Today begins the first real section of my Outfield Rankings, starting at #75. There’s quite a bit of movers and shakers still, as we haven’t even started Spring Training, so it is important to remember that especially rankings can be incredibly variable. There are a lot of playing time situations to dissect at this time of the year, and anything close to a “sure thing” is probably going nearer to the top 50 at the least, which will make its debut next week.
At this stage of the game, I’m still looking at the “Key” to define quite a few players down in this range. Alex Verdugo and Kyle Tucker, for instance, are the two most variable players in this ranking subset to me. In a shallow, 10-Team league with a high replacement level, I’ll seek out Verdugo and Tucker, and pass aside players like Grichuk, Mullins, and Eaton, who I believe have less upside. In Deeper Leagues however, I tend to focus on ensuring I have enough team depth to compete all around, which would likely drive these murky playing time situations down my board. Sinking in BA Projection? Grab Nick Markakis. Need some Speed? Billy Hamilton deserves to probably go higher than where this list projects.
And, as always, whether you agree with the rankings or not, I hope that I was at least able to add a bit of information to your draft day research with the following player blurbs.
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.
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.
Outfield Rankings Part 1: Top 75
75. Daniel Palka, Chicago White Sox (R/PT) — Palka presents the opportunity to buy the potential of cheap power at a very minimal cost. His high 34.1% K% last year combined with his career-to-date at age 27 don’t give me a lot of confidence in Palka or his ability to sustain a very high BA, but at an ADP of 299, he does carry the potential for power and a great park. Though at this point, I’m questioning if he even deserves a spot in the top 75. I could see his playing time evaporating easily so long as Alonso and Abreu hold down the 1B/DH positions.
74. Niko Goodrum, Detroit Tigers (R/PT) — Goodrum has actually trended downwards since my last article, mostly due to the signing of Josh Harrison. Primarily viewed as a 2B, and declared the clear favorite for that position prior to the Harrison signing, one advantage Goodrum has is that he played at least 8 Games in numerous positions last year according to Fangraphs (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, RF), meaning the Tigers see him as a flexible player, giving him multiple avenues to playing time. Despite struggles v. RHPs, Goodrum becomes an interesting player with some power and speed if he re-enters the “full-time” conversation.
73. Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels — Kole Calhoun caught fire for two months last season (July-August) and was just atrocious the rest of the year. It is honestly hard to know what went wrong. A number of his quality of contact metrics show a hitter who should be performing much better, including a 44+% Hard% and a low 3.9% Pop-Up%. Part of the reason could be a career deficiency versus Sliders (.206 BA, .283 SLG career), but I just expect Calhoun to put up a better BA than he did last season. Just not someone who has a particularly interesting ceiling either.
72. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians — Kipnis has seen his BA and Speed dwindle as he enters the 30’s. Kipnis has seemingly changed to a more Flyball focused approach the last two years, and while he’s hit for decent power, has matched it with .256 and .258 BABIPs. And while 7 SBs are certainly not nothing, it is the first year of his career that he has not averaged at least 10+ per 600 PAs. And speed often does not rebound. But he has a role, and a good line-up.
71. Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins — Arguably the most respectable Miami offensive player last year. Sadly, that doesn’t actually make him a great fantasy asset. Anderson is a good enough hitter, and a good enough stat stuffer, but ultimately he does not fill out at all in speed (2 SBs on 6 Attempts in 2018) and does not have great power (11 HRs in 2018). And to draft a player with those Speed/Power numbers, even a good hitter, on an offense that is not likely to be kind in terms of R+RBI is a hard thing to do. Better in points leagues.
70. Marwin Gonzalez, Minnesota Twins — Landing spot is obviously a variable. But the further we get into the pre-season, the risk that this delayed start will be a hindrance grows more and more relevant. With the exception of one year, the 5×5 upside Marwin has shown throughout his career hasn’t been too special. His peak years of 12 and 8 SBs between 2016-2017 were nice, but steals don’t age well. He had 2 SBs last year on 5 attempts, and expecting many or really any at all could be a projection folly. His power hit 23 HRs in 2017, but went back towards the normal with 16 this past season. Combined with a .260+ career BA, these numbers aren’t awful by any means, and probably won’t kill an owner, but they also aren’t worth going after.
69. Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves — Keeping a theme going here, I like Atlanta’s Markakis as a baseball player. In a points league, he becomes much more relevant. But in a 5×5 league, there’s only so much you can do with someone who has an 8-14 HR range and a 0-1 SB range. He’s the type of player in a 5×5 league that only ENTERS my board if I reach the late rounds and am suffering from a lack of BA.
68. Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals (R/PT) — Martinez is a good hitter and a good baseball player. Is he an everyday Cardinal though? That is a really hard question to answer right now. Harrison Bader seems to be the clear preferred man in Center Field, and Ozuna and Goldschmidt aren’t going anywhere, which basically means Martinez and any Cardinal wanting to play 1B/OF are vying for one position. This includes enticing prospects like Tyler O’Neill. If something guaranteed Martinez’s playing time, he’d move up fairly quickly. As is, he lacks game changing power+speed, and lacks a guarantee that makes me comfortable in terms of playing time.
67. Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers (R/PT) — It is hard for me to know what to project in terms of playing time for Chris Taylor. His performances and flexibility suggest that he should be given a leash to work with, and fill out closer to a full season. But there is a good depth of roster talent, specifically from the left-handed side, surrounding Taylor. If he plays everyday, this ranking will likely be a bit silly, as Taylor contributes a bit across the board. I question whether that happens without other injuries.
66. Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays (HEA, SPD) — Kevin Kiermaier was one of my biggest mistakes last year, and though it was at least partially due to injury, that injury risk has been a constant over Kiermaier’s entire career. But the good news is that Kiermaier is as dirt cheap as they come this year, coming in with a Fantasypros ADP of 374. He’s never been particularly expensive, but as a last round pick in your standard mixed league, there’s a lot of interesting traits to be had with Kevin Kiermaier. Just look at his 2017 (.276, 15 HRs, 16 SBs in 98 Games) as a guide. I think he has even more upside in the speed category, though that argument wanes every year as he continues to get injured. And while missed time is the prevailing thought with this player, while healthy he is guaranteed to have his continuous role due to his incredible Outfield glove.
64 & 65. Franmil Reyes & Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres (R/PT) — Packaged together, because not only are they on the same team, but they are both suffering from the recent guarantee that Wil Myers returns to the Outfield (Manny Machado acquisition). Myers is a veteran, the only one in the Outfield, has a veteran contract, and like Reyes and Renfroe, is unlikely to see time in Centerfield. That means for these two potentially interesting Padres sluggers, there is really only one position available. Injuries can always open new avenues, but at this point I see them as more likely to be a detriment to one another. If one of these players gets a clear confirmation as the everyday RF, then they quickly rise my rankings as a potential late-round 30-HR threat. As is, I’ll pass for other opportunities.
62 & 63. Kyle Schwarber & Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs (R/PT) — Again, a set of players that potentially work to the detriment of each other, Schwarber and Happ are both talented, young, flawed players. And the problem with those flaws isn’t so much that the flaws would make them irrelevant over a full season of Plate Appearances, but that in combination with the playing time question, it makes them hard to draft. Schwarber at times can be a heck of a hitter, but he strikes out a bit, isn’t an above average base stealer, and had a .654 OPS v. LHP last year. Happ strikes out even more than Schwarber, and typically fails to make consistent contact. But Happ possess a very enticing combination of Speed, Power, and some position flexibility in real life that could translate to fantasy as well. Both players would be better in an OBP-style format.
61. Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies — At the very least, he can hopefully provide the Colorado Rockies a bit more on the defensive side this year, as they try to move him to CF. As a First Baseman, Desmond’s career in Colorado has been a disaster. Desmond is a fantasy cheat code. If he continues to play this year, he’ll scrape the fence enough and steal enough bases to be fantasy relevant. But after contributing negative 1.5 WAR to the Rockies the last two years, Desmond just simply isn’t a good baseball player anymore. For a competitive team, there’s an increasing chance they find a way to bench him, or use him as he should be used at this stage of his career: as a multi-positional utility man.
60. Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres (R/PT) — Once thought of as a potential 5×5 Contributor, the question now seems to be if Margot can keep his bat up enough to be adequate for a Center Fielder. While it has been tough sledding to date, with 2018 producing a .245 / .292 / .384 slash, Margot is still only 24 Years Old and shows some interesting traits. He still has managed a solid bit of Isolated Power for a non-Power hitter, and done so while maintaining good contact rates. He seemingly earned his sub-.300 BABIP last year with metrics like a very high Pop-Up rate, but I believe he can be a better than .300 BABIP hitter, and a better than .245 hitter. Lacks a luxurious ceiling, but brings with him enough tools that I believe we can see improvement moving forward.
59. Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros (R-1, R/PT) — With signing Michael Brantley, the Houston Astros removed any chance Tucker had of getting some real post-hype steam this offseason. But he’s still a player worth keeping an eye on. He may have struggled in the Majors, but Tucker went 20/20 with a .332 BA just this past season in AAA, and the tools have been graded not just as baseball interesting, but very fantasy baseball interesting. And while Tucker may be blocked without an injury, the players in front of him at the corners in Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick have not been models of health over the last few years, meaning we could see Tucker as a full-time player even sooner than the Astros intend.
58. Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers (R-1, R/PT) — Ignore the PT situation for a second and assess the potential 5-Category Verdugo. Verdugo has adequate power and speed, as well as an above average and potential .300+ Hit Tool. As a player in many organizations, playing time or at least a real opportunity for it would be easy. I’m concerned for this organization and for his redraft value that, even if his role expands tremendously, he finds himself in some kind of platoon situation. The Dodgers have a lot of flexible players. That partially shows the avenue for playing time, but that same level of flexibility also creates a lot of mouths to feed.
57. Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals — While I like Eaton, I’d like to see some questions answered after two seasons totalling 118 Games. In terms of Power, while our sample is incredibly messy, we have seen reduced HR numbers for Eaton since his move to Washington. While Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field (Eaton’s first home park) possesses potentially the worst Park name in Professional Sports, it is a pretty good hitters haven for Home Runs. Eaton’s 7 HRs over 470 PAs since the move from Guaranteed Rate translates to 9.5 HRs in a 650 PA season. And while Eaton was a largely successful 9/10 while stealing bases in 2018, the older Eaton gets (now 30) and the more injuries he deals with, I wonder if he continues to produce. Like his power, his speed has never been greatly above average, so a reduction from a similar 14 range could leave Eaton looking like something closer to a 9 HR / 9 SB type more so than the 14 HR / 14 SB hitter of yesteryear.
56. Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox (R/PT, DAILY) — Many love Jackie Bradley Jr. If he were on a different, less competitive team, maybe I would too. But I see a flawed hitter who could become replaceable on a team as good as the Boston Red Sox. While I don’t know if he sat any AL games (with a DH), he did sit during the World Series. He has poor numbers v. LHPs (.185 BA, .562 OPS) and Boston has plenty of above average gloves to put in the outfield. I’d like him more in a daily league when I could play him against RHPs only.
55. Randal Grichuk, Toronto Blue Jays — Randal Grichuk is enigmatic. He seems to be a hitter who truly only thrives when he’s being aggressive. The few times that teams have tried to tap into his power by focusing on developing his patience, it has seemingly lead to a step back. And when he ignores that, and goes with his natural instinct, he seems to have fair success. At this point of his career, he’s not someone I ever expect to be a walker, a good OBP play, or an extremely consistent year-in player. But he also has compiled over 90 career HRs in just over 1800 PAs with a .248 Career BA, giving him a 600 PA career line around .248 with 30 HRs. And at his price range, that upside is worth the risk, especially if you are looking for power.
54. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (R/PT) — Gardner is competing with Clint Frazier for the starting LF position. Frazier has upside and was a solid prospect in the past. But there’s also a reality in Frazier’s career -0.4 fWAR against Gardner’s 6-Year streak producing a minimum 2.5 fWAR. In that 6-Year Streak, Gardner has averaged 13.5 HRs and 20 SBs. I wouldn’t expect anything around that at age 35, and coming off of 12 HRs and 16 SBs, but he’s still a player who could put up 10+ and 10+ in a good line-up.
53. Billy Hamilton, Kansas City Royals (SPD) — Hamilton is someone you can justify ranking in such a wide range. With his potential speed, getting him at this price could supply you with a huge late round sleeper, but he’s not a good hitter. Right now, the Royals appear to be in the position to give him full reign of Center Field.
52. Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles (SPD) — Mullins is an interesting sleeper who has the pleasure of clear playing time in a great Park, but not necessarily for a good line-up. I don’t love the hit tool, but he does have some pop and some speed. He had 23 SBs between AA and the MLB last year, but was 2 for 5 on his MLB attempts. As a 15+ SB player, Mullins is an interesting, and potential 5-Category player. As a 5+ SB player, I have some concerns about how the value comes to fruition.
51. Domingo Santana, Seattle Mariners — Santana’s 2018 was a bit of a disaster. The Brewers wisely struck a slow market and grabbed Yelich and Cain, forcing Santana to a lesser role, and then ultimately out of the organization. Now a Mariner, Santana is a much more potentially vital and viable member of the line-up. While his K% has always been a concern, his Batted Ball profile in 2017 (and even 2018) was superb. Arguably the best combination of LineDrive%, low Pop-Up%, Oppo%, and Hard% in Baseball in 2017. That doesn’t necessarily lead to HRs, but it does lead to a high BABIP projection, and Santana does have decent power.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 21st, 2019 from 8pm – 9:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the A.L. West.
Be sure to check out our Sunday night show February 24th from 8pm to 9:45pm EST. They will cover the N.L. West.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday February 24th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #140 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. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. West.
Our guests this week is are Kyle Klinker, and Bilal Chaudry. Both Kyle and Bilal are veteran owners in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and have won several titles between the two of them.