I can promise you with 100 percent certainty that my fantasy baseball outfield rankings for 2021 will not be 100 percent right. Not just mine, but any site's rankings of outfielders will not be 100 percent right. The odds of ranking more than 90 players exactly correct, even if we knew exactly who the top 90 OFs were going to be, are astronomically small.
But that doesn't mean we can't try! The better way to look at these OF rankings, however, is as a prioritized shopping list. Because that's how I look at the OFs during the draft/auction. Need some cheap power? Outfielders are a great position to shop for it. Need to bolster the ol' average? Some good cheap options in the OF can do that. Need some speed? Guess what, the OF is a great place to shop for that!
An example of cheap speed is Manuel Margot. His ADP is way past the 20th-round in a mixed league draft, but even in an AL-only league, I like the value he provides if you need some speed. He has double-digit SBs in four straight seasons, and I think he makes it five this season. He swiped a dozen bases last year, and all of them came during his last 37 games. He's probably not going to see 500 ABs, though, partly because of another cheap speed option, Kevin Kiermaier. And when I say cheap, I mean cheap. Kiermaier's ADP is close to 600! Let's not forget that Kiermaier stole 19 bases in 2019. He did that in 447 at-bats, which unfortunately I don't think he will get. But no problem, he swiped a career-high 21 bases in 2016 with only 366 at-bats. I know, he's already in his 30s, but he still flashed 97th-percentile sprint speed last season. He is exactly the kind of cheap speed we can get at the OF position.
Looking for cheap power? How about 25-plus home run power at an ADP past 450? I present to you, Hunter Renfroe. He, too, is unlikely to see 500 ABs this season. For one, he never has. Yet, he still hit 26 or more homers each of the last three "complete" seasons, including 2019 when he hit 33. If we extrapolate Renfroe's eight HRs in 2020 to 490 at-bats (a nice round factor of 3.5 and still less than the 494 he saw in 2019), we get 28 HRs. Not too shabby!
Unfortunately, the issue with Renfroe and other potential power hitters is the tendency to weigh down your average and OBP. But we can buy that cheap in the OF too! And it's why I love me some Alex Dickerson. He slashed .298/.371/.576 but has an ADP over 350. He's still young, but his track record in the minors is one of a .300 hitter.
Thoughts and Other Rankings Notes:
- We got a repeat at the top of the rankings. Ronald Acuna Jr. is once again my top OF. If he doesn't go in the first five picks overall, please invite me into your league! However, last year at this time, I had Mike Trout ranked as the second-best OF. I have him slipping... all the way to fourth. I have an associate who recently got him with the ninth overall pick. That is a steal. And speaking of steals, I'd like to see Trout swipe a few more bases again. If he does, I promise I'll have him back in the top three next year.
- For the most part, I am pretty aligned with the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR). Two players I like a little more not mentioned above are Oscar Mercado and Mitch Haniger. Both saw limited at-bats last year, but fantasy owners are overlooking them far too easily. Mercado only had 86 ABs last year and looked pretty good in his rookie season the previous year when he hit .269 and was one of the few with both 15 home runs and as many stolen bases. Haniger, meanwhile, hasn't played since June 2019, but don't forget that in 2018 he hit .285 with 26 HRs. Don't be surprised if he nears those marks again.
- And lastly, I only have him one spot lower than the ECR, but we need to pump the brakes a little on the hype train that is Kyle Tucker. I like Tucker, don't get me wrong. That .512 slugging percentage last year is a legitimate indication of his power. But I'd much rather have George Springer in the loaded Toronto lineup than Tucker in the Houston lineup minus Springer. Tucker will be a nice source of power, but I'll take the multi-category production of Luis Robert over Tucker as well.
Check out my outfield rankings below. Let me know your thoughts!
— Rankings by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.