Last time, I previewed shortstops. Now, let’s head to the outfield to round out our hitter previews.

Which outfielder should go off the board first?

Mike Trout (LAA) – There is no question that Trout is the number one outfielder in fantasy baseball. Trout is in a tier of his own, as he batted .323 with 27 home runs, 97 runs batted in and 33 stolen bases last year. The 22-year-old is going to do it big again this year, and you should have no fear in going all in on Trout.

Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?

Josh Hamilton (LAA) – Texas Rangers fans rejoiced last season, as Angels fans and fantasy owners of Hamilton were frustrated by his production. The former American League MVP had 21 home runs, just 79 runs batted in and hit a career-low .250 after getting a fat contract from the Angels. I expect Hamilton to come back strong this season and prove the naysayers wrong.

Don’t sleep on this guy

Curtis Granderson (NYM) – Granderson only played in 61 games last year for the New York Yankees and was rather disappointing. However, he is getting a fresh start with the New York Mets. He is being ranked in the late 30’s and early 40’s, which I believe is way too low for Granderson. The guy hit 43 home runs in 2012 and 41 home runs in 2011. With exceptional power and potential to steal some bases while knocking in a lot of runs, I think he’ll have a good year. He isn’t hitting in the greatest lineup or the friendliest ballpark, but he is healthy and excited to be a member of the Mets.

Bound to bust

Ryan Braun (MIL) – After a stint on the disabled list and a season-endingsuspension for violating baseball’s drug policy and lying to the public, Braun is being ranked as high as 4 or 5 on most 2014 pre-draft outfielder rankings. It is tough togauge how Braun will perform this season, knowing that he was using performanceenhancing drugs en route to his past success. Now that he is clean, or at least claims to be, I’ll side with Braun being a bust.

My Pre-Season Rankings: Outfielders

  1. Mike Trout (LAA)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
  3. Carlos Gonzalez (COL)
  4. Bryce Harper (WAS)
  5. Adam Jones (BAL)
  6. Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY)
  7. Yasiel Puig (LAD)
  8. Carlos Gomez (MIL)
  9. Justin Upton (ATL)
  10. Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)
  11. Jose Bautista (TOR)
  12. Shin-Soo Choo (TEX)
  13. Josh Hamilton (LAA)
  14. Ryan Braun (MIL)
  15. Yoenis Cespedes (OAK)
  16. Curtis Granderson (NYM)
  17. Jay Bruce (CIN)
  18. Alex Rios (TEX)
  19. Matt Kemp (LAD)
  20. Starling Marte (PIT)
  21. Matt Holliday (STL)
  22. Allen Craig (STL)
  23. Wil Myers (TB)
  24. Hunter Pence (SF)
  25. Mark Trumbo (ARI)

I’ll leave you with this...

As always, the outfield is strong. The top ten outfielders will probably be taken within the first three rounds of all fantasy drafts, and outfielders tend to go quickly since you need three of them in most standard leagues. It also doesn’t hurt to have extra on the bench and for your utility spot. Considering the position is so deep, you are kind of on your own as to how you want to approach it.

Each week, Adam will give his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper/breakout, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

For the second time in his young career, outfielder Mark Payton faced the tough decision of whether to go pro or stay in school.

The Cleveland Indians selected him in the 16th round last summer — 15 rounds higher than where the Minnesota Twins drafted the smooth-hitting outfielder in 2010. He was an “intriguing prospect,” according to Baseball America. At 5-feet-8-inches, he is undersized, not very fast and probably more suited for an infield position, were he not a lefty. He does the little things well, but the 16th round may be as high as he ever goes.

“It was tough,” Payton said. “I love playing at Texas and I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to go professional.”

He was coming off a career year heading into the draft. His .393 batting average led the Big 12 and put him No. 12 in the nation last year. But the decision was about more than that. It was about being a Longhorn — something he wasn’t quite ready to give up on.

“I know I made the right decision to return and put this jersey on for one last time,” Payton said. “It’s every kid’s dream to wear this jersey.”

Considering Payton’s offense struggled last season, as he hit just .260, his return is important, and head coach Augie Garrido knows that.

“We are thrilled to have Mark Payton coming back for his senior year,” Garrido said. “His experience and leadership will play a key role in getting us back to winning championships at The University of Texas.” 

He, Erich Weiss — who opted to sign with the Pirates — and sophomore shortstop C.J. Hinojosa anchored the lineup last season. The three of them drove in 45 percent of Texas’ runs, but Payton doesn’t feel he has to carry the offense.

