I have an announcement to make, so come hither! This list of my top outfielders for 2018 will conclude my Fantasy Baseball Positional Preview series. I know, I’m sad too, but all good things must come to a close.
A few notes about that. First, you may have noticed we never got to pitchers. That’s ok. We are running out of time before the start of the season, and my analysis just isn’t quite up to snuff when it comes to the men of the mound. See? I can admit my weaknesses like a real man!
Second, I will be providing a supplemental guide of non-top 20 outfielders next week. Because frankly, every league I know of is drafting more than the top 20 outfielders. I know y’all want more content than just the top guys at this position, so chill and you will be satiated! That being said, here’s the top 20 at OF for 2018…
TOP 20 OUTFIELDERS FOR 2018
TIER 1: The Brownie Sundae
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1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
You would be completely floundering if you went fishing for a catch at 1st overall that wasn’t Mike Trout. Except maybe the slugging shrimp, Jose Altuve. That’s chill. “Holy Mackeral!” your leaguemates would say if you chose anyone other than those two. The whole Grouper of them would ask if you’re feeling well, and they’d wonder if you’d been swayed by a Marlins or Rays fan. So, do yourself a favor. Don’t Tuna out what the mainstream says about Trout. Everyone isn’t touting him just for the Halibut. He’s the best at what he does. He’s the high-end Sashimi to everyone else’s Publix store bought garbage sushi. I don’t know about you, but something is fishy about this Trout blurb…
Projection: 110 R/40 HR/95 RBI/20 SB/.305
2. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
The Colorado outfielder and mountain man enthusiast has blossomed into an annual MVP candidate in his 30s. Last year was an incredible season for the Rox leadoff man as he posted a dazzling line of 137 R/37 HR/104 RBI/14 SB/.331. That’s better than about 26 of the 20 catchers combined that I ranked last week. He found himself atop the NL leaderboard in a myriad of categories including the batting title, hits, at-bats, runs scored, triples, and just generally killing it on my fantasy team. Enough of me just gushing over him though. Let’s talk statz. With a Z so you know it’s cool and hip like the kids say these days. Blackmon has watched his slugging climb each of the last four seasons, maintained steady contact and flyball rates, and don’t forget about those sweet gainz in hard contact rate as well. I do believe we’ve seen peak Blackmon, so be careful, but the floor is very high. Too many “z” endings in this blurb.
Projection: 110 R/32 HR/95 RBI/15 SB/.305
3. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees
Brett Gardner-Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton-Greg Bird-Gary Sanchez. That’s the Yankees projected top 5 in the lineup right now. That’s bonkers. A year after staying healthy and recording a career-high 692 plate appearances, everyone in the fantasy community is saying “See! We knew it was coming eventually!” But for real…THAT’S what he can do when he stays healthy. The 2017 NL MVP punished the ball consistently last year to finish with a jaw-dropping line of 123 R/59 HR/132 RBI/.281. And now he moves to one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball especially for right-handed hitters with massive power. When we dive past the surface stats from last year, we see that he kept a consistent walk rate, improved his BB/K rate, improved both his contact and HR/FB rate in a big way, and was able to improve his batting average almost 40 points. He finally reached the massive potential and expectations that are as big as him, but can he do it again?
Projection: 95 R/50 HR/110 RBI/2 SB/.275
4. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Betts is coming off his third straight season of big-time power-speed production, and he’s correctly taken his spot near the top of the outfield and overall rankings. He fell a little bit from his outstanding 2016 where he cranked 31 bombs, stole 26 bases, and slashed .318/.363/.534. That “step back” can mainly be blamed on the struggles in the 2nd half where he slashed .250/.329/.429. He lost nearly 100 points off his OPS after the All-Star Break last year, but despite those struggles, Mookie still gave us great overall production. Outside of the counting stats, he actually made nice strides on the BB/K rate going from 7% in 2016 to 11% a year ago. Also, his near-elite contact percentage stayed consistent, and he improved on his hard contact. There’s a hard-to-match floor here in terms of the power-speed combo, and I expect a bounce-back from the outlier .264 a season ago. You can BETT on a great return on investment from Mookie. You’re welcome.
Projection: 100 R/25 HR/100 RBI/25 SB/.280
5. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
A knee injury forced him to miss a month last season, which limited him to just 420 at-bats in 2017. Despite that fact, he still produced a line of 95 R/29 HR/87 RBI/4 SB/.319. The most startling improvement from the year before has to be that batting average, which sat at .243 the year before. Last year was a return to the excellent 2015 Harper where he batted .330 although he didn’t come close to the 42 HR from that year. Harper rocks one of the better walk rates (and OBP for that matter) in the league with 14%, and that number has actually DECREASED each of the last two seasons to get there. His steady contact rate and 9% increase in hit percentage explain the gains in batting average, and I think we can count on the .300 Harper (or something close to it) moving forward. This is a dynamic bat in the middle of one of the better lineups in baseball. Great floor with the potential for 40 HR or more.
Projection: 100 R/30 HR/90 RBI/5 SB/.295
6. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
When JD was traded to Arizona, someone told him that the baseball’s in Phoenix had personally insulted his mother. He was not happy about this. Furious in fact. So much that he unleashed the hammer on the baseballs for the entire 2nd half. A line of 53 R/31 HR/74 RBI/4 SB/.306 in the 2nd half tell us everything we need to know about insulting his mother. DON’T INSULT HIS MOTHER. Or do it if you’re an owner of his…Anyways, JD rocked a 1.000 OPS or better the entire season, which was almost 200 points better than anything he’d ever done. His OBP has grown each of the last two seasons thanks to a climbing walk rate, and his 0.41 BB/K mark in 2017 was the best of his career. The bombs may come back to Earth slightly as his HR/FB rate was an unsustainable 34%, and it’s important to note that his previous high in that category was 21%. Outlier? Could be. But this is a juiced ball era, so all bets are off! Regardless, I love his landing spot in Boston, and the short porch in right should result in a floor of 30 bombs.
Projection: 90 R/35 HR/100 RBI/3 SB/.295
7. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
My roommate has a great argument that Aaron Judge’s walkup music should be this:
I can’t argue with it. Great choice. Anyways, the American League Rookie of the Year crushed multiple rookie records
for having a gap tooth including jacking the most dongs and strikeouts. What a contrast! His production was pretty consistent the entire year, but the batting average tanked in the 2nd half going from .325 to .243. Pitchers clearly started figuring out the holes, but it’s amazing he was still able to jack 25 dongs regardless in the 2nd half. Even with all the strikeouts, Judge used a remarkable 19% walk rate to post a ridiculous .422 OBP on the year. The 62% contact rate is a red flag as is the 10% decrease in hit rate from the 1st half to the 2nd. Both of those factors could mean Judge is closer to .250 in batting average than the .325, but based on the profile, that should be pretty obvious. Still, with that lineup and that building, the floor is huge.
Projection: 100 R/45 HR/100 RBI/5 SB/.265
Tier 2: Basically All Ben N’ Jerrys Flavors
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8. George Springer, Houston Astros
“Wow what a great audience,” George Springer thought ala Jimmy from South Park in the 1st half of last season. 24 bombs with a .285/.363/.574 slash. Then, in the 2nd half, he forgot how to hit the long ball with just 10 dongs and a .280/.372/.457 slash. Not bad, but not the 1st half pace of 40+ HR. That still added up to a career-best 34 HR, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. Much like his teammate Carlos Correa, the steals have fallen each of the last two seasons, and after stealing 16 in 2015, he stole just 5 a year ago. But why risk a steal in that lineup when you know someone could blast one into outer space at any moment?! Anyways, 2nd half power recession aside, Springer still posted career-best marks in contact and BB/K rates, and his hard contact mark improved as well. It was statistically the best year of his career, and at his age 28 season, we could be right in the middle of peak Springer. I’m excited.
Projection: 105 R/30 HR/85 RBI/5 SB/.280
9. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
I covered him in the 1B rankings. I won’t be surprised if he finishes in the Top 5.
10. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
I’m drinking my juice, SHELBY! I am a 100% believer in the Yelich hype, and the move to Milwaukee has me buying in as much as possible. The skills have been trending upward the last few seasons, and he followed up his breakout 2016 with an encore line of 100 R/18 HR/81 RBI/16 SB/.282. Nice job, Paul Sporer’s doppelganger! Anywho, Yelich has a very high floor in terms of OPS, and you’d be hard-pressed to predict anything below 800. His walk rate grew for the 2nd year in a row, he’s maintained a league average contact percentage, and he experienced growth in flyball percentage for the 3rd year in a row. What impresses me the most, though, is the return of his stolen bases. After swiping just 9 in 2016 with a stolen base percentage of 69 (nice), he swiped 16 with a stolen base percentage of 89 a year ago. Still just 26, there are so many arrows pointing up for Yelich. Great lineup, great hitter’s ballpark, and a power-speed combo that’s still developing. I feel comfortable being very aggressive with him here.
