There isn’t a deeper and more talented position group in baseball than outfield. Five-tool studs, home run hitters, base stealers, and everything else in between exists in the positional group. There’s a reason that five outfield leagues have become so popular, the position is loaded from top to bottom. Despite the talent at the position, there are always good and bad values going within a few picks of one another. Below is an analysis of seven different tiers, using average draft pick (ADP) as the thresholds. Included are the best values, the worst values, along with a player that has the highest ceiling.
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Outfield Positional Tier Analysis
*ADP data is from 139 NFBC drafts over the past month
*Credit to Baseball Savant for advanced metrics
ADP 1 – 25
In this first tier, there is no wrong answer at the position. This group of elite players can carry a team throughout the entire season with speed, power, and everything in-between.
Ronald Acuna Jr. seems like a lock for 30 home runs and 25 steals assuming health. In fact, in his three major league seasons, Acuna’s worst 162-game pace has been 38 HRs and 23 SBs. Mike Trout is perhaps the safest floor player in this tier. Despite declining steal totals, Trout should still provide above-average stolen bases. Combined with 40+ home run power, over 200 runs and RBIs, and a .280+ average, he’s still elite. Mookie Betts and Juan Soto have number one overall upside with extremely high floors. Christian Yelich is one shortened season away from being the best fantasy player in the game. Feel confident rostering any of the above.
The two players who don’t necessarily provide the same combination of upside and floor are Cody Bellinger and Bryce Harper. While both have put up similar totals over the past few seasons, Harper feels like the safer play. He has seemingly quietly been one of the most consistent players in baseball since 2015. He hasn’t lived up to the best player in baseball expectations that were bestowed upon him after being drafted, Harper has been an early-round value every season except 2017. Also an OBP monster, the Phillies outfielder should be drafted in the first round in those formats.
Bellinger was the victim of a swing change and an unlucky BABIP. The .245 BABIP he maintained was a full forty points below his career average. Consequently, he saw his home run pace drop off from the 47 he hit in 2019. However, Bellinger is too good to doubt.
ADP 26 – 50
Best Value: Marcell Ozuna
Simply put, Marcell Ozuna is a steal at his NFBC ADP of 48.9. Hitting in the heart of one of the best lineups in baseball, Ozuna had an unreal 650 plate appearance pace in 2020. His 38 runs, 18 home runs, and 56 RBIs paced out to 92 runs, 44 home runs, and 136 RBI with a full season of plate appearances. The insane thing is, Ozuna had a season that wasn’t far off from those numbers back in 2017. Hitting in an elite lineup, and showing he still knows how to swing the bat outside of St. Louis, Ozuna should be confidently drafted in the 3rd round.
Worst Value: Luis Robert
First, you have to understand the ceiling with Luis Robert, and it’s not hard to see why he’s being drafted so high. With a power/speed profile that few can match, Robert could easily become the next Ronald Acuna Jr. or Fernando Tatis Jr. However, the swing and miss in his profile is as extreme as it gets. In 2020, Robert was 2nd-percentile in Whiff%, and 6th-percentile in K%. That type of volatility is way too risky to be drafting in the 3rd round of drafts. Unless paired with a hitter like Juan Soto or Mike Trout early, it could wind up being too much to overcome for the price you pay.
Highest Ceiling: Kyle Tucker
The Houston Astros future face of the franchise is a stud in the making. The sweet-swinging left fielder has seemingly been ready to break out for a few years now, despite only recently turning 24 years old. While he has had his detractors due to the seemingly delayed breakout, it finally came in the shortened 2020 season. Tucker’s 650 plate appearance pace was 94 runs, 25 home runs, 119 RBI, and 23 stolen bases. That’s an awesome line. Even more eye-opening is recognizing that Tucker has plenty more power in the tank. Draft Tucker as the potential 30-20 stud that he is.
ADP 51 – 100
Best Value: Austin Meadows
Austin Meadows is going to be one of the more hotly debated players in 2021 drafts. On one hand, you have a player that broke out in a big way in 2019, hitting .291, with 83 runs, 33 home runs, 89 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. That season was good enough to vault Meadows in the 3rd round of 2020 fantasy drafts. Unfortunately for those that drafted him, he disappointed from an overall production standpoint. He hit a putrid .205 across 152 plate appearances, only hitting four home runs and stealing two bases. With that said, Meadows fell victim to COVID-19 prior to the season, and simply put, he deserves a pass. Be sure not to let Meadows slip too far in drafts, as he is a bargain at his near 100 overall ADP.
Worst Value: Cavan Biggio
As fun as a player as Cavan Biggio is, he is a prime example of how real the need for speed is. There is no doubting his ability to get on base and steal bases. In 20 career attempts at the MLB level, Biggio hasn’t been thrown out one time. That’s impressive. The question marks with the 25-year-old are abundant. First is his batting average. While Biggio is an extremely patient hitter (career 16.1% walk rate), he is also a little too patient, taking one too many strikes. That approach has led to a career 26.5% strikeout rate. Combine that with a pull-heavy approach, and not quite enough power to justify taking the pull-heavy approach, and therein lies a bad batting average. The other issue lies in his batting position. Biggio enjoyed batting primarily leadoff in 2019, but with the addition of George Springer and Marcus Semien, that looks to be in doubt. Biggio could quickly find himself batting 6th in this lineup, which would also make his fantasy stock take a tumble. At his current ADP the risks are just too much.
Highest Ceiling: Trent Grisham
There aren’t many 20-20 players in baseball anymore. Primarily because players don’t steal bases at the rate they used to. A player who seems like a near-lock if given the opportunity is Trent Grisham of the Padres. With a 96th-percentile sprint speed and a 74th-percentile barrel rate in 2020, the writing is on the wall. Grisham was on pace to shatter that threshold in 2020, as he hit 10 home runs and stole 10 bases in only 252 plate appearances. Combine those numbers with the fact he’s the likely lead-off hitter against right-handed pitching, and you have a potential fantasy monster in Grisham. 100+ runs, 25+ home runs, and 20+ stolen bases are all within reach for the 2021 season.
