As the Super Bowl is over and Pitchers and Catchers are due sometime this week, we are in a period of time that is in limbo between a couple major sports for fantasy purposes. Obviously, there is basketball fantasy, but this is very limited in action at the time. Although, 2018 features a nice element of the Winter Olympics that is currently keeping me and others afloat as we anxiously await the baseball season to start.
As my other colleagues are previewing different positions within the next few weeks, I have the distinct pleasure of focusing on the outfielders this year. No matter how many outfielders you are able to start in certain leagues, I like many of them this year. I believe there is a plethora to choose from.
My ideal situation when drafting outfielders is to definitely make sure you are able to get a top ten guy within the first couple rounds. This is a position where in later rounds and even off the waiver wire those players are able to shine in fantasy lineups. Many of you may have your own strategy on how to attack this open position, but I will be able to fill you in on any types of questions you may still have on your mind.
2018 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview
How does the move to Milwaukee affect Christian Yelich?
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The Miami Marlins went through a complete overhaul this offseason. Giancarlo Stanton went to the New York Yankees. Even with Derek Jeter retiring from the Yankees a couple of years ago, he still manages to help them out. Dee Gordon is now out west playing for the Mariners. Marcell Ozuna is in St. Louis and the guy I am going to investigate about is Christian Yelich, who finds his new home with the Milwaukee Brewers.
I have always been a Yelich believer. Watching Yelich in the World Baseball Classic last year, I thought he was going to have a remarkable season for the Marlins. His numbers of 18 homers, 81 RBI, 100 runs and 16 stolen bases with an average of .282 made him a top-25 outfielder in 2017. Let’s just say I am going to try and draft him again with his move to Milwaukee.
Miller Park is ranked 8th in scoring versus Marlins Park at a ranking of 28. Yelich could see his overall numbers increase because of his consistency of increasing his angle to lift to the ball. In the past three years his fly ball percentage went from 15% to 20% to 25.2%. Not only does his power get a boost, but also his stolen bases ability. The Brewers were first in the NL as a team in stolen bases. You know then they are going to make Yelich run.
The Brewers will not have to do too much to alter the swing of Yelich this season. Everything is pointing in the right direction of trending upwards for him this year. I would end up placing him in my top-20 outfielders starting the season with a potential of cracking the top-15 by the end. Yelich is a nice young star that will have a nice season for the Brewers.
When it comes your time to draft, who do you choose, Tommy Pham or Khris Davis?
I usually love doing a question like this because I pull guys that are very closely associated with each other. Before I contrast Pham and Davis, I am going to state some similarities. Both players are entering the season at age 30 and are towards the higher end of a top-20 player. In 2017, both players were able to score more than 90 runs and both will most likely be your second outfielder you take off the board in this year’s draft.
I contrast these players as power vs speed. Khris Davis has been a consistent 40+ homerun guy that is going to result in over 100 RBI every season. Tommy Pham has really only busted out onto the scene in the last two years. Pham looks like he going to be able to be a perennial 20+ stolen base guy with having an average over .300.
I have been going back and forth over this and I can see arguments, but I will give up a .250 type of average that Davis will most likely give you for the type of production he is capable of. He out-produces Pham in major categories that can put him into categories of players like Goldschmidt minus the average. Now that Davis basically put up the same two seasons in 2016 and 2017, I am a believer in Davis. Give me Davis over Pham.
After serving almost a whole season PED suspension, what are we expecting from Starling Marte this year?
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I can specifically remember drafting Marte in one of my leagues in 2017 and being really excited about it. As the season started though, he was not performing to his ability, so maybe his choice to take PEDs begs to question if he is trying to change something. It is ludicrous that these players think they can get away with doing such things these days.
Before his suspension, Marte was batting .241 with two homeruns, seven runs, two stolen bases and seven RBI in 13 games. I actually thought about sitting him for other hot players at the time, so when he was caught and suspended it wasn’t a huge loss to me. Crazy though, when he came back he actually put up better numbers in the second half in hitting .282 with five homeruns, 41 runs, 19 stolen bases and 24 RBI in 64 games. As the great C+C Factory Music group once sang, “Things that make you go hmmmm…,” it makes me wonder how he was able to hit better that much farther into the season.
From 2014-2016, Marte had tremendous seasons that made him a top-10 outfielder. There has been a slight downplay of his power though and more significance on his speed game. He did have his lowest on field average since he started in 2012 in 2017. If he played a whole season, more than likely he would have had around 35 stolen bases.
I think Marte is too high of a risk going forward in 2018. There are other players later on in the draft that would give you the same output that Marte can or could even be better than him this year. Byron Buxton, Lorenzo Cain, and A.J. Pollock are a few that come to mind. I feel like Marte will be over drafted in 2018 and owners aren’t going to appreciate his production where they drafted him.
Players on the Rise
Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
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I have to open up with a story about Hoskins before I talk about him in detail. A guy in my one league picked Hoskins up right before he played in 50 games for the Phillies to end the season. Need-less-to-say this guy ended up winning the whole league. The guy who came in second was so upset about his lose that the league commissioner only had one message for him at the end of the season. The commish’s message was simple but precise. “Don’t be mad at me. Be mad at Rhys Hoskins. He is the one that beat you.” I absolutely loved it.
It’s a story like this that makes Hoskins a rising player. In his 212 plate appearances, he had 18 HR, 37 runs, 48 RBIs and 2 SBs. This includes the streak of hitting nine homeruns in 16 games. It’s sometimes hard to believe what he did in 50 games compared to what some players do in a full season. Most likely, if he played a full season, he would have given Bellinger a run for his money for NL Rookie of the Year.
Hoskins power certainly was not supposed to be a surprise when entering in the big leagues because he placed second in the 2016 minor’s season and set a 2017 record for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. What makes him different than other power hitters is his plate discipline. He puts up nearly a one-to-one strikeout to walk ratio. This is impressive for such a young hitter.
There a few things to be excited about in the city of brotherly love lately, but fans usually quickly turn their attention to Phillies baseball. This statement was put on hold this year, but now it is time to talk about Phillies baseball. Hoskins is one of the main reasons to talk about it in Philadelphia. Let’s hope this fairy tale continues to grow for Hoskins entering the 2018 season.
Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
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Benintendi had a season that was overshadowed by another big name (Judge) in the AL East. In 2017, Benintendi shattered all major hitting categories minus average (.271). The rest of the stats included 20 HR, 90 RBIs, 84 runs and 20 SBs. I am not worried about his lower average because the ceiling outweighs what he actually hit last season.
Sorry to all those right handed hitters out there, I am including myself don’t worry, but I do believe that a lefty swing is much sweeter than a right handed swing. As of right now, the Red Sox lineup isn’t stacked, but Benintendi could continue to be a 20/20 guy and 85/85 guy in RBI/R. Combined with him having the potential to hit .300 makes me have full confidence in Benintendi to be my number one outfielder going into this season.
Entering 2018, Benintendi already has a full season of confidence to put him above the rest. With now having athleticism and a sweet lefty swing, he is poised to have a top ten outfielder type season for the Red Sox. He should just keep getting better and with him being able to spray the ball all over the field it is hard to forget that his career is just getting started.
Player on the Decline
Andrew McCutchen, San Francisco Giants
I did not see this coming this offseason. The Pittsburgh Pirates beloved son has left the building. I know a few Pirates fans that could not speak for days when Andrew McCutchen left the city and is now calling San Francisco his home. A home, that I see not having too much high hopes in the fantasy world anymore.
As far as a team aspect, this is a big move for the Giants, but as a fantasy perspective it is not. Since 2012, when McCutchen was by far a top 5 outfielder, he has now found himself as a borderline top 20 entering this year. According to ESPN Park Factors, Pittsburgh PNC Park ranked 20th in offensive categories where San Francisco’s AT&T Park ranked 27th. This ultimately depressed scoring by 15%.
