This week at Harper Wallbanger, I'm sorting through the Big Board for 12-team 5x5 leagues to find the must-draft and must-avoid players at each position. Now I wade into the deep depths that is the Outfield pool...
STATE OF THE POSITION
I tend to think of outfielders as the complement to the rest of the hitters I draft. As my infield fills out throughout the draft with power-, speed-, or average-focused players, I push for the remaining stats with outfielders. I also try to let outfield come to me, waiting to see what guys fall well below their value. I hate the FOMO that comes with filling all your OF slots too early. That means finding good late round options, which is where I dedicate most of my focus today (outside of the first guy, who I think could be a real breakout all-around fantasy star this year).
TARGET: Andrew Benintendi
600 PA, 16 HR, 75 R, 75 RBI, 15 SB, .285 AVG
Benintendi's value has been rocketing up ever since his promotion to the majors last year (with a slight speed bump after an ugly rolled ankle), even grabbing the top spot of several prospect lists this offseason. It's not the type of player I would typically target in drafts, but I think people are actually sleeping on how good Super Bentendo could be. He's not likely to be an elite power or speed source in his first year, but the contact skills are for real, and rumors out of camp are that he could hit out of the 2 spot in the high octane Boston lineup. I've bumped him up beyond the default projections (this is roughly similar to the 60th percentile PECOTA projection) based on the strength of his xFantasy line from last year.
When to target: Round 8. Or maybe earlier. In every draft I've done, he's gone earlier than his ADP.
Risk profile: Low-to-Mid.
A Brewer Two-fer TARGET: Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton
580 PA, 23 HR, 68 R, 73 RBI, 7 SB, .253 AVG
600 PA, 17 HR, 67 R, 59 RBI, 33 SB, .235 AVG
When it comes to the Brewers outfield, I can't pick just one. Braun's a cheater, but he's been a fantasy mainstay for years now. More interesting are his two friends in the photo above. The story is similar with both... they can't make contact, but when they do, it goes a mile. Eno Sarris catalogued the reasons for intrigue with both recently. Domingo Santana missed time due to injury last year, but while he was active, he smoked the ball, and he also started to figure out how to put the ball in the air consistently. Broxton put up a Votto-like 0.9% popup rate, and kicked in some impressive speed (23 SB in 244 PA) as well. Broxton's K-rate makes him quite the batting average risk in particular, but still, I love these two. Don't make me pick just one... I choose both!
When to target: They are valued in the right order, but both going way too late. Target Domingo in Round 18 at the latest, Keon in Round 16. NFBC hypes up potential breakouts moreso than other sites, as usual, so you'll want to look at him around Round 14 in that format.
Risk profile: Mid-to-High.
Platoon TARGET: Josh Reddick
520 PA, 20 HR, 63 R, 68 RBI, 7 SB, .267 AVG
Reddick tanked with the Dodgers big-time in the 2nd half last year, but that didn't stop him from signing a $52M contract with the Astros in the offseason. He promptly disappeared off fantasy radars everywhere! Houston is going to have a great lineup, and Reddick will be in a favorable platoon situation. The new contract will keep him in the lineup, and it doesn't hurt that all of Houston's non-Springer outfielders are terrible. Part-time players can be hard to roster in shallow leagues, but if you've got a decently sized bench, Reddick should put up nice numbers for a player that can be had so late.
When to target: Nobody seems to be buying ol' Joshy, and you could probably get him in the final few rounds of any draft. I'll say go Round 20 if you want to be safe.
Risk profile: Low.
Bonus, deep target: Scott Schebler
495 PA, 20 HR, 59 R, 67 RBI, 6 SB, .251 AVG
Who? I'm as surprised as you are that I'm talking about Scott Schebler in this post. He's actually surprisingly similar in profile to Josh Reddick, without any of the name value. He hasn't gotten a lot of play in the major leagues yet, but back in '14 he hit 33 homers in the minors with a .280ish AVG, and so here he is with a surprisingly nice projection and a shot at some real playing time. Schebler should hit in a nice spot for the Reds' vs. RHP lineup, and the only major risk here is likely posed by the Reds' up and coming OF prospect, Jesse Winker.
Risk profile: Medium (playing time).
AVOID: Max Kepler
535 PA, 16 HR, 62 R, 65 RBI, 8 SB, .240 AVG
Kepler got really hot for a few weeks last summer, and still ended up with a bad season-line because of how awful he was to close out the year. The projection isn't great, and that's backed up by an even worse xFantasy line (8 xHR per 600PA, .227 xAVG). Some people are buying him for a breakout power year, but barring a major skills change I'm not sure I see it.
AVOID: Rajai Davis
475 PA, 9 HR, 56 R, 46 RBI, 23 SB, .244 AVG
If it feels like Rajai has been hanging around for about a decade and doing the same thing, that's because he has. In a part time role, he'll get you 5 or 10 HR and 20 or 30 SB, making him a great late-round steals target (or waiver wire pickup). I think the major discrepancy is that other people are thinking he gets 550ish PA this season, but the last time he did that was 2010. With an ADP in the top-200, I am totally out on Rajai, I'll get my late round/waiver wire steals from guys like Travis Jankowski, Chris Owings, and Mallex Smith