(Photo by Jimmy Simmons/Icon Sportswire)
It’s that time of the year, the best time of the year, fantasy baseball season. As we look ahead to the upcoming season, we’re breaking down Pitcher List’s 2018 positional rankings. For this position, outfield, we’ll be doing a top-100, 20 spots at a time. Today, the top 80. Don’t forget to check out our Top 20 Outfielders, Top 40 Outfielders, and Top 60 Outfielders articles, too.
61. Shin-Soo Choo (Texas Rangers) – I feel like Shin-Soo Choo’s season last year got a bit overlooked. Choo has always had a nice power/speed combo, and was quite the fantasy asset in his 20/20 Indians days. He’s also typically been a nice commodity in OBP leagues given how good he is at taking walks, but last season he jumped right back into fantasy relevance, hitting .261 with 22 home runs and 12 steals. After an injury-riddled 2016, Choo went right back to being productive and I don’t see any reason he can’t keep doing it. Choo’s ability to hit 20 home runs hasn’t typically been a problem when he’s healthy, but the double-digit steals (his first double-digit steal season since 2013) were nice to see. If he can keep that up, the power and the average should stay roughly the same (he even had a .274 xAVG, so perhaps his average even improves), and Choo could be a solid fantasy asset. He is a bit risky though, given that he’s had health issues over his career and he’s 35 now.
62. Scott Schebler (Cincinnati Reds) – Schebler’s batting average was rough to deal with last year, but I would expect it to improve, as that .233 average came with a .248 BABIP and a .260 xAVG. The power is legit, and if he’s able to boost that average up to, say, the .250s or so, he becomes a bit more valuable than he was last year.
63. Josh Reddick (Houston Astros) – Reddick provides solid contributions in most categories without blowing you away in a single category. He hits for a high average, solid power, and can grab a handful of steals. Now, I don’t expect him to hit above .300 again like he did this past year given that his .314 average came with a .339 BABIP and a .280 xAVG, but I don’t see why Reddick can’t hit in the .280s while still hitting close to 15 home runs and providing nearly 10 steals. Not to mention he’ll be able to get plenty of RBIs in the middle of the Houston lineup.
Tier 8: Fly By Night
64. Kevin Pillar (Toronto Blue Jays) – Pillar quietly turned in a fairly productive season for the Blue Jays last year, getting 16 home runs and 15 steals with a decent average, and I don’t think there’s any reason he can’t do that again. In fact, I’d expect the average to improve some, given that his .256 average came with a .280 BABIP and a .269 xAVG. Otherwise, there’s no reason he can’t go 15/15 again bare minimum this year with the potential for more in the steals department, as he’s flashed 20+ steal upside in the past.
65. Randal Grichuk (Toronto Blue Jays) – Things just weren’t really working out for Randal Grichuk in St. Louis, so I’m glad he’s got a change of scenery and likely a steady starting gig with the Blue Jays. Grichuk has always struggled with plate discipline and last year was no different, striking out 30.1% of the time with a 35.4% chase rate and a 13.6% whiff rate. But man does he profile nicely as a power hitter, with a 40.2% hard-hit rate last year, a .235 ISO, and a solid 15.9-degree launch angle. The average is going to be limited because of the plate discipline, he’s probably a .240s hitter, but he has the ability to hit 30 home runs pretty easily if he’s given a full season. And let’s not forget, he’s still just 26-years-old, the plate discipline could come (and I hope it does).
66. Willie Calhoun (Texas Rangers) – It’s always hard to project rookies, but Willie Calhoun has lots of potential and it looks like he’s going to have a relatively steady gig in Texas this year. Calhoun might be the Rangers’ starting left fielder, though I wouldn’t be shocked to see him platooned with Jurickson Profar as the year goes on and the Rangers ease him into the major leagues (unless he sets the world on fire right away). Calhoun profiles as a very good power hitter, and if given a full MLB season, he’s got the ability to hit 25-30 home runs. He’s also shown to have really solid plate discipline while in the minors, striking out just 11.8% of the time during his time with the Dodgers’ Triple-A team. Calhoun certainly has the potential of a breakout candidate and is a nice sleeper pick, but there’s obviously a lot of risk involved with just about any rookie you draft.
67. Michael A. Taylor (Washington Nationals) – Taylor had quite the year last year for the Nationals and finally showed off that power/speed combo that everyone’s loved about him for so long. Now, I would expect the average to regress a bit, his .271 average came with a .242 xAVG and a .363 BABIP. He’s fast enough to outperform those stats generally, but given that he also struck out 31.7% of the time last year, I think regression is coming. Still, he could be a .250s hitter who’s got a solid power/speed combo that obviously has 20/20 potential, but more realistically should probably be looked at as a bit less than that. He’s also going to bat at the bottom of the order most likely, which will limit his runs and RBI potential.
68. David Peralta (Arizona Diamondbacks) – The humidor (drink) is going to really affect Arizona’s power hitters whenever it’s installed, but luckily, Peralta doesn’t draw all his value from power. Similar to Josh Reddick, he’s a guy who’s able to maintain a high average, steal a handful of bases, and provide some solid power, and I would imagine he should be able to do that this year. If you draft Peralta, it’s worth paying attention to what pitchers he’s going against for the week, because he’s a much better hitter against righties than lefties (.302 average vs. .269). While Peralta won’t wow you with any one stat, he does provide a solid foundation for your team by contributing enough in just about every category.
69. Mallex Smith (Tampa Bay Rays) – I’ve loved Mallex Smith for quite some time now, and now that both Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza are out of the way for the Rays’ outfield, it looks like Smith is going to have a steady gig. Smith looked pretty good last year, hitting .270 during his 81 games with the Rays, but that came with a .347 BABIP and a .212 xAVG. He’s got the speed to outperform those stats generally, but not by that much. Still though, if he can hit in the .250s, he has absolutely absurd speed that has 40 steal potential easily (I’ve always thought of him as a poor man’s Billy Hamilton) but more conservatively can be projected for 30+ steals provided he’s got a full-time job. It’s worth noting though that the acquisition of Carlos Gomez might cause a slight obstacle in playing time for Smith. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he gets platooned some, as Smith is just a .165 hitter against lefties while a .280 hitter against righties. You may have to play the matchups if you draft Smith, but he’ll be able to provide you a lot of steals without murdering you in average. Runs and RBIs will be hard to come by though, especially with a weak Rays lineup, and Smith has almost no power to speak of.
70. David Dahl (Colorado Rockies) – Do you know what to expect from David Dahl this season? Because I know I don’t. After missing the vast majority of last year and a lot of 2016 with injuries, Dahl is reportedly ready to go this year. There’s obviously potential, he flashed just how good he can be during his limited action in 2016, but we have to wonder just how healthy he is and how healthy he’s going to stay. Not to mention the Rockies already have Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra, and Ian Desmond in the outfield, though I could see them benching Parra for Dahl. If Dahl is fully healthy and is a starter in the outfield, he’s got the ability to hit for a good average (like .270s) with around 20 home runs and even double-digit steals. But that’s far from a guarantee at this point, if it was, he’d be much higher in the rankings.
71. Lewis Brinson (Miami Marlins) – Lewis Brinson is a major talent, and now that he’s on the Marlins, he’s likely going to have a starting job because who else are the Marlins going to throw out there? Brinson has flashed a solid power/speed combo in the minors, with the obvious potential to develop into a 20/20 guy. I’m not expecting that this year (though you know how rookies are, anything can happen), but I’d still expect reasonable production from him on the power and speed front with an average that won’t kill you. Runs and RBIs are certainly going to be difficult to find with the Marlins though.
72. Austin Hays (Baltimore Orioles) – Hays’ ranking could change if the Orioles sign another outfielder, and I personally think they will, but as it stands, Hays has a solid shot at playing time in the outfield. He was extremely impressive through the minor league system last year, hitting 32 home runs and batting above .300. The key to his success in the majors is going to be plate discipline. In the just 20 games he was in the majors last year, he struck out 25.4% of the time with a 40.3% chase rate and a 3.2% walk rate. Granted, extremely small sample size, but that’s going to be what determines how successful he is. If that’s under control, the guy has 20+ home run potential with a good average (maybe like .270s). However, that’s far from a guarantee, nor is his playing time, as the Orioles already have Adam Jones and Trey Mancini in the outfield and potentially Anthony Santander contending for Hays’ spot. This is also all assuming they don’t sign the left-handed outfielder that they seem to pursuing, which could be someone like Carlos Gonzalez or Jon Jay, among others. If they do sign someone, that will significantly hurt Hays’ chances of playing time, as the team would likely either start him in the minors or ease him into the majors. I don’t expect their recent signing of Colby Rasmus to have much of an impact unless he looks really good at spring training. The deal they signed him to is a minor league one, and I could see him being a bench bat rather than being a starter who threatens Hays’ playing time. But then again, it’s the Orioles so anything is possible.
73. Albert Almora (Chicago Cubs) – At just 23-years-old, Albert Almora looked pretty good last year, hitting .298 on the year. He’s got an above-average glove which will almost certainly keep him in the field, and given the way he hit last year, he’ll likely lead off. He makes for an interesting sleeper and potential breakout candidate, but as of now, I would expect him to be able to hit for a solid average, probably in the 280s, with some decent power and the potential for even better.
74. Nick Williams (Philadelphia Phillies) – In the 83 games he played for the Phillies last year, Nick Williams looked pretty solid, though he outplayed himself a little bit. I don’t expect his average to carry over into this year, that .288 average came with a .375 BABIP and a .262 xAVG. He also struggles with plate discipline, finishing last year with a 28.3% strikeout rate, a 44.6% chase rate, and a 19% whiff rate, and given that, it’s hard to imagine his average being particularly high unless he gets that under control. The power seems fine, however, and given a full season, I could see him hitting around 15+ home runs. What’s going to be questionable is playing time. The Phillies are going to keep Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins in the outfield full time more than likely, which leaves Williams and Aaron Altherr to battle for the final spot. Personally, I’d favor Altherr there, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Phillies platooned the two, and if I had to guess, that platoon would favor Altherr more than Williams.
75. Dexter Fowler (St. Louis Cardinals) – Dexter Fowler is a perfectly fine player that’s not going to really wow you, not anymore at least. He’s got a solid power/speed combo, though his 18 home runs last year were a career high that came with a 14.6% HR/FB rate (also a career-high) and 15.7 xHRs, so I would expect the power to regress a slight bit. It was also disappointing to see Fowler not get double-digit steals for the first time in his major league career, which worries me that perhaps age is starting to hit him (he is on the wrong side of 30) and he isn’t quite the base stealer he’s been in the past. The steals have been on the steady decline for awhile now. The 2015 season in which he stole 20 bases is starting to seem like a bit of an outlier mixed with the 11 bases he stole in 2014, the 13 he stole in 2016, and the seven he stole last year. Without the steals, Fowler’s value drops a fair bit. I could see him being a .260s hitter whose able to hit around 15 home runs, but as for the steals, I can only conservatively expect around what happened last year. Obviously there’s the potential for more, but I can’t bank on that.
76. Jackie Bradley Jr. (Boston Red Sox) – Jackie Bradley Jr.’s season seems to come and go in waves. At times, he gets insanely hot and is extremely valuable, and then he cools off and starts hitting like garbage. Ultimately, that means he turns in a fairly pedestrian season, and I would expect more of the same next year. He’s shown the ability to hit 26 home runs in the past, but a decline in hard-hit rate from 36% to 33.3% and HR/FB rate from 18.1% to 14.5% as well as a decline in exit velocity from 91 to 87.9 and slightly worse plate discipline is not encouraging. I would expect a very similar season this year that he had last year, which has some value, but is ultimately pretty meh.
77. Stephen Piscotty (Oakland Athletics) – Moving from Busch Stadium to the Oakland Coliseum is probably going to help Piscotty some, given that Busch is a pretty pitcher-friendly park while Oakland is a fairly hitter-friendly park. Piscotty saw a slight power loss last year, with his average exit velocity dropping from 88 to 85 and his launch angle dropping from 13.2 to 9.9, though his hard-hit rate stayed roughly the same. I’m optimistic that the power will come back, and I think the average will come up too, as his .235 average last year came with a .286 BABIP and a .252 xAVG. I could see him hitting aroudn 15-20 home runs with an average around the .250s if given a full-time shot in Oakland.
78. Max Kepler (Minnesota Twins) – To me, Max Kepler is a player that always seems to hang out at the top of your waiver wire, making you go “ehhhhh maybe I should pick him up? I guess?” He’s reasonably productive, he should be good for around 20 home runs, a handful of steals, and and a .250s batting average, but that feels like such a boring, average player. Still, it’s useful, even if it doesn’t excite you, Kepler is productive enough and he’s in a fairly solid Twins lineup, so he should be able to produce a decent amount.
79. Mikie Mahtook (Detroit Tigers) – In the 109 games we got to see Mikie Mahtook play, he showed some skill, with a really solid 38% hard-hit rate and a .276 average that actually came with a .283 xAVG. Mahtook should have a full-time job with the Tigers now and I would bet he’ll bat near the top of the lineup (if not at the actual top). If that’s the case, I could see him having a decent average with around 15 home run power and a small handful of steals. Runs and RBIs might be tough to come by in a pretty weak Tigers lineup, though.
80. Jorge Bonifacio (Kansas City Royals) – Jorge Bonifacio got to see some time with the Royals last year and made the most of it, showing off some good power. He’s got around 20 home run capabilities, though I would like to see his hard-hit rate get a little higher than 32.2% to support a HR/FB rate of 18.3%. If the hard-hit rate doesn’t get any higher, I can’t imagine his HR/FB rate is going to stay there, and therefore the power should regress. Still though, he’s shown above-average power in the minors and hopefully he’ll grow into that in the majors, especially since he’ll likely have a full-time job with the Royals.