Before the 2017 season begins, we will rank our top 15 fantasy players at each position for you. We might provide a projection. We might not. But take some notes, and if you’re lucky this will have you ready for the exam on draft day 2017. Today we examine Outfielders, a particularly thin class compared to the past.
1. Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels
The easiest number one in the history of fantasy baseball. Each year, he shows us a new reason to love him. He’s like Haley’s Comet, he comes around once every 100 or so years. You look at the seasons on the back of his baseball card and try to pick a ‘best’ one. But they’re all uniquely great in their own way, while so different. Last year he almost pulled off a 30-30 season on the final day, hit .315 and OPS’d .991 on the year. What is there left to do? Whatever that is, he’s going to do it.
2. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Mookie showed he was Mike Trout-lite last season by knocking 31 homers and stealing 26. For a period he looked like baseball’s best player. He was absolutely dominating at times. He will be just 24 and the spotlight should be his in Boston with Ortiz in retirement. Perennial 200-hit threat with 120-runs scored. Perennial 30-30 threat. Could be the guy to someday lower Trout from the top spot in these rankings.
3. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
Charlie Blackmon truly does not get enough respect. He looks homeless, his middle name is Cobb, he’s not pretty to look at. But the bottom line is this guy is a down and dirty ballplayer. He plays at Coors which is an obvious plus, he stole 17 bases, hit .324, walked enough to reach a .933 OPS, hit 29 homers and scored 111 runs. He’s going to be 30 and it would seem like he could be a guy who has some rickety injuries. But there’s no one better for this spot at this time.
4. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
The fantasy baseball community has largely soured on Giancarlo Stanton. We have not. We see this perceived attitude towards him as opportunity. Ron Shandler said Stanton is “a $40 player trapped inside a $5 body”. We can no longer make the argument that his injuries have just been freak things. But the truth is this: he’s entering his age 27 season and his legacy is on the line. In the wake of the death of Jose Fernandez, it’s time for him to rise to the occasion and show that he is the cornerstone of the Marlins. He’s long overdue. If he can find a way to 150 games played for the first time in his career – something we believe he’s going to try hard to do – he’s going to eclipse 40 home runs and he will OPS around .950. There are not many guys in the game with that upside. You got one more year of our faith, Stanton. Don’t mess this up. Great time to buy low folks.
5. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
I just – I don’t know. Outside of 2015 when we were right on the money with him, he just has been a good player. He’s very enigmatic, and he seems very interested in being a spokesperson for products and sponsorships. He seems resigned to be a Yankee in 2018. These things just don’t bode kindly for him in his current situation. Few guys have the ability to hit 40 home runs and .330 but the fact of the matter is there’s just going to be a lot of baggage with him, always. You can’t really buy him low. He’s a first-tier guy and probably has a huge year before his free agency hits but he just doesn’t excite us like he used to; for some strange reasons.
6. George Springer, Houston Astros
Springer has reached his ceiling it feels like. Pretty good ballplayer that is toolsy as all Hell that will take bad hacks for weeks on end and frustrate the bejesus out of you. That said, when times are good, they feel pretty good. He can make you feel like a genius for a week before disappearing again. He only stole nine bases last year. You might lazily believe in your head this guy is a 30-30 threat, when in fact it doesn’t appear that he is. Decent walks (88) and nice runs scored (116) from hitting atop an electric lineup. Great home park. We think he’s as good as he’ll ever be, so if you’re comfortable with who he is, expect what you’ve seen before and not more.
7. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but his power has spiked in his age 33 through age 35 seasons. He’s hit 40 home runs in each of the last three years. Regression is coming – but it’s a matter of can you miss that bullet chamber in this game of Russian Roulette with Cruz. Perhaps he’s just one of those rare players who has learned how to take care of his body through the rigors of a full season better than when he was younger and the light went on and will stay on until his twilight years like Ortiz. We think he has a 35 homer season coming with some regression in average and on-base.
8. A.J. Pollock, Arizona DiamondBacks
He only played in 12 games last season due to injury. The real Pollock should be the guy we saw in 2015, and we’re going to find out really quickly if he’s a great player or that was the best year that he’s ever going to have. He’s in a great park and hitting in front of Goldschmidt should get him some pitches. He will be an aggressive base-stealer.
9. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
You cannot knock Braun’s production and the fact remains he’s on a Hall of Fame career path. Has not managed 150+ games played since 2012, and may not again; but in 135 games last season amassed 30 homers, a .305 average, and a .903 OPS. He proved there is still lightning aplenty in his bat, and in that park. He added 16 steals and figures to again be in a potent lineup. He remains in the top-10 as long as he’s performing at the 2016 clip.
10. J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Injury-shortened 2016 campaign still yielded 120 games and a .307 average with a .908 OPS. You didn’t get the monster season you had in 2015, but he will be just 29 and his skills should remain unchanged with a nice flat level of production he’s enjoyed the last three seasons since joining Detroit.
11. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
12. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
13. Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
14. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
15. Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles
16. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
17. Jackie Bradley, Boston Red Sox
18. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
19. Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
20. Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics