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 NL 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 AL edition can be viewed here.
These tables have key stats from the 2015 season for these hitters (if they had 100 PA 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.
|Derek Dietrich||3B, OF||289||10||38||24||0||2||8.00%||22.50%||0.256||0.346||0.456|
|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?
Trayce Thompson, LAD
Here's Klay Thompson's little brother in the outfield. He is the kind of player that gets overlooked. He didn't put up huge numbers in the minors, but he has scouting grades just above average in four tools and has a balance between speed and power. His very small sample of MLB experience is too small to draw conclusions from, but it was great. He is possibly 6th on the crowded Dodgers outfield depth chart behind Puig, Pederson, Crawford, Ethier, and maybe Van Slyke.
The good news for him is that he can play solid defense, Crawford and Puig have had injury problems, and Pederson has serious plate discipline issues and possible platoon issues (Thompson is right-handed, the opposite of Pederson). I'm not predicting a top-20 OF performance or anything, but he could be a top-40 outfielder that no one expected, kind of like Delino DeShields was last year. He's even got that athletic gene like DeShields and likely learned how to work hard from his brothers and dad, all pro athletes. That can't hurt. ZiPS projects him for 18 HR and 12 steals, albeit with a 0.226/0.277/0.402 line. It also projects him for 577 PA for some reason. That's very optimistic. Regardless, this is an interesting power/speed option to keep your eye on.
Derek Dietrich, MIA
Derek Dietrich is like a younger, more strikeout-prone, non-switch, more powerful Martin Prado. A decent walk rate, above average power, multi-position eligibility; these are all things they share. Prado is no longer useful in all but NL-only leagues. Dietrich, if he gets regular playing time, can be very useful at 3B or OF and even better if he has 2B eligibility in your league. I like his combination of skills and what he did in limited playing time. 10 HR in just 289 PA is a good number and would project out to about 22 HR over a full year.
I don't see anything that isn't repeatable in his profile. If he has a regular starting job, he could be useful in deeper leagues as either a middle infield or corner infield option. He doesn't hit lefties well, so keep that in mind. He has a path to a decent amount of playing time given all the positions he can play and the fact that all three starting outfielders have had injury or performance issues the last couple of seasons. I like his sneaky power and he can be a useful asset.
Tommy Pham, STL
I really like what I saw in Tommy Pham last season and wish he was on a team where he could get full playing time. I like his all-around skill set and he reminds me of David Peralta a little bit. We have a very small sample to work with here, but he is just the kind of under-the-radar, unheralded prospect that the Cardinals get the most out of. He just needs injuries to any of the starting outfielders to have some good playing time. If Piscotty, Grichuk, or Holliday go down, Pham should fill in, especially for Grichuk, since no one else can play center besides Pham.
His hard hit rate, slugging %, and walk rate were all excellent in his short stint. I really want to see what he does with more playing time. ZiPS gives him 334 PA, 8 steals, 8 homers, and a 0.253/0.314/0.411 line. That's pretty reasonable with some upside left. That's certainly useful in deeper leagues. For keeper leagues, keep in mind that Matt Holliday is likely leaving town after 2016, so Pham may have a full time job in 2017.
Jarrett Parker, SF
This guy is a long-time minor leaguer that has shown a high strikeout rate, high walk rate, and good power in AAA. He has done very well at that level, even if he was 27 last year. He had 23 HR and 20 steals with a 135 wRC+. Put that together and you have a decent flyer pick for a breakout outfielder. I overlooked him initially based on his age, but there is some potential here. The strikeouts are a huge concern and he will struggle to keep his average above 0.220 or so, but the power and speed is intriguing. ZiPS gives him 15 HR and 12 steals in 515 PA, with a terrible triple slash line I don't even want to type because it is so ugly.
He looked like Bryce Harper in his very short stint in San Fran last year, hitting 6 HR in just 54 PA with a 0.347 average and a 0.755 slugging. Something tells me that was a bit flukey. Oh, and he did all that with a 38.9% (!!!!) strikeout rate. You should just throw out all those numbers, basically, and focus on the fact that, like Trayce Thompson above, you can get a good power/speed guy for cheap if you can swallow the batting average risk. He is probably number five on the outfield depth chart right now, possibly six if you count Brandon Belt. However, Blanco, Pagan, and Pence have all had injuries in recent years, so there is some optimism.
Jorge Soler, CHC
Jorge Soler seems to have the same plate discipline issues as guys like Kris Bryant, but without the 75-grade power to keep him valuable. Despite a very high BABIP, he still only managed a 0.262 average. If Soler doesn't figure out his discipline issues, he could have another awful year. He is still young (who isn't on this team?) and has time to grow and develop, but I'm worried. There is enough upside in this former high-ranking prospect to take a chance on him, but there is big downside here, too. I'll probably stay away to avoid the risk, but if you like to gamble on highly variable players, I wouldn't blame you for picking Soler. At least his high Hard % gives us hope that his power is there.
I'll admit that my above statements aren't entirely optimistic, but I wanted to include him anyway because I know many are excited about his potential, and with good reason. He was given great scouting grades offensively and possesses some elite skills. He just needs to put it all together. He is now buried on the Cubs depth chart behind Schwarber, Fowler, and Heyward. Zobrist is also in the mix. He might be on the short side of a platoon with Schwarber in left field, but that's not going to help his development. If Heyward or Schwarber go down with injuries, then Soler should get a chance to see if he can fix his plate discipline and tap into his good raw power. He is probably the most talented player on this list, but also one of the most unproven.
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.