Fantasy outfielders can be tricky. Center fielders in particular, can deceive. Many center fielders are out there for their glove and arm, much like a catcher or shortstop. Their value in real life does not reflect their fantasy value. That is why the predominance of outfielders on fantasy teams are corner outfielders. Many of these guys are in the lineup to mash and in the field to hide. And there is nothing wrong with that in Fantasy Baseball: bring on all of the black holes in the outfield! They are in the lineup for a reason.
There are plenty of these mashers, but heed this advice: there is a sharp drop off in talent after Fourth Tier. Try to roster two or three outfielders by the time the 21st outfielder, Alex Rios, is picked.
Please note that all rankings assume a standard, mixed, 5-by-5 (average, runs, stolen bases, RBI, home runs, ERA, wins, WHIP, strikeouts, and saves). Also, the rookies here are listed because playing time should be coming to them. Sure, Byron Buxton has the highest ceiling of any minor league player, but his impact in Fantasyland is minimal this year as he toils in Double-A and Triple-A.
Joey Votto recently was quoted as being in awe of Mike Trout. That is good enough for me.
Braun is not much of a risk despite his PED suspension, but his 30-30 days were over when he turned 30 in November (the irony!). Expecting a 30-home run, 20-stolen base season is more realistic. Puig was tearing the league apart before a few injuries slowed him down. His fire seemed contagious and seemed endless; he plays the game like Harper. Both conjure up images of Pete Rose. Jones drops here because he has never stolen 20 bases while the others have or will (Puig).
This tier could have been combined with Tier Two and some will by the year’s end. Most likely: Stanton and Choo. Least likely: Gomez, who is only ahead of Upton due to Upton’s penchant for disappearing at long stretches. If you hear a rumor of a Bautista injury, trade him immediately. He cannot play hurt.
Will Kemp ever recover from nagging injuries? The answer this year appears to be “no”! He still has not recovered from the injuries from last year. Note that his injuries were not accidents; they were due to body breakdown. Once that process starts, it is hard to stop. Myers is the real deal. Remember, he won the AL Rookie of the Year despite not playing in the Majors until mid-June! He may be in the top five next year. Holliday and Craig are hitting in the middle of the best lineup in the National League. On the other hand, Rios plays in a hitter’s park, but does not play in a hitter’s lineup.
Yankee Stadium was made for left-handed power hitters like Beltran. Even if he plays just 130 games, he will be a top 25 outfielder. St. Louis will not be able to hold off Taveras. They will find a spot for him because they are in a good NL Central and need him to make the difference. Cespedes’ plunge from his 2012 slash line of .292/.356/.505 to his 2013 line of .240/.294/.442 was no fluke. He swings at everything and once pitchers figured that out, he stopped seeing good pitches to hit. If he does not make big adjustments, he may never revisit 2012. Josh Hamilton is already hurt after one week of Spring Training. His body is 33 going on 89. Yelich is one of the two sleepers here. In his first 273 plate appearances, he hit .288/.370/.396 for Miami. He will hit 20 home runs in 2014 or 2015 and when he does, he will be a top 15 outfielder. Davis is the other sleeper. He takes aggressive, intimidating hacks that make him look misplaced in a ball park and at home in a horror flick.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost likes to turn his players loose on the bases. The Royals led the Majors in stolen bases last year so expect to see Aoki, who bases his game on contact and speed, to steal 35 to 40 bases this season. Crisp is one of the streakiest hitters in baseball so prepare to grab him in daily leagues when you see a couple of home runs in the span of a few days. Brown has had two months of success in three years of the Majors. Let someone else gamble on him. A year ago, the fantasy world was drooling over Eaton, but he was hurt early in Arizona, missed most of the year, and subsequently traded. He is still the still the same talent and could be a steal in the 15th or 16th round.
Alejandro De Aza
Springer is a talented youngster who will be in Houston by mid-June at the latest. He will not have Taveras’ impact though. He chases balls out of the zone too much. There is not another player in this tier close to Springer’s talent, but there are more reliable options that are not quite as flashy. Speaking of flashy, Crawford is no longer flashy. He is a shell of the dominant player from the last decade.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
There are as many holes here as there are in Adam Dunn’s swing. There are lots of fading veterans or players who help you in one or two categories, but hurt you badly in others. For instance, did the Mets do their research on Granderson before they signed him to a four-year, $60 million contract? He hit below .235 the last two seasons! And Citi Field flattens left-handed power hitters. Do not make the same mistake the Mets seem to always make (Jason Bay?). Bourn is fading and when players who count on their legs start to fade, it happens as quickly as a Hollywood romance. Hunter’s gold glove defense evaporated last year, but remnants of his bat remained. Most likely, all will be gone by summer and he may be on the bench. Rasmus will never be the player he was billed to be; he must be hard to coach because he has shown no improvement at the plate for a long time. Bradley has more value in on base percentage leagues so move him up a tier in those leagues.
Do not be fooled by beat writers and broadcasters surrounding Arizona games: Parra has much more value in real life than in fantasy baseball due to his defense. Morse has the most upside here. He is worth a late flier to see if he stays healthy. How bad are the Twins if their first outfielder to show up on this list is Arcia? The Giants are not much better; Pagan offers very little in mixed leagues: stay away.
Byron Buxton, MIN
Gregory Polanco, PIT
Albert Almora, CHC
David Dahl, COL
The Twins may be bad now, but salvation awaits. Buxton may be a generational player. Dahl was Colorado’s first round pick back in 2012 and was the Pioneer League MVP that same season. He was hurt all last year and fell off of the radar, but stash his name and get him in deep or dynasty leagues.