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February 18, 2014

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

Outfielders

by Mike Gianella

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To read the previous articles in this series, follow the links below:

Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at the outfield.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. 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 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 2014.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from this 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 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.

Players with multi-position eligibility are listed at the position where it is most likely they would start in a standard fantasy league. For outfielders, only 1B/OF are listed in this series. While you might insert Ben Zobrist into your outfield at some point during the season due to an injury, it is unlikely you would use him there at the start of the season.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Mike Trout

ANA

$54.62

$41.08

676

110

24

84

39

0.304

Andrew McCutchen

PIT

$29.60

$28.95

647

87

20

82

23

0.285

The star designation system for outfielders is tough because more than a few outfielders in the four-star tier could be promoted here using the $30-plus standard outlined above. However, given the elite standard established at other positions in the series, the decision was made to put Trout and McCutchen here and leave an arguably deserving outfielder like Carlos Gonzalez in the next tier. There is enough separation between Trout and McCutchen that the argument could be made for putting Trout in a super-elite tier all by himself, but with McCutchen being taken as high as no. 3 overall in some drafts, he shouldn’t be penalized for Trout being world class.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Carlos Gonzalez

COL

$24.16

$27.30

532

77

24

79

20

0.293

Bryce Harper

WAS

$10.30

$18.91

537

69

19

70

14

0.265

Carlos Gomez

MIL

$21.72

$27.19

586

76

17

65

39

0.25

Ryan Braun

MIL

$43.04

$35.95

639

93

29

95

23

0.303

Jacoby Ellsbury

NYY

$33.66

$33.16

650

92

14

61

43

0.283

Adam Jones

BAL

$22.11

$23.63

632

78

25

86

12

0.272

Giancarlo Stanton

FLA

$22.36

$21.95

560

80

33

93

4

0.261

Justin Upton

ATL

$24.64

$24.05

619

90

23

75

15

0.27

Hunter Pence

SF

$14.71

$20.85

613

73

20

77

12

0.27

Matt Holliday

STL

$14.29

$20.17

581

74

21

79

5

0.288

Alex Rios

TEX

$9.60

$20.16

562

66

14

61

25

0.26

Jose Bautista

TOR

$37.38

$26.55

632

104

36

95

8

0.255

Shin Soo-Choo

TEX

$24.83

$24.03

651

94

17

69

19

0.276

Jay Bruce

CIN

$21.14

$21.14

625

81

29

91

7

0.25

It feels like there is a little more separation this year between the elite outfielders and the four-star tier, which is another way of saying that there is some uncertainly here as well. Gonzalez only misses the five-star tier because of his less-than-elite numbers on the road, his struggles against left-handed pitching, and the odd time he misses due to injury, but he is still an easy first-round draft pick. If there weren’t so many unknowns surrounding Braun after his PED suspension, he would also be an easy five-star pick, but it is equally foolish to assume that he’s going to be the same player he was as it would be to assume that he will be a paltry shell of his former self. A $30-$32 bet is safer than a $40 one.

If you miss out on Trout, McCutchen, Gonzalez, or Braun, there is no shame in anchoring your outfield with one of these guys. They aren’t quite as dynamic as the top four, but then unless you’re grabbing Miguel Cabrera, this is going to true of any other position on the diamond. Nearly all of these players offer double-digit speed, while PECOTA projects even a speedster like Ellsbury for 14 home runs. All of these players have all around game or failing that (in the cases of Bautista and Stanton) have monster power.

PECOTA loathes Harper and sees a 2014 that is far from superstar caliber, but Harper was ninth in OPS among major-league outfielders (10th using adjusted OPS) in 2013 as a 20-year-old. He was a $22 player in NL-only over only 424 at-bats. Even if Harper stands still, he will be a high-$20s earner across 140 games.

Bruce can be overrated or underrated depending upon your league. If you are perpetually betting on the 40-50-home-run season that you have sworn since 2010 is lurking in Bruce’s bat, then you are most certainly going to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are in a league that overly discounts Bruce’s batting average and believes that he is a disappointment because of the lofty expectations set upon him once upon a time, you’re in for a near lock for 30 home runs and 100 RBI. As the power continues to ebb out of the Majors, that counts for something, and puts Bruce in the four-star tier.

Four-Star Value Pick: Hunter Pence
I included Pence in the three-tier group last year; that was clearly a mistake. I’m not convinced Pence is going to steal 20 bases again, but even if he doesn’t he is nearly always a nice all around player who somehow gets discounted compared to the rest of the outfielders in this tier. Perhaps this is because Pence doesn’t excel at any one Roto skill, but that shouldn’t stop you from pulling the trigger on a 20 home run, 90 RBI, 80 run, and .280 batting average near lock with a minimum of 10 steals thrown in to boot. Pence has shown more consistency than many of the players on this list, and is still only 31 years old.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Starling Marte

PIT

$20.84

$26.06

602

83

14

57

32

0.27

Jayson Werth

WAS

$22.17

$22.49

627

90

22

73

13

0.266

Matt Kemp

LAD

$14.20

$22.19

491

69

22

70

17

0.281

Wil Myers

TB

$14.45

$18.38

620

75

24

84

5

0.258

Alex Gordon

KC

$10.88

$17.72

629

73

16

74

10

0.267

Will Venable

SD

$14.21

$21.02

556

78

17

58

26

0.246

Michael Cuddyer

COL

$11.54

$19.40

581

70

19

75

9

0.277

Allen Craig

STL

$1.80

$14.73

500

59

17

67

2

0.289

Jason Heyward

ATL

$14.89

$18.97

598

83

20

68

12

0.255

Yasiel Puig

LAD

$31.84

$29.52

595

92

25

76

21

0.288

Yoenis Cespedes

OAK

$19.01

$21.78

608

77

25

82

12

0.262

Carlos Beltran

STL

$17.15

$20.17

619

77

23

84

7

0.27

Shane Victorino

BOS

$11.29

$20.18

578

75

11

54

25

0.268

Desmond Jennings

TB

$9.56

$19.75

572

71

11

55

30

0.246

Coco Crisp

OAK

$15.76

$23.53

576

78

12

51

36

0.254

Billy Hamilton

CIN

$23.98

$33.76

487

78

6

29

74

0.245

Domonic Brown

PHI

$8.66

$17.70

540

67

20

72

10

0.264

Curtis Granderson

NYM

$17.84

$19.93

610

79

26

82

15

0.23

Alfonso Soriano

NYY

$8.55

$16.30

557

67

25

76

9

0.235

Josh Hamilton

LAA

$8.91

$17.16

541

66

22

75

6

0.272

Leonys Martin

TEX

$9.74

$21.00

529

68

11

52

31

0.265

Mark Trumbo

ARI

$18.11

$20.38

594

75

30

90

5

.254

Nearly all of the players in this tier could easily take a step forward and play their way into the four-star tier or slip and play down to the two-star tier. The three-star ranking is an admission of the uncertain outcome that many of these players have and an honest attempt to meet in the middle. You might be extremely happy with one of these outfielders as your primary go-to, but if you’re looking for a safer bet, you will definitely want to pull the trigger earlier than this in your draft.

Kemp and Puig are the most likely candidates for inclusion in the four-star tier, and could even bust all the way into the $35 stratosphere if everything breaks right. In Kemp’s case, most of this is a question of health, and betting on a full, elite season of Kemp is a poor bet at this point. Puig might be a superstar in the making, but his post-June .278/.366/.470 slash might be a more realistic barometer. His poor success rate on the base paths also makes the steals far from a certainty in 2014. If he doesn’t run as much this year, he’ll need to hit for a lot of power to get past this grouping.

Venable can’t make it to the four-star tier because he doesn’t generate enough RBI or run scoring opportunities. This shouldn’t stop you from taking him and enjoying that 20/20 goodness.

Billy Hamilton’s NL-only earnings aren’t a misprint; stolen bases can have that much of an impact in an only. Even if Hamilton crashes with the bat, all he needs to do is get on base 30-31 percent of the time to be an only league fantasy monster. The three-star ranking concedes the fact that he could get the bat knocked out of his hands as well as the idea that even in today’s steal starved context, having little if any value in HR/RBI does matter more in mixed formats.

Josh Hamilton is now the “other” Hamilton. Searchers for fantasy value are always asking if Hamilton is going to bounce back, but the reality is that he’s in a terrible hitters park and he’s older than people think. There is a little room for improvement this year, but don’t pay assuming a big leap is in the cards.

Three-Star Value Pick: Michael Cuddyer
Cuddyer is a better pick in this tier if you’re in a mixed league and have a worthy replacement for the 30 or so games he is inevitably going to miss, but in any format he is a nice source of power and additionlly puts up around 10 sneaky stolen bases. He wouldn’t be the value pick if not for Coors, but he’ll be playing half his games there again this year as well.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Austin Jackson

DET

$10.23

$17.68

654

79

10

59

15

0.27

Brandon Moss

OAK

($2.80)

$10.09

457

55

19

62

4

0.237

Nelson Cruz

FA

$14.80

$19.60

464

60

21

66

8

0.258

Norichika Aoki

KC

$10.93

$19.91

648

78

6

50

24

0.279

Michael Brantley

CLE

$3.06

$15.74

612

64

7

57

17

0.271

Dexter Fowler

HOU

$0.40

$12.34

565

70

8

48

15

0.247

Michael Bourn

CLE

$12.49

$22.73

614

77

4

42

39

0.265

Ben Revere

PHI

$7.00

$21.52

561

68

4

38

35

0.277

Angel Pagan

SF

$12.46

$21.75

622

77

8

53

27

0.272

Carl Crawford

LAD

$6.81

$19.28

535

69

10

48

24

0.273

Torii Hunter

DET

$14.23

$18.65

634

81

18

69

7

0.277

Josh Reddick

OAK

$1.37

$12.75

551

61

18

68

8

0.237

B.J. Upton

ATL

$0.59

$14.74

473

59

13

51

24

0.229

Christian Yelich

MIA

$6.37

$16.71

576

73

12

54

17

0.258

Nick Swisher

CLE

$8.43

$14.10

596

79

20

69

2

0.251

Josh Willingham

MIN

$10.94

$15.76

599

75

24

81

4

0.24

Alejandro de Aza

CHI

$3.89

$16.20

522

68

10

47

20

0.269

Brett Gardner

NYY

$10.81

$21.83

579

76

6

43

36

0.26

Peter Bourjos

STL

$0.85

$14.44

523

64

11

49

17

0.254

Khris Davis

MIL

$2.27

$13.88

460

61

21

66

6

0.255

Corey Hart

SEA

$7.48

$15.78

569

67

21

75

6

0.256

Colby Rasmus

TOR

$0.91

$12.21

518

60

20

69

4

0.244

Daniel Nava

BOS

($2.21)

$9.47

567

67

9

52

3

0.261

Nick Markakis

BAL

$9.58

$15.59

676

81

13

65

4

0.273

Oswaldo Arcia

MIN

$6.26

$14.64

595

66

21

78

2

0.256

There are different philosophies at work in different formats, but the two-star is a “safe” place to put pure speed players who don’t have game changing (50 stolen bases or more) capability in the category. To that end, a number of the players here are guys who are valued much higher in only than they are in mixed. Bourn, Revere, Pagan, and Gardner all fit the mold of players who could hamper your squad in a mixer but are almost essentially in an only.

The other side of this coin is power hitters who either don’t quite offer enough power or bring their teams down with batting average concerns. Willingham, Swisher, and Reddick all have a place at the mixed league table, but their deficiencies make them players that you want to target later in your draft rather than sooner.

Jackson certainly has enough potential to warrant inclusion in the three-star tier, but he has now had four seasons in the majors and the numbers don’t pop. The steals dropped to single digits last year and Jackson has never hit more than 20 home runs. We all want to love him, but at some point it is a losing strategy to pay for too much upside.

Speaking of upside, if Upton isn’t completely finished he could easily be a 15 home run, 30 steal player. The batting average won’t be anything to write home about, but there is a significant opportunity here if you are not risk averse (or if you need to take risks in a keeper league due to a weak freeze list).

Yelich has an incredibly high ceiling (it’s worth repeating the front office executive quote from the Baseball Prospectus annual that says “Yelich is the top bat for me in the minors; even better than (Oscar) Taveras"), but it’s more likely that the 20-25-home-run power in his bat comes later rather than sooner and—as with any young player—short-term failure is always an option. He’s worthy in mixed leagues but in non-keeper formats some caution is advised.

Davis obviously isn’t going to hit home runs on a bazillion home run pace, but it would also be foolish to write him off entirely. He has the potential to hit 20 or so home runs, and is probably not going to be a flash in the pan. That PECOTA projection above sounds like it’s in the ballpark.

