As we get psyched up for the 2020 fantasy baseball season, we’re ranking the top players at every position, and here we’re going to tackle outfielders.
A couple of notes before we start this: first, these rankings are not my personal rankings. They are consensus rankings that were established during a rankings roundtable with myself and a handful of other people here at Pitcher List. Second, we’re going to be ranking the top 80 outfielders but to make it a little easier to parse, we’re going to be ranking 20 at a time in four different articles. We continue here with the top 60!
So let’s get into it! Also, the full list is made up of six tiers, and just for fun, I’ve decided to name the tiers after my six favorite David Bowie albums.
Senzel is kind of a slightly poor man’s Oscar Mercado in that he’s kind of a 15/15 with a decent average kind of player. The problem is, this Reds outfield is going to be a nightmare to figure out. Between Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, Nicholas Castellanos, Jesse Winker, Phillip Ervin, Aristides Aquino, and pitcher/outfielder Michael Lorenzen, the Reds certainly have a lot to work with. If Senzel gets decent playing time (and I’m hopeful he will), he should be a decent contributor in most categories. But the playing time could be hard to come by.
We finally got to see what Willie Calhoun could be last year, as he slashed .269/.323/.524 with 21 HRs, 51 R, and 48 RBI in 83 games. Pace that out to a full season and you’ve got a nice looking year. Calhoun should finally get a full season this year, which means he could be in for a solid season, likely hitting around .260-.270 with 25ish home runs.
David Dahl has loads of talent (and has had loads of talent for a while now), but he’s constantly been blocked by the Rockies because apparently he slept with one of the Monfort brothers’ wife or something. But now, I think we might finally get a full season of Dahl, and he’ll likely be hitting at the top of the lineup. I’m all for just about any talented hitter who spends all his time in Coors, and Dahl is one of those hitters. A good average with about 20 home runs and close to double-digit steals should be good for Dahl.
I really thought big things were in store for Benintendi following his 2017 campaign where he went 20/20 with a .271 average. The following year was solid, but he’s just been declining each year since, having a very pedestrian .266/.343/.431 year with 13 home runs and 10 steals last year (in the year with the juiced ball too!). So what gives? Well, part of it has been his plate discipline. Last year saw career-worsts in chase rate (33%) and SwStr rate (11.6%). He’s also hitting more fly balls than he has before (40.7% rate last year) as his HR/FB rate has been declining (7.9% last year). Add in very mediocre exit velocity numbers and you get a guy who’s hitting a bunch of dead fly balls into the outfield. Obviously we’ve seen that Benintendo has the talent to be a 20/20 guy with a good average, but things aren’t looking great. Still, he’s only 25 and can still be a decent contributor in every category.
I think we’ve got a pretty good idea who Kyle Schwarber is at this point, and that’s a guy who crushes the ball for great power and has a mediocre at best average. Last year’s .250 average was a pretty nice improvement over the .238 and .211 averages he had the two years prior, and, fortunately, it’s supported by a .267 xBA, so I’m hopeful it can stick. As for the power, Schwarber was excellent, posting a 14.5% barrel rate (16th-best in baseball) and a .553 xSLG, so I think a season similar to 2019 can be expected for Schwarber. Who knows, maybe the average will continue to rise as it has the past three years, which would be awesome.
What a fantastic breakout season last year was for Hunter Dozier, as he slashed .279/.348/.522 with 26 HRs, 75 R, and 84 RBI. So can he repeat his performance? To an extent I think. That .279 average came alongside a .339 BABIP and a .261 xBA, both of which suggest that some average regression may be in order. However, his power seems mostly legit. He had a nice 10% barrel rate and 42.6% hard-hit rate last year, so while I think 20-25ish home runs is likely repeatable, I think he’s probably more a .260s hitter than a nearly-.280s hitter.
