20 Feb Fantasy Baseball 2017: Outfield Rankings (25-1)
24. Matt Kemp (ATL, LF, RF)- Kemp enjoyed a renaissance season in the power department in which he crushed 35 home runs and 39 doubles along with a .231 ISO in 2016. Despite being traded midseason to the Atlanta Braves, Kemp still had an ISO over .200 while playing in some cavernous confines. His speed days are well behind him, so don’t expect him to tally a .340–.350 BABIP or a .280–.300 average anymore. His power production is still legit, although with a bit of regression lurking. Kemp hit more fly balls and pulled the ball more this past season, but his 35.9% hard-contact rate fell significantly from 41.6% in 2015. His average fly ball distance remained about 290 feet, despite an increase in his well above-average HR/FB ratio. Thirty home runs seems a bit of a stretch, but a total in the mid-20s is reasonable. Draft Kemp in the middle rounds as your second or third outfielder.
23. Khris Davis (OAK, LF, DH)- Khris with a “K” Davis certainly surprised a lot of baseball’s brass in 2016, blasting a career-high 42 home runs despite moving from homer-friendly Miller Park to power-suppressing O.Co Coliseum. In addition to setting a career high in home runs, Davis also established career bests with 85 runs scored and 102 RBI in his first year in Oakland. Davis is not likely to hit for a high average anytime soon considering his low walk rate of 6.9% and high strikeout rate of 27.2%, but he will more than make up for those shortcomings in the power department. While he may struggle to reach 40 home runs again, Davis has a good chance at finishing as one of the top home run hitting outfielders in 2017. While Davis won’t have much help as far as lineup protection goes, he managed just fine last year while hitting in the middle of a weak Oakland lineup. If his ADP holds steady at about the eighth or ninth round he could become a solid value on draft day.
22. Mark Trumbo (BAL, RF, DH)- Trumbo will be swinging a bat in a Baltimore Orioles uniform for another three years. After signing a new contract with the Orioles, Trumbo returns to batter-friendly Camden Yards, where we could see more of the production the designated hitter showed in his career-best season in 2016. While it would be difficult to expect an improvement or repeat of his 47-homer, 108-RBI outburst from last season, Trumbo holds plenty of value in fantasy, as he will again hit in the middle of Baltimore’s star-studded lineup. His 25% strikeout rate will certainly hinder his production in other fantasy categories, so it would be wise to temper expectations in 2017. Trumbo’s power should still give him plenty of looks in the middle rounds of all drafts
21. Kyle Schwarber (CHC, C, LF)- Kyle Schwarber is arguably coming off the most unorthodox season in MLB history. The hulking 23-year-old played in just two games before a collision in the outfield left him with a torn ACL and MCL, ending his season. The key word in that previous statement is “season,” as Schwarber incredibly returned for the Cubs in the World Series, playing a major role as the team won it’s first championship in 108 years. Of course, he only returned in pinch-hit scenarios and once the series moved to Cleveland when the designated hitter came into effect. Heading into 2017, his ability to serve as catcher has come into serious question. While he should garner plenty of starts in the outfield, his injury and confidence as an outfielder could hurt his playing chances. Clearly, Schwarber needs to be more than a pinch hitter, however, and if healthy, he should be a hitting machine. Envision him hitting in the neighborhood of 28 home runs and 85 RBI. This makes him an early draft pick candidate, perhaps the highest Cubs’ offensive player to monitor after Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
20. Justin Upton (DET, LF, CF)- When the Tigers added Upton during last winter’s offseason, many saw the move as one that would bolster the middle of the lineup with additional power production. After all, Upton had hit 26 or more home runs in each of the three previous seasons before heading to Detroit. While Upton’s season stats measured up comparably with those of recent years, it was really a tale of two seasons for the veteran outfielder. Despite the low average and on-base percentage, Upton finished 2016 with 31 HR on a .246/.310/.465 triple-slash line, not a bad year if you ask me. But Upton hit 13 of those 31 HR in September and October, a stretch in which he hit .292/.382/.750. Upton hit just .235 with nine HR through the first half, amassing 112 strikeouts in that same timeframe. On the season, he notched his lowest walk rate since 2007 and his highest strikeout rate since 2008. While 2016 was a bit of an anomaly, it was only slightly so. This is what we can expect from Upton moving forward proving to be more valuable in rotisserie formats than head-to-head because of his staggering inconsistency due to a high K rate. Nevertheless, he has massive power potential that could win you a week in a points league setup.
