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Cabs and Hermi in the top 40 Outfielders from now on

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The first two installments of these long-term keeper-league rankings for outfielders focused on the elite players at the position, ranking 1-10 one week and 11-20 the next. It is fairly easy to differentiate between the top players at a given position, but once you get to the middle of the pack it is often difficult. And once you get to the middle of the pack at a position like ?outfield??which is actually three positions jammed into one?it is nearly impossible.


Try to keep that in mind when going over the rankings in this third installment. While everyone is lined up accordingly, there might just be a more substantial gap in long-term value between #1 (Miguel Cabrera) and #2 (Carl Crawford) than there is between #21 and #32. That?s just how it works when you get closer and closer to ?replacement level? or, if you prefer, simply ?average.?


Rather than focus on the numerical rankings for this third set of outfielders, try to focus on the players themselves. For instance, in the grand scheme of things it is a lot more valuable to identify Jeremy Hermida as a player you think has a ton of long-term potential than it is to recognize him as the 21st-best keeper-league outfielder. For those of you who missed the first two installments, here?s how my top 20 stacked up:


1) Miguel Cabrera, Florida Marlins

2) Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

3) Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates

4) Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels

5) Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians

6) Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds

7) Andruw Jones, Atlanta Braves

8) Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia Phillies

9) Carlos Beltran, New York Mets

10) Lance Berkman, Houston Astros

11) Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox

12) Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners

13) Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta Braves

14) Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays

15) Hideki Matsui, New York Yankees

16) Johnny Damon, Boston Red Sox

17) Carlos Lee, Milwaukee Brewers

18) Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies

19) Delmon Young, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

20) Juan Pierre, Florida Marlins


As always with these position-by-position rankings, remember that they are based entirely on long-term value in keeper leagues. Guys like Jim Edmonds and Gary Sheffield are worthy of high draft picks in 2006, but if you?re looking for players to help you over the next decade or so, there are plenty of younger, lesser-known outfielders with more potential. Come 2008, who would you rather have, Brian Giles or Lastings Milledge?


21) Jeremy Hermida, Florida Marlins


One of the best, most underrated prospects in all of baseball, Jeremy Hermida made a big splash when he hit a grand slam in his very first big-league at-bat. With Florida once again in full rebuilding mode, Hermida should have a clear path to plenty of playing time beginning in 2006. A legit five-tool prospect, Hermida really stuffed the stat sheet in 118 games at Triple-A this season, hitting .293 with 18 homers, 29 doubles, 23 steals, and an amazing 111 walks. Oh, and he doesn?t turn 22 until January.


22) Torii Hunter, Minnesota Twins


The Twins fell apart down the stretch after Torii Hunter broke his ankle trying to make a spectacular catch at Fenway Park, but despite missing 64 games Hunter still managed to hit .269 with 14 homers, 56 RBIs, 63 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases. His stolen-base numbers are inconsistent and how well his speed will come back after the injury is uncertain, but the 30-year-old Hunter is always a good bet to hit around .270 with 20-25 homers and 80-100 RBIs.


23) Wily Mo Pena, Cincinnati Reds


Wily Mo Pena has been stuck splitting time with Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., and Austin Kearns in the Reds? crowded outfield, but spoke up last week and said he wants to either be given an everyday gig or be traded. Even in limited playing time, his power potential at the age of 23 is hard to miss. In 699 plate appearances spread over the past two seasons, Pena has 45 homers and 117 RBIs. Those numbers will likely go down with a move away from the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, but he?ll have a tough time not hitting 30 homers wherever he ends up.


24) Jonny Gomes, Tampa Bay Devil Rays


It took them far too long, but the Devil Rays finally gave Jonny Gomes a shot in 2005 and he responded by hitting .282 with 21 homers, 54 RBIs, and 61 runs scored in 101 games. His minor-league numbers and high strikeout rate suggest the batting average will likely drop in the future, but he?ll be a reliable source of power and an underrated source of speed (Gomes stole nine bases in 14 attempts as a rookie).


