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Fantasy Baseball Preview: Outfield

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MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim singles in the top of the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 01, 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mike Trout (Photo Credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

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By Tony Meale

In our Fantasy Baseball Preview, CBS Local Sports breaks down the top players at each position for your fantasy baseball draft.

1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | C | RP | Sleepers/Busts

Position Overview

Mike Trout. Bryce Harper. Yasiel Puig. Andrew McCutchen. Carlos Gonzalez.

No other position in fantasy offers more tantalizing all-around talent than outfield. Whatever you need – power, speed, runs – you can find it here.

Here are my top 12 outfielders – in the order in which I would draft them.

The Top 12

1) Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Trout is so good, so unique, so once-in-a-generation, that I’m not even going to bore you with stats or explanation. If you have the first pick, draft him. If you have the second pick and he’s available, draft him. If you have the third pick and he’s available, find a more competitive league.

Projection: .312 average, 29 home runs, 92 RBIs, 108 runs, 34 steals

2) Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s safe to say that Andrew McCutchen had a better 2013 than you did. Last year, McCutchen led Pittsburgh to the playoffs for the first time since 1992, became the first Pirate to be named NL MVP since 1992, and, for good measure, got engaged. So yeah, that’s a pretty good year. Even crazier? He just turned 27. Done, and, done.

Projection: .318 average, 28 home runs, 97 RBIs, 100 runs, 23 steals

DENVER, CO - JUNE 16: Carlos Gonzalez #5 of the Colorado Rockies watches the flight of a two-run eighth inning home run against the Philadelphia Phillies at Coors Field on June 16, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies beat the Phillies 5-2.

Carlos Gonzalez (Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

3) Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

Gonzalez isn’t quite as bad as teammate Troy Tulowitzki when it comes to staying healthy, but he’s getting close. CarGo missed 49 of the Rockies’ final 73 games last year with a sprained right middle finger. He opted against offseason surgery but still went under the knife in January for an appendectomy. If Gonzalez stays healthy, he’s a .300 hitter with 30/30 potential. If he stays healthy.

Projection: .301 average, 27 home runs, 90 RBIs, 92 runs, 22 steals

4) Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Harper missed 44 games last year – this after crashing into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium in May – and still hit 20 homers. Here’s hoping the 21-year-old dials it back a bit defensively and plays a full season. By the way, have you seen recent photos? Harper’s been eating his Wheaties.

Projection: .292 average, 26 home runs, 92 RBIs, 95 runs, 15 steals

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5) Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

Last June, in his first month in the big leagues, Yasiel Puig hit .436 with seven home runs, 16 RBIs and four steals. Over the next three months, he hit .278 with 12 home runs, 26 RBIs and seven steals. Translation? He regressed. (Then again, when you start that hot, you pretty much have to). But it’s undeniable that Puig’s talent is limitless. People will reach for the 23-year-old on draft day; I must admit I will probably be one of those people.

Projection: .283 average, 28 home runs, 88 RBIs, 82 runs, 18 steals

6) Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

I’ll just go ahead and say it: I have absolutely no respect for Ryan Braun as a person. He cheated, he lied, then he lied again, then he cheated again (and somewhere in there, he probably lied again). But seeing as how “moral fiber” isn’t a fantasy category, I have no problem owning him in a fantasy league. The tainted, 40-homer days are probably over, but 30-35? That’s feasible.

Projection: .284 average, 30 home runs, 97 RBIs, 88 runs, 14 steals

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 23: Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles hits an RBI against the Oakland Athletics in the seventh inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 23, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Orioles won, 9-7.

Adam Jones (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

7) Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

Jones’ last two seasons have been remarkably similar. In 2012, he hit .287 with 32 homers, 103 runs and 16 steals in 162 games. In 2013, he hit .285 with 33 home runs, 100 runs and 14 steals in 160 games. The only major difference? Last year, his RBIs went from 82 to 108. Still a bit of a free swinger, Jones has nonetheless become a safe player whose numbers will be there in the end.

Projection: .287 average, 30 home runs, 96 RBIs, 98 runs, 12 steals

8) Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers

In his last two seasons, Gomez has 43 home runs, 124 RBIs, 152 runs and 77 steals. Divide that by two. I’ll take it.

Projection: .270 average, 22 home runs, 67 RBs, 82 runs, 35 steals

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9) Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees

Ellsbury has 65 home runs in his career, 32 of which came in 2011. So let’s just go ahead and call that year what it was: an anomaly. Still, Ellsbury should be a base-stealing, run-scoring machine for the Yankees. He’s also a career .297 hitter. There’s a lot of value here.

Projection: .292 average, 15 home runs, 66 RBIs, 103 runs, 38 steals

10) Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers

Choo is dreadful against lefties, but he’ll still finish with a .285+ average and a .400+ OBP. He’s also a three-time member of the 20/20 club and a legit threat to score 100 runs, especially hitting in front of Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre.

Projection: .298 average, 20 home runs, 70 RBIs, 102 runs, 20 steals

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 23: Alex Rios #51 of the Texas Rangers rounds second base after hitting an RBI triple in the sixth inning to complete a cycle during a game against the Houston Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 23, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. Rios hit a two-run double in the first inning, a single in the third, and a solo home run in the fourth.

Alex Rios (Photo Credit: Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

11) Alex Rios, Texas Rangers

Speaking of 20/20 guys, Rios didn’t achieve that last year, but I’ll gladly take his 18 homers and 42 steals. Wanna hear something crazy? Rios has finished with double-digit homers and double-digit steals every year since 2005 (seriously, go look it up). I say that streak continues for at least one more season.

Projection: .302 average, 16 home runs, 79 RBIs, 81 runs, 31 steals

12) Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds

Bruce is a consistently inconsistent player, but he’s hit 30+ home runs in three consecutive seasons. The only other players who have done that? Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre. Bruce’s average will be in the .260 range, but 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs? Sign me up.

Projection: .261 average, 31 home runs, 102 RBIs, 88 runs, 7 steals

Bottom Line

Players not on this list include Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, Matt Holliday and Jason Heyward. What does this tell us? It tells us that outfield is deep.

But don’t get cute. Invest in at least one elite outfielder early. If you wait too long, that starting trio is going to look real bad, real fast.

Next up: Starting Pitcher

Check out “30 Players 30 Days,” profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team.

Tony Meale is the author of The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron. He lives in Chicago and won’t be mad if you follow him on Twitter @TonyMeale.

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