The Dynasty Guru’s Top 125 Dynasty Outfielders, Nos. 41-60
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.
We start the next grouping of our outfielder rankings with a player who is surrounded by greatness and is often overshadowed, even in dynasty leagues, and we finish the grouping with a player whose breakout 2015 campaign propelled them from unranked in last year’s edition:
41) Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 43)
One of the top sleepers for dynasty and redraft leagues alike last year, Calhoun lived up to the pre-draft hype, finishing the season with a solid 26 home runs, 78 runs, and 82 RBI. Hitting atop the Angels lineup next to MVP Mike Trout and former MVP Albert Pujols, Calhoun is sure to continue to help fantasy teams with good counting stats. The Angels outfielder has yet to hit for a decent average as he did in the minors, where he hit .324 in over 1350 plate appearances, hitting just .264 over parts of four seasons in the majors. Even if he doesn’t contribute in that category, and continues to chip in just a few steals, Calhoun is worth a look in leagues of all sizes.
42) Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 38)
Once drafted mostly for the speed, the Yankees outfielder has added a power component to his game the past two seasons, strengthening his fantasy value considerably as he ages. Heading into the 2014 season, Gardner had only 23 home runs in his first six seasons. However, in the past two seasons, the lefty has hit 33 combined. Gardner has seemingly sacrificed his batting average for the power though, hitting in the high .250s in each of the last two seasons. Even with the lower average and a drop in steals, Gardner’s combination of power and speed are still a valuable asset in all types of leagues.
43) Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 27)
If Brett Gardner hurts your average, than Bruce absolutely kills it. A career .248 hitter, Bruce has hit below .230 in each of the past two seasons. Bruce has to bring tons of power to make up for his monumental weakness. The lefty did that from 2011-2013, averaging 32 home runs and over 100 RBI. The last two seasons, however, Bruce has averaged 22 home runs and 77 RBI. Pair that with his .220s average, and you have a player fantasy owners are not thrilled about starting every week. There are some silver linings though; Bruce is still under 30, and had his lowest strikeout percentage since 2009 in 2015, and has had below average BABIP numbers over the past two seasons. If he can raise his average and find his power stroke he had before 2014, Bruce could be primed for a bit of a bounceback.
44) Dexter Fowler, Free Agent (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 61)
Fowler’s tantalizing skills have always kept fantasy owners coming back for more–and often times being let down. After teasing fantasy owners with glimpses over his first six full-seasons in the majors, Fowler finally put together a complete season stat-wise in his first (and perhaps only) year with the Cubs. Despite a career-low .250 batting average, Fowler set career highs in home runs (17) and runs (102), while stealing 20 bases–his most since 2009. Fowler’s value also gets a bump in OBP leagues, as he’s reached base at a career .363 clip in the majors. The current free agent’s destination will also affect his value, particularly if he goes to a far less favorable situation than the Cubs provided in 2015.
45) Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 30)
A former model of consistency, Holliday showed the first crack in his armor in 2015, playing in a career-low 73 games last season, only the second time since 2006 that he’s played less than 139 games in a season. Holliday landed on the disabled list twice with a quad injury and the injuries and subsequent lost time, contributed to his third straight year of career-low isolated power total. Despite the lost power, Holliday still has impressive plate discipline, walking a career high 14.1 percent, which led to a .394 OBP. To help fantasy owners, even if it’s just in one or two categories, Holliday is going to need to stay on the field. At his age, that’s no guarantee.
46) Ben Revere, Washington Nationals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 64)
Still a few years away from entering his thirties, Revere is one of the safest bets for stolen bases in fantasy leagues coming into the 2016 season. With his ability to put the ball in play, which he does over 85 percent of the time, Revere is able to maximize his speed and maintain a higher than average BABIP. Revere’s power is non-existent (four career home runs in 2,660 plate appearances), meaning he needs to get on base to have any type of fantasy relevance. Averaging 35 steals and hitting .295 over the past five years, Revere is a solid two category contributor–who can also add runs in the right MLB lineup.
47) Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 87)
Piscotty didn’t disappoint in his first taste of the big leagues in 2015, slashing .305/.359/.494 in just over 250 plate appearances. The Cardinals outfielder’s .372 BABIP seems incredibly unsustainable at first glance. If you look closer, you’ll see he hit the ball consistently hard, finishing 22nd in the MLB in hard hit percentage, just one spot below Kris Bryant. His xBABIP supports an above average mark as well, as the right-hander finished the season with an expected .350 BABIP. Piscotty also finished inside the top-15 in batted ball distance, making his .189 isolated power mark actually seem a bit lower than expected. If Piscotty’s MLB line is a more accurate indicator of his talent than his minor league numbers, he could jump up the list in short order.
48) Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 42)
Similar to Bruce, Trumbo’s fantasy relevance lives and dies with his power. When Trumbo was hitting 34 home runs and driving in over 100 runs, his .234 batting average was allowed. But last season, where he hit just 22 home runs, his .262 batting average was a little harder to swallow. Now on his fourth team, Trumbo’s hoping a move to Camden Yards, a park very favorable to right-handed pop, will restore the power that’s been missing the past two seasons. If the power never returns, neither will Trumbo’s fantasy relevance.
