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With half of April in the books, some trends are starting to emerge. We finally have enough data to start to assess if areas of statistical interest are real or mirages. Players with hot two or three game stretches are starting to peter out or at least normalize, but there is still a lot of value to be had on the wire.

With that being the case, let’s review what’s out there on the wire for the most plentiful position in fantasy baseball, outfield. With so much talent spread across the 30 teams, it makes finding the diamond in the rough that much more critical so you’re not stuck running out the semi-useful brand name when you could be profiting off of the hyper productive unknown model. Of course, finding which players are for real for the long term is the name of the game, and Rotoballer is here to give you the edge.

The only qualifications for this list are 1) be an outfielder and 2) be owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo leagues. We’ll be highlighting names that you need to know about, some good and some bad. Shallow and deep leagues should all get value out of the names below, so get ready to do some wheeling and dealing on your way to fantasy glory.

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

Week 3 Outfield Waiver Wire Targets

Brandon Belt (OF/1B, SF) - 41% owned

Belt is a popular addition on waiver wire columns among the Rotoballer team. Making both the outfield and corner infield lists last week, the veteran responded with a pretty lackluster week, bringing in just a single run and hitting .214 over 14 at-bats. His power hasn’t shown up yet, and he’s striking out more than he typically has over his career. On top of that, the .270/.400/.405 line he’s sporting is actually propped up by an unreasonable .429 BABIP.

Despite the warning signs above, the eye test shows that Belt’s approach is as solid as ever, supported metrically by his 15.6% walk rate on the year and .400 on-base percentage. It seems as if he’s pressing a bit late in at-bats, as his swinging strike rate and outside the zone swing rate are both quite high. Pitchers aren’t giving him much to work with either, as he’s seeing just 38.8% of pitches in the strike zone. He’s also making contact on just 30% of swings to pitches outside the strike zone, which is about half of his career average.

Belt is too good a hitter for these problems to remain all season. To add more positivity, he’s actually connecting with pitches for more power than he ever has, despite the low ISO. More than 45% of his contact is considered hard, leading to multiple areas in the strike zone where Belt is producing insane exit velocities like 93.5, 96.2, and 99.8 mph on batted balls. Once he settles down and gets to working pitchers like he has throughout his career, the new pop will hopefully start to show. It’s a speculative buy, and he’ll probably be more effective on the road, but the pieces for a top 10 first baseman are still there.

 

Matt Kemp (OF, LAD) - 21% owned

Just when you think he’s done, he goes and redeems himself. As shocking as this is, few players had a better week than Matt Kemp. Across 18 at-bats, Kemp hit .444 with a home run, three runs batted in, and three runs. Because of this run of success, his ownership is likely to shoot up, even if it is only temporary. His superstar of yesteryear status gives him a certain amount of clout, and even the smallest sign of the glory days is sure to send owners into a tizzy. However, Kemp is the rare highlight here that you probably want to avoid.

His line on 40 at-bats, .324/.375/.486, looks good until you see that it’s held up by a .458 BABIP with and as of right now career high 30% strikeout rate. A deeper dive into those numbers supports the notion that his recent success is likely unsustainable. He’s swinging at more pitches outside of the zone, and making contact at a career low rate when those pitches are in the box. He’s producing his lowest overall contact percentage for his career, and is swinging through more than 17% of the pitches he swings at, a huge jump from his career numbers. To add insult to injury, Kemp is producing a career low .162 ISO, so the vaunted power isn’t there either.

This all adds up to suggest that Kemp had a good week, but that this isn’t production that should be expected from the 33-year-old going forward. Don’t bother wasting a roster spot on the veteran, rather look into some other options on this list. If you own him in a deep league and have an owner looking to buy, consider it heavily. There’s a decent chance that, despite his contract, Kemp doesn’t finish the season on a major league roster.

 

Mallex Smith (OF, TB) - 18% owned

Tampa Bay traded for Mallex Smith in a flurry of moves in the 2017 offseason and, after showing lineup mainstays Chris Dickerson and Steven Souza Jr. the door, the Rays are giving the young outfielder consistent playing time for the first time in his major league career. The 24-year-old has had an impressive start to the season, batting .343/.410/.429 on 40 at-bats with as many walks as strikeouts (four each) and a pair of steals. The bulk of that work took place over the last week, when Smith hit .458 with three runs batted in on top of his steals.

Smith’s calling card is his blinding speed, which he’s still learning to put to use on the base paths and in the field. He’s been caught three times already this season, which is surprising considering his wheels. He’s noted that he’s been pressing things at times and is learning to let the game come to him. Smith is taking more cuts on pitches in the zone, and his contact percentage has risen to the highest of his career as a result. He’s also generating slightly more power on that contact, as 56.3% of his contact is considered medium and another 25% considered hard. Those are both easily career highs for Smith. Hiss average is propped up by a high BABIP, but not so high that a .300 average is out of the question. If Smith can continue to make solid contact and spray the ball as he’s been doing, he could be an asset in leagues using batting average, on-base percentage, and of course steals. Not bad for a guy that can be had off the waiver wire.

 

Franchy Cordero (OF, SD) - 13% owned

The man with one of the best names in baseball is back and ready to knock moonshots into the stratosphere. After a huge Cactus League showing, Cordero went down with a groin strain and has knocked in two home runs in just 13 at-bats since. The 23-year-old is a physical freak with game-breaking pop and enough speed to swipe double digit bags over a full season. If he can figure out major league pitching, 25/15 is very realistic.

However, despite the loud tools and even louder name, there is plenty of risk to deploying Franchy. He swings and misses way too much, he struggles against sharp changeups, his pitch recognition needs a lot of work, and he might be allergic to taking a walk. But with all that being said, there is star potential here, and if in two months he’s produced one of the big surprise first halves in baseball, I won’t be surprised. If you have a roster spot, snag away.

 

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR) - 9% owned

The Blue Jays called up Hernandez this week, and it is likely that he’ll be a lineup mainstay now that he’s with the big club. Acquired in July from the Astros for Francisco Liriano, the 25-year-old brings a solid, all-around skillset and is a true “professional” hitter. Hernandez’s first game of 2018 showed signs of good things to come, with a box score of 2-5 with two doubles, two runs batted in, a strikeout, and a steal. He brings enough power to hit 20 home runs over a full season, despite his meager minor-league totals, and he can easily swipe 10-15 bags. He’ll struggle with strikeouts and doesn’t walk much, so he’ll need to make some adjustments to get to the potential his tools carry. Regardless, fantasy owners could do a lot worse than a combo threat with enough batted ball skills to carry a .250+ average at the end of their bench.

 

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