As we gear up for the 2019 season, we’re ranking every position for fantasy baseball. We’ve already done our top 20 outfielders for the season; today we dive into our top 40.
The rankings are still divided into tiers named after my favorite Yes albums because hey, why not?
Also worth noting: a “y” designation means that player is only eligible at that position in Yahoo! leagues, and not ESPN leagues.
Finally, we got a full season from Mitch Haniger last year and he was just about everything we had hoped he could be, slashing .285/.366/.493 with 26 home runs. It all looked pretty legit last year, and I could even see the power getting better, as xStats gave him 30 xHRs and he saw a noticeable increase in his barrel rate—from 6.1% in 2017 to 10.3% last year.
While George Springer wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination last year, he also wasn’t nearly what you likely paid for him after his .283/.367/.522, 34 home run season in 2017. Sure, 22 home runs and 102 runs is nothing to sneeze at, but now the question is, which George Springer will we see? Will we see the .260s hitter of 2016 and 2018? Or the .270s+ hitter of 2015 and 2017? His power didn’t get much worse last year, his barrel rate was at 8.9%, not much lower than the 9.3% it was at in 2017. The big change was his HR/FB rate, which dropped from 22.8% in 2017 to 15% in 2018. I think the latter is a bit more realistic to expect, and while I could see the average improving (though it’s worth noting his .265 average came with a .258 xAVG), I think mid-20s home runs is more likely than mid-30s.
Did anyone really expect the 37 home runs Marcell Ozuna hit in 2017 to come back last year? Well, if you did, you were pretty disappointed, as he hit just 23 (still, not exactly a bad number) while slashing .280/.325/.433. Overall, a good season, but I don’t think you can hope for 2017 to come back, as it was mostly inflated by a 23.4% HR/FB rate that came back down to a much more realistic 13.9% last year. Given his decent-but-not-great 9.7% barrel rate and his below-average 15.8% HROpp rate (percentage of hits hit at the best launch angles for home runs—learn more here), I think around 25 home runs is about what you can expect. What’s nice with Ozuna, though, is the average. While he hit .280 last year, that came with a .291 xAVG, so I wouldn’t be shocked if it jumps back up a bit next year.
Justin Upton seems like one of those guys who gets it done for you every year but doesn’t quite get the notoriety he deserves. He’s got three straight seasons of at least 30 home runs, and given that his barrel rate has increased each year (and hit a fantastic 14% last year, good for 17th in the league), I don’t see any reason to expect any less. He’ll be a good source of power with an average that’s not going to hurt you too badly and a handful of steals. That’s a valuable player.
I’ve been a Yasiel Puig truther for years now and I’m really psyched to see what he can do with the Reds this year. He’s moving from a pretty pitcher-friendly park in L.A. to a pretty hitter-friendly park in Great American Ballpark. We’ve seen two straight years of Puig mixing his power and speed with great results, and likely hitting in the middle of what looks to be a pretty good Reds lineup can do nothing but improve on his past seasons. I would not be shocked in the least if he hits 30 home runs this year. That plus a good handful of steals and an average around .270 means he’s very useful.
We finally saw a full season of Michael Conforto last year and it was perfectly fine. Sure, the .243 average wasn’t great, but the 28 home runs was solid. It was a bit of a drop from 2017, considering he hit 27 home runs in 44 fewer games and it came with a drop in barrel rate, HR/FB rate and HROpp rate coming into 2018. If he can boost those back up to 2017 levels, the power potential is fantastic. But even without that, a guy who can hit in the .250s (and I have faith that he can get his average up there) with nearly 30 home runs is still very valuable. And of course, the chance of him fulfilling an even greater potential is there.
Tier 5: The Yes Album
Aaron Hicks is a good example of the usefulness of HROpp rate (shoutout to our own Dan Richards for that). Hicks doesn’t hit the ball overly hard. His 8.8% barrel rate last year was good for 108th in baseball (which isn’t bad at all, but not elite) and his average exit velocity of 88.9 MPH was good for 129th in the majors (tied with a handful of other players). So how did he hit 27 home runs? He hit them in the right place. He upped his average launch angle to 12.5 degrees last year and logged a solid 20.7% HROpp rate, good for 74th in baseball. In short, while he didn’t consistently crush the ball, when he did hit it hard, he hit it at the right launch angle to get a home run. Can he do that again this year? I think that’s possible. It’s pretty clear that this isn’t a luck stat but rather a skill one. Plus, he can net you a decent handful of steals too, and he’ll be hitting in one of the best lineups in baseball.
