Fantasy Baseball Position Primer: Outfield

Roto Arcade

Nine different major league players produced 20/20 seasons in 2013, and eight of them were outfielders. Twelve of last year's top-30 fantasy assets carried outfield eligibility. Of the eight players to reach the 40-steal plateau last season, six were outfielders.

Baseball's top-ranked prospect plays the outfield (Byron Buxton), as does the consensus top-ranked fantasy commodity, Mike Trout — and Trout, just for the record, is still only 22 years old. He's already hit over .320 in back-to-back seasons, he's led the A.L. in runs-scored (twice) and stolen bases, and his career OPS is .948.

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Mike Trout, simply put, is a bad dude.

This roster spot is full of bad dudes — multi-category fantasy weapons with power, speed and whatever else you're looking for. The future of the position is clearly in capable hands, too. Last season's buzziest player was an outfielder (Yasiel Puig); this spring's buzziest player might very well be another (Billy Hamilton).

In Yahoo fantasy leagues of standard size and shape, you're only required to start three players at this spot (plus two Utils), so it seems unlikely that anyone will feel terrible about their team's opening day outfield. Of course that's not to say your fantasy outfield will match the stats produced by another owner's Trout-led group, but you'll feel OK about it, post-draft. The names won't seem too sketchy. In a typical 12-team mixed format, this is a roster position where you can afford to take risks — multiple risks, gambling on range-of-outcome players with high ceilings. Even if your dice-rolls don't hit, you should really have no trouble finding acceptable replacements in a mixed free agent pool.

Outfield is the perfect place to take a shot with a draft-and-stash prospect who isn't guaranteed to open the season in the bigs — someone like Oscar Taveras or George Springer. You'll find that whoever you deploy as an April-May placeholder will deliver acceptable stats in all likelihood, while you wait on your lottery ticket.

Basically, unless you're involved in an A.L./N.L.-only league in which 50-plus outfielders are active at any given time — great format; not the norm — there's no obvious reason to fear this spot. In mixers, I generally seem to land one outfielder from the upper tiers (no, I do not fear Ryan Braun), at least one from the Round 8-12 range (Werth, Soriano, Cuddyer, et al), and one of the speed merchant OFs. (And that speed merchant is usually Hamilton. I mean, just look at these ridiculous wheels. That's crazy. Not normal by human standards.)

I can't recall ever having the sense, in any recent mock or draft, that one of my mixed league outfields was particularly weak, and/or beyond repair. If you somehow manage to screw up this spot ... well, perhaps baseball isn't your game. Maybe give fantasy golf a try, champ.

Position averages for the top-60 fantasy outfielders, last three years

2013, OF1 – 89.1 R, 24.3 HR, 84.1 RBIs, 18.2 SB, .287 AVG
2013, OF2 – 76.2 R, 17.0 HR, 65.4 RBIs, 14.2 SB, .275 AVG
2013, OF3 – 67.3 R, 14.8 HR, 55.2 RBIs, 13.0 SB, .262 AVG

2012, OF1 – 95.5 R, 28.8 HR, 90.0 RBIs, 17.4 SB, .284 AVG
2012, OF2 – 81.1 R, 22.4 HR, 80.9 RBIs, 11.4 SB, .276 AVG
2012, OF3 – 71.0 R, 15.7 HR, 61.1 RBIs, 18.0 SB, .273 AVG

2011, OF1 – 95.6 R, 26.9 HR, 93.9 RBIs, 20.9 SB, .293 AVG
2011, OF2 – 77.7 R, 19.1 HR, 68.3 RBIs, 19.1 SB, .269 AVG
2011, OF3 – 67.9 R, 13.6 HR, 60.6 RBIs, 13.5 SB, .265 AVG

(Note: We’re treating the outfield as three positions, with “OF1” representing the 20 highest-ranked players. The outfielders ranked 21-40 were the OF2s, and 41-60 were the OF3s.)

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