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2012 fantasy outfield review
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Outfielders are the most well rounded bunch in fantasy baseball.

Of the top 20 home run hitters this season, 12 were outfielders, and 13 outfielders populated the list of top 20 base stealers.

Ten players hit at least 20 homers and stole at least 20 bases -- seven of them were outfielders.

As a credit to their fantasy service, instead of whittling the field down to 10, I have provided a list of the top 10 at each outfield position below in the latest installment of The Sports Network's 2012 fantasy baseball review.

Left field

1. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers - Any concerns about Braun's credibility after an offseason PED mini-scandal were quickly knocked out of the park by the Brewers slugger. Braun arguably had a better season in 2012 than his 2011 NL MVP campaign. He hit .319 with 41 homers, 112 RBIs, 108 runs, 30 steals and a .987 OPS.

2. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals - Holliday's average season with Colorado: 139.6 games, 25.6 homers, 96.6 RBIs, 95.8 runs, 13.2 steals and a .319/.386/.552 slash. Since leaving Coors Field: 148.75 games, 25.25 homers, 97.25 RBIs, 91.75 runs scored, 7.25 steals and a .305/.388/.517 slash, including a 2012 season in which he hit .295/.379/.497 with 27 homers, 102 RBIs and 95 runs in 157 games.

3. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins - In Willingham's first season with the Twins, he shattered his previous career highs with 35 homers, 110 RBIs and 85 runs scored. Willingham has put up an OPS of .810 or higher in each of his seven full pro seasons, including a career-best .890 in 2012.

4. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies - CarGo has failed to reach 140 games in the last two seasons but he's still been the rare fantasy player who contributes in every category. In 2012, Gonzalez hit .303 with 22 homers, 85 RBIs, 89 runs, 20 steals and an .881 OPS.

5. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs - Coming into this season, Soriano hadn't homered 30 times in a season since 2007, his first with the Cubs, and he hadn't drove in 100 runs since he was a Texas Rangers second baseman in 2005. He did both in 2012, belting 32 long balls with 108 RBIs in his 12th big league season.

6. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics - Cespedes, a rookie Cuban defector, brought some potency to Oakland's lineup immediately this season but he didn't become a true fantasy force until the second half. Post-break, Cespedes hit .311 with 14 homers, 46 RBIs, 51 runs, 10 steals and a .909 OPS in 75 games. He improved his K/BB from 3/1 in the first half to 2/1 in the second and finished with a .292 average, 23 homers, 82 RBIs, 70 runs and 16 steals.

7. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals - Owners who drafted Gordon may view him as a bit of a bust -- his average, home runs, RBIs, runs, steals and OPS all declined from 2011. However, he was a solid outfield bat from the end of April on. After hitting .167 in his first 17 games, Gordon batted .309 with 12 homers, 67 RBIs, 88 runs, 10 steals and an .852 OPS.

8. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels - It was a tale of two halves for Trumbo. He played like a superstar in the first, hitting .306 with 22 homers and a .965 OPS and hitting some moon shots in the Home Run Derby, but he slipped to .227 with 10 home runs after the All-Star break. Still, .268, 32 HRs and 95 RBIs are enough to place him among the top 10 left fielders.

9. Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks - Kubel enjoyed his new home -- he hit 18 of his career-high 30 homers and had a .910 OPS at Chase Field. The outfielder was on pace for an even better year after hitting three round-trippers with six RBIs on July 21 and going 3-for-4 with another big fly the next day, but he hit just .176 with nine homers in his final 56 games.

10. Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves - Prado hit at least .300 for the fourth time in five seasons and though he hit just 10 homers he made up for it with 42 doubles, 70 RBIs, 81 runs and 17 stolen bases.

Center field

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels - Trout came up in late April and had one of the most dominant fantasy baseball campaigns in recent memory. He led baseball with 129 runs and 49 steals, but he wasn't just a speed player. Trout also hit .326 with 30 homers, 83 RBIs and a .963 OPS in 139 games.

2. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers - Hamilton basically did nothing in June or July -- 47 games, .202 average, eight homers -- and still finished with 43 homers, 128 RBIs, 103 runs and a .930 OPS. That should tell you just how impressive he was in April and May -- 47 games, .368, 21 homers.

3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates - McCutchen carried the Pirates and likely did the same for your fantasy team with an all-around great season. The fourth-year pro hit .327 with 31 homers, 96 RBIs, 107 runs scored, 20 steals and a .953 OPS.

4. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles - Jones had been bubbling under the surface for several years but he finally erupted in 2012 with a career-high 32 homers, a .287 average, 103 runs and his first .800-plus OPS season. Jones swiped a career-best 16 bases for good measure.

5. Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees - Granderson's season is difficult to judge. On one hand he hit 40-plus bombs and drove in 100 runs for the second straight season. However, he scored 34 less runs, stole 15 less bases, hit 30 points lower and saw his OPS drop by more than 100 points.

6. B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays - Upton has seemingly been around forever but he's still just 28 years old and just put together the second best fantasy season of his career. In 146 games, Upton cracked 28 home runs with 78 RBIs, 79 runs and 31 steals. The .246 average was difficult to stomach but we aren't going to complain about a near 30-30 effort.

7. Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves - Bourn quietly regressed to the mean as the season wore down. After hitting .311 with seven homers, 32 RBIs, 60 runs, 25 steals and an .817 OPS in the first half, Bourn slumped to .225 with two homers and a .636 OPS after the All-Star break. As a result, he ended up right where fantasy owners expected -- .274, 42 SBs.

8. Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers - If Jackson could add 30 steals to his 2012 production -- .300, 16 HRs, 66 RBIs, 103 R, 12 SBs -- he'd be a top-15 fantasy player. Unfortunately, he only stole 12 this season.

9. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers - Usually only playing 106 games won't get you on many positive postseason lists, but Kemp was so impressive in those 106 games he still rates as our ninth best fantasy CF. In between missing extensive time with a hamstring injury, Kemp hit .303 with 23 homers, 69 RBIs, 74 runs, nine steals and a .906 OPS.

10. Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants - Pagan was a pleasant fantasy surprise this season, though most of his production came in two months, May and August. In those two months, the Giants outfielder hit .358 with 78 of his 174 hits, three of his eight homers, 26 of his 56 RBIs, 45 of his 95 runs and 14 of his 29 steals.

Right field

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins - Stanton may be just 23 years old, but he's a grown man as far as major league pitchers are concerned. Like Kemp, Stanton also missed considerable time, playing just 123 games, but he nearly reached 40 homers for the first time anyway. Stanton finished with a .290 average, 37 taters, 86 RBIs, 75 runs and a .969 OPS.

2. Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox - Perhaps Rios' nickname should be "the cat" since he seemingly has nine lives, at least in fantasy circles. He hit .291 or better from 2006-08 but slumped to .264 in the first 108 games of 2009 before slipping to .199 in 41 games after Chicago claimed him off waivers. He bounced back with a .284, 21, 88, 89, 34 line in 2010 but rivaled teammate Adam Dunn in 2011 for worst everyday player in the league -- .227, 13, 44, 64, 11. This year, however, he was back to his old tricks, hitting .304 with 25 homers, 91 RBIs, 93 runs, 23 steals and an .850 OPS.

3. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds - If Bruce could avoid long slumps he might hit 50 homers; he's that potent when he heats up. Unfortunately, he had slumps of 7-for-51, 5-for-46 and 8-for-63, hitting a total of two homers during those three droughts. He hit .303 with 32 homers in 400 at-bats the rest of the season.

4. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals - Wear-and-tear certainly caught up to Beltran after the All-Star break; he hit just 12 homers with a .236 average in the last 69 games. However, he was so good in the first half he still posted his first 30-homer season since 2007 and his first with 90 RBIs since 2008.

5. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves - Heyward was a phenom before Mike Trout reached the bigs or Bryce Harper was drafted, but he hit just .227 with 14 homers and a .708 OPS in 128 games last season. His 2012 effort was a pleasant surprise, one that re-announced his presence as a future superstar and freak athlete. Heyward hit .269 with 27 homers, 82 RBIs, 93 runs, 21 steals and an .814 OPS.

6. Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels - In 13 major league seasons, Hunter had never hit .300. It took a .350 (100-for-286) second half but he finally got there, hitting .313 and adding 16 homers, 92 RBIs, 81 runs, nine steals and an .817 OPS to boot.

7. Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks - When judged by his ADP the younger Upton brother was a massive bust, but he still supplied fantasy owners with solid numbers across the board. He tied for fourth in all of baseball with 107 runs and hit a respectable .280 with 17 homers, 67 RBIs, 18 steals and a .785 OPS. Not what owners paid for, but not backbreaking either.

8. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers - Ethier reversed a two-season trend of declining home run and RBI totals with 20 bombs and 89 RBIs. He also hit .284 with 79 runs and an .812 OPS. The Dodgers outfielder didn't win any leagues single handedly but you could have done much worse than him at your third OF spot this season.

9. Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians - Choo appeared to be someone fantasy owners could count on for .300, 20 homers, 85 RBIs, 80 runs, 20 steals and an .880 OPS after he reached all those plateaus in 2009 and 2010. Though he failed to return to those heights for the second straight year, his 2012 season was a marked improvement on 2011. In 155 games, his most since 2009, Choo hit .283 with 16 home runs, 67 RBIs, 88 runs, 21 swipes and an .815 OPS.

10. Cody Ross, Boston Red Sox - Ross played 130 games for the first time since 2009 and hit at least 20 homers with at least 80 RBIs for just the second time in his career. Add in an .807 OPS, and you have a dependable third or fourth fantasy outfielder.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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