Fantasy Baseball: Highlighting top outfield prospects for 2017

Have you taken a peak at the outfield rankings heading into 2017?

They're a little ... oh, what's the word? Lacking.

It's not that the position is shallow. By its very nature, it can't be. A team starts three times as many outfielders as shortstops, first basemen or anything else, and in the late rounds of your Fantasy Baseball draft, you'll notice the excess. But in the early rounds, you'll probably be wondering where all the talent is.

Right here, baby.

As so often happens when a position becomes uncharacteristically weak at the major-league level, a new wave is building up at the minor-league level. And in this case, it's more like two. Not only are long-awaited prospects like Clint Frazier , Austin Meadows and Hunter Renfroe finally on the verge of contributing, but outfielders also dominated the early stages of the 2016 draft, beginning with Mickey Moniak at No. 1 overall.

In fact, the talent has built up to a point that going 20 deep in the outfield -- twice as deep as any of the infield positions -- really isn't deep enough. Doing so excludes likely 2017 contributors like Teoscar Hernandez , Andrew Toles , Hunter Dozier , Matt Olsen and Roman Quinn , as well as 2016 breakouts like Dylan Cozens , Christin Stewart and Derek Fisher .

Guess you can expect to see more than 20 outfielders in my top 100 prospects a couple months from now.

Note: This list is intended for a variety of Fantasy formats and thus weighs short-term role against long-term value. Not all of these players will contribute in 2017 -- most, in fact, will not -- but among prospects, they're the names to know.

1. Andrew Benintendi , 22, Boston Red Sox

Where played in 2016: high Class A, Double-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .312 BA (372 AB), 9 HR, 16 SB, .910 OPS, 39 BB, 39 K
Major-league stats: .295 BA (105 AB), 2 HR, 1 SB, .835 OPS, 10 BB, 25 K

Some evaluators consider Benintendi to be an even better prospect than Yoan Moncada , so his 2016 debut, as encouraging as it was, is really just the tip of the iceberg. If his power develops as expected, he could evolve into a Andrew McCutchen-type player. He'll likely be the first rookie drafted in your league.

2. Clint Frazier, 22, New York Yankees

Where played in 2016: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .263 BA (463 AB), 16 HR, 13 SB, .782 OPS, 48 BB, 122 K

Frazier has been slow to adjust at times in his minor-league career, which was the case during his move up to Triple-A late last year. But the former fifth overall pick and prize in the Andrew Miller deal boasts as much raw power as any hitter in the minors and is just a sneeze away from the majors.

3. Austin Meadows, 21, Pittsburgh Pirates

Where played in 2016: short-season Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .266 BA (308 AB), 12 HR, 17 SB, .869 OPS, 33 BB, 67 K

The Pirates' outfield surplus has already forced a position switch on Josh Bell , so Meadows may have to wait until an injury opens the door or Andrew McCutchen moves on. In between an orbital fracture and a hamstring strain this year, he began to make some of the power gains long projected for him, though like Benintendi, he's a better bet for batting average for now.

4. Bradley Zimmer , 24, Cleveland Indians

Where played in 2016: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .250 BA (468 AB), 15 HR, 38 SB, .790 OPS, 77 BB, 171 K

Early returns on Zimmer make him out to be the second coming of Grady Sizemore (in a good way), but a swelling strikeout rate knocked him down a peg this year. Still, power, speed and on-base ability are the greatest determinants of Fantasy success, and unlike so many prospects of his caliber, he has actually demonstrated all three.

5. Lewis Brinson , 22, Milwaukee Brewers

Where played in 2016: Rookie, Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .268 BA (406 AB), 15 HR, 17 SB, .773 OPS, 21 BB, 87 K

Brinson, who has long been regarded more for his abilities than production, looked like he had turned a corner with a 1.004 OPS that ranked third among minor leaguers in 2015, but then he scuffled through most of 2016. The turning point was the Jonathan Lucroy deal that shipped him to the Brewers, whereafter he put together -- get this -- a 1.005 OPS to nearly earn him a call-up.

6. Eloy Jimenez , 20, Chicago Cubs

Where played in 2016: low Class A
Minor-league stats: .329 BA (432 AB), 14 HR, .901 OPS, 25 BB, 94 K

Jimenez finally showed why he was the top international prospect of 2013, breaking out in a year when he not only took home Midwest League MVP honors but also entered the national conversation with a home run in the Futures Game. His best tool, power hitting, is only partially developed, too, so we're talking an especially high ceiling here -- one could make him the top overall prospect someday.

7. Victor Robles, 19, Washington Nationals

Where played in 2016: Rookie, low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .280 BA (421 AB), 9 HR, 37 SB, .798 OPS, 32 BB, 77 K

Robles also rates high for overall ceiling and already exhibits uncommon strike-zone judgment and hitting approach for a player his age. Offensively, his speed is his other standout tool right now, but he's young enough and athletic enough to develop plus power during the two or three years he'll need to reach the big leagues.