No. 28: Nicholas Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers)
Nicholas Castellanos has shown us for three straight years now that he can hit for a good average, and for two straight years now that he can hit 20+ home runs. Sure, you might look at his .361 BABIP last year and expect the .298 average to come down, and I wouldn’t blame you, I’m right there with you, but I don’t think it’s going to come down all that much. It’s worth noting that he had a .299 xAVG and a .354 xBABIP last year, suggesting that his average was actually pretty legit. I still have trouble expecting that again this year, but I could still see a high-.270s/low-.280s average with good power.
I’ve loved Mallex Smith for about four years now, and I am so happy he was finally given a full season to show off his talent. Yes, he’s going to give you virtually nothing in the home run department, but he stole 40 bags last year and posted a 29.8 ft/sec sprint speed, tied for 13th best in baseball with John Andreoli (for reference, Byron Buxton led the league at 30.5 ft/sec). I think 40 steals is totally possible again for Mallex, and what’s more, his batting average isn’t going to hurt you. Will he keep up the .366 BABIP that helped him get a .296 average last year? Maybe not, but I don’t expect his average to drop too much. He had a .283 xAVG and .347 xBABIP last year, which makes sense for a guy of his speed. Yes, he’s in a worse lineup with the Mariners now, but I think he’ll still be an excellent source of speed with a solid average for your team.
No. 30: Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox)
This is where I want to place a caveat—these rankings are not my personal rankings. These rankings are our Pitcher List staff consensus rankings. I had input in these rankings, and I signed off on them along with other Pitcher List writers, so I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to say, “hey look, not my fault” here, but the reason I’m mentioning this is because I personally might draft Jimenez a little bit later than this spot (not by much though). But that’s because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a more risk-averse fantasy player, and that does hurt me sometimes. Eloy is not likely to be in the majors to start the season, though there’s a pretty solid chance he’s up pretty quickly. The White Sox’s outfield will likely consist of Jon Jay, Daniel Palka, and Adam Engel coming into the season, and while I’m personally a Palka fan, none of those guys come close to Eloy’s talent level, which has received some absurd praise in recent days. I think given mostly a full season, Eloy will be really good. I could see him being a mid-20s home run guy with a great average—and there’s room for growth, given he’s got 70-to-80-grade raw power he could tap into.
Injuries suck, man. An oblique injury cut Myers’ season short last year after two really productive seasons. I think it’s entirely possible for Myers to recapture some of the 2016 and 2017 magic he had as a .240s/.250s hitter with a great power/speed combo, but I do worry about the injuries cropping up again, which makes him pretty risky. That being said, it is entirely possible that he turns in another 20/20 or 25/25 season, and that is super valuable.
Last year marked Michael Brantley’s first full season since 2015, and it was so good to have him back. His .309/.364/.468 slash line with 17 home runs and 12 steals looked like vintage Michael Brantley, and what’s even better—he stayed healthy. Now he’s with the Astros in what’s probably a better lineup than the one he was in in Cleveland, and I don’t think there’s any reason he can’t repeat last year’s success. The only thing that will stop him is his health. But I’m optimistic he can stay healthy again.
No. 33: A.J. Pollock (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
A.J. Pollock moving from Arizona to L.A. I think might hurt his value a bit. Sure, he’ll be hitting atop a good Dodgers lineup, but Dodger Stadium isn’t nearly the hitter’s park that Chase Field is. Pollock saw a power increase last year and that was in part thanks to his barrel rate doubling from 5.6% in 2017 to 10% in 2018. That will definitely help, so I don’t think his power is going to crater all of a sudden, but I think low-20s home runs is roughly his ceiling. That mixed with potentially close to 20 steals is awesome for sure, but the other problem you’re likely to run into with Pollock is his health. He played 113 games last year and 112 the year before, and I don’t think you can count on him for much more than about 115ish. Sure, he could do more, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Still, the 20/20 potential is there and that’s worth the risk.
