Bret just up and ranked the top 125 outfielders for dynasty league play, and those will be running at the beginning of next week. To wet your whistle in the meantime, we've got a whole bunch of guys who either didn't make his cut or have a good shot to next year. Before you jump in, a very important disclaimer, given the vast seas ahead of us in this series: there are probably like three dozen other potentially useful players I could’ve justified writing about here, but this column already pushes the boundaries of time, space, and our editorial staff, so eventually I just have to hang up the ol’ digital autopen. Happy to talk about anyone else in the comments. Previous pieces in this series can be found here:
Back-up Types, But In (Or Close Enough To) Their Primes!
Alex Dickerson, San Diego Padres – Dickerson blends relatively uncommon contact and power-hitting skills, and he produced intriguing returns in his first extended look at big-league pitching. His spray chart is defensible, though his exit velocity was above-average, and there’s enough pop (and some semi-useful bonus speed) that he’s interesting if he’s getting majority at-bats. And good news! He figures to get at least that share.
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees – Hicks’ primary skill of hitting lefties pretty well collapsed last year, and it dragged nearly all of his value down with it. He earned the struggles, too, hitting fewer line drives and suffering through an at-least-partially deserved BABIP regression. But the Yankees outfield isn’t exactly bubbling with youth and health between Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and Aaron Judge isn’t exactly an established All-Star in right. Hicks has flashed some fantasy-relevant skills in the past, he just hasn’t ever quite put it together. There’s a little power, there’s a little speed… sure, why not?
Delino DeShields, Jr., Texas Rangers – I refuse to leave my plum shotgun seat on the DeShields bandwagon; you’ll have to rip the cup holder out of my cold, 12th-place hands. I’ve long been enamored with the approach, sneaky pop, and blazing speed in his profile, and didn’t appreciate the Rangers’ short leash with him last year. All he needs is an opportunity, I swear. He’s pure speculation right now, but dude’s still just 24 and owns category-altering speed.
Angel Pagan, Free Agent – Pagan’s 35, he’s been a perpetual injury case for a long time now, he’s coming off a huge random power spike, and nobody (including big-league teams) apparently knows what to do with him. He’s one outfield injury in spring training away from a contract, and given that he earned $18 in NL-onlies last year, he’s worth at least some attention if he signs in a favorable situation.
Melvin Upton, Jr. – The senior Upton has long tested the limits of power-and-speed value, with oft-crippling battings averages giving back gobs of value created elsewhere in the profile. After a down year in 2015 he was right back at it last year, burying another 20-20 season (the fourth of his career) under a .238 average that limited him to $16 of –only value. That’s a good total to be sure, and nearly all of it was surplus value. But he’s ticketed for a platoon role out of the gate, and it’s tough to see him generating mid-teens value again.
Desmond Jennings, Cincinnati Reds – We’ve been waiting this long for him to jump a level, might as well keep gambling on him to break camp with Cincy and wrestle some playing time away from one of their boom-bust corner outfielders, right?
Christin Stewart, Detroit Tigers – Stewart made his way to the Futures Game last summer on the strength of a laser show in tough swamp environs of the Florida State League, though his whiffing and fly ball-hitting ways caught up to him after a promotion to Double-A. He shows some patience in the box, but there are legitimate questions about just how much hit tool he’ll have. I like him better as a flyer in OBP leagues, but the power is plenty to warrant rostering him in deeper standard formats too.
Aristides Aquino, Cincinnati Reds – Aquino was the other interesting masher to take flight in the FSL, and he did so while a year younger than Stewart. His swing is geared to launch baseballs high and deep, and he’s deceptively fast for his size, with the potential for double-digit bags for the first few years of his career. He’s an aggressive hitter to be sure, which dings his on-base profile, but he makes contact at a decent clip in spite of that aggressiveness. He’s a guy to jump on now if you want him, as a successful effort in Double-A next year will have him flying up lists at a pretty good clip.
Phil Ervin, Cincinnati Reds – I’ve always had a soft spot for Ervin’s power-and-speed combination, and he took some encouraging steps forward last year in putting together an impressive package of raw – emphasis on raw – tools. The former first-rounder is a plus runner who gets decent utility out of the tool on the bases, and while his hit tool will be stretched to make it into fringe-average territory, he has feel for the barrel that limits his strikeout totals. The approach is also quite mature, driving a 13-percent walk rate at Double-A that makes him all the more intriguing as an OBP-league target.
