Top 10 Outfielders Sleepers
In 63 games following his late July call-up, Jennings hit .259 with 10 home runs, 25 RBI and was 20 for 26 on stolen base attempts. The batting average would look a lot better if not for a September slump. In his first 37 games, Jennings hit .333 belting eight of his homers and driving in 20 runs. Over his final 26 games, he floundered going .160 from the dish. For 2012 Jennings will again be batting leadoff atop a stout Rays lineup and could very well challenge for 90 runs, 15-20 home runs and 40 stolen bases over the course of a full season. However, an erratic batting average threatens to spoil an otherwise impressive line. Projections on young, exciting players like Jennings vary and as does the level of pursuit by rivals on draft day causing some to reach.
This offseason the San Francisco Giants made a move to upgrade the leadoff spot. While Pagan's career .331 OBP doesn't make for an ideal table setter, it's a step up from the .318 figure posted by the departing Andres Torres. Pagan has averaged nine home runs and 34.5 stolen bases over the last two seasons but the move to AT&T Park could squash another flirtation with double-digit home runs. With catcher Buster Posey returning from a broken ankle, the newly-acquired Melky Cabrera coming off a career-year and third baseman Pablo Sandoval continuing his return to form, getting out of the Big Apple should prove to be a net gain for Pagan.
In 90 games played during final season in Cuba, Cespedes hit .333 with 89 runs scored, 33 home runs, 99 RBI and 11 stolen bases on 14 attempts. He would defect that summer and sign with the Oakland Athletics in March of this year. The 26-year-old defector is obviously oozing with talent but projecting his move to the big leagues, particularly in this first season, is a great unknown. The damper here is playing for a weak A's lineup inside the cavernous O.co Coliseum. However, Cespedes has been hitting in the top half of the lineup in spring training games and figures to be a key bat in the A's lineup on Opening Day. Cespedes represents the biggest draft day wild card in recent memory but don't hesitate to take the chance to unbox him should others begin to shy away.
From 2006-08, Rios averaged 91 runs, 19 homers, 82 per year and batted a combined .296. He would crumble in a dreadful 2009 season hitting .247 between the Toronto Blue Jays and White Sox. Rios recovered the following year, his first full campaign on the South Side, exceeding 20 home runs and 85 RBI for the first time since 2007 while stealing a career-high 34 bases. Rios burned owners once again last year with only 13 home runs and 44 RBI. After posting an unlucky .237 BABIP, well below the league average of .295, his .227 average figures to recover. New ChiSox manager Robin Ventura has thrust his support behind Rios, endorsing him for the No. 3 spot in the lineup. With so many prematurely applying the "dead to me" label, Rios is worth the discount thanks to his a 20-20 ceiling.
There are Angels in the outfield indeed. In addition to Trout, the 2010 Minor League Player of the Year, Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells are all in contention for the three starting outfield positions. Even though his defense is declining, Hunter is the closest thing to a lock in the group. Wells hit an abysmal .218 last year while Abreu is now a defensive liability. That could put Bourjos against Trout for the starting center field job, leaving the younger Trout back in Triple-A. While he struggled in limited big league action last year, Trout is capable of hitting for average with low double-digit homers and 30-plus stolen bases based on his time in minors. If the team elects to break camp with Trout, benching Wells in his favor would prove the wisest move, he'll make for a very useful catch.
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