We’ve already gone through the entire infield, and it’s time to focus on Outfielders. We’ll be going through the Top 75 this week as we dissect the various options for filling up your OF slot. It’s a fluid position, where you could find yourself grabbing an elite option or two early, or hoping to pluck some hidden talent deeper in the draft. It’s important to have a large amount of targets specifically for outfielders and be willing to mix-and-match as the draft unfolds. Let’s get to it, here are the Top 25 Outfielders for 2016.
TIER 1: The Whippersnappers
1. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) – The pre-season is its own animal, with a back-and-forth in the first month or two as players get labeled with overrated, sleeper, and #1 overall tags. Oddly enough, when the rankings starting rolling out in January, I saw Harper getting the nod more often than Trout. I get it, Harper was a complete beast last year and you have to imagine he’s figured it out and disappointing seasons are in the past. But wouldn’t you rather have a player that has had four straight seasons of mega-star talent and has improved his HR total each year? Now, I completely understand the concern for Trout’s disappearing SB totals, though he should still be in the teens, and hint at a .300 average once again. He also lowered his K rate a bit and raised his walk rate. I mean, do I really need to go into why Trout is awesome?
2. Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals) – He was the unanimous NL MVP last season and for good reason. 42 bombs, .330 Average, enough counting stats to put an insomniac to sleep, etc. He’s right there with Trout as one of the best fantasy assets in the game, though I like Trout slightly more simply because he has a longer track record of being unbelievably good. I think it isn’t worth your time to spend much time on these two, so let’s move on.
TIER 2: I Remember My First
3. Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins) – If you didn’t grab Trout or Harper, I recommend snagging your first OF inside this tier or the next. Anyway, I really didn’t want to rank him third, but there wasn’t another outfielder that could win you your league like Giancarlo. After his 2014 season displayed almost all of Stanton’s monstrous upside, he was being taken in the top three picks constantly entering the 2015 season. Owners simply forgot how injury prone the Miami star is, and what do you know, he played in just 74 games last year. However, it was paired with 27 HRs, which is simply absurd when you realize that stretches out a 50+ dinger season if he plays a full season. It seems as though we’ve been waiting for that “50 HR Season!!!” for years now, and we’ve forgotten that he has yet to even 40 in a single season. His ADP has him going inside the Top 10 at the moment, and I’d rather grab someone who I expect to play through the full season with my first round pick.
4. Andrew McCutcheon (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Speaking of steady production, McCutcheon has been providing owners with 20-25 HR pop, excellent counting stats, double-digit steals and a near .300 average for five straight seasons. However, 2015 did have some concerns for the Dread Pirate. There is some worry with his dwindling SB attempts (37, 21, 16 in his past three seasons), as well as a rising K rate (15.0%, 17.7%, 19.4%) that may spell a 2016 decline. A nagging knee injury last season could have been the culprit, but it may be enough for me to look elsewhere in the first/second round.
5. A.J. Pollock (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Despite misspelling his last name, I love me some Pollock for 2016. There are very few players that hold 20/40 upside, especially those who will be hitting in Chase Field with a solid lineup behind him. I think 15/35 is a more realistic expectation for A.J. as he hits comfortably over .300 and gives you 100+ runs.
6. Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox) – Comparing Pollock and Betts is apples and oranges: they are both HR/SB guys, while Betts has more HR upside and Pollock will swipe more bags. Betts has a better batted ball profile for longballs (42.4% flyballs), and could hint at 25+ if he raises his low 8.2% HR/FB from last season. Pollock will be in the low 30s in flyballs in favor of grounders, which means he’ll have the higher average and be on base more often –> more swiped bags. Betts is the younger player by five years, though, and you can imagine there is more room to grow and develop into an premo five category option. Still, the elite steals and stabler average from Pollock gives A.J. the slightly higher rank.
7. Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays) – Sometimes you just want raw power, and the next four guys are all excellent options. Joey Bats is one of the best power hitters around and it’s not going to stop in 2016. I’ve mentioned already the compounding offense of the Blue Jays, and with Bautista in the middle of it you can bet his counting stats will be soaring through the roof. There are two areas of worry, however. First, his increase of flyballs that generated more HRs (yay!) was the impetus that dropped his BABIP 40 points down to .237. Now that number should be better in 2016, though it may be difficult for Bautista to hit over .270. Additionally, injuries have plagued Jose’s career, playing in just 210 games across the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He’s managed to stay on the field the past two years, though that may be tougher to accomplish in his 35-year-old season.
8. JD Martinez (Detroit Tigers) – I see Cruz and Martinez as nearly the same player, though I believe in JD slightly more: better lineup surrounding him, younger age, and a more sustainable batted ball profile. JD hits more flyballs than Cruz, requiring a manageable 20% HR/FB to eclipse 35 dingers. I see more success coming for Martinez in his 28-year-old season, and I’m aiming to grab him in all leagues.
9. Nelson Cruz (Seattle Mariners) – This should be quick one, so pardon me for…cruising through Nelson’s blurb. His .350 BABIP last should fall as he holds a 25% K rate, so don’t expect a .300+ average this year, more like .270 give or take. The HRs are still alive, and should pass 30, though he’ll need another season near 30% HR/FB to hint at 40 dingers. He’ll accumulate excellent all around counting stats as he plays 150+ games from the DH again. Hard not to love it.
11. Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies) – If you miss out on Pollock or Betts, you may be looking at Blackmon or Marte to take his place, and I’m going with Charlie. Blackmon holds higher Runs upside – better offensive production in Colorado and better a walk rate – plus higher SB upside, while Marte will provide more RBI given his projection to bat clean up in the Pittsburgh lineup. The Speed/Average/Runs combo of Blackmon mixed with 15-20 HRs is a rare package to find in this year’s draft, and Blackmon’s foundation has me sold. Or maybe it’s the beard. Nah, definitely the foundation.
12. Starling Marte (Pittsburgh Pirates) – I discussed Marte a bit in Blackmon’s post, but what I left out was that I’m worried about Marte’s ability to come close to replicating the power in his 2015 season. He’s imposed an anti-fly zone, hitting just 22.7% flyballs last year, which meant he required a high 18.6% HR/FB just to hit 19 longballs. Just to give you an idea, that HR/FB ranked 19th overall in the bigs, right in front of Yoenis Cespedes. I’m bearish that Marte can repeat the pop again in 2016, which means a 15/25 is more likely in the cards. There’s still a lot of value in it, though I doubt I’ll be paying the premium for it.
TIER 3: Value Town
14. Carlos Gomez (Houston Astros) – In this tier, a lot of players can give you 1st or 2nd round production, but given the plethora of options they are falling to the 3rd/4th/5th rounds. It want to make y’all recognize that Gomez’s 115 games last year prorated to just about a 15/25 season. This is when he was battling a rib injury that greatly affected his swing. Yes, his numbers across the board diminished, but I don’t see why he shouldn’t return to his 2014 form, especially when he’s playing around a robust Astros lineup. I don’t see why a 20/30 season with a near .270 season is far-fetched, and then there is upside for more. Considering CarGo2 is currently going in the 4th/5th rounds, there is some nice value to be had.
15. George Springer (Houston Astros) – I pair together Springer and Gomez as they both present intriguing upside, with Springer having the higher ceiling, but his strikeout and injury tendencies make me skeptical that we’ll see the true breakout we’re looking for. He’s a risky pick that could return first round value if it all comes together, unlike players below him who don’t have nearly the same ceiling. Are you feeling lucky?
16. Justin Upton (Detroit Tigers) – Justin should be looking at an improved offensive effort this year as he sticks himself in a loaded Tigers lineup, and it’s making me think a major breakout is in line for the better Upton, though he’ll have to fix his strikeout rate if he wants to have a respectable batting average. If you’re looking for steals with power, go with Upton over Cespedes. If you want more security in your average and higher HR upside, go Cespedes.