It’s abundantly clear to me that the Rockies hate their good prospects for some reason, and David Dahl has been a victim of that hate for some time now. As it stands, Dahl is slated to be a starting outfielder for the Rockies (barring them doing something dumb like signing Carlos Gonzalez or something). If that’s the case, I’m a big fan. Obviously, anyone hitting in Coors Field is great, but Dahl has shown his talent many times before, and given a full year, I think a .270s average with 25ish home runs and double-digit steals is totally in the picture. Or he’ll get benched all year for Raimel Tapia. Who knows, it’s the Rockies.
We only saw 21 games worth of Victor Robles last year, but anyone who’s followed him through the minors knows how talented he is. Unfortunately, it looks like he’ll be hitting at the bottom of the lineup, which will hurt his value some, but the guy can easily give you double-digit power with 25+ steals and a good batting average, and that’s a guy worth investing in. Let’s just hope the Nationals really do give him a full-time gig.
Tier 6: Relayer
Is there much I need to say about Joey Gallo? He’s the new Adam Dunn: a pure three-true-outcome hitter. He’s going to smash a ton of home runs, he’s going to strikeout a bunch and he’s going to walk a decent bit. He’s a fair bit more valuable in OBP leagues given his okay OBP, but in standard leagues, he’s a power-only guy who’s going to kill you with a .200s average.
No. 37: David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
If you’re curious whether David Peralta’s career-best 30 home runs last year are legit, you should know that he made a pretty noticeable change last year. His barrel rate jumped up from 4.1% in 2017 to 7.8% last year and he started hitting the ball pretty hard, with 45.7% of his hits coming in at 95+ MPH, tied for 31st in the league with Wil Myers and ahead of such names as Trevor Story, Jose Abreu and Bryce Harper. Now, do I think 30 home runs happens again? Not really. His launch angle still isn’t great, averaging just 6.7 degrees with a HROpp rate of 16.7% (which is below average). Plus, his 30 home runs came with 25.3 xHRs. I think the power increase is legit, but only to an extent. I think his 23.4% HR/FB rate will come back down to earth some, but I still think 20-25 home runs is possible. Given that he’s proven himself to hit for a really good averarge, he’ll still have plenty of value.
No. 38: Dee Gordon (2B/OF, Seattle Mariners)
Is Dee Gordon slowing with age now that he’s 30? I don’t think that’s likely. Sure, his sprint speed was a career-worst 29 ft/sec last year, but that was still good for the top 9% of the league. That isn’t all that far from his 29.1 ft/sec speed of 2015, and it was just two seasons ago that he stole 60 bases. The ceiling for 50+ bases is obviously there, but I wouldn’t count on it in your draft. I think banking on 30+ is safer, and I think his average will get better. His .268 average last year came with a .292 xAVG, so if that average is able to improve and he’s able to snag 30+ bases, he’ll definitely be useful, even if he’ll give you virtually nothing in the power or RBI department.
I thought Andrew McCutchen moving to San Francisco was going to really hurt his numbers, and it did. Oracle Park is arguably the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball, and hitting there led McCutchen to have the worst home run and average totals he’s had in nearly a decade. He’s now with the Phillies in probably the best lineup he’s ever hit in (and that lineup could get way better if the Phillies end up signing Harper), and he’s probably going to lead off. McCutchen didn’t become a worse hitter last year—his barrel rate was about in line with the past few seasons, as was his exit velocity. I think he was just a victim of his park. I think McCutchen is primed for a solid bounce-back season this year, and could easily hit for a decent average with a good power/speed combo.
Speaking of bounce-back seasons, how about Stephen Piscotty last year? Hitting with the A’s, Piscotty knocked in a career-best 27 home runs while slashing .267/.331./.491. I don’t see anything in his peripherals that suggests last year wasn’t legit. He had a .272 xAVG, which is encouraging, as well as 25.5 xHRs and a solid 9.6% barrel rate (a career-best). Oakland’s lineup is pretty solid and Piscotty is likely to hit right in the heart of it, so I think a repeat of last year is totally doable.
Photo by: Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire.