Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 12/3/12
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We get it. Mike Trout shocked the baseball world. We’ve spent six months talking about how awesome he is, we’ll spend the next three months talking about how awesome he could potentially be and — while I desperately want Trout on my fantasy team next year — I don’t want to take the lazy way out and mention him in our 5 Outfield Surprises space. Maybe we’ll make this the honorable mention section? OK, that’s a fair compromise. Just to get an idea of how far Trout exceeded our expectations, have a look at what the fans projected from Trout entering last season. Courtesy: Fangraphs.com Now, onto the surprises! Oakland’s outstanding outfield There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Each team starts three outfielders. That gives us 90 starting outfielders. And that doesn’t even include the vast number of players who have outfield eligibility and don’t even play in the outfield. My point is this: There are a lot of outfielders in fantasy leagues, and Oakland’s outfield trio was one of the best. According to ESPN’s Player Rater, Yoenis Cespedes (17th), Coco Crisp (41st), and Josh Reddick (42nd) all finished inside the top 50. In 10-team leagues that start five outfielders, they were all starters. And probably mid-to-high end starters seeing as players like Ben Zobrist (38th) ranked ahead of them but were likely played elsewhere. These three guys averaged 74 R, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 22 SB, and a .263 BA. That might not sound all that impressive, but how many teams had three outfielders that performed better? That’s a serious question, I don’t want to take the time to go back and evaluate 29 other outfields so if you know, please tell me. Alex Rios’ revival I targeted Rios before last year and I was still surprised at how well he did. He posted career bests in nearly every stat category with his .304 BA (career best), 25 HR (career best), 91 RBI (career best), 93 R (best since 2007), and 23 SB (2010). Can he repeat? Alfonso Soriano posts a career-best 108 RBI The Cubs scored just 570 runs last year, good for 27th in the league, yet Soriano still set a career-best mark with 108 RBI. To put that in perspective, Soriano drove in 18.95% of his team’s runs last year. Only Miguel Cabrera (19.91%) was responsible for a greater percentage. The reason is pretty obvious. Soriano batted .262 last year, but stepped up when it counted most. He was just a .230 hitter with the bases empty but batted .300 with men on base. I wouldn’t expect anywhere near as many RBI in 2013 if he stays with the Cubbies. Carlos Gomez combines for 56 HR/SB Gomez tallied just 415 at-bats last year but still finished the season ranked 24th among outfielders according to ESPN. During a surprisingly awesome second half (75 games) Gomez slashed .278/.321/.488 with 46 R, 14 HR, 33 RBI, and 26 SB. Projected over an unrealistic 150 games (unrealistic for Gomez at least), that works out to 92 R, 28 HR, 66 RBI, and a whopping 52 SB. If Milwaukee lets Gomez run wild again next year, we could be looking at a similarly productive campaign, though probably with fewer homers. Austin Jackson, .300 hitter? Jackson batted .300 on the dot last year despite striking out 21.7% of the time. In 2010 Jackson batted .293 while striking out 25.2% of the time. Back then I thought the high average was a fluke. Now I’m not so sure. In three Major League seasons Jackson has now accrued 1,960 plate appearances and has maintained a career .370 BABIP, so I’m hesitant to label his .300 average and .371 BABIP in 2012 as a one-year anomaly. Maybe that’s just how fast the speedster is. Over the last five years (2008-2012), there have been 209 player-seasons where a player has struck out at least 20% of the time (minimum 500 PA), and in just 13 of those seasons has the player batted at least .300. That’s 6.2%. Also over the last five years, there have been 163 players that have totaled at least 2,000 plate appearances (approximately Jackson’s career total). Just nine of those players have BABIPs of at least .340 during that span, and Joey Votto leads the pack at .359. Extremely high BABIPs are hard to maintain, and while Jackson has thus far kept his around .370, I don’t think it’ll stick. I do think he’s a good bet to bat .290+ in any given year, especially if his strikeout rate continues to decline.

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