Welcome to the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview!
Remember – diamonds are created under pressure. As I examine this quote, I am reminded how some players in the majors come out of nowhere to become stars of the league. Specifically, I consider the outfielders in this special group. There are so many to pick from that it can be hard to draft outfielders. I usually like to get a top ten outfielder early in the draft and then go from there. This year offers many diamonds in the rough.
My 2017 Outfield Preview is not going to talk about the obvious top outfielders of the game, but more focus on the majority of the rest of them. There are plenty of outfielders to draft and to pick up during the year. This may be the number one position I will rotate around this year until I get a lineup I enjoy. The studs at the top of the outfield list this year are definitely Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. I think though that Mike Trout should go number one overall in all types of league formats.
In 2016, we had the likes of Jackie Bradley, Jr., David Dahl and Jose Ramirez come out of nowhere to be successful. With players like this, they can instantly be placed in your lineup and make an impact. I hope you are able to find your diamonds in the rough in 2017.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview
Are we betting that Bryce Harper rebounds from last year?
Last year, I made the mistake of saying that Harper should be drafted over Trout. I am definitely not making that mistake again in 2017, but what is going to happen with Harper this year? Although putting up OK numbers in 2016, he still was not worth the first overall pick. In 2017 drafts thus far, he is a top-five outfielder and will cost you a late first round pick.
In 2016, Harper had a career high of 21 stolen bases. I believe that he will be given the green light to continue to use his speed when he is on base. Now that he has solidified himself in this category, he is going to be helpful in all five major hitting categories. He hit a career low .264 BABIP in 2016. He will hit closer to the .300 BABIP which will obviously raise his batting average.
I have a feeling he was dealing with some sort of injury in 2016, but I see 2017 being different. You can already pencil Harper in for 20+ home runs in the upcoming season. He had a bad power year last year and still hit 24 home runs. Now for the other two categories (runs and RBI), he has Eaton, Turner and most likely Murphy hitting in front of him. This will result in nice RBI numbers and he has Werth and Rendon hitting behind him to result in his run total.
With all this being said, I see a nice rebound year for Harper. I would trust a late first round pick for him.
Who knows maybe he can use this bat to help him rebound this year.
Bryce Harper has a bat wrapped in barbed wire, because why not? pic.twitter.com/DRBhhg02h3
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) February 19, 2017
Nelson Cruz or Yoenis Cespedes: Who would you choose?
According to ESPN rankings, Cespedes places No. 16 with Cruz immediately following at No. 17 in the outfield rankings. At first glance, I feel that Cruz and Cespedes are very similar players. They are both bigger outfielders who have plenty of power. Over the past two seasons they both hit over 30 home runs, hit in more than 85 runs and both are over 30 years old. Someone’s age is usually a big plateau when it comes to any major sport. Injuries happen more frequently, players are coming to the end of their careers and less production occurs on a regular basis when someone hits their thirties.
I would choose Cruz though, and our staff rankings agree. Cruz has been more consistent the last three years and this is playing with two different teams. One of the teams is the Mariners, in which Safeco Field is not a friendly hitter’s ballpark.
I am nervous about Cespedes’ quad injury that limited him in the second half of 2016. Those types of injuries seem to linger too much. Plus, he is still going to have strain put on them on a daily basis. Cespedes is forced to play the field in the NL while Cruz can be a DH in the AL.
What are we to expect with a full season of Kyle Schwarber?
Entering his sophomore campaign, the Chicago Cubs and their fans had a lot to look forward to when it comes to Schwarber. In the beginning of April though, Schwarber tore his ACL and LCL in his left knee. At the time, he took to Twitter to reassure his fans of what he was about to embark. He stated, “Thank you for all the encouragement. This is a test of character and plan to attack it head on. This team is special and fun to watch!” The Cubs were just hoping he made it back safely to spring training starting this year.
He made a miraculous comeback in the 2016 playoffs. We all know what the Chicago Cubs ended up doing, but only some may know what Schwarber was able to accomplish coming back so late in the season. It is actually quite remarkable. He played in five playoff games and had 17 plate appearances. He had seven hits, two runs, two RBI and even a stolen base. This all added up to a .412 average with an on base percentage of .500.
Before coming back into the playoffs, he had only two Minor League games under his belt. All of these other players he was going against or competing with had a whole year under their belts. Schwarber stepped right into the playoffs as if he was hitting his stride mid-season.
I believe that Schwarber is going to bring his 2016 playoff success into the 2017 season. Coach Maddon said that he will probably be playing Schwarber at both catcher and outfielder by the end of the season. He also mentioned hitting Schwarber as a lead-hitter, with the current absence of Dexter Fowler. This would ultimately reduce his RBI production, but could see a rise in his production in other categories.
The sky is the limit for him in 2017. When he hits the ball, it goes a long way. I just hope that he can work on swinging pitches out of the zone, especially off speed pitches. Considering that this is going to be his first full year in the big leagues, he probably won’t hit for a high average (.280 probably at most), but bat speed equals more power. He is a big dude that can hit the ball a lot in the bleachers in 2017.
Player(s) on the Rise
Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
Benintendi is interchangeable from being on the rise and those that are on the horizon, but I believe he fits better in this section. Benintendi enters the 2017 season as the number one prospect in all of baseball and is the front liner for American League Rookie of the Year. His ceiling is very high and could continue to grow.
He is already receiving praise from his teammates and upper management. Xander Bogaerts stated, “I think he’s better than I was at his age.” Mookie Betts said, “He’s a great player. He slows the game down and plays the game the right way.” This is pretty high praise from two all-stars already in Benintendi’s career. Dave Dombroksi, the Red Sox General Manager, explains “it’s a beautiful swing” obviously, explaining the young 22-year-olds approach at the plate. Benintendi said that he tried to emulate his swing like his idol growing up, Ken Griffey, Jr. Not a bad person to look up to when it comes to the hitting department.
As a Red Sox fan, I am excited for Benintendi this year. With the absence of David Ortiz, a lot of younger stars have to step up for the Red Sox. In 2016, he got a quick peek of the big leagues. In 34 games, he hit .295 with two homers, 16 runs, 14 RBI and one stolen base. Entering 2017, Benintendi will be focusing on his own challenges and try not to let the hype bother him.
Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting coach, goes on to explain what he thinks Benintendi could do this year. “Every once in awhile, work on the power swing, but be disciplined with the pitches you swing at and are trying to drive. (Benintendi) has the ability to hit the ball over the fence. He has exceptional power for a little guy. I’m not saying I don’t want him to hit for power. But I want him to focus on being more precise, more consistent with his approach, get pitches he can hit and put them in play hard. He has the ability with speed, bat control and ability to hit the ball over the fence, he has the ability to hit 30, 40 doubles for us.”
Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
If I were to talk about this guy last year, I would have definitely said ‘blah’. Christian Yelich is now starting to grow on me. I used to consider him a third or fourth type outfielder, but now I consider him a second or even first outfielder, depending on how deep your league is.
During his first three years in the big leagues, Yelich has shown consistency and improved a little bit each year. When first entering the league, he was considered a slap hitter. Now, he is hitting the ball with more power. He dropped his ground-ball rate six points last season, even though he still was in the top leaders for ground balls. Yelich actually completed one of the greater feet for a hitter in 2016, hitting for more fly balls (15% to 20%), pulling the ball more (32% to 36%) and hitting the ball harder (33% to 38%). All three of these stats could lead to more home run production.
In 2016, Yelich defied the odds and hit 21 home runs. This is highly unusual for the type of build Yelich is, but he had to give up in another stat area. Despite stealing a career low nine bases, it was still a positive season. This is due to him moving to the middle of the Marlins line up; which resulted in hitting 98 runs. This is decent for a mediocre type of team. I do not see him hitting quite as many home runs this year, but I do see him making a successful jump in 2017.
Players(s) on the Decline
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun was a great fantasy player. He won National League Rookie of the Year in 2007 and MVP in 2011. Then the PED case came into play. This for some reason has left a bad taste in my mouth. I am not arguing that Braun isn’t better than the average outfielder, but I feel like his 2017 statistics should be calmed down.
Many still consider him a top ten outfielder, but I think those days are long gone. I still consider him a top twenty outfielder, so a slight decline is what I foresee. My main concern for Braun is his back pain that seems to come up sporadically during the season. This is a type of injury you cannot count on with your number one outfielder.
Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles resigned Mark Trumbo this offseason. Although I do like the signing for the Orioles, I do not like it for his fantasy value. In 2017, they are looking to have Trumbo hit mostly in the designated hitter position. I like this for the fact that he will be less on his feet and focusing more on his approach at the plate.
