Fantasy

Early 2018 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Outfield Part 1 (1-25)

Mookie Betts

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We’ve covered some incredibly talented players so far in the infield, but let’s be honest, this is where the big boys play. The outfield is home to the two best players in all of baseball, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, as well as the bash brothers. No, I don’t mean Dean Portman and Fulton Reed from the Mighty Ducks movies. I’m obviously talking about the two wrecking balls in the Bronx. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton team up this season to form one of the most feared middle-of-the-order tandems we’ve seen in years.

This outfield position is annually deep with fantasy talent, but this year is the deepest it’s been in recent memory. Two recent NL MVPs can now barely crack the top-25 of these rankings. This top-25 is flush with power bats and some speedsters have made the list, as well. Did the most enigmatic fantasy speedster make the top-25, or will he have to wait until the next article? Did a certain Japanese phenom make the list? Only one way to find out.

*Player notes/analysis can be found below the rankings table.

Early Outfield ADP Data: LF  CF  RF

Other Early 2018 Rankings: C  1B  2B  3B  SS

RankPlayerTeamOther Pos.
1Mike TroutLAA
2Bryce HarperWAS
3Charlie BlackmonCOL
4Giancarlo StantonNYY
5Mookie BettsBOS
6Aaron JudgeNYY
7Cody BellingerLAD1B
8George SpringerHOU
9J.D. MartinezFA
10Andrew BenintendiBOS
11Rhys HoskinsPHI1B
12Marcell OzunaSTL
13Nelson CruzSEA
14Justin UptonLAA
15Starling MartePIT
16Khris DavisOAK
17Yoenis CespedesNYM
18Domingo SantanaMIL
19Dee GordonSEA2B
20Andrew McCutchenPIT
21Tommy PhamSTL
22Byron BuxtonMIN
23Ronald AcunaATL
24Christian YelichMIA
25Ryan BraunMIL

Outfielder Player Notes

#1 Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Do I really need to explain why Mike Trout is No. 1 in these rankings? Bryce Harper might be right there with him in terms of overall fantasy upside, but Trout has durability and track record on his side. It’s remarkable that with how incredible of a career Trout has had so far, that his 2017 .442 OBP, .629 SLG, and 1.071 OPS were all the highest of his career. Unfortunately, a thumb injury limited him to a career-low 402 at-bats in 2017, putting a damper on another incredible fantasy campaign, in which he was on pace for 47 home runs, 103 RBI, 131 runs, and 31 steals. Until Harper starts putting up more 2015-type mammoth seasons, Trout has the No. 1 overall pick on lockdown.

#2 Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Harper was well on his way to another dynamic fantasy season when a wet first base bag caused him to hyperextend his knee and subsequently miss a month and a half of action. I’m sure I wasn’t the only Harper owner that was a tad upset that MLB allowed that game to be played following a 3+ hour rain delay. But that’s a discussion for another day. Only Trout can rival Harper’s monumental fantasy upside. His steals have been fluctuating, but even if those stay in the single-digits again, he’s still a top-five pick for his .330-40-120-120 upside.

#3 Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

In each of the last three seasons, Charlie Blackmon has improved his fantasy stock and is now a locked in as a first-round pick and top-five fantasy outfielder. In 2017, he led the National League in five offensive categories. Those were runs, hits, triples, batting average, and total bases. With how many incredibly talented hitters there are in the senior circuit, that is pretty damn impressive. Blackmon might not run as much as he used to, but he more than makes up for that with his additional power totals and elite average and runs scored production. Don’t let him fall out of the first round. This is one of the safest elite fantasy options. Not to mention, he owns one of the best beards in baseball.

#4 Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

For the first time since the steroid era ended, we have a slugger that has at least a small chance at challenging Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record of 73 set back in 2001. I wouldn’t bet money on that, but Stanton hit 59 last season in Marlins Park, which ranked 25th in home runs. Yankee Stadium ranked second. Putting Stanton in Yankee Stadium is like having a full-grown man play on a Little League field. Regardless of where he hits in the order, Stanton will rack up plenty of runs and RBI as long as he can stay healthy. And as we all know, him staying healthy is the biggest question mark each season.