ADP 101 – 150
Best Value: Michael Brantley
Here we go again. Michael Brantley being undervalued by the fantasy baseball community has been commonplace over the past few seasons. While his hard-hit data isn’t anything to write home about, his batting average hasn’t faltered. Brantley has maintained a .300 or better batting average every season since 2018. The Astros paid him handsomely, giving him $32 million over two years. He should be a mainstay towards the top of the lineup, giving him plenty of opportunities for runs and RBI as well.
Worst Value: Dylan Moore
This one is more so about the unknown that is Dylan Moore. It is hard to doubt a player who was 89th-percentile in barrel %, as well as 71st-percentile in sprint speed. Moore accomplished that feat, as well as hitting eight home runs, and stealing 12 bases in only 159 plate appearances. Paced out of 650 plate appearances, that is 33 home runs and 49 stolen bases! While those numbers are obviously not attainable, there is a real 20-20 threat here. The issue is in his swing and miss profile, where Moore has struck out at a 30.8% clip in his brief MLB career. While he isn’t a bad gamble if a manager went safe early, there are other players going around him that are guaranteed producers.
Highest Ceiling: Byron Buxton
This is getting old isn’t it? Every single year for the past five years has been “the year” for Byron Buxton. The oft-injured, uber-talented centerfielder has burned one manager after another seemingly every draft season. It isn’t for his results on the field when he plays, when Buxton is on the field, he is electric with his bat and on the base paths. If you take Buxton’s 1,504 career plate appearances and average them out to a 650 plate appearance pace (as we have grown accustomed to), he has averaged 22 home runs and 27 stolen bases. Meaning if Buxton had stayed healthy all of these seasons, we are talking about a lock for 20-20 production. Unfortunately, health has not been on his side. Even in a shortened 2020 season, Buxton found himself out for a few weeks with an injury. But of course, drawing us back in, he belted eight home runs in 17 September games. There is no denying the ceiling, it’s just keeping Buxton from falling off that has been the issue.
ADP 151 – 200
Best Value: Ian Happ
The now official Chicago Cubs leadoff hitter is beginning to look like one of this writer’s favorite values heading into 2021 draft season. While the powerful centerfielder has teased us before in limited plate appearances, this time it feels like the real thing. Happ has 35+ home run pop in his bat and can provide league average steals. If he stays at leadoff throughout the season, his runs totals will surely approach or surpass 100. He’s a potential top 50 pick in 2022 if all goes right.
Worst Value: Daulton Varsho
This is another example of a good young player being valued too high because of their ability to steal bases. Varsho is a rare player in the sense that he can steal a lot of bases and has catcher eligibility. He could potentially give someone a 15-20 stolen base advantage at the catcher position. Those don’t grow on trees. But the risk is you draft a player who isn’t even a starter for the Diamondbacks. Varsho may need the DH to return to the National League to stand a chance at a decent number of plate appearances. Is that a wise risk to take when you can have players like Happ, Dylan Carlson, and Joey Gallo, among others?
Highest Ceiling: Ian Happ
See best value.
ADP 201 -250
Best Value: Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor quietly continues to be an excellent utility player for the Los Angeles Dodgers. 2020 saw Taylor put together his best accumulation of stats relative to his peers after Taylor went .270 / 30 / 8 / 32 / 3 in 214 plate appearances. Prior to 2020, it had seemed like Taylor was fading away from the Dodgers plans after posting pedestrian numbers. Last season once again showed what kind of player the multi-position eligible player can be, and it’s that of a roster stabilizer who could give you league average in nearly every category.
Worst Value: Randal Grichuk
After the Blue Jays signed George Springer in the offseason, it signaled that someone in the Blue Jays lineup would have to take far fewer at-bats. That someone could very well wind up being Randal Grichuk. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and Cavan Biggio aren’t losing consistent at-bats. That leaves Grichuk versus Rowdy Tellez for the designated hitter role, and one has to assume the Tellez would get the nod against right-handed pitchers. Barring injury, Grichuk may be a spot starter in daily leagues, while not even being worthy of a roster spot in weekly leagues.
Highest Ceiling: Jarred Kelenic
Jarred Kelenic is one of those prospects that doesn’t come around every year. He has plus tools across the board. He can hit for average, has potential 30+ home run power, and 20+ stolen base upside. The question surrounding Kelenic is whether or not the Mariners will bring him up early in the year, or if they’ll wait to give him consistent at-bats against Triple-A competition. If he comes up by May, Kelenic could be one of the biggest bargains past pick 200.
ADP 251 – 300
Best Value: Kole Calhoun
How does a hitter who has hit 49 home runs in his last 750 plate appearances drop below pick 200, let alone pick 250? To add to the mystery that is Calhoun’s ADP, he is a near-lock to hit in a prime spot within the Diamondbacks lineup. While it isn’t a juggernaut offense, Calhoun has a realistic shot at surpassing 90 runs and 90 RBI. Combine that with 30+ home runs, and suddenly we are looking at a top 100 player for 2021.
Highest Ceiling: Nick Senzel
Yet another young player with power and speed to boot, Nick Senzel seems to be taking the Byron Buxton route of not being able to stay healthy. Once a top 10 prospect in baseball, the heat around Senzel has been cooled off to freezing temperatures heading into 2021. However the tools still exist to be a fantasy force, it’s just figuring out how often he will play. I believe the Reds will find a way to get Senzel in the lineup more often than not, and the upside for 20-20 is there.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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