20 Feb Fantasy Baseball 2017: Outfield Rankings (50-26)
50. Joc Pederson (LAD, CF)- Pederson has been around the big leagues for three years now, has been an All-Star and has participated in a Home Run Derby, so it’s difficult to remember that he is still just 24 years old. That’s why last year’s improvement over his 2015 season is continued encouragement that Pederson could still be a 30-HR, 100-RBI guy in the making. Last season he hit .246/.352/.495 in 476 plate appearances, launching 25 home runs and driving in 68. Pederson’s power isn’t cheap either; he finished among the top 10 in the league in average home run distance last season with an average distance of 412.1 feet. The big hurdle to Pederson taking the next step is his struggles against left-handed pitchers. He’s managed just a .178 batting average against southpaws in his career, so understandably he has found himself riding the pine when the Dodgers are facing a tough lefty. But if he earns himself some opportunities against lefties and holds his own against them, this could be the year he reaches some of those milestone numbers. He’s an intriguing option as a third or fourth outfielder in the middle rounds, though fantasy owners will want to make sure to handcuff him with another outfielder who mashes lefties
49. Byron Buxton (MIN, CF)- Buxton has long been considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Despite his top-prospect billing, he was also starting to have the word “bust” associated with his name before he posted a strong stat line in September to finish the season strong. He finished 2016 with a .225/.284/.430 slash line, 10 home runs, 44 runs, 38 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He was red-hot from September through the end of the year, posting a .287 average, nine homers, 24 runs and 22 RBI. Buxton has loads of potential and should be on your radar in the mid to late rounds of fantasy drafts. If he can build off of the last month of last season, he could finish 2017 as one of the best values in fantasy drafts
48. Randal Grichuk (STL, CF)- St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Randal Grichuk is showing it can be a good thing after news broke in late January that he had a minor off-season operation on his left knee after it bothered him last season. There were definitely signs something wasn’t right as his offensive up-and-downs led to two minor league demotions in the same season he finished with a career-high 24 home runs. But even a bum knee couldn’t keep Grichuk from spending the last month and a half of 2016 mashing his way to a .275-12-33 line over 178 at-bats, reinstating his status as an exciting young player. Coming into draft day as a sixth-tier outfielder, he’s still slightly undervalued, something sly owners would be wise to take advantage of.
47. Yasmany Tomas (ARI, LF, RF)- Yasmany Tomas came out of nowhere last season, bashing 31 home runs to go along with 83 RBI and 72 runs scored. He saw 563 plate appearances due to the myriad of injuries suffered by the Diamondbacks outfielders. With three spots between Tomas, A.J Pollock, David Peralta, Brandon Drury and (possibly) Socrates Brito, Tomas will be sure to lose some opportunities. With such stark lefty/righty splits in his OPS (1.112 versus .724), Tomas may find himself on the left-handed side of a platoon. Even if Tomas sees a full complement of at-bats, a repeat of his 2016 isn’t likely. His 31.4% fly-ball rate doesn’t rank in the top 100 among qualified batters, while his 25% HR/FB rate ranked fifth in the league. That’s an ungodly rate to be hitting home runs at, and owners should not bet on a repeat. With an ADP of 174, there are higher upside outfielders who can provide value late in the draft
46. Jay Bruce (NYM, RF)- After a solid first half of 2016 with the Reds, Bruce cratered in the second half, slashing only .219/.294/.391 with the Mets after putting up a .265/.316/.559 line in Cincinnati. It’s possible it simply was going to take some time for Bruce to acclimate to his new team, but it’s hard to ignore his dreadful performance after the trade. Conventional wisdom still says he may get traded if the Mets find a deal they like, but who knows if that will actually come to fruition or when it will be. Bruce is being drafted in the 15th round currently, though I would recommend you to wait a bit longer than that. At the very least, he can’t be much worse than he was as a Met for the final few months last year.