For more on the trade that sent Stanton to the Yankees, check out Jeff Zimmerman’s trade breakdown.

#5 Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

For most players, 24 home runs, 26 steals, 102 RBI, and 101 runs scored would be one heck of a season. For a fantasy stud like Mookie Betts, it was a down season coming off a .318-31-113-122-26 season in 2016. So, why the drop off across the board? Well, a 54-point drop in BABIP from .322 to .268 might have something to do with it. The absence of David Ortiz from the Boston lineup had a noticeable impact on the rest of the Boston offense, too. Mookie might not be able to woo Big Papi out of retirement, but that BABIP is likely to rise, bringing his average back up in the .300 range. Betts is too good of a hitter to hit .264 again. That’s for damn sure. Don’t be surprised if you see Betts back in the top-three in the 2019 rankings.

#6 Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

We all should’ve seen this coming. A 6-foot-7, 280-pound goliath, who plays half his games at Yankee Stadium, hitting 52 home runs shouldn’t come as a giant shock. Even in Aaron Judge’s rookie season. We live in a world where young phenoms are coming up and dominating right away in their early-20s. Judge is just the latest example of that. What was a little surprising was his .284 batting average. His BABIP was a lofty .357, which was the eighth-highest mark in MLB last season. That number, and subsequently his batting average, are due for some regression next season. Even at .260, Judge’s elite power and run producing make him a borderline first-round pick.

#7 Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

From my early first base rankings:

“All it took was 480 at-bats. That’s all. But what a spectacular 480 at-bats it was. Bellinger mashed 39 home runs to go along with 97 RBI, 87 runs, 10 steals, and a .267/.352/.581/.933 slash line. Also, don’t forget that he just turned 22 in July. Bellinger is going to be hitting in the heart of a potent Dodgers lineup in 2018 with players like Justin Turner, Corey Seager, and Yasiel Puig hitting around him. Pencil in 40+ home runs and 100 RBI for the young slugger with the potential for much more. Don’t let him slip too far into the third round.”

If you can’t tell, I really like Bellinger in 2018 and beyond.

#8 George Springer, Houston Astros

The one thing that has always been lacking for Springer has been his batting average. Coming into 2017, he was hitting just .258 for his career with a 26% strikeout rate. Springer made positive strides in both areas, hitting .283 and cutting his strikeout rate to 17.6%. You can’t even blame BABIP on this one. Springer’s BABIP actually dropped 20 points from .317 in 2016 to .297 in 2017. The differences were that he was making more hard contact and more contact in general. The continuous drop in steals limits him a tad, but Springer is a bonafide top-10 fantasy outfielder regardless.

#9 J.D. Martinez, Free Agent

No hitter in MLB hit the ball harder than J.D. Martinez did in 2017. His 49.0% hard hit percentage topped MLB, and his 45 home runs and 1.066 OPS also ranked amongst the best in the game. He was having a good season in Detroit, but he really took off after a mid-season trade to Arizona. In 232 at-bats with the Diamondbacks, Martinez went crazy with a .302 AVG, 1.107 OPS, 29 home runs and 65 RBI. His tenure in Arizona is already over (barring him re-signing), and Martinez will now need to find a new ballpark to call home in 2018. Regardless of where he ends up, Martinez is an elite source of power and a guy you can build your fantasy outfield around.

#10 Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox

If it weren’t for Judge going loco on AL pitchers, Andrew Benintendi would have been the AL Rookie of the Year in 2017. He slashed .271/.352/.424/.776 with 20 home runs, 20 steals, 90 RBI, and 84 runs scored. Don’t get used to that .271 average, though. Scouts graded his hit tool anywhere from a 60 to 70 on the 20-80 scale. Benintendi hit .312 in the minors and is one of the best pure hitters in the game. He’s never going to wow you in any one category, but Benintendi’s strong all-around offensive contributions make him a top-10 fantasy option in the outfield.

