Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets – Outfield

Jeremy Maw
@j_maw
March 23, 2021

Traditionally, in fantasy, we are looking to start a minimum of three outfielders. In some cases, starting up to seven is an option. Thankfully, there are plenty of available players at the position who are more than fantasy relevant. What does this do for strategy on draft day though?

Well, that is totally up to you. There is no perfect blueprint to follow here. Four of the top five players in fantasy play outfield. Extremely top heavy in talent. With a small gap in the second round, just one player has an ADP between 12-31 (Bryce Harper at 18). In the mid tier, there are plenty of different styles of players. This all depends on filling team needs. Power? Speed? Average? It’s all there, maybe just not all in one player.

Similar to the Draft Targets – First Base article, let’s try to breakdown the tiers by ADP and see which players should be targeted this season. The ADP being used in these articles are from the NFBC. Check out our rankings here, to bring to your draft for an edge.

Top Tier

Ronald Acuna Jr. – ADP 1
Juan Soto – ADP 3
Mookie Betts – ADP 4
Mike Trout – ADP 5
Christian Yelich – ADP 11
Bryce Harper – ADP 18

The first four players in this tier are self explanatory. They can all be mixed and matched, depending on where you draft. No one is going to fault anyone for taking one of Acuna Jr, Soto, Betts, or Trout first overall. These four are technically in a tier of their own, but to save room in this article, I’ve included two others. That being said, Yelich has the upside to be considered in this tier as well. Coming off injuries and a down season in 2020, being selected at the end of the first round is warranted. Bryce Harper is the one who kind of fits in no-man’s land. He’s on the edge of the top tier and on the edge of the mid tier. I lean to the former.

To find a player with as much raw talent as Harper, is no easy task. He has teased fans over his career, showing that he is capable of being the best hitter in all of baseball, highlighted by the 2015 campaign. However, there has been little consistency since 2012. Now 28 years of age, we have all witnessed this “prodigy” grow up right before us. Receiving all of the criticism and praise a player can take.

For fantasy purposes, Harper lacks top level production in just one category to be considered a first-round draft pick. The power numbers are there; 37 HR, 104 RBI’s, and a .933 OPS are projected for 2021 by THE BAT X. His speed, while not what it once was, is still there too. His eight stolen bases last year prorates to 21 swipes in a 154 game season. Projecting anywhere from 15-22 is realistic. While the Phillies outfielder is an OBP stud (.420 last season), the batting average is still a category which leaves room for improvement. In 2020, Harper owned a .279 BABIP – second lowest of his career. This potentially correlates with his career low in Zone % (percentage of pitches seen within the strike zone). Indicating that opposing pitchers were pitching around the slugger. If this number jumps back up to the 43% range, the BABIP should increase back to his career average of around .310-.315. Thus, inflating his batting average. Although hypothetical, projecting an increase in this category is all that is needed to make a case for Harper going earlier than his current ADP and I am all for it.

Mid Tier

Kyle Tucker – ADP 32
Eloy Jimenenz – ADP 33
Luis Robert – ADP 35
Marcell Ozuna – 45
George Springer – ADP 49
Aaron Judge – ADP 54
Michael Conforto – ADP 73
Teoscar Hernandez – ADP 79
Nick Castellanos – ADP 81
Austin Meadows – ADP 89

There is a lot to discuss with this group. With so much young talent, comes warts and uncertainty. Conversely, upside and fantasy winning production. There are players left off this list that can be considered (Starling Marte, Brandon Lowe, etc.) but I wanted to narrow this down to my top selections in this range.

Feeling confident as the second outfield on a fantasy team, Nick Castellanos offers plenty of value as a late sixth round draft pick. A common theme is surfacing as we prepare for our fantasy baseball drafts this year – ignore 2020! So many players had a down season and their ADP projection is reflective. Castellanos is another victim. Sporting by far the lowest batting average of his career, the Reds outfielder had an xBA of .272, but managed to hit for just .225. Similar to Eugenio Suarez and most of the Reds hitters last year, they were simply unlucky when it came to results. His batted ball numbers were a little surprising as well, with a 32% pull rate (lowest since 2014) and 46.7% center rate (by far highest of career). Given the hitter-friendly ball park, the power numbers will climb dramatically if these numbers normalize. Draft Castellanos with confidence, a player who will contribute to four categories.

Low Tier

Byron Buxton – ADP 113
Dylan Moore – ADP 121
Tommy Edman – ADP 129
Mike Yastrzemski – ADP 137
Victor Robles – ADP 149
Clint Frazier – ADP 177
Leody Tavares – ADP 202
Andrew Benintendi – ADP 228

Ah the low tier. Where darts are thrown and gems are mined. Few players will contribute to more than three categories in this group. One stands out more than everyone else, in my opinion. Clint Frazier is a player who the Yankees seemingly try to trade every year. Given the historical depth at the position and the unwillingness to give up on Brett Gardner, it has been difficult to crack the lineup consistently.

Frazier’s name is churning in the rumor mill, too, something he’s unfortunately become accustomed to since he first put on pinstripes in 2017.

Matt Kelly – MLB.com

Enter 2021. Where Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton are anything but pictures of health (not that Frazier himself has stayed healthy either). What does cloud things a little, is the addition of Jay Bruce. Considering there is only one DH spot and four players hoping to play it everyday, Boone has a tough decision to make each game!

Meanwhile, LF should be available for Clint Frazier to claim. In 2020, the 26-year old saw 160 plate appearances and made the most of them. He increased his BB rate to 15.6% and reduced his K% to a career low 27.5% (still room for improvement, but a good sign). Assuming Clint Frazier can stay in the lineup on a regular basis, the fantasy production should follow. The New York Yankees should sit atop the AL East and have the luxury of hitting some questionable starting pitchers in hitter friendly ballparks on a high occurrence. Towards the end of the 14th round, Frazier offers plenty of upside at the position.

Summary

Write your own narrative. With so many players at the position, there are plenty of directions to go. Sure, it would be great to select on of the top four. But Yelich and Harper are great pieces to build around as well.

In the mid tier, finding one or two players here is not a necessity. The young and talented players have seen an inflation on hype. Risking a top draft pick on these guys (Tucker, Jimenez, Robert) could be fun, or terrifying. If you are willing to take that risk, it could certainly pay off. For more of a guarantee though, players like Conforto or Castellanos are more transparent in their production at a discount.

Clint Frazier towers over the others in the low tier. The talent and projection of plate appearances are not accounted for in his ADP. In a full season, there is no reason to believe he cannot produce the same numbers as players going five to six rounds ahead of him.

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