I am viewing outfield a lot like starting pitcher going into 2018. I’ve written on multiple occasions that I will be spending most of my auction dollars and early round picks on stacking my infield. My general strategy in mock drafts to this point has been to draft just one stud outfielder in the first 8 rounds or so. This is basically what I’ve been doing with starting pitcher the past two years or so as well.
Ideally, I’ll get one stud to anchor the outfield, aiming for someone in the top 15-20, which would mean in my top 4 tiers. After that, I’m content to just wait until someone I like falls to me. Outfielders ranking in ranks from 30 to 65 are awfully similar to me. I’ve heard other analysts use the word “bunchy.” That’s how I find it. Does Brett Gardner really feel 30-40 spots better than Brantley, Bautista, or Fowler, or Haniger, Piscotty, or Peralta if you are an ageist?
This is why tiers are so important. Don’t reach for someone at the beginning of a tier because of rankings. In a perfect world, you’ll always be taking the last guy from a tier. That’s when you’ve achieved maximum value. Obviously outfield is a huge position so I won’t be writing as much about the players as I did for infielder. This is how I see the position breaking down coming into the 2018 season.
Nothing to say here. Best player in the game and already one of the best ever.
Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, and Charlie Blackmon
Mookie Betts – We saw his floor in 2017 and it was still really good. I think he’ll be back to his Mike Trout impersonation levels in 2018.
Bryce Harper – Might be even better than Trout when he’s right – if he can just stay healthy.
Charlie Blackmon – I didn’t quite believe it coming into last year. He could’ve won the MVP last year and some people even think he should be drafted in front of his teammate Arenado. I’m not quite there, but it’s not far off. Bonafide first rounder.
Giancarlo Stanton, Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, and J.D. Martinez
Giancarlo Stanton – The “what if he stays healthy” question was finally answered. However, that does not erase the long history of injury. A move to a smaller park and nice lineup are encouraging. So is the chance to DH now and again. Let’s also not forget that he was flat out bad for long periods of 2016 when he was healthy. I’m nitpicking since I do think he’s a stud. I just view him as distinctly below the 4 people ranked in front of him. So many of my fellow Yankee fans are getting too excited in my opinion, and I just want to slow our collective roll. I hope he hits 60 and the Yankees go to the World Series, but let’s not just pencil it in.
Cody Bellinger – I covered Bellinger in January during my first base tiers article. Love him – Want him!
Aaron Judge – Judge was not drafted in a large majority or standard leagues last year. I wrongly predicted him to be a bust. I was very wrong and have grown to love watching him play. He still strikes out too much and had a pretty disappointing second half. I think 2017 will be the best year of his career. He’s really good and I love the walk rate. The extremely high 30% K rate still makes him a high variance player. We’ve seen this with players like Chris Davis in the past. The 36% HR/FB rate is also due for regression. Judge is generally regarded as a late first or early second round pick. That price seems exorbitant to me.
J.D. Martinez – He was actually better than Stanton on a per-game basis last year. Unfortunately, I think he is related to “Mr. Glass” from the film Unbreakable. Martinez seems to break bones if someone looks at him too hard. I love the talent and actually prefer him to Stanton when you factor in price. The injury history does scare me, but he is definitely enticing, especially if he ends up in a favorable park.
Rhys Hoskins, A.J. Pollock, Tommy Pham, Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, Starling Marte, George Springer, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Upton, and Khris Davis
Rhys Hoskins – If you read our first base review then you know how much I love this guy, almost as much as Bellinger. Low K rate plus power. I’m all in here.
A.J. Pollock – I love Pollock (I know, I love a lot of players). He’s really good, but he is injury prone.
Tommy Pham – He came out of nowhere, but it all looks legit. Pham finished as a TOP 15-20 outfielder in most formats despite playing in just 128 games.. It looks legit to me, but guys who come out of nowhere do scare me – especially Cardinals. Just think about Aledmys Diaz and Randal Grichuk to understand my skepticism of red bird breakouts. The speed and complete package that Pham brings is rare and exciting enough for me to pay the current asking price though.
Billy Hamilton – Hamilton is an ugly player. He does not look graceful or poised. That doesn’t matter. Hamilton could legitimately steal 80 bases. We’re reaching for Stanton and 60 homer potential in the first round, but Hamilton is a threat for 80 in the more scarce stat. I want Hamilton and will pay for him. He showed signs of improvement last year as well. Put it into these terms: Even if Hamilton ONLY steals 60 bases – that’s three times what you would expect from a guy like Francisco Lindor. Power is available everywhere. It won’t be hard for you to find a few player with good pop to even things out.
Dee Gordon – Everything I said for Hamilton can be applied to Gordon. I’d rather deploy him at second base given the lack of standouts there. He has 50-60 steal potential and he’s also likely to give you average and runs. I like Gordon a lot.
Starling Marte – He’s a lot like Gordon – likely 3 stat contributor. He also had a PED suspension that is likely to suppress his draft position. I wouldn’t sweat the PED thing. Gordon, Cruz, Braun, and others have shown that this doesn’t mean performance will suffer.
George Springer – He had a career year. I think he’s generally been overrated to this point in fantasy, and the 30-30 potential seems like a distant memory to me. Springer is solid and will hit some homers and put up decent counting stats in the great Astros lineup. I would not expect a repeat of his 2017 production. He made some incremental improvements on his K rate and hard hit rate last year, but is still hitting the ball on the ground close to 50% of the time. This is not something I feel great about with a would-be power hitter.
Marcell Ozuna – I’m giving Ozuna a nice bump because of the career year last year. He had shown signs of breaking out in the first half of 2016 as well. Moving to the Cardinals is a nice change from the current Marlins lineup, though maybe not the one from 2017. That Marlins lineup was pretty good last year. Doubt he repeats 124 RBI for example. The park is also slightly better.
I think Ozuna is straight up solid. He hits the ball very hard, however I’d like to see him hit fewer ground balls. The HR/FB rate was also 9 points higher than years past so expect more of the 25-30 bombs as opposed to knocking on the door of 40. He’s a lot like George Springer, but I feel like there’s a bit less hype here.
Justin Upton – One of the more boring players in fantasy. He did have his best year ever with 35 bombs and over 200 combined RBI and runs. Upton is what he is – solid, but I do like his odds to put up nice counting stats in the revamped Angels lineup.
Khris Davis – Everyone knows that Oakland is a better hitters park than Milwaukee. No… it’s the opposite? Oh okay, well no one tell Khris Davis. He has smashed 42 and now 43 bombs in one of the most cavernous parks in the game. He’s a HR stud – there’s no reason to doubt it anymore. The Oakland lineup is sneaky solid these days as well so don’t be surprised if he repeats or even surpasses his counting stats for 2017.
I really want to anchor my outfield with one of the names above. These 18 gents are the ones I trust the most to perform at a level commensurate with OF1 production. I don’t think you need to reach and grab two unless there’s value kicking you in the face at your draft slot.
There are so many potential breakouts and bounce backs later in the draft at the position. Compare this to infield positions where there are only a handful of standouts at each position. It’s worth mentioning that Andrew Benintendi would be on this list for me in points leagues as well, and could very well be there next year with a strong showing.
I’ll take a look at some of my favorite outfielders to target that are not in these first few tiers in next week’s column. This will help give you an idea of some really nice guys to pair your first stud or two with. Until then!
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