There are some exceptional outfield prospects in the game today. From big power-hitting guys who should contribute in 2015, to big base-stealing threats who are a few years away, to everything in between. Kevin broke down for us the high offensive standard for outfielders in fantasy baseball. Here are 25 players that can potentially achieve those marks, and in some cases increase the standard for all outfielders.
A reminder that I am not a scout. I watch a lot of video and read a ton of information as a fan of all things minor leagues. There are no eye-witness accounts of the players listed below, and they are ranked based on their fantasy value only. I hope you enjoy! For more outfield prospects, check out the Prospect Grid.
The Best of the Best
Byron Buxton is the clear choice for number one, with plus-plus speed, a plus hit tool and some power projection as well. A wrist injury, an outfield collision and a broken finger in 2014 might normally discourage prospect enthusiasts, but there is just too much here not to love.
The trio of Cuban outfielders are all featured in this top-tier. James looked at Jorge Soler in his article last week, pointing out his huge power potential as well as his ability to hit for average. It’s safe to say that he is one of the premiere hitting prospects in baseball. Soler makes good contact and hits the ball hard to all fields with 30 home run potential. Rusney Castillo had a nice, albeit brief debut with the Red Sox last season, hitting .333/.400/.528 with 2 home runs and 3 stolen bases in just 36 at bats. He has plus speed to go along with good power; though more of a 15 HR guy than a 1 per 18 AB guy. At 27 years old, Castillo doesn’t have a lot of growth left, but he’s good and he’s ready. Finally, Yasmany Tomas is going to get a look at 3B during spring training, but I ranked him here as I suspect this is where he will end up. Tomas has #SolerPower, but the hit tool is not as strong. Playing in Arizona won’t hurt his HR totals, and if he ends up at 3B, he could become a top 10 option.
Power and speed is the name of the game for Joc Pederson. With a 30/30 season in AAA behind him, Pederson looks to take over the CF position for the Dodgers to start 2015. While the Ks may be high, Pederson should offer a good OBP to go along with 20 HR and 20 SB potential.
Lastly, David Dahl put his troubles of 2013 behind him, hitting .299/.335/.492 last season between A and High-A ball. Just 20-years-old, Dahl has doubles power now but projects to develop into a 20 home run hitter. He makes hard contact to all fields and has plus speed to go with it.
With the exception of Pompey (who will have graduated by this time), these prospects could end up rising even further over the next 12 months. It would be difficult not getting excited about any of them.
The youngest of the group, Nomar Mazara signed as a 16-year-old with the Rangers in 2011 for $4.95 million. He has big power potential and at just 19 years of age hit .271/.362/.478 in 2014, including .306/.381/.518 during a brief AA look. Mazara toned down his swing in 2014 resulting in more power, less strikeouts and more walks. The strikeouts will always be a part of his game, but another step forward next year will have him knocking at the big league door in 2016.
Dalton Pompey got a taste of the majors last September hitting .231/.302/.426 in 39 at bats. He has plus speed (2 triples in his call-up) to go along with good contact rates and plate discipline. There isn’t a lot of power but this is a potential top of the order bat who could contribute as soon as 2015.
Raimel Tapia and Clint Frazier are completely different players who get placed side by side here. Tapia has excellent bat control that should allow him to hit for average at the major league level. While there isn’t a lot of power projection, Tapia’s ability to make hard contact consistently along with his plus speed gives him an all-star level ceiling. Frazier, on the other hand, has plus power with a lot of swing and miss in his game. He was just 19 years old for most of 2014, hitting .266/.349/.411 in Low A ball. He did get better as the year went on, with his last two months at .294/.375/.483.
Finally, two players with excellent approaches: Jesse Winker and Manuel Margot. Winker is exceptionally advanced at the plate and makes consistent hard contact. He may never hit 20 home runs in the major leagues, but he’ll hit doubles, draw walks and likely score a lot of runs. Margot features excellent speed, a solid approach at the plate and surprising power. As a 19-year-old, last year he hit .293/.356/.462 with 42 stolen bases across A and High-A. He makes good contact, and profiles as a top of the order impact bat. Throw in elite defense and this is another stud prospect in the Red Sox system.
