One of the most fun positions in fantasy baseball to dive into for player analysis, strategy talk, or just categorical contributions, OF is the home of some of the most dynamic talent in the game, as well as some of the biggest HR bats out there, huge steals contributors, and everything in between. I often play 5 OF leagues, and much more 15 teamers than 12s, so keep that in mind.
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With the OF position, early on I am looking for stolen bases as that is where the best athletes play, compared to on the INF corners. I will pass on a big slugging OF for a player with steals in the case of a Cedric Mullins over a Yordan Alvarez, for better or for worse, as I am very focused on scarce categories early on in the draft. Oftentimes, if I miss on an elite steals source, I find it tricky to fill OF with more than 1 hitter who is a total 0 in steals. For example, if I do take on Eloy Jimenez early on, pairing him with J.D. Martinez is a big challenge, as OF is a rare position that has steals available. There really aren’t steals to be had at C/1B/3B, making each OF spot precious, and filling it is something that shouldn’t be done unless it is part of a bigger plan. I don’t have an idea that I need to get X amount of outfielders by Y round or anything, but I often want 1 big-time anchor OF, and then wait on the values to fall at the position. I find that the range from pick 160-240 is very rich with OF. After that, there are a handful of targets from picks 250-280 and then it becomes very flawed players or platoon bats at that. Knowing the player pool inside and out is my best advice when attacking fantasy baseball in general, as well as the OF position.
For this article, since there are so many players to cover, I will be a bit briefer with my player blurbs, since I have ranked 75 OFs. I also put in UTIL-only players into these OF ranks for fun and comparison sake.
Disclaimer: Some players have been covered in prior articles. Feel free to check out the SS primer for example, for players like Fernando Tatis Jr., or Chris Taylor for example.
Juan Soto and Bryce Harper have both evolved into supremely elite hitters, and fantasy options in general. Soto provides the higher chance at elite AVG, and the better ceiling in general, but Harper has cemented himself as a fantasy superstar who should go top 8 in drafts unless pitching is pushed up. Both are amazing building blocks due to their elite ceiling and floor, and the fact they both can be projected for a positive mark in the steals category is just icing on the cake.
Kyle Tucker is a player that heading into draft season I wasn’t hammering in drafts because I saw that he only stole 14 bags in 2021 and wanted a bit more in that department, especially since he doesn’t have the long history and consistency of Harper or Soto, but I think he is as safe as it gets. He’s only 25, so injury concerns are minimal, and he makes so much contact, to pair with really nice pop and some speed, if he moves up in the Houston lineup, watch out. Nice floor 1st round play here for a prospect who took a little bit of time to cement his status as a full-time bat.
Shohei Ohtani is a player that some are fading, but I am not one of those people. Rarely is a player available at the back end of the first round that is projected for 35+ HRs and 20+ SBs. He can also be deployed as a very good SP if you are doing really well with offense. I am not going to overthink this one, and I am happy to ‘clog’ my UT spot with Ohtani, and even if he gets more days off than all the other first-rounders, I think he provides a unique blend of power-speed at the back end of the first, even if there is some injury risk since he is a 2-way player.
It’s this simple with Mookie Betts, even when he’s struggled, he has helped fantasy owners. Looking back at 2018, Betts hit only .264 with 24 HRs and 26 SBs, to go along with 100+ runs in a full season that year. The floor here is sky high when healthy for Betts, even if he’s more in the Harper range for SBs since LAD will not need to push him on the basepaths. Assuming health, which I am comfortable doing, since LAD has Betts’ best interests in mind since they owe him $350 million moving forward, I don’t think they’d let him move forward into 2023 if he had a structural problem with his injured hip. We are looking at a high upside round 2 pick with an amazing floor, Betts is even a guy I think can be taken inside the top 10 of drafts if you really like the well-rounded skillset. There is a chance his power shrivels up some, or that his base-stealing days are mostly over, but I am still happy to draft Betts hitting leadoff for a legendary Dodgers lineup.
Luis Robert sees ball and hits ball, he hits the ball very hard. His quality of contact is off the charts, and he can rip off 15-20+ SBs easily, making him a premium pick for me despite the iffy plate skills.
|12||Ronald Acuña Jr.|
Whit Merrifield and Cedric Mullins are the speed sources we build around in NFBC drafts, or in leagues where speed is at a premium. That is the ultimate reason I have them pushed up a ton. If you don’t value steals like me, they can be pushed down a little. Mullins I feel comfortable as a 20+ HR bat with 20-25+ steals upside based on his underlying metrics, and the fact he is locked into hitting LH only. Merrifield is a really nice AVG, with wheels that are efficient 40-44 on the basepaths despite the fact he is getting older. I have no issues with him in mid-round 2.
