As we get geared up for the 2019 season, we’re ranking every position for fantasy baseball. We’ve already done our top 20, top 40, and top 60 outfielders for the season; today, we dive into our top 80.
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.
Corey Dickerson is one of those guys who is going to give you decent production in most categories but never really dominate any category. This past year, he slashed .300/.330/.474 with 13 home runs and eight steals. Perfectly useful, serviceable numbers, though the 13 home runs were a disappointment after he hit 27 the year before and 24 the year before that. So what’s with the power drop? It’s mostly because of his HR/FB rate, which dropped from 17.2% in 2017 to 8.7% in 2018. His barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and HROpp rate were all pretty low too, so I don’t think you can bank on 20-plus home runs, though I think he could do closer to 15 to 20.
At 36 years old, Shin-Soo Choo is still trucking along, and he’s been somewhat useful for fantasy players, especially in OBP leagues. This past year, he slashed .264/.377/.434 with 21 home runs, which is definitely usable. Unfortunately, the steals dropped a bit from 12 in 2017 to six in 2018, but as he ages, I don’t think we can expect double-digit steals from him again (though, I mean, it’s possible). I do think 20-plus home runs is totally doable again though, especially because he saw his barrel rate shoot up to 11.1% in 2018.
No. 63: Jake Bauers (1B/OF, Cleveland Indians)
I like Jake Bauers‘ potential quite a bit, especially if he gets a full-time gig in Cleveland (and it seems like he will). He flashed 15/20 potential in the minors and showed off a bit of his power/speed combo last year, hitting 11 home runs with six steals in 96 games. Now, he did bat .201. But that came with a .252 BABIP, so I think he can do better. What was really awesome to see was his 13.9% walk rate, so even if his average is bad again, his OBP will be solid. If he can get his average up in the .250s, I could easily see him turning in a season with a good power/speed mix with a 20/20 ceiling. That’s an upside worth grabbing late in drafts.
In an OBP league, Kyle Schwarber is much higher, given how well he walks. Last year, his .356 OBP with a 15.3% walk rate combined with his 25- to 30-home run ability makes him pretty darn useful in OBP leagues. But in standard leagues, he’s a power and not much else guy. Now, I think his average can be better — while he hit .238 last year, that came with a .247 xAVG. If he’s able to boost up his average to the .240s or so, his 25 to 40 home runs could be a lot more palpable, and I’m hopeful he can do that.
I feel like people forget Franchy Cordero in the shadow of Franmil Reyes, but Franchy isn’t all that far off from Reyes from a power perspective. Their hard -hit rates are pretty similar, as are their barrel rates — the biggest difference is in HROpp rate, in which Reyes sports a 14.36% rate while Cordero’s is much better at 22.35% (good for 27th-best in baseball). Yes, Cordero has a strikeout problem (35.7% strikeout rate last year); that’s part of the reason he’s ranked this low, but he’s got some great power potential. The biggest obstacle is going to be playing time in a crowded Padres outfield.
I mean, maybe one day we’ll see a full season from Jorge Soler. Until then, I guess we have to keep drafting him at the end of drafts based on his potential, and he certainly has plenty of it. He’s got good power, with a 10.3% barrel rate last year, so could he hit 20-plus home runs with a mediocre average? Sure, I think that could definitely happen. And he’s still just 26, so the potential for him to breakout is obviously there — but it’s a story we’ve heard many times before at this point.
We’ve all been burned by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the past. I know I have many times. But there’s some reason to hope this year because it seems like he made some changes in his approach. Ground balls went down, and fly balls and line drives went up, as did his barrel rate (to a solid 10.3%). Oh yeah, and he started hitting the ball really hard, with a 49.6% hardhit rate , good for 13th in baseball ahead of guys such as Joey Gallo, Justin Upton, and Khris Davis. I’m not saying you can finally trust him. His floor is extremely low. But somewhere buried deep in there is a 20/20 player, and I hope he finally pops out this year.
