Over the next couple of weeks 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, but sometimes the value at those early rounds is too good to pass up, so I have a mix of both here today!
Note: I'm pushing these out now in case you're drafting soon! The short blurbs for each player will be added later.
TARGET: Christian Yelich
650 PA, 26 HR, 100 R, 80 RBI, 14 SB, .293 AVG
I already liked Yelich in the preseason, looking all the way back to my mock draft in December where I said he was underrated and likely to be traded as well. Then he got traded to Milwaukee, a fantastic hitters park! Yelich is going to have a huge season here, hitting in a good lineup and providing great all-around production including power, speed, and average.
When to target: This is a top-25 player, get him in late Round 3 or in Round 4.
Risk profile: Low.
TARGET: Tommy Pham
615 PA, 24 HR, 95 R, 75 RBI, 21 SB, .280 AVG
Many have been hesitant to buy in to the 6 WAR season Pham put up last year (in just 530 PA), but the main thing holding him back before now has been health and playing time. Before '17, he posted essentially the same SPD scores and ISO's. This year, he'll play full time, as the Cards have cleared out the extra OF's over the offseason, and he's penciled into the #2 spot in their lineup according to RosterResource. Buy into last year's breakout, and you'll be rewarded here in '18!
When to target: Round 6 in Yahoo/CBS. Round 4 in CBS.
Risk profile: Low-to-mid.
TARGET: Eddie Rosario
598 PA, 25 HR, 77 R, 87 RBI, 10 SB, .280 AVG
In '15 and '16, Rosario established himself as a decent platoon-hitting all-around fantasy contributor, who struck out too much (25%) and never took a walk (3%). Then in '17 he went and dropped that K-rate to 18%, while maintaining the good BABIP skills, on his way to a 27hr/9sb/.290avg season. K-rate stabilizes quickly, so buy into this new skill from Eddie, and expect more of the same in '18.
When to target: Round 9-10 in CBS/ESPN, Round 11-12 in Yahoo.
Risk profile: Low.
TARGET: Mitch Haniger
590 PA, 23 HR, 74 R, 79 RBI, 8 SB, .260 AVG
Injury masked the big breakout for Haniger last year - prorated to 150G, he posted a 25hr/8sb season with a .280avg. We won't ask him to repeat the AVG again (BABIP was inflated), but the homers and steals should be easily repeatable, and there is upside here if he manages to work his way higher in the Mariner's lineup to get more PA, R, and RBI. The cost is so low, too!
When to target: Round 18.
Risk profile: Low (zero cost, good upside).
AVOID: Adam Duvall
530 PA, 27 HR, 68 R, 78 RBI, 4 SB, .240 AVG
Duvall and Schebler's days as full-time outfielders are numbered with Jesse Winker coming to steal their PAs. If you can afford to float him on your bench, then it's nice to have that 30 homer power around, but the cost is unfortunately just too high to buy in on Duvall. It's possible that one of Duvall or Schebler wins out over the other due to injury or ineffectiveness, but right now it sounds as though the plan in Cincinatti is to get all four outfielders a decent amount of time this year.
AVOID: Adam Jones
619 PA, 25 HR, 78 R, 82 RBI, 2 SB, .265 AVG
Why is Adam Jones still treated as a star player in fantasy? Since about 2009 he's been putting up the same 20-25ish HR, .265-.280 AVG. It used to come with a handful of steals, but not anymore. Meanwhile, the rest of the league has powered up, and 25 HR just isn't special anymore. This is an easily projectable player, so I'm not really sure what other fantasy owners are hoping to get by drafting Jones so early this year.