Outfield week is in full swing. You can find the link for all our content by following this link. Earlier this morning, our outfield rankings dropped, and we went 75-deep at the position. Now let’s check out some sleepers.
Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs (ADP: 166.0)
Have you guys seen Schwarber since he has gotten back to camp? You better believe he’s ready to steal 20+ bags in 2018!
Ok, now back to reality. Yes, Schwarber lost a lot of weight. Yes, he has already stolen two bases this spring. No, he is not stealing 20 bags, but it is essential to pay attention. Schwarber has been a pretty good baserunner over his career, so if he is a little bit faster, there is a chance he steals five bases. It's not an extraordinary amount, but five is better than zero.
My primary concern with Schwarber is his swing and miss tendencies. He apparently has been working on fixing some holes in his swing this offseason, so maybe there's a chance we see fewer strikeouts and a better batting average from him in 2018. If Schwarber ends up being a 30/5 player while hitting .250, he should be a steal where his ADP suggests.
Michael Conforto, New York Mets (ADP: 190.0)
Conforto will most likely start the season on the DL, but I expect him to be back no later than May. He is truly a steal at his current ADP, and I would be okay with taking him much earlier than that.
The big knock on Conforto over the past two seasons is the fact that he was unable to hit left-handed pitching. In 2017 he proved us all wrong, as he had an incredible 29.3% line drive rate and 44.8% hard contact rate against lefties. This newfound ability to hit left-handed pitching should help Conforto keep a relatively high batting average while also getting a majority of the starts in the outfield—as long as the Mets' training staff doesn't work him to death and put him back on the DL.
Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 214.7)
Zimmer was one of the fastest players in 2017 according to Statcast's spring speed. He is one of the many reasons I tell people not to worry about steals early in the draft because there are still a lot of steals specialists in the later rounds. With his speed and power, a 20/40 season is not out of the question. The primary concern I have when it comes to Zimmer is his lack of contact. With a 13.9% swinging strike rate and a 29.8% strikeout rate, he could be someone who's batting average is closer to .230 than it is to .250.
Delino DeShields Jr., Texas Rangers (ADP: 222.8)
DeShields is easily one of the most underrated players in drafts now that he has a starting job in the Rangers outfield. With his high walk rate, he should have a lot of chances to steal bases. When paired with his speed, he could be a 40+ steals guy this season. Because of his plate discipline, however, he could strikeout at an above-average rate, which could end up hurting his batting average. Even if he hits .250 this year, the amount of steals alone will be worth his current ADP.
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners (ADP: 252.2)
Hot take alert! Mitch Haniger is the new Josh Donaldson. I know it may sound crazy but here are some bullet points comparing the two:
- Both were past their "prospect" status when they eventually made it to the major leagues.
- Both hit the ball super hard while also hitting for a relatively high batting average (but somehow don't hit more than 20% of their batted balls as line drives).
- Both show great plate discipline, while also making a decent amount of contact for a power hitter.
- Both were underrated for their first couple seasons in the majors since they were not big names coming out of the minors.
Now that is not to say that Haniger will go on to have the same success Donaldson has had at the major league level, but every time I see Mitch Haniger's name I just think of Josh Donaldson.
Haniger has yet to play any Spring Training games due to a hand injury, but he should be ready by Opening Day. With Haniger's power and speed, he could hit 25+ home runs with 10 stolen bases and a .280 batting average. His low line drive rate last season could be foreshadowing of a .260 batting average, but for the asking price, I wouldn't be too worried.
Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers (ADP: 268.2)
It looks like Calhoun will be the starting left fielder for the Texas Rangers to start the season, and is currently being overlooked on many draft boards. There should be no reason a player like Calhoun is not in the top 250. He is a rare player who can hit for a good amount of power while also making consistent contact. With his power and a 45.0% fly ball rate, there is no reason to project anything less than 25 home runs.
ZIPS currently projects him to have a .277/.330/.497 slash line with 28 home runs and three stolen bases. If this is the case, he is a steal in the 22nd round of a 12-team league.
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 298.8)
Kepler is someone who I predict to have a significant breakout in the power department this season. With a decent amount of fly balls and good hard contact rates, I have him projected to hit anywhere between 24 and 28 home runs this season. For the last pick in a 12-team league, there is no reason not to take a flier on this 25-year-old outfielder.
Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 457.0)
Austin Meadows is currently having one hell of a Spring as he is slashing .600/.636/1.300 with seven RBIs. With the loss of Andrew McCutchen, Meadows is the easy favorite to take over in center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With his skill set he could become a 20/20 player who also hits for a decent average. He is someone I am not afraid to take a flier on with my last pick of a 12-team draft.
Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals (ADP: 454.7)
If you like home runs and high walk rates, you may want to look into drafting Jorge Soler. With a lot of the Royals' stars from their 2015 World Series win leaving for other cities, Soler has a clear path to everyday at-bats.
With a relatively low line drive rate and high strikeout rate, Soler's average may not reach the .250 mark. The upside is that with his amount of power and high fly ball rates, we could see 30+ home runs from the 26-year-old. Soler is a good play in OBP and OPS leagues, but I would be cautious of adding him to a shallow league that accounts for batting average.
Alex Dickerson, San Diego Padres (ADP: 652.0)
With recent news coming out about Dickerson's elbow, it doesn't look like he will be on the Opening Day roster. Even after he returns from his injury there is no clear route to playing time for the 27-year-old with the signing of Eric Hosmer and with Wil Myers making a move back to the outfield. Although it doesn't look promising for the Padres' outfielder, baseball is unpredictable, and his underlying numbers translate to a potential top 50 player.
Dickerson missed all of 2017 with a back issue and is currently suffering from an elbow injury. But when he is on the field, he is one of the top hitters in the game. If you take Dickerson’s batted ball averages, use the home run and batting averages of the league on those events and stretch his 2016 to 600 plate appearances, he would have finished with a .283 batting average with 22 home runs and 11 stolen bases. This was similar to Robinson Cano's numbers last season, except for the fact that Cano had 10 less stolen bases and didn't walk nearly as much as Dickerson.
I will continue to pay close attention to Dickerson and his recovery, and may even use my last pick of the draft to holster him in my DL spot until he returns.
Who is your favorite outfield sleeper going into 2018?
This poll is closed
Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
Michael Conforto, New York Mets
Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians
Delino DeShields Jr., Texas Rangers
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners