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Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Outfielders (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Outfielders (2024)

If you want to win your fantasy baseball league, it’s critical that you turn a profit in the outfield.

With such a big player pool in the outfield, maximizing value is essential. It’s not enough to merely get what you pay for in the outfield; you need a substantial return on investment.

It’s not as hard as it sounds. The big pool of outfielders gives you flexibility and allows you to be choosy. With so many productive players in the outfield, overpaying for one is a sin.

I’m not saying that you should never target specific outfielders in your draft or auction. But you have to be willing to abandon your targets if acquiring them means reaching for them in a draft or overpaying for them in an auction. If the price is too high, you need to be disciplined enough to pivot elsewhere.

It’s not a catastrophe if you have to bypass your favorite outfielders because they’re too expensive. There will inevitably be bargains at the position. Shrewd fantasy managers will recognize those bargains and pounce on them.

Overspending on an infielder is slightly more forgivable because talent is scarce at some of those positions. The realities of supply and demand sometimes require overpaying in order to obtain acceptable infield production. Outfield talent isn’t scarce, so overpaying for outfielders is always a mistake.

There isn’t one optimal approach to filling your outfield, aside from the overarching principle of maximizing value. Categorical balance is overrated. If you’re power-heavy or speed-heavy, you can leverage your surplus in certain categories to trade for whatever you’re lacking.

There are four guidelines that I always try to follow when constructing my outfield:

  1. Don’t stack superstars at the expense of other positions. Taking Corbin Carroll, Luis Robert and Adolis Garcia with three of your first four picks would give you ample outfield firepower. It would also leave you undermanned at other positions, and you’ll discover that it’s more difficult to address infield and starting pitching deficiencies in-season than it is to address outfield deficiencies.
  2. At-bats, at-bats, at-bats. Or plate appearances, if you prefer. The point is that the quantity of playing time is important in the outfield. Most, if not all, of your outfielders should be everyday starters — and preferably ones who’ll have a top-five spot in the batting order. With plenty of outfield at-bats, you should be competitive in the counting-stat categories. It’s fine to roster a toolsy outfielder whose playing time is uncertain, but don’t allow yourself to roster more than one.
  3. Go cheap with the final OF spot. As noted above, it’s fine to roster one toolsy outfielder with a vague outlook for playing time. In fact, I want to roster one such player. It makes sense to gamble with your last outfield spot. There are usually some pretty good outfielders available in the free-agent pool, even in deeper leagues. You might not be able to find a decent waiver-wire third baseman in-season, but you can almost always find a decent waiver-wire outfielder. That cushions the blow if you miss on an outfield gamble, so go ahead and take that promising rookie with your final draft pick or with $1 in the endgame of your auction. There’s potential for a big profit, and if you miss, you’ll probably have a soft landing.
  4. Be vigilant about batting average. With talent scarce at first, second and third base, you might need to sacrifice batting average to acquire players at those positions who can pile up counting stats. With talent more abundant in the outfield, no such sacrifice is required when filling your OF positions. Outfield is the place to make up ground or get ahead in batting average, not lose ground.

Let’s dig into the outfield tiers. In addition to the rankings and tiers themselves, I’ll offer a few words about some of the players from each tier.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Outfielders (2024)

(Please note that these rankings are limited to players who appeared in at least 20 games at outfield or played more games there than at any other position.)

Tier 1

Ronald Acuna (ATL)

Ronald Acuna will be a near-unanimous 1.01 in fantasy baseball drafts and will command an exorbitant price in auctions. Anyone who holds the No. 1 pick in a draft and doesn’t take Acuna is just being cute. The Braves centerfielder led all of baseball in hits (217), runs (149), stolen bases (73) and on-base percentage (.416). Acuna had more total bases (383) than Willie Mays or Micky Mantle ever had in a single season. It might be impossible for Acuna to match the video-game numbers he produced in 2023, but his Statcast data and all the other underlying numbers fully support his offensive dominance, and at age 26, he’s entering the prime of his career. Simply put, Acuna is a pitcher’s worst nightmare.

Tier 2

Just imagine what Julio Rodriguez could do if he ever got off to a fast start. Two seasons into his career, J-Rod has batted .226 in the month of April. Last season, he rolled into the All-Star break batting .249 with 13 home runs. He hit .308 with 19 home runs after the break. On the year, Rodriguez stole 37 bases, scored 102 runs and had 103 RBI. His hard-hit rate and average exit velocity last season were both 95th percentile, and his sprint speed was 96th percentile. J-Rod turned 23 in December, so the best is yet to come.