At this point, I think it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get from Joc Pederson in fantasy (as long as he’s healthy). Around 25 home runs and a batting average in the .240s, all of which is perfectly usable. I think that’s probably what we’re going to see from him this year too. Also, it’s worth noting he’ll likely be platooned because he is hot garbage against lefties.
While Scott Schebler’s average got a lot better in 2018 (jumping up to .255 from .233 the year before), his power dropped significantly, hitting just 17 home runs compared with 30 the year before. There’s not really much of a reason for his power to have dropped so much as his barrel rate was about the same at 10.6% and his hard-hit rate jumped up slightly to 42.4%. The only big difference was his launch angle, which dropped from 11.4 degrees to 8.6 last year, and along with it, his HROpp rate, which dropped from 17.28% in 2017 to 16.96%. All of this is to say I think that 30-home run ceiling is still there, but I think around 20 home runs is more in line with what you can reasonably expect when you draft him.
I feel like Daniel Palka is criminally underrated for some reason. He’s almost going undrafted, and I feel like there’s some decent potential here. This past year, he slashed .240/.294/.484 with 27 home runs, which is pretty solid (except from an OBP standpoint). He also had a 14.4% barrel rate, good for 13th-best in the league. So yes, he hits the ball hard, but he did have a strikeout problem, posting a rough 34.1% strikeout rate last season. That does need to be addressed, but there’s definitely a valuable fantasy player here. It’s worth noting he slashed .246/.309/.503 in the second half of the season.
No. 71: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)
There are a lot of stats to make you feel good about Teoscar Hernandez. Such as his 15.5% barrel rate, good for 10th-best in baseball, or his 45.9% hard-hit rate, good for 29th in baseball, or the fact that his 22 home runs last year came with 29 xHR. So yea, he hits the ball hard, and I think there’s legitimately a 30-home run hitter in here, but he’s also got a pretty rough strikeout problem, posting a 31.2% strikeout rate last year. If he gets that under control, he’s got tons of potential, but I don’t think you can bank on that. If you’re drafting him, I think you can expect about 25 home runs with a poor average. Oh and there’s the issue of playing time — he’s not going to supplant Kevin Pillar or Randal Grichuk in the outfield, which means it’s between him and Billy McKinney. Both of them are bad against lefties, so I don’t know that a platoon would work. As a result, I think there’s a legitimate worry that McKinney could take a sizable amount of playing time from Hernandez, though I’m hopeful that Hernandez will get priority.
No. 72: Odubel Herrera (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
I am really not into Odubel Herrera this year. His speed has all but vanished for whatever reason (which might be related to the career-worst 26.7 ft/sec sprint speed he posted last year), his average plummeted, and I don’t really believe in the power increase. His career-best 22 home runs came with 14.2 xHR and a poor 4.9% barrel rate. In short, I think he got lucky with his home runs, and I don’t think I’m expecting another 20. Even if he did come close to that, his .255 average came with a .247 xAVG, suggesting that his average isn’t likely to be great either. Part of this is because of his massive jump in infield fly balls, which jumped from 8.8% in 2017 to 13.9% this past year. Sure, there’s the chance that he goes back to what he used to do with 20-plus steals and a good average, but I’m not confident that’s going to happen.
Tier 9: ‘Tormato’
As an Orioles fan, I’ve loved Nick Markakis for a long time, so I was really happy to see him have a great year this past season on his way to his first All-Star selection. Honestly, I think a lot of the success he had last year was pretty legit, and I think he could have a similar season next year. His .297 average came with a .306 xAVG, so I think a high average could easily happen again. Plus, he started hitting the ball harder last year, with a 41.5% hard-hit rate, similar to the 43% hard-hit rate he had in 2016 when he hit 13 home runs. I’m not saying a repeat of last year will happen, but if you want a nice floor guy, Markakis is your man.
The fall of Mark Trumbo has been a sad one. After a ridiculous 2016, his 2017 was disappointing to say the least, and his 2018 was slightly better but still not great and ultimately cut short by injury. As it stands, he’s still fighting this knee injury and won’t be ready for the start of spring training. Hopefully he’ll be alright for the season, and if he’s healthy, obviously his power potential is great. A fully healthy Trumbo in Camden Yards could easily belt 30 home runs, and if he can keep his average in the .250s/.260, that’s a relatively useful player. But he’s a risk for sure.
If you guaranteed me a full season of playing time for Jose Martinez, he’d likely be higher up in the rankings, but as it stands, I don’t know that that’s happening. He’s not supplanting Paul Goldschmidt at first base, nor is he supplanting Marcell Ozuna or likely Harrison Bader in the outfield. Which leaves Dexter Fowler, and maybe he platoons with Fowler but still I don’t know. JoMart has some useful skills: He can hit 15-20 home runs with a good average, but without a clearer path to playing time, he’s a bit risky for me. That being said, his outlook may be a bit clearer once we get closer to Opening Day.
We’re likely to see a good bit more of Christin Stewart this year with the Tigers, and I kind of like his potential. He’s exhibited good power in the minors so far, hitting 28 home runs in Double-A in 2017 and 23 home runs in Triple-A this past year. Obviously, adjusting to the majors is going to be difficult, so I’m not expecting a great average (though I think it can be decent). But he’s got good power and some decent potential to be a fantasy contributor. Unfortunately, counting stats may be hard to come by in a lineup as bad as the Tigers.
Ian Happ is another one of those guys who’s likely going to be a bit higher in OBP leagues than he is in standard leagues. I will say this: I loved his 15.2% walk rate last year. That was excellent, and I sincerely hope he keeps that up this season. But the rest of his game was rough. He saw a noticeable power decrease from 24 home runs in 115 games in 2017 to 15 home runs in 142 games last year. And let’s not forget his miserable .233 average that actually came with a .220 xAVG and a .362 BABIP. So could it actually be worse this year? I don’t know, but I don’t think you can bank on him hitting much better than about .240. He’s still got some power and a little bit of speed, which is useful, but that average hurts.
Manuel Margot certainly has a bunch of talent, but there’s a lot to dislike about him too. He was once thought of as a 30-plus steals guy, but he’s focused less on that it seems. He’ll still get you probably around 15 steals but with only a mediocre batting average and enough home runs to maybe scrape double digits. On top of that, he’s in a very crowded Padres outfield, so his playing time is far from guaranteed. All that being said, there’s definitely a 15/15 potential player in there if he gets playing time.
I believe in Joey Wendle’s mini breakout, and you should too. Considering no one expected anything from Wendle, the fact that he showed up and hit .300/.354/.435 with seven home runs and 16 stolen bases is quite the achievement, and I think it’s pretty legit thanks to some changes he made to his approach. I do think some regression is in order for Wendle, but I could see him hitting in the .270s/.280s with double-digit home runs and steals. Late in drafts, that’s a useful guy to have.
Look, I don’t know what to expect from Matt Kemp this year. He had himself a really nice season with the Dodgers this past year, slashing .290/.338/.481 with 21 home runs, so can he do that now with the Reds? I’m not sure. That .290 average came with a .272 xAVG, and I think that sounds more in line with what you can expect from Kemp. That being said, playing time is a big concern to me. The Reds have Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, and Yasiel Puig in the outfield. Puig isn’t going anywhere — and I don’t think Schebler will either — but I could see the Reds platooning Winker and Kemp. Winker is terrible against lefites, but Kemp is a career .314/.373/.538 hitter against lefties. So maybe Kemp is in when the Reds play left-handed starters? If that’s the case, that’s not a lot of playing time for Kemp. Still, I think he can be productive when he’s out there; I just don’t know that he’ll be out there all that much.
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