(Photo by Quinn Harris/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 60. Don’t forget to check out our Top 20 Outfielders and Top 40 Outfielders articles, too.
41. Eduardo Nunez (Boston Red Sox) – We covered Nunez in the Top 25 Second Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
42. Marwin Gonzalez (Houston Astros) – Gonzalez played 49 games in the outfield in 2017, making him eligible in all leagues. We covered Gonzalez in the Top 25 Second Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
43. Jose Martinez (St. Louis Cardinals) – Martinez played 41 games in the outfield in 2017, making him eligible in all leagues. We covered Martinez in the Top 25 First Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
44a. Scooter Gennett (Cincinnati Reds) – Gennett played 15 games in the outfield in 2017, making him eligible in some leagues. We covered Gennett in the Top 25 Second Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
Tier 6: A Farewell To Kings
44b. Carlos Gonzalez (Free Agent) – If you read any of my articles last year (especially my outfield rankings), you know that I kind of have a thing for Carlos Gonzalez. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve just always loved the guy, so you can imagine how disappointed I was when CarGo turned in the worst season of his career (that wasn’t derailed by injuries). But CarGo’s season was a tale of two halves with a specific change to his swing that led to success. For the first half of the season, CarGo was wrapping his hands around the bat too much, which caused him to have more of an uppercut of a swing that would lead him to either swing under a pitch for a fly ball out, or strikeout. This was a problem CarGo had earlier in his career that was fixed by his hitting coach Don Baylor, but he slipped back into this habit until he realized he was doing it. Once he realized the problem, he made an adjustment, wrapping the bat less and holding it like he has since Baylor corrected him all those years ago. That adjustment is pretty noticeable in his first and second half splits from last year. In the first half, he slashed .221/.299/.338 and in the second half he slashed .314/.390/.531. Not only that, but his hard-hit rate jumped right back up to his career-average, from 28.6% in the first half to 36.4% in the second, his HR/FB rate jumped up from 9.8% to 15.4%, and he started hitting more fly balls and fewer ground balls. Now, as of this writing, CarGo hasn’t signed anywhere, and that could change his ranking quite a bit, certainly there is a concern about his career home/road splits (he’s a .301 hitter in Coors and a .261 hitter elsewhere), but if he lands in a hitter-friendly environment (like, say, with the Orioles), that could mitigate the loss of Coors a bit. If that does happen, I’m fully on the CarGo bounceback train.
45. Nomar Mazara (Texas Rangers) – Mazara saw his average drop last season from .266 to .253, and along with that a slight increase in strikeout rate from 19.7% to 20.6% and in whiff rate from 8.6% to 11.1%. Those numbers aren’t overly concerning, but they’re worth noting. I’d expect Mazara to have a fairly similar year to the one he’s had the past couple years, with the potential for a slightly higher average if he’s able to be a bit more disciplined at the plate.
46. Michael Conforto (New York Mets) – Michael Conforto went down with a nasty shoulder injury last year, and as of this writing, he’s expected to be back on May 1, but that’s far from a given. If we knew he was fully healthy and ready to go on Opening Day, he’d be a fair bit higher on these rankings, but as such, we’re not even 100% sure he’s going to be ready on May 1, and even if he is, there’s the chance that this shoulder injury will affect him for the entire season. He’s a high-risk player, but he’s also immensely talented and has been one of my favorite players for years. If he’s fully healthy on May 1 and plays the rest of the season, he could definitely be a .270s, 20 home run guy, but that health is far from guaranteed.
47. Corey Dickerson (Tampa Bay Rays) – Initially when we did these rankings, Corey Dickerson hadn’t been DFA’d by the Rays, but as of this writing, he has been. Now, I would still expect him to land somewhere, I imagine the Rays have a trade in mind (and by the time you’re reading this, he could already be somewhere else), but he’ll end up starting somewhere, and I think he’ll be fairly productive. I would expect his average to go down, he ended the year with a .282 average that came with a .338 BABIP and a .264 xAVG. Strikeouts are still a big issue for him, but I don’t see any reason he can’t bat in the .260s with 25-30 home runs, though that could change if he ends up in a platoon situation somewhere or in a major pitcher-friendly park.
48. Odubel Herrera (Philadelphia Phillies) – Odubel Herrera looked fairly normal last year except for two things: his steals and his plate discipline. The steals were a huge hit to his value, because most people (including myself) were expecting 20-30 steals from him and we got eight. Now, I don’t know if this is Herrera’s fault or the Phillies’ fault, because Herrera was reprimanded last year for stealing a base on a red light, so who knows, but I’m hopeful that will change. As for his plate discipline, Herrera’s strikeout rate went up from 20.4% to 22.4%, his walk rate dropped from 9.6% to 5.5%, his chase rate jumped up from 34.6% to 40%, and his whiff rate increased from 10.6% to 13.1%. That is somewhat concerning, but I would imagine he should still be able to hit in the .280s with decent power similar to last year. His value will go up significantly though if the steals come back.
49. Ian Happ (Chicago Cubs) – We covered Happ in the Top 25 Second Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
50. Manuel Margot (San Diego Padres) – Manuel Margot’s biggest asset is his speed, he’s absurdly fast. But last year, he popped 13 home runs kind of out of nowhere, though I don’t expect them to continue considering the came with a 8.6 xHRs and a pretty poor 25.4% hard-hit rate in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. Still though, he should be able to have a decent batting average and lots of speed. I would conservatively project 20-25 steals, but he has the ability to steal 30+ easily, and it’s really just a matter of when that will happen, not if.