A player I have been on out for poor plate discipline, Teoscar showed a significant improvement in the K Rate department, and I am in on him because of that reason, his 30+ HR power with solid AVG and a few chip-in steals as a big part of an elite lineup scream buy to me this year.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is an absolute superstar, but I am going to be pessimistic on his health outlook if he is going inside the top 25 overall. Not only is Atlanta financially committed to him, but he is incredibly young, so I think they slow play him since the regular season isn’t as important as his long-term health. I also don’t know how much he will upon return. Starting my build with a player I can’t use right away is no bueno for me.
Starling Marte is similar to Mullins and Merrifield, but I do have more reservations for him due to a worse health track record. Still, a nice little SB anchor.
For me, Mike Trout is a simple case. He is an elite player when healthy, but the health has simply been too far and few between. He hasn’t topped over 140 games played since 2016 when he played 159 contests in his age 24 season. The steals have also taken a major step back, and what benefit do the Angels have of having Trout try to steal bags when his health and ability to contribute with the bat is his biggest selling point. Full fade for me inside the top 2 rounds.
Aaron Judge is coming off a fully healthy 2021 season, and his stats are absolutely wonderful. The guy is a superstar-level player similar to Trout, but taking him in round 3 requires filling an OF slot without many steals, and I still think he has some risk in his health outlook. Not a guy I am very interested in more often than not.
Grouping together all three of Byron Buxton, Tyler O’Neill, and Randy Arozarena, they are the power-speed combo guys we salivate over at the draft table. Buxton is the best bat of the bunch, but his health outlook is scary to me. I cannot draft him inside the top 4 rounds, and even in round 5, that feels a little early for me given I have been trying to play it safe. O’Neill is coming off a studly 2021 year with 34 HRs and 15 SBs with a .286 AVG and gaudy counting stats. His profile in the K Rate department does concern me a lot, however, as anyone over 30% K Rate can crash and burn, as players like Aristedes Aquino and Adolis Garcia have shown us. Until we see it for more than one year, I cannot take O’Neill at his price, since he has some risk in my eyes. Randy Arozarena secretly had a 20-20 season in 2021, with nearly 100 runs scored, yet his ADP has dropped. Give me all the Arozarena, I have seen his profile work better than O’Neill and that gives me more comfort considering his track record is longer.
The grouping of Nick Castellanos, Bryan Reynolds, Eloy Jiménez, and George Springer is a fun one. They all have some similarities and differences. Casty and Reynolds will provide the most AVG of the group, likely. Meanwhile, Eloy and Springer have perhaps a little bit more pop and Springer could be a monster in the runs scored department perched atop a truly elite Toronto offense. Reynolds is my favorite of this group because he is cheaper than Castellanos and he could be solid mid-20s HR power with a .290 AVG and nice counting stats. Springer’s health track record does give me serious pause, but in a league with an IL, I like him even more. Great bats in all here.
Since signing with the Colorado Rockies, Kris Bryant has shot up draft boards, and rightfully so. Hitting cleanup or in the 3-spot for the Rockies is fantasy nirvana and will boost up his AVG and counting stats. I like him inside the top 70 or so for fantasy, and potentially inside the top 60 in some drafts.
Tommy Edman is interestingly a divisive player because his bat is much worse than all other guys going around him in drafts, making some folks think his PT is at risk. He is an elite defender and is a contact machine, grinding down pitchers and causing havoc on the bases. Additionally, if any Cardinals INF or OF gets hurt, his PT is even more locked in because he can back up positions outside of 1B. I don’t like taking him and counting on 30+ SBs, but in some builds, he can work fine. I don’t think he is that risky, but I prefer to spread out my steals more.
Simply put, Ketel Marte and J.D. Martinez are stud bats, discounting because they don’t steal, and there are slight injury and age concerns. I love J.D. Martinez at his ADP, and I like Ketel some for his 20+ HR output, elite AVG, and duel-eligibility. The soft tissue injury issues concern me a little for Ketel, so keep that in mind.
Bouncebacks and Powerbats 5000:
Tied at the hip this off-season, Yelich and Bellinger are somewhat risky picks with a potential for a bounceback, the question is how much of a bounce-back can be expected? For Bellinger, I just don’t know. He changed his swing mechanics last year, but that could be due to an injury he suffered. Picking him is a total roll of the dice, betting on him figuring out things after a lost 2021 season. I have mostly passed on him since there are more bankable players available in his range, but since I am a volume drafter I have sprinkled in a share or 2 of Bellinger into my portfolio. I don’t have a strong take on him since he’s a full-on mystery.
