As we get geared up for the 2019 season, we’re ranking every position for fantasy baseball. Today, our rankings continue with the top 20 outfielders for 2019.
The rankings are divided into tiers, and just for fun (because why not), I’ve decided to name each tier after my favorite Yes albums (in order).
Also worth noting: a “y” designation means that player is only eligible at that position in Yahoo! leagues and not ESPN leagues.
Tier 1: ‘Close to the Edge’
I mean, I feel like this one is pretty obvious. It’s Mike Trout, he’s the best player in baseball, he’s almost certainly the No. 1 overall pick. If you wanted to grab Mookie Betts instead, I don’t think you’re insane, but personally, I’m still going Trout. A .312/.460/.628 slash line with 39 home runs and 24 steals last year, the guy is just awesome.
Similar to Trout, Mookie is kind of a duh pick here. This past year, he went .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs and 30 steals after a somewhat disappointing 2017. There’s no reason to expect he won’t be the Mookie we all know and love again this year, and like I said before, if you wanted to take him over Trout because of the increase in steals (and average), I get it. They’re both amazing.
Tier 2: ‘Fragile’
Last year, J.D. Martinez played 150 games, the most he’s played since 2015, and as a result, he was awesome, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs, 111 runs, and 130 RBI. The only real question is his health, as he played 119 games and 120 games in the previous two years, but I’m honestly not all that concerned. Even if he’s out 40 games or so, he still produces a ton, especially hitting in the AL East in a fantastic Red Sox lineup. I don’t see any reason he can’t do what he did last year one more time.
No. 4: Bryce Harper (OF, Free Agent)
This ranking might change depending on where Bryce Harper signs. For example, he might fall a spot or two if he gets signed by the San Diego Padres and has to hit in pitcher-friendly Petco Park a whole bunch. However, as of now, I’m looking at Harper in a vacuum, and Harper has been really productive but wildly unpredictable the past few years. Since 2015, his average has jumped from .330 to .243 to .319 to .249, and it all has to do with his BABIP, which since 2015 has jumped from .369 to .264 to .356 to .289. Last year, his .249 average came with a .263 xAVG, and I think that’s about reasonable to expect. Look, he could easily hit above .300, he’s done it before, but I don’t think you can count on that. I think you can count on the power though, as he had a solid 11.5% barrel rate last year and his 34 home runs came with 34.6 xHRs.
I was really happy about Christian Yelich’s move to Milwaukee from Miami. I thought he would do well, but I don’t know that anyone thought he would have the MVP season he had. Now the question is, will he repeat it? It’s worth noting that Yelich had an absolutely absurd second half. While his first half was solid, slashing .292/.364/.459, his second half was nuts, slashing .367/.449/.770. I don’t necessarily think Yelich is going to repeat what he did last year or do better, but I think he can come pretty close. The Brewers have a solid lineup and are in a good hitter’s park. Plus, we’ve known forever that Yelich has a great power/speed combo, he just needed to get out of Miami to show it off. I don’t anticipate his 35% HR/FB rate to stick around, but I think it’ll be above average. I could see him being at least a 25/20 player with a .300 or so batting average, and I think that’s a conservative estimate.
No. 6: Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)
Ronald Acuna showed up for his rookie season and was just about everything we could’ve wanted him to be and more, slashing .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs and 16 steals. I don’t typically like assuming a player will do better without much evidence to back it up, but given that Acuna is 21, I think it’s reasonable to expect he could improve upon his 2018 season. His 21.1% HR/FB rate may seem unsustainable, but with a 44.4% hard-hit rate, I don’t think it’s all that crazy. I also think it’s entirely possible he steals more bases — making a 20/20 season totally possible. The only thing I could see regressing is his average. That .293 average last year came with a .352 BABIP and a .276 xAVG.
I honestly didn’t think that Aaron Judge was the kind of hitter who could maintain a high average with his high power, especially given his high BABIP. Well, I was wrong, because he did just that last year, hitting .278 with a .286 xAVG. His season was cut short a bit by injury, meaning he didn’t get as many home runs as he could have, but assuming he’s healthy this year, there’s no reason he can’t have a solid batting average with loads of power. Will he hit 52 home runs like he did in his rookie campaign? I don’t think so, but he’s definitely got that capability. I think 35-plus is a safer bet.
Tier 3: ‘Time And A Word’
Even though the power was there this past year, Giancarlo Stanton was a bit of a disappointment as his average dropped from .281 in 2017 to .266 (not to mention his awful start to the season where he slashed .230/.313/.425 in April). Still, I’ll be honest, I don’t think you can expect him to have the season he did in 2017 ever again, at least from an average perspective. Sure, he’s got the potential given that he’s done it before, but I think a .260s average is about what you can expect from him. However, you can also expect loads of home runs in a great Yankees lineup. I know some people still like to question his health, but he’s played 159 games and 158 games in the past two seasons — given he DHs so much, I think he’ll be fine.
The 37 home runs that Charlie Blackmon hit in 2017 kind of came out of nowhere, and he dropped back to 29 last year, which is a bit more in line with his career. I think that’s about what you can expect from him this year, with a good handful of steals and a great average. It’s always nice to hit in Coors Field.
