2023 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Outfielders

by Connor Charbat
2023 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Outfielders

Fantasy Baseball is upon us and it's time to start planning and researching our draft strategies. More specifically, we're talking about 2023 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Outfielders.

Outfield is always a key position for fantasy drafts and this year is no different. Of course, there is elite talent sitting there in the top 10 OF spots, but after that, you've got to become comfortable with a lot of risk.

This year's outfield crop is an extremely top-heavy position and here's one example. Fantrax has Eloy Jimenez as OF15. Eloy has barely played half a season's worth of games since 2021 - (55 in 2021 and 84 in 2022). Are you comfortable choosing Eloy as your OF1 or OF2? I surely am not.

An absolute requirement in 2023 drafts is finding value at the OF position way beyond the top 15. You should not be in full-on panic mode once the top OF picks are off the board (unless you didn't grab one already, in which case you have some explaining to do). As it stands now, Bryan Reynolds is comfortably being picked as some owners' OF2. Based on this, we clearly have some major flexibility in this position.

Let's dive into it and analyze a trio of guys who are true value plays for the 2023 season.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Outfielders

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Jesse Winker, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (ADP 276)

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What happened here? Is that Winker smiling in a Mariners uniform? For Jesse Winker, 2022 may have been the biggest fall from grace you could have ever imagined.

Coming off an all-star campaign with the Reds in 2021 where he slashed .305/.394/.556 with 24 homers, Winker joined the Mariners for the 2022 season. Winker proceeded to post career lows in almost everything. Compared to 2021, his home runs declined by 10, RBIs by 18, AVG. by 86 points, and OBP by 50 points. His SLG% was absolutely slashed down to .344 while his OPS declined all the way to .688.

Winker's 2022 numbers weren't just bad, they were truly horrendous. So horrendous, that I'm forced to believe this is simply unrepeatable. I cannot fathom how this 2021 all-star can even come close to underperforming as severely as he did in 2022.

According to pre-season rankings, you're telling me I'm supposed to be targeting Ramón Laureano and Lane Thomas ahead of Winker? I almost certainly cannot do that.

I'm not the only one expecting a bounce back either. Composite 2023 projections have Winker slated for a solid .250 average with 18 homers and I'm willing to say this is still on the low side of where I see him as he's a career .270 hitter.

Am I expecting another 2021 season? Absolutely not. But, after clearly hitting rock bottom in 2022, I expect a bounce back which means his current ADP and OF ranking is too low. Add all of that to the fact that he's now playing home games at American Family Field (formerly Miller Park) where he boasts a .344 career average and a 1.032 OPS through 32 games.

Draft him as one of the best value plays before someone else does.

Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Cleveland Guardians (ADP 197)

Now, this is not nearly as much of a value play as my Winker pick was, but this is still value. I'm not the only one calling for more from Gonzalez either. However, he is pretty polarizing in the rankings department.

In 2022, Gonzalez finally burst onto the scene after being in the Guardians' organization since 2015 and he did not disappoint. Through 91 games, he slashed .296/.327/.561 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs.

More so, Oscar's 19.6% SO% was below the MLB league average of 22.4%. This may be somewhat surprising because if you spent time watching him in 2022, he's a bit of a free swinger. Actually, that's a massive understatement.

Gonzalez ranks in the 1st percentile in Chase Rate and in the 3rd percentile in BB%. Those are two plate discipline stats to not take lightly. Those two statistics for him can't really get worse, but they can definitely get better.

He's been putting up numbers his whole professional career dating back to his seven seasons in the Minors where he slashed .280/.310/.448. Free swingers don't just appear out of nowhere. They usually are or have been free swingers for the duration of their time in the game. The difference with Gonzalez is that he actually makes contact as shown with his low SO%.

Where's the value here you may ask? Well, most importantly, he's on the Guardians. Over the years, this particular coaching staff in Cleveland has been getting the absolute most out of their players. Do you think Terry Francona knows that Oscar needs a plate discipline makeover? I'm going to go ahead and lean "yes" on that one. This is where I believe Gonzalez is going to benefit tremendously.

Gonzalez was as raw of an MLB player as they come in 2022 and the coaching staff in Cleveland is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

I think Oscar can improve his plate discipline and start to truly produce at a high level in 2023. I believe the best is yet to come for him and it gets started in 2023.

Wil Myers, OF, Cincinnati Reds (ADP 251)

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Now, getting into our last value play, we land on Wil Myers. Aside from not wearing batting gloves and his first name missing a letter, there's actually some stuff to look for here.

In December, the Reds signed Myers to a one-year contract after a couple of underwhelming years in San Diego. Throughout his ten-year career, Myers has slashed .254/.329/.442 with 153 home runs, 521 RBIs, and 105 stolen bases.

Lately, however, he hasn't been much to get excited about. Over his last two seasons in San Diego, he played 223 games while only hitting 24 homers and stealing just 10 bags. The injury bug was to blame in 2022, but 2021 was just another mediocre year for Myers.

Where does his value actually come from here though? Not to simplify it too much, but, it's the move to Great American Ballpark. More specifically, the Park Factor ratings illustrated by Baseball Savant which is defined below:

"Statcast park effects show the observed effect of each displayed stat based on the events in the selected park. Each number is set so that “100” is average for that metric, and the park-specific number is generated by looking at each batter and pitcher, controlled by handedness, and comparing the frequency of that metric in the selected park compared to the performance of those players in other parks."

For example, the 150 HR mark for 2020-2022 at Great American Ball Park does not mean the Reds hit 50% more home runs at their home park. It means for batters and pitchers who played both at GABP and elsewhere, 50% more home runs were observed at GABP.

Since 2020, as shown above, GABP has been the second most hitter-friendly ballpark in the MLB, only behind Coors Field. It has a Park Factor of 111 and a 150 HR score. This is nothing but good news for Wil Myers, who stands to benefit severely from the hitter-friendly confines in Cincinnati. He has consistently been a .240-.260 hitter throughout his career while always having the power to lift one over the fences.

Snagging Myers in the 19th-21st round and benefitting from him hitting 20+/25+ home runs is by no means a stretch, and is a risk I'm beyond willing to take.

Be prepared for the upcoming season by checking out all the 2023 Fantasy Baseball content on Fantasy Six Pack.

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