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Platoon Watch - Part-Time Outfielders To Target


The deepest position in fantasy baseball is undoubtedly the outfield spot. With such diverse talents ranging from elite speed to pure power, it seems like there’s always a handful of outfielders on the draft board that we’d take on any given pick. If you’re in shallow or three OF leagues, you may not need to worry about selecting a player in a potential platoon situation. For the bulk of deep fantasy leagues, it’s nearly set in stone that at least one outfielder on your team isn’t going to play every single day.

Today we’ll look at some undervalued players in the outfield who you shouldn’t downgrade despite some split-time concerns. This list ranges from aging veterans to youngsters who have either yet to make an Opening Day roster for the first time or stay on the field for the course of a full season.

No matter what their history is, they should all get treated with the same mentality: don't sleep on their skills despite their unclear playing-time scenarios.

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Hunter Renfroe (SD) - 183 ADP

After strutting out underwhelming lineups like clockwork over the last few years, the San Diego Padres have created one of the deeper lineups in baseball. The outfield situation is particularly cloudy with Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Franchy Cordero, and Franmil Reyes all on the depth chart. Despite the roster wealth, however, we shouldn't overlook Hunter Renfroe.

Other than Myers, Renfroe will likely see the most at-bats of this group of players in 2019 as long as he’s healthy. With Margot’s ineffectiveness at the plate, the Padres have stated that Myers will see starts in center field, opening up the corners for Reyes and Renfroe. When Margot does get the nod in center, Renfroe and Reyes will compete for right-field, but Renfroe is the favorite for the majority of ABs.

Although Reyes is younger, Renfroe was one of their prized prospects two years ago, and he's their former first-round pick, so it’s hard to see the Padres flipping the page on him. Especially after his heavy-hitting production when he’s on the field. Reyes also had surgery on his knee this offseason after injuring it the Dominican Winter League, a concerning injury for a 275 lb man. Myers also may be the most injury-prone outfielder in the game, making Renfroe a good candidate for at least 450 PA.

Renfroe has battled injuries of his own over his first two seasons. After playing in 122 games in 2017, he followed that up with 117 in 2018. The slugger still managed to pop 26 home runs in each season despite limited games. He batted .248 with 53 R and 68 RBI last season with aid from a terrific second half. After returning from an elbow injury, Renfroe hit nine big flies in August and then nine more in September, as he finished second to Christian Yelich in the NL with home runs in this span. The former PCL MVP also batted .265 over this span cutting his K% down from 27.6% to 21.8%, which was very inspiring. Renfroe has been exploited as a high-strikeout batter so far in his short career, so this adjustment is certainly a good sign moving forward.

Renfroe can lefties as well as righties, so he shouldn't be filtered out of playing time due to matchups. A .253/.316/.494 versus southpaws was nearly identical to his .245/.293/.510 line against right-handers a year ago. The 27-year-old is a dead pull-hitter and with Petco Park drastically improving in park factor, a 30 homer season is feasible. He would have an opportunity for much more if Reyes or Myers were to miss time to injury. He’ll also bat fifth in a potent offense where the RBI should pile up behind Myers, Eric Hosmer, and Manny Machado. Although Renfroe's cost is higher, the return value can be monumental even with split at-bats threatening his year-end numbers.

 

Shin-Soo Choo (TEX) - 273 ADP

The ageless Shin-Soo Choo quietly has been one of the most consistent players in baseball over his career. Turning 37 in July, the Texas Rangers will utilize Choo primarily as the designated hitter in the 2019 season. With a youthful crop of outfielders ready to roam Globe Life Park, it’s the wisest move by the club to keep speed on the field as well as Choo’s productive bat in the lineup. Joey Gallo or Ronald Guzman will also occupy some at-bats at the DH spot with Choo likely to rest the majority of games against southpaws. Batting just .221 against these pitchers last season, it will help keep his batting average elevated with more at-bats against right-handers in which he hit .285 off of a year ago. With some injury history in the rearview mirror, it’ll be beneficial in the long run for Choo to serve as a platoon player and DH keeping him fresh for when he is in the lineup.

The South Korean was right on-par in terms of numbers in 2018. Batting .264 in 146 games, he hit 21 HR, with 83 R, 62 RBI, and six steals for old time's sake. Once a 20 SB threat, these days are long gone but another handful this season can’t be automatically ruled out. The lefty-swinger shouldn’t be discredited for his age as he had his highest Barrel% of his career last season at 11.1%, nearly double the MLB average.

He’s now hit at least 21 HR in his last four seasons of 146 games or more, maintaining a runs scored number in the 80-90 range consistently and averaging 70 RBI a year. While these numbers may not return to complete fruition, Choo will bat in the top third of the lineup every day giving his counting stats a chance to get there. Hitting at the top of the order, Choo will still accumulate well over 500 PA even if he sits versus lefties and receives the odd day off against a right-hander. At his cost, there are not as many options with this much opportunity, so Choo is still a great choice despite the lack of oohs and aahs when calling his name.

