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Outfielders Who’ll Continue to Improve in 2018

While the other managers in your league are drafting redundant assets and fretting over which volatile closer they’re going to draft, you’ll be targeting up-and-coming outfielders with skyrocketing value. Winning the late rounds on draft day is the most you can do to put yourself in the best position to win a fantasy title.

All of these guys I listed below are players who will actually improve in 2018. You can count on that happening. I suggest drafting one of these guys if you want to win your league.

Here are some young outfielders to target in your fantasy baseball drafts for 2018.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Young Speedsters

Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians

Would you believe me if I told you that Bradley Zimmer is faster than Dee Gordon? Well, as a matter of fact, he is faster than Gordon. Zimmer’s 29.9 Sprint Speed score (a Statcast foot speed metric) was higher than Gordon, Manuel Margot, and Trea Turner last year, among others. Zimmer ranked third in the league according to Baseball Savant.

That might not be surprising to you considering that Zimmer’s always been known to have plus speed. I bet you’re assuming Zimmer is like 5-foot-10 or, at most, 6-foot-1. You’re wrong. He’s 6-foot-5. You read that right.

He’s 6-foot-5 and he’s the third-fastest player in the bigs.

For context, I’m also 6-foot-5 and I’m probably the slowest guy under 30 that anyone will ever meet in their life. It's hard to be tall and fast. 6-foot-5 players with plus raw power aren’t supposed to out-sprint speedsters like Dee Gordon. It just doesn’t happen. But we live in a world where Zimmer is faster than every player in the league not named Byron Buxton or Billy Hamilton.

Zimmer’s speed absolutely matters for fantasy purposes. You’re supposed to see that level of athleticism, target it, acquire it, and ride it to fantasy glory.

He still can’t hit for average, though, but expect his contact rates to improve as he get more at-bats. He hit more line drives in the minors than he did in his rookie year, so expect more liners, fewer grounders, and boosted BA. Steamer and ZiPS foresee him hitting around .240 with 15 HR and about 25 SB. Who would be surprised if he swipes 30 bags this year? He’s rather low in our rankings, and his 200 NFBC ADP offers fantasy owners a great low-risk, high-reward decision to make in the waning rounds of drafts. Zimmer is an athletic giant with quicker wheels than Dee Gordon and Trea Turner. Buy! Buy! Buy!


Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

What more needs to be said about Buxton’s career so far? He’s a true five-tool player who just happened to break out later than expected. Sometimes young studs end up breaking out later than everyone thinks they will.

Remember the Sprint Speed score from Statcast? Buxton ranked first in it last year. He also ranked first in Outs Above Average (OAA), a Statcast metric that measures all-around fielding skill. Statcast was designed to showcase the abilities of players like Buxton.

Fantasy gamers might see Buxton’s current ADP and think it’s a bit too high. That’s understandable. He’s streaky and fresh off some bust lists. But his face-melting Statcast numbers suggest that he’s has already developed into the player he was supposed to become. He’s already the fastest player in the league, he’s already a lockdown center fielder, and he’s clearly not underperforming his talent level anymore.

So what’s next for him? Improved contact skills, of course! Buxton had career-best O-Contact% and Z-Contact% last year while boosting his swing rate to 48.3%, a career high. Buxton was swinging more and making more contact, which is exactly what you want to see from a budding all-around superstar.

Pair improving batting skills with a league-best speed score and plus-plus fielding ability and you have the makings of a future second or third round pick in fantasy.  


Late Breakout Stud

Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

Martinez is the Cardinals’ latest voodoo magic breakout stud. After floating around the minors since 2006, Martinez received a true shot with the Cards and all he did was crank hits. He ranked 40th in Brls/PA (barrels per plate appearance), eighth in line drive rate (min. 300 PA), fifth in xwOBA (min. 250 PA), and first in xBA (min. 250 PA).

Martinez’s .311 xBA was actually higher than his .309 BA. That’s how good he was last year. He hit .309 but should've hit even more. He was the only .300 hitter (min. 250 PA) with an xBA higher than his actual batting average. Totally bonkers.

Where does Martinez fit in on the Cardinals, though? How many at bats will he receive? Steamer projects 358 PA in 2018. There’s little-to-no bust potential here, so be sure scoop up Martinez and stash him on your bench.


Plate Discipline Savant

Robbie Grossman, Minnesota Twins

Are you in an AL-only league, OBP league, or super-deep mixed league? Want to find actual contributors to stash on your bench? Look no further than Robbie Grossman, baseball’s most patient hitter. Grossman combines average contact ability with a composed approach at the dish and it’s resulted in two straight years of stable production for the Twins.

Grossman swung at only 38% of pitches last year, swung and missed 6% of pitches, and carried a career high 14.7 BB% throughout the season. The good news is that Statcast favors him in 2018. Grossman’s .246 BA was lower than his .258 xBA, and his .333 wOBA was a tad lower than his .340 xwOBA. Grossman is obviously not viable in most fantasy circles, but for the few of you diehard fantasy addicts playing in deep leagues with god-knows-how-many roster spots and scoring categories, Grossman needs to be on your radar on draft day. Taking him in the last round will be the easiest pick you make in the draft.


More 2018 MLB Player Outlooks


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