General thoughts on drafting LF:
There are a lot of older players in LF, as it seems to be the last stop before a player just becomes a full-time DH. There’s no shortage of guys in their mid-30s that are still swinging the bat well, but have a short shelf life.
That said, there are some exciting young players on the upswing of their careers that probably won’t be too expensive to grab, and some star-quality options that might fall a bit, like Jason Bay. The position isn’t too deep, but if you don’t pick early you might get stuck with a dinosaur.
1) Ryan Braun (MIL) (26): His power numbers make him the #1 pick, but declining HR numbers are cause for concern. Still young enough that he may not have reached his peak, however, and pretty much as good as it gets.
2) Carlos Gonzalez (COL) (25): CarGo was pretty much as good as it gets last year and looks like a superstar in the making. Two causes for concern: high luck (.384 BABIP) and a pretty big home/away split at Coors Field.
3) Josh Hamilton (TEX) (29): Troubled former #1 overall pick broke out in a big way with an MVP season. However, .390 BABIP is unsustainable, advanced age may be a concern, as are his off-the-field problems. He’ll go early because of his awesome season, though.
4) Matt Holliday (STL) (30): Slugger deserves to be in the conversation for best LF in baseball today. Expect several more seasons of around 30 HR with otherwise excellent statistics. Slight downgrade because of his age, but should be effective for a while.
5) Carl Crawford (BOS) (29): Speedster will be good for 40+ SB and solid peripheral stats. Good player to have, but don’t overpay because of all the attention he’s gotten in his free agent year, and remember that he’s been a fantasy headache for quite a long time.
6) Delmon Young (MIN) (25): It’s hard to know what to think of Delmon Young’s successful 2010 season, especially because everything about him seems to be surrounded in hype. Could be the breakout season that everyone has been pegging him for, and he’s young enough to warrant an upside pick.
7) Brett Gardner (NYY) (27): This guy was sneaky good last year, seemingly eclipsed by the big names on the Yankees, but putting up 47 SB. The Yanks will stick with him too, as he adds a lot on the defensive end. Will never put up the power numbers, but a great, underrated player to have on your team.
8) Adam Lind (TOR) (27): Lind had an absolutely atrocious May & June last year, and was awesome in 2009. I’d bet on his upside, especially if you can get him in the middle rounds of the draft. Also qualifies at 1B.
9) Travis Snider (TOR) (22): Snider failed to meet expectations, but is still highly regarded and young enough that big things might be in his future. This ranking will make a lot more sense a year from now.
10) Jason Bay (NYM) (32): Struggled to an awful season last year (6 HR) before checking out for the year with concussion symptoms. Due for a bounceback, but do you want to take a chance on that Mets franchise? Or a 32-year old?
11) Juan Pierre (CHW) (33): It’s tough to know how to value this guy, because it’s tough to know how long he’ll stay in a starting lineup somewhere. Had a decent season for the Sox, though, and puts up ridiculous SB numbers on an annual basis.
12) Rajai Davis (TOR) (30): Rajai is valuable primarily because of the gaudy SB numbers that he puts up (50 in 2010). At some point soon he’ll slow down, and at that point you should cut bait, but it’s tough to find other players that can put up 50 SB on a regular basis.
13) Luke Scott (BAL) (32): Scott has an unfortunate worldview but has proven himself a solid source of HR in the past 3 years. It’s a shame that he’s on such a bad team, because he could probably put up better R and RBI numbers in a better lineup.
14) Seth Smith (COL) (28): If he wins the starting job, pick him here. If he’s in a timeshare, downgrade appropriately.
15) Logan Morrison (FLA) (23): Broke out in 2010 with a decent season – only 2 HR but 20 doubles in half a season. Worth a pick for his upside.
16) Jonny Gomes (CIN) (30): Gomes had his best season as a pro in 2010 but has always seemed tantalizingly close to a breakout. Young enough that he may be around for a couple years, especially if he keeps playing like he has.
17) Matt Joyce (TB) (26): Matt Joyce was good in limited time last year, and should land the starting job in TB with the departure of Carl Crawford. I’d take him based purely on upside, and he’ll probably slip under a lot of radars.
18) Jose Tabata (PIT) (22): Tabata had a decent 2010, and isn’t expected to get any better. The 19 SB were something, though, and is still very young.
19) Carlos Lee (HOU) (34): Had a pretty awful season but still managed to put up 89 RBI. Could bounce back with former consistency, but don’t count on it for very long.
20) Josh Willingham (OAK) (31): Underrated slugger was on track for a decent season when he was derailed by knee surgery. Slight markdown because he’s now playing in a pitcher’s park in Oakland.
21) Aubrey Huff (SF) (34): He had a good season, but has been plagued by inconsistency in the past, and is at an advanced age. Approach with caution.
22) Jason Kubel (MIN) (28): Kubel isn’t a bad player, but still stuggles against lefties. He’s got some pop though, so he’s worth considering in deeper leagues.
23) Jack Cust (SEA) (31): Don’t expect much from him, but has always been able to hit for power. Still stuggles against lefties, and can’t play defense, so his days may be numbered as anything but a DH.
24) Matt LaPorta (CLE) (25): Don’t forget about this guy – he was a hot prospect once, and the major piece in the CC Sabathia deal in 2008. I’d rather have a guy with potential to break out than many of the guys in their mid-30’s later on this list.
25) Nolan Riemold (BAL) (27): Don’t forget about this guy either – he was a hot pick coming into 2010 before a torn Achilles sidelined him.
26) Bobby Abreu (LAA) (36): Abreu still plays pretty well for his age, but will likely start to decline soon. Don’t use a pick on him until the late rounds, btu he could be a useful player this year or even the next few.
27) Alfonso Soriano (CHC) (34): Still a little bit of life in the old bones. He might have a couple more seasons of 25 or so HR, but don’t expect much more than that. The Cubs certainly aren’t getting their money’s worth for that huge contract.
28) Hideki Matsui (OAK) (36): He surprisingly qualified at LF last season after being used exclusively as a DH by the Yankees in 2009. Still some pop, but I don’t trust those knees.
29) Pat Burrell (SF) (34): Pat the Bat enjoyed an unexpected renaissance with the WS Champs, but only after playing his way out of Tampa Bay. He’s a risky play for HR that I would only tap after other options are exhausted.
30) Raul Ibanez (PHI) (38): Ibanez doesn’t look like he has too many more seasons of heavy use in him, but will likely be an above average player in 2011.