Hello and good morning! Here it is, the long-anticipated list of outfielders to avoid in your drafts! I will admit, over the course of time when this article was to debut I have changed my mind on who I had mentioned. Two of the outfielders I had on my list were Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun. Quite honestly, that was a personal preference more than anything and I didn’t really like the data as I went to make an argument against them. Each player should be fine this year, though bumps in the road may happen – don’t be alarmed.
One of the first names that jumped out to me the second time around was Aaron Judge. Are we really going to take last season and deem him worthy of a 2nd-round pick? Judge did show flashes of the ’16 Judge last season from July through August, where he struck out roughly 36% of the time. Looking at his minor league numbers, though, the average has generally been in the .280 range, so we’re going to leave Judge alone,. However, he is an obvious regression candidate for the ’18 season.
Michael Conforto, Mets
Conforto made my original list of “do not draft” guys. During the 109 games he played last season Conforto was showing why he was billed as one of the top hitting prospects in the game, mashing 27 home runs to the tune of a .279 average. Then came the August day when a simple swing ended his season.
Conforto is looking to make a return from a partially torn shoulder capsule. The only thing I know about that is it sounds completely terrible and all the articles surrounding his injury signify it as just that, awful. The injury usually displays itself in players at the end of their careers, ages 33-34, not in players just getting their careers off the ground at age 25. Recovery can be slow regardless of age. This gives me reason to think Conforto is going to be out until June or later as he recovers, not the “glass half full” May projection coming out of Mets camp.
Let’s get back to Conforto prior to his injury. He can flat-out hit; I won’t tell you otherwise. As mentioned, he hit 27 homers before he went down to injury last year and that was in 440 plate appearances. Say he plays a full season – he may have approached 40-homer territory. That’s the kind of upside Conforto had.
Compared to his 2016 campaign he made a drastic change at the plate. He saw his GB/FB rate retreat to a 1:1 ratio and he stopped pulling the ball. In ’16 Conforto was pulling pitches at a 42.7% clip, but last season that number fell to 32.4%. He also displayed an increase in plate discipline, swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone than in years past. Conforto swung at fewer pitches in general last season, albeit not by a whole lot.
The bottom line with Conforto for the ’18 season is he’s a huge risk. Nobody really knows what kind of a player he’ll be after returning from shoulder capsule surgery. He currently has an ADP of 190, which puts him in the 16th round of a 12-team league. That feels a bit high for a risk pick. Knowing what Conforto did in ’16 (.220 avg/ 89 k’s in 348 plate appearances) shows us the other player that could return from injury. Injuries are always in the back of a player’s mind, and knowing he injured himself swinging may lead to Conforto taking longer than expected to become comfortable at the dish once again.
Gregory Polanco, Pirates
Polanco saw a good chunk of his 2017 campaign spent on the DL nursing a left hamstring injury. Stuff like that generally doesn’t just disappear. That’s the first thing pointing to not drafting Polanco this year. Another reason is his numbers just aren’t flashy in general. With a current ADP of 150, placing him 45th overall at outfield (I have him #59), he just doesn’t produce enough compared to others at that position.
During his three-and-a-half years of big league experience his career year was 2016. That season saw him put together 22 homers, 86 RBI and a .258 average. Those aren’t really numbers that jump off the page at you, are they? Not bad mind you, but not overwhelming. As previously mentioned, last year’s numbers seemed to be blamed on the hamstring injury, but when looking at them they’re no different than his previous career numbers.
Let’s toss out his 2016 season and compare 2017 to his ’14 and ’15 seasons. Last year his GB/FB rate was lower (1.1) compared to 1.6 and 1.3. His line drive percentage is right on par with his first two seasons, 20.3% compared to 19.1 and 19.7%. There is some disparity in his HR/FB numbers, 9.2% last season compared to 10.1 and 5.5% during ’14 and ’15. Polanco’s soft/medium/hard contact rates all display about the same also (21%/52%/26%).
One positive last season was Polanco saw his strikeout numbers drop a bit, but that also saw his walk numbers drop as well. One reason this could be is because he swung at half the pitches he saw. Each of the four seasons in which Polanco has appeared he’s displayed a higher percentage of pitches swung at. In 2014 he swung at 41.9% of pitches seen and this past season it was up to 49.8%. That’s a whole 3% higher than league average. To go along with that he’s also making contact on nearly 92% of the pitches he sees in the strike zone, 6% higher than league average. That can be viewed as a positive, but not when the results do not show in the batting average.
Bottom line with Gregory Polanco is he’s just an average player. The 2016 Polanco showed the promise that was billed to him as he came up through the Pirates system, but other than that nothing has solidified him at the major-league level as a must-have in drafts. Sure, he hit 22 homers in ’16, but who doesn’t hit 20 homers the way the game is these days? You can find the same value much later in the draft. You’re paying for the safety of his name – the production can be had elsewhere.
Delino DeShields, Rangers
Delino DeShields is an interesting player. He has played a combined 315 games at the major league level. During that time he’s compiled a career average of .254, with 12 home runs and 72 RBI. Throw out the .209 he hit in ’16 and DeShields is going to be a .260 average hitter. The one thing he does have is speed, totaling 62 stolen bases in that time frame.
Looking at the numbers mentioned above, would you think he’d be ranked as the 61st best outfielder, going at pick 222? I suppose you could argue that come that point in the draft it’s worth taking a risk. I, however, don’t have him ranked in my top 75.
What DeShields lacks in average he somewhat makes up for in OBP, posting above average numbers in ’15 and ’17 (.344 and .347). Those numbers seem to be helped by his walk rate of 10% each of those two seasons as well. That’s not an astonishing number, but it was above league average each of those years.
DeShields isn’t going to help you out in the power category whatsoever. His slugging percentage has yet to top .350 in his early career and his ISO has been well below league average. These numbers are helped out by his infield hit percentage of 16.7% and his bunt hit percentage of 41.9%. DeShields doesn’t exactly hit the ball hard either. Over the course of his early career 56% of the balls hit fall into the medium-hit area – he’s only hitting 22% at a hard-hit rate.
When it’s all spelled out, DeShields doesn’t look like a terrible player. A matter of fact, he isn’t a terrible player, he just seems to profile much better as a “real life” baseball player rather than a fantasy option.
Bottom line with DeShields is he’s a one-category player, steals. In roto leagues or category leagues he’s not going to severely hurt you in any one category as much as he’d help you in the steals department and possibly an OBP category if you’re playing with that. DeShields is essentially a poor man’s Billy Hamilton. If you don’t want to pay the price for Hamilton, sure, go ahead and take DeShields in the later round of your drafts. Personally, I want a player who is going to help me in more than just one category and he just doesn’t do that.
Let’s roll the dice – guys to take a late round flyer on
- Randal Grichuk, Blue Jays
- Austin Hays, Orioles
- Kole Calhoun, Angels
The similarity in these three players is they all have an ADP of 310 or later. Hays is the leader of this group, coming in at 310. He’s currently projected to start the year in AAA, in large part to his relative inexperience at the professional level, only logging two seasons in the O’s system, but in those two years he’s shown nice power. If given the chance in Baltimore he should display that with the big club. Grichuk will get to play daily in Toronto, which could lead to 30+ home run totals. Calhoun gets the benefit of having the RF wall in Anaheim lowered ten feet, which could help boost his home run totals north of 30 as well.
Bottom line with these three: take them at the back end of your drafts. If it doesn’t pan out, you can easily shed the dead weight.
Now that I’ve given you my side of the outfield position, let’s hear yours! Leave your fantasy questions in the comment section below or on Twitter, @KennyGarvey.
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