by Moonlight Graham

There was a huge shift in the universe last week as the boys from the Hausier’s Krowedum Fantasy Baseball League sat down at the Manor Restaurant for their annual draft.  The three time defending champion Master Batters, huge proponents of spending early picks on outfielders, turned their attention instead to the new position of power in Fantasy Baseball;  the Corner Infield; especially First Base.

That Evan Longoria was the object of the Batters’ affection in the first round of their Fantasy Baseball Draft was indication of a huge change at the top of Fantasy Baseball rankings as well as the direction in which many Fantasy Baseball owners are headed this season in assembling their teams.  To be sure, studs still reside at the top of the Outfield list but not in the abundance with which we’ve become accustomed over recent years.

“You have to adjust on the fly, both before and during a Fantasy Draft”, said Batters’ owner, Bobby Carr.  “We’ve made our living by loading up on Outfielders before people realized waiting was foolish.  But, this year, that theory just didn’t hold up.  We’d have been much weaker had we waited on the Corner Infielders than the outfield.  We just thought we’d be much stronger with Longoria and Justin Upton than with Matt Kemp and Aramis Ramirez.”

Now, who is Moonlight to question a squad that has won six of its league’s last eight titles?  Let’s take a look at the Outfielders available in 2010.

Fantasy Baseball Studs

Since his call-up in 2008, Ryan Braun has put up the same numbers as Alex Rodriguez. With few exceptions, Braun should be the fourth pick in most drafts. Matt Holliday re-upped with St. Louis after lighting up the NL Central following his mid-season acquisition last year.  Expect even more production as Holliday takes his spot between Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick in the Cards’ order.

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez is a 27 year old with 20-20 potential who’ll bat at the top of the Mariners’ order. It’s amazing to see him at the bottom of many mock drafts.  Take advantage.  A disappointing 2009 has driven down the value of Reds’ prospect Jay Bruce. Yet, despite missing two months with a broken wrist, he popped 23 HR.  He’s in a great hitters’ park and still just 23.  Focus on his strong September and scoop him late.

Fantasy Baseball Slippers

In Tampa, B.J. Upton hit 24 HR in ’07 then 20 combined over the last two years.  He spent ’09 in Joe Maddon’s doghouse and then some in the #9 hole.  Don’t get caught betting on a turnaround.  “Manny being Manny”  now looks more like a mediocre outfielder. The Dodgers proved last year that they can win without the aging, disinterested Manny Ramirez and will likely push him aside in deference to Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney.

Fantasy Baseball Stiffs

- Despite tremendously consistent numbers over the last five years, Jermaine Dye remains an unsigned free agent.  Look for him to sign with a contender as a fourth outfielder.  Jack Cust has always been a late round safety ney for anyone in need of power.  Not anymore; as Cust was released last week by the A’s.

Moonlight Graham’s Top Ten Fantasy Outfielders

Ryan Braun
Matt Holliday
Matt Kemp
Grady Sizemore
Justin Upton
Jason Bay
Jayson Werth
Shin Soo Choo
Carl Crawford
Adam Lind

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