2014 Outfield Tiers: Roto (Part 1)

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With the infield done and dusted it’s time to look at the position which covers the power and speed facet of fantasy baseball better than any other position…outfield. Standard Roto leagues tend to have 5 outfield spots so this position is naturally the deepest as often 6 are drafted per team. Of course it is also the deepest in real as each team has two more outfielders than they do any other position on the field.

At this point the tiers system gets a little different because now rather than 30 guys to rank we have 100+ and once you get beyond the top 45 or so it becomes messy as to how to value these players. Therefore, I am going to do these tiers in a two part system with the first article tiering the first 49 in a similar way to how the previous positions have been done. Then in the second part I will approach the tiers by assessing players based on how they can help your team e.g. are they a power or speed guy and how do they hit for average. This will allow you to tailor the later part of your draft to filling those 4th and 5th outfield spots with guys who will help you in the categories you have neglected, be it intentionally or unintentionally.

In addition, the system of outlining the categories people excel in compared to the others in their category is a little different as well. Within each player tier some categories have their own tiers and the players that are by far the best in that category will have the category highlighted with bold text. For example: Ellsbury, Rios and Gomez should all steal 35+ bases this year so they are highlighted in bold in the elite tier but McCutchen and Gonzalez should themselves steal 20+ bases which is five more than the rest of the tier so they also get recognised for that.

When I refer to a player’s line I will list them Runs/HR’s/RBI/Steals with average following.

Within each tier players are ranked according to ADP taken from fantasypros.com

Different Class: Trout

Image courtesy of fangraphs

He will be the best performer by far at the outfield position this year and one of the two best players in the whole of fantasy baseball. Trout is thought of so highly that drafted second means you are unlikely to get him unless the guy before you has a big crush on Miggy. Trout could rack up 100 runs and RBI this year at a 300+ average with 30/30 potential when it comes to homers and steals. There’s not much more to say here other than Trout could be better than most other first round outfielders combined with a late round pick and anytime you can get a player worth two picks at a position you cannot pass that up.

 

Elite: McCutchen (Runs/RBI/Average/Steals), C.Gonzalez (HR’s/RBI/Steals), Jones (Runs/HR’s/RBI), Ellsbury (Runs/Steals), Braun (HR’s/RBI), Harper (Runs) Gomez (Steals), Puig (Runs/HR’s), Rios (Steals), Kemp, Werth (HR’s/Average).

When you look at this tier you will probably see at least one guy that surprises you and another two that initially would surprise you but on second thoughts have the potential to be here but for now let’s start from the top.

McCutchen is probably the most consistent five category performer behind Trout with a projected 90+ runs and RBI, 25 homers and steals all at a 300+ average. Gonzalez is capable of pushing McCutchen for being the second best outfielder IF he can stay healthy. If he does he should put up 90ish runs and RBI, 30 homers, 20 steals at a 290 average. Jones could easily make a push to be considered alongside McCutchen and Gonzalez come year in end in a really nice line up. A projected line of 100/31/90/15 at a 280 is right up there among the best.

Image courtesy of Zimbio

Ellsbury is an interesting prospect this year because he is now in a very favourable park for power so his projected line could be even better if he adjusts to the park. Even if he only puts up 10-15 homers with 60 RBI then 100 runs with nearly 50 steals at a 290 average will be more than adequate #1 OF numbers. Braun is one of the guys who opinion is most varied on and while with a projected line of 88/28/96/16 at 290+ I’m not expecting the elite production he provided the last few years I am not expecting a complete bust. Harper has the potential to be one of the best in the game but coming off an injury last year it’s understandable why people are a little down on him. I genuinely feel like he could outperform his projected line of 90/25/70/14 at 280 but until I see 2012 wasn’t a one year wonder season I will always be slightly hesitant projecting him higher than this. Gomez is an interesting proposition and a projected line of 70 runs and RBI backed by 20 homers and 35 steals is let down a little by a subpar (for this tier) 260 average. Puig burst onto the scenes last year and this year will be a big test for him and if he can live up to a projected line of 95/30/70/15 at a 290 average then fantasy owners will be more than happy with where they can get him.

