(Photo by Nick Wosika/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, the Top 40 Outfielders for 2018. Don’t forget to check out our Top 20 Outfielders for 2018, too.
21. Yoenis Cespedes (New York Mets) – Cespedes had a handful of lower-body injuries that really derailed his 2017 season, and of course, that’s going to be a concern going into this season. Cespedes has reportedly changed his training routine this offseason to prevent getting injured again, so perhaps that’ll help, but that’s far from a guarantee. Still, before last season, Cespedes had played in at least 130 games every year since 2013, and played in 129 games in 2012, so there’s reason to be optimistic that last year was fluky and he’ll be ok this year. If he is healthy, there’s no reason the power should decrease, he should be solid for around 30 home runs, and I would expect the average to drop a slight bit, probably around the .280s or so.
Tier 4: Hemispheres
22. Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins) – Buxton had some serious first- and second-half splits last year, slashing .216/.288/.306 in the first half and .300/.347/.546 in the second half. So the question everyone is going to be asking is, can Buxton’s second-half success carry into this season? Well I think there’s reason to be optimistic. Putting aside the fact that Buxton is immensely talented and could easily turn on the jets at any moment, there seemed to be a definite skill change to Buxton’s approach in the second half of the season last year. We saw his hard-hit rate go up from 25.3% to 30.2% and along with it an increase in HR/FB rate from 8.6% to 20.0%. Not only that, but he started hitting fewer groundballs, with his groundball rate dropping from 41.4% to 35.7%. Buxton also started hitting the ball to the opposite field a lot more, from 17.1% of the time in the first half to 22.8% of the time in the second half. This all isn’t to say Buxton is guaranteed to finally live up to the hype that’s been surrounding him for so long, but it is to say that Buxton made a change to his approach, and as such, I’m optimistic that he can carry his successes into this season.
23a. Wil Myers (San Diego Padres) – Myers didn’t play any outfield in 2017, but he’s going to likely gain outfield eligibility pretty quickly this year, as he’s likely moving to the outfield with the Padres’ acquiring Eric Hosmer. He won’t be an outfielder on draft day, but he’ll get there fast. We covered Myers in the Top 25 First Basemen in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
23b. Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers) – Braun’s season last year was fine if a little disappointing, though it came along with some injuries. Assuming he’s healthy this year, I would expect his batting average to go up a bit, his .268 average last year came along with a .279 xAVG. His power should still be good for 20 or so home runs and there’s no reason he can’t have double-digit steals too. What might be a little wonky this year is his playing time. Like I’ve mentioned before, if the Brewers don’t trade Domingo Santana, things are gonna look a little overcrowded in their outfield. There are reports that Braun might be part of an outfield rotation while starting at first base against lefties (giving Eric Thames a rest), and I could definitely see the Brewers benching him periodically if there’s any question about his health. If I’m the Brewers and Braun doesn’t seem 100% healthy, I know I’ve got the outfielders to let him rest as much as he needs. I’m not saying that will happen, but I could definitely see it happening.
24. Andrew McCutchen (San Francisco Giants) – McCutchen’s move to AT&T Park is going to hurt his power production, I would imagine. PNC Park wasn’t a hitters park by any stretch, but AT&T Park is arguably the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball. It was the worst park for home runs last year while PNC was 23rd. The two parks are fairly similar for hits though, so I wouldn’t expect his average to take too much of a hit, I think he can still hit in the .280s or high-.270s, but the power is going to drop probably to around 20 home runs. It’s definitely possible that he reaches 25, but I’m probably going to be conservative in my estimates for McCutchen as a member of the Giants. Last season, his 28 home runs came with a 16.4% HR/FB rate, and I just don’t know that he can maintain that in AT&T Park.
