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Top 25 Outfielders (OF) - Rankings, Tiers and Projections


 

Top 25 Outfielders - 2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings

Redemption. A clean slate. A new master plan… Yes! It’s late January which means we’re less than a month away from Pitchers and Catchers reporting to Spring Training. It also marks the abrupt halt to hibernation season for Fantasy Baseball owners. It’s time to rise and shine Roto freaks, wipe the sleepiness from your eyes and prepare for Draft Day domination, and RotoBaller has you covered. For those of you riding the coat tails of a Fantasy Football Championship, I commend you for a job well done. For others, such as myself who fell short of gridiron glory, the baseball season couldn’t begin fast enough to fulfill my hankering for statistical pleasure. We’ve had one of the most eventful off-seasons in recent baseball history in regards to player movement. With player movement comes value fluctuation for better or for worse. We have plenty to evaluate this spring, errrr winter. It’s currently dumping 4-8” of snow here in PA as I write this.

I have taken on the Herculean task of creating a tiered ranking of outfielders and I have chosen to do so in two installments, the first of which you’re currently indulging in is the Top 25 Outfield rankings. I have compiled projections and placed players in tiers based on a few demographics. Tiers 1 and 2 are the best of the best, the overall studs who produce in all five scoring categories. Tiers 3 and 4 are either 3 or 4 category guys, returning from injuries or players getting up there in age. Enough with the vegetables, let’s get to the meat of the blabbering, shall we?

Take into consideration that I play in mainly deep (less quality on waivers) keeper league formats (14 – 16 teams with multi-year keepers) so my evaluations and auction amounts may be slightly different than you are accustomed to. For 12 Team Auction amounts simply multiply my 5x5 valuations by 1.09%.

 

Player Valuations & Projections

How do I come up with my predictions you ask? I've taken the following values into account for each player:

  • To predict AVG, OBP and OPS I look at progressions or regressions in LD% (line drive %), GB% (ground ball %), FB% (fly ball percentage) and a slew of other metrics along with my gut on each player. After all the gut is your go to guy on draft day.
  • To predict power and run production a lot of factors come into play; among those factors are K-rate, BB-rate, HR/FB rate and also I take into consideration player age, 3 year averages and the team/lineup strength surrounding them. Let’s face it, some teams will just score more runs than others. This in turn will boost player values to new levels (Matt Carpenter circa 2013).
  • Rookies and two year players are rated on a case by case basis. Due to their lack of a MLB track record I consider sample size for factors such as O-swing %, K% and BB%, also taking into account their MiLB pedigree.
  • Baller Rating (BR): This is my own rating which rates a player on a scale from 0-100 on how ballerish he is. No I don’t just make this number up. I created a scoring scale to assign points from 0-20 based on all five of the player’s standard scoring stats. For instance a .225 BA earns a player zero points in my book while a .320+ BA equals a perfect 20 points. A five tool player obviously has a better chance at being higher ranked because those types of players are the best fantasy assets. Players such as Miguel Cabrera earn bonus points for exceeding the max points by certain margins which enables elite 4 category players to stay where they belong in the top tiers. Ok, I can’t give you all of my Baller-ish secrets just yet but the Baller rating has been pretty honest and telling for me and it also helps with creating “tiers" which you'll find below and in my part II article looking at outfielders 26-50.

Here we go! Get your pencils sharpened… or just hit print.

 

Outfielder (OF) Projections, Tiers & Fantasy Analysis

Tier 1: The Chosen One Tier

rotoballer-fantasy-baseball-advice-mike-trout

This one man tier was a must. There is no fantasy catch like Trout in 2014.

Mike Trout stands alone on the first tier. There simply are no other players with his skill set and no other player can match the completeness of his fantasy production. At the age of 22, Trout looks to improve on a ludicrous 2013 where he hit .323 with 27 HR, drove in 97 RBI, scored 109 runs and swiped 33 bases. There’s nothing stopping him.