Projection: 90 R/20 HR/85 RBI/20 SB/.290
11. Khris Davis, Oakland A’s
Quick! Name an outfielder who’s hit at least 40 HR, scored 85 runs and driven in 100 RBI each of the last two seasons. I’ll wait. Hint: his name rhymes with Khris Davis. CRAP. Ok, it’s Khris Davis. Didn’t know he had put up that kind of consistent production? Don’t worry, not many people took notice as he was mired in the black hole known as the O.co Colosseum. That thing is ugly. AND DON’T GO NEAR THE LOCKER ROOMS. Dingy stadiums aside, Davis matched his breakout 2016 almost to a T last season with a line of 91 R/43 HR/110 RBI. He has also hit .247 ON THE NOSE not once…not twice…but THREE TIMES IN A ROW, which…is consistency we don’t see from most guys? The xBA says he should be checking in a little higher than .247, but batting average is never something you’re banking on with Davis anyways. Slight gains to his already consistent marks in flyball percentage, hit percentage, and hard contact all say he should be good for 35-40 again this year. It’s not a good lineup, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a Top 15 outfielder recently.
Projection: 85 R/40 HR/100 RBI/3 SB/.247 (lol)
12. Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels
We’ve come to expect a floor of about 25 HR and a handful of steals from Upton, but last year’s 35 HR/14 SB season was better than almost anyone could have imagined. In fact, J-Up was busy exceeding expectations throughout the year, and his .273/.361/.540 triple slash brought him to a level we haven’t seen since his 2011 season with the Diamondbacks. In many ways, last year was a banner year for the better Upton brother as he set career-high marks in HR, RBI, slugging, wOBA, wRC+, ISO, and so many other arbitrary stats I could throw your way. The BB/K stayed constant, and I’m pretty jazzed by his gains in hard contact and HR/FB rate. But like…who didn’t improve those numbers last year? #JuicedBalls. Anyways, it’s very easy to call for regression here. When a player has a career year at age 29, that seems like a no-brainer. His 14 steals will be the most difficult to replicate, and considering the volatile nature of steals in general, it’s easy to expect more like 8. Still, I like what the Angels did this off-season, and this could be a productive lineup. The landing of regression will be a soft one.
Projection: 85 R/30 HR/95 RBI/8 SB/.250
13. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
Covered him in 1B rankings. I want to see more before I invest heavily. I can tell you now I won’t have any shares because of this trepidation.
Tier 3: Your Assorted Pies Including A La Mode Situations
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14. Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
An 80 game PED suspension robbed him of a full season last year, but let’s not forget the skills he brings to the table. This is a guy with 15 HR power and 35-40 SB speed and something north of a .260 average. Solid numbers all around. In his 309 at-bats in 2017, he quietly stayed on track to his profile with 7 HR and a remarkable 21 stolen bases. He also hit .275, but xBA pegged him for 30 points lower. The lost games made him look a little rusty in terms of on-base skill as his typical .350 was nowhere to be found. In fact, he struggled to get above .320 for most of the year. I blame the crappy 0.25 BB/K mark he posted. Other metrics like hit percentage and hard contact rate took a beating last year, but we can chalk that up to missing half the season and not the absence of PEDs. Right? Sure. It’s tough to build momentum in a small sample size like he had, so…benefit of the doubt. There’s a potential bargain opportunity here if the skills return to pre-suspension form.
Projection: 75 R/12 HR/55 RBI/35 SB/.280
15. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
With the acquisitions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in the off-season, we will probably see Ryan Braun gain 1st base eligibility at some point this season. Lit! Braun has provided a pretty steady floor over the years, but you have to be a little concerned with the age and health regression as he enters his mid-30s. In fact, injuries limited him to just 380 at-bats a year ago. When he was out there, however, he was doin’ just regular ol’ Braun stuff. Solid power, a little speed, and a pretty decent batting average. Well…ok maybe the batting average took a hit last year, but xBA whispered to me in the night that it was a little unlucky. It’s fair to anticipate a bounce-back in that category (assuming health), but don’t expect the .305 of 2016 to come back again. On the positive side, his BB/K rate improved, his contact rate stayed consistent around 80%, and the slight gains in hard contact and flyball percentage make me feel there’s still gas in the tank. Expect a steady decline in steals as he ages, but the power floor and lineup make him a solid play.
Projection: 80 R/25 HR/85 RBI/12 SB/.280
16. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Let’s all say it together: PROSPECT GROWTH ISN’T LINEAR. Sorry for shouting, but it needed to be said! Together! Listen, nerds. Buxton is 24 years old. He’s struggled. Sure. I’ll give you that, but this ship has most definitely not sailed. The first half last year was a struggle typical of what we’ve seen at the Major League level from him so far. No way to sugar coat that. 22 R/4 HR/14 RBI/14 SB/.200 just won’t do for a former top prospect. However, the 2nd half was an all-out explosion thanks to his torrid pace at the end of the year. He put up a 47 R/12 HR/37 RBI/15 SB/.306 line after the All-Star Break and slashed .306/.353/.539 in that time frame as well. THAT’S the Buxton we want. His 2nd half saw huge growth in his contact percentage, and he was able to flash that power-speed combo we so desperately crave from him. Although that was encouraging, he still has a lot of work to do in terms of BB/K rate, and his flyball and hard contact percentages are well behind other power options at the position. Obviously, with my ranking, you can tell I believe in the 2nd half Buxton. Hop on board.