19. Andrew McCutchen (PIT, CF)- Most of the talk surrounding McCutchen in the offseason shifted away from his disappointing 2016 season and toward a potential change of clubs instead. Now, Cutch must do what he can to convince fans and fantasy owners that he is still an elite player. McCutchen suffered the worst triple-slash line of his career, finishing at .256/.336/.430. It was also the first year since 2010 that he was left off the All-Star team. While the power numbers were still decent (24 HR, 79 RBI), his speed has all but dried up (six stolen bases). McCutchen won’t sniff the first round in fantasy drafts this season and could potentially be had for a bargain price depending on the pessimism level of your leaguemates. McCutchen sacrificed some contact for power, as he finished with a career-low 0.58 GB/FB rate. This also resulted in a career-high 21.2% strikeout rate and career-low 10.2% walk rate. The Cutch of old may not ever come back, but there is still hope for an improvement over last season if he regains some of his plate discipline.
18. Yoenis Cespedes (NYM, LF, CF)- Since being dealt to the Mets at the trade deadline in 2015, Cespedes has been a revelation for the Met’s offense, as he’s led them to the postseason in two consecutive years. Cespedes dealt with some injuries in 2016 but still managed to put up a .280/.354/.530 slash line with 31 home runs, 72 runs scored, 86 RBI and three stolen bases across 543 plate appearances. He set a career-best walk rate (9.4%) and a 19.9% strikeout rate that was his lowest since 2012. Cespedes arguably had his best season to date. With Jay Bruce playing every day for the Mets, their offense should be the best we’ve seen in awhile and thus should offer Yoenis more protection. Draft Cespedes in the fourth round with confidence.
17. Gregory Polanco (PIT, LF, RF)- Gregory Polanco made strides in some areas last season but is still lacking in others. Most notably, the 25-year-old surged to 22 homers and 86 RBI, both high marks for him at any professional level. His fly-ball and line-drive levels jumped up, as did his HR/FB% to 10.3%. Another increase could put Polanco at 25-30 home runs for the season. Unfortunately, his speed went the opposite direction. Polanco dropped from 27 steals to 17 in a year’s time. A top prospect for years, the power/speed combo is tantalizing if it all comes together, but it will also come with a sacrifice in average. In three seasons with Pittsburgh, Polanco’s triple slash is .253/.318/.404. He is currently hovering right around the No. 20 spot among all outfielders in early re-draft leagues but should be considered a top priority keeper.
16. Christian Yelich (MIA, LF, CF)- After a 2016 campaign that saw a dramatic increase in his power, Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich has all the makings for a successful 2017 season. Yelich finished 2016 with a slash line of .298/.376/.483 and led the Fish with 98 RBI. He also smacked 21 homers, more than his previous three seasons combined. Yelich was Miami’s most consistent power hitter last season as fellow outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna struggled mightily with strikeouts. Hitting coach Barry Bonds helped Yelich find his pop, so hopefully he’ll continue that resurgence now that Bonds is no longer in the picture. His .376 on-base percentage was tops on the team, and his .298 average was third behind J.T Realmuto and Martin Prado. Yelich has incredible upside in 2017 and is more than capable of logging 100 RBI
15. Carlos Gonzalez (COL, RF)- CarGo was only able to muscle out 25 homers in 2016, which was a letdown for those who envisioned a replication of his 40-homer 2015. Of course, there’s more to life than just the long-ball. The one-time Arizona prospect still matched his 87-run total from 2015 and his 100 RBIs marked his first time hitting the century mark since 2010. His sustained health also yielded a strong .298 average (.271 in 2015), and another healthy offseason to work out with should help him sustain the success. There have been some commitment questions thrown around regarding his spot on this Colorado team, but things seem secure for now. He should remain an early pick in drafts considering his playing at Coors Field, let alone the absolutely stacked lineup surrounding him.
14. Ian Desmond (COL, LF, CF)- Rockies first baseman/outfielder Ian Desmond clearly enjoyed his change of scenery in 2016, as illustrated by his bounceback season in Texas, and now gets another set of new surroundings in Colorado for 2017. Desmond was signed by the Rockies in order to fill their void at first base, as well as providing a right-handed bat for a lefty-stacked lineup, and should enjoy the stupidly-potent confines of Coors Field. The power/speed maven hit 22 dingers and stole 21 bases with a .285/.335/.446 triple slash in 677 plate appearances for Texas, though most of the production came in the first half. After going 15/15 with a .322 average before the All-Star break, he only hit seven homers and stole six bases while batting .237 after that. Hopefully, he finds more consistency in Coors, but the 25/25 potential is very real.
