You know how they say the rich get richer? Well, that is exactly what happened to fantasy baseball’s crop of outfielders when the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez and decided if they won with Manny Ramirez in left field, certainly they could live with Hanley out there as well. The outfield is fantasy baseball’s deepest offensive position. This year, they get a little bit richer with Hanley and new arrivals Mookie Betts, Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, Rusney Castillo, and a host of others.
In my early 15-team drafts I have found it difficult to resist the temptation to draft as many as three or four outfielders in the top 100 picks. Outfielders literally look that much more appealing than what other positions have to offer no matter what point in the draft you find yourself in. It might be time to consider dropping the middle infield position from standard fantasy leagues and just add a sixth outfielder instead.
I challenge you to draft no more than two outfielders in the top 100 overall players off the board in your drafts. The temptation may be too much to overcome but realize there are so many great options between picks 100 and 200 overall that you are going to want to leave a few spots open for at least one of the outfielders arriving on the scene for their first full MLB season and at least one other spot for one of the outfielders I have highlighted below:
Draft AJ Pollock, Not Christian Yelich
Or draft them both. The point here is that AJ Pollock can offer you nearly the same slash line you might be expecting out of Christian Yelich but at a 100+ pick difference. This is not a bash session on Christian Yelich so much as it is a realization that the same thing can be had at an extreme discount. Yelich just came off an impressive rookie season after all and whatever shortcomings you might be able to find in his underlying stats, they should be expected to improve in the near future based on his talent and pedigree.
Now that we have that out-of-the-way, it is still my job to point out some of those glaring red flags remaining from Yelich’s highly successful rookie season that saw him slash 94/9/54/21/.284 with a .362 OBP. The first red flag is the one home run he hit in the second half of 2014. That red flag has a line of red flags behind it that go a long way to explaining the power plummet from Yelich. Put simply, Yelich is a worm killer. There is no other way to dance around the GB% of just over 60% that he posted in each half of 2014. Hopefully that improves moving forward. The real puzzler is his HR/FB rate which stood at 18.6% in the first half and fell to a dismal 2.9% in the second half.
I really do not know what to make of Yelich’s power going into 2015. One thing I do know is that he ran consistently last year with 11 first half SBs and 10 more in the second half. That is a lie. I know two things about Yelich heading into the 2015 season. He can get on base and score runs too. Dang, well that’s three things.
For 2015, Yelich looks slated to hit second in an improved Marlins batting order. I have to think this will drop his runs scored and raise his RBI output just slightly. Maybe he will be more of an 85 R, 65 RBI performer as opposed to the 94 R, 54 RBI output he posted last season. The potential is there for an 85/10/65/20/.280 slash line in 2015, perhaps with room for more. Then again, that 10 home run prediction might look a little heavy considering his second half output.
When I think of what a full season from AJ Pollock could look like, the 85/10/65/20/.280 line I have attached to Yelich seems attainable. Maybe the 65 RBI total could be a little much from the leadoff spot in Arizona but Pollock also flashed more power and speed potential in his abbreviated 2014 season than Yelich did. Where Pollock is likely to come up short is in his BB%. In 2014, he had a 6.6% BB-rate compared to Yelich’s 10.6% mark. It is worth mentioning that Pollock got the better of Yelich in his K%. Pollock had just a 16.0% K-rate compared to Yelich’s 20.8% mark.
Given that Pollock was successful on 14 of 17 SB attempts, I see no reason 25 SB would be out of reach in a full season. His 33.8% FB and 9.5% HR/FB-rates look repeatable too. This makes me think he could certainly be counted on for a higher home run total in 2015 than Yelich. The deeper I get into this Pollock/Yelich write-up the more appealing Pollock becomes. I have not even mentioned their age difference. AJ Pollock is in the middle of his physical prime at 27 years old. Meanwhile, Cristian Yelich will check in at just 23 years old for the 2015 season which is both a compliment and a detriment. The compliment is that he has already flashed his strong ability and still has physical growth to gain from. The detriment is that he is still a long way from his physical prime. The conclusion here is that I may look to select Yelich on a roster or two of mine this season but so long as Pollock can be had after pick 170 or so he is pretty much so going to be on every team of mine in 2015.
