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Three National League Outfielders Set To Break Out in 2019


Before listing the three National League outfielders destined for breakout seasons, it’s best to define what I classified as a “breakout” candidate. I decided to choose players that fantasy owners have seen on the waiver wire over the past few seasons. Perhaps these players have even found their way onto a roster or two.

However, it is this upcoming season in which they will contribute to a fantasy team in a significant way for the first time. That means no rookies such as Nick Senzel or Victor Robles. It also disqualifies players that have had poor 2018 seasons but have already broken out. I anticipate outfielders such as Cody Bellinger, Andrew McCutchen, Wil Myers, and Yasiel Puig will have a much-improved 2019, but they’ve already had their breakout seasons. Now we’ve got that out of the way:

So who are the players lower down the rankings that could return a real value in the outfield? Let's take a look.

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David Dahl, Colorado Rockies

Even though Dahl has been in the Rockies system since 2012, he is still considered a bright young talent. Sneaky young, soon to be 25, Dahl still has his best baseball ahead of him. The fantasy community was forced to wait a long time to see what the former 10th-overall pick can do with a full season in the majors, but that time is finally here. With Carlos Gonzales and Gerardo Parra out of the Mile-High City, the job in left field is Dahl’s and Dahl’s alone. Just like Charlie Blackmon, he is a talented five-category (not as prolific a base stealer) contributor whose numbers will be optimized to the highest extent playing at Coors Field. Dahl, through his own performance, and the improved roster of the Rockies, has positioned himself to have a monster 2019.

The left-hander closed out the season with a 1.012 OPS to go with nine homers in September 2018. While that was his best month, it wasn’t that large of an outlier. Dahl had a .914 OPS over 185 ABs against righties. Last season Dahl posted the third-highest ISO on the team (.261) behind Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Due to the big outfields at Coors Field, it is a relatively safe assumption that the outfielder's numbers will mirror Blackmon's in many ways. Meaning he will have close to 30 doubles, a BABIP north of .300 and provide some serious power. In fact, the 37.7% hard-hit rate that Dahl put up last season has only been exceeded once (2017) by the three-time All-Star.

Dahl's detractors may point to his .200 AVG and three home runs on the road. However, 105 AB's is a small sample size, and in 2016, his only other season in the majors, he actually hit more home runs on the road and had an identical home/road OPS.  This is a clear-cut case of elite talent finally meeting opportunity, and the upside is 30+ homers and a top-20 OF. However, there is only marginal value on draft day as the Rockies product is currently being drafted as the 20th OF at 70 overall according to NFBC.

 

Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds

A few weeks ago no one really knew who to trust in the Reds outfield. With the off-season acquisitions of Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, Winker looked like he would be hard-pressed to clinch a spot in the outfield. Since then Reds manager David Bell has made assurances of the former first-round pick and is expected to hit him leadoff on opening day. This unheralded outfielder has elite plate discipline. Over 334 PA in 2018, Winker struck out 46 times, three less than his 49 walks. A .299 average is impressive enough, but due to his ability to earn walks, he had an OBP of .405, better than All-Star Outfielders J.D Martinez and Christian Yelich.

People may point to the seven home runs in 2018 being underwhelming, especially playing his home games in such a hitter-friendly park. However, his hard-hit rate actually increased from a respectable 35.7% to a remarkable 43.9%. Of his seven home runs, five of them came in 78 June ABs, showing that he can get into a groove and provide some pop. Essentially, the fact that Winker had to cut his season short, four games after the All-Star break, means that fantasy owners can get him at a huge discount. He hit .442/.517/.615 in July, finished with great numbers overall, but yet is still going 195th on draft day. If he can remain healthy all season then Winker is going to be talked about as a top-100 player next year.

 

Odubel Herrera, Philadelphia Phillies

Herrera is arguably the most recognizable and established of the three players on this list, but is yet to truly “break out.” “El Torito” has been playing big league ball with the Phillies now for four seasons, with no less than 563 PA (2017) in any of them. Odubel has been a solid, if not streaky, contributor at OF the last few seasons. A .887 OPS over April and May in 2018 is proof of that. Last year he hit a career-high 22 homers with a 13.9% HR/FB rate. Granted, his average did drop to .255 but that was with a .290 BABIP, .055 lower than his previous career-low (.345) in 2017. His inclusion on this list is primarily down to how much the Phillies lineup has improved.

With the exception of Rhys Hoskins last year, Herrera has never played with sluggers who have the sheer power of Harper or Realmuto (sorry Maikel Franco.) Herrera had a solid 2018 with a career-high 37.1% fly ball rate, coupled with a career-low 18.3% line drive rate. If he can bring his average back up to above .280 and revert back to the approach at the plate that saw him hit 42 doubles in 2017, or even the 30 he hit in 2015, then he should easily put up career-highs in runs and RBIs. He’s also projected to move up one spot in the order from seven to six. Finally, it should be noted that Herrera will have to compete to earn a starting spot in the outfield but it’s expected that he should win that position battle. In the worst-case scenario that Gabe Kapler overthinks this and doesn’t select the 2016 All-Star, it won’t significantly hurt anyone’s team. His ADP is currently 248 behind the likes of Max Kepler and Miguel Sano so there is very little downside to drafting the 27-year-old.

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