but what we got instead was a Pete Rose clone that sprinted out of the batters box during routine grounders and dove head first into the bases. His greatest moment had to be the stealing of home after being plunked by Cole Hamels. That was pretty awesome. Hopefully, he can keep this energy and intensity up for at least a few more years because it is fun to watch. His opposite field power is also something to behold for someone of his age. Overall in 139 games, mostly batting second, he finished his rookie campaign at .270 with 22 homers, 9 triples, 98 runs, 59 RBI, 18 stolen bases, and an .817 OPS.
10. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
It appears Big Daddy has found a home in St. Louis. The .313 career hitter had another solid season that saw him bat .295 with 27 homers, and 102 RBI. His speed and stolen base potential is pretty much gone and for some reason he struck out a career high 132 times. However, I think we will see similar levels of production from the 33 year old in 2013. A safe, solid pick.
9. Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds
Did the Reds really need another left handed hitter? Who knows what they were thinking when they signed Choo, but they have him and the word is he will play center and bat near the top of the order to take advantage of his ability to get on base. In early spring action he has batted lead off. Over the past four years with Cleveland, Choo averaged solid, across-the-board production with a .289 batting average, 16 home runs, 73 runs, 70 RBI, 19 stolen bases, .382 OBP, and .841 OPS. He should see a boost in the power at the Great American Bandbox so a 20-20 season is certainly a possibility. I predict the 31 year old will hit .290 with 20 homers, 20 steals, and 72 RBI. He also has the chance to reach 100 runs if he bats lead off.
8. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
The 23 year old Bigfoot had an amazing year even though it seemed like he played only part time due to various assorted injuries. In only 123 games and 449 at bats he hit .290 with an astounding 37 homers, 86 RBI, and a .969 OPS. However, his fragility is a serious cause for concern. Every time I checked a Marlins' box score it seemed he was out of the lineup. Will he ever be able to play 150 plus games? If he does, it will be awesome power spectacle as I'm sure he will easily surpass 50 homers. If you have doubts just remember his cannon shot that damaged a section of the Miami scoreboard. He's not higher on the list because of his injury history and his poor supporting cast in Miami.
7. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
The 23 year old Heyward worked diligently with Braves hitting coach Greg Walker in 2012 and the hard work paid off as he came back from a disappointing 2011 to quietly put together a remarkable season. In 158 games he batted .269 with 27 homers, 93 runs, 82 RBI, and 21 steals. The speed on the base paths was a pleasant surprise. With his work ethic and commitment to improve his hitting we should only see him get better. It will be exciting to see the numbers he puts up the next few seasons.
6. Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
It's way too early to give up on Justin, but it appears he also has his brother's tendency to put up wildly inconsistent results from one season to the next. I thought the 25 year old was going to break out big in 2012, but he never really got going and ended up with somewhat pedestrian numbers for someone with his talent batting in a hitter friendly home ballpark. Overall he hit .280, but with only 17 homers, 67 RBI, and 18 stolen bases, which is not what everyone expected after drafting him in the top five. He had a thumb injury early on and maybe that's what led to the slow start. We'll never know, but I'm willing to give the 25 year old the benefit of the doubt one more time. There are concerns with his move to Atlanta. Other hitters that have come to Atlanta recently have done poorly (Uggla, McLouth) and Turner Field is no Chase Field when it comes to hitting. Hopefully being reunited with his brother will spark a rebound in his hitting.
5. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Cargo's season can be divided into pre-Tulowitzki injury and post-Tulowitzki injury sections. Pre-injury he hit .332 with 14 homers and 44 RBI in only 190 at bats and was well on his way to an MVP season. However, after Tulowitzki injured his groin it was a different story. In 328 at bats he batted only .287 with only 8 homers and 41 RBI. It was good to see him return to form and put questions of the 2011 wrist injury behind him. However, he ended the season in somewhat of a tailspin with a slump and hamstring injury that wrecked his September. He is still a five-tool fantasy player in his prime at age 27. I just wish his performance wasn't tied so closely to the health of his fragile teammate.
4. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
Like a slow, but steady drumbeat the 25 year old Bruce has steadily improved his numbers year after year since entering the league. His home run totals since 2008 are 21, 22, 25, 32, and 34, and his RBI are 52, 58, 70, 97, and 99. Overall in 2012 he finished at .252 with 34 homers, 99 RBI, and 9 stolen bases. He is still one of the streakiest players in the game and will carry your fantasy team for weeks when he gets hot, but will leave you crying and punching the wall during his cold spells. The monster 40 homer-120 RBI breakout is coming. Will it be this season?
3. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
2012 was a lost season for Kemp due to a hamstring issue that derailed an MVP-type start and later to a shoulder injury from running into an outfield wall in Colorado. Known previously for incredible durability, it was shocking to see Kemp struggle with so many health issues and miss so much time. Overall he played in only 106 games. In comparison, he averaged 159 games played in the previous four seasons. In spite of it all he still managed to bat .303 with 23 homers, 69 RBI, and 9 steals. With a new ownership team in LA that has shown its willingness to spend top money on building a team, I suspect Kemp will work extra hard during the off season to be ready for spring training. The only reason he's not number one on the list is the doubt related to his injuries. Will his hamstring issues linger into the new season? Will he fully recover from his shoulder surgery? I think this may knock him down a few spots in many drafts which will make him a great bargain.
2. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
The gifted McCutchen broke out in a big way with the bat last season. He batted .327 with 31 homers, 96 RBI, 107 runs, 20 steals, and a .953 OPS. He basically carried the Pirates from May until August, but once he ran out of gas and started to slide a little the Bucs went into a free fall in the standings. Hopefully, the Pirates brass will realize he can't do it all on his own and that they need another solid bat in the lineup to help him out. Only 26 years old, I expect McCutchen will have another stellar season.
1. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
The mishandled samples drama of 2012 is just a distant memory after Braun posted another remarkable fantasy season. Many doubted his ability to shake off the accusations of PED use and worried that it would affect his performance. However, from the first day of the season he was able to put it behind him and move on to post some of the best numbers of his career: .319 batting average, league leading 41 homers, 112 RBI, 108 runs, 30 stolen bases, and a .987 OPS. The loss of Prince Fielder was another concern going into the season, but Aramis Ramirez filled in for him seamlessly with one of his best all-around seasons. Look for the 29 year old Braun to have another outstanding season in 2013.