February 16, 2016
Fantasy Tiered Rankings
Outfielders, Part One: 1-30
The outfield position regularly boasts some of the premier fantasy players in the game. That’s no different this year, as many as five outfielders could be drafted in the first round of deeper mixed leagues—some familiar faces with a notable newcomer who was actually the top-grossing fantasy producer at the position in 2015.
Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they will fetch mixed-league auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are 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. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2016.
We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s 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.
It seems that Mike Trout isn’t a unanimous no. 1 choice in fantasy leagues this year, which is almost as ridiculous as Ryan Roberts’s “Tatman” nickname. Harper took the league by storm in 2015, outperforming Trout at the final tally, but Trout was only one home run shy of Harper’s total—which I legitimately wouldn’t have guessed before writing this article—and I still can’t help but think Trout still has 20-plus stolen bases in him for the foreseeable future.
Pollock possesses a tantalizing combination of skills, especially for fantasy owners, but I’m not sold on the 20-home-run power. The ballparks certainly matter; however, McCutchen clubbed 23 homers and had a much higher average batted-ball velocity (91.39 mph) than Pollock (89.45 mph). Just for reference, Pollock’s totals were just below Martin Prado, Joe Mauer, and Jason Castro, so he’s hardly surrounded by traditional sluggers. Though, to be fair, he’s 10 spots higher than Buster Posey (89.35 mph) and Kris Bryant (89.33 mph), which means average batted-ball velocity isn’t unimpeachable. It does call into question Pollock’s long-term power potential, given the fact that he had never hit double-digit homers in a season before 2015. Of course, the 39 stolen bases keeps him firmly in the five-star tier nonetheless.
Five-Star Value Pick: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Because the outfield will ultimately contain 75 guys, the middle tiers get crowded. The four-star tier contains a lot of different kinds of fantasy players. Speed still matters more than other categories, given the decline in stolen bases across the league, which is why someone like Billy Hamilton still ekes his way onto this list, despite playing-time concerns and an abysmal batting average. He’s one of the players who can carry your squad in the category. He’s a luxury good, though, which means you’ll pay for overspending in other areas of your budget.
Some other members of the Fantasy Team argued for Lorenzo Cain to be pushed up a bit higher—even higher than I have him here—but long-standing injury issues combined with the fact that he’ll be 30 years old this spring make me nervous. I’ve championed Cain since he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s a player I adore. The power is legitimate, and he’s shown a better hit tool than I expected. His style leads to nagging injuries, though, and I’m not sure his power/speed combination ages well. With that said, I want to love Lorenzo Cain in 2016. I’m just not sure I’m willing to spend what it will take to acquire him on draft day.
This feels like a monster year for Justin Upton, who moves to Detroit and will benefit from a stacked lineup that includes Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez. His run and RBI totals should jump to D-Backs levels, and he still showed that he can swipe double-digit bags with ease. While the batting average won’t be elite, Upton could be tremendous everywhere else.
I’ll say this: Yoenis Cespedes won many admirers in New York, but I see little reason why we should think he’s anything more than what he was in 2013 and 2014. The approach has gotten worse in many ways. The BABIP is probably coming down, too.
Four-Star Value Pick: Carlos Gomez, Houston Astros
If Puig and Dickerson can prove healthy, the 2016 season should prove an interesting litmus test for their long-term value. Puig needs to prove that he can hit for average now that the league has figured him out. His swinging-strike rate jumped to 13.9 percent a year ago, yet he’s made more contact on poor pitches to hit. That’s not a good combination. Puig’s divisive personality is also a problem, even in fantasy, as it could affect his playing time.
Dickerson must now prove that he’s not a product of Coors Field. For his career, he’s only hit .249/.286/.410 away from Colorado, with his walk rate plummeting and his strikeout rate rocketing upward. Moreover, he’s only a career .246/.299/.377 hitter against lefties, and the Rays won’t be shy about platooning him unless that’s fixed. The upside is there, sure, but Dickerson is no longer in the same conversation as his former teammate, Charlie Blackmon.
I was the high man on Adam Eaton a year ago. After a dreadful start to the season, he hit .311/.390/.471 with 12 homers and 17 stolen bases from June onward. I still believe and will be investing heavily in the White Sox’s leadoff man in 2016.
Three-Star Value Pick: Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees