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Three NL Outfielders Set To Bust in 2020?

A good portion of busts each year are the result of freak injuries, but some players are particularly risky. Spotting those bust candidates and avoiding them early in drafts can be a difference-maker for fantasy teams. 

Although a delayed and shortened season has helped some players recover from injuries and boost their fantasy values, it’s also thrown a wrench in some player’s expected playing time and made certain players riskier. As a result, bust candidates this year may be somewhat untraditional.

National League outfielders appear to be generally well-priced towards the top of drafts this season, but the group isn’t immune to relatively high-profile bust candidates. The players below are relatively likely to fall well short in terms of production this year and should be avoided in drafts. 

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Garrett Hampson (2B/OF, COL)

ADP: 183

Hampson showed little in 105 games last season to warrant excitement coming into 2020 and he appears to be a likely bust candidate this year. Hampson’s two primary strengths are his speed and contact ability, but neither is strong enough to make him worthy of draft consideration anywhere near his 183 ADP.

Hampson’s 8.3% swinging-strike rate from last season was solid, but his 60.7% z-swing rate resulted in a high 21.3% called-strike rate, driving a higher-than-average 26.9% strikeout rate. As a result, Hampson’s contact ability has failed to shine through, and will likely continue to do so unless his z-swing rate improves.

Combined with his abysmal contact quality, Hampson’s lackluster strikeout rate craters the value of his speed on the basepaths. Thanks in part to a lack of power indicated by his 83.2 mph average exit velocity and 25.7% hard-hit rate, Hampson posted a weak .329 xwOBA on contact last season.

Although Hampson’s speed should allow him to consistently post a wOBA higher than his xwOBA, Hampson’s poor z-swing rate and contact quality suggest that his xwOBA is likely to sit below .300 this year, and his OBP should sit below .315. Furthermore, Hampson doesn’t appear to have a clear path to consistent playing time on the Rockies depth chart. 

Hampson’s lack of clear playing time and likely-to-be low OBP combine to suggest that he’s unlikely to steal more than 20 bases in 2020 (based on a 162-game season). Since Hampson offers little else in the way of fantasy value, that makes him a bust candidate worth avoiding in drafts.


Victor Robles (OF, WAS)

ADP: 70

Robles posted a .745 OPS with 28 stolen bases last season, but his reliance on stolen bases make him a bust candidate this year. According to Nick Mariano’s Expected Draft Value research, hitters who steal at least 20 bases largely exist in a distinct tier, but most aren’t worth Top 100 picks without exceptional non-stolen base production.

According to Nick’s research, here’s how the most valuable stolen base-focused hitter compared to Robles’ performance from last year (Robles’ draft cost is his 2020 ADP):

Draft Cost R RBI BA HR SB
Most Valuable Stolen-Base Focused Fantasy Player 70.1 85 64 0.285 16 23
Robles 70 86 65 0.255 17 28

Robles effectively has to match his production from last season to be worth his 70 ADP. Leaving the nuances of Robles’s 2020 projections aside, his likely to be relatively unimpressive contributions in non-stolen base categories make him particularly susceptible to bust if he misses any games this year.

Based on his per-game stolen base rate from last year, Robles would have stolen 11 bases in a 60 game season. One 10-game stint on the injured list would decrease his stolen base total from 11 to 9 in a 60 game season, taking Robles’s per-season stolen base rate down from 18% to 15%. For context, that means that instead of stealing 29 bases per 162 games like he did last year, Robles would have stolen 24 bases per 162 games.

Take another look at the graph above and estimate where Robles’s expected draft value would be if he stole 24 bases instead of 28 in 2019. Sure, it could be as high as 70, but since Robles’ average is so poor that it seems unlikely. More likely, Robles’ draft value would fall below 114, where EDV calls for a stat line of .266-15-61-80-24. Missing more than 10 games would leave Robles worth little more than a late-round pick.

Robles isn’t terribly likely to miss time in 2020, but prior research suggests that he has a roughly 36% chance of hitting the IL this year. Given that missing time would demolish Robles’s fantasy value, that chance makes him disproportionately likely to bust in 2020.


Michael Conforto (OF, NYM)

ADP: 116

Conforto was diagnosed with an oblique strain on March 11th, and although he’s taken some batting practice as recently as April, he still hasn’t been declared game-ready. Setbacks during recoveries from oblique injuries are relatively common, and it can be difficult to gauge a hitter’s status without them facing live pitching.

As a result, Conforto doesn’t seem to be out of the clear in terms of suffering a setback. If Conforto does miss time to start the season because of a setback, his fantasy value should suffer significantly. Even 10 games on the injured list would cost a player 16% of total games in a 60 game season, the equivalent of losing 26 games in a 162 game season. 

Since Conforto’s risk of a setback is high compared to other injured outfielders, his risk of being a fantasy bust this year is also especially high. Conforto’s health should become more clear during Spring Training 2.0, but until then his outsized chance of missing time makes him a bust candidate.

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