49) Nick Williams, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 73)
After a rough Double-A debut in 2014, Williams certainly made the most of his second opportunity at the level in 2015, hitting .299/.357/.479, adding 13 home runs and stealing ten bases in just 97 games with the Rangers’ Double-A club. Those numbers, and the tools scouts salivate over, made Williams a key piece in the Cole Hamels deal, sending the young outfielder to the Philadelphia Phillies. Once in the Phillies system, Williams continued his dominance of Double-A pitching to finish out the season. Everything about Williams says 20/20 potential with a chance at a .290 average. He has a chance to be one of the rare five category contributors for fantasy owners and entering his age-22 season, he may be doing that for a long time.
50) Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 79)
Judge’s power was expected to be his calling card, and since he was drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2013, he hasn’t disappointed. The outfielder has 41 home runs over the past two seasons–across five different minor league levels. With his keen eye at the plate, Judge will be a bigger fantasy factor in OBP leagues, as he’s not expected to hit for a relatively high average. The 6-foot-7 inch, 230 pound prospect is expected to debut by 2017, with a chance to wear pinstripes by the end of 2016. Needless to say, the jury is going to be making a verdict on the Judge very soon.
51) Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 100)
Zimmer sits in that sweet spot between highly ranked prospect and across-the-board contributor. After a crazy-good 2014 season, Zimmer continued to improve across two levels in 2015 and now sits on everyone’s radar. He’s not the flashiest prospect on this list, but he also carries considerably less risk than some of his peers that surround him. We’ve seen 20-20 outfielders go in the first round of drafts, and while you shouldn’t count on that production right out of the box, you could reason that this is the cheapest he’ll be for years.
52) Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 34)
There are few players who could benefit from a change of scenery more than Ozuna. Although the stats that count were down for Ozuna across the board, the peripherals signal that he could bounce back. He makes hard contact up the middle as much as guys much higher than him on this list, and his strikeout rate is reasonable enough to justify playing everyday. If he can piss Jeff Loria off just a little bit more, maybe he’ll be playing somewhere else and jump 20-30 spots up this list next year.
53) Denard Span, San Francisco Giants (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 52)
Players in their thirties coming off an injury-plagued season do not traditionally carry a lot of value in dynasty leagues. In that sense, Span’s ranking on this list is likely aggressive. However, even in his injury shortened season, Span was putting up numbers not too different from what he had done the years before. It’s unreasonable to expect him to swipe 30 bags again, but moving out from under Matt Williams will also likely ensure that he sees the green light more often. If you can stomach the uncertainty, this is a great chance to buy low.
54) Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 89)
A healthy Reddick was always going to be a good source of power, even in Oakland, but the real surprise in his 2015 season–which saw him hit 20 homers and stay on the field for 149 games– is that he hit for .272 average. He cut down his swing rate and improved his contact rate, but his BABIP was a fairly low .278. There’s reason to believe the average is real, and could potentially improve to the .280 range (or better in good stretches) with a little bit more luck. Reddick’s best season may still be ahead.
55) Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 46)
After exploding in 2014, Pompey was a trendy pick heading into the 2015 season. He burned fantasy owners in April before being buried in the minors for for the majority of the year. The trip back to the top two levels of the minors allowed the Blue Jays to excavate his talent, and he will have an opportunity to compete with Michael Saunders for the starting job in left field this spring. Given a full season of at-bats, 30 steals along with a double-digit home run total isn’t out of the question–but 2016 might not be the year he erupts.
56) Randal Grichuk, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 112)
First things first: there likely isn’t any way that Grichuk repeats his 2015 success. No amount of devil magic can explain slugging .548 with a 31 percent strikeout rate while maintaining a .276 batting average. That screams “pure luck,” as evidenced by his batting average on balls in play, which was the 14th highest of all players with at least 300 plate appearances last year. The good news, though, is that the strikeout rate was a good 10% higher than his minor league average, so it’s reasonable to assume that’s the part that changes. If he can decrease the strikeouts without cutting back the power, his batting average should be sustainable. Otherwise, something’s gotta give.
57) Clint Frazier, Cleveland Indians (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 59)
TDG’s fearless leader has been one of the biggest champions of the ginger swinger, but the adjustments he made in 2015 have caused even the most cautious prospect watchers to believe the hype. Frazier cut down on his strikeout rate while maintaining the power, leading to much improved 2015 campaign overall. He should spend the 2016 season in Double-A, and could open 2017 as one of the top overall fantasy prospects with an outside shot at the show.
58) Lewis Brinson, Texas Rangers (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 113)
Brinson always had more tools than master carpenter Norm Abram. The question was whether he could put them together enough for his free-swinging tendencies to survive at higher levels. After impressing at the three highest levels of the minors (as well as the Arizona Fall League) in 2015, there’s reason to believe the hype as Brinson is turning his tools into production. Many of the question marks have been erased, and what’s left is an athletic center fielder who could hit 20 or more bombs and steal 20 or more bags.
59) Colby Rasmus, Houston Astros (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 95)
Rasmus used to be a poster child of knowing what you’re going to get year after year– tons of strikeouts, low average, nonexistent on-base percentage, and 20-25 home runs. He was the same player in 2015, with one notable exception: he erased his platoon split. If he can sustain his success against lefties, his batting average should improve. Last year’s improvements against lefties could be small sample size, but hitting in the heart of the potent Astro’s lineup should improve his run and RBI totals enough to compensate either way.
60) Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
The crazy thing about Inciarte’s breakout 2015 season is that we all should have seen it coming. You’d have been forgiven for not knowing anything about Inciarte heading into 2015, but he was nearly as good the year before and the only real difference between his 2014 and last year was his BABIP-inflated batting average. Despite the move out of Arizona, there’s reason to believe in 20+ steals with a .290 average.
Commentary by Jesse Meehan and Tyler Baber