According to the Spokesman-Review, Yankee Stadium had a distance of 296 feet to the right field fence, while center left was as far as 457 feet before one of many remodels over the years. The current Yankee stadium has a distance of 314 feet to right field and 399 feet to the center left field fence. While that isn’t a big alteration for right field (17 feet) that is a decrease of 58 feet to hit a home run in center left. The game changes, and with it the outfielders not only adjust their defensive posture but their hitting with it.
1. Mitch Haniger is a top 7 outfielder.
Justification: There is an injury bug here for sure, but he has also had some obscure injuries (deflected ball to the groin, oblique strain, broken finger, abductor muscle tear, sports hernia, and eventually lower back and sciatic pain). These injuries aren’t a persistent and nagging issue that lingers, but instead a group of somewhat random things that have occurred. Perhaps one could say he’s just unlucky in that fashion, and maybe that’s true. I have trouble ascribing continuing injuries to this history. Last season, in his first full season since 2018, he had 110 runs and 100 RBI as well as 39 home runs. If he can stay healthy, the returns here are great for someone you are grabbing in the OF 20’s and can return top 10 value.
2. Mike Trout has a record-high 115 RBI.
Justification: Wherever and whenever I can, I’m grabbing Mike Trout. He had his second real injured season since entering in 2011 and with it his value has dropped. He spent the last season watching from the bench and now he can be hungry to come back and crush the ball. That type of time for an elite player like Trout was probably spent analyzing and learning. The best part: he returns to an Angels lineup with Shohei Ohtani mashing the ball, David Fletcher getting on base repeatedly, and possibly the most talented roster he’s had with Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh, and Jo Adell.
3. Austin Meadows is top 10 among qualified outfielders in OBP (he was outside the top 50 in 2021).
Justification: Austin Meadows’ 2021 season could fill the War and Peace novel. He had a severe hot streak in May—his fly ball rate went up but his patience at the plate improved. His hard hit rate went down, but his wRC+ went up. Now he’s looking down the barrel of a potential trade which could mean a lot of different possibilities. My personal take is that he spent much of 2021 testing a lower power, more on-base mentality and we could see that pay off big in 2022. He can draw walks and worked on a spray chart that can pay off better with his new hitting style.
4. Tyler O’Neill sees all of his numbers drop by 2/3 this season.
Justification: There are a number of red flags with O’Neill. After a horrible BABIP of .186 two years ago (due to repeated hand injuries, another red flag), his BABIP spiked to .366 last year. To be fair that’s in line with his first two seasons but there are a few other issues. First, his K-rate continues to be above 30%, which is not good. His hard contact rate is below the first two seasons when he had that inflated BABIP, and he’s getting breaking balls almost 40% of the time each year because that is where he struggles mightily. His lack of pitch identification and plate selection will haunt him the longer he is in the bigs.
5.) Kyle Tucker doubles his stolen base count to become one of the 3 top outfielders in SB.
Justification: Kyle Tucker is on the fast track to being one of the elite members of fantasy baseball. From 2020 to 2021 he improved his sweet spot%, xBA, xSLG, wOBA, xwOBA, XWOBACON, hard hit%, K%, BB%, exit velocity, barrel%, solid%, his distribution to all parts of the field, zone swing%, zone contact%, and ironically just about the ONLY thing that decreased was his sprint speed which went from 27.6 to 27.4. There is the one spot he can improve year over year, and start swiping more bags.