 

Tier

Rank

Player

TM

$

ADP

Eligibility

AB

BA

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

OPS

BR

1

1

Trout, Mike

LAA

$45

OF,U

575

0.324

115

32

91

35

0.423

0.545

0.968

95

2

2

McCutchen, Andrew

PIT

$35

OF,U

570

0.301

98

24

90

25

0.389

0.496

0.885

88

2

3

Gonzalez, Carlos

COL

$35

OF,U

505

0.295

87

31

88

20

0.357

0.551

0.908

85

2

4

Jones, Adam

BAL

$32

OF,U

590

0.292

85

30

98

12

0.330

0.497

0.827

81

2

5

Harper, Bryce

WAS

$30

OF,U

540

0.286

90

27

85

15

0.380

0.515

0.895

80

2

6

Ellsbury, Jacoby

NYY

$29

OF,U

550

0.290

91

18

56

44

0.336

0.415

0.751

80

2

7

Braun, Ryan

MIL

$27

OF,U

525

0.292

87

26

82

16

0.363

0.516

0.879

80

2

8

Puig, Yasiel

LAD

$25

OF,U

550

0.290

87

24

74

25

0.336

0.415

0.751

80

2

9

Rios, Alex

TEX

$25

OF,U

585

0.280

80

19

84

32

0.327

0.428

0.755

79

3

10

Pence, Hunter

SF

$21

OF,U

565

0.278

83

24

90

15

0.331

0.460

0.791

78

3

11

Gomez, Carlos

MIL

$24

OF,U

515

0.270

79

24

73

38

0.302

0.487

0.789

77

3

12

Marte, Starling

PIT

$24

OF,U

560

0.270

85

16

58

45

0.337

0.449

0.786

74

3

13

Stanton, Giancarlo

MIA

$24

OF,U

520

0.268

82

40

92

4

0.360

0.565

0.925

71

3

14

Kemp, Matt

LAD

$20

OF,U

585

0.280

78

20

80

12

0.350

0.515

0.865

72

3

15

Bruce, Jay

CIN

$26

OF,U

560

0.265

90

30

92

6

0.340

0.495

0.835

71

3

16

Choo, Shin-Soo

TEX

$22

OF,U

545

0.270

108

17

60

18

0.398

0.440

0.838

71

3

17

Holliday, Matt

STL

$20

OF,U

510

0.299

89

23

88

5

0.370

0.470

0.840

69

3

18

Cespedes, Yoenis

OAK

$23

OF,U

505

0.260

75

29

80

10

0.337

0.471

0.808

69

3

19

Upton, Justin

ATL

$22

OF,U

560

0.265

85

24

72

10

0.350

0.473

0.823

68

3

20

Myers, Wil

TB

$22

OF,U

540

0.270

75

22

82

8

0.335

0.450

0.785

67

4

21

Heyward, Jason

ATL

$20

OF,U

550

0.260

90

23

65

10

0.364

0.458

0.822

66

4

22

Bautista, Jose

TOR

$22

OF,U

515

0.268

83

30

79

5

0.371

0.525

0.896

64

4

23

Beltran, Carlos

NYY

$17

OF,U

490

0.280

72

26

88

3

0.340

0.475

0.815

62

4

24

Zobrist, Ben

TB

$19

SS,2B,
OF,MI,U

545

0.270

85

15

70

12

0.348

0.404

0.752

68

4

25

Brown, Domonic

PHI

$19

OF,U

515

0.273

75

25

75

7

0.330

0.489

0.819

65

 

Tier 2: The Elite OF Tier

Andrew McCutchen won the NL MVP in 2013 and rightfully so, after yet another stellar season while propelling the Buccos to the playoffs. “Cutch” has been one of the steadiest five-category performers in recent history. With a 3-year avg. of a .301 BA, 25 HR, 97 R, 90 RBI and 23 SB he’s a lock to be a stud annually. I believe 2012 was his pinnacle year due to a jump in his HR/FB (19.4%), BABIP (.375) and ISO (.226) while his career averages in those are 10.5%, .320 and .199 respectively.

Carlos Gonzalez managed a ridiculous 2013 stat line of 72 R, 26 HR, 70 RBI, 21 SB and a .302 BA - especially when you consider he did all of that in just 110 games. CarGo missed the final two months with a finger issue. Slugging .591 with a .958 OPS, Gonzalez was well on his way to a career season. As long as his hernia surgery doesn’t slow his strides in spring training and his finger issue has had time to heal, CarGo should be a first round pick in all fantasy drafts. I have him ranked 6th only due to the injury concerns, however as we get closer to the start of the season CarGo could jump as high as 2nd on my list.

Adam Jones turned in his most productive season at the dish in 2013 and has shown a steady offensive progression over the past 4 seasons. Jones’ offensive surge in 2013 was the product of a slightly more aggressive approach as illustrated by his career high Swing% of 59.0% and even more promising was his 75.1% Z-swing% which means he was swinging at more pitches inside the strike zone. Jones could be an AL MVP candidate if not for Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout dominating baseball. I look for more of the same from Jones in 2014, but 2013 will be hard to beat for the Baltimore CF.

