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State of the Position: Outfielders in 2020

Heath examines the outfield with a fantasy baseball slant.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Given that the outfield is such a large position, today may look a bit different so it’s actually actionable to someone out there. There are TONS of outfielders you can chase, and not all of them have the same profile. But you know this already.

Let’s dig in and I’ll offer some names that are relevant to me, and you guys and gals are free to reciprocate.

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

The Elites: Mike Trout, Ronald Acuña Jr., Christian Yelich

In that order. I suppose one could argue the merits of Ronnie Baseball in a 5x5 over Trout, with Trout getting the nod in OBP leagues. But I won’t, and I’m a Braves fan. If Mike Trout stays healthy, it wouldn’t surprise me he smacked 55 homers. Just give me the best overall player in baseball if I get the top pick, okay? On top of his power, you get a man who is a career .305/.419/.581 hitter—and his OBP marks since 2016 are .441, .442, .460, and .438. And I know Trout didn’t run much last year, but he’s still 95th percentile for speed in the MLB and he was 11-of-13 on the basepaths last year. So he CAN run. I could eat these words by season’s end, but choosing any player over the safety and upside that Trout offers is folly, in my humblest of opinions. And no, there’s nothing wrong with the other two. I have them all top three. I’m just not passing over Trout if I get the chance. Sadly, I’ve not had a chance to draft the best player in baseball as of yet!

And just to cover the rest of the first round, I mostly consider Cody Bellinger a first baseman given the dearth of top-end talent at that position. But sure, the OF eligibility is nice. Mookie Betts (5.73 ADP) and Juan Soto (11.23 ADP) are the only other first round outfielders, but I prefer Soto over Betts if I have to have one of them—at least with where they’re being drafted. In the same juncture as Betts, I’m angling for Gerrit Cole instead. There are some toolsy guys I like a little bit later...

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Two to Target: Ramon Laureano and Marcell Ozuna

There’s a trio of quality power/speed combos being drafted in the same area that I really dig. Tommy Pham (76.61), Laureano (78.69), and Luis Robert (79.90) are the names. Since I’ve got to split the proverbial hairs somehow, I do that naturally because I draft too many leagues with Yancy Eaton, who likes Pham more than I do. Y A N T S doesn’t believe the shoulder injury is an issue to worry over, so you should probably defer to his expertise on the former Rays outfielder. Me and my expertise, though, I’m really digging Laureano in what will be his second full season. Laureano cut down on the ground ball rate last year, while retaining his stout 25.0% line drive rate. Fly balls and line drives are what we want, and Laureano’s above-average barrel rate and 84th percentile sprint speed make for a really nice fantasy recipe. At only 25 years old, there’s still room for Laureano to grow with regard to power, and that’s a nice thing for a guy slated to bat in one of the top two spots in a sneaky solid Athletics lineup. His atting average should be strong (.288 over his 657 big league appearances already) and he’s got to potential to go 20/20...while being a big plus in runs scored. What’s not to love?

As for Ozuna, I think signing late has depressed his value a bit. He’ll be expected to produce runs (read: RBIs) is a very good Atlanta lineup, batting cleanup behind the stellar trio of Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman. I think he could be in for a career year, and he’s a 30+ homer guy with some sneaky speed to boot (think 8-10 swipes). I drafted him at pick 81 in TGFBI, so apparently I’m coming around on the newest Atlanta Brave.

Divisional Series - Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

One to Avoid: Giancarlo Stanton

Yep, I said it. Stanton wasn’t really on my draft boards before the news of his injury came out. Look, people always want something for nothing. To all the folks who think they’re getting a discount on a 50-homer bat...I understand the line of thinking but I just can’t sign off on the risk, especially now. Stanton has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain in his right calf, and his status for Opening Day is now in doubt. At his ADP of 53, I’m just out. If you’re in need of a power-hitting outfielder, reach a bit forward for Charlie Blackmon (ADP 45) or a bit later for Eloy Jimenez (56) or Kris Bryant (58).

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Sleeper: Adam Eaton

My self-imposed criteria here is an outfielder being drafted outside of the top 150. It’s too easy to say Kyle Tucker (ADP 151) or Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (153). Byron Buxton, Scott Kingery, and Willie Calhoun are more names I like as well, and all being drafted before pick 170. However, I feel like those guys are pretty obvious and you’re still paying a hefty sort of price. Eaton is the kind of floor-mixed-with-upside player that I really enjoying mining my fake drafts for. His ADP of 205 isn’t expectant, and even if Victor Robles shifts his way up atop the Washington lineup, Eaton should still retain No. 2 duties while Trea Turner drops to the third spot in the order. Eaton had a quietly solid 15/15 season last year, and if health isn’t an issue he should push for 100 runs scored hitting ahead of Trea Turner and Juan Soto. I’m really excited to solidify my fake outfields with Eaton’s well-rounded skill set in 2020.

MiLB: OCT 19 Arizona Fall League Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Prospect to Watch: Jo Adell

Luis Robert is too easy, and with an ADP inside the top 80 he’s not a guy who should surprise anyone. He’s also not a guy I’ll own much, given his ADP and given my affinity for Laureano. So that leaves me with Jo Adell, who is being drafted at pick 221 on average per the NFBC. That’s after a currently injured Alex Verdugo (218) and right alongside his teammate Justin Upton (221). And while I think Upton is being underrated for what he can offer in 2020, Adell is the clear upside play. His pathway to at-bats isn’t intimidating, as veteran Brian Goodwin is useful but profiles more as a fourth outfielder. The Angels are very clearly in “win now” mode, and if Adell hits I think he’ll get every opportunity to man right field for the Halos. Adell finished 2019 at Triple-A, and the Angels declined the option on last year’s starting right fielder in Kole Calhoun (after he bashed a career-high 33 home runs). Adell should absolutely get a chance to make right field his home, and display all five tools in the process. After pick 200 is not a steep price to pay for his upside.

Obviously there are tons of outfielders who didn’t get a mention...I just picked out a few that I liked! Let me know in the comments if there’s anyone you hate me for not mentioning...