Jorge Bonifacio, Kansas City Royals – Bonifacio’s combination of proximity and power makes him mildly interesting as a deep-league investment. After appearing to stall out at Double A, he rebounded last year to post a quality triple-slash line that featured a bump in walk rate. He strikes out a lot, though, and it’s really unclear that he’s ever going to hit enough to bring what might threaten plus raw power into games on a consistent basis.
Ramon Laureano, Houston Astros – Laureano is among my favorite less-heralded prospects, despite my best efforts to herald him as often as possible on these pages. His impressive production between High-A and Double-A – he led all of minor-league baseball in on-base percentage last year – drove a rapid ascent up the Astros’ prospect list this year. He didn’t luck into that OBP, either: he shows outstanding discipline in the box, with appropriate aggressiveness against in-zone gas and an uncanny ability to extend at-bats. There’s a lot of hard line-drive contact at the end of his at-bats, and while he’s probably more of a low double-digits homer guy, there’s an excellent top-of-the-order profile here, with steals and runs galore to complement a nice batting average.
Michael Gettys, San Diego Padres – Gettys boasted some of the best physicality and raw tools I saw come through the California League last year, and it translates to one of the higher ceilings in this column. The risk cancels out an awful lot of that promise, however, as his hit tool is far from certain in its projection. He shows some raw ingredients for a workable combination of swing and approach, but the mechanics are still raw and inconsistent, and the approach has a long way to go. If he ever gets the hit tool into playable range, it’s an impact type of profile, but the odds are long..
Wuilmer Becerra, New York Mets – Thomas Desmidt on our prospect team came away smitten with Becerra after a whole bunch of looks, and in spite of the player’s shoulder injury holding down his power. In spite of the ailment, Becerra hit .312 in the Florida State League, which was the sixth-best mark in the league. There’s some usable speed here, and it’s important to remember that shoulder stuff can be extremely detrimental to hitting a baseball hard. If the power starts to migrate into his game as the injury fades, there’s some interesting breakout potential here.
Jhailyn Ortiz, Phildelphia Phillies – Ortiz got $4 million as a J2 guy in 2015, and he’s a mammoth human being with corresponding raw power. It sort of feels like cheating to count him among the outfielders, as despite surprising athleticism for a man of his proportions there’s still an overwhelming chance he moves to first. Still, the bat has an awful lot of intrigue, especially given at least some early flashes in his stateside debut that he could get to power in games. This is a high-variance prospect who could take a bunch of steps forward this year or none at all.
Pedro Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies – Speaking of boom-bust types, Gonzalez is another option to fix that gamblin’ jones. A seven-figure bonus baby in 2014, he debuted as a shortstop but has since slid onto the grass. This kid’s body looks like it was designed by the space program, and so unique is it, that we’re still not entirely sure how it’s going to look at maturity. It is long, this much we know, and learning how to corral his limbs is going to be a PhD-style pursuit. But for the patient, there are about 17 different ways he could develop to help a fantasy team compete in 2023.
Class of 2016!
Will Benson, Cleveland Indians – Think Jhailyn Ortiz but from Georgia and, like, five months older. Benson’s most recent weigh-in had the 18-year-old at 6-foot-5, 225, but there’s probably a little extra volume there. He, too, boasts double-plus power, though unlike Ortiz he hasn’t shown quite as much ability to get to it in games. He, too, is faster than you’d think, though by the time he ever gets to the majors he might not be. He was drafted 14th overall last June for a reason, but as a dynasty asset he’s less valuable given lead time.
Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals – Carlson was perhaps the quietest first-rounder drafted last year, which is fitting for a Cardinals project pick. This is one of those perfect fits, where organizational philosophy has tended to max out similar skill sets with a good success rate in the past. It’s going to take a long time to get there – he’s a switch-hitting prep bat, after all – but Carlson’s offensive ceiling of above-average hit and power tools, and a limited split makes him worth the wait if your league is deep enough.
Anfernee Grier, Arizona Diamondbacks – Grier popped up at Auburn by hitting .366/.457/.576 last spring, ultimately landing in Arizona 39th overall in June. His power-and-speed combination is fairly intriguing, though the power only really manifested for the first time in his draft year. The swing is pretty long, and the approach against professional sequencing showed as raw after signing. His plus speed and defensive potential in center also drives a bunch of his prospect stock, and he’s best left on your watch list until he shows signs of being able to translate offensive tools into games.
Buddy Reed, San Diego Padres – Reed was one of the best pure athletes in last summer’s draft class, having played three varsity seasons each of baseball, soccer, and hockey in high school. He’s a 70 runner, but as you may infer from the split attention in high school, his offensive tools aren’t as refined as some of his classmates’. There’s more physical projection remaining here as well, so it’s not clear what the eventual speed-strength ratio will be. Basically he’s a shruggy guy emoji in baseball pants, and the ceiling is probably something a little south for us to be investing roster spots now in all but the deepest of leagues.
Heath Quinn, San Francisco Giants – Quinn was one of my favorite down-ballot bats in the last class, going to San Francisco in the third round and raking in the Northwest League after signing. He brings plus raw power from the right side, and an advanced approach adds OBP potential to the profile as well. It’s a strength swing, and there’ll be some swing and miss, but he moves more fluidly than some with his dimensions, and there’s reason for cautious optimism that the hit tool can come to flirt with average. He could put up some big numbers in the Cal League next year, ergo you should be early to this table if you play with statline scouters.
Nick Banks, Washington Nationals – Banks solidified himself on the radar with a nice performance for Team USA in 2015, but his medical file is longer than any homerun he’s ever hit at this point. He has struggled to stay on the field, including last spring when he missed some time. But he’s a five-tool talent, albeit with moderate marks in each category, and shows a nice blend of physical talent and baseball IQ when he does play. If he can answer the bell every day this year, there’s some intriguing growth potential here.
D.J. Peters, Los Angeles Dodgers – Peters crushed the ball in the Northwest League after the Dodgers inked him in the fourth round, and his swing is everything fantasy players want to see in a power prospect. He’s a big boy at 6-foot-6, and he’s likely to face a stiffer challenge to his hit tool in full-season ball, but he’s one of the better power prospects heading to the Midwest League.
Willie Abreu, Colorado Rockies – Sirens! All of your sirens! This is a power-hitting prospect in the Rockies’ system! Abreu’s a physical specimen with some athleticism and an XL frame, and the makeup is revered as top-notch to boot. He swings and misses a good bit, and the approach is much too aggressive at the point, but he showed some flashes on the Cape a couple summers ago and hit well in his draft year. Don’t fall all over yourself to go pick this guy up right now, but especially given the context he should be monitored.
Lazaro Armenteros, Oakland Athletics – “Lazarito” signed last summer for $3 million as one of the more high-profile Cubans to come stateside in the last couple years. He’s currently all of the tools and none of the production, insofar as he’s literally never produced anything against professional pitching. The 17-year-old will be one of the more interesting low-level players to watch this year, though given the hype on him the time to get in on him may unfortunately have to be now.
Jeisson Rosario and Tirso Ornelas, San Diego Padres – Rosario and Ornelas were two of the other big J2 outfield signings last summer, going to San Diego for $1.85 and $1.5 million, respectively, as a couple of the centerpieces of the club’s international orgy in the ’16-’17 signing period. Ornelas really impressed in the instructional league this fall, showcasing big power from the left side. Rosario is the rawer of the two (if such a thing can exist between a couple kids barely old enough to quality for learner’s permits), with a lot of physical development ahead of him before we get a better sense of the profile. Ornelas may be worth a flyer late in a crazy-deep draft, though both deserve to be filed away at least.
Class of 2017 and Beyond!
Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt – It projects to be a fairly benign year for college outfielders, but Kendall will enter spring as arguably the best position player prospect in the collegiate ranks. That ranking is at least somewhat influenced by his work on the grass, however, as he claims plus-plus speed as his primary asset and pairs it with sound instincts to project as a plus defender. The speed has translated well on the bases thus far, and he brings sneaky strength into the box that could ultimately drive average power. Pitch recognition and some ensuing swing-and-miss leave open the question of how well the hit tool will go, but there’s a broad enough base of fantasy-relevant tools here that he should make for an easy first-round pick in the next round of dynasty drafts, with a clear path to a top-of-the-draft ranking.
Jordon Adell, Ballard High (KY) – The top two-way player in the prep class not named Hunter Greene is Adell, who throws mid-90’s already, but who tentatively projects for more impact potential in the batter’s box. If you’re looking on a fantasy hitter to dream on for this class, Adell might just be the guy. He’s got plus raw power (already) and plus-plus speed, and he doesn’t turn 18 until April. The rub, of course, is a common one: the hit tool. He struggles to control the barrel consistently, and paired with an aggressive approach against off-speed stuff, the hit tool may never get to a place where he can consistently tap into his power or get on base enough to let the speed play in games. Still, as a gamble for tools-hounds, he’s going to be a pretty fun one.