Rios may be one of the guys that surprise you but playing in hitter friendly Texas a quality projected line of 90/20/80/35 at 280 is more than achievable. Kemp is fantasy baseball’s marmite, some love him some hate him but there’s no denying if he can play 140+ games he could be a tremendous fantasy asset with nearly 90 runs and RBI backed up by almost 30 homers and a nearly 300 average. Finally here is the guy I think will surprise you most in Jayson Werth. Werth had a great year last year following a poor 2012 and I feel that if he can perform similar to last year a projected line of 90/30/85/5 and a 300+ average will easily be valued equal with the guys in this tier but at a much lower initial cost (ADP in round 8/9). Of course you wouldn’t want to wait to take Werth as your #1 OF because of how late he’s going but I have put him here to make it clear it is fine to reach for him in round 6 because he could give you #1 OF production as a #3.

 

Step Below: Stanton (HR’s), Bautista (Runs/HR’s), Bruce (HR’s/RBI), Upton (Runs/HR’s), Choo (Runs/Average/Steals), Pence (RBI/Steals), Marte (Runs/Steals), Trumbo (HR’s/RBI), Holliday (Runs/Average), Myers (RBI), Heyward (Runs/Steals), Brown (HR’s/Average), Soriano (HR’s/RBI)

This tier is top heavy with guys who could easily produce as well or better than some of the guys in the tier above but there is something in every case that just makes me happier with them as a #2 OF.

Stanton undeniably has the talent to be as good as Harper and maybe even better but what worries me with him is a tough hitters park and a frankly awful line up around him. Add in that his average will be nearer 270 and even a good line of 80/35/85 cannot put him in my top tier in that park. Bautista is another injury prone outfielder who seems to be undergoing a power decline in the last few years meaning that his projected line of 90/30/90 with a 260 average is actually lower than what it could be. If he stays healthy and shows more power he is in a great park with a great line up but he worries me too much to be a #1. Bruce is a fantastic youngish power hitter in a home run park but his average of 250 is my worry. A line of 90/30/100 is nothing to dismiss as a #2 but he will be a frustrating #1. Rounding off the power guys at the top of this tier is J.Upton who needs to show that the power he showed early last year can be translated across a whole season before he can be a fantasy #1.Batting second in a decent line up will give him good run numbers (100) but also means that even 30 homers at 270 leaves him looking at just 75 RBI.

Now we transition a little more towards the speed guys of the tier with Choo who has moved to the awesome hitter’s park of Texas. 100 runs should easily be possible in that park with that line up and a 290 average with 20/20 potential will help offset lower RBI numbers (60). Pence could also provide you with steals (15) but will also hit closer to 25 homers meaning that 90+ RBI is possible. The extra power comes at a small cost to average (270) and batting in the middle of the line-up will put him nearer 90 runs. Next up we have the real speed guy of the tier in Marte where 40+ steals is easily possible but those extra steals come with a trade off in power (15 homers). Batting at the top of the line-up should mean 90 runs at an average of around 275 but that comes at a cost of RBI (40).

Image Courtesy of sportsillustrated

Now we jump straight back to power with Trumbo who should hit 35 homers with 90 runs and 100 RBI. Now those are definite elite numbers but the difference here is that Trumbo will hit at nearer a 240 average and then when you consider there are no steals from him he becomes a 3 category performer and that is why he won’t be more than a #2 OF for you. Holliday is considered to be many in fantasy as Mr. Consistent and a line of 95/20/90 at a 285 average is nice production. However, with consistency comes limited upside and that is the thing with Holliday, he won’t excite you or surprise you but he will be a solid #2 base with which to build around. That excitement I mentioned just now well Myers could be the guy to give it to you with a projected 80/25/90 line at a 270 average. However, he could easily put up better numbers than that but it’s a tough hitters park with a nothing more than decent line up so that would make me hesitate to take him as more than a #2. Heyward had a tough year in 2013 but batting at the top of a powerful line up should help. Has power of his own (25 homers) but the RBI that come with that are limited by batting behind the pitcher (60) however, the trade-off is that by hitting at a 260 average in the 1 slot could give him 90-100 runs.

So let’s round off this tier with a flourish of power. First off we have Brown who should hit 30 homers at a more than respectable average (290). He is projected to bat 6 which limits his runs potential (70) but means he could easily get 90+ RBI if the line-up fires. A lefty power hitter in a home run friendly park for lefties should surely be getting a lot of hype right? Well for Soriano that doesn’t seem to be the case and its baffling considering he is expected to hit 30 homers in an improved line up. Ok so a 250 average is a downer but a guy who is projected to produce 79 runs with 94 RBI and can chip in 10 steals could easily be a #2 OF.

 

Solid: Craig (HR’s/Average), Cespedes (HR’s/RBI/Average), J.Hamilton (Runs/HR’s/RBI), B.Hamilton (Steals), Gordon (Runs/RBI/Average), Jennings (Runs/Steals), Cuddyer (HR’s/RBI/Average), Victorino (Runs/Steals), Martin (Steals/Average), Crisp (Run/Steals), K.Davis (HR’s/RBI), Eaton (Runs/Steals)

This tier is a real mix of guys but there are some solid number 3’s here mixed in with some great upside guys who you can draft a bit later but could give you at least #3 upside.

We start the tier with the epitome of solid in Allen Craig (he will likely be drafted a first baseman before he gets to a point your taking him for your outfield) who will hit for by far the best average in the tier (300) and will contribute a solid 20 homers in a strong line-up. Cespedes plays in a tough park with a bits a pieces line up but 25 homers at a 280 average should lead to decent run and RBI totals. Josh Hamilton is being seen as a steal by many who think he could return to close to his 2012 best but I’m more reserved on him. I feel like 25 homers at a 260 average in a good line-up will lead to 80 run 90 RBI numbers which is close to #2 numbers but he’s still a big risk.

From one Hamilton to another but with Billy Hamilton it’s all about the speed! He could easily give you 60 steals this year and if he shows he can hit it could be closer to 80 and with those steals should come runs batting at the top of a decent line up (70+). The trouble is that a guy who depends so much on getting on base a 250 average is not really good enough considering he has very little power (2-5 homers) and won’t knock in many runs (30 RBI) making him a 2 category contributor. Gordon seems to be getting little hype this season but a line of 95/20/80/10 at a 270 average is certainly solid production. Jennings is another of the relatively speedy guys in this tier (25 steals) but a 260 average is nothing to write home about for a guy who 20 homers is a good year. Cuddyer plays in the best power hitting park in country in Denver and that should lead to a productive line of 70/20/80/10 at a 275 average but in mile high the power numbers could be even better. Beware he is getting on in age now though.

Victorino surprised many people last year with his decent production upon moving to the Red Sox and they have shown a lot of faith in him by letting leadoff hitter Ellsbury sign with their main rivals leaving him as the #1 in that line up. Ok so there isn’t going to be a lot of home runs (15) or RBI (65) but a close to 280 average with 24 steals at the top of a good line up should give him 90 runs. Leonys Martin could be a #2 OF for you if he could bat at the top of his line up but with Choo and Andrus firmly cemented there it is more likely he will be the Rangers #8 or 9 and that limits his runs upside (70) and with 11 homers in the back end of the line-up 50 RBI is a good estimate. His upside lies in his average (270+) and steals ability (35+) but it’s all a little in vain with where he bats. Crisp is another case of an outfielder who could be better if he can stay healthy and get nearer 550-600 AB’s rather than 480-500. As it stands his projected line is 80/15/60/25 at a 270 average with his RBI being on the low side due to batting #1 in the order.