51a. Eric Thames (Milwaukee Brewers) – Thames played 30 games in the outfield in 2017, making him eligible in some leagues. We covered Thames in the Top 25 First Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
51b. Steven Souza Jr. (Arizona Diamondbacks) – There’s some good and some bad to Steven Souza’s season last year. The good was an improvement in plate discipline. Souza saw his strikeout rate drop from 33.8% to 29%, his chase rate drop from 30.6% to 24.4%, his whiff rate drop from 15.6% to 13.3%, and his walk rate increase from 10.8% to 13.6%. However, Souza really struggled in the second half of the year last year, which is what’s troubling. He hit .271 in the first half and .192 in the second, which also came with more ground balls and way fewer line drives. Still though, there’s reason to be somewhat optimistic, his power is legit, there’s no reason he can’t hit 25-30 home runs, though moving to Arizona could be a problem if the humidor is happening. He can also steal around 15 bases, and if the plate discipline improvements stick, that average could get better too.
52. Kyle Schwarber (Chicago Cubs) – Schwarber has 30 home run power easily, but what’s concerning about him is how much he strikes out. Last year he had a strikeout rate of 30.9%, and that’s going to limit his batting average. I don’t expect him to hit below .220 again given his .244 BABIP and .222 xAVG, but I don’t expect him to hit better than .230 unless the plate discipline improves. RBIs should be in good supply on the Cubs though.
53. Avisail Garcia (Chicago White Sox) – I buy Avisail Garcia’s 2017 a little bit. The .330 average I don’t buy, that is going to come down considering it came with a .392 BABIP, but I still think he can be a .280s/.290s hitter. I do believe in the power though, I think he can be a 20 home run guy. Last season saw a slight increase in hard-hit rate as well as an increase in launch angle. He also started pulling the ball a lot more, all of which suggests that he made a change to his approach and that 20 home runs is totally doable.
Tier 7: Signals
54. Bradley Zimmer (Cleveland Indians) – Bradley Zimmer will likely have a full-time job with the Indians this year rather than doing the platooning that he did last year. He’s got a nice power/speed combo that should generate around 15 home runs and 20+ steals, but the average is going to be limited by his poor plate discipline. Last season, Zimmer had a 29.8% strikeout rate and a 13.9% whiff rate. Unless that gets better, I don’t see him hitting much better than the low-.240s.
55. Kevin Kiermaier (Tampa Bay Rays) – The 15 home runs that Kevin Kiermaier hit last year were nice, but I don’t expect him to do that again considering they came with a meh 31.8% hard-hit rate and 9.2 xHRs. I would also expect his average to regress some considering he had a .276 average and a .229 xAVG. Don’t overpay for Kiermaier based on last year’s numbers, however he’s still relatively valuable. There’s something to be said for a guy who can steal around 20 bases with double-digit home runs and a .260s-ish average.
56. Mitch Haniger (Seattle Mariners) – As long as Mitch Haniger is healthy all year (and I don’t see any reason why he won’t be), 20-25 home runs shouldn’t be a problem, and he should be able to approach double-digit stolen bases. The average, however, will come down I think, considering he hit .282 with a .258 xAVG and a .338 BABIP.
57. Aaron Altherr (Philadelphia Phillies) – Altherr made some significant improvements last year, increasing his hard-hit rate from 29.5% to 36.4%, and his launch angle from 4.5 to 11.8. I would imagine that this will maintain for the most part, though it’s worth noting that he had a 40% hard-hit rate in the first half of the year and a 27.9% hard-hit rate in the second half. Regardless, I’m not too worried and I would expect Altherr to be able to essentially do what he did last year.
58. Mark Trumbo (Baltimore Orioles) – What an incredibly frustrating year from Mark Trumbo. After the best year of his career, he turns in the worst year of his career, and the batted ball stats are not promising. His hard-hit rate dropped from 39.3% to 30.4% (his lowest since 2011), his HR/FB rate dropped from 24.6% to 13.9% (a career-low), his average exit velocity dropped from 94 to 90.8, and his launch angle dropped from 16.6 to 10.2. And on top of all of that, he saw his infield fly ball rate shoot up to 15%, the highest it’s been since 2011. I truly don’t think Trumbo is this bad, I think he’ll rebound, but it’s hard to project exactly what will happen. Hopefully .240s with 25 home runs?
59. Delino DeShields Jr. (Texas Rangers) – DeShields outperformed his BABIP and xAVG last year, but that’s to be expected from someone with as much speed as he’s got. He’s got a full-time gig with the Rangers more than likely, so around 30 steals shouldn’t be a problem at all, though he’ll likely be batting at the bottom of the order, so runs and RBIs will likely be hard to come by. He also doesn’t have much power to speak of, though he could approach double-digit home runs. Essentially, DeShields offers you a lot of speed with an average that won’t kill you.
60a. Chris Owings (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Owings played 26 games in the outfield in 2017, making him eligible in some leagues. We covered Owings in the Top 25 Second Basemen for Fantasy Baseball in 2018.
60b. Aaron Hicks (New York Yankees) – It’s looking like the Yankees are favoring Hicks to be the starting center fielder over Jacoby Ellsbury, but that’s not a guarantee (unless they’re able to trade Ellsbury). Everything Hicks did last year looks legit, and if he’s got a full-time job, he could be even better (like potentially 20 home runs and 15 steals or so), but as of now, he might be on the better-half of a platoon with Ellsbury, which will limit his production. Bump him up a bit though if Ellsbury ends up traded.