Last Updated: 2/16
A couple of things to note before reading:
- These rankings are for 10- and 12-team head-to-head category leagues with standard scoring and a starting lineup consisting of 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF, 2 UTIL, and a shallow bench, and were created by me with input from Nick Pollack.
- Within the write-ups, I will call out individual players who would see value boosts or drops in alternative formats, such as rotisserie leagues, deeper leagues, or points leagues.
- Projected stat totals assume that teams each play at least 145 games unless specifically stated otherwise.
- I am more than happy to answer your questions, requests, and counter-points in the comments!
Tier 6: Back-End Starters (Continued)
No. 41A: Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins)
The days of projecting a 25 home run, 45 stolen base season for Buxton are long gone. At this point, all we want from Buxton is for him to stay healthy and hit .250. If he can do that, good things can happen.
Playing time when healthy isn’t a concern for Buxton as he’s an elite defender in centerfield, but a slumping Buxton is easy for the Twins to bat ninth in the lineup. While that might make it marginally easier to steal a few bases, the putrid counting stats will make Buxton a tough pill to swallow if he isn’t hitting home runs or swiping bags.
All of that being said, I have Buxton ranked this high because I can’t completely deny his 25 home run, 25 steal upside. It’s real and I have to acknowledge it—especially in shallow leagues where you can just cut Buxton if things don’t work out and replace him with a decent player. In deeper leagues or those that use OBP, feel free to push him further down your board.
No. 41B: Giancarlo Stanton
Like Alvarez, Stanton retains his outfield eligibility for one more season in Yahoo leagues, which gives a mild boost to his overall value in that format.
Stanton’s outlook is very much like his teammate Aaron Judge’s outlook—he’s an absolute monster when healthy, but is rarely healthy. He will likely dominate the hard hit leaderboards on max exit velocity and longest home runs when he’s healthy enough to swing the bat, and if he plays 140 games (he’s appeared in just 41 games since the start of 2019), he’s a lock for 35 home runs, if not 40.
The injury risk on Stanton is more significant than most players, and that has driven his ADP down quite a bit. If you want to draft Stanton for your team, I highly recommend having a plan to do so, as you’ll want to make sure you’ve added several low-risk players to keep you afloat if things go south for Stanton’s health.
No. 42: Kyle Schwarber (Washington Nationals)
Now that he doesn’t have to worry about hitting leadoff, we can probably safely project Schwarber to hit 35 home runs, take plenty of walks, and maybe rack up 90 RBI or so with his new team in the Capitol. His batting average will be something like .230 or .240, but his OBP should be at least 100 points higher, making him especially useful in those formats.
I wish I had more to say about Schwarber, but I really don’t. As with a lot of guys I’ll cover here on out, there isn’t a lot of soul-searching you need to do to form your opinions on a lot of these outfielders.
No. 43: Max Kepler (Minnesota Twins)
Kepler put everything together in his magical 2019, hitting 36 home runs with 188 combined runs and RBI. That’s probably going to end up as a career year for the southpaw, but if he can find ways to hit lefties enough to avoid a platoon, he should be able to get close to 30 home runs on a regular basis. The batting average won’t be pretty, but at least you’ll get the other stuff.
That said, I’m thinking of Kepler as a more run-of-the-mill power bat with a mediocre batting average. The fact he has the ability to do more keeps him in my top-50 outfielders, but not by a whole lot. There are just too many hitters with this kind of profile to get overly excited about it.
No. 44: Trey Mancini (Baltimore Orioles)
I consider bumping Mancini up all the time. Lest we forget (and you should never forget about Trey), he hit 35 home runs with a .291 batting average when we saw him in 2019.
Yes, he did just go through treatment for Stage 3 colon cancer, but reports about him returning to baseball are all very positive:
Speaking on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio this afternoon, Orioles EVP/GM Mike Elias said Trey Mancini is “almost at the finish line and I can’t wait to see him hit in Sarasota.”
Elias said he is "fully expecting" Mancini will be full-go by Day 1 of Spring Training.
— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) December 16, 2020
Prior to his 2020 preseason diagnosis, he was a consensus top-15 fantasy first baseman in drafts and that was baking in some hesitation that he could repeat his 2019 success. Statcast seemed to greatly appreciate his handiwork with the bat and based on his interview with Joe Trezza, he’s been working out and feels as good as ever—which is obviously great news in both real life and fantasy.
At the very least, he felt good enough to be part of this video posted back in November on the Oriole’s Twitter account:
One swing at a time.
— Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) November 5, 2020
At the end of the day, Trey Mancini‘s 2021 outlook comes down to whether the recovered Mancini picks up where he left off the last time we saw him.
