The Dynasty Guru’s Top 125 Dynasty Outfielders, Nos. 1-20
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Players are ranked where they played 20 or more games at during the 2015 season at their highest position on the defensive spectrum, e.g. Chris Davis played 30 games in the outfield, meaning he’s an outfielder for our purposes. We can’t assume that a player will have eligibility at a position in the future (so no Hanley Ramirez at 1b for these rankings) or that a player will lose eligibility at a position in the future. This should clear things up for all non-Javier Baez/Jurickson Profar players, and we’ll do our best to explain where those players are ranked when the time comes. All DH types, such as Evan Gattis and David Ortiz, appear on the 1B rankings, as we will not be doing a UTIL rankings list.
As we move to the outfield in our rankings, we start off with a future meteorologist who happens to be pretty damn good at hitting a baseball:
1) Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 1)
Despite a ‘down’ season in the world of Mike Trout, the 24-year old will hold onto the top spot in the outfield. Thanks to Trout slugging his way to a career-high 41 home runs and 172 wRC+, fantasy owners didn’t miss his career-low 11 stolen bases as much as some expected. Trout’s lack of stolen bases will hurt his value some, but it doesn’t seem that his speed is gone. It’s not time to dismiss the idea of Trout stealing 15 or more bases on a regular basis.
Trout was also hampered by a wrist injury for a month or so, leading to a .218/.352/.337 batting line in August. With that in mind, there’s a chance that his numbers could improve—as scary as that sounds—next season. Without the August performance included, Trout hit .316 on the season.
2) Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 4)
It wasn’t an easy decision to put Harper below Trout, but ultimately the placement came down to track record and speed. Harper’s 2015 was absolutely magnificent, and it could be a long time before someone other than Trout or Harper bests his performance. Not only did Harper hit for a .330 batting average with 42 home runs, but Harper also struck out just seven times more than he walked. His 124 walks were second in all of baseball to Joey Votto.
The concerns with Harper come down to two things: this was his first season with a wRC+ above 140, and that he has averaged just 127 games a season over his young career. Both of these concerns aren’t really anything to worry about in the long run, but they came into play when comparing players of Harper and Trout’s caliber.
3) Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 2)
The 2015 season marked McCutchen’s worst season since 2011, with his steals dropping to a career-low 11, and his average falling below .300 for the first time in years. McCutchen’s early season knee injury likely contributed to his loss of speed and his poor start, as he struggled out of the gate in putting up a 81 wRC+ in April. For some reason, McCutchen has developed the feel of an older player—though that’s not the case. Yes, compared to the players ranked around him, McCutchen is the old man—but at just 29, it’s not as if he’s a post-prime player. With a “normal” offseason now in the books, it wouldn’t be surprising to see McCutchen regain his stolen base numbers and challenge for another 20/20 season.
4) Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 3)
Stanton once again showed off his prodigious power in 2015, leading the MLB in home runs over the season’s first-half with 27. Things took a turn for the worst soon after when he fell victim to the dreaded hamate bone fracture in late June. A nightmare for power hitters, the injury knocked him out for the rest of the season. Hopefully Stanton will be fine for 2016, but owners may need to brace for a slight downtick in power to start the season. The concerns for Stanton don’t end there, as his .265 batting average certainly wasn’t ideal, but his career-low .294 BABIP likely played a role, and there’s a good chance his average is back to career levels next season. Dynasty owners may be concerned about Stanton’s health, but as he turns 26, it’s too early to start calling him injury prone–as much of his lost time has been a product of freak injuries. The fact remains that Stanton might just be the best power hitter in the majors. Oh, and the Marlins are moving in the fences next season.
5) Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 32)
Even with his slight frame, Betts can pack a lot of pop into his bat. In his first full season, Betts was able to overcome a slow April and May to post a .291 batting average along with 18 home runs and 21 steals. Betts’ power upside may not be much more than that, but there’s room for him to grow both in the batting average, speed, and walk department. Betts should be a key contributor in all categories for years to come, with about 15 home run power, along with speed that can challenge 30 steals, a decent amount of walks, and a batting average that could certainly break the .300 mark. Mookie hasn’t even played 200 games yet in the big leagues, but he’s already among the league’s elite outfielders.
6) Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 9)
Perpetually underrated throughout his career in fantasy circles, Upton had a big season in 2015. Playing half of his games at PetCo park may have prevented Upton from reaching the 30 HR plateau, but fantasy owners weren’t complaining when he decided to start stealing bases again. His 19 steals were his highest total since 2011. Signing with Detroit doesn’t represent much of an upgrade in terms of stadiums, but he’s now surrounded by a much more productive lineup. Upton’s stolen base totals could go back down next season, but an improvement in his home run and RBI totals would help make up the difference. Although last year’s batting average hurt his value some, an increase in BABIP is a very real possibility, as is an increase in his runs scored total in his first season in the American League.
7) A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 49)
Some might say that Pollock had a breakout season in 2015, while others suggest that it was simply his first full breakout season. Either way, Pollock has established himself as a legitimate 20/40 threat and all-around fantasy stud. His 39 stolen bases were a pleasant surprise, but everything about last season looks pretty sustainable. He may not hit 20 home runs again, but Pollock should come very close. Also a great producer in the batting average department, Pollock should be able to sustain his BABIP and an average over .300 is to be expected. The only thing that Pollock isn’t great at is being young—as the late bloomer is already 28. Still, dynasty owners won’t be complaining over the next few years—Pollock is one of the best power/speed threats in all of baseball, playing in one of the best hitting environments.
8) J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 39)
If you didn’t own him in fantasy, it may come as a surprise that J.D. Martinez hit 38 home runs in 2015. The power is very real, and so is his .282 batting average. Some were skeptical of him following a breakout 2014 that was helped by a .389 BABIP, but Martinez didn’t let a 50 point follow in BABIP phase him much in 2015. No player is without warts (save for Mr. Trout and Mr. Harper), and that is the case with Martinez: a 27.1% strikeout rate makes him a slight risk from season-to-season. Still, it’s probably worth the risk with Martinez as his ability to provide elite power numbers without hurting owners in batting average–a rare attribute these days–and if he doesn’t let his free swinging ways get the best of him, he should be able to continue that trend in a powerful Detroit lineup next season.
9) George Springer, Houston Astros (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 12)
Springer hasn’t quite lived up to expectations following a near-40/40 season in the minors in 2013, but that doesn’t mean the 26-year old has been a let down. He’s dealt with injuries over the past two seasons, and playing just 180 games over that span has masked his great production. If you prorate Springer’s 2015 to 150 games, his numbers come out to a .276/.367/.459 line with 24 home runs and 24 stolen bases. It’s not a 40/40 season (yet), but nevertheless this kind of production is nothing to sneeze at. Springer also managed to cut down his strikeouts last season, and if he can carry that trend into 2016, the outfielder could be a fantasy beast. The average won’t ever help fantasy owners, but a reasonable strikeout rate could prevent it from being a drag on the category as well. Springer also has shown the ability to take a walk, boosting his value in OBP leagues and given health, there could be many 20/20 seasons on the horizon–with a chance for more.
10) Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 6)
A victim of a cranky hamstring, Puig managed to play just 79 games last season. Even worse, while healthy Puig managed to hit just .255/.322/.436. His stolen bases dropped to a mere three, and a bar fight this offseason probably didn’t ingratiate himself to his new manager. However, Puig still oozes upside and his monstrous tools are far from gone, and although he hasn’t reached it yet, the 25-year old certainly has the talent to go 20/20. Puig’s value may be at an all-time low right now, and it’s time to swoop in and take advantage of that. He’s got some added risk and baggage now, but Puig is still an elite talent with an electric ceiling.
11) Carlos Gomez, Houston Astros (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 5)
After a year which saw his home runs and stolen bases cut in half, and his playing time curtailed by injury, it might be a surprise to some to see Gomez ranked so highly. Prior to last season, Gomez was a near lock for 20-25 home runs and 30 plus stolen bases and once he returned from an intercostal injury, he was able to contribute at a high level over the last few weeks of the regular season. Entering his age-30 season, it’s reasonable to expect him to rebound — assuming his health permits him to do so. In an improved lineup and the ability to DH when necessary, all of Gomez’s counting stats have the chance to approach his prime years in Milwaukee.
12) Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 10)
The 2014 season was an extremely disappointing year for the Colorado slugger, but it’s an understatement to say he rebounded with a vengeance in 2015, as he had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016. His 40 home runs were by far a career-high, as his monstrous second-half of the year featured 29 bombs. However, his stolen bases have declined from that of an asset to nearly non-existent and his batting average and on-base percentage also have taken a dip from his peak. Gonzalez offers elite power and should continue to do so as long as he roams the Colorado outfield. The possibility of a trade out of Coors poses some concern as he (like many Rockies hitters before him) has far exceeded his road performance while in Colorado.
13) Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 11)
Another player who experienced a large drop off from his peak, Braun rebounded from two down seasons, one of which was cut short by injury, to post a near-elite combination of power and speed, while also hitting for a quality average. While he will likely never again hit 40 home runs, and 30 might even be a stretch, Braun should provide an excess of 20 home runs and could add in the neighborhood of 20 or more steals (as he did in 2015) as he ages. He’s not the most exciting player as he is on the back-half of his career, but he should return second-round value at a slight discount. With his career seemingly back on track, Braun should continue to return solid values as he ages over the next few years.
14) Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 16)
Unlike the last three entries, Marte is a player entering his prime years. He has solidified himself as a threat for 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He doesn’t walk much so if your league uses some form of on-base percentage or OPS, his value requires a slight discount. That being said, there’s not much else to dislike in Marte’s profile. His speed will continue to boost his BABIP which sets a higher than normal batting average floor and his talent level will allow for power growth as he ages.
15) Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 8)
If you have a dynasty team in contention, there aren’t many better options in the outfield than Bautista. His batting average is no longer an asset, but his power and general statistical production is nearly unmatched. He rebounded to post a near career high of 40 home runs and should continue to post excellent statistics as he hits in a favorable stadium with one of the best lineups in baseball. He seems likely to post another season in excess of 35 home runs, which could make him a first round value. If his advanced age scares off rivals, he might make a nice value acquisition, although he could exit Rogers Centre via free agency at the end of 2016.
16) Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 13)
Unlike other players in this range, Buxton has never accomplished anything at the major league level. He occupies this position due to his immense talent and minor league performance. Three years ago he broke into the top ten on virtually all prospect lists and was a consensus top two prospect each of the last two years. He is an extremely fast runner that should be able to put up solid stolen base numbers throughout his career. While he is not much of a power threat at the moment, he is expected to post at least average numbers once he matures. There is a lot of risk due to his lack of major league track record but his minor league numbers and pedigree (he was the second overall pick in 2010) suggest that he could be a star if things go right. He is expected to break with the major league club out of spring training so now is the time to buy, especially if he struggles out of the gate.
17) Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 13, 3B)
Up-and-down would be an apt description of Davis’ career to date. Actually, Mt. Everest and Marianas Trench would be a better fit. Over the past three years, he has sandwiched a 54 home run season and a 47 home run season, both of which led the league, around a 26 home run season that was accompanied with a .196 batting average. Of note, he also tested positive for PED’s in 2014 due to his positive test for Adderall, which is not prohibited for those who apply for a medical exemption and Davis has successfully applied for a medical exemption since. Dynasty owners should be willing to write 2014 off as a season of misfortune and expect elite power going forward. But be warned: the power will come with a ton of strikeouts and as such, a batting average that cannot be counted on.
18) Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 19)
Heyward was considered a phenom when he debuted at the age of 20 in 2010 and was supposed to be a cornerstone of both the Braves and fantasy teams alike. While he quickly became and has remained a good player, it is becoming less and less likely that he ever becomes a true fantasy star. In a glorious 2012 season, Heyward seemed as if he were on the precipice of fantasy stardom as he hit 27 home runs and stole 21 bases in just his age-22 season. Since then, he has all but lost his power stroke. Positive trends for the new Cubbie include a consistently improving batting average, steady stolen base totals, and three consecutive seasons of increased doubles, which along with his excellent walk rate improve his value in OBP leagues. If a breakthrough is ever going to come, 2016 is as good a season as any to bank on as all his contextual factors improved with move to Wrigley.
19) Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 7)
Jones has been a remarkably steady player over the better part of the last decade. His 2015 campaign might give the impression that a few leaks have sprung in his overall fantasy package, as his batting average fell to a full-season low and the ultra-durable centerfielder played less than 149 games for the first time since 2009. Additionally, his stolen base totals continued their downward descent to a paltry three steals in only four attempts. However, a closer look shows all signs pointing towards a stable skill set as his OBP, SLG, and OPS either improved or stayed virtually the same as his prior seasons, despite the lower batting average. Most of his batted ball information indicates no major change as his line drive percentage, ground ball percentage, pull percentage, and HR/FB rate all mirrored his career marks. Jones should provide 25-30 home runs as he enters his 30’s.
20) Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 20)
Soler is another player that occupies a lofty spot in these rankings due to potential rather than proven major league performance. Soler has long been considered a consensus top-50 prospect, reaching his prospect apex in 2015 as the 12th rated prospect by Baseball America. He tore through the minors despite being very young for each level, regularly posting an OPS above .900. Indeed, his brief 2014 audition with Chicago quickly allowed him to display the offensive skills that earned him his lofty prospect rankings before he gradually tailed off as the season drew to a close. Unfortunately, 2015 was a much less successful season for Soler, as he batted an uninspiring .262 with little power and too many strikeouts before an injury effectively ended his season in late July. The promise of his toolset remains, and while fantasy owners looking to compete this year might be better served selecting a more reliable outfielder ranked lower in our list but for a dynasty owner in a rebuilding phase, Soler remains an elite option.
Commentary by Ben Diamond and Jesse MacPherson