The Dynasty Guru’s Top 125 Dynasty League Outfielders, Nos. 1-20
From the 21st of January to the 20th of February, the writers at TDG will be taking you through our rankings position-by-position. As I mentioned in the primer, this year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having my personal rankings up on this site, like last year, these rankings for 2014 are of the consensus variety and being brought to you by all of the TDG staff. Everyone put a lot of work into this project, so we hope you enjoy the end result. And if you are looking for my personal dynasty league rankings, you can find them this off-season at Baseball Prospectus.
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Outfield is always a strange position to evaluate in a general context since it’s really so league-specific. Different leagues start different numbers and there’s such a huge difference from the 60th outfielder to the 90th. In shallower leagues, it remains a strong position that you can target when the wind moves you over the course of your drafts or rebuilding process. In deeper leagues, it has to be a more heightened focal point or else you’ll be the guy starting Raul Ibanez and Jon Jay, and hoping for the best. On a more uplifting note, the upper crust here is particularly delicious and it starts with the guy who may cement himself as one of the all-time greats before even hitting free agency (closely followed by a guy who could end up being just as good).
Now the 20 best outfielders in dynasty leagues, starting with one of the best hitters in the game today:
Bruce smacked 30 home runs for the third straight season, joining Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre as the only three players to accomplish the feat from 2011-2013. With a three-year average of 32 home runs, 87 runs and 101 RBI, Bruce is fast becoming a reliable home-run bat in a league with less and less power. He surpassed 100 RBI for the first time and should see a few more seasons like it going forward. The only downside is a career .257 BA, but he’ll give you a handful of steals too.
11) Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 27)
Myers nearly cracks the top ten after an impressive 2013 that netted him ROY honors sans batting gloves. In just 88 games he hit .293 with 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in. Combine that with his Triple-A numbers for a full season of plate appearances and he hit 27 homers and drove in more than 100. Addition skills. Hitting in the heart of the Tampa Bay lineup should provide the right fielder with plenty of opportunities to showcase his bat in the years ahead and he could develop even more power and patience as he enters his prime. Wil Myers will even chip in a few steals because Wil Myers is all about helping you win your league.
12) Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 7)
If we told you that a player was going to hit 20 home runs in two months of a season, and that 12 of them would already be notched by the end of April, you’d probably think that player was a shoe-in for a 30 homer campaign. Unfortunately, Upton’s poor May and June really sucked the life out of a fantastic start that had a lot of fantasy owners thinking the young outfielder was finding his 2011 self again. While the vision of the 30/20 season is a bit blurry, Upton’s 2013 did see him sport the highest LD% and second-highest HR/FB% of his young career. Emphasis on young. At just 26, Upton may still be entering his prime as he seems to age one year for every two of ours.
13) Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 8)
Heyward slips out of the top ten this year – but not by much. The majority of his problem in 2013 was staying on the field and doesn’t take away from his upside. Between an appendectomy, a hamstring issue, and a broken jaw he missed 58 games. He got off to a really slow start as well, but he did make some improvements in an otherwise lost year that are worth mentioning. He had some hot streaks like in July when he hit well over .300. He also decreased his strikeout rate by almost 7% from the year before. He could bat leadoff for the Braves in 2014, and he’s a good bet to bounce back in most categories, although steals are a bit of a wild card given he attempted only 6 last year and was caught 4 times. Still, at just 24 years old he can hopefully absorb 2013 as a bump in the road and get back to contributing solid offensive numbers.
14) Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 25)
Ellsbury heads to New York where he’ll set the table for Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann. Injuries are a part of Ellsbury’s story, but when he’s healthy he’s shown he can be one of the most productive fantasy outfielders in the game. His 52 steals led all of baseball in 2013 and his baserunning skills should allow him to continue to put up solid run totals with his new team. While another 30-30 season isn’t likely, he still has some miles left on his tires and could see double digit homers and 40+ steals with a full season of plate appearances.
15) Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 77)
Gomez surges into the top twenty after showing that his 2012 season wasn’t a fluke. He hit .284 with 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases last year, and only Mike Trout provided a better combination of power and speed. Gomez increased his line drive rate by almost 5% while his HR/FB% continued to rise steadily as it has over the last few seasons. While it’s understandable that many thought Gomez’s 2012 season was an outlier, it’s hard not to view him among the best fantasy outfielders right now when you look at how his offensive numbers stack up against his peers. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball.
16) Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 22)
An ankle injury limited Taveras to just 47 games in 2013, but that doesn’t change much in terms of his value. His bat has enormous potential and we should get our first look at Taveras in a Cardinals uniform at some point in 2014. A high point of his minor league career was in 2012 when he slashed .321/.380/.572 with 23 home runs to win the Texas League MVP award. Prior to his injury last year, he hit .317/.351/.480 in Triple-A. Originally signed out of the Dominican at 16, he could potentially blossom into a player that competes for batting titles while consistently hitting 25-30 homers.
17) Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 5)
There is some risk built in with this ranking which explains the drop of a dozen spots. Injuries cost Kemp time in each of the last two seasons and unfortunately they could linger into the beginning of the 2014 season as well. Still, Kemp is in the prime of his career and has the talent to put up 25 homer, 20 steal seasons when healthy. It seems like a long time ago that Kemp was knocking on the door of a 40/40 season, and yet that was only 2011. Some better luck in the health department and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him work his way back up these rankings.
18) Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 20)
Like Ellsbury, Choo finds himself in new surroundings in 2014. Now in Texas, he should continue to provide his fantasy owners with solid offensive numbers as he’s coming off two straight years of 15+ home runs, 20+ steals, and a .280 batting average. At 31 years old we may have seen his best years already, but Choo provides a balance of power and speed that fantasy owners prize in an outfielder, even if he doesn’t dominate in any one category. Texas may be great home for Choo since it’s not only a great hitter’s park, but also an opportunity for him to continue to hit out of the leadoff spot and contribute in runs and steals.
19) Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 15)
Holliday is a great example of how a proven veteran with some consistency can be just as valuable to a dynasty squad as a flashy new youngster or promising prospect. While he may be the oldest of the top twenty outfielders, he also hasn’t hit below .290 since 2004. He has been remarkably durable as well with at least 600 plate appearances in seven of the last eight years. His prime seasons may be behind him, but there is still value in the 20-25 home runs and 90 runs batted in he will almost certainly provide with a full season of plate appearances in the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup.
20) Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 11)
Injuries cost Bautista playing time once again in 2013 and at 33 years old some injuries, even minor ones, can start to take their toll. Last year, it was a hip bruise that cost him the last six weeks of the season. In terms of last year’s numbers, Bautista’s HR/FB rate (17%) was the lowest it has been since 2009 prior to his big breakout, while he also put the most balls on the ground since 2009 (41%). And yet despite all this, he still managed 28 home runs! That’s what keeps him afloat in the top 20 amid the questions about age and decline. Even 130 games should get him over the 30 home run mark once again and that still holds a lot of value. Come for the power – stay because he just followed you on Twitter.
Commentary by Alex Kantecki, Mike Buttil and Bret Sayre.