(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
It’s that time of the year, the best time of the year, fantasy baseball season. As we look ahead to the upcoming season, we’re breaking down Pitcher List’s 2018 positional rankings. For this position, outfield, we’ll be doing a top-100, 20 spots at a time. Today, we finish up the top 100. Don’t forget to check out our Top 20 Outfielders, Top 40 Outfielders, Top 60 Outfielders, and Top 80 Outfielders articles, too.
Tier 9: Power Windows
81. Kole Calhoun (Los Angeles Angels) – Kole Calhoun has been relatively consistent over the years. You can generally expect a batting average around the .250s from him with around 20 home runs, and I don’t see any reason you can’t expect that once again this year. The .271 average from 2016 was a little higher than it should’ve been, though I didn’t expect it to drop to .244. I would personally expect that average to rise a bit to around the .250s this year. Also, it may mean nothing, but the Angels lowered their right field fence by 10 feet and Calhoun pulled the ball 44.7% of the time last year. It might not mean anything, but it could give him a slight power boost, though I wouldn’t bank on it.
82. Jesse Winker (Cincinnati Reds) – Jesse Winker does two things very well – he gets on base and he hits for a high average. The .298 average and .375 OBP he had last year, they might regress some but I wouldn’t expect them to regress much. The problem is, he doesn’t have a ton of power and he’s not especially fast. Given a full season, I could definitely see Winker hitting around double-digit home runs with a good average, but the runs and RBIs are probably going to be a bit trickier to come by. Still, he’s just 24-years-old and has some potential.
83. Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians) – You give me a fully healthy, full season from Michael Brantley and we’re looking at a high-average, nearly 20/20 guy. But there is no way I can guarantee you a full healthy season from him this year. He’s even questionable to start the year, having had surgery in October to stabilize the ligaments in his right ankle. Brantley’s 30, he’ll turn 31 during the season, he’s had this surgery, he’s questionable to start the year, I just have no idea what to expect from him. Could he be healthy a month into the year and this surgery fixed all his problems? Sure. Could he be dealing with recovery from the surgery for the vast majority of the season and barely play? Sure. He’s a gigantic risk, and if I knew he was healthy, he’d be way higher in the rankings. But I just don’t know what to expect from him this year.
84. Carlos Gomez (Tampa Bay Rays) – I’m not going to pretend like I have any idea why the Rays traded Steven Souza and then basically signed an older, declining version of Souza in Carlos Gomez, but I guess I just don’t understand the three-dimensional chess that the Rays’ front office is playing. Gomez has actually been fairly serviceable the past couple seasons, still showing a decent power/speed combo, the only issue has been his health. He hasn’t played in more than 118 games since 2014 back when he was still a fantasy stud, and he played in just 105 last year. You give me a full healthy year from Gomez and I bet he could get pretty close to 20/20, but there’s no way I’m expecting a fully healthy year. I could see him going 15/15, though the average is still likely going to be around the .240s as strikeouts are still a big problem for him. Still, late in the draft, he provides a nice little bit of power and speed for your team.
85. Hunter Pence (San Francisco Giants) – At this point in his career, Hunter Pence is pretty much just a guy. Long gone are the 20/20, high-average days of his career, but at 34, he’s still able to produce enough to be fantasy-relevant in deeper leagues. He can still hit for a slightly above-average batting average, he’ll still hit around 15 home runs or so, but what you’re going to have to worry about is his health. Luckily, he was able to play 134 games last year, but like I said, he’s 34 and played in just 106 and 52 games the two years prior.
86. Jacoby Ellsbury (New York Yankees) – If Jacoby Ellsbury was guaranteed playing time, he’d probably be higher up on these rankings, but unfortunately he’s not. Ellsbury has shown that he still has some fantasy productiveness left in the tank, stealing 22 bases last year. There’s not much power to speak of, and his average is likely to stay in the .260s or so, but he can get you some steals without hurting you in other categories. Problem is, it seems like the Yankees are favoring Aaron Hicks for the center field job instead of Ellsbury. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two split some time, but I think Hicks would get the favorable end of that platoon. Now, if the Yankees are able to trade Ellsbury, then he might bump up a bit (assuming he’s got a steady job), but for now, there’s no guarantees he gets any reasonable amount of playing time.
