2016 Fantasy Baseball: Undervalued Top 40 Outfielders
The great folks at Fantasy Pros gather many fantasy analysts’ rankings and put them together to make a nice little cheat sheet for us to use. This helps eliminate crazy default rankings at one of the main fantasy sites and gives you a little clearer picture of where players are being valued at in draft season. This year the outfield position is loaded with top-end talent, aging sluggers, young up-and-comers and everything in-between, so I want to break down FP’s aggregate outfield rankings and find some undervalued outfielders who could serve you well this season.
George Springer – Fantasy Pros Aggregate Ranking: 10 – My Ranking: 7
Springer has struggled with injuries in his brief Major-league career, but when he’s played he’s mashed. He hit 20 homers in 78 games his rookie year, then followed up that debut with 16 homers and steals apiece last year in just 102 games. So you’re thinking fewer home runs, injuries – meh, right? Well, not so fast. He cut his strikeout rate from 33 percent to 24 percent last year while maintaining a stellar 11 percent walk rate. He improved his base stealing, and he also had a 24 percent line drive rate, which is near the top of the league. He came back from a fractured wrist in early September and hit .304/.373/.464 with 10 extra-base hits and two steals. If he stays healthy he’ll be a first-round pick next year.
Ryan Braun – FP: 16 – MR: 14
Braun had his best season since 2012 last year hitting 25 homers and stealing 24 bases with a .213 Isolated power mark. He was one of only four players to go 20-20 (Machado, Goldschmidt, and Pollock). I think the steals will top out around 20 this year, as his age and injury history will probably deter him from running too much. But I do think the power is back for real. His average fly ball distance last year was 302 feet, according to Baseball Heat Maps, which is exactly what it was in his 41-homer 2012.
Adam Eaton – FP: 28 – MR: 26
I rank Eaton higher than the average and that’s after I moved him down five spots just recently. I thought I was maybe a little too high on him as I don’t think he has much more power upside than what he showed last year. I ranked Eaton so high because I play in mostly OBP leagues that count extra-base hits, etc., so Eaton’s .360+ OBP and 9-10 triples are extra valuable. Eaton killed it in the second half last year, posting a .904 OPS, but after June 22 he had a just-as-stellar .892 OPS with full-season paces of 21 homers and 24 steals. He upped his fly ball rate to a career-best 27 percent last year to go with a 10 percent home-run rate, so both of those are repeatable. I don’t think he’s got more than 15 home runs in his bat, but he’s gonna score a ton of runs and help you in most other categories.
Shin-Soo Choo – FP: 35 – MR: 21
Choo’s more valuable in OBP leagues as his .382 career OBP attests. Even at age 33 last year he posted a .375 OBP and hit 22 bombs, his most since 2010. His .187 Iso was his best mark since 2009, so he’s still got plenty left in the tank power-wise. Texas’ lineup is going to score plenty of runs this year, and Choo should be a main catalyst for it. I have him ranked pretty high, but that’s because I plan on drafting upside early and Shoo is a good “safe” play later in the draft.
Curtis Granderson – FP: 38 – MR: 30
Most likely, Granderson won’t repeat his numbers from last year, but his transformation last year tells me he’ll continue to thrive in whatever role he’s placed in. As of right now I think he’ll still be the Mets’ leadoff hitter, a spot in which he excelled last year. His walk rate was a career-high while swinging at the least amount of pitches in his career. He swung-and-missed less often than ever before, and his contact rate spiked at a career-best 81 percent. Granderson should be good for 20 homers, 10 steals, and around 80 RBI and 80 runs regardless of role. He’s another “safe” veteran play later in drafts, but don’t be turned off just because you may think he’s old or boring.