Fantasy Baseball Outfield Preview: Big names, young sluggers, and an underrated middle tier

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The outfield features many of baseball’s best hitters and will include the first four picks of most fantasy drafts this year (albeit with Mike Trout usurped from the top spot).

With sluggers like Yordan Alvarez (whose ADP is a round too late) OF eligible in Yahoo formats, there’s a good amount of depth available as well. Exciting rookies like Luis Robert, Jo Adell, and Dylan Carlson will eventually make an impact, and there’s a strong middle tier worth targeting. Let’s get to the names.

Undervalued Players and Sleepers

Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves

It’s a good time to buy Ozuna coming off a down season in which he was playing through injuries. He’ll presumably be motivated signed to just a one-year deal in Atlanta, where he’ll replace Josh Donaldson as the team’s new cleanup hitter (in front of three terrific hitters, including OBP monster Freddie Freeman directly ahead of him). Ozuna also goes from a pitcher’s park in St. Louis (and the most extreme one in Miami beforehand) that greatly suppresses righty power to a favorable hitter’s venue in Atlanta.

Nicholas Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds

He led MLB in doubles last season and given his new dimensions going from Comerica to Great American Ballpark (which has increased homers for right-handed batters a whopping 19 percent over the last three seasons), a power outbreak should be expected from Castellanos. He posted a 1.002 OPS over a 50-game sample in the National League after a trade to the Cubs last season, and he’ll now be hitting in the middle of a sneaky Reds lineup (likely third with OBP machine Joey Votto primed for a bounce back in front of him). Castellanos is an outfielder to target this year.

Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Indians

He no longer has to worry about playing time now that he’s locked in as Cleveland’s DH, and the 24-year-old finished top-five in average exit velocity and Hard Hit% last season. Reyes’ power would play anywhere, but it’s also nice he no longer calls Petco Park home with Cleveland a slight hitter’s park. Given his profile, Reyes is a strong bet to slug 40+ homers, yet he’s listed at 60/1 to win the home run title right now, which makes it easily one of my favorite future bets.

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Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers

He’s a boring veteran who’s coming off a down year thanks to injuries. Cain doesn’t provide a ton in any one category but is solid across the board, and he’s reportedly feeling much healthier entering spring. He averaged 40.5 homers/steals from 2017-18 and is slotted to bat second in front of MVP candidate Christian Yelich, so he’ll help in the often-overlooked runs scored and BA categories, making him one of the more underrated OF commodities.

Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies

He’s similar to Cain in many ways, and the veteran was on pace to easily score 100 runs last year as the Phillies’ new leadoff hitter before an unfortunate ACL tear ended his season. McCutchen is past his prime, but his price tag more than reflects it, and he’s slated for the same beneficial leadoff spot again in 2020. Citizens Bank Park has boosted home runs for righties an MLB-high 26% over the last three seasons, so McCutchen should continue to love life hitting in Philadelphia after spending most of his career in extreme pitcher’s parks in Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Maybe it’s best not to count on 150 games played, but McCutchen is being undervalued in fantasy drafts.

Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates

After dealing with a serious shoulder injury (among other maladies) over the last 1.5 seasons, Polanco enters 2020 reportedly back to full strength, and the 28 year old was once highly regarded (he posted a 149 wRC+ and stole 40 bases at age 20 in the minors). PNC Park kills righty power a lot more than it does left-handers like Polanco, so there’s 25/15 potential here at a cheap cost for a projected cleanup hitter.

Overvalued Players

David Dahl, Colorado Rockies

There’s obvious upside with Dahl, but he’s incredibly unlikely to stay healthy and isn’t much help outside of Coors Field (he hit just .254/.302/.449 on the road last season). Moreover, Dahl’s .302 BA last year was well below his .267 expected batting average, and there’s no way his ADP should be higher than Franmil Reyes’, as there’s simply not enough of a discount for someone who’s played 63, 0, 77 and 100 games over his first four big-league seasons like Dahl.

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

Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros

He’s a nice prospect with good power/speed potential but is getting drafted quite aggressively for someone slated to open the year as a fourth outfielder. Tucker should become a starter in Houston eventually, but it may take longer than expected, and it’s safe to expect Minute Maid Park to return to acting as one of the league’s more favorable pitcher’s parks again in 2020 (although maybe Tucker gets into the lineup sooner with all the HBP coming the Astros’ way). Tucker had some pretty ugly K/BB% numbers during his brief time in Houston, and THE BAT projects a .241 batting average this season, yet he curiously sports a higher ADP than Lorenzo Cain, Byron Buxton, and Andrew McCutchen.

The Wildcard

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

The No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft is so far best known for being a perennial fantasy bust, but that’s in part because fantasy managers continue to draft him aggressively for a reason. Still entering his prime at 26, Buxton is without question one of the bigger injury risks in drafts (he’s appeared in 100 games just once during his career and never in more than 140), but he’s also one of the best defensive players in baseball and one of the league’s fastest runners.

He managed a strong .262-48-10-46-14 line over essentially half a season last year (that again ended early when he needed shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum) and benefits from a home park in Target Field that boosts run-scoring and BA for righties. Buxton enters 2020 fully healthy and is the type of athlete who can go 20/25 in just 130 games this year without taking a step forward at the plate. If he does show continued improvement (he cut his K% way down last season and still has just 1,250 career ABs) and also somehow stayed healthy, then watch out.

Buxton is a true league-winner type upside pick.

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