Opening day is literally around the corner and your draft or auction is probably over, but it always pays to continue doing research. For instance, many of you may be participating in daily fantasy baseball. Looking at average auction values in comparison with projected performance can help you determine which guys will be the best value plays in those formats. Occasionally, you can find good values on the waiver wire as well.

We begin by looking at the average auction values for the outfielders according to Yahoo and ESPN leagues. We then compare those values with Baseball Prospectus’ projections in total average and value over replacement player. Total average calculates everything a player does offensively and converts it into a batting average. .260 is considered average with .300 being typical all-star level performance.

Value over replacement player compares players with the typical AAA player at their position. Unlike total average, it measures durability in addition to value. Both figures are meant to be park neutral, so they have been multiplied by the three-year park factors for each player so that we get a more accurate view of their actual value. Today, we are looking at the top 30 outfielders in groups of ten. We will look at the second group in a subsequent article.

Group A

Mike Trout 55.8 47.5 .335 75.6
Mookie Betts 51.5 42.6 .314 44.7
Bryce Harper 41.9 34.9 .293 40.9
Charlie Blackmon 38.4 28.6 .278 24.6
Starling Marte 32.9 21.9 .270 27.0
Ryan Braun 30.0 17.5 .291 35.7
Nelson Cruz 27.5 18.3 .283 29.4
Giancarlo Stanton 27.2 18.6 .292 40.2
George Springer 28.1 16.9 .284 39.5
Carlos Gonzalez 26.0 18.6 .290 24.2

It is Mike Trout’s world and the rest of us are just living in it. He is nearly twice as valuable as just about everyone on this list. So, anyone that wants to shell out 20 percent of their salary cap on his services are almost justified in doing that. This is one area where real baseball and fantasy baseball collide. Otherwise, the list of top players is a study in value the same way that the other positions have been so far.

Starling Marte has the lowest TAV and one of the lower VORP values of the group, yet fits precisely in the middle because of his speed. If you are a daily fantasy player, speed does not matter nearly as much. This is where understanding the format makes so much more sense. Players picking him (or bidding high dollars on him) probably did so because they were playing in a standard 5×5 format.

On the bottom, we get the normal Coors Field cognitive dissonance with Cargo. He produces at a solid clip and the numbers are huge, but obviously the idea is just about anyone can produce those numbers (Blackmon has the same issue as well). The thing is that someone has to produce those numbers and get those at bats, so we might as well be the ones to benefit from them.

Group B

J.D. Martinez 24.9 17.0 .288 23.3
A.J. Pollock 25.9 14.7 .269 30.0
Christian Yelich 23.1 16.1 .269 35.4
Yoenis Cespedes 20.5 17.3 .268 30.5
Andrew McCutchen 21.0 16.3 .297 49.2
Gregory Polanco 21.0 14.3 .256 15.8
Justin Upton 18.5 12.6 .286 30.5
Billy Hamilton 16.2 13.8 .223 9.1
Adam Jones 15.4 12.7 .279 33.0
Khris Davis 17.2 9.9 .271 24.6

I could start out with the obviously, but I’ll bury the lead and compare two Pirate outfielders. Check out the projections on McCutchen and Polanco and then check out the average prices. They were considered equally valuable in Yahoo leagues. Allow that to sink in for a moment. There has long been a tension between categorical success and actual success. Granted, McCutchen had a down year last season, but offensively he was still a superior player.

Still, comparing Polanco and Billy Hamilton is comparing night and day. Take away Hamilton’s obvious charm and you strip him down to where he becomes a fifth outfielder. 70 stolen bases is a nice round number. Vince Coleman used to do that back in the day. The end result is a bad offensive player that will give you amazing production in one category and good production in another. The rest are shaky at best.

It’s surprising that Adam Jones is as low as he is. He was the hero on the national team in the World Baseball Classic and is a classical five category star. If you include the on base element he falls back some, so daily fantasy players should tread cautiously, but in a standard 5×5 league he would seem to be an ideal OF2.

Group C

Matt Kemp 16.7 10.2 .269 24.7
Jose Bautista 10.7 13.7 .297 31.9
Jackie Bradley 12.2 10.7 .276 21.2
David Dahl 13.9 5.4 .271 15.9
Adam Eaton 9.0 8.4 .260 29.3
Stephen Piscotty 7.2 10.1 .265 19.8
Andrew Benintendi 7.3 8.6 .288 26.6
Lorenzo Cain 8.2 7.6 .263 20.4
Odubel Herrera 9.9 4.9 .260 24.0
Adam Duvall 7.7 5.6 .262 19.6

The great thing about tiers is that it embellishes what does not belong. Jose Bautista does not belong in this group. Obviously, fantasy players are expecting him to slip and he did struggle with his health last season, but a Bautista playing 80 percent of the time is often more valuable than any of these guys playing 90 to 95 percent of the time. This is particularly important when it comes to daily fantasy baseball.

The joke about the old regime in Phoenix was that they preferred to look at GARP (grit above replacement player). It was a sarcastic salute to their desire to go with attitude over tangible production. Eaton was a marriage of those two. He draws enough walks to be valuable in sabermetric terms, but the majority of the value comes from being what we might call a gamer. That can be seen in the VORP.

Odubel Herrera is similar to a number of players and one that fans should be careful. The numbers say he is an average overall offensive performer when compared to the MLB universe. He is a talented defensive center fielder and that tends to elevate his profile some. We see the same phenomenon with Kevin Kaimaier and Ender Inciarte. Keep in mind that defense doesn’t win fantasy baseball championships.

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