We, at Baseball Prospectus, have been talking about outfielders for a while now (seven days and change to be exact, depending on when you are reading this) and the party continues to rage on. Yet before we rage, we shall calibrate—since rankings aren’t useful without knowing what you’re reading. The list you are about to read here presupposes a 16-team standard (read: 5×5 roto) dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2016 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.
There are a lot of players here, and a lot of great ones at that. The intro renders helpless and suffers from, well, not being necessary. Greatness awaits.
This was not a conversation a year ago. In fact, I got a lot of pushback for putting Betts third prior to 2016 because he didn’t have enough upside. Well, so much for that. Harper still trumps him in the upside game—as he’s still plenty capable of a 40-homer, 20-steal campaign—but as we saw last season, Mookie is certainly no slouch when it comes to ceiling. Harper is also younger than Betts, albeit only by nine days. Choosing between these two is a nearly impossible task, and tomorrow might give me a different answer. However, today, it’s Bam Bam.
Batting average, lots of speed, and enough pop to still contribute in the category. He won’t get on base at all via the walk, but he’s been hit by 79 pitches in his career—in fact, he nearly was hit more times than he was talked back in 2013—and his .362 OBP last year was more than respectable given his secondary skills.
5) Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
7) Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
I’ll be honest, when I first sketched out this list, I had these three in a different order. Then I found myself on the clock in a start-up dynasty draft staring these three outfielders in the face. In the end, I couldn’t pull the trigger on either Marlin. Polanco has long been a favorite of mine, but he finally broke out in the majors last year by tapping into the power oozing from his tall frame. The speed won’t always be there, but until it falls away, 20/20 seasons await as he makes his way towards his prime. Yelich could find himself at the four-spot next year if he can take another step towards lowering his ground-ball rate, like he did in 2016. Stanton could as well if he can play 150 games, which he hasn’t done since 2011, and show that trademark power throughout.
10) Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Springer was on his way towards being an elite option at the position, but he went 9-for-19 in stolen base attempts—that’s bad, folks—and now his five-categoriness is jeopardy. Blackmon is certainly the best bet of this tier for 2017, but the risk of him leaving Colorado is too great. He’s got two years left before free agency, and if the Rockies disappoint, look for him to potentially end up on the trade block as soon as this summer. Finally, doubt McCutchen at your own risk. A return to .300 with 20 homers is likely, just don’t expect all of those steals to come back.
With such a quiet rookie season in Texas, it’s easy to overlook just how impressive that season was for a 21-year-old. In fact, he won’t even turn 22 until the end of April. That makes him almost a full year younger than the “sexier” name that shows up in the next tier.
13) Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
18) David Dahl, Colorado Rockies
That’s Benintendi, of course, though Mazara is more than a full year younger than either Dahl or Buxton. The argument that was incorrectly made for Betts up until this year is actually a good argument to make against Benintendi—he just doesn’t have elite upside, even if he can hit .300 and knock 20 homers. Pollock has been unreliable due to injury, but when he’s played over the last three seasons, he’s been excellent. Even at 29, there’s no reason to think he’ll fall off from being a 20-homer, 30-steal outfielder with batting average help. Health permitting, of course. Whether Schwarber has or will be getting catcher eligibility is certainly part of the conversation around his value, but it also misses the boat a little. The 2014 first-rounder can absolutely rake and should do just that this year as he comes back from his 2016 knee injury. Buxton is likely going to be more of a long burn than his September might have hinted at, but then again, you already knew not to take September stats too seriously. Buxton’s tools, though, should be taken extremely seriously.
At some point, injuries and age are going to catch up with him, but on an at-bat basis, there are very few more valuable outfielders in fantasy baseball right now.
This is a tough one. My reputation has certainly preceded me as the high guy on Hamilton, and based on the combination of where I have him for 2017 and his age, you’d think he’d be higher on this list. The reason for that is his downside isn’t just poor performance; it’s a life of reserve play—so that is factored in a little heavier than it is with other players his age. That said, he got on base at a .369 clip in the second half of 2016 and he stole 36 bases in 45 games. His elite fantasy upside hasn’t gone anywhere.
21) Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
23) Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
24) Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals
25) Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
This tier has two players on their way down, two players in the prime of their career and one who is making prospect hounds drool all across the East Coast. Gonzalez carries the same “leaving Colorado” risk as Blackmon, except with just one year left on his contract, it’s a little more urgent. He might still be a .275 hitter with 25 homers in a more neutral home park, but we just can’t say for sure.
26) Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
27) Stephen Piscotty, St Louis Cardinals
These two 26-year-olds get there in pretty different ways, but they are more or less the same player for fantasy purposes. If you’re looking for youth with safety, especially in deeper formats, these two are great places to start, as they should be able to hit-.270-ish with 20-plus homers for a while.
28) Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies
30) Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates
35) Eloy Jimenez, Chicago Cubs
Desmond, unlike Gonzalez or Blackmon before him, doesn’t carry the “leaving Colorado” tax. He just carries the tax of possibly losing outfield eligibility altogether after the 2017 season. Coors should still make him an attractive first baseman into his 30s, but it does take a bit of the shine off. Meadows makes four Pirates outfielders in the top-30 of this list, which seems a little unfair to the rest of the league. Though, they’ll likely remedy themselves of this logjam before the next iteration of this list is written. Cain would be higher on this list were it not for his litany of injuries, but the raw skill keeps him propped up as a very solid OF3. Jimenez versus Frazier was a really tough decision, but my affection for the red-headed one is long-known, and there’s no quitting him now. The upside for Jimenez might be sky-high, but so is Frazier’s.
36) Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
Don’t forget about these two old guys. Jones had a typical Adam Jones season in 2016, and yet there is still a contingent out there that assumes his drop is going to be precipitous and around the corner. Bautista saw a tick up in strikeouts and a tick down in fly balls—which certainly isn’t the direction you’d want to see either go in—but he’s back in Toronto and should still vie for 35 homers in another couple of seasons.
39) Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies
41) Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston Red Sox
42) Michael Conforto, New York Mets
43) Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
45) Nick Williams, Philadelphia Phillies
This is officially the tier of uncertainty. Puig and Conforto were both top-25 names last year, and due to performance and playing time issues are now lingering in purgatory. Both are talented enough to play everyday, but their rosters aren’t exactly overly friendly at the moment. Bradley looks like a top-10 outfielder some months and looks like he doesn’t belong on this list at all in others. We’re not quite splitting the difference, but any sort of consistency would do wonders for his long-term value. Tapia and Williams both suffer from over-aggressiveness at the plate, but the former’s hit tool lets him get away with it, as opposed to the former who is still trying to dig out from a disappointing 2016. Both still carry a ton of upside in hitter-friendly parks starting in 2017.
47) Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers
48) Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
49) Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins
50) Corey Ray, Milwaukee Brewers
The elder alien of this group, Pence is reliable when he’s on the field and he’s probably not going to eat you. After playing in 162 games in both 2013 and 2014, he played a combined 158 games in 2015 and 2016. A full return to health would make him an OF2 once again, but players don’t generally get healthier as they dive deeper into their 30s. Brinson, Acuna, and Ray all have intense upsides. Brinson is much closer than the other two, but still carries nearly the same risk. If he doesn’t hit, the other stuff won’t matter. There’s more batting average than Kepler showed in 2016, but unfortunately there might be less power, as he’s probably not a 25-homer guy long-term.
51) Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels
53) Dexter Fowler, St Louis Cardinals
54) Keon Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers
55) Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals
56) Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres
57) Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
58) Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
59) Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox
60) Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs
We’ll go by 10s the rest of the way out. Renfroe and Judge should both get opportunities to show their prodigious power will play against major-league pitching. Renfroe is a bit safer, but Judge still has more upside. Tucker has more upside than either of them if the power develops as many scouts think it will. Don’t be surprised if he’s a top-10 fantasy prospect at this time next year. Swihart gets lumped in with the outfielders because of an eligibility quirk, but I think he’ll get that eligibility and job back relatively quickly in 2017 and will have restored himself as a top-10 fantasy catcher by year’s end. Wilson Karaman highlighted all of the upside and risk in Broxton last week, and he’s definitely onto something.
61) Mickey Moniak, Philadelphia Phillies
62) Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners
63) Blake Rutherford, New York Yankees
65) Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
66) Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves
67) Jay Bruce, New York Mets
68) Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
69) Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians
70) Tyler O’Neill, Seattle Mariners
That Moniak/Lewis/Rutherford trio was the same one I struggled so much with when putting together the top-50 list for dynasty drafts back in January. The decision hasn’t gotten any easier. Dickerson, Tomas, and Bruce all have reasonable shots to get to 30 homers in 2017 but they all have flaws they’ll have to overcome. Dickerson needs to be able to dong at home, as 17 of his 24 homers came on the road last year. Bruce needs to fight through the impediments to his playing time, namely Michael Conforto. Tomas needs to prove that he’s actually an above replacement level player in order to stay in the lineup, as he plays the outfield like a retired designated hitter. Zimmer’s contact issues aren’t getting any nicer, but the power/speed combo is still there. He’s a far better investment in OBP leagues, but even in standard formats, he can still reach OF3 status with 25-30 steals and a .240-.250 average.
71) Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
72) Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers
73) Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
74) Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
75) Brett Phillips, Milwaukee Brewers
76) Carlos Gomez, Texas Rangers
77) Leody Taveras, Texas Rangers
78) Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
79) Josh Reddick, Los Angeles Dodgers
80) Rajai Davis, Oakland Athletics
The veterans in this group aren’t to be forgotten. Choo will likely get almost all of his playing time at DH this year, meaning he’s a little more likely to stay healthy, but still not a great bet. Gordon should bounce back from a really ugly 2017 and Gomez should split the difference between his Houston disaster and Arlington rise. His underlying numbers weren’t drastically different, after all, and he’s not going to be a reliable contributor in steals anymore. Taveras and Soto are all upside at this point and forever away, but could find themselves as elite prospects sooner rather than later. Davis looked like he was finally on his last legs as a fantasy starter, but then Oakland got involved and now he looks to be the starting center fielder. This makes us happy.
81) Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
82) Randal Grichuk, St Louis Cardinals
83) David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks
84) Domingo Santana, Milwaukee Brewers
85) Albert Almora, Chicago Cubs
86) Steven Souza Jr, Tampa Bay Rays
87) Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays
88) Anthony Alford, Toronto Blue Jays
89) Adam Duvall, Cincinnati Reds
There’s a LOT of swing and miss in this tier. Santana and Souza could breakthrough with even a slight dip in their strikeout numbers, but there’s been little so far in their MLB careers to make that seem likely. At least they’ll hit for power regardless. Speaking of power and contact issues, don’t be the owner who believes in Adam Duvall—at least as anything more than a fringe starter. It looks strange to see Ellsbury this far down the list, but he’s lost his explosiveness after years of injury and he’s now just someone who’s tolerable in your lineup. The exciting guy here is Basabe, who is a potential five-category outfielder if he can make enough contact for it to matter. That doesn’t sound familiar at all, does it?
91) Melky Cabrera, Chicago White Sox
92) Michael Saunders, Philadelphia Phillies
93) Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
94) Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers
95) Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals
96) Leonys Martin, Seattle Mariners
97) Roman Quinn, Philadelphia Phillies
98) Jahmai Jones, Los Angeles Angels
99) Trent Clark, Milwaukee Brewers
100) Carlos Beltran, Houston Astros
Beltran and Werth may both be old, but neither is done as a useful contributor in the back-end of your outfield. Cabrera is still a contact machine and should approach .300 once again in 2017—albeit without much else of use around it. Saunders is a nice fit in Philly from a fantasy sense, and 20-plus homers are certainly within reach this season. Martin has the boom-or-bust nature of a prospect, but frustrates fantasy owners daily with his inability to keep up the highs for very long. Quinn and Jones are the two highest-upside prospects of this group, as the former could steal 50-plus bases if he were to get regular playing time and the latter has five-category potential with a long lead time. It may be very worth the wait though.
101) Greg Allen, Cleveland Indians
102) Mallex Smith, Tampa Bay Rays
103) Yusniel Diaz, Los Angeles Dodgers
104) Cameron Maybin, Los Angeles Angels
105) Travis Jankowski, San Diego Padres
106) Derek Fisher, Houston Astros
107) Jorge Ona, San Diego Padres
108) Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins
109) Matt Holliday, New York Yankees
110) Tyler Naquin, Cleveland Indians
111) Andrew Toles, Los Angeles Dodgers
112) Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners
113) Denard Span, San Francisco Giants
114) Jarrod Dyson, Seattle Mariners
115) Brandon Moss, Kansas City Royals
116) Hyun-Soo Kim, Baltimore Orioles
117) Matt Joyce, Pittsburgh Pirates
118) Colby Rasmus, Tampa Bay Rays
119) Ben Revere, Los Angeles Angels
120) Taylor Trammell, Cincinnati Reds
121) Nori Aoki, Houston Astros
122) Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays
123) Randy Arozarena, St Louis Cardinals
124) Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins
125) Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves
My fingers are tired. There are no hot takes here. Don’t @ me.
Thank you for reading
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