“Put me in coach.” “I could be centerfield”! If you haven’t gotten ready for opening day yet by listening to the song, “centerfield”, I highly suggest you stop what you’re doing and listen to it. Well, after reading this article!
If you’re looking for a five-tool player, it may be coming from the outfield. Yet, there are a variety of prototypes you can find at the outfield position. Light-hitting defensive gems, prototypical sluggers, or a mix of the two; the diversity at this position cannot be matched, though I guess that’s to be expected considering there are three spots to fill.
This makes the position very intriguing when it comes to fantasy production. Usually, most of content about fantasy baseball is centered on category/roto leagues. That being said, I’d bet that a survey would show that a great proportion of fantasy baseball players partake in points leagues.
While there are some similarities between points leagues and category leagues, the differences vastly outweigh it. In category leagues, you need to focus on reaching certain targets in each category, aiming to build a very balanced team. In points leagues, though, all that matters is the fantasy points provided; it doesn’t matter if it comes from home runs or stolen bases.
With that addressed, it is time for us to examine how players are going to produce from a points league perspective. Most of the time, this is done through standard rankings, which utilize data, intuition, and gut feeling to put players in a specific order of expected production. Yet, there might be a way to simplify the approach even further to have more success.
What do I mean like this? As opposed to standard rankings, these are my own manual projections, with a full explanation here. While there may be players that I prefer that are ranked below certain players, I am aiming to establish enough objectivity to go with the subjective touch of manual projections.
With that, let us get to the rankings! Today, we’ll be focusing on outfielders. As you’d expect, this position is deep in talent, but since many leagues require you to roster five of them, you’ll have to make sure you’re consistently supplementing talent at the position. Will you embrace the depth, or look to get the top-tier stars? That’s up to you; there is no perfect strategy!
So, which outfielders should you be targeting or avoiding? Which outfielders get a boost or drop-off in points leagues as compared to category leagues. Let us dive into it!
Stats via Fangraphs and Baseball Savant
2022 Points League Outfield Rankings
|6||Whit Merrifield||KC||2B, OF||433|
|7||Ketel Marte||ARI||2B, OF||425|
|8||Ronald Acuna Jr.||ATL||OF||417|
|16||Kris Bryant||FA||3B, OF||385|
|26||Tommy Edman||STL||2B, OF||358|
|37||Enrique Hernandez||LAD||2B, OF||342|
|47||Daulton Varsho||ARI||C, OF||323|
|49||Ryan Mountcastle||BAL||1B, OF||319|
|54||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||TOR||OF||314|
|55||LaMonte Wade Jr.||SF||1B, OF||313|
|58||Chris Taylor||LAD||2B, SS, OF||310|
|63||Tony Kemp||OAK||2B, OF||301|
|67||Luis Arraez||MIN||2B, 3B, OF||294|
|69||Jeff McNeil||NYM||2B, 3B, OF||290|
|72||Alex Kiriloff||MIN||1B, OF||284|
|76||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SD||SS, OF||274|
|84||Josh Rojas||ARI||2B, SS, OF||258|
|87||Jurickson Profar||SD||1B, OF||257|
|88||Josh Harrison||ARI||2B, 3B, OF||248|
|94||Pavin Smith||ARI||1B, OF||235|
|97||Brad Miller||TEX||1B, OF||229|
|101||Hunter Dozier||KC||3B, OF||221|
|102||Yoshi Tsutsugo||PIT||1B, OF||219|
|108||Darin Ruf||SF||1B, OF||208|
|111||Michael A. Taylor||KC||OF||201|
|113||Garrett Hampson||COL||2B, OF||196|
|120||Bryan De La Cruz||MIA||OF||158|
|122||Eric Haase||DET||C, OF||143|
|124||Tyler Wade||LAA||3B, SS, OF||130|
|125||Dylan Moore||SEA||2B, OF||115|
|127||Jorge Alfaro||SD||C, OF||106|
Who Gets a Boost In Points Leagues?
|Player||Team||Roto Rnk||Points Rnk||Diff|
|LaMonte Wade Jr.||SF||59||55||-4|
|Bryan De La Cruz||MIA||123||120||-3|
- Michael Brantley and Charlie Blackmon generally get grouped together as “boring” veteran players who will likely give you steady production. Brantley, specifically, gets a boost in points leagues with elite contact skills (10.4% K, 99th percentile). Blackmon, though, also makes plenty of contact (15.6% K), and should be in line for improved power; his expected home run/fly ball rate (13.3%) was much better than his actual 9.9% home run/fly ball rate. In this format, don’t be afraid to make the non-flashy pick!
