When preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts, it is a must to have a strategy before going into your draft. To assist you in your strategy, we have provided you with our Consensus Top 100 outfielder rankings for 2016, tiered rankings, and NL-only and AL-only rankings as well.
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 and avoid, which we provide you today.
We asked each of the fantasy baseball writers to provide you with the outfielder they would target in fantasy drafts this season, and you can find them along with their reasoning below.
Outfielders to Target in 2016
Starling Marte, Pirates (Jack Cecil)
Marte is the athlete that fantasy owners frequently overpay for, and in this instance, the stereotypical owners may be on to something. The thing that changed about Marte from 2014 to 2015 was something not related to athleticism. He finally posted a better than average strike out rate, which in his case means for more balls in play since Marte doesn't take much. But balls in play can result in magic for Marte, he is burning around the bases and if he continues his 4 year improvement in this category, he could be running around the bases a lot in 2016. My projections have him as the 9th best outfielder, and while that may factor in some luck that he experienced last year, it also allows an even greater ceiling as a possibility. Right now the basement seems like 12 homers and 30 steals, but the ceiling is closer to a Carlos Gomezian 20 HR and 40 SB.
George Springer, Astros (Ray Guilfoyle)
I was the high guy on Springer in our consensus top 100 rankings this week, ranking him as my #3 overall outfielder for 2016. Here is what I said about him in my player blurb on Monday:
He was on the cusp of a breakout last season when he went down with a leg injury. That said, he improved across the board, hitting for a higher average, stealing more bases, made more contact, and reduced his swinging strike rate and strikeout rate dramatically. If he can maintain these improvements in 2016, I can see a 25 home run, 25 stolen base season from him, with a chance for a 30-30 season. The Astros are going to be a fun team to watch this season with Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and possibly A.J. Reed manning first base.
Springer has all the tools to put up a 30 home run, 30 stolen base season, but he will have to maintain his improved plate discipline and two strike approach that he showed in 2015. FanGraph's Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece about Springer earlier this off season showing that Springer began going the other way in two strike counts last season, and that was a necessary step for him. He appears to be maturing at the plate, and as a result, he is on the cusp of a monster fantasy season in the next few years.
Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers (Daniel Kelley)
Choo had one of the worst months we've ever seen in April of last year, hitting .096/.254/.173 in 16 games. That's four hits over a month for a full-time player in a good offensive situation. The clear bright spot there is that Choo didn't lose his ability to walk; an OBP of .254 is actually impressive when your batting average is that bloody low. And then the rest of the season after April, Choo hit .294/.388/.493. That means that, even with his miserable start to 2015, Choo finished 27th among outfielders last year in ESPN's Player Rater. He was actually really good a year ago. The problem is, when a player's bad month comes in April, it colors our impression of the whole season. I remember Rangers fans saying Choo was "done" almost into August last year just based on that one month. He's never going to be a 40-homer guy, but Choo should be a strong fantasy contributor.
Adam Eaton, White Sox (Domenic Lanza)
In April, East batted .192/.241/.256 with zero homers, zero RBI, and one steal (in two attempts). He looked awful, and it seemed as though every at-bat ended up in a soft grounder to the right side of the infield or a pop-up. From that point forward, however, Eaton hit .301/.378/.457 with 91 R, 14 HR, 56 RBI, and 17 SB - damn good numbers for a full season, compiled over the course of 134 games. He did require minor shoulder surgery this off-season (which is not a thrilling notion for a player that missed a fair bit of time in 2013 and 2014), but he is in camp and participating in Spring Training. Batting atop a solid lineup, Eaton can be counted on to hit .280 or better, while flirting with 100 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI, and 20 SB.
Earlier this week I touted Betts as a possible Top-5 outfielder heading into his second full season in the Majors, and #5 overall is exactly where he landed in our consensus rankings. With a 5.52 BWARP in 2015 (according to Baseball Prospectus), Betts already looks to be Boston's best all-around player. He managed to post a .291 batting average with 18 HR and 21 SB despite a lackluster April and May, when he and nearly all of his Red Sox teammates were scuffling at the plate. He also missed some time due to concussion symptoms. Assuming the entire Boston offense does not collapse for a second straight season, a healthy Betts in 2016 could challenge for AL MVP honors. His combination of power, speed, and plate discipline makes him a worthy target early in Round 2 or, depending on the size of your league, late in Round 1.
Michael Conforto, Mets (Tim Finnegan)
This guy is going to be a star. He has everything you want to see in a 3 hole hitter: an excellent eye, a disciplined approach, gap pop, home run power, and the ability to hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. This is more for OBP/slugging leagues, because I am a little concerned he won't get enough PAs to rack up a big RBI and R total. The Mets have talked about sliding Cespedes over to LF and Lageras to CF against LHP, which would limit Conforto's counting stats. But I am expecting an excellent OBP and slugging from him, and think he's going to be a .900 OPS type hitter at some point. There's a shot he ends up the best hitter on the Mets this year by OPS, and that isn't an exaggeration.
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