Mookie Betts finished second to Ronald Acuna in the National League MVP balloting last season, batting .307 with 39 home runs, 107 RBI, 126 runs and 14 stolen bases. The 31-year-old Betts hasn’t had more than 16 stolen bases since 2018, and last year’s home run total was a career-high. But those are small quibbles, given Betts’ consistently excellent track record. This is one of fantasy baseball’s safest investments.

Kyle Tucker established new career highs in RBI (112) and stolen bases (30) last season. He also had a career-high 80 walks while striking out only 92 times. That mastery of the strike zone suggests that Tucker might be able to improve upon last year’s .284 batting average. He’s a five-category warhorse.

Aaron Judge has played more than 148 games in a season only once since 2018. It happened in 2022 when Judge mashed 62 home runs. He missed 56 games with toe and hip injuries last season, but Judge still hit 37 home runs. In his 62-HR season, Judge went yard an average of once every 11.2 at-bats. Last year, he homered once every 12.4 at-bats, so his power hasn’t noticeably diminished. He might not match his .311 batting average or his 16 stolen bases from that epic 2022 season, but Judge is still one of the most fearsome sluggers in the game. But if you invest in him, just pray for good health.

Corbin Carroll’s first full MLB season was a doozy, resulting in 25 home runs, 54 stolen bases, 116 runs and the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Carroll banged out 65 extra-base hits, including an NL-leading 10 triples. It will be fun to see what the 23-year-old Carroll can do for an encore.

More valuable in leagues that use on-base percentage rather than batting average, Juan Soto has led MLB in walks three years running and has a career OBP of .421 (compared with a career batting average of .284). Soto had a groundball rate of 51% last year, which suggests limited HR upside. But Soto had a 99th-percentile hard-hit rate and 96th-percentile average exit velocity last season, and Yankee Stadium is a paradise for lefthanded power hitters. With a slightly higher flyball rate, Soto should be able to surpass last year’s career-high 35 home runs.

Fernando Tatis Jr. missed 20 games last April while serving the end of an 80-game PED suspension, but he still logged a career-high 141 games and provided multi-category goodness with 25 home runs, 78 RBI, 91 runs and 29 stolen bases. Still only 25, Tatis could put up monster numbers if he’s able to stay healthy all season.

Tier 3

Michael Harris II has hit 37 home runs and stolen 40 bases over 919 career at-bats, and he’s hit better than .290 in each of his first two MLB seasons. Harris ratcheted up his batting average over the second half of 2023, hitting .325 after the All-Star break. Injuries limited Harris to 138 games last season. If his health cooperates, he could be a five-category stat stuffer in 2024.

The oft-injured Luis Robert managed to play 145 games last season and provided 38 home runs and 20 steals. Beware the injury risk. Robert played only 166 games in the 2021 and 2022 seasons combined. He’ll put up big numbers if he’s healthy but don’t overpay.

Weakness loves risk; strength loves certainty. If you’re in a fantasy baseball league full of sharks, Cody Bellinger is a worthwhile gamble. If you’re the shark in a league full of guppies, Bellinger is the sort of player you should avoid like the plague. After batting just .203 from 2020 through 2022, Bellinger rekindled the magic of his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign and his 2019 MVP season, batting .307 with 26 home runs, 97 RBI, 95 runs and 20 stolen bases for the Cubs. Has Bellinger figured it out for good? He’s a habitual swing tinkerer, so the hope is that he can stay out of his own way.

By now, we all know the risk/reward proposition with Mike Trout, who provided frustratingly little in the way of rewards in 2023. Over the last six full seasons (discounting the 2020 COVID year), Trout has averaged 104 games played and 368 at-bats. He doesn’t steal many bases these days, but if he’s healthy, Trout will provide plenty of power and a solid batting average. But with the elevated health risk, insist on a discount before Trout-fishing.

Tier 4

The mammoth power numbers and elite batting averages that Christian Yelich provided in 2018 and 2019 appear to be a thing of the past, but Yelich finally showed life in 2023 after three disappointing seasons. He batted .278 with 19 home runs, 76 RBI, 106 runs and 28 stolen bases. As rough as things got for Yelich in 2020-2022, not everyone will be willing to buy back in on the former MVP. But as long as you’re not expecting big HR totals — a groundball rate of nearly 60% simply won’t allow it — Yelich should be able to give you a satisfying return on investment.

According to FantasyPros consensus ADP data, Nick Castellanos is typically going 100th overall in drafts. That’s good value for a dependable run producer who hit 29 home runs last season, has driven in 100 or more runs in two of his last three seasons, and has a career batting average of .276.

