We continue with our fantasy rankings in anticipation of the upcoming 2017 fantasy baseball season (which cannot get here soon enough). Check out my Top 20 Outfielders article from yesterday if you missed it and we’re moving on today with the Top 40 Outfielders for the season ahead.
Tier 3: La Tigre
21. Christian Yelich (Miami Marlins) – Christian Yelich had kind of a wonky year last season, at least, not what you’d expect from Christian Yelich. Up until this point, Yelich had been a high-average, decent steal, low power guy. He was someone who’d bat .290-.300, hit like 10 home runs max, and steal 15-20 bases. A super useful player, but not even close to what he became last year, which was a .298 hitter with 21 home runs and nine steals. You almost expect the steals and home run totals to be flipped, that’s more like the Christian Yelich we’ve come to know. So the obvious question is, is this legit? Is Yelich a power hitter now? Is he going the Brett Gardner route, cutting down on steals and focusing on power? Well, I don’t necessarily see him as a 20 home run guy, but he could be close. His hard-hit rate shot up to a career-high 38% last year. Before that, the best it had been was 34.3%. That’s not necessarily insane, in fact I would say that it’s encouraging, suggesting that he’s making better contact. Other evidence that suggests that is that his groundballs dropped to a career-low, his line drives went up to a career-high, and, perhaps the most interesting info of all, his wRAA against Curveballs and Changeups shot way up. I think Yelich is seeing the ball better and is developing his power more than people expected. Now, his 23.6% HR/FB rate suggests to me that the power will decrease a little, but I think a 15/15 season with a shot at 20/20 while batting ..285-.295 is perfectly realistic.
22. Gregory Polanco (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Gregory Polanco hits 22 home runs last season and everyone collectively says “FINALLY” as Polanco finally starts to really realize his power potential. Polanco was billed, as a prospect, as a potential 20/20 player who could bat in the .280s. Now, we’re still waiting on the average, and we’re going to keep waiting until the plate discipline gets better and he can stop striking out one out of every five times he bats, but the power and speed are finally there together. I don’t think the power is a fluke at all, we’ve known Polanco had that potential, and now he’s finally realizing it. His line drives went up, his groundballs went down, fly balls went up, HR/FB rate went up, and most importantly, his hard hit rate went up significantly. All of this suggests to me that he’s finally making strong contact with the ball, and the biggest key to that has been his skill against fastballs, he’s sitting on them and hitting them like never before. The plate discipline is rough, his chase rate went up last year, as did his strikeout rate, and we can hope that he’ll fix that soon enough, but until then, I think Polanco could go 20/20 next season while batting around the .260s.
23. Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays) – The most level-headed, least controversial player in the league, Jose Bautista, had the most disappointing year of his career last season since his 2010 breakout. He batted just .234 with 22 home runs, 68 runs, and 69 RBIs. He only played in 116 games, missing a handful due to injury, and I think that injury played a part in his poor season last year. In general, Bautista’s numbers looked pretty in-line to what we expect from him each year. His hard hit rate was, believe it or not, at a career-high 41% last season, but a drop in HR/FB rate and an increase in infield flyballs suggests that he was still hitting the ball hard, but the balls were dying in the field rather than going out of the yard. That would also likely be the story behind his .255 BABIP as well. It’s tempting to look at that BABIP and say “well there’s the source of your average problems,” but Bautista, like many other power hitters, typically has a low BABIP. Just look at his 2015 season, where he hit 40 home runs and batted .250, but had an extremely low .237 BABIP. That’s because he mostly was hitting home runs, so the balls that stayed in play were typically flyball outs, many power hitters have similar statistics. I believe that Bautista is healthy this year and is out to prove that he can still hit. I think he could bat in the .250s while hitting 30 home runs (though perhaps more closer to the high-20s than 30). Plus, he’s in an awesome Blue Jays lineup, so the RBIs should be pretty available.
24. Kyle Schwarber (Chicago Cubs) – Honestly, I almost see Kyle Schwarber and the aforementioned Jose Bautista as very similar players, with a slight advantage to Bautista because the dude could easily hit 45 home runs and I wouldn’t be shocked. Schwarber is coming off injury and should be more than ready to go and remind everyone just how good he really is. Schwarber is a good power hitter with some plate discipline issues who could mash 25+ home runs without even breaking a sweat. He’s also set to lead off ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, so the run numbers will likely be there. Only thing is , Schwarber needs to prove that he’s healthy this year, and if he can do that and stay on the field, then he could likely hit in the .250-.260s while hitting about 25+ home runs. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he ended the year with upwards of 85 runs considering the players who will be hitting behind him. He’s shown himself to be a solid on base guy, so if he can keep that up, Rizzo and Bryant will definitely knock him in.
25. Khris Davis (Oakland Athletics) – Not Chris Davis. Khris Davis, or as I like to call him, K-ris Davis. Khris Davis took a huge step forward last season, batting .247 while hitting 42 home runs and knocking in 102 RBIs, easily the best season of his career so far and a real breakout year that has people wondering what to expect from him in 2017. There is no doubt about Davis’ power, that’s never been a question, the question has been, can he make contact? Last year, he did. While the average was low, you likely didn’t care because he was mashing in a ton of home runs and RBIs. His plate discipline leaves something to be desired, as his strikeout rate, is quite high, as is his chase rate and whiff rate, but when the guy does make contact with the ball, he hits it exceptionally hard. Now, I don’t think you should expect another 40+ home runs from Davis, but know that he has that kind of potential. I think more realistically, we could expect 30-35 home runs from Davis with a batting average in the .240s.
Tier 4: Moisture is the Essence of Wetness, and Wetness is the Essence of Beauty
26(a). Wil Myers (San Diego Padres) – Well about time Wil Myers. After being touted as one of the top prospects in baseball for the longest time, Myers finally fulfilled that potential last season, as he batted .259 with 28 home runs and 28 stolen bases, along with 99 runs and 94 RBIs. It was also the first year we’ve seen Myers fully healthy playing a full season, so hopefully he can continue that trend in the future. Myers had an excellent first half, batting .286 with 19 home runs, but the second half of the season was a different story, as he batted only .223 with nine home runs. Hopefully, Myers plays more like first half Wil than second half Wil. There’s reason to be optimistic though. His contact numbers showed a lot of progression last season, his line drives went up, his groundballs went down, and his infield fly ball rate dropped. Oddly enough though, his hard hit rate dropped as well, and that, along with the elevated HR/FB rate leads me to believe that the 40/40 season he says he wants to do this year, might be a little hard. Obviously he has that potential, but I don’t necessarily think it’s likely. I see Myers as more a 20/20 guy batting in the .260s, certainly an exceptionally useful player. Here’s the thing though, and this is why he’s 27(a), he’s not eligible at outfield in every league, being that he only played 10 games there last season. In those leagues that he’s eligible in, however, he’s worth a grab.
26(b). David Dahl (Colorado Rockies) – David Dahl kind of came out of nowhere last season and put up some really solid numbers that made a lot of people take notice. Now he’s earned a starting spot in, potentially, one of the best lineups in baseball with the Rockies, and we all kind of have to wonder, what will a full season for David Dahl look like? Dahl has a lot of potential, but I don’t necessarily think he’s a .310 kind of hitter like he showed last year. Much of that was due to an insanely-high .404 BABIP. Now, with Dahl’s speed, he’ll likely maintain a relatively high BABIP, but not that high. I see Dahl as a 18-21 home run guy who can bat in the .270s and steal 15-20 bases. Could he go 20/20? Without a doubt, his ceiling is probably even higher than that. And in that Colorado lineup, I could see the run and RBI numbers being decent, even though he’ll likely bat near the bottom of the order.
