2019 Fantasy Baseball: AL Central Outfield Profiles and Projections
Welcome. Hopefully you’ve been following our 2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. If you haven’t you’re jumping into the middle of our fantasy baseball player profiles. Today we tackle the AL Central Outfield Profiles. There are a few studs in here and a whole lot of question marks.
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2019 AL Central Outfield Profiles
The following profiles cover theoutfielders of the American League Central. We’ve included Nelson Cruz here, but with just four games in the outfield last year, he may be only DH-eligible in your league.
Greg Allen, Cleveland Indians
Allen’s an elite runner who doesn’t offer impact with the bat. After going 21-25 in stolen base attempts last season, he’ll get enough opportunities to run have some roto value. He’s currently projected to start in a weak Cleveland outfield, although he’s probably best suited coming off the bench, or at least paired with a left-handed platoon partner. Still, he makes a ton of low-lining contact and should be able to leg out some infield hits, so if he does get an extended look, he could hit .270-.280. It’ll just come with a single-digit home run total at the bottom of the lineup, where run and RBI opportunities will be scarce. – Anthony Franco
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
The haters have already been calling him Buston for years. Indeed, the pro-Buxton crowd hasn’t had much cause for celebration over the years, particularly in 2018. It was a lost season for Buxton as head and toe injuries (as well as a little touch of service clock manipulation from the front office) limited him to just 28 games with the Twins. His numbers are skewed negatively as he was asked to play through his toe injury, which was disastrous. If you’re buying a rebound, you’re looking at him for speed. He has the fastest sprint speed in baseball, and is a near lock to swipe second any time he gets on base. Unfortunately, his near-30% strikeout rate has kept that from happening all too often. If he can stay healthy – a big if – he has immense upside. He has already hit 16 home runs in a season, and he could easily be among the league leaders in stolen bases. The OBP has a fair chance of being under .300 though, which will push him to the bottom of the order and limit his R+RBI totals. If you’ve built a solid squad and can tolerate a risky investment, Buxton makes for a high upside mid-to-late round lottery ticket. – Nathan Dokken
Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
Castellanos has established himself as one of the most consistent bats in fantasy over the past two years. Consistent – but not elite. Despite a hard contact rate of 47.9% that ranked sixth in baseball last year, Castellanos hit just 23 home runs. Comerica isn’t a particularly friendly park for homers, and his hard-hit balls often just fall in for doubles, of which he hits plenty – 46 last year to be exact, the 5th most in MLB. His modest strikeout rate and hard hit ability have allowed him to hit .285 over the past two seasons combined. He’ll settle in as the three-hitter for the Tigers again in 2019, making his 177 R+RBI from 2018 repeatable. He won’t steal you many bases, but the other four categories make him worthy of a pick in the early rounds. – Nathan Dokken
Jake Cave, Minnesota Twins
Cave played pretty well in his 91 game debut with the Twins, batting .265 with 13 home runs. His contact skills tell us why he didn’t make his debut until 25 though, and why the Yankees were willing to give him up via trade. He made just 72% contact and struck out in one-third of his trips to the dish. It’s hard to rely on a .363 BABIP coming back around again, making his batting average an issue. There’s no room at the inn for Cave to begin the season, so he’ll likely bounce between Minnesota and Triple-A for the majority of 2019. Maybe he can go spelunking in Rochester. – Nathan Dokken
Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
Cruz has been perennially underrated by baseball fans and undervalued by Fantasy ones. He has hit 37 home runs or more in five straight seasons and prior to 2018 he batted no worse than .271, including three seasons after signing a free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners to play in Safeco field where he batted .288, .287 and .301. In 2018, Cruz had career lows in walks, hits, and batting average (.256) – (in seasons where he played at least 100 games), but his BB%, K% and Isolate Power (ISO .252) were similar to previous seasons. The most significant difference in 2018 compared to his 2011-2017 seasons was a .264 Batted Balls In Play (BABIP) percentage, as much as 51 to 86 points lower than any of his prior three seasons in Seattle. His power was still there and his walk percentage was consistent with previous seasons. An argument can be made that Cruz suffered some bad luck in 2018, which would explain the drop in batting average and OBP. Age and decline have to jump up and bite Cruz at some point. There isn’t statistical evidence to suggest there will be continued decline in 2019, while there is some indication that a bounce-back season in batting average is possible. 30-35 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .275-.280 batting average is a plausible expectation for the consistently underdrafted slugger in 2019. – Chris Mitchell
Nicky Delmonico, Chicago White Sox
Delmonico excited in a brief sample at the end of 2017, but he failed to build off that strong debut last year. In 2018, Delmonico made less contact, drew fewer walks and struck out more often. It’s not all bleak, though; Delmonico’s average exit velocity, per Statcast, was up four miles per hour last year. What’s more, he fractured a hand in May that very plausibly could’ve derailed his season. While his bottom line results before the injury weren’t great, his peripherals really took a nose dive after his return. Delmonico’s a deep league option only, but he’s an interesting sleeper. – Anthony Franco
Adam Engel, Chicago White Sox
Engel stole 16 bases last season, giving him some deep roto value, but it’s doubtful he’ll see extended playing time next season. Owner of a career 56 wRC+, Engel doesn’t offer enough with the bat for the White Sox, who plan to move toward contention in the near future, to continue to run out there every day. Engel’s plate discipline backed up, and he doesn’t hit enough ground balls or make enough contact to turn his speed into a high batting average. If he’s playing, he’ll steal a few bases, but he very much looks like a fifth outfielder at this point.
