February 15, 2017
Fantasy Tiered Rankings
Outfielders, Part II
To read the previous editions in this series, follow the links below:
Yesterday, we looked at the best 22 outfielders in baseball, per our five-star, tiered rankings. But there is still a lot more ground to cover, so we do that today and look at the remaining 53 outfielders in our Top 75. More so than at any other position in the series, outfield is where rankings possess a lot of gray area depending upon your format. Some of the outfielders in the bottom tiers will be useless to you in standard mixed leagues. Some of those same outfielders will be vital in mono formats.
Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and will fetch mixed-league auction bids over $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late-round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't a regurgitation of last year's values but rather offer insight into what we expect will happen in 2017.
Positional eligibility for the series is determined by 20 games or more at a position in the majors, with priority determined using the following order: catcher, shortstop, second base, third base, outfield, first base, and designated hitter. Designated hitters were ranked with first basemen. Players who played fewer than 20 games at a position in the majors are ranked at the position they played most frequently. Players who did not play in the majors in 2016 are ranked at the position they played most in the minors. Brandon Drury played 89 games in the outfield and 29 at third base. He was profiled at third base in this series.
Dollar values come from last year's PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players' dollar values.
In terms of value, Brantley is arguably the most volatile hitter in fantasy baseball. He could have a five-star season or he could get hurt again (or continue to be hurt) and fail to return positive value. All you can do with a player like Brantley is watch the reports and monitor his progress. His current ADP of 215 would make him a bargain even if he only produced 60-70 percent of 2014’s elite campaign.
After taking a contract well below market value last winter, Fowler hit the jackpot, signing a $82.5 million, five-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. For what it’s worth, Fowler was a better hitter away from Wrigley over the last two years than he was at home, although he hit just as many home runs in Chicago as he did on the road. Fowler’s a great real life play for 2017, but unless you are in an OBP league, he will probably be overpriced.
Tomas struggled to clear the fences as a rookie, but last year in his sophomore season he displayed the brute strength many expected from him when he signed with the Diamondbacks, finishing eighth among outfielders in ISO and home runs. The problem is that he is still a big drag on defense and runs the risk of losing playing time unless he really rakes.
For years, fantasy managers have believed in Puig arguably to a fault, but his price has finally slipped to the point where he is all but assured to return value if he plays. There has always been a lot of hype surrounding a player who has never hit 20 home runs, stolen more than 11 bases, and has averaged 110 games a season since 2014. There is no denying the underlying talent, but after years of erratic play and clashes with management, it is fair to wonder if you are going to get 130-140 games from Puig even if he is healthy. I like Puig as a play in shallower leagues where the replacement level outfielder will easily bail you out if Puig flops.
Is it possible that Herrera can improve on his fantasy numbers and exceed expectations? Despite losing 42 points in BABIP, Herrera mostly maintained in batting average thanks primarily to a 3.6 percent dip in strikeouts. The most impressive part of Herrera’s game from a fantasy standpoint were the 25 steals, which included a perfect 13-for-13 rate in the second half. There aren’t many 15/25 players left in fantasy, and while Herrera is extremely unlikely to approach the stratosphere at the position, he has been underestimated by fantasy and real life experts for his entire professional career. Broxton and Buxton are the roll-the-dice players in this tier for the power/speed combination, but Herrera has already proven he can do it.
Eaton moves from The Cell to Nationals Park. It is unlikely this has much of an impact on his value either way, although Dusty Baker giving him the green light and the Nationals strong lineup certainly can’t hurt.
Three-Star Value Pick: Jacoby Ellsbury
The two-star tier is where a few players slot in who could take big steps forward this year but don’t seem quite as reliable as the guys in the three-star tier. Kepler looked like a potential 25 home run, 10 steal outfielder in the first half but then slipped significantly Post All-Star. The tools are there but it is going to be difficult for Kepler to break past the two-star tier without a higher batting average.
Even coming off big seasons with full health, players like Beltran and Granderson tend to get dinged for their age nonetheless. In shallower formats, Granderson plays as a weapon against righties, although his splits last year were relatively close in every category except on-base percentage. Granderson socked 14 of his 30 home runs from August 1 onward, so if his age is catching up with him, it didn’t manifest itself down the stretch. It is difficult to peg a 36-year-old outfielder with a .240 batting average since 2013 as a “reliable” fantasy option. A better way to phrase it is that when it comes to Granderson you know what you’re going to get.
Gardner has been such a reliable player over the last few years that his gradual slippage has gone virtually unnoticed. The modest power that Gardner had shown over the last few years vanished in 2016, and Gardner’s increase in grounders and advancing age do not bode well for a rebound. Gardner is a safe deep league option, but in mixed leagues you’re better off going with a higher upside option in this tier.
Two-Star Value Pick: Steven Souza
Bruce’s travails with the Mets masked the fact that he had an extremely productive season. His .285 TAv was the best number he had put up since his .290 TAv in 2013. Bruce’s value is clouded not by his ability to produce, but rather by the lack of clarity in New York regarding his future and whether the Mets are committed to giving him regular at bats or are going to push him aside the first time he slumps in favor of Michael Conforto. If Bruce is traded, there is a risk that he slips into a part-time DH/OF role with an AL team.
Ignore his cup of coffee. Margot has the greatest potential of anyone in this tier. The downside was on display in Triple-A, where Margot had a lower TAv at El Paso than James Loney did.
One-Star Value Pick: Eddie Rosario