2019 Outfield Preview: Top 25

Matt Bishop January 23rd, 2019

The Outfield position has always been deep and 2019 is no different.  With five players being drafted in the 1st round, there is elite upside available with the first 15 outfielders off the board.  This is one of the only positions that will not penalize you by reaching for an early pick because you have 2-5 more chances to get your starting lineup straight. No matter how you spin it, it’s deep.

Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are basically 1 and 1A.  Either won’t hurt you and both are well deserving of the 1st overall pick.  Mike Trout did what Mike Trout does, finishing 2nd in AL MVP voting with a .312/.460/.628 (1.088 OPS) with 39 Home Runs and 79 RBI.  That was good for a 199 OPS+ and 10.2 WAR.  Imagine if he had run support.  I truly believe that we haven’t seen the best out of Mike Trout yet, which is truly and utterly terrifying.  

Mookie Betts convincingly tapped into his elite potential this season, slashing a .346/.438/.640 (1.078 OPS) with 32 Home Runs and 30 Stolen Bases.  This was good for a 186 OPS+ and 10.9 WAR.  Betts would take home AL MVP Honors and a World Series Trophy.   

Ronald Acuna is going 6th overall and I’m just not buying at that price right now.  There is no denying the skill set, but I am spending my first round pick on a proven commodity. However, since August 1 (258 PA), Acuna slashed .320/.399/.609 (1.008 OPS) with 15 Home Runs and 11 Stolen Bases with a 46.8% hard contact rate.  He was able to get his walk rate over 10% and his strikeout rate down to 21.7% in this span.  His batted ball profile appears to be well ahead of his years, as he barrelled the ball 13.4% of the time last season, as the league average is 6.1%.  He’s a statcast darling and a budding superstar, but someone else can have him at #6.  

Ronald Acuna is good

Bryce Harper has fallen out of the first round in 12 and 15 team leagues and I am fully on board. While Harper’s first half left much to be desired, he was an absolute stud down the stretch after dominating the Homerun Derby:

FIRST HALF

.214/.365/.468 (.833 OPS) .350 wOBA 118 wRC+ 23 HRs

39.6% Flyball 25.3% HR/FB 41.1% Hard Contact

SECOND HALF

.300/.434/.538 (.972 OPS) .412 wOBA 159 wRC+ 11 HRs

35.7% Flyball 19.6% HR/FB 44.0% Hard Contact

Harper offers such a high floor with his elite 18.7% walk rate, which was 2nd in the league last year.  He also hit 34 HRs, which was the second highest of his career.  With the media frenzy surrounding Harper’s landing spot and a concern for a decline in his batted ball skills, his second half clearly shows he can be elite and there is a ton of value here.

Juan Soto hit .292/.406/.517 (.923 OPS) as a teenager.  A TEENAGER.  His 16.0% walk rate was 6th in MLB, while his 146 wRC+ was 10th in baseball among hitters with 450 PA.  His chase rate or o-swing of 21.9% ranked 14th and his 38.8% swing rate ranked 11th in MLB.  This paints a picture of a young hitter with an elite plate approach well ahead of his years.

My only concern is his 80.1% contact rate, which was 63rd in the league and his 85.7% contact rate inside the strike zone, which ranked 114th in baseball.  His 57.5% first pitch strike ranked 134th in the league and means he was starting most at-bats ahead in the count.  Juan Soto is a star in the making, but 31st overall is a bit early for a slugger who we know regression is coming as pitchers adapt to his profile.

Andrew Benintendi grew into his #1 Prospect billing in 2018 slashing .297/.380/.517 (.897) with 14 HRs and 17 SBs in the first half of the season.  His season came crashing back to earth after the all-star break with a .279/.343/.384 (.727 OPS) hitting only 2 HRs and stealing 4 bases in 229 ABs. Benintendi did take a step forward in 2018 with career highs in runs scored (103) and Stolen Bases (21), but his flyball rate was down 3% and his hard contact was down to 28.0% from almost 35% in 2017.  For my money, 32nd overall for a guy who crashed that hard after the All-Star break is a bit risky.  While he is a special talent with 30/30 upside and the ability to walk more than he strikes out, it won’t be this season.

Kris Bryant is a huge bargain this year, going 36th off the board.  After three stints on the DL and failing to eclipse 150 games for the 1st time in three seasons, he only saw action in 102 games in 2018.  Bryant has been a 1st round talent throughout his career, cracking the Top 12 in MVP voting every year in the league so far and taking the award home in 2016.  Bryant’s numbers clearly declined due to the shoulder injury, resulting in a 9.5% barrel rate and 31.2% hard contact rate, which were career lows.  He also only hit .176 against breaking pitches in 2018, where he has never hit less than .253 against breakers.  After hitting the DL for almost a month and a half, he returned in September to mediocre results:  

Before DL Stint (358 PA):

.276/.380/.474 (.854 OPS) 11 HR 46 R 44 RBI

10.9% BB 20.9% K .366 wOBA 130 wRC+ 33.8% Hard Contact

After DL Stint (96 PA):

.265/.354/.422 (.776 OPS) 2 HR 13 R 8 RBI

8.3% BB 32.3% K .336 wOBA 110 wRC+ 20.8% Hard Contact

WTF.  A 20.8% hard contact rate.  Bryant has never been on the leaderboard for hard contact, but he was clearly still hurt.  Bryant opted not to have surgery in the offseason, so hopefully, a full offseason of rest will benefit his ailing shoulder.  With a full season of health, Bryant should get back to the elite tier of 3rd basemen and outperform his ADP.

Tommy Pham 2018 with Cardinals:

.248/.331/.399 (.730 OPS) 14 HR 67 R 41 RBI

10.6% BB 24.5% K .320 wOBA 101 wRC+ 26.4% Flyball 47.4% Hard Contact

Tommy Pham 2018 with Rays:

.343/.448/.622 (1.071 OPS) 7 HR 35 R 22 RBI

14.4% BB 24.7% K .447 wOBA 191 wRC+ 32.4% Flyball 51.0% Hard Contact

That is clearly a stud turn and a performance worthy of your fantasy consideration. He is currently going as the 18th OF off the board and has the power and speed potential to crack the Top 15 at the position.  He is a steal at 64 overall.

David Dahl has been on many people’s sleeper lists since prior to the 2017 season, which he would miss due to a rib injury.  He started the 2018 season off in the minors, only to be called up on April 22, where he would turn in a .279/.309/.484 (.793 OPS) slash with a 4.1% BB rate and a 28.9% K rate in 97 plate appearances.  In that span, he would only steal 2 bases with a 35.9% hard contact rate. He would be sent back down to the minors on May 30, not to return until August 5.  It took him a full month to acclimate to big league pitching, but he caught fire the last month of the season:

September 2018 (90 PA):

.298/.333/.679 (1.012 OPS) 9 HR 15 R 27 RBI

5.6% BB 23.3% K .415 wOBA 148 wRC+

Even though he didn’t steal a single base in September, the power-speed combo with Dahl is legit.  He barrelled the ball 9.3% last season, compared to a league average of 6.1% and his 13.8% launch angle is well above the league average 10.9%.  This means he is well suited for Coors Field. Dahl is currently going 67 overall, which is way too high for me since he doesn’t have a proven track record.  If you look closely at his profile, there is really not much difference between his good and his bad. The nine home runs in September are the only difference. And being that he is a free swinger who hasn’t learned to take a walk, someone else can have him at that price until I can see a full season of everyday at-bats. I feel more comfortable taking him after Haniger and before Rosario, which puts him in the 87 ADP range.

Mitch Haniger had career highs in plate appearances (683), home runs (26), runs (90) and RBI  (93).  He also eclipsed his career high in walk rate (10.2%) and a career low in strikeout rate (21.7%).  His barrel percentage skyrocketed to 10.3% in 2018, which was up from 6.1% in 2017.  His exit velocity was also up almost 3 mph to 90.2 mph, while his launch angle was up 2 degrees to 12.7% in 2018. He was spectacular in the last 2 months of the season:

August and September 2018 (243 PA):

.329/.383/.553 (.935 OPS) 8 HR 38 R 24 RBI

7.8% BB 19.8% K .395 wOBA 157 wRC+ .386 BABIP

It’s hard to imagine Haniger tapping into his full potential while playing at Safeco Field, where he hit .255/.327/.388 (.715 OPS) at home last season, but he should take another step forward this season and get closer to cracking the Top 50 players overall.

For more of our positional articles, you can find them here Starting Pitchers | First Base | Second Base | Short Stop | Third Base

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