The Dynasty Guru’s Top 125 Dynasty League Outfielders, Nos. 21-40
It’s been over two months since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, ending the 2016 baseball season. But if you’re like most fantasy baseball owners, those two months probably feel like two years. Considering it’s still another month until Spring Training even starts, late January has to be the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s too late to reflect on last year, but next season is too far ahead to look forward to. Luckily, with a little help from The Dynasty Guru, the next month is survivable, as we’ll be ranking and commenting on a whole lot of players over the next six weeks.
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You can view our rankings for previous positions, and the dates future rankings will come out, by clicking the link to TDG’s 2017 Consensus Dynasty Baseball Rankings splash page. With that, let’s dive into the next part of our outfield rankings, beginning with an outfielder that is a both a former-shortstop and future-first baseman (though hopefully not the latter for fantasy purposes!). 21) Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 28)
All good things must come to an end eventually, but Cruz has found the fountain of youth and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Coming off three consecutive 40 home run seasons, the late-blooming power hitter is peaking in his mid-30’s, something typically reserved only for 20th century sluggers. At this point it seems like the only thing that could stop Cruz from hitting bombs is health, which will be something to keep a close eye on over the next few years, but for now I’d be genuinely surprising if he finishes 2017 with fewer than 40 home runs.
22) Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 24)
Hamilton has stolen 115 bases over the last two seasons despite playing in fewer than 120 games each year. He showed serious development at the plate last season, hitting .293 in the second half while stealing 36 bases on 40 attempts across just 45 games. If he can hit anywhere near .290 while playing a full season in 2017, he could easily be a top-10 overall contributor given the current state of stolen bases. There’s ample risk here, both in skill and in health, but he’s one of the only players in baseball who can single-handedly — or double-footedly — win a category.
23) Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 36)
Eaton is as consistently solid as they come, but he lacks the upper-echelon upside of those that rank ahead of him. The transition from Chicago to Washington should only help his production, as he could easily clear 100 runs scored in a strong Nationals’ offense. Given he’s only 28-years-old, a decline is not imminent, though hard-nosed speedsters generally don’t age gracefully. Given the Nationals’ investment in him, he better produce in order to offset the absolute haul they parted with in order to acquire his talents.
24) Odubel Herrera, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 100)
Essentially Adam Eaton version 2.0, Herrera doesn’t have Eaton’s track record, but he has Eaton’s ceiling and then some. He’ll steal you bases, he’ll hit you some dingers, he’ll hit atop his lineup, and he’ll get on base at a surprisingly strong clip. The 25-year-old former Rule V pick has proven to be an absolute steal for the Phillies. Odubel struggled slightly against lefties, which is something to monitor in the future, but he absolutely mashed against righties and didn’t show any significant dip in production in the second half. There’s a reasonable chance he jumps up quite a bit on this list next year if he even comes close to matching his 2016 season.
25) Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 47)
A potentially stellar hit tool combined with average power and sufficient plate discipline — Piscotty isn’t quite as sexy as many names that rank ahead of him, but he could prove to be one of the steadiest producers over the next half-decade. He doesn’t project to contribute much in stolen bases, but he has a balanced profile, scoring 86 runs while driving in 85 last year. For a guy who celebrated his 26th birthday a month ago, Piscotty is an impressively bankable bat.
26) Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 27)
If only we could go into the settings in real life and disable injuries, Brantley would likely be forcing his hand at a top-10 spot on our outfielder ratings. After a phenomenal breakout 2014 in which he hit .327 with 20 HR, 23 SB, 94 runs, and 97 RBI, Brantley was continuing at a similar pace in 2015 until he injured his shoulder late in the season. There’s still a chance that Brantley comes out raking in 2017 and sets his dynasty value straight, but shoulder injuries can prove prohibitive over the long-term, particularly for a player fast approaching 30.
27) Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 19)
It’s amazing that an outfielder coming off six consecutive seasons with 25+ homeruns can possibly rank 27th overall, but Jones’s relatively empty profile isn’t worth what it used to be. He’s posted an OBP of .320 or better just once in that same six year span, while his batted ball profile has continued to deteriorate. He’s stolen just five bases over the past two years combined and he turns 32 this summer. The prospect once traded for Erik Bedard is now starting to ride off into the twilight of his career, but odds are he has a few more very productive seasons in him. Man, I feel old.
28) Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 69)
Speaking of feeling old, Meadows was born in 1995. The smooth-swinging lefty outfielder seems to be the heir apparent to Andrew McCutchen’s newly-acquired corner outfield role, however it seems like unless there’s an injury or a trade, Meadows won’t have a starting role until 2018 at the earliest. He projects as a balanced producer across the board, with a possible .300 bat, 20+ homerun power, and stolen bases that could play in the double-digits early on in his career.
29) Victor Robles, Washington Nationals (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 87)
Oh wait, 1995 isn’t early enough? Robles was born in May of 1997, a month after the first episode of Pokemon aired in Japan. Pokemon is older than this kid. He possesses potential double-plus speed with a legit hit tool, the ability to stick in centerfield, and enough pop to make him one of the best prospects in the game at 19-years-old. If his power continues to develop, you’re looking at a true superstar. If his pop plateaus, while the rest of his game stays on the same developmental track, you’ve got your next Odubel Herrera or Adam Eaton. The speed and advanced hit tool give him as high of a floor as you’ll find from a teenager, while the pure upside makes him a top-30 outfielder before he’s even reached Double-A.
30) Eloy Jimenez, Chicago Cubs (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Despite being one of the youngest players in this year’s Arizona Fall League, Jimenez posted two exit velocities which would’ve ranked near the top in all of professional baseball last season. Standing 6’4” with some residual baby fat on his otherwise strong frame, he has the type of strength where he can get jammed and still put a ball in the third row of the cheap seats. He’s not an overly athletic player, and given the glut of talent in the Cubs’ outfield, Jimenez doesn’t seem like he’ll force their hand anytime in 2017 or possibly even 2018. However, with a potentially special talent like Eloy, you can’t rule him out mashing his way to the major leagues as early as the second half of this season.
31) Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies Age: 31, Previous Rank: 7th at SS)
Things are getting weird in fantasy when guys simultaneously get older and more valuable, but that’s what you get when you have 5 years in Colorado in your future. Desmond now has four 20/20 seasons under his belt, and the glorious spring of hope that Coors Field represents should provide a nice power and BABIP boost. While Desmond’s free-swinging, groundball-hitting ways shouldn’t work, he’s been productive for years, and hitting in a moon-like environment should, for a time, stave off any skills deterioration that comes from aging. While banking on consistent speed from the 31-year-old isn’t the greatest idea in the world, the offense production should be plenty good enough to land him in OF2/3 territory for at least a few more years.
32) Mark Trumbo, Free Agent (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 48)
Trumbo went to Baltimore and handled the Oriole obligation of being the MLB leader in dingers in 2016. The former Mariner changed cities and promptly had his best hard hit rate and fly ball rate of his career. Doing those two things while playing in Baltimore can bump your HR/FB rate a few points, and give you a monstrous fantasy year. Trumbo has re-signed with the O’s for three more years, and it seems appropriate to expect 30+ homers for the remainder of his Baltimore career. That’s about 80 words on power alone, and this is because the rest is nonexistent. In the future he may lose outfield eligibility, ending up as DH/1B only. He hits for a mediocre average and he fails to work walks. His speed is also slothlike. Thankfully, Trumbo has power in spades, which will prop him up as a high-end, though risky, fantasy asset.
33) Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 77)
The star defender moved up 44 spots after he showed more of the good-Bradley in 2016. Similar to many others, his power blossomed this season, as he set a career-high with 26 home runs. Bradley continued to work walks, supporting a strong 9.9% rate, and he added 9 steals to boot. Despite being below average, his contact rate continues to improve and a career high hard hit rate helped as well. Bradley is a young player showing multiple useful tools to his owners. The streakiness may present serious headaches for owners, but Bradley should continue to support a solid all-around line for a long time.
34) Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 23)
We mentioned in last year’s blurb that Cain’s 2015 was almost too good to be true, and it may have been. The outfielder once again displayed his fragility with 103 injury-plagued games, and Cain appeared to be hampered by his many ailments while on the field as well. A 20 point drop in average, along with a 50% drop in his 2015 steal total and merely nine homers left owners annoyed. The good news is that an offseason of no games could significantly improve his nagging injuries of yore. If you own him, he’s a hold, as you need to see if he can get back to swiping bags and posting a .300+ average. If you don’t own him, leave him be…even with an injury-free season, Cain may not be able to reclaim his 2015 heights, and the idea of an ‘injury-free’ season for Cain is a foreign one.
35) Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 52)
Ozuna improved upon his poor 2015 campaign by returning to his exciting 2014 self. The 26-year-old posted the 13th best hard hit rate amongst outfielders, but a poor home park and possibly some bad luck placed him 29th in slugging percentage. While we’re still hoping he can piss Jeff Loria off just enough to move him somewhere else, there’s still hope for a big-time breakout in Miami, as his batted ball profile points to a potential power-hitting beast. There’s signs of him being more than just a one-dimensional slugger, too, as Ozuna has quietly improved his strikeout and walk rates, a step forward supported by his swing and contact rates.
36) Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 15)
The precipitous fall of Bautista continues in our rankings. We expected a graceful decline from the slugger, but instead we got handfuls of garbage. The nagging injuries finally became enough of an issue where he missed significant time for them, and while on the field, the normally productive hitter just wasn’t right. Those 22 homers and 122 wRC+ were the worst he’s recorded since his pre-breakout 2009. Considering the guy is famous for his workout regimens, I personally am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume another return to 30+ dingers in 2017, but it’s hard to advertise a dynasty asset when his value is on the edge of the cliff.
37) Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 35)
Pederson had his best season in 2016, and fortunately for you the reader, not many noticed. Pederson improved his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage significantly by greatly improving his contact rate. He traded flyballs and grounders for line drives, and saw his soft hit rate morph into hard hit balls. Unfortunately, he’s still a below average contact hitter, but like Ozuna, his small adjustments are very encouraging, and could easily be a sign of improvement in his ranking in 2018. Yung Joc stinks of buy low, even after recording a 129 wRC+ last season.
38) Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 10)
“Electric ceiling! Built like a greek god! 30/30 potential!” Guys, we’re sorry, we were wrong. Puig continues to not hit for power, and not run. His peripherals make the picture even scarier. His line drive rate, had he qualified, would have been the 4th worst in baseball, his hard hit rate dropped for the 4th straight season, his pop ups increased, his infield hits decreased, and improvement seems to be nowhere in sight. He’s a million dollar talent with a ten cent head. You likely stuck around because the hype train can never seem to let these types of athletes go, but its apparent that he’s not going to be the OF1 you envisioned all along.
39) Michael Conforto, New York Mets (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 40)
After a beautiful rookie campaign, the sophomore slump hit Conforto. His peripherals indicate that things could have gone better, though, with solid approach and above average contact rate that were awfully close to his 2015 marks. Obviously, he’ll have to improve his contact to enjoy that strong plate discipline, but Conforto’s 2017 value may be more in the Mets’ hands than his own. New York have painted a murky picture with their crowded outfield, and unless they pull off a trade to move one of their starters, Conforto may find himself back in the minors to start 2017. It’s not ideal, but all Conforto owners should continue to happily hold him.
40) Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 41)
43, 41, and 40 are the ranks Calhoun has held the past 3 seasons, and deservedly so. Those placements on our lists represent both his ceiling and his floor. The definition of an unspectacular player, Calhoun works walks and doesn’t strike out a lot, but also doesn’t have great power or speed. Still, the Mike Trout/Albert Pujols-effect will get him plenty of value in terms of counting stats. That still doesn’t give you a thrilling package, but one that is plenty good enough to be an OF5 going forward.
Comments by Matt Pullman and Jack Cecil