Due to big contracts for veterans, unprovenness (not a word, but whatever), or managerial preferences, many young players with talent get stuck behind mediocre or even poor players and buried deep on depth charts. Outfield seems to be an especially common place for this to happen. Many teams' fourth or even fifth outfielders could be great fantasy options if they got enough playing time. Today, I'm going to highlight five AL outfielders that I believe have big upside for fantasy rosters if they earn more playing time. They may be low on the depth chart today, but that just keeps their prices down, and shouldn't be considered an indicator of their skills.
Next up are two tables listing all the outfielders I'm going to cover in today's post. The NL edition will arrive later this week. These tables have key stats from the 2015 season for these hitters (if they played in the majors in 2015). And yes, this ruins any surprise over who's going to be covered, but you could have just scrolled down to the bottom of the list and done that anyway.
|Name||BABIP||LD%||GB%||FB%||HR/FB||SwStr%||Soft%||Med%||Hard%||ESPN Player Rater|
Those are the big tables with lots of stats, but let's get to the analysis you are all here for, maybe?
Dalton Pompey, TOR
Dalton Pompey's surface stats don't look good, but dig a little deeper and there are some positive signs in his very small sample. Both his fly ball % and hard hit % were above average, he had a 0.275 BABIP (which is low for a fast guy like him), he scored lots of runs and had 5 steals in just 103 PA. The bad news is he didn't show off his great plate discipline and had a very high swinging strike rate and a below-average walk rate. Both of those were supposed to be strengths for him. After spending most of 2015 back down in the minors and with a supposed deal bringing Jay Bruce to Toronto, Pompey is now firmly a fourth or fifth option. Even if the trade falls through, Michael Saunders is ahead of Pompey. Despite his low spot on the depth chart, I still believe in his skills and would not be surprised to see him do well if given playing time and eventually turn into a top of the order hitter (good speed and OBP, 0.260-ish average). His value is very low right now, so don't pay much to get him, but I think there is some upside here for a 30 steal guy in the best lineup in baseball.
Aaron Judge, NYY
After spending last season in AA and AAA, this guy will almost certainly debut in 2016. He has 60+ grade power and has a decent hit tool as well. He is probably the future replacement for one of the two aging (Gardner is only 32, but still) corner OF on this roster. He could do what Greg Bird did last year, if given enough time. Scouts are saying he has pulled in his power a little recently to focus on making contact and is more of a 25 HR hitter with a 0.275 average than a 0.240 hitter with 35 HR, like he was originally profiled. Either way, he has value in all leagues if he can get regular playing time. He is currently something like number five on the OF depth chart and number three in right field, but he is an exciting young player with lots of upside. He received an invitation to spring training and will have a chance to surpass guys like Aaron Hicks, who is a decent hitter in his own right.
Cameron Maybin, DET
Cameron Maybin had a hot start to the year, but then cooled off considerably. The power he showed isn't likely to repeat, but the other skills are legit. He should be good for 20 steals and a similar triple slash line in 2016, given the playing time. That can be useful in deep leagues. He hit way too many ground balls to maintain his 10 HR pace next year, especially given his previous years' stats (this was a career high HR total). Despite the expected power drop, he still has good value for his speed and potentially for his counting stats in a good Detroit lineup. He's currently behind Gose, Martinez, and Upton on the roster, but Gose is a defense-first guy with worse offensive skills than Maybin, so he could win that job outright in the spring.
Max Kepler, MIN
Max Kepler is the best outfielder in Minnesota without a starting job. He showed decent power and an excellent hit tool in AA. He is very likely to be called up this year. His power is still developing, so 15 HR would be a stretch, but a high average is very possible. It's possible he is called up very early in the year, depending on how the OF shakes out. He did extremely well in AA last season (0.322/0.416/0.531) and scouts love his balanced offensive skillset. He doesn't have huge power, speed, or hit tool, but he is a well-rounded, experienced hitter (he's been a professional since age 16, coming out of Germany). It will take him beating someone out or an injury to get regular time, with Rosario, Sano, and Buxton in the outfield. Rosario is not so good that he is unbeatable, however.
Preston Tucker, HOU
Preston Tucker did better than expected given his scouting report. He showed 25 HR power and...and...not much else I guess. He didn't take walks, didn't hit for average, and had a high swinging strike percentage. The power looks legit, though, and that means there is upside here if he can develop as a young hitter. He's stuck behind Rasmus, Springer, and Gomez, but Rasmus has his weaknesses, and Gomez and Springer have had injury issues lately. Of all the guys on this list, I am most nervous about recommending this guy because of his poor plate discipline, but given time, I think he can improve on that and he has already shown good power. Scouts gave him average (50) grades for power and hit tool, but I think that is selling his power short. If he can hit 0.260 and maintain the power he showed last season, that is valuable. He's one to keep an eye on.
There you have it, five outfielders just waiting for their opportunity to show off their skills. Maybe these guys aren't draftable in shallow leagues, but they are names to watch for on the waiver wire if they get their chance.