Yelich on the other hand is a player I like a little more. His plate discipline remained nice, while his GB rate skyrocketed, hitting far too many worm burners. I won’t be surprised to see him correct this issue since he’s a very advanced hitter with a sound approach and a good hit tool. Yelich has a back injury that has remained, but thankfully it hasn’t cost him a full season yet, so it could just be extra days off on occasion. At the right price, I don’t mind scooping up a share or 2 of Yelich, but knowing for certain what he will do is a guess in my opinion since he is very hard to project.
Jesse Winker takes a hit leaving Cincinnati for Seattle, but I am not going to knock him too much. He is a bat that can hit high-20’s HRs with a .275-.280+ AVG, and I love that profile around pick 100-120. The health concerns are there, but he isn’t even 30 yet and I think an injury-prone tag is premature.
Franmil Reyes gets tossed into my OF ranks similar to Ohtani and Nelson Cruz because I wanted to provide an outlook on them and to show where I would draft them. Reyes’ plate discipline isn’t perfect, but I think his power is mammoth, and he gets to enough baseballs to bank on 35+ HR power, with a chance for 40+ bombs with a solid AVG around .250 or so. Clogging up the UTIL spot hurts more in a Draft Champions format since you can’t deploy 6 OF types if that is what you have at that moment factoring in injuries, but he’s such a locked-in power bat, I won’t shy away from him in any format. Nelson Cruz showed some kinks in the armor in 2021, but I think he will bounce back in a serious way, providing north of 30 HRs, a solid AVG, and gobs of runs and RBI behind Juan Soto. Stud.
Kyle Schwarber, Mitch Haniger, and Giancarlo Stanton are the garden variety powerbats in this segment. Each should hopefully provide 30+ HRs and you just hope that the AVG is solid. Stanton still has some injury risk to me, so I won’t prioritize him. Haniger should be fairly safe for the next year or 2 since his injuries were so random/bad luck. Schwarber heading to Philly will certainly boost his stock, and he is a fantastic value for early drafters, as he could have an absolutely monstrous season. Schwarber had an insane stretch last June where he smashed 16 HRs in 18 games, before hitting the IL with a hamstring strain. Monster power bat.
The Rich Middle-Class:
|38||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.|
|40||Fernando Tatis Jr.|
Myles Straw is a nice target for some builds, but that will require ensuring that you end up with him in the draft, which is a risk since other teams can take him ahead of his ADP as well. He also is a little risky because Straw ties up a massive portion of a team’s projected steals in a bat that could get benched if things turn ugly, since he is below a .700 OPS mark, and studies have shown that players under that figure lose their job regularly. In the right build, if I went super-power heavy, I could see myself taking on Straw, as somewhat of a poor man’s Tommy Edman, but I am by no means targeting him even though he could be worth it. If you do not get plenty of extra power, Straw will hurt you since he can’t be counted on for more than a handful of HR, so keep that in mind.
Alex Verdugo is a great target for those needing an influx of AVG and runs scored. He is a contact machine that will provide plenty of AVG hitting in Fenway Park, and he even provides a dusting of steals. Not much, but they will count. He is a power drain though, so be careful in drafting too many bats that won’t even cross the 20+ HR threshold. One or 2 of those bats can be drafted and managed around, especially if you have power from catcher.
Robbie Grossman and Trent Grisham, in a weird way, have a lot of similarities. They are both good OBP bats with AVG issues, but they provide 15-15 potential with a chance at 20-20. Grossman is going much cheaper because he is 32-years-old, but I like him more because he has shown a little bit more steady and he is much less expensive. Grisham is a solid player, but I think he might be a tad overpriced since nothing really pops outside of steals for him. Runs scored could be a way that Grisham makes good on his ADP, but I am not running towards him at pick 120-130 or so.
Batting in a solid lineup, Gurriel Jr. is a player I generally do not gravitate towards because he rarely walks and doesn’t provide a ton of power or speed, but he makes a lot of solid contact and hits in a great lineup. 2022 could be a solid year for the forgotten about Gurriel, and I am thankful to have some exposure to him.
Avisail Garcia is a boring player to some, but I love adding him to my teams. 22-23+ HRs, with potential for double-digit steals, a good portion of counting stats, and a hearty lineup spot is in play here, along with a decent AVG. Garcia is a wonderful high-volume play who is well-rounded.
I am ranking Tatis Jr. for a league with no IL spots, like how NFBC is formatted. In an IL league, he boosts up to around OF32/33 for me, but there is just too much risk for me to be aggressive with Tatis despite the uber talent. The shoulder injury isn’t going to magically go away, and he will miss a few months to start the year. Injuries will always find you in fantasy, so there is no reason for me to chase them, even if Tatis is a monster when healthy.