Michael Gigliotti, Lipscomb – Sure, this might be the first time you’re aware that a college called Lipscomb exists, but Gigliotti may very well change that for a lot more people come June. He makes consistently good contact from the left side, and gets the most out of plus raw speed with outstanding breaks and instincts on the bases. The approach is also well advanced, as he posted nearly as many walks as whiffs en route to more than a hundred points of OBP-batting average separation as a sophomore.
Cole Brannen, Westfield School (GA) – It wouldn’t be a proper look at pre-draft outfielders with impact potential if it didn’t include a Georgian outfielder, and Brannen can ably step into the role. A highly athletic kid with a lean frame and explosive speed, Brannen has a first-round combination of tools and projection. He’s a plus-plus runner who gets up to speed quickly, and he already shows some balance and feel for a leg kick at the plate. You can see the frame filling out and ultimately generating average power with some loft, and the fluidity into the zone suggests decent batting average potential as well. If you miss out on the top handful of guys in pre-season rankings, Brannen’s a high-quality second-tier target.
Calvin Mitchell, Rancho Bernardo High (CA) – Mitchell is one of the better pure hitters in the prep class, with quick hands that get his bat into the zone in a hurry and some natural ability to clean out pitches to his pull side. He’s well-built, with a large frame that carries a good bit of muscle while retaining quality baseline athleticism. That’s important, as he’s going to be the type of bat-first player with a high probability of getting to nearly all of the raw power he ends up with in games. Something like a 6 hit/5 power profile is in play here, though he lacks for much in the way of speed, so the pressure on his hit tool advancing to that kind of height will be significant for his fantasy value.
Garrett Mitchell, Orange Lutheran High (CA) – The other southern California prep bat with a Mitchell moniker, Garrett possesses the kind of power-and-speed combination that fantasy players crave. His swing mechanics are not the smoothest, but he’ll show above-average raw power with a tick of additional projection as his 200-pound frame continues evolving into maturity. He’s a plus runner at present, though the aforementioned physical maturity to come may very well push that tool down into above-average range. No matter, as there’ll still be enough there to tantalize. He’s a diabetic, so there’s a layer of additional medical uncertainty here, but on tools alone this Mitchell is one of the more well-rounded players in the prep class.
Quentin Holmes, Monsignor McClancy Memorial High (NY) – Holmes has the kind of speed you just can’t teach: a tool that rates at least plus-plus, with the odd evaluator that’ll throw a true 80 on it. The hit tool is less of a sure thing, however, and speed guys with unsure hit tools – especially those who still number among the high school ranks – tend to make for generally poor dynasty league investments. Still, scouts have been impressed with his ability to utilize that speed once on base, and he’s made enough progress getting the swing more direct and fluid that there’s reason for cautious optimism that he can develop into an average hitter with time. It’s gonna be a hot minute until that happens, however – if it ever does.
Jake Mangum, Mississippi State – Mangum is a draft-eligible sophomore, and he’ll be a really interesting one to watch on the heels of winning the SEC batting title with a .408 mark in his freshman year. He didn’t show a ton of pop, and the playable speed was okay, if not great. But freshman who hit .400 in a major conference are worth a follow.
Seth Beer, Clemson – Beer won’t be draft-eligible until next summer, but after he hit .369/.535/.700 with 18 homers and more than twice as many walks as strikeouts in his freshman year, he’s a name for the brain now.
Brock Deatherage, North Carolina State – He’s legitimately a top-100ish draft prospect entering the spring! No, you have ulterior motives for including him on this list!
Luis Robert, Free Agent – Robert left Cuba in November on the heels of hitting and bsurd .401/.526/.687 (with 12 homers and 11 steals) in 232 Serie Nacional plate appearances as a 19-year-old last year. That production is spectacular in a vacuum, but doubly so given his age. An electric athlete, Robert could wind up with plus power and speed in center field, depending on how he fills out. He’ll be an interesting signing case, as whether he is cleared to sign somewhere in advance of the June 15th’s deadline for this international period will hold potentially millions of dollars of difference for him, as the next CBA’s international caps will go into effect as of July 2nd this year. To be continued.
Victor Mesa, Cuba – With recent diplomatic advances in Cuba now up in the air, it’s really unclear what the immediate situation is going to be for young Cuban talent and its prospects for joining big-league ranks. But with Robert out of the picture now Mesa may just seize the title of most interesting up-and-coming name remaining in the country right now. Mesa’s father managed Team Cuba for a number of years, and now the younger version is coming off a huge breakout campaign as a 20-year-old in the Serie Nacional in which he hit .359/.399/.539 and stole 40 bags. That last number is especially notable, as players don’t tend to run up gigantic stolen base totals in the Cuban league. Keep an eye out for his name.