87. Yasmany Tomas (Arizona Diamondbacks) – The Arizona outfield got crowded quickly. The Diamondbacks already had David Peralta and A.J. Pollock as guaranteed starters in the outfield, and since then they’ve traded for Steven Souza Jr. and signed Jarrod Dyson. So, needless to say, the outfield is a bit crowded, and Tomas isn’t likely to be guaranteed a starting gig. He’s shown 30 home run power in the past, but being that he’s likely going to be on the bench most of the time and the fact that the humidor (drink) is coming, his value has dropped a fair bit. If he had a full-time job, I could see 20+ home runs with a .250s average, but I’m just not seeing that happen this year. Now, there’s always the chance that someone gets hurt, and certainly Peralta and especially Pollock have had that happen in the past. If that does happen, Tomas’ value will definitely go up a bit.
88. Jason Heyward (Chicago Cubs) – Oh how the mighty have fallen. A few years back, people saw Jason Heyward as a 20/20 guy with a good average, but now he’s just a guy who offers the fantasy baseball production equivalent of a shrug emoji. He’ll get playing time, but what’s he going to do with that playing time? Probably hit around 10-12 home runs with a batting average in the .260s and a handful of stolen bases. The runs and RBIs should be alright since he’ll be in the Cubs’ lineup, but unless something magical happens, I don’t seen Heyward being that special of a player this year.
89. Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Matt Kemp showed last year that there’s still gas left in the tank. He can still hit a good number of home runs and hit for a good average. In fact, his .276 average came with a .291 xAVG, so you could almost make the argument that it could go up, or at least that it’ll stay where it was. But here’s the thing, Kemp doesn’t have a clear path to playing time. That Dodgers outfield is crowded, with Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig as guaranteed starters, and Joc Pederson likely platooning with Enrique Hernandez. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for Kemp, though I could see the Dodgers utilizing a bit. Now, if he’s traded and has a starting gig, his value goes up, but for now, I don’t know how much playing time he’s going to get, and as such, he’s a pretty big risk.
90. Melky Cabrera (Free Agent) – As of this writing, Melky Cabrera hasn’t signed anywhere yet, so I have no idea what to expect from him when it comes to playing time or what kind of park he’s in. His ranking will likely change some if he ends up with a steady starting job in a hitter-friendly environment. Melky is the kind of player who does a lot of things well enough without doing one thing extremely well. He’ll hit for a good average, he’ll hit a decent handful of home runs, he can get some runs and RBIs, but he’ll never wow you with his production. I would expect his power to regress some next year, given his paltry 28.9% hard-hit rate (especially if he ends up in a pitcher-friendly park) and the fact that his 17 home runs came with 12.3 xHRs. The .280s average though, I could see that keeping up, but where he really belongs in these ranks is going to depend on where he eventually signs.
Tier 10: Caress Of Steel
91. Jose Pirela (San Diego Padres) – Jose Pirela may have a somewhat more steady role with the Padres this year, as he produced fairly well in the limited action he saw last year. I wouldn’t be shocked though if Pirela gets subbed out for Cory Spangenberg or Matt Szczur some this year though, but I think he’ll get the majority of the playing time over those guys. Pirela showed a nice little power increase last year, upping his hard-hit rate to a career-high 34%, though his launch angle remains at a pretty low 3.5 degrees, so the power might be somewhat limited, especially in the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park. Still, the average seems relatively legit, though I would expect his .343 BABIP to come down some, but I could see him hitting in the high-.270s/low-.280s with a handful of home runs and steals.
92. Denard Span (Tampa Bay Rays) – Man, Denard Span is still going and he’s still got some fantasy relevance left in him. Span’s likely going to leadoff for the Rays since that plays to his skill set best. Given the situation he’s in, there’s no reason he can’t hit for a good average while approaching double digits in steals and home runs. He’s not going to grab you too many RBIs, but the runs should be alright.
93. Cameron Maybin (Miami Marlins) – Maybin signing with the Marlins is probably the best case scenario for him because it basically guarantees him playing time rather than reducing him to a bench speed player role. Maybin had a godawful .228 average last year and I don’t anticipate that happening again, as that came with a .274 BABIP and a .241 xAVG. I see him more as a .250s hitter who could approach double-digit home runs and net you a lot of steals, probably 30+. He’s a nice source of cheap speed late in drafts.
94. Charlie Tilson (Chicago White Sox) – Tilson is likely going to see a starting job with the White Sox this year, and he’s an interesting prospect. He’s shown to be a high-average, high-speed player in the minors with not much power to speak of. I would imagine there will be growing pains from an average point of view, but I could see Tilson having a respectable average with a good number of steals, probably 20 at minimum with the potential for a lot more (this is a guy who stole 46 bases in his 2015 Double-A season).
