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State of the Position: Outfield

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Heath surveys the outfield with a fantasy baseball slant.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

As always, outfield is deep, the deepest position in all of fantasy baseball.

BASIC STATS

.254/.327/.421 triple slash

8.9% walk rate, 22.6% strikeout rate, .167 ISO

.323 wOBA, 103 wRC+

The above includes waaaaay more players than any position we’ve covered so far, including tons of glove-first, defensive types. Don’t let the numbers fool you. The outfield is a full cupboard of options in 2019, so much so that I’d feel comfortable ignoring it early on if I didn’t land Trout or Betts.

THE ELITES: Mike Trout and Mookie Betts

The No. 1 and No. 2 options in every draft, or they should be. There’s just plain not much to say about these two. Betts is a heck of a consolation if you miss out on Trout. They are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in our rankings by every writer here at Fake Teams. Some things you just don’t question.

THE SHINY NEW TOYS: Ronald Acuna, Christian Yelich, Juan Soto

These three are the hot new things, and let’s hope they aren’t a fad. Sure, Yelich has been around for a bit, but not as a first round pick. That’s the new thing about him. The other two are wunderkinds, with Acuna now 21 years old and Soto all of 20 years old. When I was 20, I was crushing folks on the Hang ‘Em High map on the original Halo. Sniping people from the catwalk isn’t nearly as impressive as what Acuna and Soto accomplished a year ago. If you think these three amigos are due for an encore, you’ll have to pay up to find out. For my part, I could see taking a chance on Acuna in the middle or later part of Round 1.

A CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD: Yasiel Puig and Andrew McCutchen

Puig to the Reds and Cutch to the Phillies...both are beautiful for fantasy purposes. Puig gets a huge boost in Cincinnati, likely psychological as much as physical. The star power of Joey Votto and the smaller market team should be a boon to the mercurial Puig—who should now get to narrow his focus and attack the Great American Small Park. Cinci’s home park was the best park for home runs in 2018, while Dodger Stadium (surprisingly) ranked 11th (higher than I thought). The Reds’ stadium also ranked fourth for runs scored, while Dodger Stadium was 26th, near the bottom of the barrel. I can see Puig consistently hitting as high as fifth in this order, and I’m all in on him.

McCutchen is a steady Eddie type, a dude with solid power and wheels. He gets the same sort of boost as Puig, moving to a much improved Philly lineup. That, and Citizen’s Bank Park ranked fourth for home runs last year, compared to Oracle Park’s ranking of 29th. Put differently, McCutchen spent most of his time in the next-to-worst environment for homers in 2018. It could have only been worse if he was in Miami. Now he’s in Philly and slated to bat first or second in a strong lineup. Sign me up for a guy who won’t lose me anything at ADP. I love the safety in the middle rounds, and Cutch’s NFBC ADP is 147. So double-digit rounds for sure. Sign me up.

THE GUY TO AVOID: David Dahl

It’s yours truly and Punk is Dead against Joe, Zack, and Mark (according to our rankings). Punk and I aren’t buying the hype. Dahl still has a relatively small sample size as a big leaguer, so I’m not going to make an injury argument against him. Plate discipline is more sticky, though. Dahl doesn’t do anything impressive in that regard, at least not over his first two years. He is below-average with regard to contact, both overall and in the zone. Only 12 MLB hitters made less overall contact than Dahl last year, and only seven hitters made less contact in the zone. Dahl is also a free swinger, swinging nearly 10% more than the MLB average, AND his chase rate last year was almost 10 percent higher than average. Only six hitter swung more than Dahl did last year. Call me crazy, but making a low amount of contact and coupling that with a high swing rate does not seem sustainable to me.

Not only does he swing a lot, he swings and misses plenty, too. Dahl’s 15.4% swinging strike rate would have ranked sixth-highest in the MLB last year if he had qualified—behind only Joey Gallo, Javier Baez, Teoscar Hernandez, Nicholas Castellanos, and Khris Davis. His 39.6% chase rate would have ranked 11th-highest, tied with Odubel Herrera. Here are the guys who chased more than Dahl: Salvador Perez, Javier Baez, Corey Dickerson, Kevin Pillar, Eddie Rosario, Adam Jones, Dee Gordon, Yangervis Solarte, Amed Rosario, and Tim Anderson.

I’m just saying, at Dahl’s ADP of 70 per NFBC, people are paying the Coors tax to acquire his services. I can even ding him for his ordinary success rate on steals, which is 70%. And he was caught three times and successful twice (only 62.5% success). Sure, it’s a small sample. But people are expecting a lot from this guy. I can have Puig 26 picks later. Or some very similar, free-swinging types in Castellanos and Justin Upton around pick 100. I can find tons of reasons not to reach for Dahl, but I will stop now.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: Victor Robles, Eloy Jimenez

And by “watch” I mean “draft.” Robles (100) and Jimenez (119) have somewhat aggressive ADPs, but despite outfield being deep, it doesn’t last forever. I’m more likely to own Jimenez this year, as Robles looks slated to bat ninth for the Nationals and I really like Aaron Hicks batting leadoff for the Yankees instead (a full 25 picks later). Jimenez is a different beast, though. You don’t get compared to Babe Ruth and Miguel Cabrera for nothing, right? Jimenez is so enticing because he is that rare blend of power and contact...he could be Aaron Judge with half of the strikeouts. Now would you rather draft Eloy and wait a couple of weeks for him to arrive, or draft Joey Gallo six picks sooner?