45. Michael Brantley (CLE, LF)- Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has had quite the miserable two-year stretch. Since suffering a shoulder injury in August of 2015, he has been unable to return to full health. An attempt to rush back to the majors early last spring went awry quickly, and he would only manage a depressing .231-0-7-1 line in 39 at-bats before his season ended in May. Brantley is still hard at work rehabbing his shoulder but is working with no time frame for when he’ll be ready. After all the setbacks he has already suffered, both player and team have accepted they must be patient, which bodes well for his performance whenever he can return. What it doesn’t bode well for is his immediate fantasy value. Availability concerns make him an extremely risky pick as a top-50 fantasy outfielder coming into 2017. Be leery of overpaying despite the potential.
44. Hunter Pence (SFG, RF)- From 2008 through 2014, Hunter Pence was one of the most consistent fantasy outfielders in the game. Over that span, he routinely slapped up 20 homer seasons with around 90 runs and RBI and a batting average in the .280s. The past two years, however, have seen Pence struggle to stay on the field. He played just 52 games in 2015 and followed that up with just 106 games played last season. Pence will be 34 in early April this season, meaning a return to full health is not a foregone conclusion. If he can stay on the field, Pence is still capable of putting up numbers similar to what he did in his prime, but drafting him is putting faith in him being able to stay on the field. His price is right in fantasy drafts, but don’t go counting on him to be anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder
43. Ben Zobrist (CHC, 2B, LF, RF)- In his first season with the Chicago Cubs, 11-year veteran Ben Zobrist recorded his most home runs in three years, his most RBI and runs in four and his highest on-base percentage in seven. The Illinois native capped off his fairytale season with a second consecutive World Series trophy and a series MVP to show for it. Now at 35 years old and quickly approaching 36, Zobrist has shown no signs of slowing down, instead benefiting from an incredible lineup that surrounds him. This should be no different in 2017, as most of the same characters are back to defend the crown. A second baseman who can occasionally man the outfield as well, Zobrist may be considered a utility player. Like last season, look for a HR total somewhere in the teens, with a strong RBI count that approaches 80. Should he remain firmly positioned in the batting order, he’ll once again be a great starter. He’s someone to grab near the middle rounds of a draft with plenty of durability, positional flexibility and dependability.
42. Kole Calhoun (LAA, RF)- Overall, Kole Calhoun displayed significant improvement, especially with respect to plate skills as he recorded a career-high walk rate in tandem with his lowest strikeout rate as a major leaguer. The power was there as evidenced by career marks in doubles and triples; Calhoun just didn’t follow league trends with respect to increased homers. Flyball distance is a leading indicator for homers, and in 2014, Calhoun hit 17 homers with an average of 281 feet per fly. The following season he smacked 24 homers with an average flyball distance of 305 feet. Last year he split the distance, averaging 292 feet with only 18 homers. This forecasts a home run total in the low twenties, which bodes well for 2017, especially if Calhoun maintains most or all of his plate skill gains. Calhoun adds value with his durability as he’s missed only eight games over the past two seasons. He’s a solid, stabilizing force in any fantasy outfield.
41. Marcell Ozuna (MIA, LF, CF, RF)- After a monster start that saw him earn the starting center field spot on the National League All-Star team, Ozuna quickly faded into obscurity. The guy the Marlins call “Big Bear” finished 2016 with a .266 average to go with 23 homers and 76 RBI. Ozuna was slashing .307/.360/.533 at the All-Star break, but closed out the season with a mark of .266/.321/.452 — a far cry from his hot start. Ozuna has the power to compete with Giancarlo Stanton for the team lead in homers, but putting it together consistently is his problem. During the first half of the year, Ozuna logged at least one hit in 28 of 29 games. However, he fell off the reservation in the second half by hitting .250 in July and an abysmal .162 in August. When Ozuna is hot, boy is he hot. However, he also proved that he’s more than capable of going ice cold. He should put up strong power numbers in 2017 and will make for an excellent third outfielder, but don’t be surprised if he goes through his fair share of cold stints.
40. Dexter Fowler (STL, CF)- New St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Dexter Fowler is hoping that he can keep that World Series magic in the NL Central, just move it over to a different team. Fantasy owners are he can repeat his excellent 2016, a performance that landed him the first All-Star Game appearance in his nine year career. Over 456 at-bats, Fowler hit .276-13-48-13 in his final season for the Cubs, using his new career-high mark in OBP of .393 to help him collect over 200 total bases for the second season in a row. He has been fairly consistent fantasy producer over the past three years, carrying a .266 average over that time to go along with a season average of 13 home runs, 43 RBI, 82 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. Those numbers aren’t going to carry a team alone, but reliable five-tool players are hard to come by, making him one of the safer picks in the fifth-tier of outfielders come draft day.
39. Miguel Sano (MIN, 3B, RF, DH)- Sano is one of the finest raw power hitters in the game. The young slugger already has 43 home runs in his first 193 games played. Last year, hamstring and back issues limited Sano to just 119 games played, but he still managed 25 home runs along with a .236/.319/.432 slash line, 57 runs and 66 RBI. The offseason departure of Trevor Plouffe means that Sano is expected to be the team’s everyday starter at third base. This is a positive development, as he should play every day after bouncing from third base to the outfield to designated hitter last year. The main question with Sano is whether he will cut down on his strikeouts enough to raise his batting average and subsequent counting stats. Sano has an extremely high 35.8% strikeout rate in the majors, which is going to make it hard for him to hit for a high average at the big league level. If you draft Sano, make sure you know what you are getting: A lot of home runs and average to below-average production in the other four categories.
38. Adam Duvall (CIN, LF, RF)- The Cincinnati Reds gave Duvall a chance to play every day in 2016, and he rewarded them with one of the most unexpected seasons of 2016. Duvall slashed .241/.297/.498 with 33 home runs, 85 runs and 103 RBI while holding down the left field spot for Cincinnati. Duvall displayed immense power in his first full season with an excellent 17.8% HR/FB rate. As a fly-ball hitter who will play half of his games in homer-friendly Great American Ballpark, Duvall has a really good chance to top 30 long balls again this season. His low walk rate and high strikeout rate makes it unlikely he will ever hit for a high average, but Duvall will be an asset in home runs and RBI again this season. He’s currently being drafted around the 12th round, which is a fair value for the power hitter
37. Willson Contreras (CHC, C, LF)- Arriving on the scene midway through the 2016 season, Venezuelan catcher Willson Contreras enjoyed a noteworthy rookie season. In 76 games, he hit .282 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI while also posting a strong 9.2 walk rate. While he did post a 23.7 strikeout rate, the number dropped off as the season wore on, following up a 26-strikeout July with 15 in August and 13 in September. Looking forward to 2017, Contreras should see double the amount of at-bats he had last season and has a strong possibility of connecting for 25 HR and knocking in 70-75 RBI. If he cuts down his K%, he could approach a .290 average, which combined with the previously mentioned HR and RBI possibilities, could make him a major fantasy baseball catcher. Our panel of experts currently envisions Contreras as the sixth best fantasy catcher, a strong position for someone heading into their first full season. Like his teammate Addison Russell, Contreras is someone that can be picked up in the middle rounds and prove to be an absolute steal.
36. Andrew Benintendi (BOS, LF)- All Benintendi has to do is look at non-roster invitee Rusney Castillo to remind himself of how brutally competitive baseball is. Castillo was practically handed the job last spring, and he lost it. Yes, Benintendi looked good during his stint last fall, but nothing’s guaranteed in this game. He’s going to have to come out even hotter than his .295 average and two homers in his 105 at-bats. The Red Sox are high on him, since he’s considered their best prospect. We’ll see what spending a whole year at Fenway does for him and his confidence. His upside is certainly intriguing which is why he is ranked 36th here. Take a shot on him in the middle rounds and his complete package coinciding with the upside he presents, and you could have yourself a draft-day darling.
