Already in the books are:
It’s finally time for the last position that isn’t a starting pitcher! That means it’s nearly time to roster Corey Dickerson against Jordan Zimmerman on Opening Day. More on that at a later date.
For now, let’s see what outfielders have to offer compared to their counterparts. Here are three simple bullet points I pulled from my third base DFS overview:
MLB first basemen ISO over the last three years: .185, .192, .211.
MLB third basemen ISO over the last three years: .160, .178, .182.
MLB outfielder ISO over the last three years: .158, .165, .176.
It’s been pretty well established that corner infielders rule the roost with regard to power. It would initially seem that outfielders lag pretty far behind in third place, but since there are so many guys with differing profiles the numbers are misleading.
There are power guys, speed guys, and combo-guys to be found in the outfield. In short, there is a lot to wade through. Still, here are a few noteworthy things that popped out at me when I was doing my research.
The Combo No. Six
If it had been “Combo No. Five” I could have easily woven in a Lou Bega reference. Alas, I had to force it. Anyway, there were six outfielders who managed to smack 30 home runs and steal double-digit bases in 2017. It truly is a motley crew. Here they are:
Cody Bellinger (39/10)
Charlie Blackmon (37/14)
Justin Upton (35/14)
Mike Trout (33/22)
Steven Souza, Jr. (30/16)
Domingo Santana (30/15)
Pour Cold Water on Souza and Santana
Of those, Souza will begin the season on the DL (strained pectoral muscle) and Santana has questions about playing time in a loaded Milwaukee outfield (Braun, Cain, Yelich). Perhaps between Braun spelling Eric Thames at first and Santana backing up the corner outfield spots he’ll get enough time to be relevant in season-long leagues—but the Brewers didn’t acquire Cain and Yelich to have them ride the pine. For DFS, maybe we get to benefit from some depressed ownership if Santana isn’t playing every day. We’ll find out on Opening Day if Eric Thames (a lefty) will take a seat, Braun shift to first base, and Santana enter the lineup in the outfield. Santana is listed at 3.2K on FanDuel right now, but if he truly is a part-timer that price may drop a little as we get farther into the season, making him more of a value.
Bellinger is listed as a first baseman on FanDuel, so I can ignore him for outfield purposes (I only play FanDuel, sue me). Blackmon is a known commodity and will never be a secret in the hitter’s haven that is Coors Field. I don’t think I need to discuss him much.
Angels in the Outfield
I’ve been waiting to use that heading all preseason! Pretty anticlimactic, honestly. Anyway, Mike Trout and Justin Upton happen to play for the same team. I foresee numerous opportunities for full stacks or mini-stacks along with Ian Kinsler this year, with some Zack Cozart or Andrelton Simmons in the mix as well. The Angels had a team strikeout rate of only 19.7% last year, good for seventh-best in the league. They will once again be a sneaky “out” in 2018. When Upton embarks on one of his trademark hot streaks, I’ll be looking to use some Angels wherever I can.
Against Left-Handed Pitching...
There were seven guys who managed 10 home runs against lefties in 2017. Some are familiar, some may not be as familiar. In order (from most to least HRs):
Giancarlo Stanton (15)
Justin Upton (12)
Cody Bellinger (12)
Andrew McCutchen (11)
Hunter Renfroe (11)
Adam Duvall (10)
Enrique Hernandez (10)
Giancarlo Stanton May Render Barry Bonds Obsolete
Giancarlo may break Bonds’ single-season record for home runs this year. Seriously. I did the math for you in our staff Bold Predictions piece. I’ll be heavily invested in Stanton as much as I can this year, especially when he plays in New York. He has always offered double-dong upside on a daily basis, but that is really true when he plays at home in Yankee Stadium this year.
Hunter Renfroe is part of a logjam of outfielders in San Diego, with Wil Myers, Manny Margot, and Jose Pirela all quality options. Before you suggest a platoon with Pirela, know that Pirela smoked left-handed pitchers last year, too (.214 ISO, .384 wOBA). So, like Santana, perhaps Renfroe’s lefty-hitting prowess might be lesser-owned than it should be—but he may have a difficult time finding a groove if he’s splitting time. We shall see.
Adam Duvall, similarly, is part of a crowded group in Cincinnati, including Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler, and Jesse Winker. When Duvall plays he will be a viable power option. Schebler is fun, too—he ranked 17th in ISO (.216) against lefties last year, so there’s another sneaky LvL split to consider if Schebler gets time against one. I like Schebler against lefties because his walk rate is a minuscule 0.7%...he’s just gonna grip-it-and-rip-it, which is great for DFS. Walks don’t pay the bills.
A New Home for Cutch
Andrew McCutchen left the 23rd-worst park for home runs in 2017 for the worst park for home runs in 2017. Right-handed hitters have it a bit easier than lefties at AT&T Park, but this is still not an ideal environment for hitting. I’ll be much more interested when the Giants travel. Say, to Coors. You know, somewhere like that.
The Dodgers Will Crush Lefties
Once again, let’s disregard Bellinger (who is exclusively a first baseman on FanDuel). For what it’s worth, though, Bellinger is a left-handed hitter. So that’s sneaky when the Dodgers face a southpaw. Kike Hernandez is a known lefty-basher, so you can pair those two together. He’s not on this list because he plays the hot corner, but Logan Forsythe gets a massive bump against lefties, too. Just don’t be thinking a lefty pitcher against Los Angeles is a good idea, okay?