Leury Garcia, Chicago White Sox
Garcia’s an adequate MLB player, even if a bit of a tweener in the outfield. He sprays the ball around the field and hits a ton of line drives, so he’s got a high BABIP profile, but his plate discipline has led to a few too many strikeouts for a player with no in-game power. Entering his age-28 season, he probably is what he is at this point. That’s not enough to hold much fantasy intrigue. – Anthony Franco
Brian Goodwin, Kansas City Royals
Despite being just 28 years old, it’s hard to want to take enough vodka shots to be able to blur your vision enough to where you can still see Goodwin’s upside. In 75 games last year he still struck out over 30% of his trips to the dish, providing little in the way of power or speed. He can’t hit lefties at all, so he will be a platoon bat for the offensively challenged Royals. Perhaps in AL-Only leagues you could take a stab if you need a little power and speed, but he’s a reach even then. – Nathan Dokken
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Gordon bounced back a bit in 2018 after a 2017 season where he looked totally toast. That said, he only upped his OPS from .608 to .694, still well below league average. The 35-year-old outfielder will stick around and get at-bats for one more year because he’s still under contract, but that doesn’t make him a viable fantasy player. He did salvage his value a bit in 2018 by swiping 12 bases, the most he’s stolen since 2014. It’s hard to expect him to repeat that though, and he doesn’t give you much value elsewhere, either. In deep mixers and AL-Only leagues he is a warm body that shouldn’t kill you, but that’s the extent of his value. –Nathan Dokken
Billy Hamilton, Kansas City Royals
2018 was a rough year in the press for the lite hitting speedster, while statistically, it wasn’t all that different than what we have come to see from the rabbit. His BB% (8.3% ), ISO (.091), and wRC+ (69) actually improved while his OBP and wOBA were almost the exact same as in 2017 when he had a career-high 59 stolen bases. For every stolen base Hamilton provides Fantasy owners with the left hand he whacks them back across the face with a bad batting average with the right. If owners are willing to make that trade-off, in an age when a majority of players struggle to bat better than .250, Hamilton is worth a look. He is a lottery ticket; a flier. If he hits – both literally and figuratively – he can be an impact Fantasy player and if he busts it’s a low-cost draft day investment in both AL-Only and mixed league formats. The Royals aren’t going to contend in 2019 and they don’t have the young players to prioritize at-bats for. Hamilton is an elite defender who the Royals have every reason to look long and hard at to see if he might have a future in Kansas City. Hamilton should receive close to everyday at-bats for a Royals organization that ranked fourth in major league baseball in stolen base attempts per game in 2018. With a little luck, he could bat .260 with an OBP of .310-.320, which could result in the first 60 stolen base season of his career. And, if he shows signs of that he should bat at the top of the order, which will provide more at-bats, more stolen base attempts and more runs scored. It’s easy to envision a scenario where that happens to Hamilton in 2019. – Chris Mitchell
Jon Jay, Chicago White Sox
Jon Jay has been able to receive mostly consistent playing time over the last eight years due to his ability to hit and get on base. Simple as that. Unfortunately, those batting averages have been mostly hollow due to the very minimal power and speed production. If you need a batting average/OBP guy at the end of your AL-Only league draft, Jay can help. Though, all the current White Sox outfielders will likely lose playing time when Eloy Jimenez comes up. – Eric Cross
Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox
Eloy Jimenez arrives at the South Side with a similar fanfare to Yoan Moncada a few years ago. Where Moncada brought swing-and-miss issues with him, Jimenez has no such warts. His offensive profile is dreamy: top-of-the-scale raw power, above-average bat control, an advanced ability to elevate the ball. The only nit to pick is that Eloy doesn’t have Vlad Jr.’s plate discipline, but otherwise, they’ve got similar star-level projections. The error bars are always higher for players who have yet to make their MLB debuts, so there’s some chance Jimenez struggles, but it’s highly unlikely. Steamer, which tends to be conservative, especially on minor-leaguers, projects Jimenez to slash .295/.342/.512 with 29 home runs as a rookie. That’s an immediate star, who should see U.S. Cellular Field after about two weeks in the minors to “work on his defense.” – Anthony Franco