Projection: 80 R/18 HR/75 RBI/35 SB/.250
17. Andrew McCutchen, San Francisco Giants
The former king of Pittsburgh moves all the way across the country this year to San Francisco. While most think that will totally zap his power, I’m not so sure that’s accurate. It’s not like his old ballpark was Coors, after all. McCutchen has been one of the most consistent options in the outfield for almost a decade, and there’s no indication we should expect anything different. Last year was a nice rebound from his disappointing 2016 especially in terms of batting average, and that was after he struggled through a good portion of the 1st half. He’s no longer the .400+ OBP option of his youth, but he’s established a baseline around .360, which is a very high floor considering his ranking. He rebounded in BB/K rate last year, posted his highest contact percentage since his outstanding 2013, and re-discovered his lefty-crushing ways as well. It was a nice return to career norms last year across the board for him, and I will be happy to grab him as an OF #2 everywhere I can.
Projection: 85 R/25 HR/80 RBI/10 SB/.270
18. Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
A 20/20 season right out of the chute from Benny Baseball has me saying “SUUUUUUU-WEEEEE PIG SUEY!” All my southern friends will get that. I probably typed that out wrong, and I’ll probably hear it from the Arkansas faithful. *realizes no Razorback fans read this* OK, so Benintendi burst onto the scene a year ago with a nice power-speed line that produced a very impressive .271/.352/.424 triple slash. Had the Judge not taken the world by storm, he could have made a serious case for Rookie of the Year. Some other positives I found from last year include an 11% walk rate that produced a 0.63 BB/K mark, a hard contact rate that already puts him above league average, and having nice hair. The last part won’t help you out unless you’re building the “All Good Lookin’ Team.” Some think he’s overrated, but I do not count myself as one of those. Oh, and he’s slated to hit 2nd in a good lineup that should produce lots of runs. I don’t foresee a sophomore slump happening to a guy with his plate discipline and skill. The ambitious ceiling could be 30/30.
Projection: 80 R/21 HR/85 RBI/20 SB/.275
19. Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals
A breakout season at the ripe age of 29 has us all blaming Cardinal Devil Magic for the 64th time in the last decade. Though he had flashed promise before, Pham had never put it all together like last year where he exploded for a line of 95 R/23 HR/73 RBI/25 SB/.306. Yowzers! He put up solid stats in the 1st half, but it was the second half where he took off in batting average (.322 with 14 HR/16 SB) where he really shone. He also made a huge improvement in his plate discipline as his BB/K rate went from 0.41 in the 1st half to 0.74 in the second. Thanks, 16% 2nd half walk rate! While I do think 20 HR can be achieved rather easily again this year thanks to juiced balls and launch angle, keep in mind that he’s profiled as a nearly 50% groundballer in his career. That makes me think that even with the hard contact improvements, he could be capped around 23-25 homeruns. But that’s ok! We can live with that. There’s not much of a Major League track record here, but a lot of people are on board this hype train. Buy in early if you’re in.
Projection: 80 R/23 HR/70 RBI/20 SB/.275
Tier 4: The Junior Mint Section
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20. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
There’s a well-known book out there about Billy Hamilton. It’s called Anne of Green Gables. Wrong blog! My bad. Let’s see…Ah, here we go: Elite steals and not much else. BUT WAIT! Last year we got 85 runs! That’s something! Ok, so now we may be trending towards Hamilton:
The American Musical two-category contributor. We know he steals and steals often. He’s grabbed at least 56 each of the last two seasons, but it comes with a big penalty in batting average and power. His contact percentage is right around league average, the walk rate sits around a paltry 5%, and he’s obviously an extreme groundballer. It’s what Dee Gordon would be if he didn’t hit for average or score runs essentially. You’ll be lucky to get 5 HR out of this bat, and in a lineup not expected to make much noise, I can’t see him replicating the 85 runs scored. I’m avoiding and finding steals elsewhere, but there’s no denying the slam dunk he is in the elusive speed category.
Projection: 75 R/3 HR/35 RBI/60 SB/.245
“And there ya have it,” as Kevin Arnold said so many times on the Wonder Years. My top 20 OF for 2018. That also concludes the positional previews here at The Turf Sports. Thank you sincerely if you’ve kept up each week, and I hope you got at least something out of my ramblings. Now, go win your league!
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