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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Early 2012 rankings -- outfielders

When do you select Ryan Braun?

In my mind, that's the most difficult decision on draft day.

With the Brewers outfielder and reigning National League MVP facing a 50-game suspension for allegedly testing positive for having an elevated testosterone level in a drug test, you must decide if you want to take a top-three talent in the third, fourth or fifth round.

If Braun was scheduled to play from the start of the season, I'd rank him No. 3 overall, behind Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Now, his season likely won't begin until Milwaukee's 50th game, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 31.

If you select Braun, you could play him the week he returns and get four games out of the player who batted .332 with 109 runs, 33 homers, 111 RBI and 33 steals last season. Or you could wait and play him the following week, which is Week 9.

The dilemma: Eight or nine weeks without a player you'll be tempted to take in the third round, once most of the hammers have come off the board.

The solution: Select Braun as your No. 2 outfielder, after you have taken a stud in the first few rounds. That way, his absence won't be felt as much for the first eight weeks.

In our overall top 100, which we will post after the rankings of the starting pitchers and closers, we have Braun No. 42 overall -- an ideal mid-fourth-round pick in a 12-team league.

At that point, he will be much too good to pass up.

If the opposing owners give you grief about the eight or nine weeks Braun will be out of your lineup, give them these numbers: .312, 101, 32, 106 and 19. Those are Braun's five-year career norms for batting average, runs scored, homers, RBI and steals, respectively.

On to the top 60 outfielders ...

Note: All players are ranked at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2012, not all positions at which they are eligible. ... Stats are from 2011.

Rank, player, team R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 105-43-103-9-.302
2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers 115-39-126-40-.324
3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox 119-32-105-39-.321
4. Curtis Granderson, Yankees 136-41-119-25-.262
5. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies 92-26-92-20-.295
6. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks 105-31-88-21-.289
7. Josh Hamilton, Rangers 80-25-94-8-.298
8. Matt Holliday, Cardinals 83-22-75-2-.296
9. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates 87-23-89-23-.259
10. Hunter Pence, Astros 84-22-97-8-.314
11. Shane Victorino, Phillies 95-17-61-19-.279
12. Mike Stanton, Marlins 79-34-87-5-.262
13. Alex Gordon, Royals 101-23-87-17-.303
14. Nelson Cruz, Rangers 64-29-87-9-.263
15. Ryan Braun, Brewers 109-33-111-33-.332
16. Carl Crawford, Red Sox 65-11-56-18-.255
17. Jay Bruce, Reds 84-32-97-8-.256
18. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians 37-8-36-12-.259
19. Michael Bourn, Braves 94-2-50-61-.294
20. Desmond Jennings, Rays 44-10-25-20-.259
21. Michael Morse, Nationals 73-31-95-2-.289
22. Chris Young, Diamondbacks 89-20-71-22-.236
23. Michael Cuddyer, Twins 70-20-70-11-.284
24. Jason Heyward, Braves 50-14-42-9-.227
25. Corey Hart, Brewers 80-26-63-7-.285
26. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals 78-22-84-4-.300
27. Andre Ethier, Dodgers 67-11-62-0-.292
28. Adam Jones, Orioles 68-25-83-12-.280
29. Jeff Francoeur, Royals 77-20-87-22-.285
30. Jayson Werth, Nationals 69-20-58-19-.232
31. Martin Prado, Braves 66-13-57-4-.260
32. Melky Cabrera, Giants 102-18-87-20-.305
33. Nick Markakis, Orioles 72-15-73-12-.284
34. B.J. Upton, Rays 82-23-81-36-.243
35. Nick Swisher, Yankees 81-23-85-2-.260
36. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners 80-5-47-40-.272
37. Drew Stubbs, Reds 92-15-44-40-.243
38. Coco Crisp, Athletics 69-8-54-49-.264
39. Logan Morrison, Marlins 54-23-72-2-.247
40. Delmon Young, Tigers 54-12-64-1-.268
41. Brett Gardner, Yankees 87-7-36-49-.259
42. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins 78-5-36-40-.296
43. Alex Rios, White Sox 64-13-44-11-.227
44. Matt Joyce, Rays 69-19-75-13-.277
45. Carlos Quentin, Padres 53-24-77-1-.254
46. Brennan Boesch, Tigers 75-16-54-5-.283
47. Cameron Maybin, Padres 82-9-40-40-.264
48. Angel Pagan, Giants 68-7-56-32-.262
49. Torii Hunter, Angels 80-23-82-5-.262
50. Peter Bourjos, Angels 72-12-43-22-.271
51. Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays 75-14-53-5-.225
52. Jose Tabata, Pirates 53-4-21-16-.266
53. Lucas Duda, Mets 38-10-50-1-.292
54. Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks 37-12-58-1-.273
55. Josh Willingham, Twins 69-29-98-4-.246
56. Vernon Wells, Angels 60-25-66-9-.218
57. John Mayberry, Phillies 37-15-49-8-.273
58. Austin Jackson, Tigers 90-10-45-22-.249
59. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs 50-26-88-2-.244
60. Dexter Fowler, Rockies 84-5-45-12-.266

Last three out: Denard Span, Twins; Jon Jay, Cardinals; Grady Sizemore, Indians.

Eligibility notes: The Rays' Ben Zobrist is eligible in the outfield, but is much more valuable at second base. ... The Cardinals' Lance Berkman is listed at first base, where he is taking over for Albert Pujols.

Key stats: Bautista is deserving of top-three overall status after averaging 49 home runs, 114 RBI, 107 runs and nine stolen bases the last two seasons. In 2011, he increased his batting average 42 points to .302.

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