10 Feb Fantasy Baseball 2017: Outfield Rankings 100-76 (Part 1 of 4)
100. Roman Quinn (PHI, LF)- Roman Quinn got off to a terrible start at Double-A last season as he struggled to find his timing at the plate. He got things going in May and June before suffering an oblique injury that sidelined him until early August. A concussion in late August also cost him about a week of action. Despite those issues, Quinn’s numbers at Double-A Reading helped him earn a promotion to the majors in September, and he played frequently down the stretch. Quinn has top-shelf speed that could make him a tremendous asset for stolen bases, but he must work to maximize how often he gets on base. His 21.1 percent strikeout rate at Double-A and 27.5 percent rate in the majors are too high for a player whose game is built almost solely on thefts. He has also been extremely injury-prone throughout his career. Following the signing of Michael Saunders, Quinn seems to be out of the mix for a regular spot in the lineup at the major league level for the time being. However, the 23-year-old is expected to return to the majors at some point later in the season given his strong big-league debut, so he makes for a nice flier for owners chasing cheap steals late in drafts.
99. Aaron Judge (NYY, RF)- Long viewed as one of the top prospects in the Yankees system, Aaron Judge got a chance to make his major league debut last season. Following the trade deadline departure of Carlos Beltran, the 6-foot-7, 275-pound Judge was immediately inserted into an everyday role in right field. After smacking 19 home runs in the minors, Judge got off to a terrific start in the majors with homers in his first two games while hitting over .300 in his first week, but a lot of worrisome issues cropped up after that. The 24-year-old struck out at an alarming 44.2 percent clip and ended up hitting just .179 before a Grade 2 oblique strain ended his season. While his elite raw power was never questioned in the minors, he had some seasons where he posted strikeout rates above 25 percent, and the worry was always that big league pitching would be able to exploit his size, resulting in low batting averages. That appears to be exactly what happened last season. Winning the starting right field job is all but guaranteed, and Judge could be a solid source of power, but the questions about his hit tool make this an extremely volatile profile.
98. Brandon Drury (ARI, 2B,3B,LF,RF)-Drury had a solid rookie season, smashing 16 home runs and cashing in 53 RBI to go along with a .282 average. It was an inconsistent season for Drury, as he hit 14 of his 16 home runs in April, May and September, while hitting just two through the summer months. His June swoon looks like the product of a near 10% rise in his strikeout rate, which resulted in a brief demotion to Triple-A Reno. Upon his return, Drury was used as the Diamondbacks’ utility man, filling in for injuries and platoon partners all around the diamond. Drury won’t contribute in the steals department, but he can contribute 15 to 20 home runs for a dirt-cheap price. The Diamondbacks new management seems committed to getting Drury as many at-bats as possible, leading to speculation that Drury could see time at second base. If he wins a starting job, he will be a bargain at his current ADP of 264.
97. Steve Pearce (TOR, 1B, 2B, LF, RF, DH)- If Pearce were guaranteed consistent playing time with the Blue Jays in 2017, chances are he’d be a decently popular sleeper candidate with his opportunity to play in Rogers Centre surrounded by good hitters. Unfortunately for Pearce’s fantasy chances, though, he’ll be operating a utility/backup role with Justin Smoak manning first base and both Kendrys Morales and Russell Martin splitting time at designated hitter. After hitting .288/.374/.492 with 13 home runs in only 302 plate appearances with Baltimore and Tampa Bay, there’s little doubt Pearce has what it takes to succeed in limited action. That doesn’t help fantasy owners all that much, so keep that in mind on draft day. If Smoak or Morales miss time due to injury this year, though, Pearce could find himself in an everyday role.
96. Mitch Haniger (SEA, LF, CF)- Debuting in mid-August last season, Mitch Haniger mostly struggled in his first exposure to big-league pitching (81 wRC+) but he showed decent pop in the small sample (five home runs, .174 ISO in 123 plate appearances). This came on the heels of Haniger destroying upper-level pitching in the minors last season, posting a 156 wRC+ in 55 games at Double-A and 185 wRC+ in 74 games at Triple-A. The Mariners took notice and got him included in the Taijuan Walker/Jean Segura trade early in the offseason. The door is open for Haniger to work his way into a prominent role with Seattle and gain relevance in a wide variety of formats. There are worse ways to utilize a final bench spot in 15-team mixed leagues.
