Outfield: The Best Position to Wait and Gamble

We all know that first base is a safe position for fantasy managers: we can always find a slugger who can hit 20+ HR and/or provide a high BA. In the past the other infield positions have varied in their depth, but generally there are a few elite names and then a lot of safe second-tier picks. When it comes to starting pitching, there are certainly elite names out there worth owning, but there is also so much depth that even in a pitching-rich environment, we can wait and select decent names late. For a refresher, see my Waiting Game series, particularly the recap piece.

What about outfield? At first glance it’s the same as pitching: clear elites, lots of depth, and a lot of upside players. What’s changed is that because of the rise in standards for SP, you do need more sure things to boost your stats and remain on top of the roto standings. After I get an elite #1 OF, I’m going to wait on outfielders because it’s the position where you can gamble with less risk and net more reward. It’s also where you can always find some speed to boost your SB totals. For an example, I’ll look at my 15-team 5×5 league with 4 keepers.

Last Five Rounds

The draft goes 18 rounds, so the last five rounds are 14-18. At first glance the best endgame pick is Dee Gordon, who didn’t have certain playing time at the time of the draft; he went in the last round, with the second to last pick. Talk about a steal. However, he’s not even the best rated 5×5 player in the last five rounds, at 20th overall. That title belongs to Michael Brantley, who was picked up in the 15th round and was the 7th best player in 2014.

Looking at the 17th round, only two players ended up in the top-200 for the season: Dustin Ackley (183rd overall) and Bud Norris (159th overall). For the 16th round, the two nearest to breaking the top-200 were Michael Morse (208th) and Drew Smyly (206th). Are you seeing a pattern developing? As usual, OF and SP are the deepest positions to offer good endgame value. I already stated that Brantley had the best round value in the late draft, let alone the round in which he was drafted, 15. AJ Pollock was also taken in round 15, and though he had only 265 AB, he was ranked 287 for the year. For round 14, There were four OF ranked 150 or better: Span (57th), Byrd (84th), Cain (110), and Markakis (150). The next best players from that round were Lackey (174th) and Haren (193rd).

Speed Always Available

One of the biggest things to remember is that you can find speed late in drafts, and it’s very often in the OF slots. Look at these guys who were taken in the last five rounds: Lorenzo Cain, Denard Span, AJ Pollock, Emilio Bonifacio. And here are five names from round 15 alone:

  • Michael Brantley
  • Eric Young
  • Rajai Davis
  • Craig Gentry
  • Emilio Bonifacio

With power becoming more scarce in the roto standings, you definitely want to focus on HR early. Get your SB later on. I realize some people are wary of speedsters like Gentry or Davis, who don’t play every day. However, especially in leagues with 4-5 starting OF, these types of players are better options than guys who may play more but have less to offer in any one category (think David DeJesus in his prime).

Depth Galore

Yes, you have you use more OF than other positions, but when a league format requires CI and MI as well, then those infielders go away in the draft even quicker. I took a look at CBS writers’ top-300 lists for 2015. Then I compared the lowest two OF on the lists to the lowest two infielders. The first list’s match-up is Angel Pagan and Josh Reddick versus Marcus Semien and Wilmer Flores. Pagan was 226th last year, and Reddick was 256th. Semien was 499th, and Flores was 514th. Granted that the infielders didn’t play a full season, but in terms of projections for 2015, I’d put the OF ahead of the IF in rankings.

List two was Colby Rasmus and Dexter Fowler versus Mitch Moreland and JJ Hardy. Rasmus was 311th in 2014, and Fowler was 218th. Hardy was 279th, and Moreland was 646th. Hardy should bounce back, but Moreland may or may not get a lot more playing time. Fowler is going to be at the top of the Cubs’ lineup, and Rasmus has pop and will play on a team that can always use offensive help. In both of these top-300 lists, the only reason the infielders are ranked where they are is strictly due to the fact that you have to fill infield positions.

The choice is clear for me. I want to fill my MI and CI slots well before I get close to filling up my OF. A final thought: players often move from infield to the outfield, so the choices for OF eligibility are numerous. Any endgame pick can break out, but OF are going to give you more certainty in terms of value than any other.

Kevin Jebens

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.

6 thoughts on “Outfield: The Best Position to Wait and Gamble”

  1. Dude, michael brantley 15th round? Negative, he was 6th rated player in yahoo last year, he is a keeper, no way he lasts till 15th round, he’ll be gone by 3rd round, latest 4th.

  2. Quick question….

    12 team head to head points keeper league
    Keeping Cole Hamels rd 7 and Brantley rd 12

    Would it be crazy to pass on a big 1b or OF bat in a points league with the 5th pick and go for Felix Hernandez? Then go for some of the depth at other positions like OF later on? Or play it safe and go for an early bat since pitching is deep? For arguments sake of guys I think will be around, would you rather start with say Felix, freeman, and upton…..or rather Miguel Cabrera, a Darvish/Greinke type, and Kemp/Kinsler. Tough call on which way to build a core with depth all around at 1b, OF and SP.

    Thanks!
    John
    NY

    1. John,

      I don’t think it is crazy at all, in fact I would absolutely draft Felix 5th in many points leagues. Starting pitching is far more valuable in these formats.

      Either way you go, however, I urge you to reconsider some of those targets in rounds 2 and 3. Freeman, Upton (less so than the others), Kemp and Kinsler are all pretty underwhelming picks. If you are only keeping two guys, there have to be better values available in the second and third rounds.

  3. Thanks! Yeah, I was just naming guys who are around after the big keepers are declared. If I do go Felix I’m hoping Tulo or falls into my lap in rd 2…and Braun slips down a little but me after that. My league is very injury averse, but they gotta stay healthy at some point….hopefully……

    Thanks again, you guys all helped me to a good season last year! Here’s to more of the same!

    -John
    NY

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