Mmm love me some of that batting average, and Bryan Reynolds will give you exactly that. In fact, his .296 xBA was one of the highest xBAs in the league last year (16th-highest). Luckily, there’s more to Reynolds’ game than average, as he also popped in 16 home runs. Honestly, aside from some slight average regression, I think Reynolds could pretty easily repeat the season he had last year. A high average, 15ish home runs, and a decent handful of runs/RBI.
In a somewhat limited role with the Dodgers last year, Verdugo showed off his plus hit tool, slashing .294/.342/.475 in 106 games alongside 12 home runs. Now playing for the Red Sox following the Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo looks like a guy who should be able to hit for a high average, similar to last year, with 15-20 home run power (though I think 20ish home runs is probably closer to his ceiling). However, the question is, how much playing time will he get? Benintendi is staying in the outfield, the Sox just recently signed Kevin Pillar, so you have to imagine they want him out there at least a decent amount, and while Jackie Bradley Jr. is a bit of a black hole at the plate (aside from his few, unpredictable heat-ups), he’s a good glove that I’m sure the Red Sox want in center field. And there’s no way J.D. Martinez gets moved away from DH. So where does Verdugo play? My guess is he ends up in right field removing Pillar, and Pillar is used as a depth piece, but who knows. I’d be surprised if Verdugo doesn’t get somewhat regular playing time though.
Edman played 14 games in the outfield last year, which is enough to give him outfield eligibility in Yahoo leagues. We covered Edman in our second base rankings.
I wanted Joc to be in Los Angeles so badly. So, so badly. He could’ve raked in Angel Stadium. But sadly, the Angels pulled out of the trade that would’ve sent him and Ross Stripling to the Angels, and Joc is back with the Dodgers. Given that, I think we have a pretty good idea what to expect from Pederson. He’s going to be platooned and benched against lefties because he’s absolutely terrible against them, he’s going to hit for an okay average, and he’s going to launch a bunch of home runs. I don’t think he’s going to hit 36 against like last year, but somewhere between the 25 he hit in 2018 and the 36 he hit last year sounds about right. Unless he actually gets traded (please god), then his projection might change a bit.
Hunter Renfroe is very good at one thing—hittin’ dingers. Unfortunately, he’s not going to give you much int he way of batting average, as he hit just .216 last year with a .218 xBA. That’s the worst mark of his career, and I’m hopeful that he can at least climb into the .240s with his average like he has in the past, but at best I think you can expect a .230s average with easily 30+ home runs.
I just can’t quit him. The potential, it’s all there. The speed, the power, all of it is there, but Byron Buxton has burned you, me, everyone in fantasy so many times that I get it if you don’t want to own him. However, as long as he’s healthy (and that’s far from a given considering he’s played a total of 115 games in the past two seasons combined), he’s easily got 20/20 potential with the ability to steal closer to 30 bases. Unless something drastic changes, the average will likely still be around the .250s/.260s, but the speed/power combo is super useful.
When Mallex Smith was in the minors, I truly had the hope that he could be Billy Hamilton but with a good batting average. Unfortunately, he’s turned into Billy Hamilton but with fewer steals. After a .296 hitting season in 2018 with 40 steals, which was super exciting, Smith turned in 46 steals, which is even better, but with a lousy .227 average. So what happened? Well, the strikeouts increased, the line drives dropped, and the fly balls increased. He has virtually no power, so when his fly ball rate jumps up, that means more outs. I love Mallex, but as of now, I don’t think you can expect him to be anything more than a one-category stud. He’s going to steal between 40-50 bases if given the chance, but he could potentially be a drain in the average, home run, and RBI department. I’m hopeful for a bounceback though.
Before last season, Justin Upton was essentially a lock for around 30ish home runs, a batting average in the .250s to .260s, at least 80/80 runs/RBI production, and a few steals. He did that consistently from 2013 through 2018. Then, he lost last year due to injury, but is back and healthy and should be good to go right back to being Justin Upton. His average has fluctuated some, but I don’t see why we should all of a sudden expect him to be like a .230s hitter or something. I’m expecting a pretty standard Justin Upton season this year, and that’s a bargain where he’s going in ADP.