27. Matt Kemp (Atlanta Braves) – Matt Kemp’s not dead yet, even though a lot of people seemed to be pretty uninterested in him for a lot of the past couple years. Kemp’s changed his game as he’s gotten older. The stolen bases are a distant memory (though he did manage 12 of them in 2015), but the power is still there, and it’s strong. Kemp mashed 35 home runs last year, the most since his amazing 2011 season, and while he was hitting those home runs, he didn’t kill you in average, batting .268. Now, he hasn’t hit that many home runs in a long time, so I’m not expecting 30+ from Kemp again, but he could still easily hit 25 or so home runs. Kemp will be playing in Atlanta’s new ballpark, SunTrust Field, and if you’re hoping it’s a hitters park that will give Kemp the ability to repeat last season, you’re going to be disappointed. SunTrust has closer fences, but it also has much higher fences, making it a somewhat neutral park. I would expect Kemp to have roughly the same average he had last year, with mid-20s for home runs, and probably runs and RBIs in the high-70s. Unfortunately, that Atlanta lineup isn’t the strongest around, so there won’t necessarily be a whole ton of RBI opportunities.
28. Kole Calhoun (Los Angeles Angels) – Last season, Kole Calhoun saw a drop in power, but a rise in average, bringing him closer to his 2014 numbers rather than his 2015 numbers. So which Kole Calhoun should you expect to see? I think Calhoun will be closer to what he did this past season, which is an average in the high-.260s/low-.270s and about 20 home runs. His plate discipline got better last season, showing career-best numbers in strikeout rate and walk rate, which lead to a career-high OBP, and helped him get to his career-high in runs and RBIs. Even though the power went down, Calhoun’s hard hit rate shot up, but his HR/FB rate dropped. I could see Calhoun maintaining the hard hit rate while seeing a normalization in his HR/FB rate, which would mean more home runs. Calhoun is a solid contributor in your outfield slot who should see a season much similar to last year’s.
29. Miguel Sano (Minnesota Twins) – Miguel Sano is one of those classic “power and nothing else” hitters. Sano has incredible power potential, but has two main problems: 1. He strikes out all. the. time. and 2. He can’t stay healthy. Last year was the most games we’ve seen from Sano, so hopefully he can keep the healthy trend going, but the strikeouts are a major issue, especially if you’re in points leagues. Had Sano racked up enough at-bats, he would’ve had the worst strikeout rate in the majors at 36%. Think about that. More than one out of every three times Sano comes up to bat, he strikes out. But at the same time, Sano had a hard hit rate of 40.1%, he’s got incredible power, and if he can stay healthy, he could essentially be Chris Davis. While that can be a frustrating player to own, it’s a useful one too. I’m hoping for 130+ games from Sano this year, and if he can do that, I think he could bat in the high-.230s/low-.240s and hit 30-35 home runs. I’d only expect the runs and RBIs to be in the 70s or 80s though, considering the weakness of the Twins lineup.
30. Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians) – Jose Ramirez is a nice speed guy who’s not going to hurt you in other categories. There are plenty of cheap steals guys out there, guys who will steal 30+ bases and do nothing else, but Ramirez can contribute in just about every category in some way. Ramirez really took a step forward last season, jumping from a batting average of .219 in 2015 to .312 in 2016. The reason for that was, Ramirez started making much better contact with the ball. Groundballs dropped, line drives increased, and his hard-hit rate jumped up. He’s seeing the ball better, his numbers against most pitch types went way up last year. He started hitting sliders, Changeups, Curveballs, and fastballs way better than he ever has before. While I don’t think Ramirez will hit over .300 again, I think he could easily hit in the mid-to-high-.280s with 20-25 steals and around 10 home runs. He’ll likely be batting towards the bottom of the lineup, so the runs and RBIs will be somewhat limited, but if somehow he worked his way up the lineup, there’s a lot of potential there with his ability to get on base and his speed.
Tier 5: So Hot Right Now
31. Andrew Benintendi (Boston Red Sox) – Andrew Benintendi is one of those guys who, if you’re able to draft him late, could make you look like the smartest person in your league. Benintendi’s ceiling is exceptionally high, and he’s in the right lineup to shoot up to a top-20 outfielder, we’ll just see if he fulfills that potential this year. Benintendi can contribute in every single category. He’s got speed, he makes solid contact, and he’s got power. If he’s able to put it all together, his ceiling is a 20/20 player batting in the .280s with like 90 runs and RBIs a piece. Now, I don’t think that’s what he’ll do this year, but I think he could easily do it, especially batting second in that ridiculous Boston lineup. I think the realistic expectation for Benintendi is an average in the .280s, 10-12 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 70ish RBIs, and 80-85 runs. Still a really good player, and someone I’ll definitely be targeting in every draft I can.
32. Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers) – One of the hardest players in fantasy baseball to rank, Yasiel Puig has all the talent in the world, he just can’t seem to put it together. That, combined with the fact that apparently the Dodgers hate him like they caught him sleeping with their wife, and you get a very confusing, frustrating player. Every time Puig gets sent to the minors, he crushes the ball, and that was the same story last year when the Dodgers briefly sent him down. In the majors, he has a bit of a harder time, but we can hope that he’s able to finally put things together. As long as he gets the playing time (or gets traded please god), he has the talent to do it. His ceiling is insanely high, but I have to restrain myself and be a bit conservative in my estimates for him. I’d say he’s good for an average in the .275-.280 range with about 20 home runs and a few steals, maybe like six or seven. He’s probably good for something like 70 runs and RBIs a piece, though he’ll likely be batting near the bottom of the lineup, so those could even be a bit optimistic. I wouldn’t blame you if you avoided Puig as a whole in your draft, but any year could be the year for him to hit that ceiling we all know he has.
33. Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds) – Ah remember how I said Puig was one of the most difficult players in fantasy to rank? Well here’s the most difficult player to rank. In all honesty, Hamilton has proven himself to be a one category guy, but that one category is so important in fantasy. You draft Billy Hamilton, you’ve got all the steals you need for your team essentially. So the question is, how important is 50-60 steals to your team? Well the answer is, pretty darn important. And what compounds that question is the fact that, in the second half of the year last year, Billy Hamilton actually hit like the leadoff hitter the Reds thought he was, batting .293 with 36 stolen bases. So can he keep that average up? The Reds have already said he’ll bat leadoff, so he’s in the right situation, and honestly, I think he can improve on that overall average. I don’t see him as a .295 hitter by any stretch (plate discipline needs work), but could he hit in the mid-to-high-.260s next season? Definitely. In the second half, Hamilton wasn’t just getting lucky. Sure, there was some luck involved, but even that wasn’t too insane (a .378 BABIP isn’t all that crazy for someone with his speed). His OBP went up, his wOBA went up, his hard-hit rate went up, and his infield hit rate went way up. He’s kind of figuring things out, and if he can do that batting at the top of the lineup, the potential is insane. As of now, I’d project Hamilton to bat in the .260s with 55-60 steals and 70-80 runs. That run total might sound low, but the Reds lineup isn’t the greatest right now. I also hope that he can get more than 30 RBIs for the first time since 2014, but we’ll see. I think he can, and I think he’ll have around 35-40.
34. Jose Peraza (Cincinnati Reds) – While Jose Peraza will spend the majority of his time at second base for the Reds (and probably your fantasy team), he’ll likely be eligible at outfield in most formats considering he played 21 games there last season. Peraza has excellent speed, and while it might not be as good as his teammate, Billy Hamilton’s, he’s got a better average. The thing that concerns me overall about Peraza is his exit velocity, he had one of the lowest in the league last season, and that’s never a good thing. That being said though, I think Peraza still has good potential. Unfortunately, it seems likely that the Reds will bat him at the bottom of the lineup, so that limits his runs and RBIs potential, but I still think Peraza could bat in the .280s and steal 30+ bases. His runs and RBIs will probably be in the 40s or 50s at best, and he has no power, but if you need steals with average that won’t hurt you, Peraza isn’t a bad call.
