When preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts, it is a must to have a draft strategy, and yesterday, Daniel Kelley offered his thoughts on how to approach outfielders on draft day. We have also provided you with our Top 100 outfielder rankings for 2015:
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 outfielders they would target in fantasy drafts this season, and you can find them along with their reasoning below. Some of the players profiled below may be recommended as players to avoid by our writers tomorrow, but are presented to show both sides of the argument for said player.
Outfielders to Target in 2015
Bryce Harper, Nationals - Jack Cecil
Bryce is the man and I want him on all my teams, regardless of what stats they count, or the sport that I am drafting a team for. Basically everything that I want Harper to become, he didn't do last season. But in the dumpster fire that was 2014, there were pieces of hope that allow me to go right back to having Harper fever in 2015. First of all, while few have ever claimed Harper would be a great hitter for average, in the four months he played other than the month after his surgery, he managed an average of .279 or better. As the season went on, we slowly saw the things that helped us all remember what a healthy Harper does. Remember, for all the time baseball fans spend looking at peripherals to project forward, people lose track of what Harper is doing at an age far ahead of most of his competition. He still hasn't faced a pitcher younger than him as a pro in his career, minors included.
I can easily see him hitting .285 this year, and if he can play a healthy 150 games, I think 30-plus home runs are automatic. With health, I'm assuming he'll go back to improving his K and BB rates. Last year a hurt Harper was hitting his homeruns and fly balls further than Jose Bautista and Victor Martinez. Next season, I'm anticipating he goes back to being a top-25 player in distance. Now the main reason I'm assuming health is because Harper's injuries have been impact and not soft-tissue injuries that many athletes suffer over and over again. Harper's types of injuries — walls, being hit by a pitch, sliding into a base — aren't common, and I think the string of unlucky injuries end in 2015, draft Harper as an OF1 with confidence.
Matt Kemp, Padres - Ray Guilfoyle
I might be the guy driving the Matt Kemp train this offseason, as I see him returning to the hitter he was before the shoulder and ankle injuries that plaqued him in parts of 2012, 2013 and half of the 2014 season. As a Dodgers fan, I watched a lot of their games last season, and I saw the old Matt Kemp in the second half. After hitting .269 with 8 home runs, 38 runs scored and 35 RBI in 86 games in the first half of 2014, he exploded to hit .309 with 17 home runs, 39 runs scored and 54 RBI in 64 second half games. His first half wRC+ was 117, which is good, but his 170 wRC+ in the second half ranked second to Buster Posey's 180 wRC+.
Some are down on Kemp this offseason due to his injury risk and the move to San Diego. I can understand that, but I am not sold that Petco will impact him that much. It isn't like Dodger Stadium is a hitter's haven, and I am of the opinion that lineups have an impact on park factors. Just go look at the park factors at Dodger Stadium last year.
Will Kemp improve upon his 2014 performance in 2015? It is possible, but a repeat of his 2014 season stats: .287 BA, 25 HRs, 89 RBI would be a very good return for your investment in Kemp. Only 10 hitters hit 25 or more home runs, drove in 80 or more runs and hit .280 or better last season. Kemp was one of the 10.
Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners - Tim Finnegan
Ackley, the former No. 2 overall pick from the 2009 draft, has disappointed to this point in his career, but he made a swing adjustment last summer that dramatically changed his results on the field. I have an article detailing this coming out Friday, so you should look out for it. Ackley had a huge second half in 2013, too, but there was a tangible change in process in 2014 that makes me a believer this time. I love his new swing. Ackley's current ADP in Yahoo leagues is 228, and I'm betting on him significantly outperforming that.
Matt Joyce, Angels - Daniel Kelley
If we knew Josh Hamilton were going to play most or all of the season ... I'd still recommend Matt Joyce. If you're going to be half of a platoon, always be the lefty half, because, you know, so many more righty pitchers. Joyce is more-or-less helpless against lefties over his career (.189/.258/.316 career, nine homers in 358 plate appearances), but he can hit righties more than adequately (.261/.356/.463, 79 homers in 2,175 plate appearances). Now, if you're in a league with weekly lineups, Joyce could hurt you — but then again, if you're in a league with weekly lineups, you're so behind the times that you probably have to fax your lineups off every Sunday (seriously, daily lineups or GTFO). In leagues with daily lineups, you can start Joyce against righties, sit him against lefties, celebrate the happy times. Yes, you'll run into situations where a lefty is subbed in for the starting pitcher quickly, but overall, you'll come out ahead.
Steven Souza, Rays - Rob Parker
If you are looking for a young sleeper outfielder to fill out your roster, you could do a lot worse than Souza. He is the kind of all-around contributor that can be very useful to have. Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs has him with 50 grades on his hit tool, power and speed, with an overall future value of 55. He is entering his first full season in the majors after dominating AAA last year as a 25-year-old who was, admittedly, old for the league. Nonetheless, he did dominate and Tampa Bay thought so highly of him that they were willing to part with Wil Myers for him. They have lots of information we don't have, so I'm going to assume they see something special here. He will take lots of walks and strike out more than average, but his power should be good enough for 17-20 homers and he could easily get the same number of steals, given his 26 steals in 96 AAA games last year. That kind of power/speed combo is rare in fantasy, so I recommend taking a chance on this kid in 2015. He would be an excellent third outfielder with upside for your roster.
Jay Bruce, Reds - Nick Doran
Bruce had a terrible season last year. There is no way to sugarcoat a pitiful .217/.281/.373 slash line that was far below his career slash line of .251/.323/.467 prior to last season. Bruce is entering his age-28 season and is still in the prime years of a typical career arc. Much of his failure last year can be blamed on playing through a knee injury and returning too early from surgery. Bruce finished the 2013 season rated as the 11th-best outfielder in 5x5 leagues and had been in that range for several years prior to his gruesome 2014. There is every reason to believe that he will bounce back close to that level again this year. He is ranked 31st on our Fake Teams consensus rankings this spring, which I feel is a bit too low. His ADP is currently 87th in NFBC drafts, 95th on CBS, 89th on Yahoo and 80th on ESPN. That puts him as an eighth-round pick in 12-team leagues. He is a great bargain pick in the eighth round. If he is still there for you in the eighth round you should snap him up and enjoy the 30 home runs and 100 RBI he brings to the table.