Now we arrive at the summit. The Outfielders on this list, particularly the highest 10-12 or so, are players that have the potential to really define the core of your fantasy roster. The Outfield is the position perhaps the least tied to the concept of “needing” one stat over the other. You have ample power sources at the top (Martinez, Judge, Stanton, Davis) as well as speed scattered throughout (Cain, Marte, and many more not on this page). A fair number of leagues function with 5 OFers, meaning that the OF has a capacity to represent a high proportion of your hitting categories.
In the hopes of helping to balance those categories, I’ve included my projections for each of these top 25 OFers. Enjoy!
25. Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees — Hicks has been an excellent late career breakout both for the Yankees and fantasy owners. As a fantasy asset, he carries some valuable traits in his ability to steal 10-12 bases as well as his position at or near the top of the Yankee lineup. Hicks likely won’t provide you the best BA (.266, .248 the past two seasons), and is a better play in OBP leagues. But Hicks also tapped into some power last year that I think is fairly sustainable. Yankee Stadium is a great power booster, and while it wasn’t a full season the year before, he has maintained this HR pace for closer to 1.5 Years than just 1 Year. On top of that, Hicks smashed his previous career high in Hard Contact% via Fangraphs, and seems to be a clear late-career breakout. The Yankees agree, and have guaranteed his role with a $70 Million extension.
24. Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies — This year, especially following Christian Yelich’s breakout, I feel like I’ve seen a bit more discussion of park factor. I don’t see too much of that discussion focusing towards Andrew McCutchen however. Unless I’m mistaken, park factors are not exclusive based on age. And more than that, let us just comprehend the Ballparks that McCutchen has started every single one of his ten MLB seasons: PNC, and the former AT&T. Those are two of the worst parks in the game for producing HRs. Citizens Bank in Philadelphia is one of the best. In 2017, Andrew McCutchen hit .279, knocked 28 HRs, stole 11 Bases, and totaled 182 R+RBI. He did this in a much worse park and on a much worse team than he currently finds himself. Aside from the BA being a little high, are these numbers really at all unrealistic? McCutchen has an excellent eye and is a selective, high-level approach hitter. Would it be preposterous to see McCutchen have his career-high even in HRs in a park that will finally support him. I really don’t think so. My Projection Line isn’t obviously that high, but I’m just showcasing that I believe McCutchen has a fair amount of Floor and Upside alongside this price and projection.
23. Michael Conforto, New York Mets — While Conforto’s overall 2018 may have been a bit of a disappointment for some, falling short of the 5×5 Breakout many wanted, it may have actually been the breakout Conforto needed. Yes, as a whole his .243 BA was lackluster compared to expectations. But for a player who has never hit lefties in his entire career, Conforto actually flashed a reverse split last year, and had an .803 OPS v. LHP, with a .794 v. RHP. Maybe the up-and-down nature is something we should be concerned about, but as a whole, it gives me the clearest picture we’ve had yet of saying “This could be the year Conforto puts it all together.” He’s shown me now, even if it is across different seasons, pretty much everything I need to believe in him. Now he just has to do it in a full season.
22. Tommy Pham, Tampa Bay Rays — Pham has a bit of swing-and-miss in his game, but possesses a wide variety of intriguing tools. He has an excellent eye (12.1% Career BB%), steals bases (15 in 2018), and has a high-level ability to generate both Isolated Power (.203 Career) and BABIP (.351 Career). While the BABIP seems very high, I love the Batted Ball Profile that Pham has shown over his first 1458 career PAs. On his career, he keeps the Line Drives up, the pop-ups down, uses all fields, and has an Elite Career 41.7% Hard Contact% via Fangraphs. I’m a bit concerned at his Conversion Rate on SBs last year, but I still expect him to be a non-zero in the category. I like the top of the Rays lineup as a whole, and so I expect Pham to be a contributor all around.
21. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies — This is my second consecutive year ranking Rhys Hoskins a decent bit below his ADP. I don’t think Rhys Hoskins is a bad baseball player by any means, but I don’t necessarily think I see the player and upside that many others do. Rhys Hoskins has an excellent ability to create Contact with his Power. But that contact does not mean necessarily that he’s going to transform into a better BA player. He hit .246 last year with a .272 BABIP. I think some still view him as a potentially unlucky player. But he has a massive FlyBall% (51+%), Pull% (50+%), and was 16th in total Pop-Ups. I think .245 is what I expect, with .235-.255 being more of the range. That BA range I think is lower than many, and that’s why I have Hoskins ranked quite a bit lower.
20. Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates — I’ve been pushing down Starling Marte the closer we get to the regular season. Games Played is a fairly big variable here. He hasn’t missed a bunch of time in many seasons, but his 145 GP in 2018 was his 2nd highest total in a 7 year career, and the 2nd time he surpassed 135 games. His Power has also been a bit wavering in his career. He hit only 9 HRs in 2016, and while his 7 HRs in 2017 were in only 77 Games, that is more of a 13-14 HR pace than a 19-20 HR pace. But what really has me worried is the potential for lost Speed. We’ve seen Marte hit 30 SBs plenty of years, but due to his injuries, his pace on most seasons is much closer to 40+. His SBs per 606 PAs (2018) has declined for three consecutive years.
|SBs per 606 PAs||54||37.5||33|
Conversion% has never necessarily been Marte’s strongest suit, as he had 30 SBs against 10 CSs in both 2014 and 2015, but his 70.2% Success Rate in 2018 (33 SBs, 14 CSs) was his lowest since making his full season debut back in 2013. His Sprint Speed, which was around 40th-50th the previous two seasons, was ranked 88th by Statcast last year. And he’s on the wrong side of 30 for a base stealer. Marte’s skill-set is one where a steep cliff is on the table for me, because something like .270 / 9 / 22 wouldn’t be the most surprising line for me to see this year. I think he probably does better– he isn’t outside the top 25 after all– but I’ll find other players at the range he’s being drafted this year.
19. Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels** — While Upton can be a bit of a headache with hot and cold stretches within a season, he more-or-less has been fairly consistent as of late. He has hit at least 30 HRs and stolen at least 8 bases for three straight years. His BA has seen some downs recently (.246 in 2016, .257 last year) but ultimately those numbers still make the HR+SB numbers worthwhile. His 100/100 in R/RBI from 2017 dropped to 80+/80+ in 2018, but he also did miss about a dozen games, and I could see him finishing with 180+ R/RBI this season. His SB numbers are hard to project. At 14 and 8 the last two seasons, and with the 8 again coming with a dozen or so missed games, I could see Upton very easily stealing 10 Bases. But with only 8, I could also see that number dwindling to 3-6. My projection accounts for the latter, and I consider the potential for more SBs part of his upside.
18. Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals — The question for Marcell Ozuna is obvious: do we see more of 2017 or more of 2018? By no means was Ozuna a poor hitter when 2018 concluded. A .280 BA and 23 HRs would still be a solid, draftable Outfielder if you just expected that. But that isn’t a top 20 Outfielder. I’ve been a fan from Ozuna dating back to prior to his 2017 breakout, so when I hear of these potential shoulder ailments, I’m tempted to buy back in completely. However, Ozuna has also had “played through injury” as an excuse two of the prior three seasons, which does concern me. I also really like his ability to hit for Power and Average, and potentially match it with good counting stats, but he is a 4-Cat player. Overall, my projection this year is not actually all too different from last year: closer to 2017, but with a reasonable regression.
17. Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati Reds — To me, Yasiel Puig is a potential league winning pick. Currently going as the 27th Outfielder and 96th Overall player via FantasyPros, I think there is every sign pointing to a career year for Yasiel Puig. He is in the best home park he has ever had. Whereas Dodgers Stadium is below-average to average in HR Production, Great American Ballpark is a top-tier HR park. The line-up around him is fairly stout. And, perhaps most important of all, he is a clear everyday player. A stat line like .260 with 30 HRs and 20 SBs may seem preposterous, but it isn’t all that different from the similar 29 HR, 15 SB line he put up in 2017, and this comes in a better park with more PAs. I understand some of Puig’s criticisms, including those relating to his intangibles. However, I feel that not only are those concerns slightly overstated, as Puig has managed to be quite a fine baseball player the last two years despite this, but also that there is still no better time to buy Puig. The argument about Team Wins does nothing for me. I’m not expecting Cincinnati to light a fire under Puig’s butt. This is Puig’s contract year. The last two years, he’s combined decent power, some speed, a decent walk rate, and a modest BA, but hasn’t done so over complete seasons. A full, fleshed out season in Cincinnati gives him a huge opportunity to affect his market when he reaches Free Agency. At his young age, it isn’t completely crazy that he could get a real bidder.