Two-Star Value Pick: Michael Brantley
There are a lot of choices you could make here, but Brantley stands out a little more than the rest. He has the potential to put up 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases with a fairly decent batting average. There could be some moderate growth in the power profile, but even if there isn’t, Brantley is solid enough in this tier.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Marlon Byrd

PHI

($5.82)

$10.07

496

50

13

58

3

0.263

Chris Carter

HOU

$4.09

$12.56

529

66

25

76

2

0.225

Kole Calhoun

LAA

$2.52

$14.83

512

61

15

61

13

0.261

Carlos Quentin

SD

($5.09)

$9.06

426

53

18

60

1

0.245

Cameron Maybin

SD

$5.80

$17.74

565

67

11

54

25

0.248

Melky Cabrera

TOR

$6.54

$17.04

596

65

13

67

11

0.281

George Springer

HOU

$4.68

$16.55

436

61

20

60

18

0.247

Lorenzo Cain

KC

($0.92)

$13.58

543

59

7

49

18

0.262

Cody Ross

ARI

($26.26)

$2.56

267

30

8

31

2

0.253

Corey Dickerson

COL

($9.29)

$9.35

363

45

14

48

5

0.272

Gerardo Parra

ARI

$4.05

$15.76

599

71

9

53

13

0.271

Michael Morse

SF

$0.28

$12.81

505

57

20

69

1

0.263

Nate Schierholtz

CHC

$3.20

$14.38

583

63

16

69

8

0.253

Ryan Ludwick

CIN

($6.19)

$8.64

471

51

17

60

1

0.242

Jackie Bradley Jr.

BOS

($17.80)

$4.75

358

41

7

37

6

.253

Matt Joyce

TB

$7.85

$15.37

576

71

20

73

8

0.245

Adam Eaton

CHW

$12.44

$20.59

605

79

9

51

26

0.272

Nick Castellanos

DET

($4.08)

$9.87

551

53

13

62

1

0.264

Avisail Garcia

CHW

$2.16

$14.93

550

58

15

64

10

0.269

Denard Span

WAS

$2.25

$15.97

600

69

4

45

19

0.274

Chris Young

NYM

($2.08)

$11.37

473

57

15

55

15

0.22

David Murphy

CLE

($5.47)

$9.95

479

52

11

53

8

0.259

Michael Saunders

SEA

$0.82

$13.04

552

64

14

56

16

0.228

David DeJesus

TB

($0.30)

$10.74

618

70

10

54

6

0.25

Raul Ibanez

LAA

($2.92)

$9.62

527

56

17

65

2

0.239

Andy Dirks

DET

($10.26)

$8.16

414

47

9

44

7

0.271

Robbie Grossman

HOU

$1.00

$12.89

569

70

9

48

16

0.245

Eric Young Jr.

NYY

($10.28)

$10.88

378

48

3

24

29

0.236

Garrett Jones

FLA

($11.02)

$7.47

400

45

14

50

4

0.244

Junior Lake

CHC

$4.20

$16.50

541

68

12

48

23

0.245

Rajai Davis

DET

($0.51)

$17.83

397

56

3

26

41

0.263

L.J. Hoes

HOU

($18.81)

$5.06

369

38

5

35

7

0.269

Alex Presley

MIN

($3.54)

$11.86

453

56

9

43

13

0.277

Marcell Ozuna

FLA

$0.56

$12.66

581

59

17

68

7

0.242

Oscar Taveras

STL

($24.29)

$3.99

268

29

8

34

2

0.282

Craig Gentry

OAK

($2.64)

$13.79

485

59

3

32

29

0.252

David Lough

BAL

($14.39)

$6.85

404

42

7

39

10

0.255

Drew Stubbs

COL

($13.05)

$8.86

337

42

8

33

18

0.244

Juan Lagares

NYM

($15.06)

$6.46

440

46

5

35

9

0.25

The one-star tier contains outfielders mostly below the threshold of standard mixed leagues. Many of the players here are possible platoon players and/or not full time options.

Based solely off of last year’s performance, Byrd is at least a two-star player, but a healthy amount of cynicism based off of his prior results is warranted. He is all but certain to slip, but if he can manage 15 home runs with a good batting average he would be one of the better hitters in this tier.

A few of the hitters listed here are in direct competition for jobs, and will rise or fall based upon how the season plays out. If Springer breaks camp, he would be a two-tier to start the season, but he is more likely to start the season at Triple-A. The Mets playing time battle between Young, Young, and Lagares will also influence how these players are ranked. These are the types of situations best avoided in mixed formats.

One-Star Value Pick: Ryan Ludwick
Ludwick might be forgotten or neglected even in only leagues because of his lost 2013, but the power that made him a decent pick in the past is still there. He isn’t going to be good for your batting average, but he has a shot at 20-25 home runs if he stays on the field.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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2014-02-11 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Rankings: Third Basemen
2014-02-04 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Rankings: Shortstops
2014-01-28 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Rankings: Second Basemen
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2014-03-04 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Rankings: Relief Pitchers
2014-02-25 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Rankings: Starting Pitchers
2014-02-20 - Fantasy Article Tale of the Tape: Yoenis Cespedes vs. Wil My...