25. Nick Castellanos (Detroit Tigers) – Castellanos played 21 games in the outfield last season, which makes him eligible in a fair number of leagues. We covered Castellanos in the Top 25 Third Basemen in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
26a. Matt Olson (Oakland Athletics) – Olson played 12 games in the outfield last season, which will make him eligible in some leagues. We covered Olson in the Top 25 First Basemen in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
26b. Whit Merrifield (Kansas City Royals) – Merrifield played 17 games in the outfield last season, which will make him eligible in some leagues. We covered Merrifield in the Top 25 Second Basemen in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
26c. Chris Taylor (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Taylor played 97 games in the outfield last season, making him eligible in every league, but being that he also played 22 games at second base, we covered him in the Top 25 Second Basemen in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
27. Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Yasiel Puig is so frustrating to own. I feel like I say this every time I talk about him, he’s extremely talented but far too often he doesn’t play well because he’s either hurt or gets benched because he’s acting like an idiot. But last year, he finally turned it on and ended up with arguably the best season of his career. So can he do that again this year? He certainly can, it’s just going to depend on him staying healthy and staying in the field again. I think he might be due for a bit of a power regression given that his 28 home runs came with a 19.4% HR/FB rate compared to a slightly-above-average 32.9% hard-hit rate as well as the 24 xHRs he had last year. Still, should be good for around 25ish home runs and probably an average in the high-.260s/low-.270s given his .269 xAVG and .274 BABIP last year that accompanied his .263 average.
28. Eddie Rosario (Minnesota Twins) – Eddie Rosario kind of jumped out of nowhere with a big increase in power and average, jumping up to 27 home runs while batting .290. It’s perfectly fair to wonder exactly how real that jump was, and it looks fairly legit. Rosario improved his plate discipline last year, with his strikeout rate dropping from 25.7% in 2016 to 18.0% last year and his chase rate dropping from 41.7% to 37.6%. That being said, I would expect his average to regress a bit, given that he had a .274 xAVG last year, though I still see him as a .270s/.280s hitter. As for the power, Rosario saw a minor increase in his hard-hit rate from 30.1% to 31.7% but a fairly noticeable increase in his HR/FB rate from 11.9% to 16.4% and an increase in his launch angle from 8.9 to 11.0. I think the HR/FB will regress a bit and the power will along with it, though only slightly. I think he’ll still be good for around 20 home runs and should be able to get around double-digit steals.
29. Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles) – Adam Jones‘ free-swinging nature has always made me nervous because it means he’s susceptible to a total collapse at any time. That being said, he’s remained fairly consistent over the years, and I don’t really see any reason he can’t have a fairly typical Adam Jones-like season this year. It is worth noting, however, that last year saw a decrease in some power numbers for Jones. His hard-hit rate dropped from 32.6% to 30.9%, his average exit velocity dropped from 89.3 to 86.7, and his launch angle dropped from 15.1 to 11.7. I’m not saying panic, but those numbers certainly don’t inspire a ton of confidence. Perhaps age is finally catching up to him.
30. Adam Eaton (Washington Nationals) – Adam Eaton was looking pretty solid until his season was ended prematurely by an ACL injury. Fortunately, that injury happened early enough in the year that I think we can feel fairly confident that he’s healthy going into the season. Leading off for the Nationals (which is where I imagine they’ll slot him), I don’t see any reason he can’t turn in the season he was probably headed for last year, somewhere around a 15/15 seasons batting in the .280s/.290s with a good number of runs.
31a. Joey Gallo (Texas Rangers) – Gallo played 18 games in the outfield last year which will make him eligible in some leagues. We covered Gallo in the Top 25 First Basemen in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
Tier 5: Grace Under Pressure
32b. Ender Inciarte (Atlanta Braves) – Inciarte had a bit of a power boost last season, hitting a career-high 11 home runs. That came with 8.0 xHRs, so I would imagine Inciarte should be able to approach double-digit home runs again, though his paltry hard-hit rate of 22.1% isn’t great. The average is a bit of a concern to me, as he hit .304 last year but that came along with a .339 BABIP and a .269 xAVG. Generally, because of his speed, I think we can expect him to outperform his xAVG and BABIP numbers, but not by that much. He strikes me as more of a .270s/.280s hitter, which will still be useful given that 20+ steals should be in the bag.
33. Domingo Santana (Milwaukee Brewers) – I’m hoping that, at some point, Domingo Santana gets traded, because as of now, he’s part of a crowded Brewers outfield. As of now, he seems to be the odd man out in what will likely be a rotation through the outfield. I can’t see the Brewers benching the newly-acquired Christian Yelich or Lorenzo Cain for Santana, nor Ryan Braun. I could, however, see Braun platooning a bit at first base with Eric Thames and Santana getting some time in the outfield then, as well as giving Cain and Yelich some rest. It’s unfortunate, because Santana had a great year and it looked pretty legit. While his .278 average came with a .363 BABIP, it also came with a .282 xAVG, so I wouldn’t expect it to regress too much. He also showed that he’s got 25-30 home run capabilities, though I’m somewhat skeptical that he can keep his HR/FB rate around 30% like he did last year. He’s also not out of the question for another 15 steals like he did last year. If he’s traded, Santana could be a pretty valuable asset, but as of now, his playing time is very uncertain. He’ll get a boost up in the rankings if he gets a full-time gig though.
34. Adam Duvall (Cincinnati Reds) – Adam Duvall has been pretty consistent the past couple seasons and I don’t see any reason he can’t do exactly what he’s been doing all over again. His average will likely be in the .240s and he should be solid for 30+ home runs. It is worth noting that his hard-hit rate dropped from 38.9% in 2016 to 31.8% in 2017, though he did also see an increase in his launch angle from 16.8 to 18.8. Given that his 31 home runs last year came with 35.1 xHRs, I’m not concerned about a power drop, but it is worth noting.
35. Ronald Acuna (Atlanta Braves) – It’s always hard to project rookies, but Ronald Acuna should have a full-time gig with the Braves this year and should be able to produce pretty well. He’s got loads of talent and has the ability to be a high-average guy, maybe a .270s+ hitter. He’s got the power potential to hit around 15 home runs too, and the speed to steal 20+ bases. RBIs are likely going to be tricky to find in the Braves lineup, and if they bat him lower in the order (which they might, given that Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies are likely to hit one and two), runs might be a bit harder to come by as well, but he should be a solid, well-rounded producer.
36. Gregory Polanco (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Gregory Polanco is such a frustrating hitter. He’s got a lot of talent but it just hasn’t all come together to turn him into a superstar, and I’m not all that confident it will. Still, he’s a very serviceable fantasy asset given his power/speed combo, though the former part of that pairing might have some problems. Last year he hit just 11 home runs, and while some of his season was derailed thanks to injury, I’m not super confident he’s going to surpass 20 home runs again like he did in 2016. He had a massive drop in hard-hit rate, from 35.7% to 25.9%, which, if you want to argue should be thrown out because of injury, I might give that to you, but I don’t think it should be ignored. It was nice to see his strikeout rate drop from 20.3% to 14.6%, but he also saw his walk rate drop from 9% to a career-low 6.6%. He also saw his chase rate jump up from 31% to 34.4%. Plate discipline continues to be a problem for him, but I still think he should be solid for around 20 bases, though if he’s healthy, he has the ability to get up to around 30.
37. Brett Gardner (New York Yankees) – Brett Gardner saw a big power jump last year, with a career-high 21 home runs, but I’ll be honest, I’m not buying it. Those 21 home runs came with a below-average 28.8% hard-hit rate and 13.8 xHRs. Now, it is interesting to note that Gardner’s launch angle jumped up from 5.3 to 10.2, which is fairly similar to where it was in 2015 when he hit 16 home runs. If that keeps up, I could see around 15 home runs happening, and combined with the 20 or so steals he’s likely to have, that could be fairly valuable.
38. Jay Bruce (New York Mets) – Luckily, since Jay Bruce has played with the Mets before, we can kind of get a general idea of what to expect from him in Citi Field. There isn’t much to say, because Jay Bruce just looked like Jay Bruce last year, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason to expect anything other than a Jay Bruce-like season from him, which means 30+ home runs and a batting average in the .250s.
39. Trey Mancini (Baltimore Orioles) – We covered Mancini in the Top 25 First Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
40. Ian Desmond (Colorado Rockies) – We covered Desmond in the Top 25 First Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.