95. Andrew Toles (LAD, LF, RF)- At the beginning of the 2016 season, Andrew Toles was on literally no one’s fantasy radar. Even the most prospect-loving fantasy owners didn’t expect a guy who began the season in High-A ball to be anywhere close to fantasy relevant. Fast forward to July, and a stellar minor league season across three levels and injuries to outfielders in the majors ended up being Toles’ ticket to the big leagues and fantasy rosters. He responded in a big way, hitting .314/.365/.505 in 115 plate appearances, playing his way into the regular lineup by season’s end. The rookie outfielder even earned himself some playing time in the postseason, and he capitalized by going 8-for-22 with two doubles and six runs scored in two postseason series. Small sample size is a real danger with Toles going into 2017, but the numbers he put up in the bigs in 2016 are right in line with what he did over the course of his minor league career. He also has some speed that he hasn’t flashed much at the big league level. He only swiped one base in two attempts in the majors in 2016 but stole as many as 62 in a season as a minor leaguer. He’s still flying under the radar enough that he probably won’t be drafted in a lot of leagues, but is certainly worth the gamble at the end of drafts
94. Steven Souza (TB, RF)- Steven Souza struggled to make consistent contact once again in 2016 before undergoing hip surgery in late September. He struck out in more than one-third of his 468 plate appearances while his contact rate languished at an unsightly 63 percent. Despite the difficulties, however, Souza did bump up his average 22 points to .247 in his sophomore campaign, while setting new career highs in home runs and RBI. The slugging outfielder’s hip is expected to be fully healthy by the time spring training rolls around, so the hope is that Souza will be able to hit the ground running in the new season. With even a marginal improvement in plate discipline and better health, he could reach 20 homers for the first time while perhaps adding double-digit stolen bases.
93. Travis Jankowski (SD, CF, RF)- Jankowski proved to be one of the best sources of steals that could be acquired from the waiver wire last season, Jonathon Villar aside. Jankowski took over as the regular center fielder once Melvin Upton was dealt to Toronto and proceeded to steal 30 bases in 82 starts. He scored a decent amount – 53 runs in 383 plate appearances – and posted a 41% run-scored percentage even on an incredibly bad team. He was a detriment in all other categories, however, finishing with two home runs, 12 RBI and a .245 average in half a season’s workload. Jankowski promises to deliver similar value, assuming he keeps his starting job. Manuel Margot lurks to potentially steal at-bats, so it may be wise to leave Jankowski as a potential waiver wire addition again this season.
92. Michael Saunders (PHI, LF, RF)- After suffering a knee injury that ended his 2015 campaign after just nine games, Michael Saunders came back with a vengeance in 2016. Prior to the All-Star break, Saunders was on pace to shatter his career-best marks in most fantasy-relevant categories. He slashed .298/.372/.551 with 16 home runs, 42 RBI and scored 49 runs over 305 at-bats before the Midsummer Classic. However, his production took a hard fall in the second half when he hit .178/.282/.357 with a 35.1 percent strikeout rate. It’s reasonable to assume that Saunders, who played in just 87 games in 2014 and 2015 combined, got tired legs as the season grew old. He still managed career highs in plate appearances (558), walks (59), home runs (24) and OPS (.816). He also tied a personal best in RBI (57) while falling two runs short (70) of also breaking that record. After signing a one-year deal with the Phillies over the offseason, Saunders seems to be in line for significant playing time in the Phillies’ outfield, but he could end up in the large side of a platoon if he struggles against southpaws throughout 2017.
91. Scott Schebler (CIN, LF, CF, RF)- Schebler is expected to open the regular season as Cincinnati’s starting right fielder. The 26-year-old outfielder saw regular playing time last season following the mid-season trade of Jay Bruce to the Mets. In 82 games, Schebler slashed .265/.330/.432 with nine home runs, 36 runs, 40 RBI and two stolen bases. Schebler flashed a blend of power and speed in the minor leagues, but it remains to be seen if he can transfer that to the major league level. Schebler’s best-case scenario would likely be around 20 homers and 10 steals, which would make him a useful reserve outfielder for fantasy purposes. He doesn’t need to be drafted in standard leagues, but he is worth keeping an eye on in case he gets off to a hot start.
90. Jayson Werth (WAS, LF)- Werth enters 2017 in what will be the final year of a massive seven-year contract. His numbers over the course of that span have been middling at best and surely not worthy of the dollars that the Nationals have spent. Last season saw his line-drive percentage drop by nearly four points on his way to a .244 batting average. The 21 home runs tallied were solid but came over the course of 606 at-bats. Add in the fact that he will be dropping in the lineup due to the addition of Adam Eaton, and it’s wise to consider drafting Werth as a bench player only. Or better yet, avoid him altogether in standard leagues in favor of opting for a player with a bit more upside
89. Denard Span (SF, CF)- Span’s 2016 campaign, his first season with the Giants, was a bit of a disappointment. Span slashed .266/.331/.381 with 11 homers, 70 runs, 53 RBI and 12 stolen bases. Span is just two years removed from a 31-steal season, but he has stopped running over the past two years. Span swiped just 11 bags in an injury shortened 2015 before attempting just 19 steals last year. Most of Span’s fantasy value came from his ability to steal bases and bat around .300, so if he’s not doing that, he’s not worth drafting in standard leagues. He is still useful in deeper leagues and NL-only formats, but even then just as a reserve outfielder.
88. Aaron Altherr (PHI, LF, CF, RF)- Aaron Altherr entered camp last season as a heavy favorite to start in right field after impressing when given an opportunity toward the latter half of the 2015 season. Those plans were scrapped when Altherr tore a tendon sheath in his left wrist while diving for a ball during a spring training game. He rejoined the Phillies in late-July and got off to a solid start, hitting .248 with four homers and five steals in his first 27 games back. Things went south after that as Altherr hit .146 over the rest of the season and failed to homer while driving in just four runs. Altherr has been overly aggressive in the majors, striking out at a 30.4 percent clip last season, and he became a heavy groundball hitter last season, while seeing his flyball rate drop from 38 percent in 2015 to just 22 percent last year. Altherr still has the enticing power and speed skills that made him a sleeper entering last season, and he could surprise if he’s healthy.
87. Brandon Moss (KC, 1B, LF, RF)- Moss is a known quantity. He will hit home runs off righties and he will strike out. Since manager Ned Yost aggressively avoids platoons, those who own Moss should expect that he’ll get plenty of at-bats to show off both skill sets. Teams drafting Moss will need to account for his basement-level batting average and his hot and cold spells, but he will reward them with decent power. He won’t go breaking the home run record, but 30-plus homers in a full season is certainly attainable and exceedingly rare in today’s game
86. Alex Gordon (KC, LF)- Over the last two seasons, Alex Gordon has battled a string of injuries that have either caused him to miss time or struggle at the plate. With a full offseason to recover, Gordon will hopefully be fully healthy in 2017. Even if healthy, Gordon will need to focus on improving his contact. His overall contact percentage in 2016 was the lowest of his career, and it was over 6% lower than his last five seasons. This led to his batting average plummeting. Owners should note that Gordon is turning 33 years old this season, but if he can regain his lost contact, he could easily bounce back to the solid all-around player he’s been for the last six years. This could allow Gordon to be a good late-round steal.
85. Danny Valencia (SEA, 1B, 3B, RF)- With Oakland in 2016, Danny Valencia fell off the fiery pace he had in an abbreviated 2015 season, with significant drops in homer rate, hard contact and RBI. He sustained many peripherals hinting at the once intriguing upside he had earlier this decade and has shown power, compared to his light-hitting past. Unfortunately, his batting average and on-base percentage since 2014 look fluky because he’s had walk rates of just 7.7 and 7.9 percent in the last two years. Last year’s .348 BABIP was a career high — suspect because of the drop-off in hard contact, despite his boost in line drives. Perhaps going to the opposite field more often has sustained his ability to keep those high clips. Valencia, still only has moderate power, he swung and missed a career-high 12.0 percent of the time last year, and still struggles to reach the acceptable 80.0 percent threshold for contact rate. His role won’t change much following an offseason move to Seattle.
83. Jarrod Dyson (SEA, LF, CF, RF)- Despite setting a career high in plate appearances and on-base percentage, Jarrod Dyson’s stolen base total didn’t increase proportionately. Sometimes we forget steals are as much about opportunity and game situation as they are about raw speed. To wit, Dyson ran only 41 percent of the time as compared to 57 percent combined from 2013-2015. In addition, his still impressive 81 percent success rate nonetheless dropped from the 86 percent mark displayed the previous four campaigns. The bottom line is Dyson has been an elite contributor in the category, albeit in a limited role which isn’t guaranteed to grow exponentially following a January trade to Seattle. As such, with extremely detrimental totals in homers and RBI, Dyson is best suited in formats with daily or twice-weekly moves to maximize his speed impact in favorable scenarios or as dictated by your team’s needs.
81. Josh Bell (PIT, 1B, RF)- Bell had a small taste of the majors at the end of 2016 but will be expected to handle a full workload this season. Bell, a switch-hitter, will man first base for the Pirates as long as he proves capable. He is one of Pittsburgh’s best prospects and should be considered a serious breakout candidate. Bell fared well in his debut season, hitting .273 with three homers and 19 RBI in 128 at-bats. In his minor league career, he hit .303, but his power didn’t quite develop as expected. Bell shed over 20 pounds in the offseason, hoping to improve his defense as well. Bell has shown a strong contact rate but may hit in the lower part of the lineup thanks to Pittsburgh’s talented outfielders dominating the top of the order
80. Kevin Pillar (TOR, CF)- Pillar was a popular target last offseason to have a breakout 2016 after he hit .278/.314/.399 with 12 home runs, 76 runs scored, 56 RBI and a fantastic 25 stolen bases. 2016 was a letdown for the 28-year outfielder, though, as he mustered a .266/.303/.376 slash line with only seven home runs, 59 runs scored, 53 RBI and only 14 stolen bases. While his numbers were a letdown across the board, if he was as active on the base paths as he was during the season before, fantasy owners would be more than happy with his results. With a walk rate and on-base percentage that was only slightly below his numbers in 2015, Pillar’s decreased steals certainly weren’t for a lack of opportunity. Given the departure of E5, it’s possible the Jays send Pillar more often to get things going offensively this year
79. Manuel Margot (SD, CF)- Here we have one of the jewels of the Craig Kimbrel deal with Boston in 2015, should get a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training. Margot got a cup of coffee in San Diego at the tail end of the 2016 season, collecting nine hits in 37 at-bats while stealing two bases. He struck out seven times and walked none, perhaps showing that he needs more experience before taking over full time. Margot excelled in Triple-A last season, hitting .304 with 30 stolen bases. As one of the team’s top prospects, Margot should get the chance to win the center field job, but he will have to outperform incumbent Travis Janikowski, who stole 30 bases and flashed a decent glove himself. Whether he is the starter on 0pening day remains to be seen, but he has a great deal of talent and could be a hidden source of steals in the later rounds of re-draft leagues
78. Cameron Maybin (LAA, CF)- He’s played more than 140 games in a season only three times in his career, and he’s hit the disabled list in three of the past four years. But when Maybin was healthy last year, he was putting up surprisingly good numbers in Detroit (.315 average, 15 stolen bases and a .383 on-base percentage through 94 games). It remains to be seen how much of a green light Maybin will have in Anaheim, but he’s plenty appealing as a late-round speed/average option, particularly in on-base percentage leagues.
77. Shin-Soo Choo (TEX, RF)- Choo made a remarkable four trips to the disabled list in 2016, resulting in the 34-year-old playing in just 48 games. While this essentially amounts to a lost season, it is worth noting that Choo slashed .276/.375/.463 with 22 homers and an ISO of .187 in 2015. Choo has always hit the ball tremendously hard (career 34% hard-contact rate) and hasn’t posted a walk rate below 11% since 2012. There is no indication that Choo will need to miss time to begin the year, making his current ADP of 312 a worthwhile gamble, as he has shown strong peripherals every year he has remained healthy. It is worth noting that Choo could see more time at designated hitter this season in an effort to keep him in the lineup down the stretch.
76. Jorge Soler (KC, LF, RF)- Soler is about to turn 25 years old, and it’s time for him to shift from potential to performance. He’s shown glimpses of that potential, such as when he hit .292 with five home runs in just 89 at-bats in 2014, but he’s yet to translate it to consistent performance. In Chicago, Soler struggled to get playing time. In Kansas City, that shouldn’t be a problem. His only competition in right field will be Paulo Orlando, and Soler should easily beat him out. However, once he’s on the field, he’ll really need to work to improve on his contact rate at the plate. Soler’s traditionally made contact about 10% less often than the average MLB hitter, and contact is a pretty important part of the equation for hitting. Given a new coaching staff, regular playing time, and his age, Soler’s potential means he should be on all owners’ watch lists, but he should probably only be drafted in deeper leagues