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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And now installment number two of the Top 125 Dynasty League Outfielders, led off by La Potencia, the man with the strongest core on the planet (including the planet’s own):
21) Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics (Age: 28, Previous rank: 12)
Cespedes took a step back in AVG, OBP, RBI, and steals in 2013, while his HR and runs saw slight improvements. He remains an enigma two years into his MLB career; yet to produce a 30 HR season, but with significant upside. What is less probable from Cespedes is a 20-20 season or a .300 average, as his speed may not be up for it and his K rate spiked in 2013, so draft and bid accordingly.
22) Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 25, Previous rank: 30)
While he missed a chunk of games (135 games played) Marte established himself as a very good fantasy outfielder hitting 12 homers and stealing 41 bases with a .280 average. While the average is supported by a higher than expected .363 BABIP, Marte is speedy enough to probably keep a higher than league average rate on balls in play. The big question is whether he develops more power as he moves into his prime. If he does, he will be an above average option in the outfield for several years.
23) Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants (Age: 30, Previous rank: 34)
Pence gets slept on a bit because, he’s a solid not spectacular producer, but if you were objectively offered a line of 87, 25, 94, 14, .285 line (Pence’s career 162 game average) you’d take. His 22 steals in 2013 are probably an anomaly, but Pence can be counted on for 20+ homers with good run and RBI totals and a decent average. He takes a knock in OBP leagues since he hasn’t broken .340 in three years.
24) Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (Age: 30, Previous rank: 18)
Gordon will get you double digit homers and steals in some combination, but if you can predict whether it will be 23 homers or 14, or 10 steals or 17, you may be better than the rest of us. Not to mention that his average has fluctuated between .300 and .265 and you get the picture of a guy with a surprising amount of variance for a 30 year-old veteran. Given that, regardless, the upside is not that high with Gordon it might be worth looking elsewhere (like below) if you’re looking for impact.
25) George Springer, Houston Astros (Age: 24, Previous rank: 43)
Springer has a tremendous power-speed package that produced a 106, 37, 108, 45, .303 line between AA and AAA in 2013. He will almost certainly spend a chunk of the season in the majors where he should post some useful totals in HR and steals, but temper expectations for a .300 average because Springer has some solid swing-and-miss in his game (27% K rate in 2013). That potential knock on the average is what may keep Springer from being a fantasy superstar, but not many prospects have a 20-20 or better upside.
26) Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 23, Previous rank: 23)
Opinions on Hamilton’s ultimate value may vary, but the assessment of his strongest tool and biggest challenge are clear: he has game changing speed and needs to get on base enough to make use of it. In his brief trial in the majors at the end of 2013, Hamilton showed how he could add value for fantasy owners even if his is deployed as a “special weapon” initially, as he swiped 13 bags in as many games. He will have to do better than the .308 OBP he put up in 547 AAA plate appearances, however, in order to be a fantasy superstar.
27) Alex Rios, Texas Rangers (Age: 33, Previous rank: 28)
Once considered one of the worst contracts in baseball, Rios has resurrected his career and fantasy owners have learned to adjust our expectations. His 2013 line of 83, 18, 81, 42, .278 was typical, but exceeded expectations on the speed side. Rios is going to run hot and cold, but the hot streaks are going to bring his season totals in the counting categories into above average territory. That said, investing in Rios getting another 42 steals, or counting on a high average, is probably not your best bet.
28) Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins (Age: 22, Previous rank: 35)
Yelich had a good showing in 273 major league plate appearances in 2013, with a 34, 4, 16, 10, .288 line in a pretty bad Marlins lineup. Yelich will likely develop into a fine hitter and corner outfielder in time with moderate close to a 20-20 package, but the knock against him is an emerging platoon split that is a cause for concern. He only hit .165/.245/.231 against major league lefties with a nearly 27% whiff rate, which continued a trend seen in the minors. There is at least some concern that the Marlins are rushing Yelich, which could stunt his growth,so while his overall skill set is appealing, exercise some caution.
29) Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals (Age: 34, Previous rank: 31)
Werth’s 2013 line (84, 25, 88, 10, .318) tells you most of what we need to know heading into 2014, especially if you include his 129 games played. His average will come down as his BABIP levels out a bit, but he should still be good to hit better than .280. Two injury-marred seasons in Washington, however, have raised the “injury prone” flag again with Werth. Werth is going to provide very good production, but savvy owners will have a plan for 15-20 games a year he is likely to miss.
30) Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees (Age: 36, Previous team: 24)
Kind of quietly, Beltran put up an average line of 80, 26, 88, 6 with a .288 average across his last three seasons. While there is some concern about his ability to stay healthy, he averaged 146 games per season between 2011-13. Now he moves to the AL where he can DH some and into a better hitters park. Still, at age 36 (turning 37 early in the season), Beltran is going to be difficult to rely on and fantasy owners who can get a younger product in exchange for another productive season or two from Beltran would be wise to consider it.
31) Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 60)
Projects as another 5-tool outfielder to join Andrew McCutcheon and Starling Marte in Pittsburgh starting in late 2014. Polanco and his power/speed skill combo burst upon the scene in Low A ball in 2012, then had a solid if unspectacular 2013 in High A and AA ball before winning the MVP Award in the Dominican Winter League. He is a good bet to hit for average (.280+), power (20+ HRs) and speed (25+ SBs) in the majors in his prime. Get him while you can.
32) Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 21)
Ian Kinsler’s arrival in Detroit might push Jackson down in the lineup, so expect fewer Runs but more RBIs. With the new manager in Detroit you might see Jackson given the green light to steal more bases, which would greatly increase his fantasy value. Jackson is a guy who will contribute in all 5 categories but won’t be a stud in any of them, which is often better than a guy who excels in one or two stats and is a detriment in the rest. He is a poor man’s Hunter Pence.
33) Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 13)
2013 was a hugely disappointing year for Hamilton owners. Should we expect a rebound back to stardom in 2014? Not unless Hamilton makes some big changes to his approach at the plate, particularly his pitch selectivity. He simply swings at everything pitchers chuck up there so pitchers have learned they don’t have to throw him anything he can hit. We predict more homers than last year but don’t expect his AVG or OBP to fully recover. Will likely have some scorching hot streaks mixed with ice-cold slumps and is unlikely to put up any more MVP-caliber seasons.
34) Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 29)
Jennings’ only real fantasy asset is his stolen base total. He is average in Runs and below average in HRs, RBIs and AVG. He is old enough now that his once-touted star potential can be put to rest. He is not a future star. He is a solid #3 outfielder but don’t draft him expecting much more than that.
35) Domonic Brown , Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 100)
Brown was another elite prospect who was destined for stardom, but injuries and poor performance in his initial tastes of the majors derailed his development and put him in danger of bust status. But then came that monster Spring Training and early regular season rampage last year. He cooled off significantly after that however, so we are left wondering whether it was just a hot streak or a true breakout. It was a little of both. He will continue to be a very solid 5-category contributor, but is not likely to match his 27 home runs from last year, expect more like 20 per season unless his body matures and fills out his 6’5” frame. Brown is no longer a youngster, but his talents are still raw and there is potential here for true stardom if the Phillies can mold his natural talent into skill.
36) Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 39)
Because he is a Cuban defector Soler is often compared to Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes. He is a raw prospect with lots of power and projects to be a slugging right fielder. He missed most of the 2013 season due to a broken leg and two disciplinary suspensions. When he did play his results were good but not great. The talent is obvious, but he simply hasn’t played enough baseball yet to be certain of his future stardom and I have a suspicion that much of his elite prospect ranking is due to his high profile 2012 signing and his connection to Puig/Cespedes rather than direct observation of his skills by scouts. There is definite star potential here but also high bust potential.
37) Curtis Granderson, New York Mets (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 17)
Granderson is coming off a season wrecked by a broken arm and a broken finger. His previous two seasons were superstellar. Now healthy, he is being overlooked too much. The move to the Mets weak lineup and their pitcher-friendly ballpark will take its toll however. He should have a nice bounceback season with lots of power and perhaps stolen bases as well, but his Runs and RBIs will not reach the levels of his Yankee days. Seek him with confidence and expect another two or three good fantasy seasons from him.
38) Clint Frazier, Cleveland Indians (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Frazier was the 5th pick of the 1st round in the 2013 draft. Whenever someone talks about Frazier the first thing they mention is his fantastic bat speed. He projects for elite home run power; the question is whether he will make enough contact to be a superstar. He is a long way from the major leagues but his bust potential is low. He has an MVP ceiling with a Mark Reynolds floor.
39) Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 85)
Eaton is a speedy, gritty table-setter at the plate. He will hit for a decent AVG, score plenty of runs and steal 25+ bases, just don’t expect many homers or RBIs from the 5’8” White Sox newcomer. Eaton should get regular playing time this year with the White Sox, but with the presence of Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza and Avisail Garcia in the Sox’ outfield the potential is there for Eaton to sit out more games than fantasy owners would like.
40) Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 56)
Crisp is a good fantasy producer across the board, although his best contribution comes in the form of the stolen base, having swiped 278 of them in his career. Last year he hit 22 home runs, but that is very unlikely to happen again. You should expect more like 10-15 homers. He is expected to be an everyday starter for Oakland again this year, but he is getting old. Crisp’s skills have not deteriorated as you might expect with his age, so he should be fine for another couple years. The injury factor is always present with Crisp. He has played 13 major league seasons but only reached the 500 AB plateau 4 times. He has also been known to play with injuries (and inner ear infections) that harmed his performance, but when fully healthy Crisp is a useful fantasy asset if not a stud.
Commentary by Noel Baldwin and Nick Doran.