#11 Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies

From my early first base rankings:

“This ranking could be considered a tad aggressive since Hoskins has only 212 plate appearances at the major league level, but that’s all it took for me to get a big ol’ cup of the Hoskins Kool-Aid. In 170 at-bats in 2017, Hoskins hit .259 and mashed 18 home runs with 48 RBI and 37 runs scored. That’s one home run every 9.44 at-bats. Not bad, Rhys, not bad at all. First base is his for the foreseeable future, and 550-600 at-bats could yield 40+ home runs for the young slugger.”

That was barely over a month ago, and my man-crush on Hoskins has only grown since then.

#12 Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals

Once Stanton was traded, it didn’t take long for Derek Jeter and Co. to trade away Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals. Ozuna’s 2018 fantasy value would like to thank Miami for getting him out of that soon to be dumpster fire of an offense. With the exception of triples and steals, Ozuna set new career-highs across the board. The most noteworthy were his 37 home runs, 124 RBI, and .312 batting average. The average will like dip below .300 as his BABIP stabilizes, but the power is for real. If you want to wait on starting to assemble your outfield, Ozuna is a great target in the fourth round.

For more on Ozuna’s trade to the Cardinals, check out Jeff Zimmerman’s trade breakdown.

#13 Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

Because he played only five games in the outfield last season, Nelson Cruz will eligible only as a utility player in most leagues in 2018. Got to tank him somewhere, though. Ever since he figured out how to stay healthy consistently, Cruz has been one of the best power sources in the game. Over the last four seasons, he’s averaged 42 home runs, 106 RBI, and 91 runs scored. He’s not an all-or-nothing slugger, either, as Cruz also has a .287 average in that time span. He’s basically Khris Davis with a much better batting average. He makes for a decent No. 1 fantasy outfielder and strong No. 2 outfielder … if he’s outfield-eligible in your league, that is.

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#14 Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels

If it feels like Justin Upton has been around forever, it’s because he kind of has. The 2017 season was his 10th full season and arguably his most productive one. His 35 homers and 109 RBI were both career-highs, and he topped 100 runs scored for the first time since 2012. Upton always has, and likely always will, strike out way too much (already 53rd in hitter strikeouts all-time), which will keep his average in the .250-.260 range most seasons. However, if he can keep the power output high and chip in some steals, he makes for a solid No. 2 outfielder on your fantasy squad.

#15 Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates

Last season might be looked at as a down season for Starling Marte, and honestly, it was to a degree. For a player that was drafted as a No. 1 fantasy outfielder, 309 at-bats just aren’t going to cut the mustard. Cut the cheese maybe, but not the mustard. However, we can’t forget that Marte four straight seasons of 30+ steals and a .280+ average coming into 2017. The star has dimmed here a tad, but Marte’s speed, as well as his contributions in runs and average, still make him a desirable target around the fifth round.

For more on Marte, check out Anthony Franco’s 2018 player profile.

#16 Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics

If you like power hitters and long walks on the beach, let me introduce you to Khris Davis. Over the past two years, only Stanton’s 86 blasts top the 85 home runs Davis has racked up. He’s your prototypical three-category fantasy slugger. He’ll help you in home runs, RBI, and runs, but don’t count on him for speed or a high average. At least his average won’t totally kill you. He’s hit exactly .247 the last three seasons and .244 the year before that. It’s not great, but definitely serviceable with all the other stats Davis brings to the table.

#17 Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets

After two straight seasons of at least .280/30/80/70, Cespedes was on that same pace again in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 291 at-bats and are becoming a concern for Cespedes moving forward. After back to back 150+ game seasons in 2014 and 2015, Cespedes has averaged only 106.5 games over the last two seasons. If he can stay on the field for 500+ at-bats, another stat line like I mentioned in the first sentence is likely. But that’s far from a guarantee.