“I don’t feel that pressure,” Payton said. “It’s about being confident and doing the little things right. That’s what baseball is about. Things didn’t fall our way last year. This is a new season, though.”

But it was Payton who really kept the offense afloat last season. The unanimous All-Big 12 selection led the team in hits, doubles, triples, RBI, walks and total bases. But he doesn’t care about the individual stats, reaching the elusive .400 plateau or the name on the back of the jersey. Rather, he cares about the name on the front of the jersey.

“Breaking .400 is not a goal,” Payton said. “My goal is going out and winning games.”

More than likely influenced by Garrido’s way of thinking, Payton knows there’s more to the game than just stepping in the box and hacking away.

“I just got to go out there and play our game,” Payton said. “It’s all about playing hard and doing the right thing. You’ll get rewarded.”

With the season quickly approaching, Payton is ready to get out there one last time.

“I’m anxious to get back out there and get the season going,” Payton said. “Texas baseball is one of the biggest programs known and we need to get it back to where we belong.”

Best under-the-radar moves of the MLB offseason

It is almost time.

With a week to go until pitchers and catchers begin to report to their respective camps in Florida and Arizona, the MLB hot stove is beginning to cool down with teams starting to turn their attention to the upcoming season. There are a few big-name free agents left on the market, including pitcher Kyle Lohse and outfielder Michael Bourn, so there are still options out there for teams to try and improve themselves between now and Opening Day, but for the most part, the flurry of activity is coming to an end as we head toward April.

Everyone took notice of the Brinks truck that the Dodgers backed into Zach Greinke’s driveway over the winter. We all saw the Angels bolster their outfield with the addition of Josh Hamilton.
We all heard about the trades involving Justin Upton and James Shields that have them changing addresses. Here we’re going to analyze the top three moves that mostly flew under the radar this offseason, strengthening each respective team without breaking the monetary or prospect bank.

1. Torii Hunter signs in the Motor City

In one of the very first moves of winter preceding the onslaught of activity, the Detroit Tigers upgraded their outfield by signing aging veteran Torii Hunter. While the prime of Hunter’s
career is in his rearview mirror, he proved this past summer with the Los Angeles Angels that he can still be a cornerstone, batting a career-best .313 while knocking in 92 runs. Hunter had the fifth-best Wins Above Replacement in the American League amongst position players with 5.5, which would essentially make him the second most valuable player on the Tigers roster if he can keep up that production. The Tigers made it all the way to the World Series last fall before falling to the Giants, but the addition of Torii Hunter should provide a nice boost to help
get them over the hump. Even better for the Tigers is the price tag that came with him. While the Angels signed Josh Hamilton for $125 million over five years, the Tigers added the American
League’s second most valuable outfielder last season for only $26 million over two years. He may not be the Torii Hunter of old, flashing the leather in centerfield and robbing home runs, but his
stats prove him to be a valuable asset, and the Tigers hope they can milk the last productive years out of him in the search for a World Series title.

2. The Blue Jays sign outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal

As of today, it certainly seems as though the Toronto Blue Jays were the big winners of the winter. They made a couple of blockbuster trades, including the R.A. Dickey deal, along with the massive trade they made with the Miami Marlins that landed them Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson. While those two trades certainly help the Blue Jays become instant contenders, the signing of Melky Cabrera for two years and $16 million flew mostly under the radar due to the rest of their seismic activity. Cabrera was enjoying an MVP-type season with the Giants last summer, hitting a whopping .346 before he was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. While Cabrera may not have the type of season with the Blue Jays that he was having with the Giants, he is certainly still a valuable asset, and at $8 million a year, he is an efficient asset. Cabrera’s 2012 was an outlier in statistical terms to the rest of his career, but he’s always been a serviceable piece. If he does replicate the tear he was on in San Francisco, then the Jays may have themselves the steal of the offseason.

