The Dynasty Baseball Performance Report is a regular series, highlighting each position and providing insight into the risers and fallers of both the major leagues and prospects. Each week we’ll publish a positional report on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
For this installment, I’ll be focusing on outfielders relevant to all sorts of dynasty leagues, illuminating some useful contributors. Let’s get right into it, with some outfielders worthy of discussion in the early going of 2023. Big leaguers first, and then some minor league names as well.
Brandon Marsh (PHI)
If you were not yet aware that Brandon Marsh was leading baseball in slugging percentage among qualified hitters, let me just note that Brandon Marsh is leading baseball in slugging percentage among qualified hitters. The 25 year old Philadelphia center fielder has gotten off to a torrid start in 2023, with a 210 wRC+ in his first fifty plate appearances. What’s more interesting than the top-line performance, though, is the underlying plate skills.
His walk-to-strikeout ratio is in check, at 10%/24%. Kevin Long, Philly’s hitting coach, has been improving many hitters, but none may be a greater success story than Marsh if he keeps anything close to this up. Marsh’s arrival to Philadelphia back in 2022 immediately resulted in his in-zone contact rates bouncing from the low-80s to nearly 90%. You could see Long’s influence immediately, as Marsh’s loading mechanism changed along with his uniform.
This year, the contact skills stayed sticky, and now he is chasing less than ever as well. A former blue chip prospect before an underwhelming debut in Anaheim, Marsh’s hit tool was always the question mark.
If Philadelphia has begun to unlock the stick’s full potential, Marsh could easily find himself a 20-15 season in 2023, and that’s with some plate appearances missing against LHPs.
James Outman (LAD)
James Outman is the latest in a long line of success stories from the Dodgers’ hitting laboratory. He flew under the radar on most prospect lists because of his strong-side platoon limitations and because he was fairly old for his level.
However, Outman has hit the ground running as a pro, with a 163 wRC+ over his first 16 games, with 3 long balls and 2 steals chipped in as well. His teammates were jokingly calling him Barry Bonds during Spring Training because he kept launching home runs over the right field fence, and he’s hardly slowed down.
Outman has a career 113.2 MPH Max EV (in AAA, last season), puts his hardest contact in the air, and his professional approach has thus far led to a sub-20% chase rate. Notably, Outman chased at 26% over the full AAA season last year, so it’s up to you whether he has become more patient in the Bigs or is simply getting acclimated.
Regardless, Outman is standing in center field for half of his starts on the Dodgers, and looks to be a solid source of power for years to come.
James Outman, you are ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/6sOptq6VCl
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 9, 2023
Trevor Larnach (MIN)
Larnach surprised many by beginning the 2023 season as Minnesota’s cleanup hitter, and sticking in the lineup against LHP more than we would have supposed. Some of what led him there were injuries – Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon, and Alex Kiriloff have all either missed time or are still missing time, and all three figured to factor into the corner outfield mix. Larnach has produced a 99 wRC+ with one home run and is striking out at a 33% clip, but there are reasons to believe in positive developments.
For one, Larnach sports a below league-average chase rate over his MLB career, only 27%. His contact skills are slightly below average, but not so much that he should be striking out above 30%. Larnach also has great power, with a 112.1 max EV and a career barrel rate close to 10%.
He hasn’t found the power stroke yet, but with Nick Gordon struggling so mightily and Alex Kiriloff’s wrist injury as scary as it is, Trevor Larnach has shown enough to buy into under the hood, so long as he can maintain his hold on a middle-of-the-order spot.
Jo Adell (AAA, LAA)
Jo Adell has been scorching hot to start his AAA 2023 campaign, launching eight home runs in only his first 15 games with Salt Lake. Adell’s big power and speed combo was never much of a question mark, but his defense and hit tool certainly remain uncertain. Even with perhaps the best stretch of play in Adell’s life, he is running a 29% K rate.
I would caution a full buy-in on Adell and Jarred Kelenic for similar reasons, being that the strikeout rate is generally the most statistically significant indicator in these small of samples. However, home runs are not far behind, and Adell has thus far hit one every other game. If you wanted to buy in, I also wouldn’t stop you.
Make it eight homers in eight games for the @SaltLakeBees' Jo Adell. pic.twitter.com/rExJgxDt2m
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 13, 2023
Heston Kjerstad (AA, BAL)
After a tumultuous start to his pro career thanks to a suite of injuries, the 2020 #2 overall pick of Kjerstad is a quick riser. He’s currently sporting a 235 wRC+ in AA, with five home runs and an .800 slug over just 42 PAs. Already 24 years old thanks to the lost time, Kjerstad is poised to be a rapid mover through Baltimore’s system and as the old adage goes, if you hit you don’t sit.
Kjerstad is walking at a respectable clip, and showing off some hit tool ability by pushing the AVG over .300. Heston has massive light-tower power in his left handed bat, and is athletic enough to play a corner outfield spot without difficulty. He’s finally healthy, and looks like a completely different player even on visual evaluation.
In both shallow and deep dynasty leagues, if someone hasn’t capitalized on the formerly low stock of Heston Kjerstad, he’s worth a speculative add for his game-changing slugging potential.
Spencer Jones (A+, NYY)
Spencer Jones, the Yankees’ first round selection in 2022, hit professional baseball running as might be expected of a polished Vanderbilt first round outfielder. The 6’7 freak athlete often gets Aaron Judge comparisons thanks to his size and top of the scale exit velocities, but I often liken him to another tall, early-round Vanderbilt outfielder – Bryan Reynolds.
Comparisons aside, Spencer Jones had exactly one job to accomplish over his first professional offseason – start lifting the ball so the 115 MPH rockets go over fences instead of into gloves. Jones hit 3 homers already and sports a 199 wRC+. It all comes with a ballooned 35.1 K%, but Jones’ contact rates in college and low-A ball were good enough to treat the strikeout rate as a small sample blip. Jones is also surprisingly quick for his size, having accumulated 14 professional stolen bases in only 33 games.
In full transparency, I was able to take Jones with the 10th pick in my own latest FYPD – his price is likely higher than that now.
Ryan Clifford (A, HOU)
For those of us who play in slightly deeper dynasty leagues, I’d like to draw your attention to Ryan Clifford in Houston’s system. Clifford may have flown under the radar as an 11th round draft pick out of high school in 2022, but Houston scraped up enough slot savings through the first 10 rounds to throw him nearly $1.3m, more than even their second-round selection Jacob Melton.
As a 19 year old repeating A-ball, Clifford has a 203 wRC+ as Fayetteville’s cleanup hitter, while walking nearly as much as he strikes out (22.5%/25%). Clifford has an extremely discerning batter’s eye and plus power, but watching the K% closely would be prudent, as he has a tendency to get blown away by velocity this early in his career. He’s also shown a plus arm in the outfield, and looks to be able to stick in a corner as an average defender.
I’d buy Clifford now for his age-to-level production and the hitting development system around him.
It's sailing out tonight at Segra! Ryan Clifford puts his first homer of the season on the roof of Healy's Bar ⚾️☄️!
Woodpeckers 5 – FredNats 0 pic.twitter.com/Z0U82MhJxX
— Fayetteville Woodpeckers (@WoodpeckersNC) April 12, 2023