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2019 Fantasy Baseball: NL Central Outfield Profiles and Projections

Welcome. Hopefully you’ve been following our 2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. If you haven’t we hope these NL Central Outfielder Profiles and Projections will help you in getting to know the 2019 player pool. Enjoy the read and look for links to our other profiles at the bottom of the page.

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2019 NL Central Outfield Profiles

Albert Almora Jr., Chicago Cubs

Albert Almora 2019 MLB Projections

Almora lacks the tools to be a mixed league contributor, but he can provide more than he has in three seasons in Chicago. He has the hit tool to hit 10-15 home runs in the juiced ball era and enough speed to offer 8-13 stolen bases in a career year. The at-bats are likely to be there in 2019 because he is the best defensive center fielder on the roster and if Jason Heyward struggles, as he has since his arrival in Chicago, its Heyward whose playing time should suffer. He lacks the upside to “draft and stash” him, but 10-12 home runs, 10-12 stolen bases and a .280 batting average isn’t outside the realm of possibility and that’s enough to make him viable in NL-Only leagues. – Chris Mitchell

Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals

Harrison Bader 2019 MLB Projections

Bader’s got game-changing speed. It shows up more often on defense, but he stole 17 bases in his half-season minor-league debut in 2015, and he swiped 15 bags at the big league level last season. The steals present something of a floor for Bader, but there’s reason to believe his solid offensive output last year was a bit of a mirage. A high BABIP has covered for a career 28.7% strikeout rate, and his results dwarfed his Statcast batted ball estimators. Bader was never an elite prospect because of some concerns about the hit tool, so there’s quite a bit of offensive volatility here. The speed is enticing, but he’s not a surefire contributor anywhere else. – Anthony Franco

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Braun 2019 MLB Projections

Braun is in decline, but he is still a viable Fantasy contributor even though it feels like owners want to shovel dirt on him. In 2018, he managed to hit 20 home runs and steal double-digit bases for the 13th time even though his games played, batting average and BB% are dropping from his prime and his K% is increasing. There isn’t a lot of upside in Braun but he is currently being drafted after Jesse Winker, Byron Buxton, Chris Taylor, Austin Meadows, and Corey Dickerson just to name a few. Braun is falling and as the hype of draft kit season kicks into full gear he is likely to drop even further. Owners should follow him closely and hope he falls right into their laps as a well-above-average fifth outfielder in mixed leagues. Braun’s best days are gone, but his viable Fantasy ones are not. – Chris Mitchell

Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers

Lorenzo Cain 2019 MLB Projections

Cain has been one of the most consistent all-around Fantasy outfielders in the game and after signing in Milwaukee as a free agent in 2018, he bats in the middle of one of the better offenses in one of the best hitters parks in baseball. He has hit .300 or better, stolen 25 or more bases, and hit nine home runs or more in four of the last five seasons. And, in three consecutive seasons, his K% has dropped while his walk % has risen. There is no statistical reason for Fantasy owners to believe that a collapse or some kind of meaningful decline is coming in 2019. He is a little lite, by today’s standards, in the home run category but he makes up for it with stolen bases and .300 batting averages. His Average Draft Position (ADP) on Fantrax is #66, as the 20th outfielder, and in the same neighborhood as Tommy Pham (#67) and Mitch Haniger (#62). I would rather own Pham than Cain and Cain slightly before Haniger, making Cain’s current ADP an accurate one. Dynasty league owners should always be looking to move on from a 33-year-old player when possible, but a likely lack of enthusiasm from other owners and the level of consistency from Cain makes him someone to keep rather than trade unless an aggressive owner comes calling, wanting a piece of a Brew Crew bat. Owners should expect a slight decline across all of the Fantasy categories, but a collapse is unlikely from one of the more reliable Fantasy contributors in baseball. – Chris Mitchell

Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates

Corey Dickerson2019 MLB Projections

Give Dickerson credit: he changed his entire profile in a way very rarely seen. Dickerson had by far the largest year-to-year drop in strikeout rate from 2017-2018, although with the emphasis on contact came a huge dropoff in power. Altogether, it’s not clear Dickerson was actually better last year, but we’ve now seen him succeed as a power-focused bat and as a contact-oriented one. At Dickerson’s draft position- currently 54th among outfielders- he’s probably worth a flyer to see if he can combine the best of both worlds next year. Pittsburgh’s home park is extremely pitcher-friendly, which does Dickerson no favors, but he might hit .285 with 20 home runs. – Anthony Franco

Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals

Dexter Fowler 2019 MLB Projections

Fowler was one of baseball’s more consistent performers, spinning off above-average seasons every year between 2011 and 2017. That made his 2018 performance all the more shocking. He was legitimately dreadful; he made less contact, hit fewer line drives and made more soft contact than he had in five years. After his season ended with a foot fracture in June, he fell completely off the fantasy radar. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, though; in a recent Post-Dispatch article, Fowler acknowledged falling out of whack mentally, attributing that to a strained relationship with now-former manager Mike Matheny. It’s easy to waive that away as an excuse, but it’s worth noting that the Cardinals have maintained all offseason that they expect Fowler to bounce back. A bona fide division contender, they’ve stayed out of the Bryce Harper pursuit all offseason. More than that, Fowler seems to have the inside track at the right field job over top prospect Tyler O’Neill and offensive force Jose Martinez. Fantasy owners might not believe in Fowler, but it seems his employer still does. Hey, it’s something. – Anthony Franco

Ben Gamel, Milwaukee Brewers

Ben Gamel 2019 MLB Projections

One of the preeminent platoon bats in baseball, Gamel notoriously can’t hit lefties, and that caps his fantasy worth. He’s solid but unspectacular against righties, putting up a .742 OPS against them in 2018. He won’t give you any speed, and hit for an impressively bad .097 ISO last year with Seattle. Now in Milwaukee, he’ll fill in here and there against righties, but won’t get consistent at-bats until Ryan Braun inevitably hits the DL. He’s an uninspiring NL-Only option. – Nathan Dokken

Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs

Ian Happ 2019 MLB Projections

The Cubs outfield has two offensive players that are mediocre to poor defenders (Kyle Schwarber and Happ), a plus defender with limited offensive tools (Albert Almora) and a plus-defender with a large contract that could impact the way the Cubs manage his playing time (Jason Heyward). And for good measure, they have Ben Zobrist, who can play anywhere based on the whims of Joe Maddon. All of this is relevant because Happ has the power and speed tools to be a solid third or fourth outfielder with enough uncertainty to make him a draft-day risk. He is a must-own in NL-Only formats while he should be looked at cautiously in mixed leagues due to the uncertainty of his opportunities. Owners shouldn’t reach for Happ expecting a big season, but he has a chance to be a draft-day steal because he could have a 145-game, 25-HR, 20-SB, OF and 2B or 3B eligible, super-utility 2019 season. Owners should draft outfielders with similar talents ahead of Happ’s uncertainty, but target him if he is available amongst a group of players with lesser tools and more certain playing time. That’s where he becomes a bargain with significant upside. – Chris Mitchell

Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs

Jason Heyward 2019 MLB Projections

Heyward’s name still carries some sway but the numbers don’t justify ownership in any formats. He hasn’t had a relevant season in any Fantasy category since being signed as a free agent after the 2015 season. He still has a solid approach at the plate and he takes a respectable amount of walks, but the power and the speed don’t provide what owners need in mixed or NL-Only leagues. Heyward is worth monitoring early in the season to see if he can find his way back to double-digit home runs and stolen bases, but there are a lot of players with more upside that justify drafting and stashing than Heyward. There is also a chance that he becomes a platoon player if he struggles to start the season. More reason to monitor rather than draft and stash him. – Chris Mitchell