3. The New York Mets acquire minor leaguers Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in exchange for R.A. Dickey

OK, so this trade may have been classified as a blockbuster when it went down, but not because of what the Mets landed. In mid-December, the Mets sent the reigning National League
Cy Young winner to Toronto in exchange for a plethora of highly ranked prospects. While Dickey being dealt did send some shockwaves through Major League Baseball, not many people
took notice of what the Mets got in return for the 38-year-old starter. In the deal, they landed the top catching prospect in all of baseball, Travis d’Arnaud, along with hard-throwing pitching
prospect Noah Syndergaard. While dealing a Cy Young winner is tough, Dickey wasn’t a typical ace. His age makes him a risk to sign long-term, and relies on the often unreliable knuckleball.
While Dickey’s last two seasons were booming successes, the Mets capitalized on his value, and in return landed the type of haul that can change a franchise's future. The Texas Rangers did an about-face when they dealt slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Braves, and it would appear as though the Mets just made a similar type of deal. Yes, this trade wasn’t quite under the radar, but what the Blue Jays acquired was.

Melky Cabrera bails out Bud Selig

Did everybody just see that? Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giant’s outfielder, just took a bullet aimed straight for Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s head. On Friday, Cabrera requested through the MLB players union that he be disqualified for the 2012 National League batting title.

Cabrera, playing in his seventh full major league season, was enjoying a breakout campaign out by the Bay Area in San Francisco. He was hitting a whopping .346 through 501 plate appearances. He was the National League MVP of the All-Star Game in Kansas City, Mo., and was presumably on his way to being the National League MVP of the season. He was also on his way to a big pay day when his contract was due to expire at the end of the season. And just like so many before him, it all came crashing down around him when it was announced that he had tested positive for testosterone. He was suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB drug abuse policy, and his entire stellar season would be remembered with a hint of resentment from the fans who have been cheated in a similar fashion all too many times.

But Cabrera still had a chance, even after being caught cheating, to be listed in the history books as the 2012 National League batting champion.

It was announced Thursday through the commissioner’s office that if the season ended with Cabrera still in the lead in the batting race and on Friday he was still leading second-place Pirates’ outfielder Andrew McCutchen by seven points, then he would be crowned as the batting champion because of a quirky rule.

Did you catch that? The guy who failed a drug test for performance-enhancing drugs would still be remembered in history as the batting champion. Let it sink in.

Of the four big sports in North America, baseball has suffered plenty of black eyes. While Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and a slew of others are being held out of Cooperstown, N.Y., for their alleged performance-enhancing drug use, all of their records still stand just as pristine as ever.

Those games happened, and this isn’t “Men in Black” where you can simply flash all of America and make them forget that magical season when McGwire and Sosa were going toe-to-toe for the single season home run record. We can’t forget the season just a few years later when Barry Bonds blew past the both of them.

The point is, if Bud Selig didn’t have his head in the sand for a decade-plus on the steroid issue, those records wouldn’t be tainted. Hank Aaron wouldn’t be second on the all-time list for home runs, behind someone like Bonds, who put on almost 40 pounds of muscle over the course of his 22-year career. Those records will forever be tainted because Selig was reactionary instead of being proactive.

Now six-and-a-half years after Major League Baseball adopted its new drug-testing policy to cleanse the game, we still have superstars faltering and tainting records and personal achievements. 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun failed a drug test a month after he received the prestigious award. And while Braun had the test overturned on a strange appeal, the award still holds a bit of question, even if Braun is matching his MVP numbers this season under a presumably clean slate.

If Melky Cabrera had not taken himself out of the running for the National League batting crown, which he likely would have won, baseball would have affectively not taken a positive step forward since the days of the “juicers.” Cheaters would still be embraced as historical icons, and the game’s integrity would continue to sink like the Titanic.

Instead Cabrera did what was right, something Bud Selig cannot seem to wrap his mind around. Cabrera took the bullet for a spineless commissioner in hopes of returning integrity back to America’s pastime. And while Cabrera still cheated, he at least owned up to his mistake and made it right, something the cheaters before him did not. He ensured that the proper winner will win the batting title the right way, not by cheating the game and all its fans that crave to put the days of tainted baseball behind them.

Baseball recruiting: Horns add Moynihan

According to texassports.com, the University of Texas has signed Matt Moynihan, an outfielder at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Moynihan will have two years of eligibility at Texas, and continues a string of juco players signed by the Longhorns in recent years — such as Paul Montalbano and Lucas Kephart.

Here’s a look at the lefty’s batting numbers this year at Orange Coast:

Average: .452
Runs scored: 34
RBI: 30
Doubles: 8
Triples: 3
HR: 1
Stolen bases: 10

Moynihan ended his high school career with 88 stolen bases, which was second all-time in San Diego County, so his speed will be a welcome addition to a Texas team that doesn’t try to steal too many bases. The outfield is crowded this year, and it will be next year as well. Mark Payton (freshman) has solidified himself as the right fielder, Cohl Walla will be next year’s starting center fielder (if he stays in school, as he’s a draft-eligible sophomore), and Jonathan Walsh (sophomore) also sees a lot of time in left.

