Throughout the first two articles of these Outfield Rankings, the emphasis has not been simply to move the audience down a list, one player at a time, but rather to create a true navigational guide to the Fantasy Outfield. When dealing primarily with players outside of the top 50, this consisted largely of listing them by their pitfalls as well as potential sources of value to help fantasy owners decide which outfielders wouldn’t just be the best in a vacuum, but the best fit for your fantasy roster.
Dealing with OFs #26-50 is a little bit different. While still not at the complete stud class, the majority of players on this list are potential full time players. These are the players that you go to once all the studs are off the board. In another sense, you just got your superhero, now it’s time to draft your sidekick, and let’s make sure you get the right pairing.
In order to do that for this set of the Rankings, I’ve done a few things differently. I’ve kept the same formatting Key that I used last week to identify a few characteristics, but I’ve added a complete projections set for each player and an OBP modifier for how to interpret these rankings if you play in an OBP league. This list is a bit lengthy, so I’m going to go right into establishing the key for this rankings set, and explaining how the key should be used to help in the interpretation of the ranking set:
THE BASE KEY (From Pt. 2):
R-1: Player has less than a full year (550) of plate Appearances. Colored Red if Rookie Eligible. These players would likely represent an added skill variability.
HEA: Health or Durability concerns. These players represent potential bargains if they were to remain healthy / potential pitfalls if the player were to become injured.
R/PT: Role or Playing time Concerns. These players could either be in a crowded situation or have a skillset, such as a platoon bat, that suggests they may see less than full-time.
ZZ: Outlier Year. These players are coming off of years in which their performances particularly defied expectations.
DAIL: Daily league players. Not to be confused with DFS, these are players who’s platoon advantage make them advantageous to those with Daily Transactions leagues.
SPD: Speed players. While these players already are ranked based on SBs as one of the five categories, players who provide speed late in drafts are obviously of particular interest.
–Not everyone on these lists will be as represented by these criteria as the list was last week, but these will still be annotated when appropriate.
Each projection is listed as Batting Average/On-Base Percentage, HRs, Rs, RBIs, and SBs.
The OBP Modifier (for OBP Leagues):
(This is fairly easy to look over if not in an OBP League)
The OBP Modifier is broken into quartile ranges, with red, orange, green, and blue representing a player’s relative strength in an OBP league. If a player’s OBP is colored red then, this would suggest a player who has a significantly reduced value, at least in terms of OBP, in an OBP league, just as if a player’s OBP is colored blue, then the player would be a significantly greater value in an OBP league.
50.) Matt Olson (R-1) — proj. .226/.326, 38 HRs, 72 Rs, 86 RBIs, 1 SB
Olson impressed as a 23 year-old rookie in 2017 mashing 24 HRs in just 216 PAs. However, I don’t yet believe that his skill-set is stable enough to sustain success at the plate for a full season. Not only does Olson whiff more than his fair share, but his pull and high-fly-ball low-line-drive tendencies do not lend themselves to producing strong BABIPs. Drafting Olson might net you a massive power source, but you may also be paying up for Chris Carter.
49.) Steven Souza Jr. — proj. .238/.332, 26 HRs, 74 Rs, 79 RBIs, 14 SBs
Recently traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, I like the potential of Souza to provide about 40 HRs+SBs. However, the swing-and-miss in combination with the league change make me worried that we could see an even worse BA out of Souza this year. I like the move to Arizona in general for Souza in terms of ballpark, but all new pitchers concern me greatly.
48.) Adam Jones — proj. .263/.304, 27 HRs, 83 Rs, 80 RBIs, 2 SBs
Age is but a number. AGING, however, is something that can be seen at various ages and in various ways within players. Some players have skill sets that age wonderfully. Adam Jones, however, has a skillset that I worry about. The ability to hack the ball at your toes and eyes with success is not something that typically sustains into later ages. With no speed, an unimpressive average, and an abundance of power throughout the league, you’re better off just passing on Adam Jones.