#18 Domingo Santana, Milwaukee Brewers

The breakout campaign for Domingo Santana shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He always hinted at this potential during his minor league career in the Philadelphia and Houston organizations. The only reason he’s not a few spots higher is the uncertainty of whether he can do it again. His .363 BABIP and 29.3 K% are strong indicators that his .278 average from 2017 is bound for some regression. Nonetheless, a .260/30/80/80/15 season is well within reach, and that’s enough of a reason to use a top-100 pick on Santana in 2018.

#19 Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners

Unlike a certain someone that will remain nameless (Billy Hamilton), Dee Gordon offers more than just speed. Yes, he might have the worst power on the planet, but he’s proven to be a three-category asset in steals, runs, and batting average. He’ll now be leading off for a strong Mariners lineup, so expect to see Gordon’s name near the top of the runs scored leaderboard in 2018. The dual second base and outfield eligibility is just gravy.

For more on the deal that sent Gordon to Seattle, check out my trade breakdown.

#20 Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Every time we want to begin the fantasy demise of Andrew McCutchen, he proves that he can still put up top-20 outfielder numbers. After a down 2016, in which he hit a career-low .256, McCutchen roared back in 2017 with 28 home runs, 88 RBI, 94 runs, and 11 steals, to go along with a .279 average. He might not be the fantasy juggernaut he was four to five years ago, but “Cutch” still makes for a strong pick as your No. 2 outfielder.

#21 Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals

I’ll be honest. I didn’t see this one coming. Pham burst onto the scene with a .306 average, 23 homers, 25 steals, 73 RBI, and 95 runs. Don’t be surprised if you see that average drop some, as his .368 BABIP was the 4th highest in MLB last season. However, the power and speed are legit, so another 20/20 season could be in store for Pham in 2018.

For more on Pham, check out Keith Farnsworth’s 2018 player profile.

#22 Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

The Byron Buxton hype train is gaining steam again with the way he finished the 2017 season. Over his final 207 at-bats, Buxton had 11 home runs, 13 steals, 35 RBI, 40 runs, and a .300/.347/.546/.893 slash line. Granted, he still strikes out way too much and needs to learn how to work the count more or that .300 second-half average will likely drop to the .260 range. However, the massive potential that had scouts and fantasy owners drooling only a year or two ago is still there. Will this finally be the year Buxton puts it all together? It’s worth a top-75 pick to find out.

#23 Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves

If you know me at all, you had to know a high Acuna ranking was coming here. He likely won’t even be up until May as Atlanta tries to gain another year of control. I don’t care. This kid is a fantasy stud waiting to happen, and that starts in 2018. Even if he only gets around 450 at-bats or so, 15-20 home runs, 25-30 stolen base, and a strong average north of .275 are very attainable for the 20-year-old Venezuelan native. Drafting prospects can sometimes be a crapshoot, but this particular prospect is well worth it. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video.

#24 Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

As it currently stands, Christian Yelich is a hard player to value for 2017. The Marlins current lineup consists of him, J.T Realmuto, Justin Bour, and five people they found wandering the streets of Miami. Yelich is a great pure hitter, but if he’s in Miami this entire season, his fantasy value is going to take a significant hit. Over the last two seasons, Yelich has averaged 89 runs scored and 89.5 RBI. With the Triple-A roster around him, he’s not going to even sniff those numbers in 2018. Unless he falls into the middle rounds, it’s best to let him be someone else’s headache.

#25 Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

The Hebrew Hammer didn’t do much hammering in 2017, as injuries limited Braun to only 380 at-bats. His counting stats were okay, but his average dipped 37 points from .305 in 2016 to .268 last season. Braun used to be one of the top fantasy assets in the game in the first half of his career. His average stat line through the first six years of his career was .313/34/107/102/21. Unfortunately, he hasn’t come close to reaching those numbers since and hasn’t played more than 140 games in a season since 2012. For where he’s being drafted (ADP 102), Braun likely isn’t going to return enough fantasy value.

Stay tuned for the rest of my outfield rankings in the next several days. 

 

I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members.  Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Then follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.

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