2023 was one of the most exciting years for baseball in recent memory. Record-breaking seasons and surprisingly dominant teams stole the headlines this year. This excitement carried over to the ever-growing world of fantasy baseball. Welcome to our 2023 Fantasy Baseball Year in Review: Outfield
2023 Fantasy Baseball Year in Review: Outfield
Now more than ever, the outfield is filled with star-studded players. A position that was once looked at as defense first is now churning out five-tool players left and right. However, large expectations often result in large disappointments, and there was no shortage of those in fantasy baseball as well this year.
Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs
Is it possible to re-invent yourself at only 28 years old? After an amazing start to his career, winning an ROTY and MVP in his first three years, Bellinger experienced a downfall of epic proportions in his injury-riddled final three years with the Dodgers.
His .165, 44 OPS+ showing in 2021, placing him among the worst qualified hitters in the league, signaled a “rock bottom.”
However, sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs. After signing a one-year deal with Chicago, Bellinger came out firing, hitting .297 with seven homers in April.
However, a mediocre and injury-filled May and June had everyone worried that Bellinger was back to the same struggling ways with his new club.
Then came July. Bellinger was absolutely on point this month, belting eight homers with a .400 average and an astounding 1.122 OPS. He flashed the peak Cody Bellinger that fantasy managers have been chasing for the last three years.
A strong end to the year solidified a top-ten fantasy outfield finish. After entering 2023 barely ranked in the top fifty at his position via Yahoo! Sports (behind unproven rookies), Bellinger’s .307, 26 homers, and 20 stolen base year showed why he’s still one of the most talented players in baseball.
Cody Bellinger, NL Player of the Month! pic.twitter.com/xRJgDeQova
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 2, 2023
Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers
The 68-94 2022 Rangers decided to run it back in 2023 with essentially the same lineup and were rewarded with a deep playoff run. While there are multiple guys to thank for that, one of the biggest reasons is the contributions of Garcia.
We already knew Garcia had a lot to offer in the power department, as his first two seasons yielded 31 and 27 homers, respectively.
However, even in a .243, 31 homer 2021, Garcia’s OPS+ was exactly 100. This was due to Garcia’s lack of walks, as he only drew 32 in a full season.
Two years later, this walk total has more than doubled, as Garcia drew 65 free passes in 2023.
The more patient approach led to an increase in the power department, as Garcia belted 39 long balls and 30 doubles in 2023, leading to an 80-point OPS increase over his previous best.
One concern fantasy managers had with Garcia was his downtick in stolen bases, as the total dropped from 25 in 2021 to 16 in 2022, to just nine in 2023. However, with the new rules in place, I wouldn’t be too concerned about his stolen base numbers long-term and would expect this to creep up towards 20 again.
Texas is on the board as Adolis Garcia hits his 3rd home run of the post-season. pic.twitter.com/J3khpQZSZO
— Lets Talk NY Mets Baseball (@LetsTalkNYMets) October 20, 2023
Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles
I’m not ready to give up on Mullins yet, and neither should you. However, it’s very concerning when a player records a 30/30 season in his age 27 season and immediately takes a huge hit in production.
Mullins had an amazing 2021 season, belting 30 homers, 37 doubles, 30 stolen bases, and a .291 average after abandoning his switch-hitting.
Most fantasy managers had an extremely optimistic outlook on Mullins after the 2021 season, hoping that he could continue his top ten ways. Before 2022, Mullins was ranked in the top 10-15 for the outfield by many analysts.
However, Mullins had a disappointing 2022, as most of his numbers dropped. His average dropped to .258 and his home run total was cut in half. However, his 34 stolen bases still gave Mullins a solid fantasy season.
Unfortunately, it was more of the same for Mullins in 2023, and this dropoff now included steals. While he only played in 116 games, a .233 average, 15 homers, and 19 steals are not something you want to see from a guy with so much potential.
However, Mullins is only 29 and still has an excellent chance to get back to his 2024 form in 2024.
The Cedric Mullins game was special pic.twitter.com/JnvjvxHtXR
— ??? (@kazknowsball) October 13, 2023
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Buxton has to be one of the most frustrating players in the MLB. When healthy, there’s no doubt that he’s one of the most talented players in baseball.
That’s exactly the problem, staying healthy. Buxton has only one season with over 100 games played (140 in 2019) dating back to his rookie year in 2015.
However; the potential is tantalizing every time he steps onto the field. In 2021, he hit 19 homers and 23 doubles while hitting .307 in just 61 games. That’s a 150-game pace of an astounding 56 doubles and 46 homers.
Buxton also plays phenomenal defense in center and is one of the fastest players in baseball. Even though he only played in 49% of all possible games from 2015-2022, his power and speed usually made him a fantasy stalwart when he was healthy.
So what went wrong this year? While Buxton’s injuries in the past haven’t typically been of the lingering kind, such as broken bones, this year was different. Buxton both strained his hamstring and his right ankle, injuries where even a slight misstep in recovery could cause a lengthy setback.
Whether it was because of Buxton’s injury history or the injuries he already sustained, the Twins kept him as a DH for all 84 games he played this year. For someone who is normally defense first, this very well could have messed with Buxton mentally.
Baseball Savant does still show some optimism for Buxton. His barrel percentage was in the 90th percentile, and the average exit velocity was in the 84th percentile.
Hitting the ball hard hasn’t been a problem for Buxton. Making consistent contact has always been more of a struggle for him, especially in the last two years. From 2018-2021, Buxton averaged 145 strikeouts per 150 games. Not ideal, but fantasy managers could deal with that given Buxton’s other strengths.
However, in the past two years, Buxton has averaged 191 strikeouts per 150 games, an inexcusable number for someone who is coming up on a decade of service time in the MLB. Despite this, it’s impossible to fully count out Byron Buxton, as he still has all of the tools to be one of the best outfielders in baseball in 2024.
byron buxton pic.twitter.com/xhy6rXdOiI
— Kaleb (@PrimeERod) October 13, 2023
Prospects to Watch
Dylan Crews, Washington Nationals
The second pick in the 2023 draft can flat-out rake. Crews hit .380 with 58 homers in 196 college games, as he was one of the rare guys to have a starting spot for three full years on a top-tier college team.
This magical college run was capped by a .426, 22 homer showing in 2023, ending in an NCAA championship and solidifying Crews’ spot as the top position player entering the draft.
Since he got to the minors, Crews has continued his hitting ways. Through his first 35 games, he’s hit .295 with five homers while playing solid defense in center.
This impressive start landed Crews in AA by the end of the year, which is where he will likely start in 2024. If all goes well for Crews, look for him to be in Washington by September of 2024 or a Day One starter in 2025.
Dylan Crews just hit his first professional home run! pic.twitter.com/I8hmrRHkx2
— Milb Central (@milb_central) August 6, 2023
Jackson Chourio, Milwaukee Brewers
This guy is only 19 years old. He won’t turn 20 until the middle of Spring Training in 2024.
Via mlb.com “Milwaukee realized it needed to find tougher assignments for the Venezuela native in his age-18 season. Chourio skipped right over the domestic Complex league to open with Single-A Carolina in May and ended the year at Double-A, hitting .288/.342/.538 with 20 homers and 16 steals in 99 games across all three levels. He was the only 2022 All-Star Futures Game participant with a 2004 birthdate.”
Who dominates Double-A at only 18? This continued into 2023, as Chourio hit .283 with 22 homers across AA and AAA. Even more impressive, he stole 44 bases this year, showing his full potential.
Chourio should be in the MLB at some point next year. The last International prospect that looked ready to dominate this young has turned out pretty well so far. His name? Juan Soto. I’m very optimistic that Chourio can provide a similar impact right away
Other guys at F6P, like Mike Schnieder, also agree.
Yes it was only 24 PA, but absolutely cackling at Jackson Chourio's Triple-A whiff rate strike zone plot while he also carried at 57% hard-hit rate at 19 years old. pic.twitter.com/sP5yd2LO2t
— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) October 17, 2023
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