Dokken’s Dudes & Don’ts: The Outfield Dudes
Nathan Dokken continues his yearly tradition of Dudes and Don’ts, his annual look at players he is targeting and avoiding. Today he looks into his favorite outfield bargains and busts for 2020 fantasy baseball.
Welcome to Dudes In The Outfield, starring Jeff Bridges as the titular Dude. Sadly, The Dude died long ago in this tale, but now has angel wings and helps outfielders reach way over the wall to rob home runs from beyond the grave! They always know The Dude abides when they land back in the ballpark and they’re drenched in White Russian. Steve Buscemi is there too, but he’s not actually dead, he just likes the hot dogs. He’s hanging out with Tony Danza and Danny Glover and they’re all just talking about how horrifying Christopher Lloyd’s Judge Doom was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They are also wondering who Nathan Dokken will choose for his 2020 Outfield Dudes!
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Dokken’s Dudes & Don’ts: The Outfield Dudes
The First Dude: Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Indians
It isn’t uncommon for me to have a crush on the same Dude in back-to-back years. Such is the case here with Franmil Reyes, a repeat customer within my Outfield Dudes. He was a lot cheaper last year as the 49th outfielder at 217 overall. He was very profitable as he finished with 37 HR, 69 R, 89 RBI, and a .249 average over 548 PA. Heading into 2020, he is the 38th outfielder via Fantrax with a 148 overall ADP. So, do I think he can turn a profit from his ADP two years in a row?! You’re damn right I do.
Fantasy baseball does not ding us for Reyes’s poor defense – but real baseball does. That’s why it’s a glorious thing that he was traded to the Indians in 2019, where he can DH full-time. That ability should also allow him to play nearly every day in what will be his second full season. Reyes absolutely smokes the ball, with a 9.3% barrels per plate appearance that ranked 14th in MLB. He ranked fourth overall in average exit velocity as well, with his 93.3 MPH mark landing behind only Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano, and Nelson Cruz.
Reyes won’t steal you bases, but he is just 24 and is already set up as one of baseball’s premier sluggers. His .264 XBA was markedly higher than his .249 final average, and the way he hits the ball, he should have a much higher BABIP in 2020 than the .279 mark he posted in 2019. The strikeouts were an issue as he went above 30% over the second half, but I’d expect his contact rate to improve with more plate appearances. He’ll open the year as the number five hitter, most likely. If he performs the way I think he can, he could be the Indians everyday three-hitter before too long. I think we’re looking at a four-category monster, and he’s barely a 150 overall pick.
Projection: 625 PA, 90 R, 43 HR, 115 RBI, .270 AVG
The Second Dude: Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers
Free Willie!! Those words were uttered by many a prospect hound as Willie Calhoun was repeatedly passed over for MLB promotions. There were grumblings of discontent with Calhoun because of it. That said, his 2018 line was very gross with the Rangers. Over 108 plate appearances, he posted a gross 53 wRC+, hitting .222 with two home runs.
2019 was a step in the right direction, though. He still played just a half-season (83 games, 337 PA), but hit .269 with 21 HR and struck out just 15.7% of the time. Calhoun has always been a very good bat, but his defensive shortcomings (Franmil Reyes all over again) limit him to a DH role, preferably. The Rangers might have to throw him into the outfield just to get his bat in the lineup, though, with Shin-Soo Choo at DH already. That could limit Willie’s PA upside somewhat.
As with Franmil, Calhoun could be a very strong four-category contributor. While he doesn’t draw a lot of walks, he makes a ton of contact at 85.2%. He also puts a lot of balls into the air (17.6-degree launch angle) and to the pull side (51.9 pull%), which leads to a lot of his power. While I wouldn’t expect his .256 ISO from 2019 to repeat, he could still put up 30-plus homers given his batted ball distribution.
Also, like Franmil, Calhoun could work his way into the three-hole early into the season. That would make for a glorious amount of R+RBI opportunities. With all of his pulled fly balls, he might not hit for quite the average that his contact rate would indicate since he’ll face a lot of shifts. Still, the entire package looks wonderful at OF41/ADP168.
Projection: 600 PA, 95 R, 30 HR, 100 RBI, .270 AVG
The Third Dude: Yasiel Puig, ???
As you can see from the clueless question marks, we don’t yet know where Yasiel Puig is going to sign. He has recently been rumored to sign with the White Sox or Rockies, which would be great landing spots in terms of ballparks and lineups. Wherever he lands (aside from San Francisco, admittedly another rumored destination) he’ll be money at OF42/ADP172.
Worry about the off-field persona all you will…well, wait. I guess that does occasionally spill onto the field and lead to suspensions. So, worry about the persona as you will. He might miss some time. Even so, he has hit 23+ HR with 15+ SB and a .263+ average in each of the past three years – one of which was in just 125 games played. He’s going to hit somewhere in the middle of a lineup and provide solid if unspectacular five-category production.
The only real risk at this point is that he doesn’t sign until some point into the season, but that would be very strange since there is no draft pick compensation attached to the free agent. He’s a sneaky way to catch up on stolen bases if you missed out on the SB studs early in your draft.
Projection: 600 PA, 75 R, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 15 SB, .265 AVG
The Deep League Dude: Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies
Well counterpoint, self: Hilliard isn’t actually that young! He’s 26 already! Nevermind that he is mired in a muddled outfield platoon-upon-a-platoon with Ian Desmond and Raimel Tapia. Heck, maybe they even throw Garrett Hampson or Ryan McMahon into the outfield if they’re feeling squirrely. They could add the aforementioned Yasiel Puig and render this entire write-up pointless! There are a ton of roadblocks between Hilliard and success.
However, it is exactly because of those roadblocks that Hilliard is merely the 85th outfielder drafted on Fantrax with an ADP of 301. If you were to just look at his line from 2019 between Triple-A and Colorado, you would see his 42 HR and 24 SB and commence drooling at once. Projecting anything like that would be ridiculous, of course. He spent most of 2019 at Triple-A Albuquerque, which is in the Pacific Coast League. They also used the MLB baseballs, making for ridiculously favorable hitting conditions.
Coors Field isn’t exactly a huge dropoff from those hitting conditions, so I’m still interested in Hilliard. He could very well strikeout over 30% of the time, so he’ll need that delicious Coors BABIP to help him keep a .250+ average. If he can do that while hitting on the strong side of a platoon though, he could be very profitable. He has the raw power and above-average speed to be one of the bigger outfield bargains of 2020 if he can only get the chance.
Projection: 500 PA, 70 R, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 15 SB, .250 AVG
Who are your top outfield bargains and busts for 2020? Drop some names in the comments below. We promise not to let anyone know until after draft day.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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