A.J. Pollock Might Actually Make a Roster of Mine
He didn’t in any season-long leagues. But he may in some MLB DFS. Sorting by ISO allows the name A.J. Pollock to pop up. Last year, Pollock ranked ninth against southpaws with a .248 ISO. He slashed a robust .277/.329/.525 with seven home runs. He did so in only 112 games. Of course, the ominous gloom of the humidor lingers over all Diamondbacks—so we’ll see how impaired the offense is soon enough. I’ll tread lightly with Diamondbacks early on in the season. Part of Pollock’s appeal is that he offers value with his legs and hits in front of Goldschmidt. But if I expect Chase Field to become a slight pitcher’s park, I have to dampen expectations for hitters in that locale.
Kevin Pillar is Useful against Lefties
Pillar is still garnering regular at-bats in Toronto and offers a somewhat intriguing blend of power and speed. He managed a .224 ISO against lefties last year, along with a .336/.381/.559 slash and .395 wOBA. The knock on him is that he doesn’t make a lot of hard contact, as evidenced by his 26.1% hard% against right-handed pitching last year. However, his 31.2% hard% against lefties is much more enticing, and Pillar’s line drive rate and pull rate both jump against southpaws. If he is priced as a punt option against a lefty, you could definitely do worse.
Aaron Judge is Boom-or-Bust
Aaron Judge had a gargantuan 25.8% walk rate against southpaws last year, as well as a .265 ISO. Unfortunately, his 31.0% strikeout rate was also gargantuan—making him the definition of a boom-or-bust option when the Yanks face a left-handed starter. Maybe it’s nuts, but when the Yanks face a lefty I’d consider including Stanton and fading Judge—and working in Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, and maybe even Brandon Drury. Even Mike Trout goes 0-for-4 on occasion, and with Judge’s 31.0% strikeout rate vs. southpaws I think it’s worthwhile to consider.
Against Right-Handed Pitchers
The Yankees Will Be Epic
Aaron Judge (44) and Giancarlo Stanton (44) had the same number of homers against same-handed pitching last year. Weird. Add in guys like Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner, Neil Walker, and others, and it’s a scary-looking lineup for New York.
RvR is the Top Six
The RvR split lives, as the top six in home runs against right-handers were right-handed hitters. Those six were: Judge, Stanton, Khris Davis, Marcell Ozuna, J.D. Martinez, and Mike Trout.
After those six, a few lefty bats pop up: Charlie Blackmon, Jay Bruce, and Cody Bellinger. The aforementioned Steven Souza smoked 27 homers against RHP in ‘17, good for 10th overall against righties. When he returns to health, perhaps he will overcome the humidor and be a viable option for us. Or at least be viable when he’s in a good hitting environs on the road.
Other Useful RvR Options
Continuing to ignore the LvR split (which everyone knows about) leads us to names like Yasiel Puig (26 HRs vs. RHP in ‘17), George Springer (25), Domingo Santana (24), Justin Upton (23), and Adam Jones (21). Springer will almost always be popular alongside the Houston stack (which is viable every night and on Opening Day in Texas).
Puig is the guy who looks underrated, though. His ADP is 110.4, behind Ronald Acuna (106.2) who is starting in Triple-A. Domingo Santana (97.9) isn’t even guaranteed playing time and his ADP is higher than Puig’s. Puig’s 19.4% HR/FB rate was well above his career 15.4% mark last year, so he may come down a tad from 28 bombs—but he still offers power and speed (15 SBs in ‘17) and is flying under the radar.
Matt Joyce is Still a Thing in his Age-33 Season
One lefty bat worth mentioning is a sneaky one. Joyce is slated to bat second for the Athletics against right-handed pitching, and with a career .206 ISO against RHP he makes for a viable punt if you need to save some coin and work your way up the pitching ladder.
You Can’t Teach Speed
I haven’t spent as much time on the speed threats, as generally I’d rather have the power or power/speed guys. Still, to be diligent, here goes nothin’...
Delino DeShields over Billy Hamilton?
Billy Hamilton is the obvious guy, but Delino DeShields is more appealing to me, at least if I’m trying to build in some safety. Hamilton’s on-base skills (career .298 OBP) pale in comparison to DeShields’ (career .333) and DeShields offers more power upside. Granted, not a lot of upside (career .106 ISO) but more than Hamilton. DeShields is also slated to lead off for Texas, while Hamilton could potentially lose his spot to Jesse Winker and find himself hitting ninth in the order. Of course, DeShields could lose his gig as well, but right now I’ll take DeShields over Hamilton if everything else is equal. I’m giving up some speed, sure—but I prefer DeShields’ overall skill set.
The Brewers Are Everywhere
Milwaukee ranked second in the MLB in steals a year ago, behind the Angels. They’ve since added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Even Travis Shaw managed 10 bags last year. On days when Thames sits and Domingo Santana gets the starting nod, the Brewers should again offer tons of category juice for season-long and daily fantasy rosters.
The Braves Might Run Wild
One last shameless stab—go check out our Bold Predictions for baseball this year. Within, you’ll find a prediction regarding Atlanta and their ability to run this year. The Braves were 19th in steals last year, but will be trotting out Ozzie Albies and (hopefully) Ronald Acuna soon enough. Add in Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman, and that’s a lot of firepower—especially in SunTrust Park. I’ll be “overweight” on Atlanta this year to start things off.
That’s it for me today. Remember, I’m just aiming for a general overview at each position for this year. We call that “background knowledge” in my profession. Or any profession, really. Come back around for some MLB DFS picks tomorrow morning, as it is finally OPENING DAY.