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.
Brandon Nimmo is a guy I like a lot more in OBP leagues than standard because he walks a lot. Last year’s .263 average wasn’t all that exciting, but a .404 OBP in OBP leagues is fantastic, and with around 20ish home runs on top and around 10 steals, I’m quite happy with Nimmo. In standard leagues, his average is going to be fairly mediocre, but his power, with a touch of steals and likely a good run total (given how frequently he gets on base), makes Nimmo useful.
Austin Meadows has always had talent but never really got much of an opportunity with the Pirates. Now he’s in Tampa and will likely have a somewhat steady gig in the Rays’ outfield. Meadows showed a good hit tool in the minors with a solid power/speed combo that could easily translate into a 15/15 player with a solid average with a 20/20 ceiling.
The selling point for Ender Inciarte coming into last year was that he’ll steal 20-25 bases, hit double-digit home runs, and have a high average. He got the 10 home runs you expected, and he got the 28 steals you wanted, but what’s concerning is that he got 23 of those steals in the first half of the season. For the entire second half of the year, Inciarte nabbed you five steals. Now, sure, the .302 average he had in the second half was great (and makes me feel better about the .265 season average he had, as does the .277 xAVG it came with), but without much power or speed, Inciarte’s value drops a lot. I’m optimistic that the speed will be a bit more evened out this year—I think you can still count on him for 10ish home runs, 20-25 steals (or better) and a good average.
Ian Desmond put together the most frustrating 20/20 season last year. His average fluctuated month by month as his BABIP did the same: In April, he hit .178 with a .197 BABIP. In July, that average was .321 with a .379 BABIP. And in August, he dropped back down to a .176 average and .221 BABIP. His .244 xAVG suggests that his average should be better this year, and he clearly still has 20/20 capabilities, plus he’s still hitting in Coors Field, so overall this should be a better season for him. But given his age, injury history, and weird inconsistency last year, he’s definitely a risk.
I think at this point you should know exactly what you’re going to get from Nomar Mazara: He’s going to hit around 20 home runs (he’s hit exactly 20 for three straight seasons) and he’s going to hit around .250-.260. That’s what he’s done in each of his major league seasons and I think that’s reasonable to expect those numbers again. However, I do have one reason I’m a bit optimistic that the power could increase: In 2018 he hit 20 home runs, while playing 20 fewer games than in 2017, and his barrel rate jumped up from 6.5% in 2017 to 8.5% last year. So, maybe 25 home runs are in the cards for Mazara.
At age 34, Ryan Braun was able to put in a pretty solid season, slashing .254/.313/.469 with 20 home runs and 11 steals. He’s obviously in the twilight of his career and I don’t think you can expect him to do a ton better than what he did last year, but I think around 20 home runs with 10-15 steals and a good batting average is totally possible. While he hit .254 last year, he had a .286 xAVG and a .274 BABIP, so I could definitely see that average improving, and considering he had a solid 10.8% barrel rate, I think the power will be there too.
Tier 7: Drama
If he could just stay healthy. That’s what it’s all about with Adam Eaton, isn’t it? After missing essentially the entire 2017 season and a significant chunk of last year, the hope, the prayer, is that Eaton will be healthy this year and leading off for the Nats. If that happens—and that’s a big if—Eaton could be pretty valuable. He’s got that 15/15, .300 average, 100-run potential, but there is no way you can count on him being healthy all year. He might do it, but I don’t think you can bank on it. Still, the ceiling is quite nice.
No. 48: Ramon Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics)
At this point in the rankings, we’re kind of assuming you’ve already drafted your three or four main outfielders in a 10 or 12 team league, so now we enter the upside, lottery-ticket guys who are worth a snag. Ramon Laureano is a guy I’m personally a pretty big fan of. Through 176 PAs, Laureano slashed .288/.358/.474 with an xStats slashline of .278/.349/.470. If you pace out what he did last year to a full season, you’re looking at about a 15/20 player. Oh, and he also had an 11.1% barrel rate, which would’ve been top 50 in the MLB had he qualified. Needless to say, there’s a fair bit to like about Laureano’s skills, and he’s likely going to have a steady gig in the A’s outfield.
Harrison Bader has a bit of a strikeout problem (29.3% strikeout rate last year), but he has a really solid power/speed combo that should make up for what will likely be a medicore average at best. Last year, he hit .264, but that came with a .358 BABIP and a .259 xAVG. I think a .250s average is more what to expect from him, but a 15/15 season is completely realistic with the potential for even better. He showed 20+ home run power in the minors in 2017 and he’s only 24, so it’s possible that all develops this year. If he gets his strikeouts under control, Bader’s got near-20/20 potential.
Franmil Reyes has some pretty serious power and he put on a nice show in 87 games last year, slashing .280/.340/.498 with 16 home runs (which paces out to roughly a 25 home run full season). Now, with a 28.1% strikeout rate and a .345 BABIP and .264 xAVG last year, I don’t think you can expect Reyes to have a similar batting average to last year, but that power is legit and has a pretty high ceiling if he puts things together.
Speaking of excellent power, Hunter Renfroe certainly has it. With 26 home runs in the two past seasons, Renfroe improved a bit last year, with a 12.4% barrel rate (better than 91% of the league) and a .248 average that came with a .242 xAVG. I think a .240s average is reasonable to expect from Renfroe, and in combination with his awesome power, he’s definitely got the potential to be quite productive.
I’m a big Jesse Winker fan, mostly because I have a thing for guys who walk more than they strike out, and Winker did exactly that last year, sporting a 14.7% walk rate and 13.8% strikeout rate before an injury cut his season short. In OBP leagues—similar to Nimmo—Winker is the man, with a .405 OBP last year which, given his walk rate, is totally legit. He’s not really going to give you any speed, but a really good average (or OBP) and 15ish home runs is totally doable. The only real question is whether he gets platooned, given that he was a .321/.418/.455 hitter against righties and a .211/.357/.333 hitter against lefties.
After an excellent 2017, Domingo Santana ended up the odd man out of a crowded Brewers outfield last year (he also wasn’t that good when he did play). Now he’s with the Mariners and likely hitting in the heart of their lineup. Obviously his ceiling was seen in 2017, with 30 home runs and 15 steals, but you can’t really bank on him repeating that production. However, what I think you can count on is 20-25 home runs and a bit of speed. His average is going to be what’s difficult to predict; last year’s .265 average came with a .241 xAVG and a .386 BABIP, so I worry about his average being mediocre to below-average next year. He’s a bit risky, but the upside is pretty great if everything works out.
Hope springs eternal. We’ve been hoping and praying for a Byron Buxton breakout forever and it just hasn’t quite happened. The guy is obviously immensely talented (he wasn’t the top prospect in baseball at one point for nothing) but he just hasn’t been able to put it all together. Some of it has been injuries, like last year, and a lot of it has been his plate discipline, which is just awful. Last year, he had a 29.8% strikeout rate; the year before, it was 29.4%. His poor performance got him sent down to the minors last year, but he’ll be with the team on Opening Day in 2019. He’s going to get his shot: If I give the Twins credit for anything, it’s that they have generally given Buxton a fair chance to perform—even if he isn’t performing well. It’s worth remembering that Buxton is still just 25 and even if he comes out and repeats his 2017 season, in which he slashed .253/.314/.413 with 16 home runs and 29 steals, that’s still a useful player and I think that’s the best you can expect right now. Obviously, his potential is still absurdly high and at this point in the draft you’re hoping for a breakout.
I’m a big Cedric Mullins fan and it’s not just because he’s on the Orioles (well, not entirely). I think he’s being extremely underrated. Last year, in 109 minor league games, Mullins slashed .289/.346/.472 with 12 home runs and 21 stolen bases. During his time in the MLB, he registered a 29.3 ft/sec sprint speed, tied for 29th best in baseball. He’s got the power/speed combo, he could easily go 15/20 and hit for a decent average. And he’s going to get the opportunity, it’s not like the Orioles have any better players to play in his stead (although that does mean runs and RBI will be tough to come by).
In September of last year, Gregory Polanco had surgery to stabilize an acute left shoulder dislocation, which came with a recovery time of seven to nine months. Seven months puts him back in April; nine months puts him back in June. As of right now, there’s not really any clarity as to exactly when he’ll be back, although I’m sure we’ll know more as we get closer to Opening Day. Polanco says that he’s not feeling any pain and thinks he’ll be back before June—and I hope he is—but drafting him this year is a major risk, which is why he’s so low on the rankings. I have no idea what he’s going to look like coming back from shoulder surgery; it could easily affect his power, which was looking really good last year with a 9.4% barrel rate (a career best) and 23 home runs (another career best). It’s possible that he comes back and he’s perfectly fine, and if that’s the case, you got a great value, because Polanco has 20/20 potential with a decent average. However, I think you could more realistically expect a 20/15 year from a healthy Polanco. But there’s also the chance that he comes back and the shoulder bothers him all season. He’s risky, but later in drafts, he’s worth a snag just in case he comes back and all is well.
Billy Hamilton saw his steal total drop below 55 for the first time in his career (since he’s been playing full time). I’m not worried too much: The 34 steals he got last year were still solid, but he showed last year that you can’t bank on him for 55+ steals anymore. The reduced steal total is still valuable, but less so given that his average will hurt you and he gives you no power. He’s still absurdly fast, posting a 30.1 ft/sec sprint speed last year, tied for fourth best in baseball, but he’s mostly a one-category guy. He’s also probably going to be batting at the bottom of a poor Royals lineup, so runs and RBI aren’t going to be in great supply. Physically, he still has the ability to steal 55 bases again, so you’re drafting him on that hope.
No. 58: Adam Jones (OF, Free Agent)
As it stands, Adam Jones hasn’t signed anywhere yet, so his ranking could change based on where he goes. Regardless, he’s still got some fantasy relevance left in the tank. He’s definitely nearing the end of his career and you can tell that by his power numbers. Last year he failed to pass 20 home runs for the first time since 2010, totaling just 15. He’s also seen his barrel rate steadily declining, from 8% in 2016, to 6.4% in 2017, to 4.7% last year. Still, he was able to hit .281 last year with a .273 xAVG, so I think around 15ish home runs and a .270s/.280s batting average is still totally possible for Jones, especially if he re-signs with Baltimore (which I think is possible) given how good of a hitter’s park Camden Yards is.
After an excellent rookie campaign, Trey Mancini hit a rough sophomore slump last year, slashing just .242/.299/.416 with 24 home runs. I still believe in his talent: He posted an excellent 11.8% barrel rate and 41.9% hard hit rate (percentage of balls hit at least 95 MPH) last year, similar to his 2017 numbers, so the power is still there. It’s really the average that’s in question, and it’s worth noting that his .242 average came with a .285 BABIP and a .260 xAVG. I don’t think his rookie season is going to repeat itself (I think we all knew that .352 BABIP wasn’t sustainable), but I could see a decent bounce-back season for Mancini this year.
Tier 8: Yessongs
Another guy I think is pretty underrated, Randal Grichuk put up some nice numbers last year. He had 25 home runs that came with 27.3 xHRs, a .257 ISO (would’ve been 13th best in baseball had he qualified) and a 14.4% barrel rate (tied for 13th best). Sure, he had a not-great .245 average, but that came with a .258 xAVG, so I think it can get better. Grichuk has excellent power and should be able to hit for a decent average along with it.
(Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire)