2024 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview

by Joe Bond
2024 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview

Hi! Joe Bond here presenting you the 2024 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview. I'm going to be diving into some draft strategy, players to avoid, players to target and more.

It is no secret that this is the cream of the crop when it comes to your hitting positions for Fantasy Baseball. Just look at the rankings. Eight of the top 12 overall are outfielders. They can do it all too, providing power, speed and a good average. Taking any one of them as your first pick in drafts gives your team a great base to build around.

The elite level of production from this group drops off quickly though. I still like plenty of the players from the position, but you're not going to get the five-tool or even if not five-tool the super elite in four-category player that you got in the first couple rounds of the draft.

I like to use this position later in drafts to fill category needs for my team. There are lots of guys in the mid-to-late rounds that can provide a boost in power or speed, but are unlikely to get both. A big mistake I see a lot of managers make late in drafts is taking that five-category player who if everything goes right can be a 25/25 player. What winds up happening more often than not is you get left with a guy who bats .265 with 13 home runs and 14 steals or maybe closer to .280, 10/10. I mean it's OK, but did that player really help you? Do you really want to draft Leody Taveras or Jeff McNeil?

I get it though it is enticing, the possibility of what if. Just know there are going to be a ton of outfielders that will be useful throughout the season so don't be afraid to drop them quickly for the TJ Friedl's who pop up and become the player you hoped you were drafting.

Be sure to check out the rest of the position previews here at Fantasy Six Pack too.

2024 Fantasy Baseball Previews
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2024 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview

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Can Ronald Acuna Jr. match his incredible 2023?

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If there is any player who can have another 40/70 season again, it is Acuna. However, I'm going with the safe answer and saying no. Boring I know.

I spare you the reasons why he won't make history two seasons in a row, but quoting an article on MLB.com, "no other player with 70 or more steals has ever topped even 30 homers". I also learned in this article that Acuna was the first player in 17 years to even get to the 40-40 mark.

Now the new stolen base rules will make that a bit easier for great players like him to reach, but 40-70 is just unrealistic to expect.

Fact is he doesn't need to do that again to be the No.1 overall player in fantasy again. Just look at how far ahead he was in the Razzball player rater last season. He could provide three-quarters of what he did last season and he would still be worth the pick. Don't overthink this one.

How do you handle Mike Trout and Byron Buxton in drafts?

So before I get into this, here is a little did you know. Did you know, Byron Buxton is not eligible at the outfield position this season? In fact, it is not even close. He played 85 games last season, 80 of those were as DHand he pinch hit in the rest. I know this is the outfield preview, but I'm still including him.

Back to the question. The short answer here is I'm letting them be someone else's problem. But let's dig a bit deeper here.

Over the last three seasons combined these two have played almost the exact same number of games. Trout played 237 and Buxton played 238. Bet you didn't expect to see that? I know I didn't. I knew Trout was injured a lot, but to see Buxton actually have played one more game is shocking.

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There is no question that Mike Trout is the better player and is amazing when on the field. Just look at his 2022 season where he played 119 games, yet still hitting 40 home runs, scoring 85 runs and 80 RBI. Just unreal talent.

Buxton's best season was the same season when he hit 28 in 92 games, not too shabby. However the big difference here is the batting average, Trout hit .283 and Buxton .224. Also should note that they are both moving in the wrong direction.

The biggest thing to consider here is draft cost. Trout's ADP at the time of writing this is 54 overall according to FantasyPros. Buxton is way down at 242. I get the upside of Trout. He is legit a second-round talent if he can give you 140 games (not first anymore due to the lack of steals), but I'm not going to use a fourth or fifth round pick on him.

Buxton is free. So where I'm not targeting either, if Buxton is there with my last pick or two, I might snag him. There is no real harm there.

Drafting steals in the Outfield

Let's have more fun here. How many outfielders stole at least 20 bases last year?

The answer... 31!

Just to put into perspective how many that is, in 2022 24 total players stole 20 bases.

So what does this mean? It means you don't have to chase the steals as much as we used to. Now getting the elite guys, who can steal 30 or 40 while also contributing in other places are going to be a priority in drafts. Those players will help you win the category not just stay competitive.

What this means is no longer do we have to overdraft the Myles Straw and Harrison Bader's. Yes, I realize they aren't being drafted this season, but the point is you don't need to draft their type of player. The guys who were valuable and being drafted only because we thought we needed them to catch up in steals if we didn't take care of it early in drafts.

There are so many more steals to go around. Give me a guy who might steal a few less bases, but hit for more power and score more runs, such as Brendan Donovan.

Player(s) on the Rise

Brendan Donovan, St. Louis Cardinals

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Speaking of Donovan, he was a favorite breakout for many last season after he showed some power last Spring with a .875 OPS. I know Spring Training should be taken with a grain of salt, but adjustments made with positive results can't be completely ignored.

Honestly, the breakout might have happened if not for an injury on July 29. Now when I say breakout I don't mean 30-plus homers, I'm talking more like 20. But for a guy who had a .097 ISO in his first major league season, showing any real signs of power is going to make a huge difference.

So here we are again. Donovan is still not getting the love he deserves in ADP as he sits currently at 269. If he continues to hit as he did in June and July last season when he had an ISO of .158, then we're looking at a near 20 home run, 10-12 steal player with close to a .300 average.

Player(s) on the Decline

Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

This one is pretty simple for me. Yelich saw high marks in so many categories in 2023 since his 2019 season. It wasn't just the counting stats either, I'm talking, batting average, OBP, SLG, ISO, HR/FB ratio and more.

I really don't think this is the player Yelich is anymore and won't be drafting him based on the 2023 stats we got. If years of under-performing isn't enough to convince you, then I'll give you this. His 3.5-degree launch angle doesn't give me much hope that the power is sustainable either.

Player(s) on the Horizon

Jackson Chourio, Milwaukee Brewers

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I know, this is the obvious one, especially since he signed an 8-year $82 million contract his offseason to all but cement his place in the Brewers Opening Day lineup, but it needs to be said anyway.

This kid is amazing. He has crushed at every level of the minors so far. In 272 games he has 47 home runs, 68 steals and a .286 average, arguably getting better at each stop.

He might now show a ton of in-game power right away in the majors but there is no doubt that he will be an impact bat. He has a great plate approach, proven by an 18.4% K-rate in AA last season, which dropped to 4.2% in a very small sample in AAA. Once he gets on base he has the speed to steal a ton of bases immediately.

Colton Cowser, Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles outfield is very crowded so Cowser is going to require an injury or play out of his mind to force his way into the lineup. With his skills, he can easily do the second of those two.

Cowser has succeeded in the minors with an OPS of over .900 overall. He has a good mix of speed and power, proven by his 34 total stolen bases and 38 home runs over 258 minor league games.

You don't need to draft him, but as soon as there is even a rumor that he gets called up he will be worth a roster spot.

Player(s) to Avoid

Esteury Ruiz, Oakland Athletics

I mentioned earlier that I'm no longer targeting the late-round speed-only guys anymore, but this applies to Ruiz as well who is not a late-round player.

He is the new Billy Hamilton, but now not even as valuable since steals are easier to come by.

I understand the thought process. Draft Ruiz and you have steals taken care of. The issue is he is a negative in three of the five categories (R, RBI, HR) and neutral in batting average. That is hard to make up and not worth the boost in steals he gives you.

Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox

I'm cheating here a little bit too like I did with Buxton since Jimenez is only DH eligible.

Even if he wasn't though I would not touch Jimenez. He has been such a headache for so long due to being consistently injured. The elite power potential kept me coming back though.

Well that might not be what we can expect anymore. He saw his slugging percentage drop to .441 and his xSLG was even lower at .421. His ISO was a career low .169 too.

It might be that years of multiple injuries have caught up to him and he is no longer an elite player. Even the White Sox trying to keep him healthy by not playing the field didn't help.


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