We continue our positional avoid series with the outfield today. Outfield is a position that is historically thought of as one of the deepest in fantasy, but when the vast majority of leagues demand five outfielders, the pickings can get slim in the later rounds. As such, you’ll need to make sure you hit on an early-round OF or two, add in a nice, sturdy mid-round pick and finish with a few late-round gems.
Of course in this series we’re more concerned with players that won’t be filling those roles for you rather than those you should be looking at. In this piece we’ll give you three players (an early-round pick and two middle-round picks) who you should approach with caution in 2017.
As always, if any of these players plummet in your draft I'm not recommending you completely avoid them. Rather, you should consider taking these players if their draft slot approaches their expected performance.Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
Potential Outfielder Busts for 2017
Giancarlo Stanton (11th in RotoBaller OF ranks; ADP of 36 in NFBC)
You know the reason. As tempting as it is to be drawn into the hyper-ceiling that Stanton offers (50 HR! 120 RBI!), the simple fact of the matter is that Stanton is a major injury concern being drafted in the third round right now. Stanton has topped 123 games just once in the past five seasons, and he has missed 131 games over the course of the past two years.
Stanton seems like one of the best men in baseball, and, as such, it is not surprising that he wants to shake the label of “injury bust.” Unfortunately for fantasy players, what happens when a player who is indeed injury prone tries to shed said label is that the player ends up playing through injuries. That was the case for Stanton in 2016, and the result was his lowest BA in a season so far (.240), including a stretch of 29 games in which he slashed .118/.211/.216. If there’s one thing worse than a third rounder you draft missing 50+ games, it’s a third rounder you take posting an OPS of .427 over a month-long stretch of fantasy season - that’s a killer.
Stanton has also seen his strikeout rate increase over the past two seasons, as he sits perilously close to a 30% K rate. His walk rate has also been lower in the past two seasons, down from around 15% to around 10%. As much as I love Stanton, I’ll be avoiding him heavily this year.
Adam Jones (25th in RotoBaller OF ranks; ADP of 81 in NFBC)
First, I tell you to avoid maybe the most fun outfielder in all of baseball and then I tell you to avoid the new Captain America (thanks to this) - man, talk about a buzz-kill! As much as we may all love Jones right now thanks to his amazing WBC antics (as well as not being afraid to be outspoken about the sport and some of its issues), we don’t care about any of that in our drafts. When it comes to fantasy baseball, all that matters is the stats, and Jones has shown some scary trends. First and foremost, Jones will turn 32 this season. That’s not a death knell, but it’s also not great for a hitter who has seen decline in recent seasons.
Speaking of that decline, Jones has seen his BA drop in each of the past five seasons, and seen his SLG drop in four of those five seasons. Jones hit 29 HR in 2016, but posted a SLG of .434 - a sign that if just a few of those HR don’t clear the fence in 2017, his HR total could drop off quick since he doesn’t have the doubles and triples that suggest a true 29-HR talent. Jones has also seen his line drive percentage drop in each of the past five seasons, to the point that his 2016 line drive rate (16.5%) was fifth-worst among qualified hitters in 2016.
Finally, there’s the matter of Jones’ plate discipline. Jones posted the league's highest swing rate on pitches outside the zone in 2016 (44.8%), not exactly the metric in which you want to be leading the league. Jones has always been hyper-aggressive at the plate (he also led the league in overall swing percentage in 2016), which is even more worrisome for a player getting older. If he loses just a bit off his bat speed, with the amount of swings he puts in every season, we could see a significant rise in his strikeout rate and decline in overall production.
Odubel Herrera (29th in RotoBaller OF ranks; ADP of 142 in NFBC)
Herrera burst onto the scene in 2016 with 15 HR and 25 SB, one of just ten players to reach those totals - and the second-youngest in the group. So why is he in the avoid section? As you can probably surmise, there are some serious reasons to question those 15 HR. The 15 HR were nearly double the eight HR Herrera hit in 2015, a figure that should be a far more reasonable expectation for 2017. Herrera owns just a 32.0% fly ball rate and a 27.2% hard hit ball rate. Both of those figures are well below league average, and although Citizens Bank Park is a strong HR stadium for left-handed hitters, Herrera is actually a noted opposite field hitter (he pulled just 14.1% of his 2016 fly balls), so the added impact is rather less than for other lefties.
Herrera’s 2016 was also pumped up quite a bit by an amazing start to the season in which he hit .313 (with a mind-melting .462 OBP) in April before normalizing the rest of the year. Herrera hit .277 with five home runs in the second half of 2016, and doubling that seems far more likely than asking him to repeat 2016 as a whole. A .277 hitter with 10 HR, even if that comes with 20-25 SB, is not really worth the current ADP for the Phillies center fielder.