JaCoby Jones, Detroit Tigers
Jones has a starting job in baseball because he is a good defender on a bad team. If you read between the lines, that is a nice way of saying that he isn’t a fantasy-friendly player. He owns a career .199/.258/.370 slash line, which he tries to offset with a bit of speed and power. His contact rate at least rose above 70% for the first time in 2018, but that yielded just a .207 average over 467 plate appearances. He cut his strikeout rate down from 40%+ to 30% last season, but he’s going to have to continue to make improvements if he’s going to hit for average and become fantasy viable. If he gets enough at-bats, he could hit double-digit homers and steals again in 2019, but that’s not going to play anywhere besides AL-Only leagues. – Nathan Dokken
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins
Kepler quietly had one of the weirdest seasons of 2018. Coming into the year, he had struggled against lefties while hitting righties well – hardly strange for a left-handed bat. Then, in 2018, his splits practically flipped. He had a .745 OPS against lefties with just a .720 OPS against righties. His BABIP was just .219 against RHP despite a 36% hard contact rate, so you would expect that to rebound moving forward. He improved his hard contact against lefties from 22% in ‘17 to 40% in ‘18 – a very impressive step forward. He’ll look to improve upon a career-best 83% contact rate from last season and hit for a much higher average. His 46% fly ball rate would be encouraging if Target Field were more generous to left-handed hitters, but as it stands, he would be better suited hitting more line drives and eating fewer fly ball outs. He’s a nice upside pick towards the end of mixed league drafts. – Nathan Dokken
Jordan Luplow, Cleveland Indians
Despite the struggles over the last two seasons, there’s some AL-Only intrigue here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Luplow has a chance to start in a wide-open Indians outfield that doesn’t have any spots entrenched. Secondly, the minor league numbers are solid. Luplow hit .277 with an 11.6% walk rate and a 21/14 pace per every 600 at-bats. Mixed-leaguers can ignore for now, but Luplow makes for a decent late-round AL-Only flier. – Eric Cross
Leonys Martin, Cleveland Indians
Martin offers 15-15 upside after a bunceback 2018. Whether it was an approach change or a swing alteration, Martin easily set career-highs in fly ball rate and hard contact last year. Cleveland, at least, was optimistic, trading well-regarded prospect Willi Castro from Martin and then re-signing him this offseason after a scary infection that threatened much more than baseball. Thankfully, Martin’s at full go again, and he’ll have a chance to build off a season that might’ve revitalized his career. – Anthony Franco
Tyler Naquin, Cleveland Indians
Naquin’s BABIP-fueled 2016 season feels like a distant memory. Opportunity has been scarce for him in recent seasons, as he was demoted to Triple-A in 2017, then suffered a season-ending hip injury last year. He wasn’t performing before the injury anyway, so Cleveland won’t enter 2019 relying on Naquin to offer them much of anything. Still, he’s only 27, he’s got interesting raw power and he was quietly really good in Triple-A in 2017. We’re in more of a wait-and-see stage with Naquin in redrafts, but he might make for an interesting dynasty flyer this offseason. With a strong start, he could force his way back into the mix in a wide-open outfield. – Anthony Franco
Chris Owings, Kansas City Royals
Owings was already a long shot for consistent playing time in Arizona and that hasn’t changed after the move to Kansas City where it looks like he’ll serve in a utility role to start the season. He can be left on the eaiver wire in all formats. – Eric Cross
Daniel Palka, Chicago White Sox
Palka was the foil to his outfield-mates Adam Engel and Charlie Tilson in 2018. While they were no-impact, speedsters, Palka’s a lumbering corner outfielder with top-of-the-scale raw power. His peak exit velocities are Stanton-esque, and he ranked in the top 15 in average exit velocity last season, per Statcast. Palka isn’t a guy who occasionally flashes raw power; he hits the crap out of the ball regularly. He also strikes out- about as much as any regular in baseball. Strikeouts weren’t quite so much of a problem for Palka in the minors, but it’s worth noting he was generally older than the average player at each minor-league stop. Already 27, Palka’s in his physical prime. He has the raw power to hit 35-40 home runs if he puts everything together, but he’s a subpar athlete with middling plate discipline, so it’ll be a challenge. He’s as boom or bust as they come, with potential outcomes ranging from Jabari Blash to Khris Davis. For every Davis, though, there are ten guys like Palka who end up as AAAA bats. – Anthony Franco
Brett Phillips, Kansas City Royals
Phillips offers more potential than teammates Brian Goodwin and Terrance Gore, but at just 24 years of age and with an option remaining, the Royals could opt to develop him in Triple-A for much of the 2019 season. He’s known primarily for his defensive chops and cannon arm (and his hilarious laugh, go YouTube that if you’re unfamiliar). That said, he does offer a blend of power and speed, which is what we want in the fantasy game. The question is his contact ability. He has hit just .222 over 245 big league plate appearances, striking out at a 38.8% clip with 69% contact. Perhaps this is the year his hit tool takes a step forward, but you won’t need to draft him in any league unless he surprises us and earns a roster spot out of camp. – Nathan Dokken
Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins
Rosario has put together two straight solid seasons offensively for the Twins, placing himself firmly within the top 30 outfielders. The key has been an increase in his contact rate, jumping from 73% to 78% from ‘16 to ‘17. His extremely aggressive approach hurts him in OBP leagues, but there are four categories of goodness to be had with Rosario. He also chips in a few steals, but you’re buying him for the rest. Even if the average tapers off a bit, he should still hit 25-30 home runs as the three-hitter for the Twins. He would have likely hit 30 in 2018 if not for second half shoulder and quad injuries that he mostly played through. Expect his production to more closely resemble his .890 first-half OPS rather than his .622 second-half mark. – Nathan Dokken
Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals
Plenty of fantasy players are still drooling over Soler’s power upside, though he has yet to hit more than 12 home runs in any season. His strikeout rate is still too high to hit for average at 27%, and he needed a .340 BABIP in 2018 just to hit .265. If he can stay healthy and string together a full season, he’s very likely to eclipse 20 home runs. His career 9.6% walk rate gives him a boost in OBP formats as well. He’s chock full of risk though, and should be left for AL-Only or very deep mixed leagues to open the season. – Nathan Dokken
Christin Stewart, Detroit Tigers
Stewart is a power-over-hit bat-first profile. There was a time when that was more of a commodity, but nowadays that’s a pretty easy profile to acquire. He’s bad defensively, but on a rebuilding Tigers team, he should get plenty of run anyway. He’s posted .200+ ISO’s at every stop in the minors, so 20 home runs over a full season with Detroit should be a cinch. The average is a much larger question mark, but he at least offsets the poor average with a high walk rate. If he can utilize his power to maintain a plus BABIP, he’ll have a role in standard mixed leagues. As with any rookie though, there’s plenty of risk that he’ll struggle against advanced hitting in his first full season. – Nathan Dokken
Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians
Zimmer has played parts of two seasons in the major leagues and we still don’t have much more than his prospect profile to base projections on. What we have seen is that he struggles to make enough consistent contact to reach his power potential or get on base enough to maximize his stolen base ability. He has the raw tools to be a 20 home run, 20 stolen base outfielder. Shoulder surgery will have him on the shelf until around the All-Star break, making him a draft and DL stash in leagues that allow it. In leagues with limited DL spots or ones that don’t allow drafting and stashing, Zimmer is a toolsey, mid-season claim that has a chance to have an impact in deeper mixed league formats when he gets closer to a major league promotion and he is a must-own in AL-Only formats.
– Chris Mitchell
Enjoying these 2019 AL Central Outfield Profiles? For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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