 

Joc Pederson (LAD) - 325 ADP

With the departures of Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield has a little bit more space in it for Joc Pederson’s bat. Cody Bellinger and A.J. Pollock are slated for everyday roles, leaving left field a timeshare between Pederson and Alex Verdugo primarily. With Verdugo possibly beginning the year in Triple-A, Pederson will have the first crack at holding down the job, but he will likely remain sidelined against left-handers. Batting a measly .170 off southpaws in 2018, it would be logical for the Dodgers to keep him on the bench versus these throwers, especially in their left-handed dominated batting order. Chris Taylor figures to shift to the outfield on these days as Verdugo is also a lefty, and Andrew Toles is another option to find at-bats in this scenario. Exposing Pederson to right-handed pitching exclusively could do wonders for his batting average this season as he hit .260 off these hurlers a year ago.

Pederson batted .248 last season, this highest of his four-year career. This number isn’t very overwhelming, but its a significant increase over his .228 career clip. He also bashed 25 HR, 56 RBI, and 65 R over his 443 PA last season. Pederson cut his K% under 20% for the first time in his career finishing with a 19.2% mark. It’s been a steady rate of improvement since his rookie season so if it keeps trending this way in 2019, a new career-best in average is possible.

Pederson also set a new high in Exit Velocity at 91.1 MPH and set a new benchmark in Launch Angle producing more fly balls than ever before (28.7%). While the fly balls won’t necessarily help him to get more hits, it certainly helps him populate souvenir city as he hit his 25 dingers last season in the fewest ABs of his career. The 26-year-old is a lock to repeat in homers with a chance for more damage if he exceeds his PA from last season. Pederson saw the majority of his bats in 2018 at leadoff, but with Pollock in town, Pederson might get bumped down to the bottom of the order. If this is the case, he’ll get more RBI than run opportunities in a deep Dodger lineup. Given the price, he’s a cheap power option to fill out the back end of your outfield roster spots.

 

Matt Kemp (CIN) - 311 ADP

We go from a current Dodger to an ex-Dodger next as Matt Kemp is ready to shed the Dodger blue for a Reds uniform. Cincinnati has a crowded depth chart of their own with youngsters Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler and Nick Senzel likely to see playing time in the outfield. Puig will operate right field every day leaving the other three to split duties in left and center. Kemp is undoubtedly the most experienced player, but possibly the biggest defensive liability on the squad. He’ll find his starts though, as there’s still plenty left in the tank offensively for the 34-year-old veteran. He’ll likely see scheduled off-days to keep his body preserved and may even find himself a trade candidate come mid-season if the Reds become sellers. Kemp has hit lefties a bit better in his career (.314/.373/.538), but his line against right-handers (.276/.326/.469) won't keep him out of the lineup because of matchups.

In his return to Los Angeles in 2018, Kemp surprised many early-season doubters earning himself a selection to the All-Star Game in July. Kemp hit a crisp .290 with 21 HR, 62 R, and 85 RBI last year spending the majority of time in the cleanup and five-spot in the LA lineup. When Kemp is in the lineup for the Reds, he projects to bat fifth behind Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez leaving ample RBI opportunity for the veteran. Kemp will also see a significant boost in ballpark factor moving away from spacious Dodger Stadium. For right-handed batter’s, it ranked 16th in home run factor last season, whereas his new confines in Great American Ballpark ranked first in this category.

A home run total in the mid-20s is certainly in play here as well as a repeat in the 80 range for RBI with a good lineup ahead of him. A return to an average close to .300 is unrealistic, but he’s stayed consistent at batting above .270 over his career which would be a more expectable mark. Kemp carries some risk with his age being more susceptible to injuries, but he’s still proven to be a force when he’s in the batter’s box.

 

Billy McKinney (TOR) - 595 ADP

We’re diving deep into the player pool for this part-time outfielder. With Kevin Pillar cemented in center field, and Randal Grichuk likely handling right field daily, this leaves left field a possible platoon situation between Billy McKinney and Teoscar Hernandez. Not only is it a platoon for time on the defensive side of the ball, but it may also be for the leadoff spot in the Blue Jays lineup. Acquired from the Yankees at last year’s deadline, McKinney bats on the left side of the dish giving him an advantage over Hernandez for the majority of starts. Toronto has a very right-handed heavy batting order, so McKinney would benefit from Grichuk or Pillar needing rest days from a right-handed pitcher as well. Other than Pillar, McKinney may be the best fielder of the bunch, so rookie manager Charlie Montoyo has more reason to get the 24-year-old in the lineup.

McKinney experienced his first taste of big-league action at the end of last season playing in 38 games for his new affiliation. He hit a modest .252 with six HR, 14 R and 13 RBI in his small sample, seeing 24 of his starts as the team’s leadoff hitter. He hit right-handers well to a .276 batting average, but more is to be desired with his .143 mark versus lefties. McKinney posted high walk rates during his minor league tenure finishing up with a career .348 OBP. This number plays well on a below-average on-base Blue Jays team, even if he doesn't quite reach this mark.

With Hernandez prone to the strikeout and not offering much for OBP, Devon Travis could also see time as the leadoff hitter, but we all know his inability to stay on the diamond. This fact leaves an excellent opportunity for McKinney to prove himself as the everyday leadoff hitter against right-handers. If he winds up in this spot of the order, it’s a major boost to all counting stats, especially runs. He doesn’t offer much speed, but a home run total in the mid-teens is projected, with a shot at 20 with the small parks he’ll see in the AL East. Treated as a last-round selection, at this spot in the draft you could do much worse than selecting McKinney.

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