The key to winning a championship in fantasy baseball is to find gems in the late rounds of your drafts. Anyone can draft a top-10 player, but only those who truly prepare can find the diamonds in the rough.
Below are some 2017 deep outfielder sleepers for the American League. I will be analyzing five outfielders from the American League who I think will break out in 2017 and provide great return based on their current draft stock.
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Deeper AL Outfield Draft Values
Jarrod Dyson (OF, SEA)
Jarrod Dyson spent every year of his career playing in Royal blue. This offseason he was dealt to the Mariners, in exchange for pitcher Nate Karns. In seven seasons with Kansas City, Dyson played in only 550 games (an average of about 79 per season), and stole 176 bases. Despite a part-time role, he still finished his time in KC with 30 steals in four of the past five seasons. He was never a regular starter in Kansas City, something he will be in Seattle this season.
Dyson is 32 years old, but his legs will be fresher than most players his age thanks to the lack of wear and tear throughout his career. He is more than capable of stealing 40 bags with a starting gig to his name. Over the past five seasons his OBP sits at .326, which peaked last season at .340. He made improvements in his approach by making more zone contact than he ever has in his career (Z-Contact rate at 93.4%), and a microscopic 5.1% swinging strike rate helped lead to a decreased strikeout rate last season. He is projected to hit leadoff for Seattle this season, hitting in front of sluggers like Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. His potential to rack up steals and score runs make him attractive in the later rounds.
Jorge Soler (OF, KC)
There are some player names that you hear and think “Oh yeah, I forgot about him. Who’s he with now?” Jorge Soler is one of those players for me. After an exciting start to his career back in 2014, Soler has not lived up to the expectations of Cubs fans. Between his injuries and blown opportunities, he was never able to pull everything together.
Soler was traded to the Royals for closer Wade Davis this offseason, and is expected to get a full-time job for the first time in his career. He only hit .238/.333/.436 with the Cubs last season, but hit much better after he returned from a hamstring injury which placed him on the DL. Over his final 36 games, he slashed .258/.348/.515. He has increased his walk rate every year he has been in the league, and his strikeout rate dropped from 30% in 2015 to 25% last season (still too high, but an improvement nonetheless). His BABIP was a career-low .276 last season, which should be closer to his career average of .330 this season, therefore raising his batting average. His career ISO is .176, so with some minor swing adjustments and a full slate of games Soler could be a real breakout candidate this season.
Max Kepler (OF, MIN)
Kepler burst onto the scene last season, smashing 17 home runs in only 113 games with the Twins last season. There are still some holes in his approach, but at 24 years of age, there is room for growth. Kepler had stretches of good and bad play last season; in April and September, Kepler hit .202 with only one HR. Between his recall on June 1st and the final day of August, Kepler hit .247 with 16 home runs in 335 plate appearances. Will the real Max Kepler please stand up?
The pessimist would say he got lucky and isn’t very good, while the optimist would say his slumps were caused by the adjustment time to major league pitching and the fatigue of playing a full season. I agree with the latter. His extremely low .261 BABIP last season should rise to around league average, giving his stats a bump across the board. His hard hit rate of 33% is above league average, so although his .189 ISO may drop it may not fall far. He still needs to improve against lefties and increase his walk rate, but if Kepler can make the necessary changes he could hit over 20 home runs and steal a dozen bases.
Aaron Judge (OF, NYY)
Aaron Judge is competing for the starting right field spot with the Yankees, and has the potential to be one of the many new young faces to appear in pinstripes this season. Judge got his first taste of the majors at the end of last season, slashing only .179/.263/.345 over 95 plate appearances with a crazy 44.2% strikeout rate. He is unlikely to hit for a .300 average ever in his career, as he was a career .278 hitter in the minor leagues. His big draw is his immense power. His giant frame makes crushing baseballs easy; he’s listed at 6’7”, 255 lbs.
Judge has made the necessary adjustments in spring training so far, hitting .298/.377/.511 through 19 games. Granted it is spring training, but still the adjustments we’re seeing are good signs from a young potential stud. He may have a tough adjustment period this year until he gets his strikeouts in line, but the right field job will be his to lose if he can shake off Aaron Hicks by playing adequate defense. Judge’s power potential is huge; we could be looking at a 20-to-30 home run player as soon as this season.
Cameron Maybin (OF, LAA)
Cameron Maybin has been on a different team each of the past three seasons, and this year with the Angels will mark his fourth. He is coming off perhaps his best hitting season last year with Detroit, when he slashed .315/.383/.418 over 391 plate appearances. The journeyman was brought in to play left field for the Angels, and is expected to keep that job despite a surging Ben Revere in spring training.
Maybin debuted in the majors back in 2007 as a big prospect with the Detroit Tigers. From 2007 to 2014, he hit only .246/.309/.365 and struggled to stay healthy playing over 100 games only twice. Over the past two seasons with Atlanta and Detroit, he has hit .287/.350/.390 while lowering his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate each season. Last season Maybin sacrificed some of his power (10 HR down to four) but hit over .300 for the first time in his career. If he continues to refine his approach at the plate, Maybin could hit over .300 and steal 20 or more bases this season if he plays in 90 or more games for the third straight season.