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You’re going to spend a lot of money in the outfield. Granted, a lot of that is because standard leagues have more outfielders than any other positions. That’s not the only reason, though. The defensive requirements are a little more flexible than they are in the infield, so the player pool is more diverse, including players as different as Billy Hamilton and Kyle Schwarber.

Five of the 10 most expensive position players in the National League were outfielders last season and six NL outfielders went for $30 or more. Let’s take a look at the most expensive outfielders in 2016 in NL-Only leagues:

Table 1: 15 Most Expensive* NL Outfielders, 2016

Rank

Player

$

Price

+/-

1

Bryce Harper

$22

$43

-20

2

Giancarlo Stanton

$13

$38

-24

3

Andrew McCutchen

$18

$35

-17

4

Starling Marte

$31

$33

-2

5

A.J. Pollock

$2

$33

-30

6

Charlie Blackmon

$35

$30

5

7

Jason Heyward

$9

$28

-19

8

Ryan Braun

$30

$27

3

9

Yoenis Cespedes

$22

$27

-6

10

Carlos Gonzalez

$25

$27

-2

11

Yasiel Puig

$11

$26

-15

12

Gregory Polanco

$22

$25

-3

13

Kyle Schwarber

$0

$25

-25

14

Matt Kemp

$24

$24

0

15

Christian Yelich

$26

$22

3

Average

$19

$30

-10

*Position eligibility in Table 1 is determined based on preseason eligibility. In addition, the figures in Table 1 are rounded to the nearest whole number. Please don’t comment on anything you think is an arithmetical error unless you take that into account.

Yikes. Besides him, four of the five most expensive players racked up losses of $17 or more, likely sinking their roto owners’ chances in the process. The causes were as diverse as the player pool in the outfield:

  • Bryce Harper played 147 games but was slowed by injury, depressing his numbers
  • Giancarlo Stanton was limited to 119 games due to injury and only hit .240 when he played
  • Andrew McCutchen played 153 games but started to show his age, producing numbers well below his career norms in every 5×5 category besides home runs
  • A.J. Pollock played only 12 games (all of them in the second half) after suffering a fractured elbow in spring training and undergoing surgery to repair it.

The only outfielder among the top five NL outfielders in terms of price who wasn’t a complete disaster was Starling Marte. He didn’t quite turn a profit, but none of his owners was upset with the $31 he produced in earnings. And while it won’t have an impact in standard roto leagues, the Pirates plan on rearranging their outfield in 2017, moving Marte to center, McCutchen to right, and Gregory Polanco to left in a nod to Father Time and his deleterious effect on outfield wheels.

Things leveled off a bit after the mostly catastrophic top five, with the next ten most expensive outfielders earning profits or losses of $6 or less with three exceptions:

  • Jason Heyward – He was healthy, but his swing was a mess all year and he never got on track.
  • Yasiel Puig – The strong-armed Dodger continued his vexingly inconsistent play, eventually earning a demotion to the minor leagues in hopes that he would make some adjustments, on the field and off.
  • Kyle Schwarber – The burly Cub made only five plate appearances over two games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He made a triumphant return to the lineup in the World Series, which didn’t count towards his 2016 fantasy stats but did inspire hope in roto owners everywhere.

The biggest stud in the outfield in the National League was Charlie Blackmon, the sixth most expensive player on this list and longtime favorite of my BP colleague Mike Gianella. He earned $35 via 29 home runs, 82 RBI, 111 runs, 17 stolen bases, and a .324 batting average. The stolen base total was significantly lower than the previous two seasons, presumably due to a toe injury that nagged the Rockie all season, but the improvements he made in power and average more than made up for the decline in steals. A fully healthy Blackmon could add the steals back into his profile while keeping the power and average gains, giving him a path to even higher earnings in 2017. On the pessimistic side, Blackmon is on the wrong side of 30 and has been rumored to be on the block. If traded, his stat line would lose the mile-high boost it’s had throughout his career, and could relocate him outside of the NL entirely.

Now let’s take a look at the list of NL outfielders ranked by 2016 earnings and see how they fell in line behind Blackmon:

Table 2: Top 15 NL Outfielders, 2016

Rank

Player

$

Price

+/-

1

Charlie Blackmon

$35

$30

5

2

Starling Marte

$31

$33

-2

3

Ryan Braun

$30

$27

3

4

Christian Yelich

$26

$22

3

5

Carlos Gonzalez

$25

$27

-2

6

Billy Hamilton

$25

$22

3

7

Odubel Herrera

$25

$14

11

8

Matt Kemp

$24

$24

0

9

Adam Eaton

$22

$21

3

10

Bryce Harper

$22

$43

-20

11

Gregory Polanco

$22

$25

-3

12

Yoenis Cespedes

$22

$27

-6

13

Stephen Piscotty

$21

$19

2

14

Yasmany Tomas

$20

$12

8

15

Jay Bruce

$20

$16

4

Average

$25

$23

2

*The figures in Table 2 are rounded to the nearest whole number. Please don’t comment on anything you think is an arithmetical error unless you take that into account.

I’ve already talked about two of the three $30+ earners among NL outfielders, Charlie Blackmon and Starling Marte. The third is Ryan Braun, who has been on a lot of these lists over the last decade. He earned $30 on the nose, good for a $3 profit thanks to a .305/.365/.538 line with 30 home runs, 91 RBI, 80 runs, and 16 stolen bases. For 2017, he presents a fair amount of risk via his age and the fact that he’s a trade risk. Like Blackmon, he could end up in a less offense-friendly home park or vanish entirely from the NL-only landscape if traded to the AL.

The biggest profit center here is Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera. The Venezuelan hit .286/.361/.420 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI, 87 runs, and 25 stolen bases while primarily leading off. Signed to a five-year deal in the offseason, Herrera should be a fixture in center and atop the Phillies lineup for the next few years. His walk rate, 9.6 percent last year, makes him worth an extra dollar or two in OBP leagues.

Here are a few lower tier options in the outfield in NL-only leagues that are worth investigating as long as they stay inexpensive.

Andrew Toles – Dodgers (2016 NL-only earnings: $5)
I can’t entirely explain it, but I like Andrew Toles a lot. Picked up by the Dodgers prior to the 2016 season after not playing in 2015, Toles rocketed from High-A all the way to the majors, becoming a regular in left field against righty starters for a playoff team by the end of the season. He managed it by raking at every level, hitting .314 or better at each of his four stops in the Dodgers organization. His platoon splits and the fact that his team will be rostering a couple of lefty-mashing outfielders in the form of Scott Van Slyke and Franklin Gutierrez mean that he probably won’t get any starts against lefties. He should get plenty of plate appearances on the strong side of a platoon, giving him lots of opportunities to rack up runs, RBI and steals (24 last year across all levels).

Aaron Altherr – Phillies ($3)
Aaron Altherr offers an intriguing blend of power and speed, a combination that isn’t too common towards the bottom of the barrel in NL-only leagues. He also struggles with contact, striking out 25-30 percent of the time, making him a risk to your team’s batting average. The tall, lanky 26-year-old also missed the majority of the 2016 season, depressing his counting stats and making him a potential bargain on auction day.

David Peralta – Diamondbacks ($4)
Another NL-only outfielder coming off an injury, Peralta is an excellent bounceback candidate for 2017. He only managed to play 48 games in 2016 due to a wrist injury, but he should be back at full strength in 2017 as the Diamondbacks’ starting right fielder. His meager earnings in 2016 mean that he’s likely to be fairly inexpensive at auction, making him a potential profit center in 2017.

Alex Dickerson – Padres ($9)
Alex Dickerson had only played 11 games in the majors prior to last season despite the fact that he was already 26 years old. Players like that don’t often factor into their team’s plans, and Dickerson was no exception. He changed all that by hitting .382/.425/.622 in 62 games in Triple-A, forcing his way onto the Padres’ roster and into the everyday lineup. Once promoted, he hit .257/.333/.455 with 10 home runs, 37 RBI, 39 runs and five stolen bases in 84 games. He could do that kind of damage over a full slate of games in 2017.

Manuel Margot – Padres ($1)
It’s not clear whether the Padres will start Manuel Margot in the minors to control his service time or just let him play everyday in the majors from Opening Day. Either way, he is expected to be a regular in the outfield in San Diego during the first half of the season after hitting .304/.351/.426 with six home runs, 55 RBI, 98 runs, and 30 stolen bases in 124 games in Triple-A while playing good defense in center before getting a cup of coffee with the big club. He could end up playing in a corner if the Padres decide to stick with Travis Jankowski in center field, but that shouldn’t matter much for fantasy purposes.