Draft Avisail Garcia, Not Wil Myers
What we have going on here is a hunt for upside from two guys coming off an injury plagued 2014 season. In 2015 both have a shot at a 20-25 home run season with 10-12 stolen bases. One is going to attempt his run at those numbers in the hitter friendly confines of U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, while the other will take his home hacks in San Diego’s Petco Park. There is enough literature written about how tough Petco Park is on offense to make World Cup soccer games seem high scoring by comparison to games played in San Diego. Speaking of Petco, MLB decided to hold the 2016 All Star Game in San Diego. Someone is going to win the 2016 Home Run Derby 2-1. I really do not need to tell you what that means for Wil Myers’ chances of a full bounce back in 2015. Viewing these two hitters in the same light, it seems odd to me that Myers is the one going off draft boards 25-30 picks earlier on average.
While Myers does get the benefit of having Matt Kemp and Justin Upton join him in San Diego, their offense still lacks appeal without any hitters truly built to hit first or second in the lineup. The Padres’ offense also seems to lack a nice balance between lefty and righty hitters. I’m guessing Myers hits fifth in San Diego where he will be adapting to a new league full of pitchers.
Avisail Garcia also appears slated to hit fifth for the White Sox. The difference there is the men in front of him in the lineup are all built perfectly for their roles. Up top, Adam Eaton has the makings of a true leadoff hitter and Melky Cabrera can do a little of everything from the second spot in the order. After that, Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche fit perfectly in the three and four-holes just ahead of Avisail Garcia. Behind Garcia will most likely be Alexei Ramirez, a nice veteran presence with a decent all around offensive game.
Most of the time us fantasy baseball writers like to cram a bunch of fancy numbers down your eye socket in an attempt to get you to overdose on acronyms. HR/FB%, BABIP, O-Swing%, OPS, yada, yada. In this case, with both Garcia and Myers coming off of injury and yet still having youth on their side, I think it is best to identify their pedigree and look at the situations they are heading into for 2015. From the home park, to the league change for Myers, to the surrounding lineups, I think all the pieces are in place for Avisail Garcia to have a better 2015 outcome than the guy going 25-30 picks ahead of him in Wil Myers.
Draft Leonys Martin, Not Billy Hamilton
Start with a bang, end with a bang. To begin this write-up I asked you to consider two players going off the board over 100 picks apart on average and I am doing the same thing here with Leonys Martin and Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton posted a 72/6/48/56/.250 slash line spending 98.5% of his time in the leadoff spot for the Reds in 2014. Martin slashed 68/7/40/31/.275 hitting everywhere from leadoff to 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th in the Rangers’ 2014 lineup. What has me really excited about Martin is what he did in the leadoff spot last season and particularly down the stretch. In total, Martin had 164 plate appearances from the leadoff spot and in that time he posted a slash line of 22/2/11/12/.298 with a .354 OBP. Not too shabby!
Things really took a turn for the better over the final 21 games after Tim Bogar took over for Ron Washington who stepped down as manager of the Rangers for personal reasons. Bogar proceeded to let Leonys Martin show what he can do from the top of the order and the results were impressive. Those final 21 games saw Martin post a slash line of 15/1/5/8/.292 in 89 at bats. Tim Bogar will be managing the Texas Rangers again in 2015.
I know what you are thinking. There is that Shin-Soo Choo guy coming back, right? Choo has already come out and hinted that he is okay hitting somewhere else in the Texas lineup. On top of that, Assistant General Manager, Thad Levine has also hinted the leadoff spot will be Martin’s to run with in 2015. And run he will! If Martin truly is given the keys to the leadoff spot in Texas, I see no reason he cannot break 40 SBs and perhaps approach 45-50 with a little improvement to his game. He will be just 27 years old after all.
When you are drafting Billy Hamilton, obviously you are drafting him for a chance at 60 SBs and maybe dreaming of more. The Reds lineup, like the Rangers should be better in 2015. In theory, this should help Billy Hamilton to improve as well. Another real possibility is that Billy Hamilton carries over his second half struggles when he hit .200 and the Reds start hitting him 8th in their lineup before we celebrate Memorial Day. Hamilton’s struggles were so severe that I actually feel more comfortable telling you that Leonys Martin will spend more plate appearances from the leadoff spot than Hamilton will in 2015.
Hamilton’s success rate on his stolen base attempts was just 71% compared to Martin’s 72% success rate. For 2015, I will still give the stolen base nod to Hamilton for this coming season but I do think Leonys Martin closes the gap on him. The gains I foresee Martin having on Hamilton in runs, home runs, RBI, and batting average might only be slight, but collectively those small gains should more than make up for any stolen bases Martin falls short of Hamilton. Pass on Hamilton, wait 100 picks and take Martin instead.