47.) Jay Bruce — proj. .251/.317, 33 HRs, 77 Rs, 87 RBIs, 2 SBs
So Jay Bruce is good again? So that’s where we’re at now? For years, Jay Bruce was a hitter who was inconsistent within a year but typically produced a consistent baseline over the course of a season. Now, Bruce seems to flip a coin on a season by season basis. I do believe that Bruce can sustain his success from 2017 into 2018, but I’m also not sure that anyone can be confident in the level of production to expect from him.
46.) Gregory Polanco (HEA?)— proj. .257/.319, 16 HRs, 74 Rs, 69 RBIs, 15 SBs
Polanco greatly underperformed the previous two seasons and failed to make an expected improvement in BA or maintain much of the power spike he saw in 2016. Polanco struggled mightily against lefties in 2017 with just a .278 OBP and .308 SLG. I still believe he has the talent and the tools to unlock some more potential, but 2017 was a forgettable disaster for Polanco.
45.) Odubel Herrera (ZZ) — proj. .280/.330, 15 HRs, 74 Rs, 53 RBIs, 13 SBs
In 2017, Odubel Herrera was a very similar hitter to the year before despite being a much worse fantasy option. What changed for Herrera was the disappearance of the stolen bases. So much of Odubel’s value is tied up in those steals. I still expect Herrera to hit for a decent average and some pop which should make him a decent fourth or fifth outfielder. If he can recapture that speed however, Odubel could be a true potential value with five category production.
44.) Kyle Schwarber (R/PT) — proj. .246/.346, 33 HRs, 74 Rs, 77 RBIs, 2 SBs
For Schwarber, it’s less about combing over the numbers than simply trying to figure out how talented you believe the bat is. Schwarber did hit well in the second half after his return from the minors with a .253/.335/.559 slash line and 17 HRs in 209 PAs, but was dreadful before. Dealing with the same playing time crunch as Happ, Schwarber is a talented hitter with a few asterisks.
43.) Nomar Mazara (DAIL)— proj. .257/.326, 21 HRs, 66 Rs, 84 RBIs, 1 SB
Mazara has the body and the pedigree of a hitter who can become a perennial power and average stud in the majors. The next logical step for Mazara will be to improve his splits. Mazara has hit 38 of his career 40 home runs against Righties and, as the chart below shows, has been truly terrible at generating power versus left handed pitchers.
|Mazara v. LHP||HR||XBH||ISO|
42.) Ian Happ (R-1) — proj. .245/.323, 27 HRs, 77 Rs, 74 RBIs, 10 SBs
Happ is a player stuck in the Cubs shuffle. With Rizzo and Bryant most likely cemented in every day roles, the remaining five Cubs fielding spots are shared by a combination of about seven players: Schwarber, Almora, Heyward, Zobrist, Happ, Russell, and Baez. Happ is also less of a sure thing. While the talent, power, and speed seem to suggest that he would be likely to produce great fantasy value in a full time role, his 30+% K% and contact issues are a bit much to heap on to the already existing playing time concerns. Talk of him potentially leading off could spike interest.
41.) Brett Gardner — proj. .269/.355, 17 HRs, 88 Rs, 58 RBIs, 18 SBs
Gardner, who turns 35 during the next season, is still a consistent source of stolen bases, and that’s not something many people can say at 35. The problem is, at 35 and in a crowded outfield and line-up, I don’t think anyone would be entirely surprised if those steals just simply disappeared. Gardner’s HRs I think are fairly safe. The chart below shows that 2016 seems by far to be the outlier of the last four years in terms of power projection.
40.) Michael Conforto (R/PT, HEA, DAIL)— proj. .263/.357, 31 HRs, 80 Rs, 84 RBIs, 3 SBs
If Conforto would be guaranteed healthy on Opening Day, and if Conforto had shown a bit more against left handed pitching, then he would be seen as a huge potential steal. Conforto still possesses the batting average and power upside to make him that potential steal, but the holes in his game are too glaring to simply ignore create a great risk in projecting his value. I think I could handle the split issues if it weren’t for the injury, but the questionable shoulder health drives down Conforto’s draft day evaluation significantly.