25) Willy Taveras, Houston Astros


A poor man?s Juan Pierre, Willy Taveras? only real fantasy asset is speed. He has almost zero power (three homers in 592 at-bats) and will never drive in many runs (29 RBIs in 152 games), but he?s only 24, should hit for a solid batting average, and is a near-lock for 30+ steals a year. The nice thing about locking him up long-term in a keeper league? You don?t have to waste picks on other overrated speedsters every year just to compete in one category.


26) Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers


The Tigers messed around with Nook Logan in center field for much of the year before finally turning the position over to Curtis Granderson, who more than earned the job by hitting .303 with 21 homers and 14 steals in 123 games at Double-A in 2004 and .290 with 15 homers and 22 steals in 111 games at Triple-A this year. Granderson then batted .272 with eight homers, 20 RBIs, and 18 runs scored in 47 games with Detroit, and should be a long-term fixture in Comerica Park?s spacious outfield.


27) Austin Kearns, Cincinnati Reds


Austin Kearns is a tough player to figure out. He was once a top prospect and hit .315 as a 22-year-old rookie in 2002, but his career has gone downhill since then. Kearns bounced back a bit in 2005, hitting 18 homers with 67 RBIs in 112 games, but his .240 batting average shows there is still a lot of work to be done. The raw skills have always been there, and at 25 years old Kearns still has plenty of time to put it all back together.


28) Lastings Milledge, New York Mets


Seemingly involved in every trade rumor so far this offseason, Lastings Milledge may never patrol center field at Shea Stadium. However, he?s just 20 years old and hit .318 with eight homers and 29 stolen bases between Single-A and Double-A this season, so wherever he ends up will be just fine. Actually, moving to a team with a friendlier home ballpark for offense would give Milledge?s fantasy value a nice boost, although at some point you?ve got to think that the Mets will hold on to a good prospect or two.


29) Nick Swisher, Oakland A?s


Nick Swisher had an up-and-down rookie season, missing time with injuries and going through several prolonged slumps. The end result was a mixed bag, as he hit just .236 and struck out 110 times in 462 at-bats, but smacked 21 homers and drove in 74 runs. Swisher, who turned 25 last month, should have plenty of homers in his future, but will struggle to hit for a good batting average.


30) Scott Podsednik, Chicago White Sox


Scott Podsednik is overrated in real life (although you?d be hard-pressed to find a White Sox fan who cares, and rightfully so), but all of the running he does makes him a major force in fantasy leagues. Podsednik hit zero homers in 507 regular-season at-bats and drove in just 25 runs all year, but stole 59 bases and scored 80 runs. He?ll steal 50 bags again in 2006 and Podsednik did hit 21 homers between 2003 and 2004, so expect a little more power going forward.


31) Carlos Quentin, Arizona Diamondbacks


Arizona?s right fielder of the future, Carlos Quentin hit .301 with 21 homers, 89 RBIs, and 98 runs scored in 136 games at Triple-A this year. Whether or not he begins next season in the majors, expect Quentin to have an everyday job with the Diamondbacks by around the All-Star break. A nice bonus is that he has 14 steals in two minor-league seasons, and if your league accounts for such things he?s a solid defensive player.


32) Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies


This is what happens when you take a decent prospect and let him call Coors Field home. Matt Holliday was nothing special in the minors and has been nothing special on the road as a big leaguer, but he?ll get 81 games a year to boost his numbers on Planet Coors and that has a ton of value. During his 246-game MLB career, Holliday has hit .249 with a .696 OPS on the road and .348 with a 1.005 OPS at home.


33) Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia Phillies


Moving from Chicago to Philadelphia shouldn?t hurt Aaron Rowand?s numbers much, as both teams play in ballparks that are very friendly to hitters. Rowand?s production declined quite a bit in 2005, but he did hit .270-13-69 and very quietly stole 16 bases. Expect a bounce back to around .280-20-75 next year and at 28 years old, Rowand should continue putting up solid numbers for the Phillies.


34) David DeJesus, Kansas City Royals


One of the few bright spots for the Royals this season, David DeJesus hit .293 with nine homers, 56 RBIs, 69 runs scored, and five steals in 122 games before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the stretch run. His work on the bases has been disappointing and DeJesus may never flash a ton of power, but he should establish himself as a solid .285-15-75 guy with 5-10 steals and plenty of runs scored. A prediction: In three years he?ll be among the most underrated players in baseball.


35) Conor Jackson, Arizona Diamondbacks


Along with Quentin, Conor Jackson should eventually form the middle of Arizona?s lineup. He hit .354 with eight homers and 73 RBIs in 93 games at Triple-A, but then struggled in a 40-game stint with the Diamondbacks, hitting just .200. Jackson doesn?t have huge power, which will keep him from being an elite fantasy outfielder, but he?s a pretty safe bet to hit .300+ with 15-20 homers and a whole bunch of doubles every year.


36) Chris Duffy, Pittsburgh Pirates


Chris Duffy should be the favorite to start in center field for the Pirates beginning in 2006 after hitting .341 in 39 games with Pittsburgh this season. He doesn?t have much power, but hit .299 during his minor-league career and has plenty of speed, swiping 133 bases in 524 games. At just 25, he could have decade-long run putting up decent numbers in all five major fantasy categories.


37) Brian Anderson, Chicago White Sox


The trade of Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia appears to have opened up center field for Brian Anderson, who is one of Chicago?s best prospects. Anderson struggled in a brief stint with the White Sox this year, but he doesn?t turn 24 years old until March and hit .295 with 16 homers in 118 games at Triple-A. Don?t expect huge power numbers, but he should be a solid .275-15-75 guy for many years to come.


38) Joey Gathright, Tampa Bay Devil Rays


Joey Gathright is 50 steals just waiting to happen. Stuck behind Tampa Bay?s stable of young outfielders, Gathright has been mentioned in a number of trade rumors this offseason. If he finds a place where he can leadoff and play every day, he?s almost a lock to be among the MLB leaders in stolen bases every season. He?s also a lock to hit zero homers and drive in about 30 runs, but that takes a backseat to Gathright already having 26 big-league steals despite just 69 hits.


39) Coco Crisp, Cleveland Indians


No, he?s not just a great name. Covelli ?Coco? Crisp quietly hit .300 with 16 homers, 69 RBIs, 86 runs scored, and 15 steals in 2005. He also hit .297-15-71 with 20 steals in 2004, so the power development appears to be for real as Crisp prepares for his age-26 season. He has always hit for big batting averages, so putting up double-digit homer totals is the icing on an underrated fantasy cake.


40) Victor Diaz, New York Mets


With the Mets perhaps this offseason?s most active team it is a little unclear where Victor Diaz fits into their long-term plans. However, considering he is just 24 years old and hit .257 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 89 games this year, you?ve got to think they?ll make room for him somewhere. Diaz isn?t the world?s most patient hitter, but he hit .304 in the minors and has had back-to-back 20-homer seasons.


Best of the Rest: Randy Winn (San Francisco Giants), Jose Guillen (Washington Nationals), Kevin Mench (Texas Rangers), J.D. Drew (Los Angeles Dodgers), Alex Rios (Toronto Blue Jays), Milton Bradley (Los Angeles Dodgers), Corey Patterson (Chicago Cubs), Jason Kubel (Minnesota Twins), Jason Lane (Houston Astros), Magglio Ordonez (Detroit Tigers), Jacque Jones (Minnesota Twins), Geoff Jenkins (Milwaukee Brewers), Craig Wilson (Pittsburgh Pirates), Garret Anderson (Los Angeles Angels), Mike Cameron (San Diego Padres), Cliff Floyd (New York Mets), Preston Wilson (Washington Nationals), Jermaine Dye (Chicago White Sox), Matt Murton (Chicago Cubs), Laynce Nix (Texas Rangers)

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