35. Odubel Herrera (Philadelphia Phillies) – We all knew that Odubel Herrera could steal bases, but he showed a little bit of pop last season that was kind of surprising. I think Herrera can be a really solid player in just about every category this year. He’s not going to win you any category on his own, but he can contribute just about everywhere. He’s got decent power, good speed, a good avearge, and will knock in his fair share of RBIs and runs. The power seems real to me, his increase in hard hit rate and HR/FB rate aren’t insane by any stretch. I could still see him hitting 12-16 home runs while batting .275-.285 and stealing around 20 bases. RBIs will likely be in the 60s at best considering the quality of the Phillies lineup, though more likely they’ll be in the 50s. He’s a useful player who could possibly be even better if the trend continues, he’s got 20/20 upside and a low floor, he’s someone I’d definitely target.
36. Marcell Ozuna (Miami Marlins) – I think 2015 was a flukey year for Marcell Ozuna and I think his 2016 season proved that. I also think that he’s a pretty safe guy to predict, assuming health (which I think you can relatively safely assume for him at this point). Ozuna should be good for around 20-25 home runs while batting in the .260-.270s with about 70 runs and RBIs. His plate discipline is a little rough, but he’s gotten better, his strikeout rate dropped to a career-low last year and his walk rate was a career-high. These were minor changes, but trends in the right direction, so it’s conceivable that Ozuna might see a little bump in average if he can keep up the plate discipline.
37. Nomar Mazara (Texas Rangers) – I’ll be honest, I almost see Nomar Mazara and Marcell Ozuna as the same player, with slight differences that gives a minor advatnage to Ozuna. Mazara is a good power hitter with some plate discipline issues, but can still be useful. I could see him and Ozuna having almost identical stat lines, with slightly less power from Mazara than Ozuna (hence why Ozuna gets the slight bump). Mazara, I see as a 18-20 home run guy batting in the mid-.260s with a run total probably in the low-to-mid-60s and RBIs in the 70s.
38. Jackie Bradley Jr. (Boston Red Sox) – Jackie Bradley Jr.’s season last year was a tale of two halves. In the first half of the year, he batted .296 and in the second half, .233. Between the two halves of the season, his hard hit rate dropped and his plate discipline got worse. I think the JBJ we’ll see this year will be some hybrid of those two halves. The power stayed consistent throughout the season last year, but I think he’ll see a slight dip, as I don’t think he’s a 18.1% HR/FB rate kind of hitter. That being said, I think JBJ is still good for 16-21 home runs while batting in the .250s/low-.260s and a few steals.
39. Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs) – At this point in his career, I think we pretty much know what to expect from Ben Zobrist. He’s been pretty consistent over the past few seasons, and I wouldn’t expect him to be any different this year. Playing time might be a slight issue for him considering how deep the Cubs are, but I think they’ll make a spot for Zobrist. I would imagine Zobrist will bat in the low-.270s with 15-18 home runs, and probably 70ish runs and 65ish RBIs. He’s not a player whose stat line is particuarly sexy, but he won’t hurt you in any category.
40. Travis Jankowski (San Diego Padres) – Travis Jankowski is another one of those “speed and nothing else” type of players, but man is he good at stealing bases. Jankowski has the potential to steal 40 bases, and that’s a pretty realistic projection as far as I’m concerned. The only thing is, he’ll bat like .250 and have virtually no RBIs, but leading off for the Padres, he’ll be able to get a respectable amount of runs. This deep in the draft, grabbing someone like Jankowski is worth it because he can help your steals category (an important category) in a really major way. If you need cheap steals, he’s the man to go to.
Im having a hard time understanding this list Ben, is this list based on what you feel there potential is? What you feel they will do for 2017? What criteria are you using to base this listing?