The outfield position is the deepest of all the positions, for obvious reasons. There are 90 players to choose from, sometimes even more with platoon splits. There is talent to be found all throughout the draft.
The pool of outfielders is deep, but the talent is there, too. The top outfielders have a load of power, some with 40-home run potential. There are hitters deeper in the draft that can hit double-digit homers and steal 10-plus bases. With at least 50 outfielders drafted in standard leagues (five OF spots), there is value to be had in the later rounds. For the sake of time, I will only rank the top 50 outfielders.
I use a couple of different of criteria when developing my rankings. I look at their 2015 performance, where they finished on the Player Rater, their career performance and if this past season was an outlier, their surroundings (lineup support) and where I think they project this season. Some of it may be subjective, especially the projections, but I try to keep it in line with other fantasy sites.
The stats I use for the projections are runs, home runs, RBI, steals and batting average. I know there are leagues that use OBP or OPS instead of average, but they are in the minority. I will keep it for the majority that use ESPN standard five categories. I do factor in hits though because it more or less affects average (or OBP).
This list will feature the outfielders ranked 21 to 50. I won’t write about every single one, but highlight a player or two in each tier that interest me. If I or one of my colleagues already wrote about a player, I will include that link. I will do my best to exclude certain players that have been ranked in other positions, like a Chris Davis or Ben Zobrist. So, keep that in mind before saying I left someone out.
Without any more hesitation, here are the outfielders ranked 50-21.
50. Delino DeShields
48. Dexter Fowler
46. Ender Inciarte
45. Michael Conforto: Conforto didn’t spend a lot of time with the New York Mets, only 56 games. However, he made a big impact in those games. He hit nine home runs, 26 RBI and .270. He also crushed two more home runs in Game 4 of the World Series. He is slated to be the Mets’ starting left fielder. While he isn’t known to hit lefties, he will have the increased playing time to prove himself. He isn’t a speed guy, so don’t expect more than four steals. In a full season, I expect him to hit 18 home runs, 70 RBI and .275.
44. Alex Gordon
41. Randal Grichuk: The first two months of the 2015 season were a struggle, as he only played in 21 games. Then, the weather starting getting warmer and Grichuk’s bat started to heat up. He hit five doubles, three triples, five home runs, 12 RBI and .282 in 25 June games. He finished as the No. 60 outfielder on the Player Rater. He definitely has power potential, but the plate discipline and contact issues need some serious work. He had a 10.1 infield fly rate and 15.0 swinging strike rate. I may have him a little too high, but I like his potential.
39. Jay Bruce
37. Curtis Granderson: Granderson bounced back in a big way in 2015. After hitting 20 home runs, 66 RBI and .227 in 155 games in 2014, he hit 26/70/.259 in 157 last season. He finished as the 23rd outfielder on the Player Rater. He posted a career-high 13.3 walk rate while keeping his strikeout rate around his career average of 22 percent. He posted a .364 OBP, best since 2011. Despite being 35, Granderson has played in at least 155 games in four of the last seasons. He will likely not be the leadoff hitter, so his value drops him to a OF4 this season.
36. Adam Eaton
33. Shin-Soo Choo
32. Billy Hamilton: Hamilton’s low ranking is due to one factor, he doesn’t get on base enough. He’s known for his speed, 13 steals in 13 games in 2013 and 113 over the last two seasons. However, he had a combined 285 on-base percentage in that span. He had a 37.8 fly ball rate, but only hit four home runs. He would be better off collecting infield hits. He had a 42.6 ground ball rate. If he could get that over 50 percent, his OBP would be around .300. He will still collect around 140 hits and steal over 50 bases, but his ratio stats are going to suffer.
31. Ben Revere
30. Kole Calhoun
28. Hanley Ramirez: He will gain first base eligibility after 10 games this season.
26. Gregory Polanco: Polanco was called up on June 10, 2014. He hit seven home runs and 33 RBI with 14 steals. The negative is that he hit just .235/.307/.650. In 153 games last season, he hit nine homers and 52 RBI with 27 steals and .256. The power numbers slumped, but he was able to boost his average and almost double his steals. His ground ball rate dropped, but so did his fly ball and HR/FB rates despite making better contact with the ball, 29.9 hard hit rate. I think 2016 will be the year Polanco his 12 to 14 home runs with 80 RBI and .265 and 26 steals.
25. Michael Brantley: After undergoing shoulder surgery and rehab, Brantley made his spring debut on Thursday. His original expected return date was late April, early May. He now looks on track to only miss a few games. He is one of the most patient hitters in the league. His 1.18 BB/K ratio ranked No. 1 and his 24.9 O-Swing percentage ranked 17th among all qualified hitters according to Fangraphs. If he plays in 140 games, I expect him to hit 13 home runs, 70 RBI and .295 with 12 steals. If he suffers a setback, I move him down into the fifth tier.
24. Matt Kemp
21. Hunter Pence
There are a lot of great players on this list. Once we get closer to the top, the power numbers begin to increase. While steals seem to be harder to come by each season, there is some speed that can be found late. There are definitely some players on this list I’m avoiding, but I would be happy with almost all of them on my team.
One outfielder that I didn’t talk about and that I’m excited to watch is Ben Revere. He’s on a good team in a poor pitching division. With the Nationals a threat in the National League East, I expect Revere to get on base, run and score. A lot.
Another hitter I want to see in 2016 is Adam Eaton. He was finally healthy last season, playing in 153 games. He hit 14 home runs and stole 18 bases. He doesn’t excite you in any one category, but he will provide you good stats across the board. This may be the last season Eaton comes in as a sleeper.
Is there an outfielder I overrated? Underrated? Or completely left off? Let me know in the comments. Again, I am avoiding all players that I ranked at another position. Most, if not all, of these players will be outfield only.
The top-20 outfield rankings will be broken up into two articles, 11-20 and then 10-1. They should be posted within a week or so.