17. Yoenis Cespedes (New York Mets) – We haven’t talked much about splits but it’s about time as Cespedes jacked 25 Hrs across July/August/September to help the Mets make a strong push for October baseball. The thing is, his sudden power outburst in 2015 wasn’t too far out of line with his career rates, and it’s possible he could hit 30 again this season as he returns to NYC. Paired with an acceptable K rate and a slot in the heart of the Mets’ order should make him a safe pick.
18. Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers) – Is it time to accept Braun as a great-but-not-elite fantasy commodity in his post-roid years? In 2015, he elected to run the basepaths like his highlight years, and featured the second highest HR/FB rate of his career at 20.5%. His falling FB rate worries me a little bit, which may make it tough for him to squeak past 20 dingers in 2016.
19. Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies) – Man, those first two months were brutal, right? Then suddenly Cargo goes 33.3% HR/FB in the second half and SHAZAM he has 40 HRs for the season. Obviously if I believed it would carry over he wouldn’t be ranked this low, as a regression has to be expected. There’s also his injury history to consider, which allowed him to play just 180 games total across 2013 and 2014. He’s a high risk/high reward player, and I’d rather go with more stable options at this point.
20. Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles) – Owning Jones won’t be a bad thing – the guy has hit at least 25 bombs in each of the past 5 seasons, even after playing just 137 games last season – he just doesn’t have the same upside as the guys ahead of him. There is one glaring issue though: he’s a free swinger (44.0% O-Swing last year!), and his OBP has shrunk four years straight, plummeting to just .308 last year following a miniscule 4.1% walk rate and .286 BABIP. It’ll hamper on his Run production, and those steals don’t look to be returning as he struggles to consistently get on base.
21. Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals) – Lorenzo had been a good average/steals guy in previous seasons, but he didn’t provide enough pop to get major attention until last year when he slugged 16 bombs. He also got enough playing time eclipse 100 Runs, and suddenly he’s looking like a 2nd round guy. It’s a bit tricky to pin down if the power will stick, as his HR/FB doubled from 5.3% to 11.2% – not a ludicrous clip, but out of the ordinary for Cain. The steals and average should stick, and a 10/25 season certainly has value, I just don’t want to pay for 17/30 like many will be in drafts.
TIER 4: Go Middle Or Go Home
22. Kyle Schwarber (Chicago Cubs) – This tier features guys that could give you stable #2 OF production, or completely fall off the deep end and make you feel bad for spending a Top 100 pick. Well, outside of Schwarber since he should be in your catcher slot and not OF. Read more about Kyle Schwarber in last week’s Top 20 Catchers For 2016.
23. Matt Kemp (San Diego Padres) – Owners last year will be the first to remind you that Kemp had just one HR entering the month of June before he jacked 22 more the rest of the way. Kemp’s 12 SBs seems surprising, but was simply more successful than 2014’s effort (12-for-14 instead of 8-for-13). Kemp should have a bit more trouble racking the RBI with Upton out of the lineup, however, and times have looked better in San Diego. Like…you know that time when…um…1998! There we go, when they got…swept…let’s move on.
24. Hunter Pence (San Francisco Giants) – I kinda like Pence in your drafts as he’s getting a discount for his injury-laden 2015 after not being sidelined since 2007. When he did play in 2015 he was highly productive, prorating close to a 90/27/120/.270/12 season. I’m not saying that’s what he’ll be this year, but hot damn if he even comes close to that as you draft him after pick #100, you’ll be super happy.
25. Jacoby Ellsbury (New York Yankees) – Here’s one of your last shots to snag a guy that has upside for a season 20/30 with great counting stats. Do I think it’ll happen? Ehhhh it comes with a lot of risk, as Ellsbury missed 50 games in 2015 due to knee, oblique, and hip injuries. That doesn’t sound like a 100% healthy 2016 season to me. Still, even if you get 130 games out of him, he will produce on the field when he’s playing. If you pair him up with a decent upside stash deeper in the draft, you may be getting excellent value out of your #2/#3 OF spot.