The pre-2019 version of Trey Mancini probably drops to the bottom of this tier, while the 2019 version threatens the top-10 at the position. While there’s significant risk in the unknown with respect to both his recovery and whether he can repeat his 2019 magic, I’m excited to see him come back to baseball.
No. 45: Ryan Mountcastle (Baltimore Orioles)
It was only 140 plate appearances, but they were a very strong 140 plate appearances for the soon-to-be 24-year-old slugger. Unlike a lot of other young power hitters, Mountcastle doesn’t have extreme strikeout rates and actually doesn’t walk much either.
Most projections peg him for about 25 home runs and a strong .280 batting average, which would be a solid follow-up to his .333/.386/.492 debut in 2020.
Batting sixth for the Orioles doesn’t currently look like an ideal situation due to the lack of depth in the lineup, but his plus pop and batting average make him an interesting corner infielder in deep formats, and his first base and outfield eligibility in most formats will give him a possible place at the end of your outfield in shallower leagues that use five outfielders.
No. 46: Anthony Santander (Baltimore Orioles)
There are 30 home runs in this bat, and maybe even a .270 batting average to go with it. That’s a better combo than most of his power-hitting peers in this tier, but unfortunately it comes with fewer counting stats as a member of the Orioles, who we don’t expect to score very many runs. Santander should get a boost in points leagues, though, as he puts plenty of balls in play and doesn’t strike out very much for a guy with his power.
What differentiates Santander from the plethora of other power bats in the outfield is that contact-driven approach and reasonable strikeout rate. It’s not enough to put him ahead of those guys, but at least it’s something he can do that others don’t, and in a draft that’s sometimes exactly what you’re looking for.
No. 47: Tommy Edman (St. Louis Cardinals)
I am admittedly unsure of what to make of Edman. On one hand, his 147 major league games as a whole are quite impressive—88 runs scored, 16 home runs, 17 steals, and a .283/.337/.449 line. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a case of balanced production.
After exploding onto the scene as an almost entirely unheralded prospect, Edman has been mostly average except for a few bursts at the start and end of his 2019 campaign and a little bit at the start of 2020.
While I suppose you could talk yourself into a 20 home run, 20 stolen base season by squinting a little and focusing on 2019, you can just as easily see the downside of a 15 home run, six stolen base season with a mediocre batting average.
The latter is not useful in a shallow league, I’m afraid, and while his ceiling is a decent piece to a 2021 puzzle, I’d be looking for more upside in a 10- or 12-team league.
On the other hand, deep-league players will find value in his versatility that makes chasing the upside a bit more tantalizing. Edman is a classic example of a player whose value changes drastically when more teams and roster positions are added and his positional eligibility and stolen bases really shine.
No. 48: J.D. Davis (New York Mets)
Despite all of the moves by the Mets, Davis still appears to have a grip on the third base job. In years past, batting seventh for the Mets was a yucky place for a hitter to be, as there wouldn’t be a ton of counting stats to accumulate in the bottom-third of what was usually a weak lineup.
These days, however, Davis could still push towards 75-80 runs scored and RBI due to the additions to the lineup. The righty is also a Statcast darling due to his impressive quality of contact, though it has yet to manifest itself as gaudy home runs totals.
The only real issues for Davis are that his batting average is neutral, he doesn’t steal bases, and he’s just short of being an everyday player due to the insane flexibility on the Mets roster. Those caps to his upside make him more of a streamer or replacement guy in shallow leagues.
No. 49: A.J. Pollock (Los Angeles Dodgers)
A healthy Pollock can hit 30 home runs, steal 10 bases, and post a good batting average. The issue is that we haven’t seen a healthy Pollock play more than 113 games since 2015. You can work around this in shallow leagues, but deep league players probably have to push him down their board due to the substantial injury and playing time risks.
Pollock has been this kind of player for quite a few years now, so this is nothing new for anyone. If you have the risk appetite to take on this kind of player, go for it. If you don’t, I totally get it.
No. 50: Andrew McCutchen (Philadelphia Phillies)
While he’s no longer the OBP monster he was in his prime, Cutch can still hit for power and get on base at a decent rate. Leading off for the Phillies should lead to plenty of run scoring opportunities, and there’s still enough juice in his bat to get to 25 home runs and steal just under 10 bases.
No. 51: Dylan Carlson (St. Louis Cardinals)
The highly touted prospect should get plenty of playing time in 2021, and if he can keep the strikeouts in check, he could hit 20 home runs and steal 10 bases right away. If he has a full breakout, there’s potential for even more, and while projections won’t do much to support the draft price, at least we can understand why that’s happening.
