It’s been over two months since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, ending the 2016 baseball season. But if you’re like most fantasy baseball owners, those two months probably feel like two years. Considering it’s still another month until Spring Training even starts, late January has to be the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s too late to reflect on last year, but next season is too far ahead to look forward to. Luckily, with a little help from The Dynasty Guru, the next month is survivable, as we’ll be ranking and commenting on a whole lot of players over the next six weeks.
The Dynasty Guru’s hard-working staff has spent countless hours crafting these rankings, and we hope you enjoy and continue to support our efforts 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.
You can view our rankings for previous positions, and the dates future rankings will come out, by clicking the link to TDG’s 2017 Consensus Dynasty Baseball Rankings splash page. With that, let’s dive into the next part of our outfield rankings, starting with someone who may one day beat out Justin Turner for The Best Ginger in Baseball title.
41) Clint Frazier, New York Yankees (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 57)
In 2015 at High-A, Frazier showed marked improvement in his strikeout rate and he carried that over in his stint at Double-A to begin 2016. Once he was pushed to Triple-A, however, that strikeout rate rose again to his pre-2015 levels, and that’ll be what Frazier needs to fix if he wants to make it to the big leagues next season. Although Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are both liable to be on the disabled list by April 5th, based on Brain Cashman’s comments, it appears unlikely that Frazier will see any significant amount of playing time with the Yankees this season. That will leave owners and Frazier suitors to dream about his tantalizing power-speed combo, and based on early returns from Triple-A and the Yankees willingness to play it slow with him, more patience will be needed to see if an investment in him pays off.
42) Matt Kemp, Atlanta Braves (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 38)
Kemp hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves as a fantasy asset, as he has played in 150 games or more in every season since 2014 and in that span he has averaged 27 home runs, 99 RBI, 82 runs, seven stolen bases, and a .273 average. His 2016 performance was right in line with those numbers, with a nice boost coming after the mid-season trade that sent him from the Padres to the Braves. While age will ding Kemp, as his speed is just about gone and he could quickly fall of the map if his power deteriorates quickly (a real risk), the former star still has plenty of valuable skills. He’s more of a win-now player than a long-term option, but there has not been a large erosion in Kemp’s skills as the common narrative in fantasy circles suggests.
43) Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 44)
Fowler tested fate this offseason by pulling the reverse Jason Heyward, moving from the Cubs to the Cardinals. We can only hope his performance doesn’t precipitously drop like Heyward’s did. Fowler has settled in nicely as a player who will provide something along the lines of 15 home runs and stolen bases along with a respectable .270 batting average. Though the Cardinals don’t have the lineup of the Cubs, Fowler should lead off, keeping his run production high. There are some reasons for concern in Fowler’s move from Chicago to St. Louis, as the Cardinals have been a team reluctant to let runners loose on the base paths. Last season, that turned into a downright refusal to attempt stolen bases as a team, and as a result, the most steals from any individual player topped out at just seven. If that philosophy were to continue, that would put a damper on Fowler’s otherwise solid fantasy contributions.
44) Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 18)
Everything was supposed to come together for Heyward last season for a breakout 2.0 type season. Instead, as we all know, things cratered for him and his fantasy value is at an all-time low. While he’ll have to really turn things around next season to see his value rebound, the Jay-Hey Kid still has all the skills to right his previous wrongs. News has surfaced that Heyward is working hard this offseason to correct a mechanical flaw in his swing from last season, and he’ll be in an excellent environment and lineup to make adjustments. On top of that, Heyward is still just 27, leaving plenty of time for him to build his fantasy value back up.
45) Hunter Pence, San Fransisco Giants (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 26)
While Hunter Pence used to be an iron-man for the Giants, he’s had trouble staying on the field over the past couple seasons. Still, when playing, Pence has been plenty productive. He may not run much anymore, and the power is declining (especially in the Giants’ huge ballpark), but Pence is a good bet to post very solid ratios and counting stats as a pivotal part of San Fransisco’s lineup. He is finding new ways to get on base as well, and last season he walked at a career-best rate. That may not continue, but it shows that Pence will continue to play his feisty style on the diamond and find ways to be productive both for the Giants and fantasy owners. As with any veteran, there’s risk of a steep drop off with little warning at any given time, but for now he remains a capable producer in counting stats with some home runs chipped in.
46) Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 70)
Khris Davis proved that his power stroke wasn’t made only for Miller Park, as he overcame an atrocious first month with the A’s last season to hit the most home runs by an A’s player in a single season since Jason Giambi in 2000. That production propelled him to a victory in salary arbitration over the team, and given that and his production on the field, we should expect news that Billy Beane has traded him for three B (or D) list prospects any day now. As for other aspects of his on-field performance, Davis’ average has stabilized in the .240 range and he will bat in the middle of the A’s lineup for the foreseeable future, making him an awfully productive slugger. At the age of 29, the power should stick for several more seasons wherever he’s playing.
47) Jay Bruce, New York Mets (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 43)
Bruce will give both Kemp and Heyward a run for their money as the most disliked outfielder ranked in the 40s. The contempt for Bruce is also at a record high at the moment as he, and poor Mets management, is blocking Michael Conforto from an everyday role in the outfield. Now that I’m done beating up on Bruce, it’s time to point out that he has hit 30 or more home runs and driven in more than 85 RBI in five of the past six seasons. On the other hand, Bruce’s average has been absolutely dreadful over the past three seasons as his BABIP has plummeted thanks to the increasing popularity of the defensive shift. As long as fantasy owners can plan around his porous average, Bruce remains an option to provide plentiful power and is still just 29 years old.
48) Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 20)
Soler, a perennial breakout candidate, will finally get a chance to play everyday thanks to the trade that sent him to the Royals this offseason. Like both Frazier and Lewis Brinson, Soler’s raw power is not in question. The game power, however, has yet to really materialize over a full big league season. His Soler Power will hinge on a few factors, the biggest possibly being his batted ball profile. Last season, Soler had a flyball rate of 43%, which allowed him to hit 12 home runs in 264 plate appearances, though it did sink his BABIP and batting average. The other major factor will be his ability to stay healthy and on the field. Soler has been on the disabled list six times over the past three years, causing some to place the “injury prone” tag on him. That said, 2017 offers Soler the best chance to break out, though that performance occurring is far from a sure thing.
49) Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 58)
First impressions are important, and it’s good to see that Brinson’s couldn’t have gone much better after a midseason trade from the Rangers to the Brewers, as he hit .382 with four home runs and four steals in only 93 plate appearances at Triple-A Colorado Springs. That home park is notorious for its offensive environment, but the stats Brinson managed to produce over the small-ish sample size highlights the tools and potential he has. Those numbers are nothing new either, as Brinson has produced double digit steals and home runs at each level of the minor leagues. While his plate approach remains a concern, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about Brinson’s arrival to the big-league level, and we shouldn’t have to wait much longer for that to happen.
50) Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Acuna was signed by the Braves as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2014, and the Braves has wasted no time challenging him with aggressive minor league assignments since. In his 18-year-old season in 2016, Acuna held his own in A-Ball by putting up a .311 average in 171 plate appearances and striking out only 16.5% of the time. His power is not so advanced however, as in those same 171 plate appearances, Acuna managed just eight total extra-base hits. That said, Acuna is still a few years away from the majors, and a lot can happen (both good and bad) between now and then. If he can add more pop, Acuna will shoot up prospect rankings and could be a superstar, though the risk here is also high.
51) Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins (Age 24, Previous Rank: 63)
What’s the German word for “getting hyped over a solid rookie campaign as a 23-year old”? Whatever it is, the Berlin native put up respectable numbers across the board to the tune of a .235/.309/.424 slash line and 17 round trippers in 447 plate appearances. The average may seem concerning, but he’ll eventually catch up, as he showed above-average contact ability at the big league level.
52) Carlos Gomez, Texas Rangers (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 11)
In 2016, for the Astros, Gomez hit a Magikarpian .210/.272/.322 with a mere five home runs in 323 plate appearances, en route to his release from the club in August. A couple days later, he signed with the Rangers, and slashed a rather Gyaradosian .284/.362/.543 with eight bombs in just 130 trips to the plate. Gomez could have found the 400th candy and (re-)evolved, but this could also still be Magikarp in a small-sample mirage, so fantasy owners will be assuming plenty of risk if they take the plunge with Gomez this season.
53) Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 73)
Given that he’s notably athletic and plays center field for the Padres, one can compare Margot to Blip Sanders of Ginny Baker’s Pitch universe, though he’s still a couple years away from earning the multi-time All-Star pedigree his fictional self owns. Still, Margot should be playing in the big leagues next season and has Sanders’ upside as a player who makes in an impact in all facets of the (fantasy) game. He could very well be the best center fielder in franchise history, though that’s not saying a whole lot.
54) Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 72)
Knock Tapia all you want, there’s no arguing against his production at every level of the minor leagues thus far. Slashing a combined .328/.361/.458 in 567 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A as a 22-year old, as Tapia did in 2016, is a good indicator that his hit tool will work at the big league level. Considering there’s plus wheels here too, as well as some Coors-boosted power, you’re looking at an awfully enticing fantasy asset, even if he’s less valuable in OBP-leagues with a potentially anemic walk rate.
55) Randal Grichuk, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 56)
This time last year, everyone was talking about Grichuk’s extraordinary average exit velocity, which checked in at 93.1 MPH, good for 13th-best among players with at least 30 batted balls tracked by Statcast in 2015. Fast forward to one year later, his average exit velocity dropped 0.8 MPH, though it still puts him in the upper quarter of the leaderboard and vicinity of feared sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez, and Madison Bumgarner. The big power is still here, but last year’s rollercoaster of a season puts him in uncertain territory. Fantasy owners will have to decide whether his pre-demotion numbers (.206/.276/.392, 8 HR, 225 PA) or post-demotion numbers (.269/.300/.554, 16 HR, 253 PA) are real, though you can tell by this ranking that we believe the latter slash line better represents Grichuk’s talent.
56) Corey Ray, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Currently, there are two players named Corey Ray in the minor leagues. One is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher who posted a combined 4.07 ERA and 119/45 K/BB ratio in 139.1 innings between Class-A and High-A. The other is a toolshed of a fifth-overall pick, one who isn’t forever away and could be make an impact with his hit tool, power, and speed in the big leagues. Make sure to pick the potential OF1/2 in your league’s prospect draft, and not the other Corey Ray.
57) David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 61)
A series of injuries limited Peralta to career low 48 games and 183 plate appearances in 2016. Should he fully recover, there’s a chance he returns to 2015 form, when the former indy baller hit .312/.371/.522 with 17 bombs while stealing nine bases. That’s probably a top-30 outfielder, though the lack of track record lands him lower on these rankings.
58) Nick Williams, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 49)
In his first Triple-A stint as one of the class’s younger position players, Williams fared well in the first four months of the season, putting up a respectable .283/.314/.459 slash line in 408 trips to the plate. Although he plummeted to .172/.193/.319 in 119 plate appearances over the final five weeks of the season, it was largely due to fatigue effect. What is more concerning is his hideous 19/136, or 0.14 BB.K ratio, which ranked second-lowest among all qualified Triple-A hitters. It looks like the small sample size walk explosion of 2015 was just a mirage, which lowers the chances of Williams becoming a fantasy stud considerably. Still, the 20/20 upside puts him high on this list.
59) Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 68)
It’s turned out giving $68.5 million to Tomas was first of Yasmany mistakes the D-Backs’ previous brass made during its agonizing tenure. Fortunately for fantasy players, the former member of the Cuban national team showed progress at the plate despite losing 44 points in BABIP in his sophomore year by hitting 31 dingers with a .272 average. Tomas loses value due to baseball’s power uptick and his frightening floor, but Tomas isn’t as big of a fantasy bust as he is a real-life one.
60) Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 51)
In 2016, Zimmer flashed the skills that made him a top prospect by hitting 15 homers and stealing 38 bases. However his struggle with contact reared its ugly head as his strikeout rate crept up for the third season in a row, culminating in an unsightly 37.3 percent of his 150 Triple A plate appearances. Zimmer still has all the promise in the world, but he’ll need to get the swing and miss under control, as well as figure out a plan of attack against lefties (.179/.343/.250 last season). If he makes strides in those areas, Zimmer could find himself in the Cleveland outfield as early as this summer.
Comments by Daniel Marcus and Kazuto Yamazaki