NL King Fantasy Baseball Outfielders Part 1 of 4 - The Elite
Matt Kemp: Kemp's 2011 was the best year by a hitter in the NL in the last five years hands down. Kemp has all the tools to be the # 1 fantasy player in all of MLB for the next five years. As I wrote earlier, this off-season I see two red flags......
1. Kemp had a very down 2010 lead by his .249 batting average and a lot of people were questioning if he'll ever reach his potential. There was a joke around MLB that Matt Kemp is a 5-tool talent that brings two talents at night. Obviously that changed last year and hopefully he'll keep on his good habits from last year for the rest of his career.
2. Kemp tries to prove he is worth ($160 million dollar off-season contract) and will other teams stop throwing any strikes to Kemp and let someone else beat them from the Dodgers. I expect, Kemp provided he is healthy ,to be a big one of the top hitters for the next three to four years. Just don't expect last numbers again because those numbers were ridiculous.
Ryan Braun: If Ryan Braun didn't have off-season troubles he'd likely be my #1 so Braun is more like a 1A now that he's been cleared of the suspension. Braun is an elite five category player but I have to wonder how this appeal process will effect his mental aspect regarding his hitting when his season starts. Does Braun try to do too much and show the world how great he is and put too much pressure on himself and start the year in a slump? This is why I have to rank him slightly lower then Kemp. No controversy, then he's my clear #1.
Carlos Gonzalez: Cargo got off to a very slow start last year, missed 35 games, battled a sore wrist for a good portion last season but yet still posted a line of 26HR-92R-92RBI-20SB-.295AVG. That just shows that Cargo is very capable of repeating his stats from 2010 of 34HR-111R-117RBI-26SB-.336AVG and that was in just 145 games. Imagine if Cargo can have a season where he plays 160 games healthy? One red flag is he's been battling the sore wrist injury the last two years. If Cargo can play one of the corner outfield spots this year instead a lot of centerfield that could take away some wear and tear. I think he is an excellent bet to rebound to his 2010 numbers.
Justin Upton: Upton finally broke the 150 games played mark for the first time in his career last year (159). Still just 24, now has the experience to go along with the talent. Upton numbers will improve from last year provided he reaches 150 games in 2012.
Hunter Pence: I think when you consider that Pence is now on the Phillies in that ballpark and in the prime of his career I think Pence is now an elite player. I don't expect killer steal numbers anymore but still double digits and expect 25+HR and 100R and RBI with a strong batting average.
Andrew McCutchen: If it wasn't for a poor second half McCutchen would be higher on this list. But you have to remember McCutchen just turned 25 in the off-season. I think a 30-30 year with 100R and RBI and .280+ Avg is a strong possibility.
Matt Holliday: I still think he has a couple of more elite years in him. While he missed a lot of games last year due to fluke injuries Holliday has been very durable the last few seasons (has played at least 155 games four of the last five years before 2011). Write it down HR's in the high 20's, 100R and RBI's, .300 Avg. Just don't expect anymore steals going forward.
Michael Morse: I wrote about him in the 1B article (qualifies for 1B and OF) but I think he is such a critical player for NL only leagues I feel like I need to mention it again. Despite a horrible April Morse had 30+HR last year with almost 100 RBI's and .300+ Avg. The question now is can Morse do it again? Expectations are high for him how will he handle it? Let's hope he will be an elite hitter in the NL for years to come (Lord knows NL only leagues need it) but I wouldn't pay an elite price for Morse based off of one year.
NL King - C.Lizza