The obvious strength of his came by way of the 47 bombs he hit last year. This was his career best and 13 more than any other year. While a great stat, he actually performed below-average in some other categories. His batting average was .256 and K% was 25.5%. This is the type of player you are getting with Trumbo though, a boom or bust type of guy. I do not see him exceeding the 40 home run barrier this year. Despite saying this, I am sure his home run marks from last year will overshadow those other issues and will be drafted with too high of expectations.
Odubel Herrera, Philadelphia Phillies
Odubel Herrera had a tale of two halves in 2016. In the first half of the year, he was getting on base as often as Joey Votto. He had a bizarre April that quickly turned the rest of the way. It was mainly the way pitchers were approaching Herrera to open the season that made him so successful. His first pitch strike percentage went down ten percent from 2015. His swing percentage went down 8 percent and his walk rate went up 15 percent. This all adds up to an OBP of .462.
The rest of the year was a totally different story. Pitchers were now throwing more first strikes to him, which in turn threw his whole at bat off. His swing percentage went back up 8 percent. His walk rate went back down 14 percent and his OBP dropped to .342. These troubles happened frequently enough for Pete Mackanin, the Phillies manager, to sit Herrera several games towards the end of the season. At this point in the season, his fantasy value was irrelevant and should have not been played. I see this type of trend continuing in 2017.
Player(s) on the Horizon
Clint Frazier, New York Yankees
Frazier was the key piece to the Miller trade to the Indians last season. He helps bolster the Yankees once depleted farm system. Frazier was not satisfied with his 2016 performance. Before the trade, he went from Double-A Akron to Triple-A Columbus. He had a hamstring injury that sidelined him for 20 games. Frazier ended 2016 with an average of .263, 16 homers and 55 RBI in 119 games.
Frazier is a right handed hitter with power and is the future left fielder of the Yankees. If he cleans up and rediscovers his approach, Yankee fans will probably get to see Frazier in 2017.
Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates
It is only fitting that Meadows goes next on my players on the horizon. Meadows and Frazier actually competed against each other growing up in Georgia. In the 2013 Major League Draft, Meadows was the ninth overall selection by the Pirates. He was going to go to Clemson, but opted out to start his career in the majors.
At age 21, Meadows has already reached Triple-A. His approach at the plate is very advanced. He currently has a career .300 average with a .368 on base percentage in the Minors so far. He is a great defensive center fielder and is starting to show great power at the plate. It is tough to know when he will be in the big leagues because of how crowded the Pirates outfield has been.
Player(s) to Avoid
Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies
This offseason, Desmond signed with the Colorado Rockies. Well, this is a no brainer, right?! His numbers are going to skyrocket. I have a feeling they won’t though just because everyone thinks they will.
In 2015, Desmond had bad numbers with the Nationals. He hit .233 with 19 home runs, 13 stolen bases, scored 69 runs and had 62 RBI in 156 games. His numbers increased in 2016 with the Rangers, where he hit .285 with 22 home runs, 21 stolen bases, scored 107 runs and had 86 RBI in 156 games. I feel like he had better batting protection in Texas than he did in Washington. He had the likes of Choo, Beltran, Beltre and Fielder (when healthy) to help with veteran presence. This is not the type of presence he is going to be walking into when he goes to Colorado.
According to multiple reports, the Rockies plan on playing Desmond at first this year to maximize his full positional flexibility. He would still manage having outfield positioning early in the fantasy season. Keep in mind he has never played a major league inning at first base. I still consider him top 30-outfielder, but a player that I am going to avoid in 2017.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Remember back in 2013 when McCutchen was likely going first in many drafts? Well since that season, he has dropped round by round in drafts each subsequent year. He was a player that could fill all the important stats for hitting. Since 2013, his stolen base total went from 27 to 18 to 11 to 6, respectively. Also, in the same time frame, his K% went from 15.0% to 17.7% to 19.4% to 21.2%. He hit a career low of .256 in 2016.
I don’t even think McCutchen is the number one player on his team anymore. This title now goes to Starling Marte who I have as a second rounder this year. I like McCutchen as a person and I think he is great player for the Pittsburgh community, but I do not like him as a fantasy player in 2017. Even though he is getting drafted after third round, I would not pull the trigger.