35. Jose Ramirez (CLE, 3B, LF)- Coming into 2016, Jose Ramirez was penciled into the Cleveland Indians’ lineup as a jack of all trades super-sub who could be used all around the field. He quickly outgrew that utility role, as he soaked in unforeseen playing time and began putting up very exciting numbers. All told, he finished his first full season in the majors hitting .312-11-76-22, contributing in all the main fantasy categories. The soon-to-be 24-year-old is still growing into his power swing, but that appears to be on the way, as evidenced by his 11 home runs to 46 doubles. Regardless if the home runs come or not, Ramirez’s ability to drive in runs was an impressive addition to his game, a facet that should stay intact thanks to the stacked Cleveland lineup. As he will be looked upon by most to fill 3B or a corner infield spot, the decent-to-great fantasy third basemen is thicker than the usual in 2017, which should allow him to stick around in drafts longer than he should.
34. Odubel Herrera (PHI, CF)- Venezuelan outfielder Odubel Herrera began his sophomore MLB campaign in strong form last year. In April and May, the 25-year-old hit .318 with 34 walks, displaying solid patience at the plate. In the final four months of the season, however, he walked just 29 times, never hitting over .300 again in a month and striking out nearly 100 times during that span. His disparity in effectiveness against right-handed pitchers and left-handed pitchers was also a major disappointment, hitting .303 against right-handed pitchers but only managing a .236 average against left-handed pitchers. Still, looking at Herrera’s season from an overall standpoint sees an improved BB%, a lower K% and career highs in homers, runs, RBI and steals. If he avoids any setbacks, a replica of last season wouldn’t be a failure, but should he improve on the errors he made in the second half of the season, he becomes even more valuable. While he doesn’t excel in either aspect, Herrera’s ability to hit 15 HR and steal 25 bases is intriguing and worth some attention.
33. Adam Eaton (WAS, CF, RF)- Often times a move from the American League to the National League can damage a player’s offensive output, but in Eaton’s case, the net effect should be a positive one. The Nationals scored 75 more runs than the White Sox in 2016, a trend that should continue this season. Eaton is generally undervalued in the fantasy community, and his .362 on-base percentage over the past three seasons is 10th among all outfielders and 25th overall. The power and speed combination is a nice feature but has fallen just short of getting him into the 20-20 echelon. At 28 years of age, it’s possible that he takes another small step this season, but don’t draft him expecting that. Another year of 15-15 and a chance at scoring 100 runs is a safer bet. Still, those are useful numbers in any format.
32. Stephen Piscotty (STL, CF, RF)- After a stellar abbreviated rookie season in 2015, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty proved he wasn’t a flash in the pan in his first full season last year. Over 582 at-bats, he put up a great .273-22-85-7 line, setting new career highs in most counting stats. Unlike some of his fellow younger Red Birds who struggled mightily in 2016, Piscotty was able to overcome his bad streaks before they got out of hand. But at the same time, teams were able to find ways to slow down his ability to get on base, as his on-base percentage dropped 60 points between the first and second half of the season. Thankfully, they weren’t able to stop him from piling up counting stats, as he hit 11 home runs, drove in 47 and stole four bases before the break and went 11-37-3 after. The soon-to-be 26-year-old looks ready for an even bigger breakout in 2017, a level of growth potential other outfielders around his 120 ADP can not offer owners.
31. Jackie Bradley Jr. (BOS, CF)- When spring training started last year, Bradley was on the verge of it being his last shot in the Red Sox organization. He was talented, but he wasn’t producing on the field when he was in the lineup. Well, this year’s spring training is very different, since he’s the entrenched starter in center field. Hitting .267 with 26 homers and a 29-game hitting streak will do that. He’s going to be turning 27 at the beginning of the season, so he’s entering his athletic prime. With the other young studs in the lineup in Boegaerts and Betts, he should put together another strong year. It’s entirely possible that he could crack the 30-homer plateau this year.