That’s potentially three returning starters. Also returning next year will be Tim Maitland, the resident pinch-runner/defensive outfielder, and Dex Kjerstad, a highly recruited outfielder out of high school who hasn’t seen much action this year. The Longhorns have also signed Austin Westlake’s Collin Shaw, who projects to be an outfielder in college.

In this March 24, 2011 file photo, Georgia baseball player Johnathan Taylor is released from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Taylor suffered a career-ending injury in March with he collided with a teammate in the outfield. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Johnathan Taylor and Buddy Lamothe may never play baseball again after accidents left them partially paralyzed.
That didn’t matter to the teams that picked them Wednesday during the final rounds of the Major League Baseball draft.
Taylor, an outfielder from the University of Georgia, was a 33rd-round pick of the Texas Rangers, while Lamothe, a reliever from San Jacinto College, was the Houston Astros’ 40th-round selection.

Taylor was left paralyzed from the chest down after he broke his neck in March during a game when he collided with teammate Zach Cone, the Rangers’ supplemental-round pick Monday. Texas director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg said the team’s selection of Taylor was “something we felt was right.”

“We would have drafted him either way, regardless of any other circumstances involving his injury or Zach’s draft status,” Fagg said. “Our area scout in Georgia, Ryan Coe, has had a relationship with Johnathan since he was a high school player. The club has always liked his passion and ability as a player.”

Taylor hit .335 last year as a sophomore for the Bulldogs, and was hitting .182 with two RBIs in 11 games at the time of his injury.

Fagg added that he and a few other Texas officials visited Cone during “the course of normal pre-draft activity” and gave him a Rangers jersey to give to Taylor that was signed by the entire angers team.

“This was truly a classy move and a great gesture on the part of the Texas Rangers organization,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “J.T. is definitely a player worthy of getting drafted. He’s been a big part of our program, and we are all very excited for him. When I talked to him after he got the call, he was in the middle of his rehabilitation work, laughing and having a good time and was thrilled to be drafted.”

Taylor was injured March 6 against Florida State and has been undergoing outpatient treatment at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. He also attended a pair of Georgia games since his accident.

“We’re all very proud of him,” said Tandra Taylor, Jonathan’s mother. “It’s just amazing, and when he got the call, his face lit up and we were all very excited. It was awesome news.”

Cone, taken by the Rangers with the 37th overall selection, was thrilled the team also took his injured buddy.
“I was pumped up when the Rangers told me they were thinking about drafting J.T., and then I got a call saying that they had drafted him,” Cone said. “I was already planning on going over to see him and now we can talk about the Rangers. This made my day. It’s just awesome, and I’m so happy for him.”

Lamothe, in his first season at San Jacinto, was injured last month in a diving accident in San Marcos, Texas. The hard-throwing right-hander from Lyndonville, Vt., was 0-2 with a 0.77 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 23 1-3 innings pitched.

According to an update on a website dedicated to him, the 20-year-old Lamothe is undergoing inpatient rehabilitation in Houston, with the hope he’ll be released for outpatient therapy in the next few weeks.

A total of 1,530 players were selected during the three-day draft, with rounds 31-50 held via conference call Wednesday.

Three big league managers saw their sons get taken by their own teams in the later rounds, including Oakland’s Bob Geren (Brett, in the 42nd round), the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Scioscia (Matthew, 45th round) and Toronto’s John Farrell (Shane, 46th round). The Blue Jays also took Jacob Wakamatsu, the son of bench coach Don Wakamatsu, in the 48th round.

Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. drafted his nephew, Andrew, in the 47th round.

St. Louis took Liberty catcher Casey Rasmus, the brother of outfielder Colby Rasmus, in the 36th round.

The sons of former major leaguers Bobby Bonilla, Alex Fernandez and Charlie Leibrandt were also among the players whose names were called Wednesday.

Pitchers were the most commonly picked players this year with 793, including 575 right-handers. Every state except Maine was represented, and 61 foreign-born players were taken, led by 33 from Canada. Vanderbilt University had the most college players drafted with 12, including first-rounder Sonny Gray.

Pittsburgh took UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 overall pick Monday night.