Now that he is in a new city, where will he be batting in the lineup? This is another aspect that could hurt his value. Early indications state that he may be batting leadoff which would take a hit to his RBI production. McCutchen isn’t the same player that he was years ago.
Players on the Horizon
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
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To be honest, there are so many good outfield prospects that I had to just minimize my list to two. I could have gone on forever in this horizons category. The first guy I am going to talk about is Ronald Acuna. No one matches the high ceiling that Acuna has going into 2018.
Acuna absolutely smashed pitching in the minors. What was most impressive is how his OPS went up from .814 in high Class-A to .940 in Triple-A. Combined on all three levels, he finished with 21 HR, 82 RBIs, 88 runs, 44 steals and had a combined average of .325.
He is being compared to when Carlos Correa was being talked about as a prospect. Not only is he the best prospect in the outfield, but he is the best prospect in all of baseball. The Braves certainly have a prized possession in their hands.
While he does have so much talent, the low side of this is with the Braves not having high expectations; they may not rush him into the big leagues. While I do think we see him in 2018, I think he’s worth a flier in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.
Anthony Alford, Toronto Blue Jays
What makes a prospect so relevant is what is happening in the big league team that could ultimately affect what happens to him that year or moving forward. The Blue Jays signed both Curtis Granderson and Randall Grichuk this offseason. These guys are added to the mix of Pillar, Hernandez and Pearce. Besides Pillar, all of the outfielders currently in the bigs are average.
With all this being said, Alford will have to have a tremendous spring training in order for them to have them bring him up right away and this will only be for one of the corner outfield positions.
The biggest threat Alford offers in the majors is his speed. Right now, he has an 84.2% conversion rate for stealing bases in the minors. Once he gets more comfortable, he is capable of pulling off 40+ stolen base type seasons. Another great trait of his is his defense. Obviously not going to center field, but fantasy owners won’t complain as long as he is going to be given more playing time.
Players to Avoid
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
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In 2017, Polanco was on the DL three different times with an ongoing hamstring issue. When he was on the field, he endured the worst of his career. It disappointed all fantasy owners who drafted him as a top-20 outfielder with numbers like 39 runs, 11 homers, 35 RBI and eight stolen bases. With numbers like these, the hamstring certainly had an effect and does not make him trustworthy entering the 2018 season.
Polanco’s hard-hit ball rate went down 9% from 2016 to 2017 making him the lightest top-20 outfield hitter. Probably the biggest concern for Polanco in 2017 was an inability to hit left handed pitching. I can actually remember sometimes the Pirates sitting him against left starters. He only posted an OPS of .586 and struck out over 22% when a lefty was on the mound.
There was only one glimmer of hope for his season last year. That was a 17-game stretch in July where he had an OPS of 1.035. This is a hope I am not willing to bank on in the 2018 season.
Despite all of this, I am sure that Polanco will still be drafted in the first 100 picks. Don’t make this mistake. Let someone else take a chance on his name and not his value.
Michael Conforto, New York Mets
It is a shame with a guy that has this much talent and promising numbers. Before he was sidelined in 2017, he was hitting .279 with 27 homers, 72 runs and 68 RBI. He was having a nice bounce back year compared to 2016. Right now, his return in the field is sometime in May.
The Mets organization is making a habit of sending a guy out on the field too early and not being able to finish the season (i.e. Matt Harvey). I have a feeling this may be the case with Conforto this year. You don’t want to take a chance on this happening. The shoulder that he injured is the one that creates all his power to his swing. This is a major threat to his hitting ability.
Now most shoulder injuries have come lately to more known pitchers such as Johan Santana, Mark Prior, John Danks, Dallas Braden and Sean Marshall. These are names you don’t hear of anymore. Obviously it might be a different injury for a hitter, but you wouldn’t want a hefty investment on Conforto. Let’s just say Conforto won’t be a name you hear on my fantasy team in 2018.
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