Each week, the Assembly will put together their positional rankings for keeper/dynasty leagues. Players are ranked with the next five years of 5 x 5 category production in mind, so when you see Bryce Harper ranked ahead of Jose Bautista, that does not necessarily mean that we believe Harper will be the superior short term option. Also, players are only ranked at what is projected to be their primary position heading into 2015.
Unlike some of our infield positions, there is a lot of quality on the outfield list. The outfield is deep and there are fantasy stalwarts who emerge from nowhere every season. There are many ways to build a quality outfield. Some of the potentially useful players who failed to make the cut include Juan Lagares, Michael Cuddyer, Dalton Pompey, Josh Hamilton (yes, he really has fallen this far), Colby Rasmus, Stephen Piscotty, Curtis Granderson, Jake Marisnick, and my personal favorite, Coco Crisp.
We starting forming this list a couple weeks ago, before the Oscar Taveras tragedy. Despite his struggles to adjust to big league pitching in 2014, Taveras was universally regarded as one of the elite young phenoms in all of baseball and part of a tremendous class of rookie outfielders. He would have checked in at #32 on this list. Baseball fans everywhere will mourn the loss of such a dynamic talent. RIP Oscar Taveras.
Our 6 experts, with over 100 years combined fantasy baseball experience, each ranked the outfield position, and here are the results:
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Jim: If you have to ask why Trout is the obvious number 1 choice for OF, do yourself a favor and stick to fantasy golf.
Kevin: He’s the obvious king for dynasty formats. And for redraft formats. Heck, for any format of anything, ever.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Tommy: Stanton is the premier power hitter in the game today. There is nothing that he cannot do. Don’t be surprised if the average falls a little next season, but given the emerging young talent around him, his other numbers should all be there.
Will: The raw power and younger age gives him the edge over Cutch. Stanton is just entering his power prime and he has already had 30+ dingers in three of the last four season and the one where he didn’t could best be explained by him hitting the DL. Lock in this 40 homer potential for the next several seasons.
3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kevin: There’s no denying his consistent ability to put up solid fantasy numbers in five categories. Other players may have more power, or perhaps more speed, but few have the complete package with a BA above .300 to boot.
Will: The slight power disadvantage Cutch has, compared to Trout and Stanton, is made up for by the better average and on-base percentage. There really is no debate on whether or not you should be keeping Cutch.
4. Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Jim: Gomez should be able to get you three more 20/30+ seasons before you have to worry about a decline in numbers. You won’t get BA here, but you’ll get everything else.
Paul: Gomez broke out at 26 years old in 2012. A reminder that prospects often require patience. The BB/K rates are terrible but in the past 3 years, he’s essentially cut it from 1:5 to 1:4 to 1:3. It’s progress.
5. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
Jim: The stolen bases totals may be going down, but you’ll still get a .280 BA with 25+ home runs and around 90 runs and RBIs from the 29 year old.
Will: Jones does not walk much…that’s his major flaw. A consistent 25-30 home runs with 80-90 runs and RBIs, more than overshadows that flaw.
6. Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
Ron: Solidly in his prime, JUp should be counted on to continue being something in the ballpark of a 25 HR, 10 SB producer for the foreseeable future.
Will: The power has pretty much always been there, with 26 or more homers in four of the last six seasons, but since joining the Bravos, he has posted home runs seasons of 27 and 29, while topping 100 RBIs for the first time in his career, this past season. Upton posted that with Freddie Freeman being the only consistent on base guy in front of him. 25-80-80 is something you grab onto!
7. Yaisel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kevin: The speed’s still there, though he ran less than 2013. His HR/FB got cut in half from his rookie season, and aside from a very hot May, he never hit more than 3 HR in any month. Add in a 50% ground ball rate over two seasons, and his power is going to stay capped. He has a very high ceiling, but there are a lot of safer bets with higher floors.