16. Khris Davis, Oakland A’s — The current rise in Khris Davis’ draft day price surprises me. Because, yes he had a career year, but it wasn’t really any different than the last two years before it. The lineup is looking better and better with the development of player like Olson and Chapman, but otherwise not much seems different to me. His 48 HRs is great, and it is certainly possible to repeat, but it seems more reasonable to project closer to 42-44. Roster construction can already come into play at this point when deciding between Davis and a few other players, as Davis gives more in HR/R/RBI but less in BA/SB than many other top OFers in this range. Continued consistency and a better lineup moves Davis up, but I think some are paying for closer to the career year.
15. Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers — Early ADP suggests to me that I have essentially reversed Cain and Marte. I much prefer Lorenzo Cain to Starling Marte. Cain is significantly older than Starling Marte, but he’s always been a better base stealer. Since the beginning of his age 30 season, Cain has converted 70 of his 84 Stolen Base Attempts (83.3%) and holds an impressive 157 SB : 32 CS career mark (83.1%). In comparison, Marte was successful at roughly 70% of attempts last year, with a 214 SB : 71 CS (75.1%) career rate. Cain is also a better BA hitter, with a .293 Career BA and a .308 number in his first year with Milwaukee. He’s a much better walker. He doesn’t have as much power as Marte, but Marte is coming off a high-power year, and Cain is coming off of a low-power year. Cain hit 15 HRs the year before and I think they have a similar projection with Marte playing in PNC and Cain in Miller. Cain’s R/RBI numbers skew towards Runs, but that Runs number should be very high on an excellent Milwaukee team. I’m a big fan of getting Cain as my BA/SPD OF2 this year.
14. George Springer, Houston Astros — Springer’s 2018 was fairly disappointing. He hit only 22 HRs, didn’t see an increase in steals, and saw his BA sit at his career .265 instead of staying anywhere near his .280+ from 2017. But I think that Springer is still a bit better than what he showed last year. He has a fair amount of power, which even with only 5-7 SBs I believe can carry a .265 BA well enough. But part of what makes Springer valuable is simply the team and line-up spot. Let us not forget that George Springer has had 214 Runs Scored the last two years combined while missing a total of 40+ possible games. Very few hitters average 107 Runs in a season, and Springer has done that while averaging 140 Games Played. As the leadoff hitter for one of Baseball’s premiere offenses, that same volume gives him more opportunities than virtually any other hitter to hit Home Runs. If there’s a major line-up change, I may have to adjust down. But for now, I see Springer as the current and future Lead-Off man.
13. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers — Bellinger was a power disappointment in 2018, but his athleticism combined with his ability to play at First Base are what add so much to Bellinger’s 5×5 Ceiling. In his career to date, Bellinger’s line per 630 PAs equates to .263 / .347 / .522 with 34 HRs, 91 Rs, 92 RBIs, and 13 SBs. Working within 5×5, those 13 SBs at First Base are rare and a pretty large value. If he were to post that Career average, he would be a value pick both here and at his current ADP (OF17 / OVR45). But he’s not just a 5×5 play, because his career 11.3% BB% and .258 ISO also make him the perfect player for 6×6 leagues. And while I do think there’s some concern v. LHP both in performance and potentially in playing time, I see Bellinger as being a long term, major piece of the LA Dodgers, and I think they want to develop him as much as possible.
12. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals — Being a good hitter at the MLB level at 19 is pretty crazy. Juan Soto was 8 points of Batting Average from a .300 / .400 / .500 season. I find it hard to not fall in love with Juan Soto and his 16.0% BB%. My only concern is that he doesn’t actually elevate the ball a whole lot. But he hits it relatively hard, and spreads it to all fields. I have confidence he gets to that .400+ OBP and at the least matches his 22 HRs in 40+ more games played. He may only put up George Springer-esque numbers in terms of HR+SBs, but he should have a bit better of a BA, and has a shot at a more balanced 100 Runs and 100 RBIs.
11. Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals — Merrifield is one of my favorite choices this season for “that guy” who steals you bases. I don’t know that he repeats his 45 number from last year, but he is a recently turned 30, and his 82% success rate is very encouraging. He doesn’t have a whole lot of power, and I think he may be closer to the .288 hitter in 2017 than the .304 hitter of 2018. But that BA is still nothing to sneeze at, and his power numbers are at the least 10-15, and not Dee Gordon-esque. Similarly, the Royals line-up will do him few favors, but at least he’ll hit near the top of it, and shouldn’t have any hindrances towards stealing bases.
10. Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox — Andrew Benintendi perfectly defines the well-rounded contributor. He takes his walks, limits his strikeouts, and has averaged 18 HRs and 20.5 SBs the last two seasons. He is also likely to lead-off for the Red Sox this year. The Red Sox lineup is so good, that while his RBIs aren’t likely to hit 90-100 as the lead-off hitter, he is likely to match a very strong RBI total with a potential to lead the league in runs. I do have some concerns about Benintendi, specifically around his career splits. His .247 / .301 / .393 slash v. LHP leaves something to be desired. Similarly, his BB:K ratio goes from 60:66 v. RHP, a near 1:1, to 11:40 v. LHP, closer to 1:4. However, I don’t necessarily believe Benintendi can’t hit lefties, so much as that he hasn’t yet in his career. I think he continues to make progress in this regard, but it is a negative to be made aware of.
9. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies — It says quite a lot about a hitter when they can hit .291 and have it be seen as a bit of a disappointment. And after the previous two seasons (.324 BA, .331 BA) that does make a bit of sense. While Blackmon’s BABIP was still high compared to normal standards, I see 2018 as closer to a disappointment/floor result, with my expectations being for Blackmon to hit better than .300. Despite his speed being on the decline the past 3 seasons, Blackmon has matured as a hitter and gets to call Coors Field home. He has now hit at least 29 HRs in three straight seasons. Blackmon only hit 29 in 2016 and 2018, so I wouldn’t expect many more than 29, but that’s a fair amount of power even if Blackmon steals 8-12 Bases. And Blackmon, alongside Benintendi and Springer, is one of the premiere lead-off hitters atop a premium run scoring line-up.
8. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers — From “good” to “exceptional”, Christian Yelich went from a 5×5 player everyone liked in the early-mid rounds to a National League MVP in 2018. His home field, Miller Park, seems to align with his offensive skill-set perfectly. That said, I’m having a hard time projecting his HRs and SBs in year two. Yelich’s SB conversion% and Milwaukee’s tendencies to run seem to justify giving Yelich close to 20 SBs. But it is still worth noting that 20+ SBs is something Yelich has accomplished only once in the past four years. And then while I want to believe in the power entirely, Yelich still has a very low career FB% and has a massive HR/FB% in 2018. A 35.0% HR/FB% not only lead the majors in 2018, but it was 5.5% higher than second place. Yelich also had a pretty hefty .373 BABIP. His career .359 figure displays that he has the ability to maintain a very high BABIP, but I wonder if there isn’t regression coming to his BA as well. Yelich deserves to go much higher this year than he did at this point last year, but I’m not paying for his 2018 numbers. Not yet anyway.
7. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies — While I understand many of the criticisms surrounding Bryce Harper, it is simply shocking to me that a hitter can have a .393 OBP (top 10) and 34 HRs with a .247 ISO and be seen as such a massive disappointment. Don’t get me wrong– the BA was nothing to write home about, and compared to massive expectations, his numbers as a whole were none too special. But I almost think that says something more about our expectations. Harper has had an up and down last couple of years, but he still holds career averages that are about 20 points in BA away from .300 / .400 / .500, and he’s still 26 years old. Philadelphia is an excellent landing spot with a park that could potentially boost his value.
6. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees — Giancarlo Stanton hit 38 HRs last year, and it was pretty disappointing. He probably could’ve hit 45 and even been a little bit disappointing. He moved from one of Baseball’s worst HR parks to one of its best, and whereas former teammate Christian Yelich saw a career high in HRs, Stanton’s total dropped from 59 to 38. While this could be seen as a bit discouraging, I’m more than anything encouraged in his ability to stay healthy for a second straight season. Stanton’s power is unquestionable to me, and Yankee Stadium is no different. This combination didn’t hit 50 HRs last year, but it is more realistic for Stanton and perhaps Judge than any other hitter in baseball, and that is why they rank where they do. And I do believe the potential for record setting upside exists.
5. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees — Maybe it is the rise of other players more so than Judge himself, but I am a bit surprised that it seems more fantasy analysts do not have Judge as a First Round pick/consideration. While I understand that Judge’s fantasy finish or 5×5 production line in 2018 was not as good as 2017, that was mostly due simply to missed time. For a player like Judge, I’m looking for year two to more-or-less confirm year one.
|2018 (per 678 PAs)||.278||.392||.528||15.3%||30.5%||39.5||8|
So no, Aaron Judge did not repeat his epic 2017. He lost about .100 Points of ISO, and about a dozen HRs. But ultimately, he managed to stay at-or-near the elite category in virtually every power metric (see below) while maintaining his BA in the same range and continuing to steal a significant number of SBs. Combine his on-base and isolated power skills with his park and line-up, and you also have one of the most likely players in the MLB to total over 200 Runs and RBI with at least 100 in each category.
4. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves — In my opinion, the difference in Acuna’s rankings from analyst-to-analyst comes down far more to perceptions of “Floor” than “Ceiling.” I don’t think many would debate that this is a high ceiling player. Acuna played in only 111 games in 2017 and hit .293 with 26 HRs and 16 SBs at just 20 years old. In fact, if there were one player in the next couple of years likely to make the leap into the perennially elite, the kind of player you don’t dream of getting at even pick 5 of a snake draft, it’s Acuna. Even Steamer after one year considers him a 30/20 stud. When establishing floor in a year, I’m looking for a player who “checks all the boxes,” and Acuna does that for me. While there is risk here associated with Acuna’s sample size and age, his pedigree/talent are such that I’m willing to take Acuna by the second round of any league and even the late first in some.
3. J. D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox — While I do consider there to be a drop-off after the top 4 hitters, drafting with JD Martinez in the first round is not necessarily worse than having a top 4 hitter, but just different and more restrictive. The top 4 are so clearly there because they each possess the capacity to be an above average asset in each 5×5 category. J.D. Martinez does not. It is more difficult to balance your categories when starting with J.D., but he is such an elite hitter that properly balancing those categories later in the draft can lead to a highly successful team with a huge contributor in four categories.
2. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox — Betts was insane in 2018, but I haven’t changed my opinion on the 2017 season and that his .268 BABIP was partially due to his approach. Betts pulls the ball often and has had issues with Pop-Ups throughout his career. I’m projecting a pretty large dip from his .368 BABIP in 2018, closer to the league average of a .300 BABIP. If Betts truly continues to be a plus-BABIP hitter, his contact, power, and speed traits could theoretically drive his market value past Mike Trout.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels —Despite Betts’ incredible 2018 campaign, Mike Trout remains my #1 Player headed into 2019. I have a few light concern about Betts discussed above, and I believe that Trout could be continuing to improve as he enters his mid-Prime.
FINAL PLAYER NOTE
After compiling my list, I realized one name didn’t make the initial transfer: Kris Bryant. Since the article was already done and edited, I decided to just leave this player blurb and projection at the end. Bryant slides in between Springer and Bellinger to me.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs — For me with Kris Bryant it is less about specific signs and more about an evaluation of talent. If Kris Bryant, following his Rookie season, would’ve fallen apart because he failed to make contact consistently, that I think could’ve been somewhat believable. But for what power he has, to put up the combination of K%/BA numbers he has for the last two years and not hit HRs is baffling. He has also seemingly struggled to drive runners in. Whether that’s an issue of sampling or not, I believe there’s enough talent here to get back up to 30 HRs. That plus a little extra ceiling makes Bryant a pretty strong 3B/OF. But it isn’t a pick without risk, as the HR/RBI you draft him for have been absent for consecutive years.
PROJ: 665 PAs, .288 BA, 30 HRs, 100 Rs, 87 RBIs, 5 SBs
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday March 7th, 2019 from 8pm – 9:30pm 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. This week we will discuss Starting Pitching for fantasy purposes.
Be sure to check out our Sunday night show March 10th from 8pm to 9:30pm EST. They will cover the Outfield.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday March 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #144 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. Our topic this week is the Outfield for fantasy purposes.
Our guests this week are Joe Iannone and Bilal Chaudry. Joe is a writer for majorleaguefantasysports.com and his articles publish every Sunday. Bilal is the 2-time defending MLFBC champion and a frequent radio guest.