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March 25, 2013
Fantasy Tier Rankings
National League Outfielders
Today we continue our positional tier rankings. Last offseason, Derek Carty tackled the tiers by himself; this spring, we've decided to attack them as a team. Players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by the number of stars.
Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be earl- round selections, and they're 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. As was the case with our positional rankings series, the positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of the projected PECOTA values.
We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from our 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, as we did last year, we'll allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. 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.
You can find the previous Fantasy Tier Rankings posts here:
We have split the outfielders into two articles. The National League tiers are below; you can find the American League tiers here.
Unlike other positions on the diamond, outfield is deep enough where the five-star cutoff sits at $35 as opposed to $30. This is especially true in the National League, where you could make cogent arguments to expand this tier and include Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and/or Justin Upton. Gonzalez is the guy some might question here—and PECOTA doesn’t like him—but even taking his ridiculous 2010 out of the equation, he earned $30+ in 2011 and 2012. His production is sort of “boring” for a top-tier player, but the stability is worth a few extra bucks. Braun almost deserves his own tier; if he isn’t suspended due to the Biogenesis matter, he’s a safe number-one pick in any format.
Five Star Value Pick: Gonzalez, for the reasons already mentioned.
If you wind up with any of these players as your first outfielder, you’re not going to shed a tear, but there are just enough questions to keep all of them out of the five-star group. McCutchen’s BABIP should correct, pushing down his batting average along with the rest of his counting stats. Stanton fails to crack the top-tier not because of unfounded concerns about his RBI/runs, but because without significant speed or a higher average, he just can’t get there. The temptation is to push Harper up, but at the tender age of 20, there’s just as much room for slippage as there is for growth—at least this year.
Four-Star Value Pick: It’s tough to call any of these players a true “value” pick, but Heyward comes closest to fitting the bill. PECOTA takes a dimmer view of him than the rest of these outfielders, but he’ll come a little bit cheaper than McCutchen, has a longer track record than Harper, and comes with fewer injury concerns than J. Upton.
The three-star outfielders are either players that do a little bit of everything well but don’t do anything spectacularly, or one- or two-category giants that have deficiencies elsewhere. Choo is a strong example of the former: He’ll contribute in all five-categories but is unlikely to come out of nowhere and suddenly blast 30 homers or swipe 30 bags. Although PECOTA sees a regression in steals for Pence, he fits this mold as well.
Bruce is every expert’s darling this year, but the low batting average and lack of speed make him a reach anywhere past this point. He has been going for a comparable draft pick/salary to Holliday even though his isolated power hasn’t increased significantly or shown any real growth in the last three years. A 40-45 bomb explosion from Bruce would be exciting, but PECOTA is right on here; he hasn’t done anything to show that this is a given in 2013.
Three-Star Value Pick: Batting average concerns add some risk to his profile, but Gomez has the potential to be a $30 earner in NL-only formats. The power spike was legitimate, and with the Brewers buying out Gomez’s free agent years to the tune of three years and $24 million, unless he hits .200 or so, Gomez will play. In standard 5x5 leagues, Gomez earned just about as much per plate appearance as Stanton did in 2012.
More than half of the hitters in the two-star tier are either pure-speed plays or provide most of their value through steals. In a mixed league, if you’re going to take one of these guys, you definitely want to grab some power with your speed. Marte and Crawford fit this profile.
The non-speed players here are mostly older veterans who provide stability but are unlikely to break out in any big way. Ethier and Cuddyer are okay to own, but if you’re banking on these guys as the cornerstones of your imaginary franchise, you’ve got a big problem.
Prado is probably going to slot in at third base in most leagues, but it’s worth mentioning that he’s been a pretty strong option in the outfield in two of the last three years. He does a little bit of everything and should continue to provide this kind of stability for the Diamondbacks and his fantasy teams.
If Werth can stay on the field, he could shoot past this group as well. Opinions are mixed on Werth, to say the least: I’ve seen him go early in drafts, but I’ve also seen him sit around for a long time. A 20/15 season like PECOTA projects would be nice.
Two-Star Value Pick: Aoki gets a lot of fantasy press/buzz, but Pagan will probably put up nearly the same numbers and is going much lower in drafts according to ADP. He offers more power than speed-only types like Revere do and won’t get pushed up by the hype machine the way that Marte will. He’s a boring pick, but I like my boring picks with 30+ steals and a batting average that won’t hurt me.
The negative values in the mixed column are no accident. You might disagree about who belongs in the red and who doesn’t, but this is mostly NL-only territory.
Ruggiano’s power-speed combination makes him look miscast here, but a .401 BABIP in 2012 screams fluke. Jason Collette identified Ruggiano as a candidate to be designated for assignment by this summer, and I think Jason is absolutely correct. Avoid Ruggiano if he creeps past the one-star tier.
This tier is a good source for some cheap power in 2013, though. PECOTA projects six of these outfielders to hit 20+ home runs and 10 to hit 15 or more. The downside is the subpar batting averages that are tied to most of these players.
One-Star Value Pick: Ludwick. You’re unlikely to find a single fantasy website singing Ludwick’s praises, which of course is what makes him a value pick. Naysayers will look at Ludwick’s career and point to poor numbers in 2010-2011, but pitcher-friendly parks were the culprits in both cases. Unless Billy Hamilton steals (haha, steals) his job midyear, Ludwick is a fairly safe bet for 20 home runs.