If there’s one major knock against Andrew Benintendi, it’s that he can’t hit lefties. Last year, he slashed .247/.301/.393 against them, which was actually better than 2017 when he slashed .232/.336/.286 against them. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter all that much because at the end of the day, you’re going to get a hitter who’s going to come close to a 20/20 season and bat somewhere around .280 or .290. That’s a great outfielder, and if you’re in a daily league where you can play the matchups, go ahead and sit him against lefties. But if you’re in a roto league, you’ll be fine because he’s going to get you the production you need.
Kris Bryant dealt with some injuries this past season that made his year a bit disappointing, slashing .272/.374/.460 with 13 home runs, but he seems to be back at full strength and healthy this year. I think you can expect a full Kris Bryant-like season. As long as he’s healthy, he should be good for a solid average and 30ish home runs.
Starling Marte proved he doesn’t need PEDs to be an awesome hitter, launching a career-best 20 home runs with a career-best 33.5% hard-hit rate and 33 steals. Marte is the definition of the power/speed combo threat, and he can help your team in a lot of ways. Are 20 home runs going to happen again? I think it’s possible, given that his 20 home runs this past year came with 21.1 xHRs, and you know he’s solid for around 30 steals with a good average, making him a valuable outfielder.
The rookie who set the major leagues on fire, Juan Soto came in and became an incredibly productive outfielder for fantasy players last year, slashing .292/.406/.517 with 22 home runs. So will he do it again? Better? Or will he succumb to the sophomore slump? I think there are definitely a reason to be cautious with Soto. Those 22 home runs came with 18 xHRs and a decent but not incredible 9.8% barrel rate (good for 80th in baseball behind Tommy Pham and just ahead of Xander Bogaerts). Plus, his .292 average came with a .274 xAVG. This isn’t to say I think Soto is a total bust next year — he’s only 20 years old, has loads of talent, and could easily improve, but I’m saying don’t expect him to have this monster season. Is it possible? Sure. Like I said, he’s incredibly talented and just 20 years old, but I don’t think you can expect this past year to repeat itself.
I don’t know that I have to tell you much about Khris Davis. He’s one of the most absurdly consistent hitters in baseball, hitting .247 for four consecutive seasons and hitting more than 40 home runs for the past three seasons. I think that’s about what you should expect from him this year.
It can be difficult to find players who can be a massive help in stolen bases like Whit Merrifield can without hurting you somewhere else (i.e. in power like Mallex Smith does or in power and batting average like Billy Hamilton does). But Merrifield is one of those rare types who has 35- to 40-steal potential while still hitting for a good average and double-digit home runs. I think a .280 or .290 average is fair to expect from Merrifield, with steals in the mid-30s or higher. It’s nice to have a guy who can essentially be your main source for steals without killing you elsewhere.
Rhys Hoskins really became the power hitter we all knew he could be this past year, knocking in 34 home runs while batting .246. I think it’s entirely fair to expect a similar season out of him, we’ve all known the power is legit — his 11.4% barrel rate reinforces that — so another season hitting in the between .240 and .250 with 35 or so home runs seems realistic.
So which Cody Bellinger can we expect in 2019? The one who hit 39 home runs in 2017, or the one who hit 25 this past year? I think the truth is somewhere in between. In 2017, he had a 25.2% HR/FB rate, which dropped to 15.2% last year. I think that is more reasonable, and given his 8.6% barrel rate, 25 home runs sounds about right. The nice bonus with Bellinger is you get steals. While he’ll hit in the .260s and won’t have quite as many home runs as someone such as Hoskins will, he’ll grab you 10-15 steals, and there’s plenty of value in that. If you wanted to draft Bellinger over Hoskins because of the more balanced player Bellinger is, I wouldn’t blame you.
Tier 4: ‘Going For the One’
Lorenzo Cain chugged along last year showing age ain’t nothin’ but a number, snagging a career-best 30 steals while batting .308 (another career best) and hitting 10 home runs in his reunion with the Brewers, all at 32 years old. Now, it’s hard for me to look at a guy who had a career-best year and say, “Yeah, he’ll do it again,” but I think you can expect something close this year to what Cain did last year. His power is one thing I’m worried about though — his 10 home runs came with 6.5 xHRs, and he had a measly 3.4% barrel rate last year. I don’t think he’s going to be the 15-home run guy he’s been in the past — I think more like scraping double-digits — but he’ll have an average around .300 and likely 25-30 steals, so there’s definitely value in that.
The Wig Wam Pham proved that his 2017 breakout wasn’t a fluke last year, hitting .275/.367/.464 with 21 home runs and 15 steals. While it wasn’t the .306-hitting 20/20 season he had in 2017, it was still a great season, and now he’s in the AL East with the Rays, which is nothing but good news for him. Now, he’ll get to hit regularly in Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Camden Yards, all great hitter’s parks, and he’ll have a steady gig in the outfield with the Rays (most likely). I don’t think he’s going to repeat his 2017 breakout, but 20-plus home runs with a good average and a solid handful of steals is totally doable.
Eddie Rosario has been pretty consistently good the past two seasons, hitting 27 and 24 home runs respectively while batting .290 and .288. This year, I don’t see any reason to think that Rosario can’t have the same kind of season he’s had the past couple years. The only big difference is he’s in what’s now a pretty decent Twins lineup with the additions of Nelson Cruz and Jonathan Schoop, the latter of whom I believe will have a solid comeback year, not to mention C.J. Cron, who has proven to be a solid hitter in the past.
Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire