The Dynasty Guru’s Top 125 Dynasty Outfielders, Nos. 21-40
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 our next grouping of outfielders, we start with a sweet-swinging 24-year old that could challenge for batting titles as he reaches his peak:
21) Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 14)
After nearly two-and-a-half seasons in the big leagues and an identical 117 wRC+ in each year, it’s safe to say we can identify Yelich’s floor. One side of the coin is that he’s been amazingly consistent since his 2013 callup. The other side is that he has yet to make any real offensive strides. He has hit ground balls at a 61.9 percent clip over his short career and until he learns to add more loft, it will be difficult for his power to progress. Entering his age-24 season in 2016, he is still a very stable fantasy asset and you can at least bank on a .290 batting average and an on-base percentage in the neighborhood of .370, while using his wheels to add double-digit stolen base totals.
22) Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 23)
Polanco got his first full season’s worth of big league experience in 2015 when he was given the keys to right field for the Pirates. He responded by posting a .256/.320/.381 line, but he showed signs of progress after the All-Star break, hitting for a .749 OPS, which was almost 100 points higher than his first-half total. He increased his contact rate and was more aggressive on pitches in the zone. This led to an uptick in his hard-hit ball percentage and BABIP. Polanco’s isolated power of .125 was still lower than what he showed in the minors, but he improved his flyball ratio–which could bode well for any future power development. Polanco added 27 steals, which was the seventh most among outfielders in 2015.
23) Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 52)
Cain’s 29 spot pole-vault is due to an incredibly unexpected 2015 during which he posted career-highs in just about every statistical category. In fact, portions of his performance were so much better than what he has previously displayed, it is hard to believe they will be repeatable–although Cain is pretty much the poster-child of a late-bloomer. His .171 isolated power was a whopping 58 points higher than his previous career average. While hitting more fly balls can partly explain this, he also increased his HR/FB ball rate by over six percent in 2015. Cain is still a solid fantasy asset, but be wary of overpaying for him this offseason.
24) Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 26)
Cespedes built on the progress he made in 2014 by demolishing his previous career-best marks in nearly everything. This was largely thanks to his monster second half following his trade to the Mets, but he was well on his way to a career year even before that. Simply put, Cespedes hit the ball harder than he ever has. While he actually hit less fly balls overall, this led to those fly balls finding the seats 18 percent of the time, which led to an otherworldly .311 isolated power to go along with a .930 OPS over the season’s second-half. Similar to the previous player on this list, there is a good chance that regression is coming.
25) Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 41)
Blackmon’s 2014 and 2015 seasons look remarkably similar with one big exception: he stole 43 bases in 2015. He hadn’t attempted 43 stolen bases since the 2009 season, which was spent at High-A Modesto. His success rate in 2015 was in line with his previous career mark, so as long as the volume of opportunities stays consistent, his stolen base numbers shouldn’t regress too much. Blackmon seems like a good bet to repeat the .287/.341/.445 line he has had over the past two years and he should be one of the better speed options in the game–hopefully he won’t follow Corey Dickerson out of Coors anytime soon.
26) Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 15)
The 2015 season was a rough one for Pence as he missed the majority of the season due to a broken arm, wrist tendonitis and an oblique strain. Prior to that, Pence had been one of baseball’s most consistent players. In fact, last season was the first time since his rookie year in which he failed to play in at least 154 games. When he was on the field, his performance was still very Pence-esque as he hit .275/.347/.478 and smacked a home run once every 23 at-bats, which was a touch better than his career norm. Going into his age-33 season in 2016, some decline can be expected, but Pence should still one of the most solid and steady producers in fantasy for a few more years.
27) Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 17)
Following his big breakout in 2014, the biggest question mark for Brantley was whether or not he could sustain that level of production over the next few seasons. Despite missing some time with various injuries, he put together a very successful 2015 campaign. His numbers regressed a little bit overall, but he still established himself as a solid five-category contributor. Unfortunately, offseason shoulder surgery has cast some doubt on his 2016 start date. This is less important in dynasty leagues though and he should be back within the first couple months.
28) Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 36)
Cruz busted the myth in 2015 and actually saw his power output increase upon moving to Safeco Field. His 44 home runs were a career-high, however, so were his .350 BABIP and 30.3 percent HR/FB ratio. Neither of those will probably ever happen again, so expect to see his average and that tasty home run total come back down. Cruz still should be good for dingers in the mid-30’s and a batting average around the .270 mark.
29) Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 25)
While still one of the better young hitters in the league, Dickerson’s fantasy value takes a hit as he moves to “The Trop.” His home/road splits have never inspired much confidence in the event that he was to move from Coors, although he still has the potential to be a .280 hitter with around 20 homers playing in the American League East and its plethora of hitter friendly parks– if he can stay on the field. However, after losing most of 2015 to planter fasciitis, playing home games on artificial turf isn’t exactly good news for him.
30) Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 8, SS)
Han-Ram (laziest nickname ever?) saw his precipitous drop in production last season matched by his cliff-dive down these rankings. He missed 57 games to a nagging shoulder injury and posted a near career-worst .247 batting average along with an uninspiring .717 OPS total. His average can partly be attributed to his .257 BABIP, which should rebound, however his 4.9 percent walk rate is certainly cause for concern. Word on the street is that Ramirez will be taking over first base in 2016, so this may be the last season that he is outfield eligible as well.
31) Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 24)
For the first time since 2014, Gordon didn’t finish 24th in our rankings. He doesn’t have the upside, or the long-term value of many that fall below him, but he provides value in nearly every category. His days of double-digit steals are likely over, but he posted a career-best 13.0 percent HR/FB in an injury-interrupted 2015. The veteran Royal still has a few years of production left, and serves as an excellent name to target in trades if your window to compete is closing.
32) Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 21)
Despite 126 career steals in just 279 games, the Cincinnati burner owns a career .242/.287/.330 line, which actually took a step back in 2015. While he has the potential to single-handedly win you a category, Hamilton is a succubus in pretty much the rest, causing him to fall out of the top-30 at the position. Entering his age-25 season, there’s still plenty of time for him to improve in the batter’s box, and if he can somehow figure out how to reach base at a .330 clip, Hamilton would soar up these rankings.
33) Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 56)
The glut of positional talent the Rangers have can be overlooked, but you could put together an above-average Major League outfield with their top-three prospects alone. Mazara’s hit tool is about as polished as can be for a 21-year-old; if the Texas outfield was any thinner, he’d have a legitimate shot at breaking camp with the team. Standing at a prototypical 6-feet-4 inches, the smooth-swinging lefty doesn’t have the power of Joey Gallo, or the speed of Lewis Brinson, but Mazara’s floor is arguably the highest of the three. As far as comps go, the aforementioned Alex Gordon is a solid example of the type of player Mazara could become in short order.
34) Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 18)
Despite the (likely well-deserved) injury-prone tag, Ellsbury has seen at least 500 PA each of the last three seasons, including two with over 635 plate appearances. Yankee Stadium will likely preserve some of Ellsbury’s dwindling pop, and the stolen bases and run-scoring potential make him a starter even in shallow leagues, but you better have a solid plan B when Ellsbury inevitably hits the disabled list.
35) Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 31)
It’s hard to believe that Pederson hit 26 HR and posted a 15.7 percent walk rate as a rookie and actually dropped in our rankings. A player can have all the tools, and all the plate discipline in the world, but if he can’t make contact, he isn’t able to implement said tools. The Adam Dunn comps are valid, but Joc is still far too Yung (and freakishly athletic) to give up on. As far as his value goes though, if he can’t improve upon his 67 percent contact rate– ‘It’s Goin’ Down.’
36) Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 48)
Eaton doesn’t carry the name value of many of his colleagues, but the speedy outfielder has a career .284/.355/.407 line in just over 1600 plate appearances. Hitting atop an improved White Sox lineup, Eaton figures to build on his breakout 2015 season in which he scored 98 runs and hit a very surprising 14 home runs. He started the season cold after receiving a shiny new contract, but hit an outstanding .335/.418/.486 with eight home runs and 13 SB after the midsummer classic. He’s had trouble converting his plus-plus speed into stolen bases early in his career, also known as Peter Bourjos syndrome, but he’s always had the wheels to steal 30 bases. Eaton saw a significant boost in both power and speed in the second half of 2015, and stands a chance to be a poor man’s AJ Pollock (his former teammate in Arizona) going forward.
37) Wil Myers, San Diego Padres (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 28)
Myers still has the swing which made him an uber prospect, and at age-25, he has plenty of time to develop into the stud scouts expected. Despite a wrist injury that limited him to 253 plate appearances last year, he posted a 114 OPS+, a double-digit walk rate, and showed an intriguing power-speed combo in hitting eight home runs along with swiping five bases. While Myers isn’t a guaranteed asset, don’t be surprised if his value bounces back considerably in 2016.
38) Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 22)
Bison may be on the verge of going extinct, but Kemp still has a few years before being put out to pasture. He’s not the 40-40 threat that he was in his heyday, but after settling in at Petco Park, he proved his bat still has some pop. In the second-half of 2015, Kemp posted a 133 OPS+ with 15 bombs. His bat alone justifies hanging onto him, but he also chipped in 12 stolen bases over the course of the season, his first season of double digit steals since his monster 2011 season.
39) Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 29)
Choo entered last year’s All-Star break with a .221 average, but went ballistic the rest of the way, posting a superb .343/.455/.560 line with 11 home runs and four steals in over 300 plate appearances. His second-half peripherals (.420 BABIP and 22 percent HR/FB ratio) aren’t sustainable for a full season, but Choo hits near the top of an explosive Rangers and has a career OPS of over .900 against right-handed pitching.
40) Michael Conforto, New York Mets (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 118)
It took less than 600 minor league plate appearances for the stocky left fielder to get the call, and he adapted well to major league pitching. His defense is a work in progress, but nearly 200 plate appearances with a .270 average, walk rate of just under nine percent, and a .236 isolated power culminated in a very impressive big league debut. The Mets did their best to limit his exposure to lefties, with 179 of his 194 plate appearances coming against right-handed pitching, but even so, dynasty owners should be pleased with Conforto’s long-term prospects even as the Mets brought back Yoenis Cespedes to likely take away at-bats (and development) against lefties in the short-term.
Commentary by Travis Johnson and Matt Pullman