39.) Yasiel Puig (ZZ) — proj. .261/.339, 24 HRs, 70 Rs, 77 RBIs, 11 SBs
Puig set career highs in both power and speed in 2017, and he put together an impressive postseason. While I do consider these reasons to be optimistic about the future of Yasiel Puig, they are also the reasons why I will probably be passing on him in most leagues. Since his explosive 2013 debut, Puig has been mostly pedestrian with middling power and some speed, and plenty of questionable ethic and playing time. Maybe this is the beginning of the blossoming of his future. For now though, I’m of the opinion that 2017 will be driving the value of an inconsistent player a bit too much.
38.) Adam Eaton — proj. .283/.359, 13 HRs, 90 Rs, 59 RBIs, 13 SBs
Adam Eaton thought that he would be spending most of his 2017 competing with a strong competitor after being traded to the Washington Nationals. Instead, he spent most of the season hurt and watching from the sidelines. Eaton is a solid player and fantasy contributor, despite playing without plus power or speed driving the value. I am a bit skeptical projecting him moving into 2018. I was hoping Dusty Baker could influence his stolen base total, but that is no longer the case, and coming off an injury I wonder where the steals in particular will land.
37.) Joey Gallo — proj. .217/.332, 44 HRs, 83 Rs, 85 RBIs, 6 SBs
Finally getting playing time in 2017, Joey Gallo was able to hit just above the mendoza line while clubbing just over 40 Homers. Gallo is a windmill, making less contact and whiffing more than anyone in 2017, and that doesn’t figure to change. However, Gallo’s power is also unlike most every other players in baseball. Just take a look at this chart to see some of the extremes in Gallo’s game.
|Metric||Value||Ranking||Next (If First/Last)|
*Z-Contact is Contact on Pitches Judged in the K-Zone
36.) Adam Duvall (R/PT?) — proj. .244/.302, 32 HRs, 71 Rs, 93 RBIs, 5 SBs
Duvall’s line over the past two seasons have been almost exactly identical. Both years he finished with at least 31 Homers, 5 Steals, 99 RBIs, and a .241 BA. The playing time seems to be the greatest concern. Duvall is pretty safe to hit those 30 Homers with a .240 BA if he gets the playing time, but anyone hoping to draft Duvall should be aware of the potential loss of playing time with the Reds discussing a four man rotation in the Outfield.
35.) Ryan Braun (HEA(!!!)) — proj. .282/.349, 21 HRs, 77 Rs, 82 RBIs, 13 SBs
Braun has been one of the more consistently injured players over the course of the last five years. In 2015 and 2016, this did not keep him from being a top fantasy outfielder, as he managed to average 27.5 HRs, 20 SBs, and about a .295 BA over that stretch. For Braun, the question is not IF he will be healthy or IF he can maintain health for a full season— we don’t expect him to even in the optimistic situations. The question is if he can manage to put together enough of a season while he plays to make up for that time he misses.
34.) Manuel Margot (SPD) — proj. .273/.324, 13 HRs, 73 Rs, 59 RBIs, 24 SBs
For Margot, the evaluation in 2018 comes down to how you look at 2017 in the progression of Margot. Margot is still a very young hitter who projects to hit for a much better than .263 BA and a better than the 20.0% K% he posted in 2017. Margot was one of many displaying surprising pop in 2017, hitting 13 HRs after hitting just 12 the previous two years combined between A+ and AAA. I think Margot likely makes the next step, hits for a slightly better average, and gets a few more steals in 2018.
33.) Nick Castellanos — proj. .279/.328, 25 HRs, 77 Rs, 82 RBIs, 3 SBs
One player many expected was ripe for a breakout in 2017, Castellanos failed to truly hit that next level. However, the batted balls do tell a potentially different story. While Castellanos’ BABIP was above .310, which is no doubt above average, Castellanos had numerous Batted Ball metrics rank in the elite tier, as seen below. If Castellanos’ batted balls start falling closer to a mid-.300s BABIP then he could keep all the same counting stats and power while jumping to a .300 BA.
