Targets and Avoids: Outfield

“Just ’cause you’re right, that don’t mean I’m wrong.” ~ The Outfield “Your Love

How could I resist opening with that? It’s true, though, at least about outfield in fantasy baseball. For that reason, this probably shouldn’t be titled Targets and Avoids. Outfield doesn’t really work like that. Drafted in the right place, nearly any outfielder can have value. However, drafted in the wrong place, all of them can be a drain on your team.

There are 30 teams in baseball. I don’t know how many there are in your fantasy league, but even if I assume 30, it’s hard to imagine you don’t end up with at least 2 decent outfielders. On any given night when every team plays, there are 90 starting outfielders. Given the rise of platoons and versatility, there is something like 150 viable outfield options. As long as you do it right, there’s plenty to go around.

That said, outfield is where the 5-tool superstars live in guys like Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuna Jr, Andrew Benintendi, etc.., Outfield is where some of the biggest power lives in guys like Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Khris Davis, etc. Outfield is the home of some of the most intriguing young players in Acuna, Juan Soto, Victor Robles – even guys like Cody Bellinger are outfield eligible!

So I firmly believe in drafting outfield early. Good outfield options abound, but game-changing stars? There’s not too many of those, and outfield has a good half of them.

Targets

Khris Davis

There are 2 schools of thought on Davis. The first is that because Davis does not possess elite contact or patience, you can get Davis-lite later in a guy like Joc Pederson and be better off. The second is that I really like people who believe the first school because it leaves Davis for me.

He’s hit .247 for 4 straight years. That’s consistent. He is what he is, and that’s one of the premier sluggers in the sport. .247 might be his average, but it’s also the number of career home runs he’ll fly past in 2020. He’s got 193 in 5.5 years, and since he came to Oakland he has gone 42, 43, 48.

I’m not saying his total will go up for a 4th straight year, or that he’ll lead baseball in home runs again. I also wouldn’t bet a dime against it.

Christian Yelich

I know there are lots of writers who embrace BABIP, Hard-Contact Rate, Barrels, Fly Ball Percentage and the rest as things to write about. I’m not one of them. I like them, I’m glad they exist, and I certainly use them to inform my views – but if I click on an article to read, I’m not really looking for a long stream of numbers and data. I’m looking for someone who has looked at that long stream of numbers and data and turned it into a sentence. If I want the raw data, I’ll look it up myself.

I say all of the above to say this. Any way you want to slice it, Yelich’s numbers in 2018 went up. Out of every possible stat, the only real negative is that Yelich hit fewer fly balls than before – but considering he also hit fewer grounders and more line drives and hit the ball harder than ever before. . .

Buy.

Avoids

As I said in the introduction, there’s no avoids in the outfield. Well, there are some, but you’re not paying up to draft a Jason Heyward three years removed from his best – and I really don’t care what you do with your bench spots. Mostly, avoid here is about misconceptions. There are 2 misconceptions about these players that I’d really like to correct.

Charlie Blackmon

Charlie Blackmon is very good at baseball. In fact, he’s so good that people treat him like a superstar. But somewhere along the line, what happens on the field and what happens in fantasy got blurred.

Blackmon’s glove did not play well in center last year. Maybe it played better than the metrics show, maybe not. Either way, it seriously depressed his value on the field without really depressing his fantasy value. We’re not concerned with his glove. Last year might be the first time he was more valuable to us than he was to the Rockies.

What we are, or at least should be concerned with is this: Charlie Blackmon, for all that he really has been a superstar for the Rockies, has exactly the same number of 20 home run/20 steal or 30 home run/30 steal seasons as I do. Which is to say, he’s never done it. He stole 43 bases in a year in which he hit 17 home runs. That was his peak. Since then, the power has ticked upward, and the speed down. Last year he went 29/12, which is really, really useful – but it’s basically peak Adam Jones. Blackmon’s going to be 32. Maybe a move off of center rejuvenates his run game – but he’s still 32. It’s time to leave the dreams of the 30/30 or 25/25 season behind.

I’m not telling you not to take him. I’m not even telling you not to take him fairly early. I’m just saying stop reaching for the dream. Especially when he’s currently being drafted ahead of guys like Benintendi and Juan Soto.

Michael Brantley

I like Brantley. I’m glad he made it back healthy. But I think Brantley is still being drafted in remembrance of his near-MVP season when he went 20/20.

Michael Brantley went for 17 home runs and 12 steals last year. He’s currently being drafted around 107 on Fantrax. Marcus Semien went for 15 home runs and 14 steals, and he’s currently being drafted around 217. The big difference in their production is Brantley’s batting average, and batting average is not worth a 110 point draft differential.

Not only that, Brantley is currently being drafted ahead of Yasiel Puig, Andrew McCutchen, David Peralta (who hit 30 home runs last year), Aaron Hicks (who went 27/11) and Mallex Smith (who could steal 50 bags). Draft Brantley if you will. He’s a darned good baseball player. Just make sure you’re not overpaying purely for his batting average.

Targets and Avoids
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Seth Bias

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I'm Seth. I love baseball, especially the Braves, and rock n' roll on vinyl. Books, sandals and tacos too, though I find most of my money for those things going to vinyl these days. Once turned Prince Fielder into Justin Verlander and Paul Goldschmidt in a dynasty league. Also ashamed to say I once cut Jose Ramirez. I don't hate your favorite team unless your favorite team is the Nationals or Phillies. May or may not have cried when David Justice hit that home run in game 6 of the 95 World Series - though if you actually ask me, I'll claim I did not.

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