The Dynasty Guru’s Top 125 Dynasty Outfielders, Nos. 1-20
Congratulations on surviving another off-season. Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to spend the next month traveling across the positional landscape, labeling players with numbers that correspond to their value. It’s the very definition of freedom. A ton of hard work was put into these rankings, and will continue to be put in as we bring you just an ungodly amount of information over the next month. We hope you enjoy the product we’ve created, and if you’d like to show appreciation for that work you can do so through this link, or via the donate button on in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.
With so many outfielders as options, even rankings 125 is going to leave some guys that deserve a ranking out in the cold. Just remember that the deeper the list gets the less that actually separates these players. So while there could be 15-20 spots between two players, they may actually be quite similar in overall value. Speaking of being similar in overall value, there’s no one that can say that about the guy leading off our outfield rankings:
1) Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 1)
The only negative we could come up with for Trout is that his 16 stolen bases in 2014 might be closer to the norm going forward that the 49 and 33 he had over his first two seasons. In return, Trout might hit 40+ home runs next year and his RBI numbers just keep going up. If Trout is not the number one player you are taking in every circumstance, then you are doing it all wrong.
2) Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 3)
Not that it is a fantasy category, but McCutchen actually had a higher wRC+ than Mike Trout last year. McCutchen’s power bounced back some in 2014 (25 home runs in 146 games), and his stolen base numbers declined some. However, a healthy McCutchen might be a near lock for 20/20 and a .310+ batting average, and a bounceback year from Alvarez and Marte, plus added depth in Kang and Polanco, could mean his runs and RBI skyrocket.
3) Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (Age: 25, Previous Rank 4)
One of these years Stanton is going to play 162 games and break the 40 home run barrier. When he does, there is a chance that 40 is just some milestone on the way to historic. You might not be able to pencil in the batting average just yet, but the career high 13 stolen bases will offset that loss some. The Marlins are actually deciding to actually have an infield this year, so that, and more growth from Christian Yelich could see Stanton carry you to wins in the counting categories too.
4) Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 2)
I could start with an exhaustive list of players younger than Harper, but that is what Twitter is for. Harper falls a bit, not because the talent or ceiling is any lower, but this is the second year with injuries and McCutchen/Stanton are pretty good. Harper has the power to hit 50 HRs, the grit to steal 10+ bases, and the lineup to go at least 100/100 in runs and RBI. Now this might not all happen in 2015, but Harper is still a good 3-4 years from his physical prime, so you might have to settle for 30/10 for right now.
5) Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 15)
All Gomez did in 2014 was go and prove that he is here in the top echelon to stay. His batting average is a tick behind the other guys at the top but no one else has the potential to go 25/40 every year. Gomez’s stolen bases separate him from the crowd (he was 4th among outfielders in SBs in 2014). The return of a healthy Ryan Braun could go a long way to helping to keep the runs uptick for Gomez.
6) Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 8)
It was a bit of a step back for Puig in 2014 from a fantasy perspective. His power and speed numbers dropped on a per/game basis. However, he cut his strikeout rate, raised his walk rate, and proved he can flat out hit. The power he showed in 2013 is not an aberration, and he has the ability to hit 25+ HRs in a year. Add in that he is a near lock for 10 SBs and a .300 batting average, and you have a guy who may not win you your league on his own, but could be your best hitter for the next 7 years.
7) Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 7)
The fact that Jones only walks only 3 times a month should only concern you if you play in an OBP league (at which point run away). But otherwise Jones has settled in at what should be close to 30 home runs, 10-15 steals, and a .280 average. The runs/RBI dropped in 2014, but Machado and Weiters should be back in 2015, and a bounceback by Chris Davis will go a long way. Jones in many ways has become boring, but consistency is a big deal.
8) Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 20)
Bautista once again proved that you shouldn’t count him out, as he broke the 30 home run mark. The .286 batting average was a product of a “high” .287 BABIP, but his career rate is .271 so you can expect some batting average regression. However, what you can count on is that Bautista will give you plenty of power, and with an improved Blue Jays lineup, the 100/100 runs/RBI plateau seems achievable base purely on him staying healthy. He may not be a long term cornerstone, but who cares if he brings home a championship right now.
9) Justin Upton, San Diego Padres (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 12)
Despite moving to Petco, Upton has enough power that he shouldn’t see a big drop in his home run totals. It does appear the 18-21 steal days are behind him, but he will still swipe some bags each year. Overall he should give you something that looks a lot like Adam Jones, with a little less batting average, but more OBP for some safety on the stolen base and run numbers. Also lets not forget that Upton is only 27 this year, and has flashed a ceiling that could win you your league.
10) Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 5)
Before there were fatty tentacled masses in fingers and knee injuries, Carlos Gonzalez was one of the best stats per game bets in the minors. His single season best for games played is only 145, and yet if you combine his worst lines from 2010 to 2013 you get a .295 hitter with 22 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 72 runs, and 70 RBI. You might only get 125 games a year from CarGo, but he is going to provide enormous value for you across all five categories, just make sure you have a competent back up.
11) Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 6)
Braun posted the lowest full season numbers of his career in every major fantasy category in 2014. Some will point to the chronic thumb injury that he endured for much of the season, which required an offseason cryotherapy procedure, and some will point to other contributing factors, like clean urine samples. Whatever the reason was for Braun’s power slippage, his ISO of .187 was still good for 22nd overall among outfielders in 2014. The thumb injury likely played a role in Braun’s lack of aggressiveness on the basepaths, swiping only 11 bags, down from 30 in his last full season of 2012 and 33 steals in 2011. Braun’s 30/30 days are most likely over, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
12) George Springer, Houston Astros (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 25)
Springer’s rookie campaign featured a slow start, followed by a prolific 59 game stretch that included 20 home runs, and was ultimately derailed by a hamstring injury that ended his season. In his 345 plate appearances at the big league level, two facets of Springer’s profile were magnified: the monster power, and the swing and miss tendencies that plagued him in the minors. The power was prevalent; his .237 ISO finished second among rookies to Jose Abreu, although striking out a whopping one-third of the time led to a .231 batting average, well below his lifetime .302 minor league number. Springer should be moved up a tick in on-base leagues, as he walked enough to finish with a .336 OBP. Before the hamstring injury, he didn’t run like he did in the minors, attempting only seven stolen bases, after successfully stealing 45 bases in 2013 and 32 in 2012. If Springer starts running at the big league level, he has one of the highest fantasy ceilings of any player in the league.
13) Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 9)
Buxton’s season was marred by injuries, as the former consensus number one overall prospect in baseball appeared in 31 regular season games due to a wrist injury, and then a scary outfield collision during his first game at Double-A, that resulted in a concussion that ended his season. The Twins have said Buxton will likely start 2015 at the Double-A level, and may need the year in the minors to make up the lost developmental time. He should still be viewed as a six category fantasy beast with the potential to be one of the top dynasty league assets at any position.
14) Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 28)
Yelich has hit for a career 112 OPS+ before turning 23, clearly showing that he hasn’t been overmatched by big league pitching, a concern many had when the Marlins aggressively promoted him to the big leagues in 2013 after only 49 games above High-A ball. Yelich clubbed lefties for a .317/.376/.444 mark in 2014, a very encouraging sign for any young left handed hitter, and the type of production that shows why some scouts predicted future batting titles for him as a minor leaguer. He also added 21 stolen bases in 28 attempts in his first full big league season, after stealing over 20 in each full minor league season. Hitting near the top of an improved Marlins lineup should also lead to increased runs scored totals for Yelich as owners patiently wait for his power to develop.
15) Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 23)
Hitting second in the order for most of the season proved fruitful for ‘The Reverend’ in 2014, as he tallied a career-high 106 runs scored to round out his standard, consistent all-around performance. Pence’s home run total of 20 was down a bit from his career average of 25, but all of his other numbers were in line with his career norms and that’s the appeal with Pence; he plays every day, and you can pencil him in for a .280/.330/.470 line every year. Consistency isn’t sexy, but it helps win dynasty leagues and should be valued appropriately, especially in deeper leagues.
16) Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 22)
Marte continues to defy the BABIP gods, using his speed to post his third consecutive year with a mark over .330, just as he did every year in the minors, so at this point you have to think he’s going to continue to do so. He has improved his batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage in each of his three big league seasons, all while continuing to run, finishing tenth overall in steals with 30 in 2014. The main questions with Marte include health, as he’s never played more than 135 games in a season as a pro, and if more power will develop. He has also improved his line drive percentage each year in the majors, so perhaps there is reason to believe that Marte can take the step forward into the 15-20 home run range as he gains experience.
17) Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 65)
One of the biggest risers from last year’s rankings at any position, Brantley finished third in American League MVP balloting in 2014, rewarding patient dynasty owners everywhere after hovering around league average territory with the bat in his first three big league seasons. Brantley doubled his home run total from a previous career high of 10 in 2013 to 20 in 2014, and also topped 20 steals for the first time in his major league career, finishing with 23. Brantley’s OPS+ of 154 was good for seventh in baseball, and his stolen base total ranked 16th overall. Is it sustainable going forward? Skeptics will point to his BABIP of .333 (29 points higher than his 2013 number) and his flyball percentage, which actually declined from his 2013 total (despite the bump in home runs) as reasons that it’s not. However, Brantley reached the big leagues as a 22 year old, was a career .303 hitter in the minors, and it looks as though he’s finally figured out how to use his athleticism at the big league level.
18) Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 14)
Ellsbury stayed healthy enough to play 149 games during his first year as a Yankee in 2014, which is the key to any season for the speedy center fielder. As expected, the move to the Bronx was good for Ellsbury’s home run total, as he increased his output from the nine he hit his last season in Boston to 16 in New York. He also added 39 steals, tying for the fourth most in his career. His batting average and on base numbers dipped a bit in 2014, but they were offset by the increase in home runs and an increase in RBI, knocking in 70, second most of his career. His monster 2011 season certainly looks like an outlier, but the power/speed combo that Ellsbury brings to the table is still quite valuable, provided his legs are healthy enough to stay in the lineup.
19) Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 13)
Heyward remains a fantasy tease, tantalizing owners with a 27 home run/21 stolen base season as a 22 year old in 2012, then only stealing two bases during an injury-riddled campaign in 2013, before bouncing back to swipe 20 bases in 2014 by hitting only 11 home runs and seeing his slugging percentage dip to a career low .384. Heyward’s kryptonite continues to be left handed pitching, compiling an ugly .169/.252/.225 line against southpaws in 2014, which could lead to him being spotted against lefties at some point, no matter how good his defense is. Heyward will benefit from being near the top of a much better Cardinals lineup in 2015, and perhaps new voices in the St. Louis organization will help Heyward unlock the power that he showed as a rookie in 2010 and again in 2012.
20) Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 36)
Soler finally stayed on the field long enough to get his first taste of the high minors and passed with flying colors, earning a 24 game callup to Wrigley at the end of the year. He tore the cover off the ball in 97 plate appearances in Chicago, flashing his prodigious power, hitting five home runs and knocking in 20 runs. That came on the heels of a .340/.432/.700 line in 62 games in the minors, mainly split between Double-A and Triple-A. Soler will provide no value with his legs, but his bat will provide plenty enough, as 30-plus home runs is not out of the question to go with a .260-.270 batting average, with the potential for more if he can make the adjustments necessary facing advanced pitching. Soler appears to have a stranglehold on the starting right field job for 2015, but will need to prove he can hold up under a full season’s worth of at-bats. That’s something he hasn’t done yet, only playing in 151 total games in the minors.