As we get psyched up for the 2020 fantasy baseball season, we’re ranking the top players at every position, and here we’re going to tackle outfielders.
A couple of notes before we start this: first, these rankings are not my personal rankings. They are consensus rankings that were established during a rankings roundtable with myself and a handful of other people here at Pitcher List. Second, we’re going to be ranking the top 80 outfielders but to make it a little easier to parse, we’re going to be ranking 20 at a time in four different articles. We start here with the top 20!
So let’s get into it! Also, the full list will be made up of six tiers, and just for fun, I’ve decided to name the tiers after my six favorite David Bowie albums.
Tier 1: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
It used to be when I wrote this article, Trout’s entry was the shortest one. It basically amounted to, “he’s the best player in baseball, this is a no-duh pick.” But now there’s a bit of a debate over whether Trout or someone like Ronald Acuna should be ranked over him. In my opinion, the safety of Mike Trout is just too good to ignore. Is he always the top player in fantasy? No. But he is always a top-five player, and there’s something to be said for a guy with a high floor, something that I think often gets overlooked in fantasy baseball for the fancy new toy. Are you crazy if you draft Acuna over Trout? No, not at all. I just personally wouldn’t. Trout slashed .291/.438/.645 with 45 HRs, 110 R, and 104 RBI last year, that’s ridiculous. Sure, the steals went down to 11, but I’m not worried yet. He’s amazing.
No. 2: Ronald Acuna (Atlanta Braves)
Acuna was that close to going 40/40 last year, hitting 41 HRs and stealing 37 bases, which is just wild. Not to mention he slashed .280/.365/.518 on top of that with 127 runs and 101 RBI. The guy produces from every angle and is proving to be the superstar everyone hoped he’d be. And he’s still just 22 years old, which is insane. Could some regression be in store? Sure, maybe, but the ceiling is absurd video game numbers, so he’s worth it.
Yelich was well on his way to another incredible season last year when his knee basically exploded, which really sucked, because he somehow improved on his MVP season in 2018, slashing .329/.429/.671 with 44 HRs, 100 R, 97 RBI, and 30 stolen bases. When you’re looking at top-five picks in a draft, you need to be nitpicky, it’s the only real way to differentiate between the players, and if you’re going to be nitpicky with Yelich, the knee is where you’ll go. That’s scary, and you hope he’s fine, but there is a bit of risk there. Still, he’s an incredible hitter, so whatever risk there may be, it’s worth it.
Tier 2: Aladdin Sane
After two really solid seasons, Cody Bellinger decided he might goof off and have a ridiculous season, and he did exactly that, posting a .305/.406/.629 slash line with 47 HRs, 121 R, 115 RBI, and 15 stolen bases, giving you solid-to-elite production across the board. So does it happen again? I’m inclined to say yes. Bellinger’s Statcast data is nuts, with a 13% barrel rate (26th-best in the MLB), a 45.5% hard-hit rate, a .323 xBA, .429 xwOBA, and .486 xwOBACON. You name it, Bellinger looked good going it, those Statcast sliders are nothing but red. Bellinger also made some strides in his plate discipline, upping his walk rate to a career-best 14.4% and dropping his strikeout rate to another career-best 16.4%.
It’s funny, for as huge as the Mookie Betts trade to the Dodgers was, the fantasy impact for Betts was pretty minimal. He’s still a guy who’s a legit 30/30 threat with an average around the .290s/.300s with a ton of runs. Does he see his run total bump up a bit now that he’s leading off (likely) for the Dodgers instead of the Red Sox? Probably. And maybe he even gets to 100 RBI too if the backend of that lineup gets on base for him, but either way, Mookie is still an early first-round talent.
Tier 3: Hunky Dory
Talk about exploding onto the scene. The past two seasons, Juan Soto has basically lit baseball on fire and walked away while it was exploding, with an excellent rookie campaign in 2018 and an even better season last year, posting a .282/.401/.548 slash line with 34 HRs, 110 R, 110 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. So what should you expect this year? Honestly, I don’t see any reason to expect much different, there isn’t much here that suggests regression. Soto has great plate discipline (a 16.4% walk rate last year), he posted a .285 xBA last year and had an excellent 12.3% barrel rate. There’s just not much he suggesting he’ll be worse next year.
No. 7: J. D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox)
While Martinez had a slight drop in production last year, he was still fantastic, as he has been for the past couple of years now. Sure, it wasn’t the 100/100+ season with a .330 average that he had in 2018, but a .304/.383/.557 slash line with 36 HRs, 98 R and 105 RBI is hardly a bad season. The Red Sox’s lineup is definitely worse this year than last (losing Mookie Betts will do that), but it’s still solid and Martinez should still be able to hit roughly 40 home runs with a .300+ average like he has the past few years.
Injuries have limited Judge the past two seasons a bit, which has kept him from absolutely dominating like he did his rookie season. Now, I don’t think anyone is expecting his rookie season to ever repeat itself, but if Judge can stay healthy this year (and that’s a big if), it’s fair to expect a .270s to .280s average with around 40 home runs and potentially a 100/100 season. Here’s just a fun fact about Judge that I feel the need to share: last year he had 20.2% barrel rate, which is absurd and was good for second-best in baseball behind only Miguel Sano.
Starling Marte’s off in Arizona now following his trade to the Diamondbacks and that can do nothing but help him. Honestly, It’s pretty amazing he was as productive as he was last year in the garbage lineup he was stuck in with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, likely leading off for the Diamondbacks, he could be in for an even better season. Last year, Marte had a .295 average with a .304 xBA, so it’s safe to assume a .290s-ish average is definitely in the cards along with 25-30 steals and 20ish home runs. And considering he had 97 runs in the Pirates’ lineup (in 132 games too), 100 runs if definitely in the equation with the Diamondbacks especially with Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar hitting behind him.
You know, for all the grief Harper got for not living up to his massive contract with the Phillies last year, he basically had the same season he had in 2018 with the Nationals (maybe even slightly better considering the bump in average). He also really picked things up in the second half, slashing .270/.376/.564 through that part of the season. Obviously we’ve seen Harper has a ridiculous ceiling, but it’s silly to expect that next year (though the specter of it certainly is there). But a .260s average with 35-40 home runs, double-digit steals, and potentially 100/100 production makes Harper easily a top-10 outfielder.
If you pace out Yordan Alvarez’s partial season last year to roughly a full season, we’re looking at a guy with more than 40 home runs, over 90 runs, and over 120 RBI with an average over .300. That’s basically J.D. Martinez, and that’s insane. Clearly Alvarez has the talent, the question will be can he avoid the sophomore slump. There’s always the worry with rookie phenoms that a slump is coming, and certainly I don’t think you can expect a season like the one he had last year, but it’s also very very possible. It’s not like he was getting all that lucky. Sure, a .289 xBA suggests some regression (how sad if he only hit .289), but a 17.2% barrel rate and a .410 xwOBA are elite. He’s got the skills to keep it up, here’s hoping he can. Also, it’s important to note that Alvarez is currently only outfield-eligible in Yahoo leagues as he had just 10 games in the outfield last season.
Blackmon can still hit, but running is another story. We all figured the 30-40 steal days were over, but I think everyone was at least hoping for double-digit steals last year and we got two whole stolen bases in 140 games. Father Time is undefeated, and as Blackmon has gotten older, his sprint speed has steadily dropped, hitting a career-low last year. But even without the steals, he still should be a lock for 30ish home runs, a .300ish average and 100+ runs. His meager barrel rate and exit velocity are both concerning from a power perspective, but that’s the beauty of playing in Coors so much. Even with that barrel rate and exit velocity, he still had a .294 xBA and .520 xSLG, so he should be fine.
Springer cranked things up last year, knocking in 39 home runs (a career-best) alongside a .292/.383/.591 slash line, giving him one of the best seasons of his career (if not the best). So can you count on that next year? It’s important to never count on a player’s ceiling, and I think last year is just about Springer’s ceiling, but a 14.3% barrel rate, .287 xBA, and a .398 xwOBA isn’t anything to joke about. Springer’s got the skills and clearly made some adjustments last year that caused his barrel rate to amp up to a career-best from 8.3% in 2018. Oh yea, and that was all in 122 games too. There’s no doubt he would’ve broken 40 home runs with a 100/100 season had he played 140 games as he did in 2017 and 2018. A high average, good power, and good run/RBI numbers should be a lock for Springer.
Well that was quite a season from Austin Meadows, wasn’t it? I don’t know how the Pirates are feeling about shipping him and Tyler Glasnow off to the Rays for Chris Archer, but it can’t feel great seeing Glasnow look like one of the best pitchers in baseball and seeing Meadows hit the cover off the ball. Meadows is very talented, there’s no doubt of that, and if you’re worried he’ll just be a flash in the pan, his 12.5% barrel rate, .284 xBA, and .547 xSLG definitely provide some support to what he did last year. I think a good average, roughly 30 home runs, double-digit steals, and decent run/RBI numbers should be expected for Meadows.
Stanton would be ranked way higher if it wasn’t for the injury risk, but that’s heavily baked into Stanton’s price, especially after missing all of last year with a PCL strain. But here’s the thing, he played 158 games in 2018 and 159 in 2017, so it’s definitely not out of the question that he plays a full season. I think it’d be reasonable to expect 130-140 games from Stanton, and if we get that, elite power with a decent average and solid run/RBI totals should be in the bag.
Tier 4: Low
Joey Gallo, the new Adam Dunn, is someone who I think is pretty easy to project. He’s a three-true-outcome hitter in the purest sense. He’s got a great walk rate (17.5% last year), an awful strikeout rate (38.4% last year) that will lead to a bad average, and absolutely ridiculous power. And if you’re looking at the .253 average he had last year hoping that will be his new norm, that came with a .229 xBA. Now, he lost much of last year to an injury, but if he stays healthy this year, another Joey Gallo year should be in store.
No. 19: Eloy Jimenez (Chicago White Sox)
Quite the rookie campaign from one of the most highly-touted prospects of the year last year. Eloy busted onto the scene with a .267/.315/.513 slash line, 31 HRs, 69 R, and 79 RBI. The power numbers are great (and supported by a solid 12.8% barrel rate), but you don’t love those counting stats. Luckily for Jimenez, he’ll be in a much better White Sox lineup next year that’s added Edwin Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal, and Nomar Mazara, not to mention Luis Robert who will likely be starting this season. I expect the counting stats to rise while the average and power stay roughly the same, which translates to a very solid fantasy season.
No. 20: Ramon Laureano (Oakland Athletics)
I loved Ramon Laureano coming into last year and if you got sad like I did when he turned in a very muted first half, slashing .265/.315/.468, I feel you. But that second half was fantastic, with Laureano hitting .358/.411/.679. As in much of life, the reality is somewhere in the middle between the two halves, and I believe that 20+ home runs with 15+ steals should be in the bag. As for his average, I’d expect some regression based on his .274 xBA, but not a ton. Overall, he should be a solid contributor in every category.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)