For more on the Carlson (and the rest of the Cardinals prospects), check out our breakdown of the Cardinals’ farm by Nate Handy.
No. 52: Nick Solak (Texas Rangers)
I really do see a path to winning the second base job in Texas and hitting his way into a .265 batting average with 20 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and about 75 runs and 75 RBI. That’s a passable fantasy starter at second base, albeit a back-end one. His outfield eligibility is also potentially useful as a fill-in starter or, of course, in deeper leagues.
Solak is probably considerably more attractive in leagues that require both a middle infielder and five outfielders, as he can serve both purposes and should get reliable playing time despite his below-average defensive skills.
While Texas is no longer the hitter’s paradise it was, he’ll play enough to rack up some stats no matter what. His only real path to relevance in 10- and 12-teamers will be hot streaks and injury fill-ins, but it’s at least a name worth tracking.
Tier 7: Deep League Options
No. 53: Lorenzo Cain (Milwaukee Brewers)
Presumably, Cain should be healthy and chomping at the bit to play in 2021 after opting out in 2020 after the Cardinals’ outbreak early in the season. He’ll turn 35 in mid-April, and while he’s probably no longer a threat to steal 30 bases, a 10 home run, 17 stolen base season would not be out of the question, and neither would a .280 batting average. He’ll also bat leadoff for the Brewers, and his playing time makes him an especially attractive option in deep formats.
No. 54: Andrew Benintendi (Kansas City Royals)
Perhaps the change of scenery will do him good, as it appeared he had nothing left in his final days with Boston. The diminutive outfielder has struggled mightily for two consecutive seasons, and while I’m not exactly bullish on him, Travis Scherer is and explained why in his article on Benintendi earlier this offseason.
No. 55: Clint Frazier (New York Yankees)
Frazier has conveniently played in exactly 162 games in his various appearances from 2017 to present, and has a solid 24 home runs, 80 runs score, 82 RBI, and a .258 batting average. He’s actually been a bit better than that over the last two seasons, and I could definitely envision him hitting 25 home runs with seven steals in 2021. That, of course, assumes he has a starting role all season, which has yet to be the case at any point in his career.
No. 56: David Peralta (Arizona Diamondbacks)
He may not steal bases or hit a ton of home runs, but Peralta can be a steady source of counting stats and batting average while providing close to 20 home runs.
Peralta is especially useful in deeper daily leagues, as he has a career line of .307/.359/.510 against right-handed pitching and often makes for a strong stream when the Diamondbacks roll into Colorado for a weekend.
No. 57: Chris Taylor (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The Dodgers just love the flexibility Chris Taylor brings to their team, and while it has played well for real baseball, the results have been spotty for fantasy purposes. After a very strong 2017 season, it’s been hard for fantasy managers to find room on their rosters for Taylor, as he has just low enough power, contact, and speed upside to usually find yourself looking elsewhere on the waiver wire.
Projection systems all have Taylor playing a full-time role for the Dodgers as he did in 2020, but it doesn’t take much to see that role evaporate into a first-off-the-bench scenario, especially with Lux right on his heels for the second base job.
Even a DH doesn’t necessarily clear up the air, as the Dodgers have plenty of other hitters who they’d probably like to slide in, especially against right-handed pitching. Between the capped upside and the fact he’s batting ninth, Taylor is mostly restricted to deep leagues where his versatility is more of an asset.
No. 58: Jesse Winker (Cincinnati Reds)
I’m certain our Going Deep team will have a piece on Winker at some point this offseason, and I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s worth noting that Winker has been a preseason darling more than once or twice, and we’ve yet to reap any substantial rewards for any extended period of time. We know that Winker can take walks and hit for power in spurts, but until he puts it all together for more than a month or two at a time, he’s more of a fourth outfielder than anything else, unless you’re in an OBP format where you can take advantage of his high walk rates.
No. 59: Mark Canha (Oakland Athletics)
Canha walks a lot, can hit for decent power, and will play every day. He should make for a reliable back-end outfielder in most 12-team formats, and is a solid option if you took on some extra risk earlier on in your draft. I also like his secure role when I’m in deeper leagues, as replacing outfielders is not very much fun in NFBC-style leagues.
No. 60: Victor Reyes (Detroit Tigers)
He’s unquestionably the best leadoff hitter the Tigers have, and yet every offseason they find a way to make him start on the bench and prove it. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll take that job again for the third year in a row, and when he does he’ll provide a useful batting average and 15-20 stolen bases.
Photos by Nick Wosika & Cliff Welch /Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)