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Staff Post: Outfielders to avoid in 2021 fantasy baseball

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The Fake Teams writers tell you who to pass over in the outfield for 2021.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

It’s been a hefty enough week here at Fake Teams. Outfield draws to a close with these men to consider avoiding, but next week we bring the HEAT with a full week devoted to starting pitchers. Get your popcorn ready! There may also be a draft strategy article or two in the works...you never know.

For now, let’s be content with avoiding some landmines at the outfield spot, okay? Be sure to hit us up in the comments for where we are wrong. Especially Mark...

Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 47.86

I’m avoiding Marcell Ozuna in 2021. For starters, a .391 BABIP is way higher than any other year of his career. And while 2020 was a short sample, it screams regression. Second, his strikeout rate has gone up for two consecutive years. He’s pulling the ball on a lot on his swings. He saw a decrease on breaking balls last year, which is historically his toughest pitch to go against. He’s chasing more pitches outside of the zone, and I think he is selling out for power...which will catch up to him eventually.

Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 94.45

Meadows had a solid 2019 with good supporting numbers, but it all fell apart in 2020. He saw a big spike in strikeout rate. Meadows’ K-rate jumped to 32.9% in 2020, compared to 22.2% in 2019. Maybe he was trying too hard? His under percentage in batted balls was 40.5% coupled with a 24.4 launch angle. The launch angle is comparable to Rhys Hoskins and Joey Gallo. Meadows doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to have success with this profile. This is not a good trend for him. His xStats were dreadful. Meadows had an xBA of .177 and an xwOBA of .270. Both were in the bottom 10 percent of hitters. If this is who he is now, then I’ll just wait for Gallo 70 picks later.

Chicago Cubs v San Diego Padres Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Tommy Pham, San Diego Padres (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 129.32

Pham may be the answer to my Jake Cronenworth conundrum. I’ve got a lot of early shares of “Crone,” and the current logjam in San Diego is less than inspiring. However, I’m having a hard time getting back on the Pham train this season. There’s a bit of a cloud of injuries (wrist), plus whatever circumstances contributed to last offseason’s stabbing at a strip club. Maybe I’m being too much of a prude here, but you have to gather some information to make decisions when all other things are equal. I don’t view a nearly 33-year-old Tommy Pham as more superior at this juncture than a noted hard worker like Oakland’s Ramon Laureano—who offers a similar blend of power and speed, but is just 26 years old and slated to bat leadoff for Oakland. I’m certain Pham will have periods of usefulness when he’s back to 100 percent, but for now I can’t justify him over Laureano or over other outfielders being drafted around pick 130.

Alex Verdugo, Boston Red Sox (Andres Chavez)

NFBC ADP: 132.27

I won’t be targeting Alex Verdugo in 2021. Not even in one league. He finished 2020 with a .308 average and a .478 slugging percentage, but according to his Statcast batted ball data, he should have had a .238 BA and a .369 (!) SLG. His wOBA was a good .362, but his expected wOBA was bad, at .298. He was lucky, as he ranked in low percentiles in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel percentage. In addition to that, more than half of his batted balls were grounders—52.2%, to be exact. How do people expect Verdugo to consistently hit home runs with a 16.6% flyball rate? I prefer to invest elsewhere.