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Fantasy Baseball 2021: Outfield Preview

·Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
·4 min read
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A strong collection of outfielders remains pivotal for fantasy success, as more than any other position, outfield is the spot that provides the versatility fantasy managers need when filling out their lineup. Whether loading up on studs early or seeking out bargain-bin gems late, managers need to find a blend of power and speed among the three or five players (depending on format) who make up their outfield group.

DRAFT STRATEGY

There will always be more differences of opinion in the outfield than at other offensive positions. For example, there are 30 starting second basemen in the Majors and 90 starting outfielders. Having three times as many outfielders on the field means that there will be more differences of opinion on the ranking of each individual player. And fantasy value tends to lie in the areas where the differences of opinion are the greatest.

[Positional Previews: C| 1B| 2B| SS| 3B| OF| SP| RP]

For this reason, managers who are looking for a late-round gem are more likely to covet an outfielder than a player at any single infield position. Therefore, loading up on outfielders early is often a poor strategy. Grabbing one or two stud outfielders is fine, but wise managers will reserve at least a couple of outfield spots for the later rounds.

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PLAYERS TO TARGET

Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals (ADP 40)

With steals scarcity at an all-time high, quality hitters who also provide swipes are a cherished commodity in roto formats. And Merrifield is a great fit for those who seek a multi-position (2B, OF) option with a balanced profile. The career .295 hitter joins Trea Turner as the only two players who currently have a full-time role after swiping at least 110 bags since the outset of 2017. And Merrifield was one of just three players (along with Turner and Trevor Story) to compile at least nine homers and 12 swipes last year. He should be a top-30 pick.

Eddie Rosario, Cleveland Indians (ADP 131)

Fantasy managers cooled on Rosario when the Twins cut ties with him, but financial decisions by Minnesota shouldn’t have anything to do with Rosario’s fantasy value. The left-handed slugger found a great landing spot with an Indians club that calls home to a favorable park for southpaw hitters. And Cleveland lacks the outfield depth to do anything other than play Rosario as often as he can handle. You can expect 30 homers, a handful of swipes, and a helpful batting mark.

[Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Kole Calhoun, Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP 240)

A late-blooming slugger, Calhoun continues to be undervalued in fantasy circles. Managers are treating the 33-year-old like a disposable late-round option while ignoring that he ranks 13th in baseball with 49 homers since the outset of 2019. Sure, he isn’t going to help with batting average, but Calhoun is likely to enjoy something better than the .211 BABIP that contributed to a .226 average last year.

PLAYERS TO FADE

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (ADP 5)

I’m sure this pick will get plenty of attention, but a basic understanding of fantasy-related math shows that Trout doesn’t belong anywhere near the top five in roto leagues. The perennial “best hitter in baseball” no longer steals bases (one last season) and has produced a good-but-not-great .288 average since the outset of 2019. Trout is one of the safest first-round picks, but he also has the lowest ceiling. Those in points leagues can draft the Millville Meteor at any point, but roto managers should leave him for the end of Rd. 1.

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (ADP 47)

One of baseball’s most powerful players, Judge has appeared in just 242 of 384 games (63 percent) since the outset of 2018. Across that stretch, he hit .274 with nine steals. Managers are being overly optimistic when they spend a top-50 pick on someone who makes a notable impact in just three categories and projects to play roughly 100 games this year. Drafting Judge is the type of pick that looks great in the middle of April and terrible in the middle of September.

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (ADP 124)

Are you looking for durability? Because if you are, Buxton (one season with 100 games played) is not your guy. Are you looking for steals? Because if you are, Buxton (21 steals across 154 games since the outset of 2018) is likely to be more of a contributor than a difference-maker in that category. Are you looking for homers? Because if you are, the Twins outfielder (career 19 homers per 162 games played) is not special in that area.

Finally, are you looking for batting average? Because if you are, please steer clear of the career .238 hitter. Admittedly, Buxton has tools. He’s fast, he occasionally produces a respectable average, and last season he showed improved power skills. But managers are wasting a significant pick on a 27-year-old who consistently hits low in the lineup, has yet to develop a dependable offensive profile, and spends as much time on the IL as he does on the field.