The decision of whether to divide outfielders into separate positions or consider them altogether is always tough. I play in leagues under both sets of the rules. The decision to separate them usually comes down to the fact that it is always easier to go from specific to general than from general to specific. The drama comes in whether Mike Trout will retain the top spot this time around. It largely depends on the lists and how many categories you play. In six category formats he probably keeps the top spot, but there could be some debate in five categories.
In this space we are taking five common projection systems and developing an aggregate projection in the five basic categories. Most projection systems use an algorithm, so their projections are all fairly similar. We have not included them all, but this is pretty representative sample.
Mike Trout–Los Angeles Angels
Projection: .297/44 HR/119 Runs/110 RBI/15 SB
Trout narrowly edges Cody Bellinger on my board, but there is certainly room for debate. If you are considering all outfielders together he might slot behind Christian Yelich on some boards as well. The key for Trout is always health. He would have been a runaway fantasy force last season had he not missed the last month. As it stood, he was still the AL MVP yet again.
Cody Bellinger–Los Angeles Dodgers
Projection: .290/42 HR/107 Runs/117 RBI/14 SB
The NL MVP is also eligible in right field and first base in some formats. The added flexibility may vault him over Trout for some. I give the slight edge to the guy that has been doing it longer. Bellinger took a significant step forward last season and he will need it wasn’t a mirage.
Starling Marte–Arizona Diamondbacks
Projection: .286/22 HR/90 Runs/80 RBI/28 SB
How will the change of address truly affect him? Most of these projections were done before he changed addresses. The Dbacks will likely be more potent than the Pirates and Arizona is a better hitting environment. Will they allow him freedom on the basepaths?
George Springer–Houston Astros
Projection: .274/34 HR/105 Runs/92 RBI/7 SB
He stole bases in the minors, but he’s never done it at the big league level. That is the only thing standing between him and a first round fantasy grade. He tumbles down the list because power is not that rare a skill. Add in solid plate discipline and he likely leapfrogs Marte in six category leagues.
Victor Robles–Washington Nationals
Projection: .264/17 HR/82 Runs/72 RBI/30 SB
How much progress can we expect in year two? This is the big question for all second year guys. The steals will help him play up in standard five category formats. He does not necessarily look good when you add the on base element, but he might grow in that department.
Luis Robert–Chicago White Sox
Projection: .264/22 HR/76 Runs/72 RBI/21 SB
Like Eloy Jimenez, the Sox have already given him a long-term contract, to they are riding and dying with him in center. He has plenty of talent around him, so he won’t have to dominate early. I’d expect a similar arc as Jimenez. He will produce eventually, so be patient.
Ramon Laureno–Oakland Athletics
Projection: .259/23 HR/77 Runs/72 RBI/16 SB
Laureno is the quintessential Athletic. He was picked up for a song and came out of nowhere to be surprisingly productive. If he hadn’t suffered an injury last season he likely would have finished with a 20/20 line that would have made waiver claimers happier than a pig in slop.
Lorenzo Cain–Milwaukee Brewers
Projection: .277/12 HR/77 Runs/55 SB/18 SB
They say that speed is the first thing to go. I can’t remember the second. Cain is a strong defender and as such will always play, but his place here is a testament to how shallow center is. He might rebound a little from last season’s numbers, but I wouldn’t count on much.
Danny Santana–Texas Rangers
Projection: .254/21 HR/70 Runs/67 RBI/18 SB
In the NBA, there is a phenomenon of players on bad teams suddenly producing 20 points per game. Then, a good team will sign them and come away disappointed when they never come close to that. Producing in a losing environment can be easier than you think. As more expectations come the chances of repeating those returns dwindles.
Randal Grichuk–Toronto Blue Jays
Projection: .242/30 HR/71 Runs/82 RBI/3 SB
Grichuk was paid for one very good skill. He hits home runs. Unfortunately he doesn’t hit for average or draw a number of walks. So, he will go through long periods where he’s is seemingly doing nothing. If’he’s a part-time player for you then you can live with that.
Jackie Bradley Jr.–Boston Red Sox
Projection: .236/19 HR/71 Runs/66 RBI/9 SB
If you want to go through a fun exercise, go back and look at all of the regulars on the Red Sox from 2018 and then look at their numbers in 2019. Certainly there was nothing nefarious going on. Bradley is strictly a bench performer in fantasy terms.
Mallex Smith–Seattle Mariners
Projection: .250/6 HR/67 Runs/41 RBI/41 SB
Five category leagues are my least favorite. What always ends up happening is that specialist like Smith will be way too overpriced for what they actually bring to the table. Granted, his 2018 was much better than 2019, so maybe he returns to that level of production.
Brett Gardner–New York Yankees
Projection: .246/16 HR/70 Runs/54 RBI/10 SB
Gardner has forged himself quite a career. He is more or less a bench guy at this point, but he managed to dig out 20+ home runs last season, so maybe he has another one of those seasons left in him. The Yankees will eventually have a crowded outfield. He has left field and center field eligibility though.
Shogo Akiyama–Cincinnati Reds
Projection: .268/14 HR/60 Runs/54 RBI/8 SB
He might be the sleeper of this position. Whether he will play everyday is in question. However, if he produces close to what he did in Japan he will come out looking a lot better that. With Nick Senzel in tow it is questionable how much he will play.
A.J. Pollock–Los Angeles Dodgers
Projections: .257/15 HR/51 Runs/50 RBI/8 SB
If he plays he’s valuable, but he is penciled in to be the fourth outfielder at this point. If he plays some in right or left field he could have multiple position flexibility.
Author’s Note: “The Hall of Fame Index Part II” is available at Amazon.com. The Kindle version will be live on March 26th. Pre-orders are available for 5.99. The paperback version is available now for 14.99.