30. Lorenzo Cain (KC, CF, RF)- Cain is currently a Royal, but it seems likely that he won’t finish the 2017 season with them. Cain is turning 31 years old, he will be a free agent after the season and teammates Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar are all scheduled to be free agents at the end of 2017 as well. As the oldest of the bunch, Cain seems to be the likeliest to be traded. For fantasy purposes in 2017, owners should expect the 2016 version of Cain to carry over. Speed doesn’t age well, and the 16 home runs in 2015 are an anomaly in Cain’s career, not an expectation. Depending on where he gets traded, owners should expect Cain to finish 2017 with something around 12 home runs, 20 steals and a .281 average, good for being drafted around his current ADP of 118.
29. Jose Bautista (TOR, RF, DH)- Bautista certainly didn’t have the contract year he was hoping for in 2016. He spent portions of the season bit by the injury bug, and when he did play he didn’t look all that much like the Jose Bautista fantasy owners have come to know and love. That’s largely the reason we saw Joey Bats return to the Blue Jays on a team-friendly, one-year contract for $18 million with options in both 2018 and 2019. In 517 plate appearances last season, Bautista hit 22 homers to go along with 68 runs scored, 69 RBI, two stolen bases and a .234/.366/.452 slash line. His biggest concern may be his home-run-to-fly-ball ratio, which fell to 16.3%, his worst figure since 2009. It’s no guarantee Bautista returns to form in his upcoming age-36 campaign, but if you’re able to snag him in the eighth or ninth round, you’ll be rewarded with a ton of value if he returns to form.
28. Wil Myers (SD, 1B, RF)- Myers will be in an unfamiliar position in 2017. He’ll be the starting first baseman for the Padres once again, but he will now have to be the veteran leader on the team. The 26-year-old star prospect is the best returning player in San Diego, but also one of the few who returns from opening day last season. The youth movement is officially underway, which may hurt Myers more than expected. In the first half of last year, Myers deservedly earned an All-Star nod by hitting .286 with 19 home runs, 60 RBI and 15 steals. After the trades of Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton, Myers found little lineup support and struggled to a .223 average with just nine long balls and 34 RBI in the second half. He maintained value by stealing 13 bases, but it still may be a troubling sign in regards to this year’s value. Myers is a sneaky source of steals if you are utilizing him as a first baseman, but will have a hard time matching his run production from last season.
27. Adam Jones (BAL, CF)- Entering his 10th season in an Orioles uniform, Adam Jones continues to exude stability as the team’s starting center fielder. He provides the same for the fantasy world, coming off his sixth straight season of 25-plus home runs and 80-plus RBI. His average has progressively decreased, but he should provide fantasy owners with a steady dose of power and runs scored. The Orioles are not a running team, which has never been manager Buck Showalter’s bread and butter to offensive success, but it certainly helps Jones’ fantasy cause that he will likely be the team’s leadoff hitter. With the likes of Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Manny Machado batting behind him, Jones could potentially flirt with close to 100 runs like he posted in 2012 and 2013. This will require the talented outfielder to bounce back from a slightly disheartening .280 BABIP. Look for Jones to be selected around the 11th round in standard drafts.
26. David Dahl (COL, LF, CF)- Rockies outfielder David Dahl made a splash by recording a hit in 17 straight games to open his major league career and overall logged a .315/.359/.500 triple slash in 63 games (237 plate appearances). Dahl had a path to everyday play thanks to Gerardo Parra being injured, but he may not have the same arrangement to open the season with Colorado having four start-worthy outfielders. We’d all love for Dahl to get the consistent opportunities, but real life doesn’t usually follow suit. Unfortunately, his current ADP of 91 translates to the OF22, which is a pretty hefty price. Another thing to be aware of is his .404 BABIP from last season, a mark that is difficult to replicate even with his bat skills and plus speed. He has 15/15, and even 20/20 potential given his tools, but given Colorado’s outfield overload, he may be a headache with volatile playing time. The one fact we can hang our hats on is the extra playing time opened up by the possible DL stints from fellow outfielders Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Gerardo Parra who have lengthy injury history’s.