Gurriel had himself a nice little mini-breakout last year, slashing .277/.327/.541 with 20 HRs, 52 R, 50 RBI, and six stolen bases in just 84 games. That paces out to a very good full season, but that’s not what I’m expecting. Still, a look at his Statcast profile is impressive, as he had an 11.2% barrel rate and a 44.2% hard-hit rate. Given a full season, I could see 25-30 home runs, but I do think his average will come down some. That .277 average came with a .258 xBA, so maybe he hits closer to the .260s than high-.270s.
Tier 5: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
Kyle Tucker proved last year that he is so very over being in Triple-A, hitting 34 home runs and stealing 30 bases in 125 games last year. Now he’s in the majors and will finally be getting a full-time role, so what can we expect? He’s likely not going to hit for a super-high average in the majors, but somewhere in the .260s feels fairly reasonable. Obviously he’s got a great power/speed combo, and the ceiling is ridiculous with a 20/20 season far from out of the question. Will he reach that? Maybe. I think closer to a 20/15 season makes more sense for him though, but either way, he’ll be a useful contributor in every category.
Aristides Aquino has loads of power, and he showed it off last year in what was one of the more fun hot streaks to watch in recent memory. In fact, between Triple-A and the majors, Aquino had 47 home runs and 12 stolen bases. He also hit .299 in Triple-A, showing he’s not necessarily a low-average/high-power type. That being said, he also had a miserable slump to end the season, and he’s in a very crowded Reds outfield. As mentioned earlier, the Reds have Senzel, Castellanos, Aquino, Winker, Akiyama, Lorenzen, and Ervin all as outfielders vying for a role, which makes drafting Aquino fairly risky.
Old guys like Choo often get overlooked in fantasy in favor of the shiny new prospects, but Choo quietly had a fantastic season last year, slashing .265/.371/.455 with 24 HRs, 93 R, 61 RBI, and 15 stolen bases, marking one of the best seasons he’s had in a very long time. He also posted a 49% hard-hit rate last year, good for the 13th-best in all of baseball, so even at 37, the guy can still hit. The question is, will he keep hitting this year? I don’t see any reason why not. He’s consistently posted an average between .261 and .265 and has hit at least 21 home runs each year since 2017. The 15 steals are a surprise, but given that he stole 12 in 2017, they’re not totally out of nowhere. If he keeps hitting the ball as hard as he did last year, a similar season may be in store this year.
Adam Eaton is one of those guys that contributes a good bit in every category but is never going to blow you away with some kind of 4/4, 2 HR day. He’ll go 15/15 likely, he’ll hit for a good average, and he’ll get around 100 runs with a decent number of RBI. He’s solid, but he also needs to stay healthy, something he had trouble doing in 2017 and 2018. But after 151 games last year, I think he should be fine.
59. A.J. Pollock (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Speaking of having trouble staying healthy, we’ve got A.J. Pollock here. He’s not the 20/20 threat he used to be, but he still has 15-20 home run power with a handful of steals and a decent average. Problem is, given the Dodgers’ outfield situation right now, I wouldn’t be shocked if Pollock gets platooned with Joc Pederson to hit so Pederson doesn’t have to face lefties, and that puts a bit of a damper on Pollock’s potential playing time.
At 33, Lorenzo isn’t quite content yet with just chillin’ in his Benzo (I’m sorry that was so forced), but he also isn’t quite the speedster he used to be. He had just 18 steals last year, the lowest he’s had in a full season, and a .260 average, which is the lowest he’s had in a very long time. Age appears to be catching up with Cain, as his sprint speed has steadily been declining each year, hitting a career-low 27.8 feet per second last year. Still, I expect he can steal close to 20 bases and I anticipate the average regressing positively (he had a .290 xBA last year), making him useful.
Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)