Perhaps no position in fantasy baseball offers the kind of variety that the outfield does. There are a handful of elite options, veterans who offer safe production, prospects who bring the promise of yet unrealized upside, and plenty run-of-the-mill options to fill out your roster. That doesn’t even factor in the one or two skill specialists who can help bolster deficient categories on your team.
There are a ton of options available, and if you play in an OBP or points league those options are likely to fluctuate in value. In this week’s Adjuster, we’ll try and point you to a few outfielders worth giving some extra attention in these formats.
In case you missed previous installments of The Adjuster, you can find them here:
A season ago outfielders hit .257/.326/.422. Only catchers and shortstops finished with a worse OBP in 2016. However, outfielders did produce the second-best walk rate by position. A handful of outfielders experience significant swings in value when moving to an OBP format, and a larger group of players can expect to gain or lose somewhere between $1-$5 in value based on exchanging BA for OBP.
George Springer, HOU – Springer ended 2016 as one of the 20 most valuable outfielders in standard leagues. That value was even higher in OBP formats. His walk rate held steady between 11 and 12 percent for the third straight season, and he was hit by 11 pitches which was top 10 for the position. Springer set career highs in HR, R, and RBI, he’s hitting in the middle of one of baseball’s best offenses, and he looks like a pretty safe bet to finish with an OBP north of .350. He’s worth the investment in this format. Standard: Four Stars, OBP: High-Four Stars
Jose Bautista, TOR – If you’ve played in OBP leagues before, you’re well aware of Bautista’s increased value. Last season, Bautista added just over $7 of additional value in this format. Injuries limited him to just 116 games in 2016, and that resulted in counting stats that were lower than expected. However, Bautista’s walk rate rose to 16.8 percent (high highest mark since 2011). At thirty-six-years-old his most productive years might be behind him, but the man knows how to get on base. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Four Stars
Dexter Fowler, STL – Fowler checked in just behind Bautista last season with over $5 of additional value in OBP leagues. Over 125 games, Fowler racked up double-digit home runs and stolen bases. His .276 average was solid, but his .393 OBP was second best at the position (behind Trout). Fowler did produce the highest walk rate of his career (14.3 percent), but it wasn’t out of step with his career average (12.6 percent). He’ll get plenty of opportunities to play in St. Louis, and there should be little doubt he’ll provide a quality OBP. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Low-Four Stars
Joc Pederson, LAD – If you draft Pederson in a standard league, you know he’s probably going to be a drain on your batting average. His strikeout rate remained above 27 percent last season, and the highest BABIP of his career could only produce a .246 batting average. However, Pederson has shown a willingness to take a free pass, and he ended the season with a 13.2 percent walk rate. He clearly has 20-30 home run power, and if you draft him in an OBP league you won’t have to worry about his batting average deficiency. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Low-Four Stars
Others: Mike Trout was the second most valuable outfielder last season, while Bryce Harper snuck in the top 15. One thing they had in common was increased value in OBP formats, and they led the position in added value thanks to this change. You don’t need someone to tell you to draft Trout or Harper, but if you’re in an OBP league draft Trout or Harper. At this point you should give up on Curtis Granderson providing a decent batting average. However, his 11. 7 percent walk rate should keep his OBP high enough to make him a much safer play here. Brett Gardner’s counting stats took a slide in 2016, but his on base skills remained solid. He’s finished with an OBP below .340 only once in his last eight seasons. Jackie Bradley’s stats took a clear step forward last year. That included the best OBP (.349) of his short career. If his production holds, then he’s worth a few extra dollars in this format.
Matt Kemp, ATL – Owners who drafted Kemp last season were rewarded with his highest counting stat totals since 2011. Kemp’s batting average has noticeably dropped the past two seasons, and that’s likely to continue. His OBP has taken an even bigger hit, and it barely stayed above .300 last season (.304). His walk rate was down to 5.4 percent, although it was 7.7 percent in the second half. The counting stat should be there in 2017, but it’s worth noting you’re incurring additional risk in OBP leagues. Standard: Four Stars, OBP: Three Stars
Yasmany Tomas, ARI – Tomas finished 2016 as a top 30 outfielder. His counting stats were solid, and in standard leagues he provided a safe .272 batting average. However, if you were in an OBP league you had to make do with a .313 OBP. His walk rate remained under 6.0 percent last season, and there’s little to suggest his on base skills will climb in 2017. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Two Stars
Kevin Pillar, TOR – If you’re looking for some additional value in OBP formats from the one-star tier, stay away from Kevin Pillar. He finished with a .303 OBP, in part thanks to a 4.1 percent walk rate. Last season he gave back over $3.50 worth of value in OBP leagues, and that seems like a pretty safe bet this season as well. Standard: One Star, OBP: Nope
Others: Mookie Betts was the top earner at the position a season ago, and he finished with a .363 OBP. How is it possible he could get “arrows down” here? This has more to do with his high batting average which makes him worth a few more dollars in standard leagues. It will also be hard to sustain that high of an OBP with a sub 7 percent walk rate. Carlos Beltran pushed his home run total back up to 29, but it required dropping his walk rate down to a career low 5.9 percent. He’s going to hit for a solid average which means there’s no additional value to be found in this format. Eddie Rosario has played in at least 90 games the past two seasons. He’s never finished with an OBP above .295, and his walk rate has finished under 4.0 percent both years. He’ll give you some value, just not in this category. Adam Jones counting stats were basically what you’d expect from him in 2016. So was his OBP which hasn’t been higher than .318 since 2013.
The upper tiers of the outfield position hold out the promise of major production in points leagues. However, as George Bissell noted earlier this week, “there is far more risk associated with the lower tier talent” at this position. The quantity of players available means there will be some every day options still around at the end of your draft. Some of those players could bring you some nice additional value in this format.
Mookie Betts, BOS – You’re well aware of Betts’ value so I’ll keep this short. Not only was he the most productive outfielder in fantasy last season, but he did all of that with an 11 percent strikeout rate. He finished with a double-digit extra base hit rate, and he tied for the position lead in doubles. You couldn’t dream up a better combination of skills for points formats. Standard: Five Stars, Points: Trout Stars
Ryan Braun, MIL – Braun is thirty-three-years-old and just hit 30+ home runs for the first time since 2012. Clearly his age is a concern, but it’s hard not to like his production combined with a 17.4 percent strikeout rate. Braun easily had the best strikeout rate of the nine outfielders who earned between $20-$29 dollars last season. Even if his counting stats aren’t quite as high as last year, he’ll retain more of his value than any player in his tier. Standard: Four Stars, Points: High-Four Stars
Melky Cabrera, CHA – Cabrera is the only outfielder in our tiered rankings to have a better strikeout rate than Betts last season. His 9.0 percent extra-base-hit rate was fueled by 42 doubles (tied for best at the position). He seems like a pretty safe bet to provide 10-15 home runs, 65-75 runs, and 75-85 RBI. That’s a solid contribution, and he’s going to retain more of his value than any other outfielder. Standard: Two Stars, Points: Low-Three Stars
Kevin Pillar, TOR – Of the top 10 strikeout rates at the position, only Betts and Cabrera had higher extra base hit rates than Pillar. Pillar’s 35 doubles were the major contributing factor to this result. There’s a chance he could crack double-digit home runs this season, and he’s a relatively safe bet to accumulate double-digit steals. His strikeout rate has been under 16 percent for two straight years, and there’s little reason to suggest he won’t have a similar result in 2017. Standard: One Star, Points: Two Stars
Others: Only two outfielders combined a top 25 strikeout rate at the position with at least an 11 percent extra base hit rate. Mookie Betts was one of those players. Charlie Blackmon was the other. Blackmon set career highs in HR, R, and RBI last year while lowering his whiff rate to 15.9 percent. Yoenis Cespedes kept his strikeout rate under 20 percent for the third time in the past five seasons. That factor combined with the potential for 30+ home runs only increases his stock in this format. Kole Calhoun’s home run total took a hit last season. However, his strikeout rate dipped back below 20 percent. If his other counting stats hold, he’s worth an extra look in this format. Carlos Beltran joined Betts and Blackmon as players with a top-15 strikeout rate at the position and a double-digit extra-base-hit rate. His age is a concern, but he should see regular playing time in Houston if healthy.
Keon Broxton, MIL – It seems only fitting that Broxton’s first name begins with a K. Throughout the minors his strikeout rate hovered around 30 percent, and it jumped to 36.1 percent during 75 games in the majors. The nine home runs and 23 stolen bases he racked up over that stretch are tantalizing, but there’s just too much negative value in this format. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Two Stars
Carlos Gomez, TEX – Gomez’s fluctuations in performance were well documented last season. Over 85 games with the Astros he hit .210/.272/.322, but in 33 games with the Rangers he hit .284/.362/.543. Gomez returns to the Rangers lineup this season, and owners will hope to see production like those final 33 games. Regardless of whether that happens, Gomez’s strikeout rate climbed above 30 percent last season. He’s a risky acquisition, and that risk is elevated in this format. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Two Stars
Steven Souza, TBR – Most owners got what they expected out of 120 games from Souza last season. His HR, R, and RBI were right in line with that he accomplished in 2015. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate was in line with his 2015 results as well. Souza struck out 34 percent of the time in 2016. Add to that the fact that he’s returning from hip surgery, and it’s clear that there are better options at his tier. Standard: Two Stars, Points: One Star
Alex Gordon, KC – Gordon’s production in 2016 was better than his production in 2015. Still, there were red flags regarding his trajectory. His strikeout rate checked in just under 30 percent, and he only had a 7.0 percent extra-base-hit rate to show for his efforts. Gordon just turned 33, and it’s more than likely his best days are behind him Standard: Two Stars, Points: One Star
Others: Giancarlo Stanton always holds out the promise of elite power production. However, he’s struggled with injuries in each of the past two seasons, and he hasn’t topped 30 home runs since 2014. Also, his whiff rate is hovering around 30 percent. For the cost you’ll pay to acquire him, there are better options. Byron Buxton’s struggles are well known by this point. He’s spent time in the majors in each of the past two seasons, and over those two seasons he’s racked up a 34.5 percent whiff rate. The talent is still there, but until his counting stats take a step forward he’s not worth the cost. Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton hitting in the same lineup should do wonders for the strikeout totals of starting pitchers in the NL Central. The power potential is real, but it’s hard to buy in with a strikeout rate north of 30 percent.