Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson- USA Today Sports
We have finally moved away from the infield and into one of the deepest positions in all of fantasy baseball. There is so much talent across the position that it is hard to ever be upset with the grouping you put together for your own fantasy squad. There is everything from the pure speedster in Billy Hamilton to the largest of sluggers in Aaron Judge.
There is no wrong way to build an outfield because of the depth at the position, but with leagues using more outfield spots, the top talents become even more valuable. 2018 will have a ton of storylines for this position. Can Stanton and Judge combine for 110 home runs? Will Bryce Harper finally get his shot at a World Series before he possibly hits free agency? How will the addition of J.D. Martinez change the look of the Red Sox offense? All of these will be answered once the teams start playing games that actually matter. Why don’t we get into the top 25 outfielders for 2018. Can you guess who made the list even with the depth at the position?
The following rankings were done based on standard 5×5 scoring for head to head leagues.
You can listen to our full discussion of these elite outfielders in the latest episode of Six Man Roto here:
Tier 1- The Untouchable
1) Mike Trout- This is the obvious one. Trout will continue to be the top outfielder in fantasy baseball until the day he retires in the year 2040. Alright, maybe 2030 is more realistic. Regardless, he is going to provide your team with at least 30 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and the great batting average close to and most likely above .300. Trout has been carrying the Angels up to this point of his career, but finally has some help in that lineup, which means we may not have seen his best season yet.
Tier 2- The Elite
2) Bryce Harper- While Trout is clearly the #1 outfielder, Bryce Harper is not far behind. Even though he hasn’t done it yet in the majors, Harper could easily be a .300/100/30/100 guy in the middle of a nasty Nationals lineup. The 21 steals in 2016 looks like an outlier. With new manager Dave Martinez at the helm, we don’t know how aggressive the Nationals will be on the basepaths. However, even if Harper only swipes 2 to 5 bags a year, he is still a four category stud.
3) Mookie Betts- .264/101/24/102/26. This would normally be a career season for any other baseball player, but for Mookie Betts it was a disappointment. That being said, Mookie actually improved his walk rate in 2017 even though the average dropped as far as it did. Betts became very pull heavy this past season as he pulled the ball 44.4% of the time, 5% more often than his best offensive season in 2016. When hitters become pull heavy, their BABIP drops, as shown by Betts’ .268 mark, due to defenses shifting in response to the hitter’s approach. Mookie clearly wasn’t happy with the offensive game plan from last season, so with a new hitting coach in Boston I have no fear that Mookie can get back to his 2016 form.
4) Charlie Blackmon- Blackmon was one of the most valuable outfielders last season as he put up a .331 average along with 104 RBI and 37 HR. He also led all outfielders in runs scored at 137. Unfortunately, Blackmon isn’t stealing at the rate he used to, but the 31-year-old has double his power output from 2 years ago. There are rumors that Blackmon could hit in the 3rd spot of the order this year, which doesn’t change much in terms of value since his runs would essentially turn into RBI. Blackmon is primed for another great year of fantasy production, even though he is on the wrong side of 30.
5) Giancarlo Stanton- The reigning NL MVP isn’t even in the National League anymore as he was dealt to the New York Yankees by Jeter & Co. during this past off-season. He joins the other Bronx Bombers in Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. He will get a bump in power production by moving to New York, but it won’t be drastic since the home runs he hit were absolute bombs. Stanton is likely to be the daily designated hitter for the Yankees to preserve his body so he can play 150 games or more. If he can stay healthy, he could become the first batter to hit 60 home runs since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa hit 73 and 64 respectively in 2001.
6) Aaron Judge- Judge became the executioner of a ton of pitches last year as he crushed 52 long balls last year and had a historic first half. Even though pitchers adjusted to the holes in Judge’s swing in the second half of 2017, he was able to crush 22 home runs in 71 games, albeit to the tune of a .228 batting average compared to a .329 clip in the first half. Judge strikes out around 30% of the time so there is still a ton of risk with the young slugger, but with his ability to draw a walk 18% of the time, he still has a solid floor. Judge is projected to hit 41 home runs by Steamer, but I would expect him to find a way to get closer to 50 in 2018.
7) George Springer- The leadoff man for the Astros is clearly a top 10 outfielder heading into the 2018 season after improving on an impressive 2016 campaign. Over the 162 game season on the way to a World Series championship, Springer put up a statline of .283/112/34/85 while tacking on 5 stolen bases. He was able to improve so drastically because he found a way to improve his Z-contact (contact on pitches inside the zone) by nearly 6% and his overall contact by 5%. He still has the possibility of reaching the 40 home run mark with an average close to .300 in one of the best offenses in the game right now.
Tier 3- The Upper Class
8) J.D. Martinez- After a long off-season for Martinez, he finally found a home in Boston on February 26th. His 2017 season was one for the ages. In the 119 games he appeared in, Martinez slammed 45 dingers while maintaining a .303 average. He had the best home run rate in the majors last year as he hit a home run every 9.7 at bats. Martinez is an elite outfield bat and even though he has finally crossed into his 30s, I don’t expect him to slow down offensively anytime soon, especially in the middle of the Boston Red Sox lineup.
