When doing fantasy baseball drafts, it is important to know ahead of time the players that you want to avoid and the players that you want to target. Having this game plan in mind will help you in the flow of the draft to make quicker and easier decisions when you are on the clock. For players you want to avoid, just simply pay no attention to them and let some other sucker draft the soon to be bust. For players you want to target, keep an eye on them and know when the latest is that you might be able to draft them. Take a look at average draft position (ADP) stats and form some sort of plan. The worst thing that can happen in a draft is to not be prepared and having to end up making a panic pick as the clock winds down. Don’t let that happen to you! Below is a list of outfielders who I personally would avoid or target.
When you see the list of my outfielders to target, it becomes apparent what types of players I feel are undervalued. Most of my outfield targets are players with a bit of pop and some definite speed, players that fall in the 15 HR/30 SB category (or better). I feel that there are a lot of “mid-tiered” outfielders that are going to produce very well, so that makes it easier to wait on drafting outfielders. However, since most of my outfield targets are not huge power threats, it would be imperative to draft power in the early rounds at other positions if targeting many of the players below.
AVOID: Justin Upton, Charlie Blackmon
TARGET: Starling Marte, Jorge Soler, Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, A.J. Pollock, Leonys Martin, Gregory Polanco
Justin Upton was traded to the Padres from the Braves in the off-season and clearly the ballpark switch to Petco Park has a negative impact for any hitter. While Upton had averaged a very strong 300 feet on his fly balls and home runs last year, even if he maintains that his HR/fly ball rate should fall from the 17.9% mark that it has been at the last two seasons since he will be playing his home games in Petco. His HR/fly ball rate in his career is 14.9%, so I would expect him to be around that mark or lower in his first year as a Padre. Upton’s ADP seems rather high to me and I would be very weary of drafting him. He’s being drafted as the 12th outfielder where I think he should be more around the 25th-30th outfielder to be taken.
Charlie Blackmon was a fantasy monster over the first month of the 2014 season, but then he slowly tailed off but still ended up with a very respectable line of .288 AVG, 19 HR, 72 RBI, 82 R, 28 SB. As a left-handed hitter versus left-handed pitching, Blackmon had an OPS of just .697. Whereas, his right-handed hitting teammate who plays the same center field position posted a .945 OPS versus lefties. This makes for a perfect platoon situation. However, it shouldn’t be a strict platoon as Stubbs can also give Corey Dickerson a rest occasionally. Being in some type of a platoon will take a hit for Blackmon’s counting stats, but it could keep his AVG in a good range since he wouldn’t be facing lefties as much. Blackmon is being drafted as the 24th outfielder off the board ahead of some sexy targets of mine, and I do not think that should be happening.
Starling Marte came on huge in the second half of last year and he is a growing star of the game as he had a .348 AVG with 8 HR in 52 games after the All-Star break, compared to .256 AVG with 5 HR before the break. Marte has spent most of his career at or near the top of the order, but this year he is slated to bat 5th for the Pirates. This will subtract from his plate appearances and run scoring opportunities, but it puts him in a prime position to drive in runs and should still give him ample chance to rack up stolen bases as he tries to advance into scoring position for the lower half of the order. Marte’s upside is what Carlos Gomez has done for the past couple of seasons. I have no real qualms with the consensus top 10 outfielders, but after that I don’t think players like Bryce Harper, Justin Upton, Corey Dickerson, George Springer, Matt Kemp, and Carlos Gonzalez should be taken before Marte.
I went over Jorge Soler in my This Year’s Jose Abreu. He has beastly potential and has bulked up quite a bit over the off-season. Soler is being drafted as the 28th outfielder on average, but I definitely do not think he should be taken outside of the top 20 outfielders, and I think he could even be top 15.
Christian Yelich put together a very nice sophomore season last year and I see him taking even more steps forward this year. Yelich does not have a whole lot of power, but he can handle the bat very well. He rarely hits any infield fly balls, which allows him to maintain a high BABIP to aid his batting average. His power should grow with more aging and experience, and he is surely a threat on the base paths. He is moving down to second in the batting order for the Marlins to make way for Dee Gordon in the leadoff role, and this lineup spot shift does nothing but help his fantasy value as he will have more RBI opportunities without losing any run scoring potential. Yelich is the 23rd outfielder drafted on average behind Matt Holliday. Really? I see top 15 value at the position from Yelich.
I went over Mookie Betts in my This Year’s Jose Altuve as well as my Players to Avoid and Target in 2015 Fantasy Baseball: Infield Edition. I cannot emphasize enough my affinity for Mookie. As an outfielder he is 29th off the board, but he has clear top 15 potential as an outfielder. Pounce.
I went over A.J. Pollock in my This Year’s Michael Brantley. While he is pretty unlikely to achieve 2014 Michael Brantley status, Pollock still makes for a nice breakout pick. Pollock was in the midst of a breakout season last year before he had injuries interfere with that plan. With a full year of good health as the leadoff man for the Diamondbacks, I view Pollock as a top 25 outfielder, which blows away his average of being the 49th outfielder off the board.
Leonys Martin began to gain some steam as a hype pick during the middle of Spring Training when it was announced that he was going to be the primary leadoff man for the Rangers. The things that his does for his fantasy value are huge. While Martin has experience hitting leadoff as a Major Leaguer, he has spent the majority of his career thus far batting 7th, 8th, or 9th. Becoming more of a fixture in the leadoff spot will give him a lot more plate appearances to give his counting stats a boost, and it puts him in a prime position to be logging lots of runs scored. Entering his prime at the age of 27, Martin can really take off this season. It would be no surprise to see him have a boost in the power department as well since he is at the prime age. I see Martin as a .275 hitter with 10 HR, 50 RBI, 85 R, 40 SB this year. That is top 25 value in the outfield for a player that is the 43th outfielder off the board on average.
Gregory Polanco received a lot of hype last season when he was destroying Minor League pitching. He finally did receive a call up to the Majors where he did impress in his first four weeks as he maintained a batting average over .300. However, he fell into a big slump and finished the season hitting just .235. Polanco attributes that slump to fatigue. With an off-season of rest and conditioning himself to be more prepared for the more lengthy MLB season (as opposed to the shorter Minor League season), Polanco can be ready for that breakout. The Pirates are going to slot him in the 2-hole sandwiched between Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen. That’s not too shabby of a place to be. There’s a chance that Polanco struggles with Major League pitching, but I feel that he handles the bat well enough to make adjustments. He is the 41st outfielder drafted on average, but there is certainly top 25 potential here.