95. Hunter Renfroe (San Diego Padres) – Renfroe is an all-power and little else kind of hitter, and while that can certainly have value in fantasy, there’s not a clear path to playing time for him. Considering the Padres have Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, and Jose Pirela likely starting in the outfield with Cory Spangenberg, Alex Dickerson, and Matt Szczur on the bench, it’s hard to see where Renfroe fits in. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he starts the year in the minors to work on his plate discipline. If he gets a sizeable amount of playing time though, he’s easily a 25-30 home run guy, but that average is going to be bad until he fixes his strikeout problems.
96. Hernan Perez (Milwaukee Brewers) – Hernan Perez has been extremely valuable in the past, lest we forget his 13 home run, 34 steal, .272 season from 2016. And even last year, while he wasn’t as good as he was in 2016, he was certainly serviceable. But I’m doubting he gets much outfield time this year given that the Brewers outfield is already overcrowded with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, and Domingo Santana. I wouldn’t be shocked if Perez ends up platooning second base with Jonathan Villar, but regardless of what happens, he’s not likely to end up with a lot of playing time, and that’s going to seriously limit his value.
97. Jarrod Dyson (Arizona Diamondbacks) – I would’ve liked Dyson a lot more if he had a steady gig, but in Arizona he’s likely going to be back to his role as a bench speed guy like he has been in the past. Even in limited action, Dyson has shown he’s able to be pretty valuable if you’re in need of speed. He’s not going to provide you with much else, but you can bank on at least 20-25 steals from Dyson and probably closer to 30. He’ll give you an average that won’t kill you too, which help mitigate the fact that he’s got basically no power and is a pretty poor source of RBIs.
98. Joc Pederson (Los Angeles Dodgers) – I want Pederson to put it all together so badly. So so badly. I want that guy who flashed 30/30 ability in the minors, but it just hasn’t happened. Last year was by far his most disappointing season yet. At least before last year, you could hang your hat on probably 25 home runs from him, even if the average was pitiful, but you didn’t even get that last year. Pederson saw a major drop in hard-hit rate from 38.7% to 33% and a drop in HR/FB rate from 23.1% to 15.5%. On the plus side, his plate discipline improved, dropping his strikeout rate from 27.3% to 21.1% and his chase rate from 27.5% to 24.9%, but I’m still not optimistic about his prospects. I don’t know why we should expect anything other than a .220s average from him, and if that drop in hard-hit rate remains, the power prospects aren’t good either. I’m hopeful the 20+ home runs will come back, and obviously there’s the potential he’ll somehow magically put it all together, but I don’t know that you can expect much from Pederson this year. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he gets platooned with Enrique Hernandez.
99. Jose Bautista (Free Agent) – I don’t know where Bautista’s going to end up signing, or even if he’s going to sign anywhere. He’s 37-years-old, he could easily retire, but as of now, he’s a free agent and showed last year that he’s still got some power left. Age is definitely catching up to him though, as his hard-hit rate dropped from 41% to 31.4%, his strikeout rate jumped up from 19.9% to a career-high 24.8%, and his whiff rate jumped up to 10.9% from 7.2%. It’s looking like he doesn’t quite have the bat speed he used to, but he can still provide around 20 or so home runs with a handful of runs and RBIs if he’s on the right team. His average is going to be bad though, even if it isn’t .203 like it was last year, I can’t imagine it’s going to be much better than the .220s or .230s. If you’re in an OBP league, it’s a little easier to deal with because he still walks at a decent rate, but even his OBP last year was .308. His possible production this year is going to depend on where he signs, but he could be somewhat useful.
100. Adam Frazier (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Adam Frazier is a perfectly fine real-life baseball player, but he doesn’t offer a ton to fantasy owners. He can hit for a high average, he doesn’t strikeout much, and he walks well. But there isn’t much power or speed to speak of, and being on the Pirates, not a lot of runs or RBIs either. To make matters worse, the Pirates acquired Corey Dickerson, which likely pushes Frazier either to the bench, or to second base if the Pirates do some shuffling around of the infield.
Ben, I think its pretty easy to understand why the Rays made that trade. They get multiple dart throws as prospects and receive some salary relief in exchange for giving up 10 homers and some OBP. If only one of those prospects makes it to the majors it could be considered a win. Pretty logical move for a team in their position,