Matt Kemp, Cincinnati Reds

Matt Kemp 2019 MLB Projections

Kemp is a player that has managed to remain Fantasy relevant in spite of a decline in skills. He doesn’t run like he once did, but he still hits for power and a respectable enough batting average to avoid being a drag in the category. 20-25 home runs with an outside shot at 30 is possible, especially with a move from the unfriendly confines of Atlanta, San Diego and Los Angeles, where he has had to hit in recent years. With Jesse Winker part of the Reds future and the addition of Yasiel Puig, there could be a reduction in his at-bats compared to recent seasons, making Kemp a solid NL-Only player and a more limited, fifth outfielder in mixed formats. He isn’t a player worth targeting, but he is a relevant deep league Fantasy option. – Chris Mitchell

Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates

Starling Marte 2019 MLB Projections

2018 was an interesting year for Marte. He stole the second most bases and hit the most home runs of his career AFTER being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs in 2017. His BABIP was down while his BB% and K% were almost identical in 2018 as they had been in 2017. He is a multi-faceted Fantasy bat with a plus-hit tool who manages to hit for power, batting average and steal bases without many walks. Marte has the skill set to salivate over, but a #34 ADP is much too high for a player that is coming off his first 20 home run season and who will turn 31 prior to the World Series. Players like Tommy Pham (#66 ADP), Lorenzo Cain (#67 ADP) and George Springer (#53) could easily outproduce Marte and they are all currently being drafted two or three rounds later. If this kind of overdraft is an accurate indicator of owners perceptions of Marte then Dynasty leaguers need to sell high and yearly league drafters need to look elsewhere for their five-tool contributors. I am a Marte owner in multiple Dynasty leagues and I am selling if his current ADP holds. – Chris Mitchell

Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

Jose Martinez 2019 MLB Projections

Martinez wasn’t able to replicate the power from his 2017 season, but he was still a solid hitter when in the lineup. Martinez hit fewer fly balls (27.7%) and fewer of them left the yard (14.2%). His offense was not the problem though. His defense at first base and then in right field started costing him at-bats late in the season. With Paul Goldschmidt now at first, Martinez will now have to fight with Dexter Fowler for time in right. Tyler O’Neill could also factor into this situation. If he’s able to get anything close to full-time at-bats Martinez is a solid third outfield in mixed leagues. As it stands now he may be limited to streaming and use in NL-Only leagues. – Doug Anderson

Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals

Tyler O'Neill 2019 MLB Projections

I have always been more enamored with O’Neil’s power and his surprisingly respectable speed than most prospect analysts, but the major league numbers haven’t been there and neither was the consistency in the minors. He has the power to hit 40 home runs and the speed to throw in a handful of stolen bases in the process, but he has to make more contact to fully realize that potential and he is going to have to fight for the opportunity to do it in 2019. O’Neil is currently the Cardinals fourth or fifth outfielder depending on where Jose Martinez plays and how the Cardinals choose to handle Dexter Fowler after an abysmal 2018 season. He is a “draft and stash” in NL-Only leagues because of his immense power potential and the ceiling his tools provide. And, he could be the same in mixed leagues if there is an indication in spring training that the Cardinals plan to provide O’Neil with at least partial at-bats early in the season. Owners in Dynasty league formats should take a flier and see if they can hit big with a lottery ticket as well. The power is special and the speed is relevant if he can find a way to put it all together and reach his ceiling. – Chris Mitchell

Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals

Marcell Ozuna 2019 MLB Projections

Ozuna’s results last season had to be disappointing for Cardinal fans and fantasy owners alike. There are ample reasons to believe in a bounceback, though. Ozuna played through a shoulder injury for a good portion of the year, which could have impacted his power. Moreover, his peripherals were still especially impressive. Ozuna cut his strikeout rate last season, he made as much contact as ever and he maintained his plus exit velocities. Expecting him to replicate his .312/.376/.548 line with 37 homers from 2017 was always a pipe dream, but Ozuna offers a rare combination of bat-to-ball and power. Even without any hope of stolen bases, he’s a surefire top 20 outfielder for 2019. – Anthony Franco

Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates

Gregory Polanco 2019 MLB Projections

2016 was Polanco’s best season as a professional, but 2018 wasn’t far off and the peripherals were better. His BB% improved significantly while his K% was only slightly worse and his ISO increased from .205 to .245 and he did it in fewer games. Polanco has always had exciting potential and because of that, two 22+ home run, 12+ stolen base seasons are perceived to be disappointments and an outright bust in the minds of some. He hasn’t made as much contact or got on base at percentages many prognosticators expected and the power and speed production has slacked behind his potential and expectations as a result. In 2018, he had career years in wOBA (.353), SLG (499), OBP (.340) and wRC+ (123). There is no reason why Polanco can’t have a career year in 2019, building off improvements from 2018. His ADP of #233 is significantly lower than players with lower ceilings and lesser careers like Austin Meadows (#187 ADP), Jose Martinez (#193 ADP), Corey Dickerson (#225 ADP), and Franmil Reyes (#206 ADP), due to his labrum surgery and the expectation that he will be out until June. He is a good value compared to other players being selected in the same range if you look at what he could be after his return rather than his overall production in rotisserie formats for a full season. A 30-HR, 20-SB pace is possible if he builds on his 2018 improvements and the peripheral numbers suggest he can. Polanco is a solid draft pick with upside, assuming he returns fully healthy and ready to hit the ground running. Exactly what you want from a fourth or fifth outfielder in mixed leagues in the second half of the season. His injury provides owners with a draft-day opportunity for value and he can be stashed on disabled lists, making room to add another late-round flier, prior to the start of the Fantasy season in many leagues. He isn’t a bad trade target in Dynasty formats either.- Chris Mitchell

Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati Reds

Yasiel Puig 2019 MLB Projections

After a couple of injury-plagued seasons in 2015-16, Puig has put together back-to-back healthy and most productive campaigns with 20-plus HRs and 15 SBs in each season. If Puig didn’t have such an extreme reverse split his 2019 season could have been monstrous. He hit .297 with 19 HRs vs. right-handers, but just .209 with 4 HRs against lefties. It got so bad he lost at-bats as the season went on. Now Puig moves on to Cincinnati to join his former hitting coach Turner Ward. Puig is not the all-around hitter Christian Yelich is, but could the change in ballparks do for him what it did for Yelich in 2018? As the magic eight ball would say, the outlook is promising. First off Puig hit just .243 with 6 HRs at Dodger Stadium in 2018. On the road, he hit .292 with 17 HRs. Dodger Stadium ranked as the 27th best park for Runs and 23rd for HRs in 2018. Great American Ballpark ranked 12th for Runs and 4th for HRs. Puig still has to stay healthy and some improvement against left-handed pitching would certainly help, but a career-year is quite likely. As long as the hype doesn’t get too far out of hand Yasiel Puig should offer very serious value in the coming season. – Doug Anderson

Scot Schebler, Cincinnati Reds

Scott Schebler 2019 MLB Projections

Schebler has the power to be an everyday player, but his issues with contact and the crowded situation in Cincinnati have me concerned about his at-bats in 2019. He has a career .248 batting average and the Reds added both Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to an outfield that already had Jesse Winker as well as young options like Mason Williams, Phillip Ervin and Aristides Aquino. Where and how often he plays is going to be a work in progress that owners have to consider on draft day. He is relevant in all formats, but the uncertainty surrounding his playing time, his bad batting averages and lack of stolen base contributions, owners have to treat him like a late round “draft and stash” rather than a reliable fifth outfielder or UT starter in mixed leagues. – Chris Mitchell

Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs

Kyle Schwarber 2019 MLB Projections

Schwarber is an interesting case because “hype” and “buzz” often impact owners perceptions of a players value. Owners expectations of Schwarber as a prospect and their responses to a disappointing career so far have created an atmosphere of ebbs and flows of his perceived Fantasy future. His batting averages have been a drag on his value (.246, .211 and .238 in three seasons) even though he is perceived to be a legitimate batter, he doesn’t enhance his Fantasy value with stolen bases and he hasn’t slugged more than 30 home runs in a season. If he was a catcher he would be a top 25 player, but as an outfielder with significant defensive deficiencies that have limited him to a career-high 428 at-bats in 2018 and 422 in 2017, he has a relatively mediocre floor and a limited ceiling. All that being said, he is a safe, predictable bat who has the potential to hit 35-40 home runs in a Cubs lineup that can increase his runs scored and RBI totals. Owners shouldn’t reach for him at the draft because of his lack of ceiling, but they should feel more comfortable drafting him if he is available amongst a group of comparable players. He has become slightly underrated due to the overly high expectations when he was fresh on the scene and if he has a career year, he can be a good value at the right place in the draft. I think he slugs 40 home runs and is drafted after lesser, younger outfielders with perceived upside that they believe Schwarber lacks. – Chris Mitchell

Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds

Jesse Winker 2019 MLB Projections

Winker has dealt with a shoulder issue that may explain why he hasn’t been a Fantasy relevant player so far in his career. His .299 career batting average and .397 OBP are indicators that this kid can really hit and if the shoulder is a significant explanation as to why his career high in home runs is seven, 2019 could be his breakout year. There is a lot of buzz surrounding him this offseason and that could result in a lot of owners reaching for a breakout year and overpaying for him on draft day in return. Another draft day concern is his lack of stolen base contributions. It limits his ceiling and is as good a reason as any to resist chasing a potential breakout. Winker needs to be owned in NL-Only formats and he is worth a “draft and stash” approach in mixed leagues, but owners need to realize there is a “draft day tax” due to the hype he is currently receiving. Everyone writes a sleeper article and Winker is a popular name in them right now. Follow our ADP articles during the offseason where we will evaluate which way the wind is blowing. – Chris Mitchell

Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

Christian Yelich 2019 MLB Projections

Yelich had a breakout year in 2018 and it was a significant one. Entering draft season, everyone knew he would have a big season and he still managed to be underdrafted. He is currently being drafted in the first round with an ADP of #9 on Fantrax and its difficult to argue that he doesn’t deserve to be drafted before J.D. Martinez (#5) and right alongside Mookie Betts at #2 overall. A few things owners should keep in mind about Yelich and the 2019 season that give some reason for caution rather than exuberance. His batting average, On-Base Percentage, home run and stolen base numbers all exploded compared to previous seasons even though his K% and BB% were slightly worse in 2018 than 2017. His Isolated Power (ISO) was .272 in 2018, up significantly from .185 in 2016, and .156 in 2017, while his Batted Balls In Play (BaBip) was the highest of his career (.375), up 37 points, and his wRC+ rose from 118 to 166 from 2017 to 2018. Yelich is hitting in much friendlier confines now than he was in Miami with the Marlins and he is coming into his prime years, but those are significant jumps with peripheral numbers that don’t support that kind of explosion. Owners that believe that 2019 will be another 2018 should consider drafting Yelich ahead of Mookie Betts as the number two player off draft boards, but I expect a meaningful drop from his monstrous 2018 breakout season. There are more than a handful of players that can be as good, if not better, than Yelich at more valuable positions and lower ADP’s. Players like Ronald Acuna, Bryce Harper, Javier Baez, Jose Altuve, and less multi-faceted players with more power potential like Aaron Judge (ADP of #17) and Giancarlo Stanton (ADP of #23) – both coming off down years. Owners shouldn’t pay a premium today because of previous performance yesterday unless it is an indicator of better things to come and I am not sure that’s the case with Yelich. He hadn’t done anything close to what he did in 2018 and that should give owners pause even though it typically generates more enthusiasm. I would draft Yelich before players like Bregman and Machado and he is a safer selection than risk/reward guys like Javier Baez and Bryce Harper, but #9 overall is a reach in early season drafting from my perspective. – Chris Mitchell

More Fantasy Baseball Player Profiles & Projections

American League

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | AL West – OF | AL Central – OF | AL East – OF | SP | RP |

National League

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | NL West – OF | NL Central – OF | NL East – OF | SP | RP |

Enjoying these 2019 NL 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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