A high-risk/high-reward outfielder, Jazz Chisholm has a tantalizing combination of power and speed, with 53 home runs and 59 stolen bases in 1,085 career at-bats. But Chisholm has dealt with a litany of injuries in his brief career. He’s played fewer than 100 games in each of the last two seasons, and his 124 games in 2021 were a career-high. In addition to the injury risk, there’s also some batting average risk. Chisholm has a career BA of .245 and struck out 118 times last season in 352 at-bats.

Kyle Schwarber has hit 46 and 47 home runs over the last two seasons. He also led MLB in strikeouts in each of the last two years, and he followed up a .218 batting average in 2022 with a .195 BA in 2023. This is power at a price. But not only are the HR totals terrific, Schwarber has also produced 208 runs and 198 RBI over the last two years. Just realize what you’re doing to your team’s batting average if you decide to roster Schwarbs.

Esteury Ruiz led the American League with 57 stolen bases last season, and he did it in only 132 games, missing about a month with a shoulder injury. There’s 80-steal potential here, and Ruiz quietly batted .302 with 3 home runs over his last 25 games of 2023.

Tier 5

Lane Thomas established career highs in home runs (28), RBI (86), runs (101) and stolen bases (20) last season while posting a respectable .268 batting average. His 2024 consensus ADP is outside the top 100. Maybe we won’t get a full repeat of his banner 2023 season, but Thomas is looking like a solid draft value.

Riley Greene is one of my favorite OF targets this year. The No. 5 overall pick of the 2019 amateur draft, Greene batted .288 last year in 378 at-bats. He also struck out 114 times, which is alarming when you consider that he only hit 11 home runs. But the batted-ball data is exciting. Greene had an 85th percentile average exit velocity and 82nd percentile hard-hit rate to go along with 71st percentile sprint speed. The 23-year-old Greene is on the verge of a breakout.

Steven Kwan offers almost nothing in the way of power, so it was disappointing to see his batting average go from .298 in 2022 to .268 last year. As good a contact hitter as Kwan is, we should probably expect an uptick in batting average. But for Kwan to really pay off, he needs to bat .300 and take his modest stolen base totals up a notch.

Mega-prospects Jackson Chourio and Wyatt Langford are expected to make their MLB debuts early this season — possibly as early as Opening Day — and highly touted Evan Carter will nestle into the heart of the Texas batting order after getting a cup of coffee last year. Carter’s consensus ADP (113th overall as of Feb. 14) seems a little too aggressive, but Chourio (165th overall) and Langford (193rd overall) are more affordable. At those prices, I might be willing to invest even in a redraft league.

Tier 6

James Outman seems destined to be overdrafted after hitting 23 home runs and stealing 16 bases in his first full MLB season — and doing it for the high-profile Dodgers. There are some red flags in his profile, including 181 strikeouts in 483 at-bats last season, a 44th-percentile hard-hit rate and a 22nd-percentile average exit velocity.

In the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, no player has gotten to 40 career home runs in fewer at-bats than Jack Suwinski — which is pretty impressive considering that the franchise once farmed up Willie Stargell and Barry Bonds. Suwinski bashed 26 homers last year in 447 at-bats. The power is bankable, but Suwinski struck out 172 times last year and owns a .215 batting average over 773 career at-bats. Suwinski will take walks, however, so he’s a better investment in OBP leagues than in BA leagues.

It’s hard to tell what to make of Jarred Kelenic. Once a highly regarded prospect, Kelenic posted batting averages south of .200 in each of his first two seasons before batting .253 last year. But he had 132 strikeouts in 2023 and homered only 11 times in 372 at-bats. Kelenic is still only 24 and has an end-of-the-draft ADP. There are worse flyers to take, and if he doesn’t pan out early, you can quickly swap him out for a waiver-wire replacement.

Tier 7

A 6-4, 220-pound lefthanded thumper, Matt Wallner has prodigious power and the sort of lofty flyball rate we want from our sluggers. He hit 14 home runs for the Twins last year in 213 at-bats. The batting average won’t be pretty, but the Twins will most likely mitigate the BA damage by sitting him against lefthanded starters.

With all the hype over elite prospect Jackson Chourio, fantasy managers might forget another young Milwaukee outfielder, Sal Frelick, who acquitted himself reasonably well last season after a July call-up. Frelick batted .314 over three minor-league seasons and should steal 15-20 bases.

Max Kepler is an afterthought in fantasy drafts, but he homered 24 times last year and posted a career-best .260 batting average. Not a bad way to round out your outfield.

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