2016 Rankings Sneak Preview: Outfield

I usually emphasize that there are plenty of outfielders in drafts, so you don’t really have to prioritize them after you get a #1 caliber guy. For that reason, given how many players qualify at OF, I’m bound to have a lot of misses, but then so does everyone. When ranking 75 players at a position, there’s no way you can get even one-fourth of them right, due to playing time changes, injuries, and sudden risers and faders. For that reason you won’t see much in the Miss column, but I’ll add on to the other parts.

What Did I Miss in 2015?

I was pretty high on Steve Pearce, and he disappointed me. I assumed higher playing time, and he did get injured, so perhaps there’s room for hope in 2016. His FB matches 2015, and his HR/FB barely dropped, so that’s good. His hard hit rate came down, and his walk rate dropped, so that’s bad. However, his BABIP was quite low compared to the MLB average and his career. The fact that he plays 2B as well only helps his versatility for next year. I plan to include him in my 2016 rankings, but it will be much lower than 2015’s hopeful #31 slot.

Adam Eaton is currently ranked the #70 player by CBS 5×5 standards. That’s a surprise to me. I liked him, but I assumed his max ceiling was a Ben Revere type. He has less BA and SB than Revere this season. What’s made him more valuable is the sudden boost in HR, which I didn’t expect. Can you blame me, when his HR/FB was 1% in 2014? For 2015 it’s a healthy 11%, and he has become valuable in four 5×5 categories. Do I expect him to repeat in 2016? Not really. His FB% “improved” from 2015, but it’s sitting at only 28%, and he still hits 50% grounders. His hard hit rate isn’t any better than previous years. Given the complete lack of power before now, he has to prove to me that he can do it again before I’ll rank him as high as he’s valued this year.

Questions for 2016

Do I gamble on Jayson Werth in 2016? I was rather high on him in one of my OBP leagues because he still walks a lot. Then the injuries happened. He missed a little bit of time to start the year, and then he missed a lot more time. However, he has 8 HR and a .290 BA in the last four weeks, which seems to imply the wrist is feeling better. In 5×5 redraft formats, it’s hard to gamble on an injury-prone 36-year-old. But if you count OBP at all, Werth has to warrant higher consideration.

Can Khris Davis crack the top-20 OF ranks in 2016? It seems like a long shot, and I probably won’t go that high. However, despite his poor BA, he has displayed serious power this season. Injury took away from his total playing time, but he’s hit more home runs in 2015 than he did in 2014 — and in 150 fewer AB. He doesn’t make great contact (which took a step backward this year), and his hard hit rate as a whole is only league average. However, with health and a bit of luck, he has the chance to be a poor man’s Chris Davis, and he could net you 30 HR for a lot less than it’d cost to draft a top-15 OF. In leagues where I need 5 OF, I will probably reach higher on him.

How much do I trust the HR/SB combo guys like Dexter Fowler and Brett Gardner? Both have put up better seasons than I predicted. Gardner’s HR/SB are pretty close to last seasons, but I didn’t expect it to stick. Despite his highest GB% in the last four seasons, he matched his 2014 HR/FB, which was essentially double his previous best. It’s hard to expect a player who’s been around for many years to suddenly increase his homer production by that much, but it does happen, and I’ll have to assume he can flirt with 20/25 in 2016. As for Fowler, he’s put up a career high in AB, which helps explain the career high in home runs. His HR/FB is in line with 2012-13, so playing more simply results in more counting stats. A repeat is possible with health.

Early Sleeper Picks

My award for “Best Steve Pearce impression” goes to Chris Colabello. He’s a guy who hasn’t played full-time this year, or for a full year. However, he’s done well, even when accounting for some luck in BABIP. Some of that BABIP is explained by a very high LD%, but that may not hold up, and he does hit more grounders than I’d like. Of course, when you sport a 25% HR/FB, even a small fly ball rate results in a lot of homers. In 2016, I don’t expect the BA to repeat, and his HR/FB will likely regress, but I am hoping for improved FB% and more playing time, which could result in 20 HR.

Michael Taylor has to get some love. Like Fowler and Gardner, he has the power/speed combo, though his BA is worse. Over a full season, he may reach 20/20. However, those who are risk averse need to pay attention to his poor contact rate and low K/BB. He’s relatively young, but generally contact isn’t something that greatly improves over time. His BA is going to be limited, but he will pull a good Rickie Weeks impression in the HR/SB categories. I won’t pick Taylor to be a #3 OF, but if I have to start 5 OF, then the bad BA is worth it.

I prefer to get outfielders who contribute to both HR and SB, and Eddie Rosario will fit right in. He’s another player capable of going 15/15 (or better) for a full season. He doesn’t walk, but he seems capable of maintaining a BABIP above the league average, so the BA should hold around .270. It’s a small sample size, but he is hitting lefties as well as righties, and the Twins have turned into a playoff worthy team, so I expect Rosario to produce solidly in 2016.

Previous Positional Previews
Middle InfieldCorner Infield Starting Pitcher

 

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Kevin Jebens
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.
Kevin Jebens

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