2015 Outfield Preview
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Zach here again,
Some owners prefer to wait on the outfield position on draft day, figuring that due to the large outfield pool, plenty of value picks will be available in the middle rounds. And this is true. It seems like every year, there are a number of guys who enter the season outside of the top-30 yet return top-20 level production. On the other hand, if you fail to choose the right undervalued players, you will end up at a serious disadvantage when compared to the owner who drafted multiple outfielders within the first few rounds. Taking a look at the current NFBC ADP rankings, eight of the top-20 overall players are outfielders, so if you want to build your team around a star player who carries both a high floor and a high ceiling, chances are you will be looking at this position. Personally, I prefer a hybrid approach, drafting one top-10 outfielder in the first or second round before moving on to other positions. This way, I can assure myself the safety net of the one stud while leaving the door open to go discount shopping later on.
Jay Bruce – Look, Bruce has his flaws. He strikes out way too much and cannot be relied on when it comes to batting average. But with power down throughout the game, there’s plenty to like about him. Prior to last year’s disappointing 18-home run campaign, Bruce had pieced together three straight seasons of at least 30 homers and 97 RBI. Plus, he’s still only 27 years of age (turns 28 in April) and plays in a home run-friendly park. Yet on average, he is being drafted 25th among outfielders in NFBC leagues, behind guys like Charlie Blackmon, Jason Heyward and Kole Calhoun. If you can grab Bruce as a cheap OF2 in a 15-team mixed league, do it!
Brandon Moss – Speaking of power, Moss has slugged a combined 76 home runs over the past three seasons as a member of the A’s, this despite playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. Moss’ home runs were actually split almost evenly last year (13 on the road, 12 at home) though his OPS was .831 on the road compared to .703 at home, so moving out of Oakland certainly can’t hurt. A return to the 30-home run level is well within reach. And in case you’re wondering, Moss is ranked #41 among outfielders on the NFBC ADP list. As a cheap OF3 in a 15-team mixed league, he offers plenty of profit potential. You can even start him at first base too!
Shin-Soo Choo – I guess the best way to describe my expectations for Choo this year is cautiously optimistic. He was so mediocre (and that’s being kind) last season that anyone who tells you they are confident he will return to his 2013 form is either a Rangers fan or a relative. The good news is that he continued to display a strong batting eye, so in OBP leagues, he’s definitely worth targeting. But even in non-OBP formats, I’d lean towards taking a chance on Choo at the reduced price. Assuming he can stay off the DL, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see another 20/20 campaign.
Corey Dickerson – File this under the “Let me see it again” headline. Dickerson boasts an impressive minor league track record, so it’s foolish to completely dismiss his breakout first full season in the Majors as a fluke. But how confident are we that he can once again bat .363 at Coors Field to go along with a 1.099 OPS? On the road, he batted a mere .252 while posting a .736 OPS. The overall AVG of .312 was nice, but a .356 BABIP had at least something to do with it. Dickerson’s NFBC ADP is 46. That’s simply too high. There’s no room for profit and plenty of room for a loss.
Michael Brantley – I’m a fan of Brantley, and it’s clear that he’s made a huge leap forward in his development. But in order for him to earn his current NFBC ADP of 21, he will need to come very close to duplicating last season’s stat line. I’m not willing to take that risk. Note that after belting 15 home runs in the first half last season, Brantley managed only five longballs following the All-Star break.
Bryce Harper – Every year, it’s the same story with Harper. Will this be the year he finally reaches fantasy stud status? We’re still waiting, but in Harper’s favor is the fact that he doesn’t even turn 23 until October. On the other hand, he’s averaged only 109 games played per year over the past two seasons, so staying healthy has been an issue. And as a career .272 hitter, he has yet to be a positive contributor in batting average. I guess it comes down to whether you would rather draft a player a year too early than a year too late. I won’t be avoiding Harper, but I’d be leery of drafting him as my OF1. And unless you take two outfielders with your first two picks, Harper will likely be your OF1. It might work out fine. Or it might not.