Will: Puig is already posting a .296/.382/.480 at age 23 and his prime is still to come. Plus, did you know, Puig reduced his K% and increased his BB% in 2014? Because he did. Puig also started chasing fewer pitches while making more contact on the ones he did chase in ’14.
7. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Ron: The game will slow down for Harper and he will learn to pace himself through the marathon regular season. As he settles into the player he’s destined to become there may be bumps along the way but he’s bound to settle into an annual 30 HR, 10 SB contributor in the near future and that could be his floor.
Tommy: My ranking is part protest and part how I really feel about Harper. He will get better in time. So far though, his plate discipline has gotten worse, he only hits about a third of his balls in play in the air, his ability to hit lefties has been questioned, he only attempted 4 steals in 2014 (successful on 2) and he has missed time with multiple injuries. If he is not running, he will have to hit 35+ HRs a year to live up to his price tag, and I don’t think that is a given. I refuse to draft Harper as a fantasy superstar until he shows that he can carry the load. If you draft him in the first round, where is the profit if you are right? What if you aren’t?
9. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Paul: The elder amongst the Top 10, Bautista’s combination of high OBP and SLG is simply too good regardless of his age. Home run totals of 40, 35, 30, 25, and 20 over the next 5 years would put him in the top 5. I’m counting on slightly less.
Ron: He’s not slowing down yet though we have to be wise to his age (34) and know that Bautista is bound to hit a wall at some point during the next three to five years. For the time being, he’s still one of the elite power bats in the game and should be counted on to continue being just that until he’s not.
10. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Jim: Injuries will always be his achilles heel, but he’s a 20/20 player with all the talent and abilities of Andrew McCutchen when healthy. I wouldn’t draft him, but I wouldn’t throw him back if I owned him.
Paul: Between the K rate and the injury rate, Gonzalez is a risky proposition. While he might have a top 10 OF ranking in one of the next 5 years, he’ll likely also have another year of not making the top 100, like 2014.
11. Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
Jim: Not many gave Brantley much credit for his 2013 season, but everyone is singing a different tune now. The power and average will regress some, but expect 15/25 at a minimum moving forward.
Will: I wouldn’t pay for the 2014 numbers if I were you, but if you have him at cheap price/keeper value, he’s gonna be good for 15 dingers, 80 runs and 70-75 RBIs. With a bunt hit percentage of 66.7%, you know he’ll be on base, but I think 20 steals is his ceiling.
12. George Springer, Houston Astros
Kevin: He has the speed for 30 SB, but I wonder whether he’ll run enough to reach it. He’ll hit 30 HR soon, but horrible contact rate and K% means he may pull a Chris Carter and Brandon Moss impression for the next few years.
Tommy: Springer strikes out too much to be an asset in the batting average category, but he was 3rd in the majors in average fly ball distance and has legitimate 30 SB speed. There simply aren’t many dual threats like Springer in baseball today. Oh by the way, expect his average to improve some as he adjusts to big league pitching.
13. Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
Paul: A nice bounce back in Ellsbury’s power in 2014. 15/40 type players are pretty awesome, but at 31 years old, the stolen base numbers won’t likely remain for the next 5 years.
Will: I was actually somewhat surprised I had Jacoby this high, but the steals and consistent shot at 80 runs, makes him highly valuable.
14. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Ron: It would be nice if the 71% theft rate could creep closer to the 80% range. Still, not a bad first full season from the game’s premier speedster and leaves hope there’s plenty more to come in the near future.
Tommy: Steals are valuable, but I refuse to pay a premium for a player with a wOBA under .300. I would much rather take any number of cheap speed guys later in the draft and invest in a player like Brantley or Pence who will cost about the same and give me across the board production. You don’t need Hamilton to succeed in the steals category.
15. Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
Kevin: Mr. Awkward keeps producing, but after seven years of remarkable HR/FB consistency, he posted a career low in 2014. I don’t see him collapsing below his 2014 level, but 2013 may be out of reach at this point, particularly the speed.
Ron: Hunter Pence may not know how to parallel park but the guy punches his timecard every day. He will be 32 at the start of the 2015 season which might make us think he could begin to slow down soon. That said, it’s hard to ignore the three-year run he’s on right now where in 2012 he eclipsed the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career, in 2013 he had his first 20/20 season, and in 2014 he tallied over 100 Runs for the first time in his career. Who cares if he wears socks with sandals? I want this guy as my number two outfielder every year.
16. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jim: I don’t expect the speed to return, injuries are always a concern and he can be inconsistent at times. Not exactly a ringing endorsement so far, but a healthy Kemp can still contribute solid numbers in 3 categories with an above average BA.
Paul: In the second half, Kemp hit .309/.371/.606 nearly matching his 2011 numbers. I’d say Kemp is back, just without the big stolen base potential.
17. Yoenis Cespedes, Boston Red Sox
Kevin: I still like his power potential, but he did end up with his lowest HR/FB of his short MLB career. That being said, he hits enough fly balls to keep up 20+ HR. It simply remains to be seen whether he figures it all out and cracks 30+, which I think he can.
Tommy: Cespedes is overrated. He has decent power, but his average fly ball distance of 276 feet is very average. He hits too many fly balls to post a high BABIP and he does not walk often, so don’t expect an OBP over .300. On top of all that, there is a report floating around that the Red Sox coaching staff cannot stand him and that Cespedes may be traded to his third team in less than a year. Frankly, I think I am being quite generous with my ranking.
18. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Paul: His ISO keeps dropping, along with his BB rate and stolen bases. He’ll be 31 and coming off of a PED suspension. While the wheels may not have fully fallen off yet, Braun surely isn’t anything more than a #3 OF any longer until they do.
Tommy: Braun is no longer an elite player, but he still has the power to hit 25+ HRs and steal a few bases. If his thumb procedure helps him grip the bat better, there is a chance that his 2015 numbers are closer to vintage Braun than what we have seen the last two seasons.
19. Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
Ron: Going into the 2014 draft season I told people that if they liked the stat line they felt Jacoby Ellsbury was going to produce then they might as well wait 40 or 50 picks and select Marte. In 2014 Ellsbury went .271/71/16/70/39 while Marte went .291/73/13/56/30. The biggest difference between the two was that Ellsbury had 90 more plate appearances than Marte and yet they still had nearly identical stat lines. One guy is just entering his prime while the other is exiting his. Guess who I like more going forward.
Tommy: Marte is far from perfect, but he has an awesome power and speed combination. With an average fly ball distance near 300 feet and enough speed to steal 30+ bases, Marte will continue to put up numbers despite his poor plate discipline.
20. Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kevin: I’m not ready to crown him as a stud. League average power and a high GB% means he’ll mirror Marte more than McCutchen in the near future. However, he’s very young and has a decent contact rate and walk rate. After a few seasons he may be a top-15 OF, but he’s definitely not there in 2015.
Paul: Excellent power/speed combo, Polanco didn’t burst into the scene in 2014, but offered glimpses of why he was considered one of baseball’s top prospects.
21. Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles (Free Agent)
Jim: I know what he did in 2014, but that was only the second time in his career that he played more than 124 games. There is power that can’t be denied, but keep in mind he is 34 with an injury riddled track record. Caveat Emptor.
Kevin: He proved he can keep hitting HRs after suspension, and though his BA won’t get any higher, it won’t hurt you. His age does affect his ranking in dynasty, but I’ll take someone who can put up .265/85/35/100 for the next 2-3 years over someone who hasn’t yet reached that kind of season once, like Harper.
22. Corey Dickerson, Colorado Rockies
Paul: An inflated HR rate in 2014 means you can’t just plug him in for 30 HR with 600AB in 2015. Strong LD rates and a great home ball park should help keep the 25 year old as an OF #3 for the next 5 years.
Tommy: A line drive rate of 26.7% and minor league BAs over .300 make Dickerson’s .356 BABIP look more skill based than luck. An average fly ball distance of 298 feet supports the HR/FB rate surge too. I am buying the 25 year old as a top 20 outfielder as long as the Rockies don’t do something stupid and try to platoon him.
23. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
Jim: Like his running mate Ozuna, Yelich’s run and RBI totals will always be in flux (like the Miami organization). In his prime (when everything click) I see a ceiling of 13/24 for power and speed. I also wouldn’t expect more than the .284 you saw in 2014. Stable uninspiring numbers are in his future, but good enough to hold down a third outfielder position in fantasy.
Will: Yelich may seem like a surprise in the top 20, but he makes some of the best contact of anyone else on this list. The contact rate and k-rate, in general, are not spectacular, but when he makes contact? Well, it is usually decent contact, as Yelich had a pop-up rate of 1.3%. That is a ridiculously low number for his amount of balls in play. Ridiculous.
24. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Kevin: The power has dropped even more, so all you can count on is a BA that won’t hurt you and 20 SB. He’s still young enough to grow more, but he’s not trending in the right direction.
Will: The Jay-Hey kid is only 25 and I think 2015 is where you finally start to see him reach his power potential.
25. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
Kevin: A low BABIP and injuries sunk his season. He may not get back to 30 HR, but bet on a rebound, and remember that he’s not yet 30.
Ron: Every Reds hitter outside of Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier should hang their head in shame after their pathetic 2014 season. I don’t have extremely high hopes for the Reds in 2015 either unless their front office shows a willingness to open their wallet to bring in some help offensively. That said Jay Bruce is certainly a solid candidate for a bounce back season. Good chance you’ll see his name in my 2015 Outfielder Bounce Backs write up.
26. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Jim: Betts will be given the opportunity to win a job out of spring training in 2015. His minor league average says he can be an above average hitter with a nice power speed combo. Overall very good numbers should be expected in a year or so, but those numbers would play better in the infield where he was originally slated to be.
Paul: Betts will be just 22 years for the 2015 season and is looking like a future .300/.400/.500 hitter with 20 stolen base potential. In fact, in Sept/Oct he hit .317/.383/.462. At 21 years old, leading off for the Red Sox. If he was ranked as a second baseman, I’d have had a hard time not putting him at #1 overall.
27. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Jim: For years I have dismissed Gordon as a below average option, but it’s time I accepted the fact that he hits for good power, has some speed, scores a high number of runs and delivers an above average RBI total. I still may not like him, but I will acknowledge what he can bring to the table.
Ron: A poor man’s Hunter Pence who likely won’t come at a big discount. Call him a middle class man’s Hunter Pence. Alex Gordon wears socks with sandals too? No, that’s not what I mean. Gordon gives you a little of everything across the board. He’s steady and reliable, if not a little boring. Nothing wrong with boring.
28. Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Jim: I’ll admit I’m starting to sour on Myers, but I can’t ignore the upside nor forget the fact he will only be 24 in December. I would invest here, but I wouldn’t get too attached and would listen to trade offers.
Paul: Myers completely lost his swing in 2014, but he’ll play 2015 at just 24 years old.
29. Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
Tommy: Ozuna is young, he has outstanding power and he displayed the ability to steal bases in the minors, although he seems to be less interested in running now. Poor plate discipline limits his upside. I would not be shocked if 2014 turns out to be one of his best career seasons.
Will: Ozuna has some decent pop in that hot young Marlins OF, and he is headed into his prime.
30. Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
Paul: Excellent power to go with a strong hit tool makes Soler a good bet to be very successful in the majors. One of only a few outfielders capable of breaking into the top 5
Tommy: Soler did very well in his September stint with the Cubs, blasting 5 HRs. He may be the safest bet to produce of all the recent Cuban imports, but he may also have the lowest ceiling because he does not run much. Soler is capable of hitting for a solid average with 20-30 HRs.