13. Giancarlo Stanton (MIA, RF)- Giancarlo Stanton recorded the five hardest hit balls of the 2016 season as measured by Statcast, finishing behind only Nelson Cruz in average exit velocity. Unfortunately, this didn’t translate into the usual bang as Stanton slugged .489, the second lowest mark of his career. As usual, health played a part as Stanton missed time due to rib soreness, hip issues and a groin injury that was supposed to end his season in mid-August. However, he returned for most of September, albeit ineffectively, going 6-for-33 with two long balls. Contact remained an issue as Stanton whiffed at a 30 percent clip for the second straight season. Low contact means reliance on BABIP to sport a decent average, and Stanton’s BABIP dropped to a career-low mark, yielding his worst-ever average and OBP. The optimist will use this to snag Stanton at a lower cost than the past several years, while the pessimist cites 2016 as affirmation that Stanton’s too risky at such a high cost.
12. J.D Martinez (DET, RF)- Despite appearing in just 120 games last season after suffering a fluke elbow injury, Tigers OF J.D Martinez managed to swat 22 home runs and collect 68 RBI on his way to a .307/.373/.535 line. Martinez demonstrated his best plate discipline ever, walking at a career-best 9.5% rate while hitting to all fields. Over the last three seasons, Martinez’s numbers project to 33.5 HR per 162 games. And barring any more fluke injuries, he’s sure to man right field every day for Detroit. Martinez has shown big power potential with 38 HR in 2015. He is likely to hit fifth in a Tigers lineup that features Miggy and V-Mart ahead of him. With two proven hitters in front of him, it will impact his RBI totals, but there’s still no reason to think that J.D. can’t produce 30-plus HR with 90-plus RBI while maintaining an average above .300. With that sort of plate production, Martinez is a top-15 outfielder and should be drafted no later than the third round in most leagues
11. A.J Pollock (ARI, CF)- Pollock became the breakout fantasy star of 2015, posting a 20-homer, 39-steal season to go along with 111 runs and 76 RBI. His ability to mash extra base hits (65 in 2015) helped him rack up the runs atop the Arizona lineup. All of this propelled him to a premium draft slot in 2016, which would eventually leave his owners scrambling when he suffered a fractured elbow near the end of spring training. As a result of that injury, Pollock nearly missed the entire season, returning to play just 12 games before suffering a season-ending groin injury. Therein lies the biggest risk when drafting Pollock. He plays the game with such heart and reckless abandon that he leaves himself more vulnerable to injury. His FantasyPros ADP (44) has some injury discount built in, and he could provide excellent value for owners willing to take the risk. His power-speed combo is rare, and he carries the added bonus of playing in front of Goldschmidt. If he stays healthy, Pollock is a cornerstone for owners to build around.
10. George Springer (HOU, RF, DH)- Springer led the majors with 744 plate appearances in 2016, hitting .261/.359/.457 while setting career highs in runs, home runs and RBI (116-29-82). He was one of only three players last season to start all 162 games. Heading into 2017, Springer is expected to hit leadoff again, meaning we will likely not see a spike in his RBI numbers. However, with a more powerful lineup behind him, it is possible he scores even more runs. His walk and strikeout rates are trending in the right direction; his walk rate went up to 11.8% last season, and his strikeout rate went down to 23.9%. At age 27, we may have yet to see the best Springer has to offer. He will be worth every penny on draft day while he is in his prime.
9. Nelson Cruz (SEA, RF, DH)- 2016 marked Cruz’s third straight season with 40 or more home runs, an achievement for any hitter, let alone someone in their late 30s. There’s not too much in Cruz’s profile that screams regression, either; his walk rate has steadily increased over the past six seasons, and he still isn’t making much soft contact at all. But Cruz will turn 37 this year and should see his gaudy HR/FB rate come down (last year’s number of 26.2% was well above his career average of 19.6%). We might see something like 32 home runs from Cruz instead. Cruz possesses a pretty stable skill set. which he’s displayed for years now. Invest with confidence.
8. Ryan Braun (MIL, LF)- It’s hard to believe Braun is already 33 years old, but the veteran is coming off of an incredible 2016. Braun hit .305/.365/.538 last season and added 30 home runs, 91 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He played just 135 games and hasn’t played more than 140 games since 2012, but that is back-to-back seasons with solid production from the former MVP. Braun is a career .304/.367/.544 hitter, and he’s hit 30 or more home runs in six of his 10 seasons and has double-digit steals in all but one season. The biggest question mark surrounding Braun (in addition to some injury concerns) is once again whether he will remain with Milwaukee all season. Chances are he won’t finish the season in Milwaukee, as the rebuilding Brewers are looking to the future. Miller Park in Milwaukee is very hitter-friendly, but wherever Braun ends up, he should be going to a team that has more talent around him. Again, regardless of where he finishes 2017, he should be a top-10 outfielder.
7. Trea Turner (WAS, 2B, CF)- Turner entered 2016 as one of the Washington Nationals’ top prospects, and his arrival to the majors was nothing short of sensational. In just 324 plate appearances, Turner posted a .342 batting average and swiped 33 bases in 39 attempts. The question will be whether Turner can sustain the uptick in the power department. His 15 home runs were an exceptionally high number, considering he accumulated just 19 in two and a half years of minor league ball. There stands to reason that we will see somewhat of a sophomore slump, but his elite speed and slot at the top of the Nationals lineup should maintain his value as a top-five option at second base.
6. Starling Marte (PIT, LF, CF)- Marte may have officially supplanted teammate and local favorite Andrew McCutchen as the best outfield in Pittsburgh. It remains to be seen whether he will outproduce him in fantasy leagues again this year. At age 27, Marte made his first All-Star game in 2016. In the first half of the season, he hit .316 with 30 stolen bases and 48 runs scored. His second half was not quite as productive, but Marte finished the season with a .311/.362/.456 slash line, 47 steals and 71 runs. He took a step back in the power categories, however, by following up a 19-HR, 81-RBI season in 2015 with nine home runs and 46 RBI last year. He had a below average 5% HR/FB ratio, so double-digit homers are a reasonable expectation. Marte may not put up 20/20 or 20/40 in a season, but his exceptional steal production and batting average make him a top outfield option regardless of power. Marte is being drafted within the top 25 overall picks in early fantasy drafts, so you will need to pounce early to select him.
5. Charlie Blackmon (COL, CF)- Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon enters his age-31 season on the heels of an incredible 2016 campaign that saw him post a 111-29-82-17-.324 line for those in traditional 5×5 leagues. While his steal total was a big step back from his 43 swipes in 2015, the ridiculous gains in the other categories easily outweighed it. His power truly blossomed in the second half, as he hit 11 homers in 111 August at-bats after only hitting 12 in his previous 368 ABs. He actually didn’t hit a single homer in July, but the slump was quickly forgotten. Banking on Blackmon to give you 25 to 30 homers again in 2017 is likely to result in a letdown, but he has definitely entrenched himself as a top-15 bat.
4. Kris Bryant (CHC, 1B, 3B, LF, RF)- Heading into just his third professional season, 25-year-old Kris Bryant is on the fast track to becoming the greatest player in Chicago Cubs history. Already with an MVP award under his belt, Bryant led the franchise to it’s first World Series win in 108 years. Just for that reason alone, 2017 will surely not be able to surpass his 2016 campaign, but in terms of statistics, that shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion. Sure, he reduced his number of strikeouts significantly while also raising his average and home run total last season. If he remains healthy, however, Bryant could break 40 HR this season, something he fell one shy of last year. Besides that, merely matching his totals from last year would be a success for the third baseman. As seen last year with Bryce Harper’s significant regression, following up an MVP season is incredibly difficult at a young age. In realistic terms, a setback for Bryant himself shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, he should remain one of the very elite players in the game, garnering a very high draft pick.
3. Bryce Harper (WAS, RF)- For Harper owners, his 2016 went as poorly as could be expected. After a scorching start to the season, his production plummeted, tanking his value for the rest of the season. The 21 steals were nice, but a .243 average and a pedestrian 24 home runs came nowhere near paying back his high price tag. Sources close to the situation indicated that Harper played through much of the season with a right shoulder injury that prevented him from creating loft and power in his swing. In 2017, he will bring a ceiling that can perhaps only be matched by Mike Trout, but Harper’s floor will be much lower than the plethora of safe first-round picks out there. If the newly found speed is legit and the bum shoulder was the true reason for the slump, then we are looking at a five-category stud. But those “ifs” should give you pause before pulling the trigger with the top overall pick
2. Mookie Betts (BOS, RF)- Time for pitchers and catchers around the league to get scared. Mookie Betts may be adding something to his already impressive array of baseball skills: stolen bases. He did steal 26 of them in 2016, but he probably wants to steal more. There’s a very good chance, health-permitting, of course, that he could be a 30-30 player. He’s already a threat to hit well above .300, and that average could go even higher. That’s why he is ranked, behind some pedestrian guy named Mike Trout. If you want him in your outfield, be ready to draft him very early. Otherwise, he’ll be the one that got away
1. Mike Trout (LAA, CF)- Trout should be taken with the first overall pick in every fantasy league in 2017. Despite a 12-homer drop from 2015 to 2016, Trout was more valuable last year thanks to a resurgence on the base paths as he stole 30 bases for the first time since 2013, and a .441 on-base percentage, which resulted from multi-year improvements to both his walk and strikeout rates. There’s no reason to think that Trout can’t put up a 25/25 season, and with his sterling track record over the past five years, there’s literally no safer investment in fantasy baseball.