In last week’s edition of Dynasty Dugout, we discussed trends amongst middle infielders. This week we dive into the outfield where there’s a lot happening. Without a doubt, the position that has seen the most trends so far in 2017 is the outfield. Between top prospects, post-hype sleepers, and former stars, a lot of big names are trending in dynasty leagues.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
[the_ad id=”384″]Let’s start with the biggest outfield riser, no pun intended. Actually, yes, pun intended. Aaron Judge is a goliath. At 6’7 and 280 pounds, it looks like he should be playing power forward in the NBA, not right field for the New York Yankees. Judge’s calling card is his light tower power. When he squares a ball up, it tends to travel a very long ways. His 15 home runs currently lead the majors and puts him on pace to approach 60. Nobody has hit 60 home runs in a season since Barry Bonds (73) and Sammy Sosa (64) both did during the 2001 season. The torrid power pace he’s currently displaying is bound to slow a bit, but there’s no doubting he is one of the best power hitters in the game.
In addition to the power, his average has been well over .300 all season as well. That combination has made him one of the five best fantasy hitters over the season’s first two months. His minor league track record indicates that he should be more of a .280 hitter than a .320 hitter, but the fact that he’s showing he can hit for average bodes well for his longterm dynasty value. Judge looks like he could be what we’ve all been hoping Giancarlo Stanton could be. Assuming Judge can avoid getting injured as much as Stanton, he should be valued as a bonafide top 10 dynasty league outfielder moving forward.
Michael Conforto, New York Mets
Over the last couple years, Michael Conforto’s value has been a roller coaster ride. He was highly regarded in the prospect world entering the 2015 season and was a big contributor during the Mets deep playoff run. Conforto made his presence felt by blasting two home runs in the World Series against Kansas City. That performance plus his strong regular season debut (.270, 9 HR, 26 RBI, in 170 at-bats) had Conforto’s value soaring to start the 2016 season, especially in dynasty leagues.
Fantasy managers with high expectations for the young Mets outfielder were greatly disappointed in 2016. Over 304 at-bats, Conforto hit a a paltry .220 with 12 home runs. His poor showing resulted in two separate demotions to the minors in June and August. Over the off-season, Conforto worked to improve his swing in hopes of bouncing back in 2017. All that work certainly paid off. Just check out that opposite field power.
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 20, 2017
For players with over 100 at-bats, only four players have a higher OPS that Conforto. Two of those players happen to be Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Conforto has been a top-25 hitter this season, and I’m a believer. He’s back to being a top-25 dynasty league outfielder and could climb much higher if he keeps hitting like this.
Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
Another AL East rookie that’s making a big impression this season is Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi. A few weeks ago I listed him as a player that should rise to the elite ranks at outfield sooner rather than later. He’s done nothing to make me regret that pick so far this season. A 0-26 slump has caused his stats to lose some of their shine but he’s still hitting .280 with five homers and five steals this season. This is they type of player you stick with through the down times. He has too much pure talent to stay in a slump for too long. Benintendi’s high contact rate and power/speed blend make him a top-10 dynasty league outfielder.
Other Risers in Value
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners – Haniger’s hot start before is oblique injury shouldn’t have come at too much of a surprise. His minor league resume is strong. He should contribute solidly across the board and is becoming a borderline top-25 dynasty league outfielder.
Aaron Altherr, Philadelphia Phillies – The raw tools have always been there but Altherr hasn’t put it all together for a long stretch until now. Not as high on him as Haniger, but Altherr has the frame and tools to surprise some fantasy owners.
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees – The sooner Joe Girardi and the Yankees realize that Aaron Hicks is the best outfielder on the roster outside of Aaron Judge, the better. Hicks has always been an intriguing power/speed option and Yankee stadium is a great place to put those on display. Now only if he could get some more consistent playing time.
Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox- Where has this been? After toiling in mediocrity, Garcia is finally displaying the talent that made him a top-100 prospect back in 2013. Excuse me if I don’t fully believe in this breakout, but Garcia is finally on the map. Trying to sell high on him is strongly encouraged.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Remember when Byron Buxton was the top prospect in all of baseball? A lot of people were questioning how Houston could pass on him and draft Carlos Correa back in 2012. His downright pathetic performance in the majors has made that seem like a distant memory. Outside of a solid September last season, Buxton has been a disaster. I really hate to call a 23-year-old player a bust, especially ones with this much raw talent. However, that’s the way Buxton is trending at this point in his career. This is a case where it looks like the Twins rushed him to the majors. I can’t necessarily blame them either. This was a struggling franchise with an uber-talented prospect dominating the minor leagues. Any team would be tempted to make the same move the that Minnesota did.
When you look at the stats above you can see a major decline across the board. Some drop-off is to be expected with young players when they get to the majors, but these aren’t just minor differences. Every facet of his game has suffered due to his contact woes in the majors. Even Buxton’s best asset, his speed, has taken a nose dive. He still has elite speed, but it’s hard to steal bases when your OBP is .270. Just like the old saying goes, you can’t steal first base. If someone in your dynasty league still thinks highly of Buxton, see if you can work out a deal. He’s still young enough to figure it out, but until he shows us something, his value is going to keep dropping.
Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
[the_ad id=”693″]We’re over a quarter of the way through the season and Kyle Schwarber is still hitting under the Mendoza line. He’s taking a fair amount of walks which is probably why Joe Maddon has kept him in the leadoff spot, but outside of that Schwarber hasn’t really done much else. Having catcher eligibility has been his saving grace in fantasy. It’s always a plus when you can plug a guy in at catcher that barely actually plays behind the plate. However, his numbers this season are even bad for a catcher. That’s saying something.
Schwarber’s power is what has made him an attractive dynasty league target since he was drafted 4th overall in 2014. The problem is that it’s hard to hit homers when you rarely make contact. His strikeout rate currently sits well over 30% and until he corrects that, his power will suffer. Stick with him for now and hope he figures it out. If he loses catcher eligibility next season, his stock is going to plummet unless he can start making more contact.
Other Fallers in Value
Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox- The 2016 season was finally the year that Jackie Bradley Jr. showed offensive promise. The defensive wizard hit .267 with 26 home runs and 87 RBI. All of which were career highs. Two months into 2017 and that 2016 surge is looking like an anomaly. He’ll still have value, just don’t bet on him approaching 2016 numbers again.
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays– If awesome bat flips were a fantasy category, Bautista would be a stud. Unfortunately, the bat flips are basically the only thing he does well these days. He’s not worth the price anymore now that the power is diminishing.
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates– It’s starting to look like Polanco is never going to fully put it all together. He’ll have some productive seasons in his future, but he’ll need to show more power and speed to be a strong dynasty league outfielder.
That’s all for the outfielders. Check back next Tuesday as pitchers get put under the microscope.
Got an outfielder that I didn’t cover? Feel free to comment with your player questions below or ask me on Twitter.