When preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts, it is a must to have a draft strategy, and yesterday, Zack Smith offered his thoughts on how to approach outfielders on draft day. We have also provided you with our Top 75 outfielder rankings for 2014:
Included in the rankings above, we provided 2014 projections for almost every outfielder ranked, courtesy of Daniel Schwartz from Fake Teams and Rotobanter.
In addition, Daniel Kelley provided you his outfielder breakdown using his new fantasy stat called Equivalent Fantasy Average, or EFA.
Now that we have provided you all these tools you need to prepare for your drafts, your fantasy draft preparation would be incomplete without some outfielders to target, which we provide you today, and some outfielders to avoid, which publishes tomorrow.
We asked each of the fantasy baseball writers to provide you with the outfielder they would target in fantasy drafts this season, and you can find them along with their reasoning below.
Outfielders to Target in 2014
After entering the big leagues as one of the top prospects in baseball, Jennings has been solid, but not spectacular. The outfielder is about to enter his third full big league season at the age of 27, so there is still time for Jennings to improve his stock. The batting average was much higher in the minors, and after showing small improvements there last season, it wouldn't surprise me if he was able to raise that closer to .270 in 2014. If the batting average goes up, so will the SB opportunities. If Jennings can take that next step forward, he could easily become a 15 HR + 40 SB bat. The outfielder is currently being drafted outside the top 125 in NFBC drafts, after players like Shane Victorino, Michael Cuddyer, and Alfonso Soriano. A small step forward in 2014 could catapult Jennings up the rankings while making owners that reached for him a round or two early look very smart.
Wil Myers, Rays - Jasper Scherer (follow @jaspsch)
The AL Rookie of the Year in 2013, Myers put together an impressive all-around offensive season. He hit for a decent amount of power (13 HRs in 335 at bats), drove in runs (53 RBI, equating to 95 in a 600-at bat season) and compiled a nice .293 average. One of the reasons I like Myers is that he has some of the soundest hitting mechanics among all outfielders, in my opinion. He's got extremely quick wrists and he keeps it pretty simple at the plate, enhancing his ability to effectively use the entire field. Also, one of the biggest knocks against Myers last season was his plate discipline, or lack thereof. He'll continue to strike out a lot, but I would expect his BB/K ratio to improve because he'll have a full season under his belt and he's shown the ability to draw walks in the past in the minors. The only caveat here is that Myers won't come cheap; his ADP, according to NFBC data, is 66.32. But with the potential upside and a spot in the middle of a very solid lineup, Myers has the chance to build on an impressive rookie campaign.
Sticking with the Rays and former Rays outfielders, I think there is no better player to target in the outfield than Braves outfielder, B.J. Upton. His current ADP according to NFBC right now is 213.67, and he is being drafted behind George Springer, who I like quite a bit, Ben Revere, Michael Bourn and others. Sure, he is coming off a horrific season, but he still owns the skills to put up a 20 home run, 20 stolen base season in 2014. He already owns two 20-30 seasons and three 20-20 seasons, and you can draft him in the 14th round of the 15 team NFBC leagues. Not many 20-30 hitters are found that late in drafts. Does he come with some risk? Sure, but drafting him that late in drafts, you are buying all upside.
With a top of the order that includes Choo, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios, the Rangers' offense will undoubtedly be one of the best in the league. Choo could very well score 100-plus runs for the second consecutive season, and he won't lose any power going from Great American Ball Park to his new home in Texas, which plays just as friendly for left-handed power. I look for Choo to return similar value to last season, when he finished as a top-15 outfielder. Expect another 20 home runs and 20 steals on top of a solid batting average, with the potential for 100-110 runs. Where I see his value possibly increasing is in RBIs; he only knocked in 54 runs a year ago in Cincinnati, but an improved lineup from top to bottom in Texas, including Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin batting eighth and ninth, respectively, should provide more room for run production.
Some players' production levels have ebbs and flows. Josh Hamilton has been pretty notorious in his lack of consistency. On the flip side of that coin is Holliday. His Baseball-Reference page doesn't have a lot of bold, league-leading numbers, to be sure, but in the eight seasons since he's become a regular player, Holliday's OPS+ has never dipped below 137 or above 151. He's among the most consistent players in the game. He won't win you your fantasy league, but there is basically no chance in the world he'll lose it for you. And that's worth a lot.
Making the switch from the Red Sox to the Yankees came with the usual things: the giant contract, the requirement to remove any facial hair, and of course the thought that moving into Yankee Stadium will lead to drastically more home runs. While I don't think Ellsbury is ever going to get back to the 30 homer plateau again, I can absolutely see a 15 homer, 40 stolen base season this year with a high average and the a boatload of runs. I think he'll finish up as a top 5 outfielder, but you won't have to draft him like one.
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