Fantasy baseball draft primer: outfield


Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the heart of fantasy baseball draft season: a time to gather with friends and swill beer, down plates of wings, leave pizza boxes strewn all over the living room and, oh yeah, assemble a team capable of achieving fantasy greatness.

Or maybe just auto-draft.

Either way, I’m coming off two drafts this past weekend and have a little wisdom to share in anticipation of the 2014 fantasy baseball season. Let’s look at some outfielders:

Previously: second base and shortstop, first and third base

Allen Craig

Craig blasted onto the scene in 2012, hitting .307 with 22 homers and 92 RBI in just 469 at-bats. He was basically the same player in ’13 but his power decreased significantly. This came as a result of another spate of injuries and by the World Series, Craig was a singles hitter lugging a piano on his back around the basepaths (that piano came crashing to the ground on a prone Will Middlebrooks but we don’t need to revisit that).  The ascent of Matt Adams moves Craig to the outfield in 2014, which won’t help his durability at all.

Lots of drafts thin out in the fourth or fifth round, but I’d rather take a pitcher or fill a positional need than draft Craig to occupy first base or an outfield spot.

Mark Trumbo

Trumbo the Elephant popped 34 homers and drove in 100 runs in 2013 but he also struck out a Napoli-like 184 times and had an on-base percentage south of .300. It’s feast or famine with this guy. He’s got more power than his peers in the seventh or eighth round, but why subject yourself to the headache?

Shane Victorino

I used to avoid the Flyin’ Hawaiian on draft day because I figured, anyone who plays like that is going to get hurt. But he was banged up in 2013 and still thrived: .294 with 15 homers and 21 steals – vintage Victorino numbers. While I’m avoiding Allen Craig due to his injury concerns, I’d definitely scoop up Victorino in the mid-to-late rounds if he’s available.

Austin Jackson

As he heads into his age 27 season, Jackson remains ever the mystery. A toolsy talent who scores a lot of runs and actually cut down on the K’s the last two seasons, he’s coming off a postseason where he whiffed in 13 of 20 at-bats against the A’s in the ALDS. He doesn’t have big-time power and he’s stolen just 20 bases at a 60.6% clip the past two seasons.

Jackson’s stock is down so you can get him with a late round flier this year. Just remember, those triples don’t apply to a 5 x 5 league. They do in a points league, but you’ll also be penalized for the strikeouts.

Kole Calhoun

The Angels appear to be giving Calhoun the leadoff spot and a starting outfield job after an impressive audition in 2013. He will see plenty of pitches to hit with Trout, Pujols and Hamilton behind him. While the speed isn’t there, he’s got good pop and could provide solid late round value.

Khris Davis

After 11 homers in 136 at-bats last season, the Brewers are bullish on Davis for ’14, even moving Ryan Braun to right field. He didn’t tear up the PCL (traditionally a hitter’s league) when he was down there, but his overall minor league track record and debut performance in the Majors indicate he could supply some good thump for very little investment.

Sing it, Aldo Nova!