numberFireâ€™s 2014 Outfield Rankings: Trout Leads the Way
After taking a look at the entire infield, it's time to look at the big boys in fantasy baseball: the outfielders.
The rankings below result from projections and what we call our â€œnumberFire scoreâ€. The score, from a high level, takes a playerâ€™s contributions across all relevant scoring categories (5X5 league) and adjusts for position scarcity. Itâ€™s all placed in one fine, cute number, but the amount of math that goes behind it is significant. After all, thatâ€™s what we love â€“ we love math.
Without further ado, hereâ€™s who the algorithms like this season in the outfield.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
You can't go wrong with Mike Trout. We know this. During his two seasons with the Angels, Trout's batted .326 and .323, had no less than a .409 wOBA, stole lots of bases and drove in lots of runs. We do have Miguel Cabrera as the better fantasy player this year, as we project Trout to see a decrease in batting average in 2014 thanks to a BABIP that's a tad too high. He hits line drives, has power and is quick though, so a BABIP of over .350 is still probable. There's no reason to feel bad with Mike Trout on your fantasy team this year. Or any year for the next, I don't know, 15 seasons?
2. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Cutch took his .317/.404/.508 slash all the way to playoffs last year, and more importantly to non-Pirate fans, to an NL MVP award. His 15 percent strikeout rate was the lowest it's been since 2010, perhaps as a result of trying to make better contact rather than attempting crush the ball - his ISO dropped a bit from 2012 to 2013, but he swung at more pitches. McCutchen has decent bats surrounding him in the lineup unlike his younger years in Pittsburgh, including a leadoff hitter in Starling Marte that could blossom into a great on-base guy. We don't see a whole lot of regression coming from Cutch this year, and he's a solid bet to get you help in every batter category in fantasy.
3. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Our sample on Ryan Braun from last season is small thanks to his steroid use, but it did show a big increase in strikeout rate, as well as a dip in batting average. Naturally, all eyes were - and will be - on his power, which also took a hit in 2013. His career ISO of .252 dropped all the way to .200, as Braun homered in just 3.5 percent of his plate appearances. The season prior, this percentage was 6.1. Again, we have to keep in mind that it was a small sample, and Braun is still really good even with a drop in power. We think he'll be able to provide you with effective numbers across all the major fantasy categories this year.
4. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
The scariest part about Carlos Gonzalez's game is, really, his health. He's missed a chunk of time over the last three seasons, and that's always a scary thought for an early-round pick. But when he's healthy, there are few ball players who are better. The biggest thing to note from his 2013 campaign was his increase in power, as he hit 26 home runs on just 436 plate appearances. And he didn't just do it at hitter-friendly Coors Field - Cargo actually hit more home runs on the road last season with fewer at bats than he did at home. If he can stay healthy, he'll provide a great bat to your fantasy baseball lineup. That's always going to be a big if.
5. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
Jones will put the ball in play, as he hasn't had a walk rate above five percent since his 119-game 2009 season. His low walk rate doesn't deter his average though. Jones has hit between .280 and .287 in each of his last four seasons, with his BABIP hovering the .310 mark. If you want consistency, Jones is your man. And what's best is the fact that our projections see him duplicating his career-best 2013, maybe with a little less power.
6. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
A big problem with Jose Bautista's perception is that folks are still stuck on his 2010 and 2011 campaigns. Will he repeat those kind of numbers? Of course not. But he's still a very good hitter, and will provide a lot of dingers and runs batted in to your fantasy lineup. His home run per flyball rate dropped last year, which could be a sign of even more decline, but keep in mind that he hasn't been 100 percent healthy over the last couple of seasons (a wrist injury is the biggest to note). We think he'll hit above 30 home runs again and drive in almost 100 runs, but if you're looking for average and stolen bases, you're clearly looking in the wrong place.
7. Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
We've got Ellsbury stealing more bases than anyone not named Billy Hamilton in the outfield, and unlike Hamilton, Ellsbury doesn't come with a risky bat. The new Yankee outfielder hit just under .300 with the Red Sox last year, and while he hasn't shown a lot of power since 2011, he should benefit from being a left-handed hitter in New York. 32 home runs again? No, probably not. But getting to the double-digit mark for the first time since that season isn't even close to out of the question, so there's plenty of upside in the new-look Yankees lineup.
8. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
Despite a 15-point drop in BABIP last season, Holliday hit for a better average. Why? Because he struck out less (14.3% vs. 19.2%) and hit for a better line-drive rate (18.9% vs. 20.8%). A lot of projection models see him batting under .300 this year, but we - and I, personally - disagree. His batted ball profile a season ago was just as good as it's ever been as a Cardinal, and while he lost a little power, his ability to drive in runs didn't change one bit.
9. Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Gomez has increased his power over the last three seasons, and has now hit over 40 home runs over his last two. He has the ability to steal bases, too, as we project him to steal the third-most of any outfielder this season. He saw a career best .284 batting average last year thanks to a high .344 BABIP, and while folks will dub him a prime regression candidate, his numbers probably won't drop as much as some think. His line-drive rate shot up to over 21% last year, and he hit more home runs per flyballs (16.4%) than in previous seasons. We're expecting a slight dip in numbers, but don't think he won't come close to what he did in 2013.
10. Alex Rios, Texas Rangers
Rios sits just ahead of new teammate Shin-Soo Choo in our rankings, as we see him - Rios - beating out Choo in three of the five major fantasy baseball batting categories. I may lean Choo's way simply because Rios has been up, down, left and right throughout his career. Are you going to get the guy who batted to a .304/.334/.516 slash in 2012, or the .227 hitter that had a .237 BABIP in 2011? Know that he comes with a risk, but if he plays like he can, he should outperform his average draft position.