- The move from Cincinnati to Seattle is the opposite of ideal for Jesse Winker‘s fantasy value. Fortunately, that matters less in points leagues, as he’ll still have his tremendous plate skills (10.9% BB, 15.9% K) to lean on. The likely decrease in batting average and power makes him a tough sell in roto leagues, but much easier in this format.
- Alex Verdugo and Tommy Edman each make noticeable gains in points leagues do their tremendous contact skills. Both were also top underachievers in their respective expected home run/fly ball rate; their production last year is much closer to their floor than their ceiling. That’s music to my ears, and hopefully yours too!
- Speaking of expected home run/fly ball rate, there is a massive difference between how Andrew Vaughn should’ve produced versus how he actually did. In roto leagues, his lack of a strong batting eye or any speed hurts him. In points leagues, though, take advantage of his above-average contact skills mixed with the underlying power (10.9% barrel) he showcased last season. As someone not being drafted as a top-75 outfielder in ESPN targets, he’s an absolute bargain; bet on the breakout.
- Max Kepler, Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo, and Robbie Grossman all aren’t premium targets in roto leagues due to their projected below-average batting average. However, the latter three are all projected to have double-digit walk rates, while Kepler possesses productive plate skills with a lot of power. As we adjust to this format, they’re all relatively reliable sources of production.
- Based on consensus projections, Seiya Suzuki is projected to post a double-digit walk rate with a sub-20% strikeout rate, along with power. That combination is very enticing in this format. There’s obviously some risk when it comes to adjusting from pitching in Japan to in the MLB. At the same time, the reward is also obvious.
- If you want to bet on Dylan Carlson breaking out, which I would be completely content to endorse, this is the best format to do so in. The 23-year-old doesn’t stand out in roto leagues necessarily with an average batting average, and questions about the power and speed. However, he’s already demonstrated strong plate discipline, and could easily see more growth at his age, especially in terms of power; I wouldn’t expect him to strike out as much (24.9% in 2021) either. He’s got a pretty steady floor, but could easily be the player we look back on a year from now and label him as a consensus top-25 outfielder.
Whose Value Decreases In Points Leagues?
|Player||Team||Roto Rnk||Points Rnk||Diff|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||SD||40||76||36|
|Michael A. Taylor||KC||97||111||14|
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||TOR||49||54||5|
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||ATL||5||8||3|
- As we touched on in the roto league outfield projections & tiers, Adolis Garcia had quite the peak month with a weighted on-base average (wOBA) over .400 in May. After that, though, his performance declined significantly. Meanwhile, based on weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+), he was a well below-league average hitter (77 wRC+) from July 1st on; the league clearly adjusted to him, and it’s likely that what we say in May cannot be replicated again. Plus, with his serve plate discipline issues (35.8% chase, 34.4% whiff), he’s the exact type of player that loses significant value in points leagues. Honestly, I’m not sure he’ll finish as a top-100 outfielder in this format.
- Even in Tyler O’Neill‘s breakout season, he still had just a 7.3% walk rate with a very high 31.3% strikeout rate. Based on his quality of contact, his breakout could definitely be legitimate. Nevertheless, this isn’t the format for his power/speed/whiff combination to do damage.
- The chances of Randy Arozarena repeating a .363 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is unlikely, though there are reasons to expect him to maintain a high BABIP. He’s a 20/20 player without a clear weakness, which plays well in roto leagues, but the contact issues (28.1% K) hurt him in this format.
- Eloy Jimenez, Avisail Garcia, Byron Buxton, and Teoscar Hernandez all see their value suppressed in points leagues due to projected walk rates under 7%. All also strike out at relatively high rates, which also impact them negatively.
- On the surface, Akil Baddoo‘s 26.5% strikeout rate seems like a potential liability. However, it did come down to 23.5% after the first month of the season, which is very encouraging. Since his best asset comes from stolen bases, he certainly takes a hit in points league. That being said, it will be very fascinating to see how he continues to adjust to the MLB level; the contact quantity came with less barrels, which is not ideal.
- Ian Happ and Joey Gallo do have above-average walk rates, but both also may strike out 30% of the time or more. Usually, points leagues do a strong job of recapturing real-life offensive value, but, in this case, Happ and Gallo are the outliers.
Top Target: Jorge Soler, Miami Marlins
Everyone in the world could use a little bit of Soler power!
The league’s home run leader in 2019, Soler was long considered to be a breakout candidate based on his prospect pedigree after signing with the Cubs out of Cuba. It appeared to be coming together with that monster season in 2019, but, unfortunately, that production couldn’t be sustained.
In 2020, Soler was still above a league-average hitter with a prodigious 18.9% barrel rate, but his strikeout rate spiked to 34.5%. Then, in 2021, his struggles went to a new level. Through June, his numbers were as poor as it can get:
- 285 PA, .186/.283/.318, .132 ISO, 6 HR, 66 wRC+, 10.2% BB, 28.8% K
To say, the least, that was not ideal. If you drafted Soler, the chances are you probably cut ties with him. The swing-and-misses were there, but the power wasn’t there- it was the worst case scenario for him.
At the same time, there was reason to always be optimistic about Soler bouncing back. He had a 12.1% barrel rate, but he had just an 8.6% home run/fly ball rate; that was bound to improve. After all, his 12.9% barrel rate in the second half wasn’t much better, but his home run/fly ball regressed positively to 24.7% With better batted-ball luck, his power (.277 ISO) got back to the level you’d expect it to be, but there’s more than just luck here. In actuality, Soler made legitimate changes:
From July 1st on, Soler’s strikeout rate dropped down to 18.9%. While that isn’t completely backed up by his underlying data, he did make more contact in the zone, but his overall 23.6% strikeout rate is mainly backed up by a 24.4% expected strikeout rate.
Per Baseball Savant, Soler had seven fewer home runs than expected. With a 50.7% pull rate, there’s no reason this should be the case. Signing with the Marlins isn’t ideal, but it’s much better than Kaufman Stadium, and his power plays anywhere. Essentially, you’re getting top-notch power from him, along with a double-digit walk rate, and the improved strikeout rate boosts him in points leagues. Plus, his lack of speed also matters less in this format, which is why he ranks notably higher in my points league projections/rankings than in roto.
Regardless of format, though, he’s a tremendous target where he’s being drafted. Expect much more of this in 2022:
— MLB (@MLB) October 27, 2021
Top Fade: Eddie Rosario, Atlanta Braves
From one Braves postseason hero to another one!
The last we saw of Eddie Rosario, he was performing like one of the best hitters in baseball. In the postseason, he posted a .383/.456/.617 slash line, winning the NLCS MVP with home runs like this:
MR. OCTOBER EDDIE ROSARIO THREE RUN HOME RUN!
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 24, 2021
Unfortunately, Rosario isn’t quite the same player in the regular season, to say the least. In 2021, he actually rated below-average in wRC+ (98), and there are signs his peak may be behind him. His home-to-first times have been on the decline starting in 2019, while he’s started to pull the ball more often. The combination of the two has hurt his on-base ability, while he also isn’t someone who walks very often.
Meanwhile, after a down year in terms of barrel rate (6.2%) in 2020, Rosario’s power dropped even further with a 5.9% barrel rate in 2021. Honestly, based on his spray charts, it’s surprising he was able to post a .177 ISO:
Rosario’s skillset, an athletic player who expands the zone often, isn’t the type that ages well. Even if the barrel rate improves slightly, he’s likely not getting back to the same power levels he once had, while he’s also not someone going to accumulate points by getting on base much. Sure, the stolen bases help his value for a roto format, but even if they stand, that isn’t enough to carry him. Add in the risk that the strikeout rate eventually balloons with less contact in the zone – his 73.1% contact rate outside the zone was a career-high mark – and it’s likely that he doesn’t finish as the top-35 outfielder he’s being drafted as on ESPN.
If Rosario was being drafted in the mid-40s for outfielders, then he’d be a fine pick. However, this is just a case where the opportunity cost is too high; there are a lot of talented outfielders being drafted around him or after him. As they say, don’t fade the player, but fade the price!