32.) Chris Taylor (SPD, ZZ) — proj. .262/.329, 18 HRs, 95 Rs, 72 RBIs, 20 SBs
Working with the same hitting coaches as JD Martinez, Chris Taylor reinvented himself as a hitter in 2017, adding power and drive to his swing. Taylor still strikes out quite a bit, and probably did play a bit over his head as a hitter in 2017, but the evidence of change is enough for me to believe that Taylor has made a legitimate change he can carry over into 2018.
31.) Eddie Rosario — proj. .280/.320, 22 HRs, 75 Rs, 75 RBIs, 9 SBs
A hitter who had shown both power and speed to some extent in the past, Rosario’s 2017 was a breakout success. His jump in power followed the league trend. But Rosario had double digit homer totals in partial seasons in both 2015 and 2016, so he has displayed legitimate skill. Rosario may not be anything too special, but at 26 coming off of a breakout year he should be able to provide potential five category value.
30.) AJ Pollock (SPD, HEA) — proj. .280/.338, 17 HRs, 88 Rs, 65 RBIs, 33 SBs
Following a relatively late career breakout in 2015, Pollock has been a bit disappointing. Most of this comes from more than just his health. Pollock has not been able to stay healthy since that breakout, playing only 12 games in 2016 and 112 in 2017. Pollock’s 2017 proved he still has the power/speed combination to provide top of the draft value. But between the injuries and the fact that he has still only put it all together for a single year, I’ll take someone I’m more confident will stay on the field in Tommy Pham or Whit Merrifield, even if I believe the upside with Pollock is a bit greater.
29.) Tommy Pham (SPD, ZZ) — proj. .256/.358, 19 HRs, 88 Rs, 73 RBIs, 28 SBs
While Pham’s breakout in 2017 was impressive and came with a considerable amount of impressive data, I’d like to focus on the things that concern me about Pham and the reasons why he’s outside of my top 25 Outfielders. Pham’s primary concern comes with his performance against breaking pitches. Pham posted poor numbers against both Curveballs and Sliders, and also had a low Swing% on both pitch types. This may be nothing, but I’m worried that with an offseason to prepare, opposing pitchers may use their best breaking stuff on Pham a bit more, and I wonder if that will have a large and negative impact on his fantasy value.
28.) Lorenzo Cain — proj. .295/.357, 16 HRs, 89 Rs, 69 RBIs, 25 SBs
The move to Milwaukee should in general work to the benefit of Lorenzo Cain. Cain has managed to hit 15 Homers in two of the past three seasons and now moving from Kaufmann to Miller will get to play in what is undeniably a better park for home run power. The Brewers have also not been shy about stealing bases over the last few years which should help Cain’s production in this category as well. Cain’s style of play still make him a bit of an injury risk, but he should be a solid Fantasy OFer in 2018.
27.) Andrew McCutchen — proj. .275/.360, 25 HRs, 89 Rs, 87 RBIs, 9 SBs
Following a poor 2016, McCutchen seemed to have a number of his BABIP predictors and more advanced batted ball metrics regress back towards his career norms. The LD% and Pop-Up%’s both improved. His Hard%, while not quite back to his elite career peak, was very much above average again. There’s always going to be the fear that 2016 will come back around, but it seems more likely now that McCutchen will remain at this level — not quite his former glory but still a very valuable outfielder — heading into 2018.
26.) Whit Merrifield (SPD, ZZ) — proj. .280/.321, 14 HRs, 89 Rs, 70 RBIs, 35 SBs
Merrifield went from a no-name roster filler to a viable fantasy option in 2017. Merrifield managed to reduce his strikeout rate while adding decent pop and some speed promised in the minors. Like many players from 2017, the power is the most questionable aspect, and hard to predict moving forward. Still, even if Merrifield only hits 10 homers instead of 19, the speed should carry him towards the top-25 in the outfield.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday March 4th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #103 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Cole Freel. Cole is one of our newest wrtiers at majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Saturday afternoon at 1pm EST.
The link above is to listen on our blog talk radio website. You can listen to the show directly on the homepage of majorleaguefantasysports.com without the annoying popups and obnoxious ads that are on the blog talk website. It will be playing automatically during the show time.