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State of the Position - Outfield

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Brian Creagh reviews the state of the Outfield position.

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike the previous 'State of the Position' series, the outfield position is going to be short on strategy. With so many players needing to be rostered, and so many different types of profiles available at every stage of the draft, the "best" strategy is impossible to determine until you see how the flow of your draft/auction takes shape. To provide the most value, we'll spend most of our time looking at breakout candidates, and players who are being inappropriately valued based on ADP.

Strategy

As I mentioned earlier, your strategy for drafting outfielders needs to be fluid. Outside of the first round, when and where to pick outfielders is far too dependent on the outcome of earlier picks to apply a "best practice". I think the one general observation I would point out is how the amount of power options available late in recent mock drafts. Power is typically the most difficult asset to acquire later in drafts, but the outfield position has a lot of veteran power sluggers coming at steep discounts. The are obvious warts with all of these players, but there's a lot of value in the likes of Dexter Fowler (ADP of 191 per mockdraftcentral), Josh Hamilton (184), Curtis Granderson (219), Oswaldo Arcia (178), Josh Reddick (235). These are guys to keep in mind when picking between position scarcity and raw stats earlier in the draft. You can find power late in drafts at the OF position and might be able to reach to fill other positions.

The other general observation worth pointing out is how steep the OF falls off after the first 10ish picks of the draft. After Trout, Harper, Stanton, McCutchen, and Bautista are off the board, I wouldn't be excited about drafting any of the available OFs for the next round or two. Pollock and Betts are awesome dual-threat options but I'd prefer more pedigree in my top two picks. Starling Marte and Charlie Blackmon are too one-dimensional and J.D. Martinez, George Springer, and Justin Upton are too streaky. Now I like all of these players, but spending a 2nd or even 3rd Round pick on them would make me nervous. If I don't get one of the top options at the position, I could be waiting a few rounds before taking my first outfielder, and it's good to have that option in mind when prepping for your draft.

Breakout Candidates

For the same reason the strategy section is a little boring, the breakout candidate section is loaded with intriguing names for the OF position. My favorite breakout candidate for 2016 is the Marlins Christian Yelich. He's in the perfect spot where his name has been around a while, some managers have been burned by him, his numbers haven't been incredible, but he's steadily gotten better and is only 24 years old. He's a sneaky 15/15 candidate (as he has been the last few years) but you won't have to pay a premium for him. Domingo Santana is another OF I expect to have a breakout season. The Brewers moved Khris Davis to Oakland to open up a spot for Santana and he had an impressive showing in a brief call-up last season. I'm also very intrigued by the Phillies Aaron Altherr. He appears headed for a starting gig in the Philly outfield and has shown power/speed combo in the minors.

Some breakout candidates who are being priced out of their value include Billy Hamilton, Gregory Polanco, and Randal Grichuk. I'm not convinced Hamilton can stick as an everyday position player, so drafting him anywhere in the Top 10 rounds is too pricey for me. Polanco is Christian Yelich with more hype and going a full round earlier in the drafts. Grichuk, and I'd include Kyle Scwharber in this comment if he wasn't catching this year, is benefitting from a strong finish to the season, and owners are extrapolating those numbers to a full 162-game season. I think he'll produce, but not at that rate, and not for that price.

Prospects

I would've included him in the breakout section, but he's the leader of the prospect class and decided to put him here - Byron Buxton is the most intriguing prospect in 2016. He will start 2016 with the big-league club, he has the best set of tools of any prospect, but he struggled in debut last season. I'd caution against expecting too much from a rookie, but he also could have the type of season that catapults your team to the top of the standings. Nomar Mazara is another prospect I'm intently watching this season. He made big jumps in prospect lists and is firmly entrenched in the Top 10. He reached Triple-A last year and could find himself in the majors at some point in 2016. If he does retain rookie eligibility next season, he should be the top offensive prospect in the game.

Aaron Judge, Bradley Zimmer, and Lewis Brinson are a trip of Top 50 prospects who could make an impact in 2016 as well. Zimmer is my favorite of the group due to the volatility of Brinson and Judge, but each could be big-time factors in dynasty leagues. Max Kepler and Anthony Alford are two other volatile names that jumped into most Top 100 lists and worth keeping an eye on. Both could be enormous fantasy weapons and are close to earning a MLB call-up.

Of the recent draft class/international FA class Andrew Benitendi and Eddy Julio Martinez are the names of most interest. Each are a few years away from making an impact, but their the top names to invest in now. Other players to keep on your radar are Ian Happ, Daz Cameron, Yusniel Diaz, and Kyle Tucker. There is a nice wave of ultra-athletic OFers in the lower minors, and I expect multiple players to emerge as future superstars. Most of my dynasty league rookie picks have been spent on this toolsy OF class.