Here we’ll take a look at four outfielders I’m buying at their current ADP. For reference, you’ll see their NFBC ADP from February to date.
Andrew McCutchen, 134
Back in January, I mentioned Andrew McCutchen as a guy I really wanted to buy at his price in upcoming drafts. I’ll keep it short here, but McCutchen is still very much an excellent hitter. This past year’s 20 home runs were the least he’s hit in a season since 2010, but that outcome is not altogether shocking when you consider that he spent the bulk of the season in Oracle Park, where home runs go to die.
His plate discipline is stronger than ever, with this past year’s 19.4% chase rate being a career best. This past year’s average exit velocity of 90 mph was his highest since 2015. He’s also had a well above average high-drive rate the past three seasons, which should fare well at his new hitter-friendly home venue of Citizen’s Bank Park.
McCutchen has also tallied double-digit bases in three of the past four years. This past year’s success rate, however, dropped to 61% which is well below the break-even point, so maybe we see fewer attempts next year. But I still think we see somewhere around eight to 10 steals, which is a fine bonus.
The underlying skills as a hitter are still very strong, he’s still an excellent OBP guy, and considering he’s now emerged in the best lineup and home park of his career (excluding last year’s brief stint with the Yankees), I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see a resurgence this year. I thought maybe the move to Philly would drive up his ADP more, but there is still plenty of profit potential here.
Austin Meadows, 187
Austin Meadows has been a prospect of repute for quite some time, however injuries have dragged down his stock. But this past year, the talent finally began to manifest itself in a big way.
In Triple-A with the Pirates this past year, he stole 11 bases and was caught just once across 179 plate appearances. Then when he was traded to the Rays in the Chris Archer deal, he proceeded to crush with his bat in Triple-A with the Rays, hitting a whopping 10 home runs along with a .344 batting average in just 106 plate appearances. All while posting an extremely impressive 12.3% strikeout rate.
Now, of course, you can’t expect that type of production across a full season in the majors, but it just speaks to the really appealing skill set that Meadows brings. He has speed, he started to show more power this past year, and he makes contact.
And most importantly, he was not overmatched in the slightest during his brief time in the majors this past year. His strikeout rate in just less than 200 plate appearances was a nice and tidy 20.9% with a very modest 7.7% swinging-strike rate. The chase rate (O-swing%) was also a very solid 28.3%.
Maybe they opt to sit him against a tough lefty here or there, but I don’t think there is any legitimate concern here with regard to playing time. He was a big piece in the Archer deal, so the Rays obviously believe in his talent. And at age 24 (in May), he figures to be a big part of their future, so it’s hard to imagine a strict platoon here.
Most projections have him at around a .265 batting average along with 16 home runs and 15 steals along with 60 runs and RBI. So Meadows offers a potentially rock solid floor across the five major categories with significant upside too.
Ramon Laureano, 185
I love speed guys who get on base. And that was what Ramon Laureano did this past year. Across 284 plate appearances in Triple-A in 2018, Laureano had a .380 OBP and walked at a 10.9% clip. He then backed that up in the mmajors with a 9.1% walk rate and .358 OBP across 176 plate appearances.
He was also a very efficient base stealer this past year as he was successful on 18 of 21 attempts (86%) across both levels.
And he’s shown some pop too as he’s carried an ISO north of .200 in three of his past four stops in the minor leagues, including this past year in Triple-A, where he hit 11 home runs in just 284 plate appearances, good for a .228 ISO.
His strikeout rate was a little high this past year, though, at 28.4%, so that’s a little bit of a concern. But the solid walk rate should help buoy his OBP floor.
Short sample size, certainly, but his Statcast data this past year was also noteworthy. His average exit velocity of 89.8 mph was well above the league average (87.4 mph), and his barrel rate of 11.1% was also exceptional. And he had a solid xwOBA of .343 (league average was .313).
He is probably a little more optimal in OBP formats, but the potential power and certainly the speed should make him a really attractive target at this ADP in all formats.
One last thing to note here: Laureano’s .358 OBP was actually second on the team this past year (Nick Martini was first). I should first point out that it was against the southpaw Marco Gonzales, but if Opening Day was any indication, Laureano could start atop the order, which would be a boon to his value provided he sticks there.
Jesse Winker, 193
Chances are pretty good that you’ve heard a fair bit about Jesse Winker if you’re reading this, so I’ll try to keep it brief.
Last year, there were only five players who walked more than they struck out: Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman, Carlos Santana, Joey Votto and, yes, you guessed it, Winker. I’m stealing that from our own Jamie Sayer. He wrote a great article on Winker back in December, so if you missed it, go check it out!
As someone who loves walks and guys who get on base, Winker’s 14.7% walk rate and 13.8% strikeout rate make my heart skip a beat. And his 5.9% swinging-strike rate was good for 26th (minimum 300 plate appearances). The other calling card for Winker is the hit tool. It’s an exceptional 70 grade via Fangraphs. He’s an advanced hitter who readily uses all fields.
The big question with Winker is really what is the upside? Sure, he makes a lot of contact and walks a ton, but the power is questionable and we know he’s not going to be stealing bases. Who is to say he’s not just Nick Markakis?
Steamer has him projected for a .284 average, so he looks like a strong asset in that category. I’m also optimistic about the power developing. He’s admitted to dealing with shoulder pain for the past year-plus, which may have held back his power. However, after undergoing shoulder surgery this past offseason, he’s indicated that his shoulder for the first time in a long while is at close to 100%.
He also made some key improvements this past year. Notably, his average exit velocity jumped from 87.5 mph (roughly league average) to 90.3 mph this past year. His hard-hit rate jumped up by roughly 10%. In particular, note the 97 mph excite velocity on line drives. That’s really exceptional. And he also managed to cut his strikeout rate to 13.8% (17.5 % in 2017) while slashing his ground-ball rate from 53.1% to 43.5%. Whenever a young player who controls the plate so well makes those sort of improvements, I think we have to take note.
It’s a crowded situation in Cincinnati, so as much as I would like to flat out ignore the playing time concerns, I have to at the very least acknowledge them. Earlier this spring, however, Reds manager David Bell indicated his commitment to getting Winker more than 500 at-bats.
Roster Resource also has him hitting leadoff against right-handed pitchers, which makes sense given his stellar on-base ability. So he figures to be an excellent source of runs with a good lineup behind him. With Winker, I think he’s a player who you either believe in the upside as a hitter or you really don’t and look elsewhere, and that’s fine. I think he’s a remarkably talented hitter who hasn’t peaked yet, and I’d be more than happy to draft him at around pick 200.
(Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire)