Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Outfielder
The calendar has flipped to March and spring training is underway, so you know what that means -- it's draft season.
Season-long fantasy baseball Twitter is abuzz with nightly draft boards and threads, and perhaps you've already gotten in on the action or have a draft right around the corner.
I've been posting positional rankings for 12-team, standard-scoring roto leagues this month, with brief notes highlighting notable players and situations. These are by no means strict and rigid rankings, as roster construction should play a big role in who you draft, so I've also included tiers to show which players have comparable values.
It's time to check out the vast outfield.
|1||Ronald Acuna Jr.||1|
|23||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||3|
We have quite a few first-rounders at the top, with Ronald Acuna typically battling shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for the number one overall pick and Juan Soto and Mookie Betts going shortly after them. This is also the first fantasy season we find Mike Trout out of the first overall conversation, mostly due to his stolen base upside dwindling in recent campaigns. He's still a beast, though.
Meanwhile, Christian Yelich could be a savvy mid-to-late first-rounder after being a universal top-three choice in 2020. He posted an underwhelming stat line last year that included some negative trends in strikeout rate (30.8%) and ground-ball rate (50.8%), but we probably shouldn't let a two-month stat line overshadow his dynamite production from 2018-19.
I'm not sure I feel comfortable about Kyle Tucker and Luis Robert as possible top-10 options at the position because we're mostly going on potential, but those power-speed combo types are always alluring, and their projections are favorable. You're going to have to pay a premium draft position in the top 30 picks, though. If you're willing to forgo the stolen bases, I wouldn't fault anyone for grabbing Eloy Jimenez instead or trying to snag Marcell Ozuna or George Springer a round later.
I've ended up with Teoscar Hernandez in a couple of drafts, which honestly makes me uneasy. He was fantastic in 2020, ranking top five in both barrels per plate appearance and barrel rate, and projections are on board with another strong season, collectively predicting 30-plus dingers and roughly 10 stolen bases.
But small sample size caveats apply for all things 2020, and his plate skills didn't show any improvement with a 30.4% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate, so he figures to go back to being a batting average liability. The strikeouts also make him prone to a lengthy slump, which could cause him to lose playing time on a deep Blue Jays team.
That said, what gives me hope is that Teoscar's improved production at the plate actually dates back to the second half of 2019. There's obvious risk at his 80 ADP, but he could be worth the gamble.
Austin Meadows had a disastrous 2020 campaign, but it's easy to point to COVID-19 and an oblique injury as scapegoats. He's a popular bounce-back candidate, as he posted a five-category line in 2019.
And speaking of guys who could rebound, Yordan Alvarez and J.D. Martinez are utility-only on most sites, so they aren't listed above, but they should be on your radar in this tier-three range, too. Alvarez had a lost 2020 season after undergoing surgery on both knees, which is troubling, but he's also still just 23 years old. He looked like a budding star at the plate in 2019, ranking fourth overall in hard-hit rate among players with at least 300 plate appearances.
Martinez comes with his own risks, as his numbers plummeted across the board last year, and it's always possible he's beginning to decline at age 33. Martinez blamed his struggle on a lack of preparation and not having access to in-game video to make adjustments. Perhaps those are just excuses, but the former early-round pick is barely going in the top-100 picks.
Nelson Cruz, Giancarlo Stanton, and Franmil Reyes are other notable utility-only options to remember, and their power projections are enticing. Reyes could be undervalued as someone going outside the top 150.
Tiers four and five are where your decisions may begin to reflect categorical needs versus a specific rank order. There is a wide range of speedsters, power hitters, and jack-of-all-trade players.
Victor Robles has been batting leadoff a lot this spring and would see a sizable boost in value atop the order. He swiped 28 bags in 2019 and could be a rare difference-maker in the category.
On the flip side, we're pretty familiar with what Joey Gallo brings to the table as long as you're prepared for that brutal dent to your batting average. ATC projections have him slugging the third-most home runs this season. While Gallo claims he has a new approach this season, and he's playing well this spring, we should probably temper expectations from a career .208 hitter.
For some guys going at pick 200 or later, Kyle Schwarber is someone my colleagues and I touched on to bounce back, Aaron Hicks seems like a forgotten man for someone expected to bat third for a stacked Yankees lineup, Garrett Hampson could be a late source of stolen bases if he earns regular playing time, and Joc Pederson has a chance to boost his counting stats as an everyday player for the Chicago Cubs.