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Equivalent Fantasy Average: Outfielders

Yeah, maybe that old position we've always "known" is so deep isn't anymore?

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Others have said it, but it bares repeating - Outfield looks thin this year. After 40-45, it gets bad. Grab outfielders early this year.</p>&mdash; Ray Guilfoyle (@faketeams) <a href="">February 21, 2014</a></blockquote>
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There are 30 big-league teams. That means there are, at any given time, 90 starting outfielders, and 30 at each of the other three positions. In fantasy, most leagues follow one of two formats - Yahoo's or ESPN's. That means 30 (for Yahoo) or 50 (for ESPN) starting outfielders (I'm talking 10-team leagues here). Of course, that ignores the utility slot(s), which traditionally go to the bat-first positions, which means first base and outfield.

So that's, what, 40 and 60 outfielders per league, respectively? I'd say if you polled fantasy players, most would assume a big percentage of utility slots would go to outfielders before various middle infielders and catchers.

I decided to look at it using Equivalent Fantasy Average, the sorting metric I've been developing to track players' fantasy contributions. I calculated EFAs for all players with 300 or more plate appearances in 2014 (based on the projections from Rotobanter). Because EFA is based on each position's means and standard deviations, it stands to reason that, more or less, the tenth player at each position (30th at outfield) should score about the same.

And that's all well and good, if you are expecting roughly equivalent production out of shortstops, third basemen, and outfielders. But as I established earlier, that's not really the situation. If your outfielder puts up the same stat line (relative to his peers) as your second baseman, you either have Robinson Cano or you're a little peeved. Because we use so many more outfielders than other position players (and even more-more in ESPN), the 30th outfielder should best the tenth shortstop by some fair amount, yeah?


Position 10th 20th 30th
C .269 .253 .248
1B .276 .267 .259
2B .274 .266 .251*
3B .271 .262 .248
SS .272 .262 .248
OF .273 .261 .248

(*Only 28 second basemen are projected to qualify for EFA; the .251 is for Dan Uggla, at 28th.)

I mean, it happens at first base. The tenth-ranked first baseman according to EFA, Adrian Gonzalez, scores .276 out of his 2014 projections. At 20th, Brandon Moss has a .267, and at 30th, it's Mitch Moreland at .259.

But look at that table up there. If I took out the positions and just gave you the numbers blind, you could probably guess that first base is the best, and catcher is the worst. The others? They are, as far as I can tell, indistinguishable from one another.

Yeah, there are some great fantasy outfielders. You want Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, et al, as early as possible. But in years past, you might pass on a Jose Bautista type a few rounds later because hey, Vladimir Guerrero, or why not, Mike Cameron. In 2014, if you hold off on a good-not-great outfielder, you're looking at Raul Ibanez, Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Quentin filling out the back end of your roster.

There's no perfect time to take each position, but it's easy to just feel like outfield is deep. But it's not.

With that said, here's the list of all projected-to-be-qualified outfielders in 2014 EFA:

Rank Outfielder Team Projected 2014 EFA
1 Mike Trout LAA .307
2 Andrew McCutchen PIT .293
3 Adam Jones BAL .290
4 Carlos Gonzalez COL .288
5 Ryan Braun MIL .287
6 Jay Bruce CIN .284
7 Justin Upton ATL .283
8 Bryce Harper WAS .281
9 Hunter Pence SFG .280
10 Shin-Soo Choo TEX .279
Yasiel Puig LAD .279
12 Starling Marte PIT .278
Giancarlo Stanton MIA .278
14 Alex Gordon KCR .277
Jason Heyward ATL .277
16 Jose Bautista TOR .276
Yoenis Cespedes OAK .276
Allen Craig SLC .276
Carlos Gomez MIL .276
Matt Holliday SLC .276
Wil Myers TBR .276
22 Billy Hamilton CIN .275
23 Alfonso Soriano NYY .274
Mark Trumbo ARI .274
25 Carlos Beltran NYY .273
Domonic Brown PHI .273
Jacoby Ellsbury NYY .273
Josh Hamilton LAA .273
Austin Jackson DET .273
Alex Rios TEX .273
31 Nelson Cruz BAL .271
Shane Victorino BOS .271
33 Desmond Jennings TBR .270
34 Kole Calhoun LAA .269
Torii Hunter DET .269
Ben Zobrist TBR .269
37 Michael Brantley CLE .268
Brandon Moss OAK .268
39 Michael Cuddyer COL .267
Martin Prado ARI .267
41 Norichika Aoki KCR .266
Adam Eaton CWS .266
Nick Markakis BAL .266
Leonys Martin TEX .266
Jayson Werth WAS .266
46 Chris Carter HOU .265
Khristopher Davis MIL .265
Gerardo Parra ARI .265
Ben Revere PHI .265
50 Christian Yelich MIA .264
Eric Young Jr. NYM .264
52 Oswaldo Arcia MIN .263
Avisail Garcia CWS .263
Brett Gardner NYY .263
Corey Hart SEA .263
Matt Kemp LAD .263
57 Coco Crisp OAK .262
Dexter Fowler HOU .262
Colby Rasmus TOR .262
60 Nick Swisher CLE .261
61 Michael Bourn CLE .260
Junior Lake CHC .260
Angel Pagan SFG .260
Josh Reddick OAK .260
George Springer HOU .260
66 Carl Crawford LAD .259
Daniel Nava BOS .259
68 Melky Cabrera TOR .257
Lorenzo Cain KCR .257
Curtis Granderson NYM .257
Matt Joyce TBR .257
Denard Span WAS .257
73 Will Venable SDP .256
74 Jackie Bradley Jr. BOS .254
B.J. Upton ATL .254
76 Peter Bourjos SLC .253
Jon Jay SLC .253
78 Rajai Davis DET .252
79 Alejandro de Aza CWS .251
Evan Gattis ATL .251
Kelly Johnson NYY .251
David Murphy CLE .251
Nate Schierholtz CHC .251
Josh Willingham MIN .251
85 Raul Ibanez LAA .250
86 Marlon Byrd PHI .249
Lucas Duda NYM .249
88 Garrett Jones MIA .248
Ryan Ludwick CIN .248
Ryan Raburn CLE .248
Darin Ruf PHI .248
92 Carlos Quentin SDP .247
Justin Ruggiano CHC .247
94 Dustin Ackley SEA .246
95 Andre Ethier LAD .245
Nate McLouth WAS .245
Michael Morse SFG .245
98 Dayan Viciedo CWS .244
99 Kyle Blanks SDP .242
100 J.D. Martinez HOU .241
101 Jason Kubel MIN .238
102 Jake Marisnick MIA .235