9) Marcell Ozuna- Going into 2017, there was concern on whether or not Ozuna could ever produce at a high level for an entire season. He was able to prove his doubters wrong as he was able to sustain a batting average north of .300 for the entire season although the power did fade a bit in the 2nd half with only 14 home runs in the second half compared to his 23 in the first half. Even though Ozuna was moved away from the pitcher-friendly ballpark in Miami (83 home run park factor), he won’t get a huge bump in power production with St. Louis grading out as an 85 in terms of park factor. The power is here to stay for Ozuna, but there should be some concern with his batting average. It likely won’t stay at the .312 mark he had in 2017 since he had a BABIP of .355, which was much higher than his career BABIP of .323. I would expect Ozuna to finish somewhere around the .283 mark in terms of batting average in 2018.
10) Justin Upton- The move to the Angels couldn’t have been better timing for Justin Upton. He just turned 30 and still has the potential for a 30/10 season in the middle of the order for an Angels team ready to compete. He could have been higher on the list, but Upton is one of the streakiest hitters in the game. There will be weeks where he is the best player on your team and weeks where you will want to drop him out of frustration, but don’t! He is valuable because of the numbers he can put up, but I would always be active in free agency for when he goes into his cold slumps.
11) Christian Yelich- Another ex-Marlin makes the top 25 list in Christian Yelich. As great as the 3 Marlins together was, the firesale has made Yelich much more valuable than he was in Miami. Miller Park is very friendly to left-handed batters and Brewers manager, Craig Counsell, loves to let his players run. The situation couldn’t be any better for Yelich for the peak of his career. Yelich hasn’t ever reached the 20/20 mark in his career, but thanks to the move should be perfectly in line to do that after putting up 18 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 2017. I love Yelich in 2018 and beyond.
12) Nelson Cruz- Entering the 2017 season, people were afraid of Nelson Cruz since he was 36 and would turn 37 during the season. However, the worries were laid to rest even though Cruz failed to hit 40 home runs since he was only one shy. Cruz actually improved his walk rate last year while also striking out less. The RBI opportunities are going to increase with Dee Gordon now on the team and hitting leadoff, so don’t worry about production even though Cruz is a year older.
13) Starling Marte- Don’t be fooled by Marte’s final statline for 2017. It was a very odd year as he lost half of the season to a suspension for PEDs. However, Marte came back from the suspension on July 18th and lit the league on fire with something to prove. In his final 280 plate appearances of the season, the Pirates outfielder slammed 5 long balls, swiped 19 bags, and managed a .282 batting average. Marte isn’t without his faults though. His soft contact went up by 8% which would explain why Marte’s BABIP luck took a hard hit. If Marte can’t get back to hitting the ball with more authority, it is going to limit not only his power upside, but also his batting average upside as well. The speed is clearly there, but with a lackluster walk percentage there has to be a concern if he can’t hit the ball with the same hard contact he did in 2016.
14) Rhys Hoskins- Hoskins burst onto the scene last year and surprised everyone. His name was known for his elite bat speed and he showed it off in the Futures Game during the All-Star Break last year. However, no one expected 18 home runs in his first 50 games either. Now before you hop on to the hype train that is moving at a breakneck pace, there are a few numbers that concern me about Hoskins. the home run to fly ball rate of 31% is unsustainable and I don’t think he is an 18% walk guy either. The Phillies first baseman and outfielder is still a great long-term investment for keeper and dynasty leagues, but his ADP of 42 is awfully scary for redraft leagues.
15) Andrew Benintendi- At only 23 years of age, Benintendi has been one of the best young bats to watch since breaking into the bigs two years ago. He has an advanced approach at the plate with a great ability to make contact. In 2017, Benintendi posted his first ever 20/20 season with 84 runs and a .271 batting average. He was able to drive in 90 runs on top of all that. He was a true 5 category contributor last year and will be once again in 2018. Even without the best power profile, Benintendi is one of the safest outfielders this year as he will bat somewhere between the 2nd and 4th spot in the Boston Red Sox order.
Tier 4- On The Fence
16) A.J. Pollock- This is one of the hardest cases when it comes to rankings. Pollock is for sure a top 25 outfield bat for fantasy, but the injury bug has hit him hard the past two seasons. Since the beginning of 2016, the Diamondbacks outfielder has only managed 512 plate appearances, which is unfortunate. Everyone has dreams of him repeating his 20 home runs and 39 stolen base performance from 2015, but those dreams have surely faded. The addition of a humidor is going to affect Pollock with his power as he was never the biggest power guy. The injury risk is surely there, but a fully healthy Pollock will put up at least 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases.
17) Tommy Pham- This is one of the best storylines in baseball over the past calendar years. After dealing with eye issues for a long time, Pham had them corrected and finally got his chance in majors and he took advantage of it. He finished 2017 with a .306/.411/.520 triple slash lines while tacking on 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases. The power and speed has always been there for him, but beware the regression in his batting average this season. He had a .368 BABIP and while he has great speed, he won’t be able to sustain that type of level. Even if he hits .270 this season while extending his 20/20 streak, he will easily provide top 20 outfielder value.
18) Yoenis Cespedes- Even during an injury-riddled season, Cespedes was performing at the level that his owners expected. That being said, injuries can’t be turned off like they can in MLB The Show, so it does unfortunately affect Cespedes’ value. Even though the Mets front office shuffled things around with their medical staff, there have been nagging injuries piling up this Spring Training with Cespedes being a part of it. At 32-years-old, it becomes much harder to handle these soft tissue injuries and expect the Mets left fielder to play more than 140 games a season. Cespedes is a high-risk, high-reward pick until he proves he can stay on the field consistently.
19) Khris Davis- Even though most people don’t pay much attention to the Athletics roster, everyone knows Davis is their best bat and an elite power hitter. He is amazingly consistent as well as he has finished each of the last 3 seasons with a .247 batting average. The walk rates have varied, but his OBP has finished .307 or better each of those seasons. If you are looking for a great power bat in the 5th or 6th round, he is your guy since people often overlook anyone on the A’s roster.
20) Byron Buxton- The hype train has never truly stopped for Buxton and after the 2nd half of 2017 it only picked up more steam. Over his final 56 games of the year, he hit 11 dingers while swiping 13 bags on 14 attempts. The .300 average was only gravy at that point for fantasy owners, however those looking for it to last all season must be wary of the .378 BABIP in that time as well. While Buxton has a lot of hype and talent around him to reach a 20 home run and 35 stolen base season, the volatility is still built into his game especially at his current ADP of 60.
21) Chris Taylor- Taylor was a relatively unknown name before 2017, but is now one of the more polarizing players for fantasy entering 2018. After being traded from the Mariners to the Dodgers in 2016, Taylor tinkered with his swing and made an adjustment that clearly allowed him to reach his potential. In 568 plate appearances last season, Taylor managed to hit for a .288 average while hitting 21 home runs and stealing 17 bases at the top of a dangerous Dodgers lineup. On top of that, Taylor refined his ability to recognize pitches as shown by his walk rate that jumped up to 8.8%. Taylor is likely to stay at the top of the Dodgers lineup in 2018, but expect that the .288 average to take a dip thanks to his .361 BABIP (7th highest in the league). Even if the average does drop, the second baseman eligibility is an added bonus as he appeared at second base in 22 games.
22) Billy Hamilton- If I had to compare Billy Hamilton to any superhero, he would clearly be the Flash. He has all the speed in the world as shown by his 174 stolen bases over the past 3 seasons. Unfortunately, that speed comes at a hefty price as Hamilton has only managed a .245 batting average and a .298 OBP. All of this limits his true ceiling because if you aren’t on base you can’t score. As great of a base stealer as he can be, Reds manager Bryan Price has not shied away from the possibility of moving Hamilton out of the leadoff spot. The Reds center fielder is a great fantasy contributor to runs and stolen bases, but if he loses the leadoff gig both of those categories will take a big hit.
23) Lorenzo Cain- Even after spending 8 season in the bigs, Lorenzo Cain is still criminally underrated. He has finally left the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium through free agency and has set up shop in the much more hitter friendly Miller Park. Similar to Christian Yelich, this is a perfect opportunity for the outfielder because he loves to run and the Brewers do as well. The power has fluctuated year to year with Cain, but the batting average consistently sits around the .300 mark, which is a steal at his current ADP of 97.
24) Yasiel Puig- Not only did Puig provide fantasy owners with a triple slash line of .263/.346/.487 along with 15 steals and 28 long balls, but he also entertained the league with his antics in the playoffs. People saw the Dodgers’ right fielder licking his bat against the Cubs in the playoffs and began to wonder why. However, he didn’t let the people wonder as he stated: “I make love to the bat and he pays me back with hits.” We all know how superstitious baseball players can be and while it may seem weird to do, if it helps Puig get into the confident mindset then so be it. There were some major improvements to Puig’s game not only in counting stats, but also his peripherals. Puig improved his walk rate, swinging strike rate, and overall contact percentage. Everything is there for the 27-year-old Puig to keep improving and he is one of my favorite targets in 2018.
25) Michael Conforto- Conforto is a good example of why the Mets continue to be a frustrating organization to deal with in fantasy. They were originally using Conforto as a fourth outfielder even though he was tearing up the league in his 66 plate appearances in April as shown by his wRC+ of 168. Once the Mets finally gave him his due, he continued his tear for 27 home runs and a .279 batting average in only 440 plate appearances. Unfortunately, the breakout outfielder’s season was cut short by a dislocation of his left shoulder and a tear to his posterior shoulder capsule. There is a lot of risk in Conforto as he isn’t expected to return before June, but the upside and game changing potential is still there for the 25-year-old.
Thanks for reading the breakdown of the top 25 outfielders. Here at Six Man Rotation we always love to hear from our readers with criticism and opinions as well. You can follow me on Twitter @DadSox or our fantasy baseball podcast Twitter @SixManRoto. You can find our podcast on Soundcloud here. Our top 26 through 50 outfielders rankings will be out in the coming days so our readers can be prepared for their fantasy drafts that are approaching quickly.