The outfield is a position of strength, prospect-wise. This next group features a group of power hitters who could all be excellent contributors as well.
A first round pick from 2014, Alex Jackson has big power and should be able to hit for a good average. Jackson will play all next season as a 19-year-old, but with his advanced bat he may progress relatively quickly through the minors. At 6’2″, 215 lbs Jackson looks the part of a typical power right-fielder. Aaron Judge was a first round pick by the Yankees in 2013. This big powerful hitter – standing 6’7″ and weighing 230 lbs – did an excellent job in his first pro season hitting .308/.419/.486. Judge will be 23 next season and will need to succeed against tougher competition, but there’s no denying that his power is legit.
Albert Almora makes excellent contact at the plate and has some developing power to go along with good speed. Just 20-years-old, Almora needs to improve his approach at the plate (3.1% and 1.4% in his 2 stops last year) but he is talented and young enough to do that. While his fantasy stock may be down, I’d look for opportunities to buy in dynasty leagues.
These next three each have some combination of power and speed. Hunter Renfroe has easy plus power, good speed and average hit tools. With their flurry of off-season trades, it would have been nice to see him move away from San Diego from a power standpoint, but they were sure to hold on to this prized prospect. With his cannon arm, he profiles nicely as a solid power-hitting right fielder. 2013 first-round pick Austin Meadows missed most of last year due to injury but finished up with a .322/.388/.486 line in A ball over 146 at bats. Meadows has a nice line-drive swing with a good approach at the plate. He has above average power and speed, and at just 19 years old, he could be a player on the rise in 2015. Steven Souza has plus power and above average speed to go along with an improved contact rate. A big man at 6’4″, 225 lbs, he will be 26 years old when the season starts. There is still swing and miss to his game, but Souza is ready for the majors and should get every opportunity with the Rays this year.
Other Prospects to Know
This last tier is a combination of high-risk players with huge potential and near-ready players with less upside.
First, the safer choices. Stephen Piscotty has exceptional contact abilities to go along with gap power. He’ll get on base at a very good rate, but his ultimate fantasy value may be limited by his lack of home run power and speed. Brandon Nimmo has good power and speed to go along with an advanced approach at the plate. His strikeouts have always been high but he cut them by nearly a third in 2014. He has 20 HR potential with the ability to chip in 10+ stolen bases. Nimmo should open the season in AA with a shot at a late call-up to the majors next year.
Two players with awesome tools follow, in Michael Taylor and Nick Williams. Taylor has plus power and plus speed to go with outstanding centerfield defense. The problem is his strikeout rate, as evidenced by his brief debut last season (17K in 39AB). Taylor will be 24 next year, and while he screams 20/20 talent, his ability to make contact is a serious concern. Williams excelled in High A as a 20-year-old last season, with his plus power, solid speed and strong hitting ability. The problem is that he is overly aggressive at the plate, to the tune of a 5% BB rate and a 29% K rate. If he is ever going to live up to his hype, he’ll need to make improvements as he progresses.
Finally three youngsters who could make big leaps in 2015. Derek Hill was a first round pick in 2014 and has already climbed to the #1 spot in his team’s prospect rankings. Okay, it’s the Tigers, but it still counts. Hill has plus-plus speed to go with some future power. With a solid approach and ability to make hard contact consistently, Hill is someone to watch even if he’s a few years away. Eloy Jimenez was the top international signing of 2013. He has huge power potential to go along with a good approach for someone so young. Jimenez just turned 18 years old, and could be a big riser in prospect lists this year. Gabriel Guerrero is a risky prospect based on his overly aggressive approach at the plate. He does have plus power and the bat speed to suggest he could also be a high reward player.
Honorable Mentions to Domingo Santana (Astros), Roman Quinn (Phillies), Lewis Brinson (Rangers), Braxton Davidson (Braves), Bradley Zimmer (Indians), Billy McKinney (Cubs), Michael Conforto (Mets), Brett Phillips (Astros)
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose has compiled Prospect Rankings from all the top sites on the web along with rankings for the 2015 season and the best baseball links available.