Every draft round presents a host of outfielders to tempt you with. If you get a little carried away you could easily take four outfielders among the first five or six offensive players you take in a given draft. From my early drafts so far, the outfield group really seems to thin out after around pick 210-215. At that point you’re stuck with aging, injury prone Matt Holliday, Jayson Werth, and Carlos Beltran types, early career disappointments such as Rusney Castillo and Marcell Ozuna, or glimmers of hope from last year in players such as Kevin Kiermaier or Odubel Herrera. With that in mind, I really do not want to go hunting for more than one outfielder beyond pick 210. However, there’s also some earlier round guys I will like be passing on as well. Let’s have a look.
Draft Jorge Soler – Not Yasiel Puig
I wonder what it’s like for a father in Cuba who has a young son who tells him he wants to grow up and become a pitcher. Does it produce deafening silence or uproarious laughter? Cuba produces hitters and those hitters are built like NFL linebackers who come to mash baseballs. Here we have a pair of Cuban talents who can flat-out rip the cover off a baseball, but I prefer the one going nearly 80 picks later in early NFBC drafts.
Take a cruise around the internet looking for scouting reports and tool scores and you’ll probably come away with the impression that Yasiel Puig is the more physically gifted man in comparison to Jorge Soler. That isn’t to say that Soler isn’t gifted in his own right, but Puig looks like a God on paper. I really wish the standard 20-80 scale of a player’s tool-set would include something about his intelligence, ability to grasp concepts. make adjustments, and overall mental makeup. Until that dream is fulfilled, I am left to use my own sense of judgment along with the eye test, and this is where Puig fails miserably. Look no further than his recent comments about how he doesn’t see the value in losing weight to help him handle the daily grind of baseball’s 162 game regular season schedule.
“Puig eat what Puig wants to eat”.
“Puig no believe in science”.
“It no matter if Puig have 3 K’s in game because before game Puig hit batting practice ball off GM’s windshield 550 feet away”.
Off season reports have been glowing for Soler by the way. He has reportedly taken it quite seriously as he works on his conditioning and flexibility to prepare himself to handle the grind of a whole season.
Back to those 20-80 scale scores for a moment. Puig and Soler grade out to have similar hit tools and power upside. However, Puig grades out as a much better runner, fielder, and thrower. Two of those last three areas mean little for fantasy players unless a player’s fielding and throwing become so bad that they end up losing at bats. Soler is far from great in the field. but it isn’t as though he has Johnny Damon’s arm and Hanley Ramirez’s sense of where a pop fly is going to land. So that leaves running as the one area that Puig trumps Soler. Unfortunately for Puig, it takes quite a bit more than just being fast to steal a base at the Major League level. Just ask the speedy Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson. Puig has only been successful swiping a bag on 25 of 43 attempts in his career so far. At just a 58% success rate, Puig should not be running much going forward.
So with similar hit tools, similar power, and speed not really setting these two guys apart, I am left to my eye test and the old what have you done for me lately assessment. The injury issues Puig and Soler have dealt with recently make any sample size fairly small. That said, Soler’s last sample size saw him tear up the post-season when the stakes were highest and the docket of opposing pitchers loaded with talent. This past October saw Jorge Soler go 9 for 19, hitting 3 bombs while scoring 6 runs and knocking in 5. Two of those homers came against guys named Adam Wainwright and Jacob deGrom. From what I have seen of Yasiel Puig in his most recent small sample sizes, he simply does not have the ability to make adjustments to do any damage against pitchers like Wainwright and deGrom. He is overmatched and has no clue.
With the Cubs assembling what might be the National Leagues best lineup from top to bottom, I am all in on Jorge Soler at the time being. Of course that could change a bit if they decide to bring back Dexter Fowler. Then again, a Dexter Fowler signing might just mean a trade of Kyle Schwarber or Jorge Soler will be just around the corner. Given the way the Cubs dealt off Starlin Castro just before signing Ben Zobrist, we might see something similar happen if they decide to re-up with Fowler.
For 2016, I project the following stat lines:
Yasiel Puig: 60/17/65/6/.270
Jorge Soler: 65/24/80/3/.265
Draft George Springer – Not Andrew McCutchen
This will be my closest call in terms of where players are checking in ADP-wise. What this really comes down to for me is upside. At this point in Andrew McCutchen’s career, his upside is that of a .300/95/25/90/15 producer. George Springer’s upside has him checking in at something around a .270/95/30/90/25. For my liking, the extra power and stolen base production from Springer simply outweighs the extra batting average boost McCutchen can provide.
Something else to consider here is the surrounding lineup. McCutchen surrounds himself with the likes of Gregory Polanco (inconsistent), Josh Harrison (one big year), Starling Marte (no complaints here), and then a host of moving parts that include Jung-ho Kang (coming off injury), a Jaso/Morse platoon (is this the worst 1B situation in baseball?), Francisco Cervelli (yawn), and Jordy Mercer (a slightly more productive version of Brendan Ryan).
The Astros on the other hand are loaded. George Springer will find himself sandwiched between the best second baseman and shortstop fantasy has to offer in Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. With Carlos Gomez, Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus, Luis Valbuena, Jason Castro and A.J. Reed (soon enough) also in the mix most nights, there’s plenty of thump up and down the Houston lineup and production should be plentiful for Springer.
It feels like Springer is on the verge of becoming fantasy’s third best option in the outfield and he’s the name who can make the big leap in 2016 similar to what Bryce Harper accomplished a season ago. Springer has already taken one major step in the right direction by cutting his 33% K-rate in 2014 down to 24.3% in 2015. Another stat trending in the right direction for Springer is his ability to hit to ball to all fields. In 2014, he hit the ball to the opposite field just 20.8% of the time. That number jumped to 27.1% in 2015.
McCutchen is consistent, and nothing about his peripherals suggest he cannot continue to be the player you expect him to be. Between him and Springer, I’d say McCutchen has the higher floor but the lower ceiling. What I imagine Springer’s floor to be does not scare me off enough to not take a shot on what his ceiling could be.
For 2016, I project the following stat lines:
Andrew McCutchen: 90/24/90/12/.300
George Springer: 95/29/90/23/.270
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