Now we get to the two guys you can get later in a draft but could easily perform like #3 OF’s so are worthy of being included here. First up we have Khris Davis who is set to bat #8 for the Brewers which hampers his run potential a little (60) but batting behind what appears to be a stacked line up he should still get a decent amount of RBI (80). He should provide good power in a decent hitting park with 25 homers being what I’m expecting him to be around. Add in the 10 or so steals he could add and a 260+ batting average and there is reason for promise here late in drafts. Finally to round off the tier we have Eaton who was involved in an offseason trade to Chicago and will slot straight in at the top of a very exciting line up. Batting #1 combined with a 270+ average and 20 steal potential should lead to plenty of runs (80) but his lack of power (8 homers) combined with his batting position will cause a low RBI total (50). Good upside here for very little cost especially if he can put up some power numbers.

 

4th OF’er Options: Zobrist (Runs/RBI/Average), Beltran (HR’s/RBI/Average), Granderson (Runs/HR’s/RBI/Steals), Prado (RBI/Average), Cruz (HR’s/RBI), Jackson (Runs/Average), Yelich (Runs/Steals), Calhoun (Runs/Average), Springer (HR’s/Steals), Garcia (Average), Pagan (Runs/Steals/Average), Castellanos

Image courtesy of usatoday

Seeing Zobrist down here should tell you all you need to know about 2B and SS. Should put up a solid line for this tier but you won’t get him late enough for a 4th OF slot. Beltran made the offseason move to New York and should benefit from the availability of a DH slot. 20 homers at a 280ish average should give him run and RBI numbers in the 70s. Granderson nearly made into the above tier for me because he is the one guy in this tier who can hit 30-35 homers but an average of 220ish hurts that upside just enough to make me hesitate. The fact he can chip in with 15 steals helps the value of a guy who could put up 90 runs and RBI. Prado’s appearance here further underlines the weakness of 2B and highlights how relatively weak 3B is this year. Again you’re not getting him as a 4th OF. Cruz is the only guy I see getting close to Granderson in terms of power but I’m looking more at 25 homers than 30 even in that fantastic park. His average isn’t as bad a Granderson’s though but I also don’t expect the steals or runs from him.

Jackson could easily score 100 runs thanks to a 280ish average and batting at #1 in that Detroit line up. 15 homers would be a nice number to go with 10 steals but they won’t help his low RBI numbers much. Yelich should also put up a decent number of runs but with a closer to 270 average and batting #2 in the Marlins line up means it’s nearer 80 than 100. He has 15/15 potential to go with those runs but don’t expect big RBI numbers in that line up. Calhoun has leapt up draft boards with the news he could bat #1 in a fantastic Angels line-up and while that should help push his runs up towards the 90 mark it does hamper his RBI (55-60ish). 15 homers at a 280 average with 10 steals thrown in is a nice combination in the second half of drafts if you aren’t chasing a particular stat.

Springer is one of the big sleepers of the year and if you could guarantee me he would be in the majors from opening day I would move him up AT LEAST one tier but for now it appears he could have to wait a month or two. A line of 60/20/70/30 for two thirds of a year shows great promise for the future. A must in keeper leagues! Garcia is a guy that the White Sox are very high on and it’s easy to see why when you watch him at the plate. He should bat at #5 in a good line up which will allow him to put up a decent number of RBI but could limit his runs. A 270 average with 10-15 homers is what I expect from him but he has the potential to outperform that if he gets rolling.

Pagan often gets forgotten in drafts because of a lack of power but he should steal 20 bases and score 80 runs in a stacked San Fran line-up. With that lack of power comes a lack of RBI given that he bats at the top of the order but he should spend plenty of time on base with a 280ish average. Last up is Castellanos who by rights should be in the third base column because that is where he will end up playing mostly this year but for now he is only OF eligible so he’s gone in here instead. Rumours are he will bat 2nd behind Jackson and in front of Miggy which means he could have superb RBI and run numbers. 10 homers at a 260ish average is a good baseline return especially when he gets 3B eligibility. If he settles he could put up much better power numbers.

 

So that ends the first part of my outfield tiers and covers the guys you should be using to fill out the bulk of your outfield in a roto league. Some of the guys I’ve listed will be drafted to play other positions but if they are still there when you are looking for an OF of that level there is no reason you cannot plug them in here. In the next article I will be going through players according to power, steals and batting average as well as trying to find good all round guys for you to take late who could tip you over the edge and onto a fantasy championship.

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