Bryce Harper spent some time on the shelf last season with a bursa sac issue in his knee and also missed time after trying to take out the fence at Chavez Ravine with his face. He had a procedure in October to repair the bursa sac and he should be 100% to start spring training. Harper has put on a solid 20 lbs of muscle to prepare for 2014 and the fences it may put in his way. That added meat could mean even more power for the Nationals slugging phenom. Even with the injuries Harper blasted 20 homers while hitting .274/.368/.486 with 11 SB. The kid will explode in 2014 if he stays healthy. He’s just 21 which means he has nowhere but up to go.

Jacoby Ellsbury was one of the biggest names to move during the offseason. Ellsbury moved to the AL East rival Yankees and the lefty friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. I have seen Ellsbury ranked as high as 3rd overall which I can understand with his new home ballpark. He’s projected to hit leadoff ahead of Jeter, Beltran, Teixeira and McCann which means he will have immense value and I may have to eventually move him up this list. With the short porch in New York I think he ups his home run production and will score a bunch.

Ryan Braun obviously was a lost cause last year due to his PED suspension. Are you going to be morally torn to throw auction dollars at the Hebrew Hammer? Pshhht, its fantasy bruh! Braun may or may not be on the juice anymore but the dude is still a stud with a sweet stroke. Not only a stud, but a stud who a lot of people will not be willing to take a risk on. Be that guy who takes the risk and reap the benefits.

Yasiel Puig no doubt was one of the most exciting players to watch in 2013. His skills are 95 grade premium octane and he plays with nitrous in his tank. One problem with a big fast powerful engine is, you need big brakes. Puig unfortunately has none on or off the field for that matter. He may dazzle and baffle us but he is in the top ten merely based on ability and tools. He surely has a garage full of both. He will see a decline in average but the power and speed are there and yet to be fully tapped. Puig may have a Trout-like ceiling if he can keep his head on straight.

Alex Rios surprised me last season. No, not because he swiped 42 bags, ok yea that too, but mostly due to the fact that he put together back-to-back solid seasons for the first time in…well….forever. Rios had previously been hot-then-cold every other season for his whole career. With the potent Rangers lineup perhaps Rios could once again produce solid across the board stats in his age 33 season, but who knows.

 

Tier 3: The Professionals OF Tier

This tier of players is a conglomeration of multi-talented studs with the ability to outperform their previous season numbers. They either are consistent performers who put up great numbers year after year or players who could simply erupt in 2014.

Hunter Pence may look like a baby deer taking his first steps every time he does anything on the diamond, but this knees-and-elbows Giant silently puts up solid five-category production year-in-year-out. Not only that, he’s one of the most durable players in recent history logging 154 games or more in every season since 2008. Surprisingly in his first full season with an offensively impotent San Francisco team Pence managed 27 HR and 91 RBI with a career high 22 SB. Pence in all actuality could rise up to number 11 on the chart by the end of March. His ceiling may have been reached in 2013 but his floor is higher than most in Tier 3.

Carlos Gomez was finally able to put it all together in 2013. At the age of 27 CarGo 2.0 set career highs in all five standard scoring stats and he did so without Ryan Braun as protection for most of the season. Gomez is now squarely on the fantasy radar. I ranked Gomez in the top ten with some reservation however. His 2013 BABIP of .344 is likely unsustainable. What kept him here are his plate discipline metrics which are actually right on par with his career numbers.

Starling Marte exploded onto the scene in 2013 with one of the hottest starts in all of baseball. He hit .327 in March and April combined along with 20 runs scored, 2 HR, 11 RBI and 7 SB. Unfortunately his stats would taper off the rest of the way but he still amassed a stellar .280 BA with 12 HR, 83 R and 41 SB. He should be able to repeat if not out produce those numbers in 2014.

Giancarlo Stanton was hampered not only by injuries last year but also by an inept Marlins lineup around him. An offense lead by rookies Marcel Ozuna and Christian Yelich gave little to no protection for Stanton who was forced to swing at more bad pitches than ever. With one more year under the belt of Yelich, opposing teams should be forced to give the free-swinging Stanton a little more to hit in 2014. Look for BIG power numbers and equally large strikeout numbers from the artist formerly known as Mike.

Matt Kemp was marred by injuries the past two seasons but should have had plenty of time to heal up this offseason. The former MVP candidate should return to form this season and could be seriously discounted on draft day. If Kemp can be even 80% of his previous self he would be an integral piece to any fantasy squad. I expect a big time bounce back from the Dodgers center fielder.

Jay Bruce finally eclipsed 100 RBI in 2013. He has three straight seasons of 30 homers or more. Yet I still don’t love Jay Bruce. Sure those are great fantasy stats and yes he finally hit above .260 last year, but something about him leaves me yearning for more. My reasoning for having him 15th is simply due to him being a 4 category player that could easily fall back to a .250 average. However, Bruce is in his year 27 season. He could blow up but I cannot project for that.

Shin-Soo Choo was a big offseason signing by the Texas Rangers and should slot right into the top third of the lineup surrounded by Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. Choo has an opportunity to put up some serious numbers, however I have reservations. He had chances to put up staggering numbers last year but even with a 20/20 season he left something to be desired with only 54 RBI. Choo will be 32 in July so it could be that Choo is what he is, a good player, but not great. He’s never had a season above 175 hits and his BB% from 2013 won’t be repeated which means less SB.

Matt Holliday is consistent. Holliday tallied 20+ HR and 80+ for the 8th time in the past nine seasons with a batting average of .295 or better in all of the last nine seasons. He’s scored less than 90 runs just once in that same span. Even at age 34 we have no reason to believe he will do any less damage. His speed is a thing of the past but you can draft him in the fifth round of 12 team leagues with confidence.

Yoenis Cespedes is my personal fantasy man-crush. It was hard to be subjective with “La Potencia” when I have such a high expectation for the Oakland slugger. Cespedes had an injury plagued 2013 but still managed some decent power output. After a slow start and missing chunks of time with wrist and hammy issues Cespedes managed a solid 26 HR and 80 RBI. His average dipped to .240 as he saw 20% sliders after pitchers noticed his weakness for the down and away pitch. If he can manage to cut down on the K’s and cut down on his swings he could put up gaudy numbers.

Justin Upton once again didn’t “break out” as everyone projects he will every season. However, he still managed a solid year of production. The younger Upton hit .263 with 27 homers and 70 RBI which isn’t shabby. I think everyone simply expects him to be better, to be a 30 HR 100 RBI 20 SB guy. He’s only 26 so maybe he will be at some point, but what is so bad about .275 BA/100 R/25 HR/80 RBI/15 SB? I’ll take it.

Wil Myers was a hyped prospect coming into 2013 and he surely didn’t disappoint. In only 88 games the slugging 23 year old smacked 13 homers, drove in 53 runs batted in, swiped 5 bags all while hitting .293. Not too shabby, eh? Is he a sophomore slump candidate? Sure, but his swing is great but his approach could use some seasoning. He’ll need to cut down on his 24.4% K-rate and take more walks to have continued success. His lacking experience is the only reason he’s outside the top 15.

 

Tier 4: The High Upside OF Tier

These players have us wondering. Are they who they were in the past, was last year a fluke, are they too old? They all are still great players with high potential but there are a few more questions to be answered.

Jason Heyward hit just .146 with a .243 slugging percentage and .533 OPS through the first two months of 2013. Amazingly, he ended the season at .254/.427/.776. He missed time with an appendectomy and with a fractured jaw after taking a scary heater to the kisser. An immense talent; Heyward is also highly inconsistent. But at 24, he’s got plenty of room to grow in a highly talented Atlanta outfield.

Jose Bautista enters his age 33 season after playing just 118 games, due to a late start after recovering from wrist surgery, and then was shelved again in mid-August with a hip injury. Joey-Bats still should be regarded as a valuable power source as he enters 2014 healthy. Not truly “injury-prone” and an elite power source since refining his stroke in 2010, Bautista ranks in the top 25 even as a 3 category player.

Carlos Beltran like Bautista is becoming an elder statesman as he’ll turn 37 in April. Beltran had a fantastic two year run in St. Louis where he hit 56 HR, drove in 181 RBI over 296 games. He tailed off a bit late season or he would have hit over .300 in 2013. Beltran, now a New York Yankee, could be a solid power supply for a reasonable draft day price. If not for his age, he’d be in the top 20. That short porch and Ellsbury on base ahead of him both make Beltran enticing none-the-less.

Ben Zobrist has multiple position eligibility and is generally productive in all five categories of standard fantasy baseball leagues. He’s not a 20-20 threat, but as a 12-12 guy that can push 75 runs across and score the same, he’s a solid #3 OF, or #2 SS, or #2 2B. So yeah, he belongs here.

Domonic Brown finally got his shot to play every day for the Phillies in 2013 after being their most hyped prospect for years. Brown did not disappoint as he hit .272/.324/.494 in 496 at bats. Along with that line, he smashed 27 homers and drove in 83 RBI. He still is not a threat on the bases as we hoped he would be, and his plate discipline needs some work, but the young outfielder is looking to build on a productive 2013 campaign.

 

Follow Shawn Caswell on Twitter @CasKnowsRoto.




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