Outfielders make up the spine of most fantasy rosters. With power and speed, they are usually the most productive and dependable pieces of any lineup, but it is also a position with great depth. With all that production often comes disagreement on who is valuable, and just how valuable they are. After all, in a position of great depth do you really need to draft outfielders high? Well, when they are this good, you certainly do.
Note: These rankings are for standard roto leagues, with eligibility based on 20 games played at the position in 2017
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Trout is the best player in baseball. While an argument from scarcity can be made that Jose Altuve should be the first name off the draft board this year, Trout is a monster with 30/30/.300 potential.
A better lineup around him means Trout’s RBI should bounce back toward triple digits and the runs should improve too. He hit 33 homers in just 114 games last year after missing time with a thumb injury. If you aren’t taking him in the top two you shouldn’t be playing fantasy baseball.
2. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Despite a 20-20 year with 100+ runs and RBI, Betts was a disappointment in 2017.
A shockingly low BABIP (.268) slashed his average by 54 points last year, but that should rebound. With JD Martinez added to the Red Sox lineup, there is even more potential for monster counting stats and he is a 30-30 candidate like Trout. Betts is the total package and should come off the board quickly after Trout.
3. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
Blackmon was a beast last season, thanks to improved power and remarkable counting stats.
All that has come at the cost of his steals, but there is still speed in his legs to swipe 25 bases if he wanted to. Blackmon has honed his plate discipline and has been a remarkably good player for the last three years. I’m a little wary of paying full price for him in 2018, just because he only missed three games last year and had ridiculous run & RBI numbers. Those could dip this year, and if he isn’t stealing again he isn’t quite as valuable as Betts. However, he is still a first-round pick in most leagues and has the upside to be league MVP when it is all over.
4. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Harper’s 2017 was cut short by injury in mid-August, but before then he was among the best hitters in all of baseball.
The lack of steals is all that puts him behind the top three, that and some volatility in categories. If he ever put everything together at once and paired his 2015 power (42 HR) and average (.330) with 2016’s steals (21) he would be unstoppable, but that power is looking more and more like a one-off. Still, he has great production, and while the steals are unlikely to hit double digits, he is a terrific player.
5. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees
Stanton played 150+ games for the first time in his career in 2017, and the result was a monstrous season.
His power is undeniable, and a move from Marlins Park to Yankee Stadium makes another 50-homer year, even if he misses some time, far more likely. Despite the towering power, Stanton is only a contributor in three categories, which means he simply can’t be taken ahead of the elite players in the outfield.
6. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Judge burst onto the scene last year with a first half for the ages. His raw tools translated to the majors far quicker than anyone expected, but he wasn’t flawless. A slump took a deep hold in the second half, and while he corrected course in September, it was a reminder that in baseball no one is perfect.
Heading into 2018 there is a lot of hype about Judge, but while the power is likely to play well again, his average is a worry thanks to an astronomical strikeout rate. Someone will overdraft him, but I don’t like the chances of getting a good return on investment if you are trying to make him the fifth outfielder.
7. George Springer, Houston Astros
Springer is a step down from Judge, but still firmly a top ten outfielder.
He made a big improvement in his plate discipline last year without sacrificing any power. That kind of change is terrific to see, but it means making further improvements is unlikely. He has the potential for a .300 average but it will be luck-driven more than anything if he gets there. Still, the power is there and the Astros lineup will keep his counting stats strong.
8. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bellinger was magnificent in his rookie season. He created long ball magic with a big uppercut swing and serious bat speed. With such a rookie performance, sustainability and repeatability become the major question.
I’m not certain he can keep it up to such an amazing extent. Opposing pitchers have had all winter to identify holes in his swing, and there is instability in things like exit velocity which helped power his long balls, and let us not forget that Dodger Stadium is a cruel mistress to home runs. Any regression could be damped by a full season at the plate, but if you pay expecting 50 homers you are likely to be disappointed.
9. JD Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Martinez is coming off the best year of his career, but a protracted free agency means he has only just arrived in Boston. We all know how tough the Boston media is on new arrivals, and that often hurts them.
2017 may well be the peak of Martinez’s production, but he has put up 30+ homers before and hit .300 as well. If he can stay healthy he has a shot to out-perform this ranking, but a slow start could also lead to a spiral downward.
10. Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox outfield is pretty good, huh! Andrew Benintendi is coming off his first full year in the Majors, and it was awfully productive.
While he lacks pop he is a terrific hitter with a remarkably low strikeout rate and strong on-base skills that will help his counting stats. No individual stat leaps off the page with Benintendi, but he is capable of contributing across all five categories, which is like gold dust.
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