8. Kyle Tucker , 20, Houston Astros

Where played in 2016: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .285 BA (432 AB), 9 HR, 32 SB, .798 OPS, 50 BB, 81 K

Kyle Tucker is most known for his relation to Preston Tucker , who was making a splash for the Astros when they decided to draft his little brother in 2015. Cute story, right? Yeah, except they took Tucker fifth overall, two spots ahead of even Benintendi, and while some of his skills -- the speed, the plate discipline -- are already evident, his build makes him a power hitter waiting to happen.

9. Kyle Lewis , 21, Seattle Mariners

Where played in 2016: short-season Class A
Minor-league stats: .299 BA (117 AB), 3 HR, 3 SB, .915 OPS, 16 BB, 22 K

Lewis' fast track to the majors took a detour when he tore his ACL in July, less than six weeks after the Mariners drafted him 11th overall. But the reigning Golden Spikes winner (which recognizes the best amateur player) made the most of the time he got, showing an advanced approach and power to all fields, so there's a good chance he gets a taste of Double-A this year.

10. Corey Ray , 22, Brewers

Where played in 2016: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .239 BA (243 AB), 5 HR, 10 SB, .678 OPS, 23 BB, 58 K

Ray, drafted six picks ahead of Lewis, has a similar profile, but he wasn't as impressive in his professional debut and ended up needing his own knee surgery, if only for a torn meniscus. Still, he may have a higher ceiling than Lewis since he's more inclined to steal bases, and with his pedigree, it's not like he's higher risk. It's a coin flip between the two.

11. Hunter Renfroe, 25, San Diego Padres

Where played in 2016: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .306 BA (533 AB), 30 HR, .893 OPS, 22 BB, 115 K
Major-league stats: .371 BA (35 AB), 4 HR, 1.189 OPS, 1 BB, 5 K

Renfroe's lack of plate discipline puts a hard limit on his ceiling, but he's so skilled as a power hitter that you may not care in the long run, especially if his September trial is a sign of things to come. His breakout 2016 is a source of skepticism since it came in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but he still stood out from his peers, claiming MVP honors.

12. Jake Bauers , 21, Tampa Bay Rays

Where played in 2016: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .274 BA (493 AB), 14 HR, .789 OPS, 73 BB, 89 K

Normally a first baseman, Bauers got a taste of the outfield this year to keep him out of Casey Gillaspie 's way, and in terms of offensive potential, the two are similiar. Evaluators are divided on which they actually prefer, with most favoring Bauers' upside, but he'll need to develop more as a power hitter to take advantage of his bat skills.

13. Aaron Judge , 24, Yankees

Where played in 2016: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .270 BA (352 AB), 19 HR, .854 OPS, 47 BB, 98 K
Major-league stats: .179 BA (84 AB), 4 HR, .608 OPS, 9 BB, 42 K

Judge is like the antithesis of Bauers, offering transcendent power but with a swing-and-miss tendency that may ultimately render him a Quadruple-A type. That's the worst possible outcome, of course, with Giancarlo Stanton representing the other end of the spectrum, but his 6-foot-7 frame will always give opposing pitchers holes to attack. With the Yankees going the youth movement route, Judge won't leave us wondering for long.

14. Manuel Margot , 22, Padres

Where played in 2016: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .304 BA (517 AB), 6 HR, 30 SB, .777 OPS, 36 BB, 64 K
Major-league stats: .243 BA (37 AB), 0 HR, 2 SB, .649 OPS, 0 BB, 7 K

Margot joins Benintendi, Renfroe and Judge as a prospect in line for a starting job next spring, but of them, he's the only one who doesn't project to hit for power. In fact, his defense is so central to his rating that he's destined to become a better player in real life than Fantasy, but if he's a speedier Jose Ramirez , sans the versatility, he'll matter.

15. Blake Rutherford , 19, Yankees

Where played in 2016: Rookie
Minor-league stats: .351 BA (114 AB), 3 HR, .986 OPS, 13 BB, 30 K

Some evaluators rated Rutherford the best hitter in the 2016 draft -- better than Lewis, Ray or any of the other 17 players drafted ahead of him -- but the further out a player is, the wider his range of outcomes. At 19, Rutherford is probably more than three years out, so while the upside is enticing, he's clearly a bigger gamble in long-term keeper leagues.

16. Lourdes Gurriel , 23, Toronto Blue Jays

Where played in 2016: Did not play -- defected from Cuba
CNS stats (2015): .344 BA (218 AB), 10 HR, 8 SB, .967 OPS, 21 BB, 23 K

This offseason's highest-profile international signing will need more than just a tune-up stint in the minors seeing as he was only 21 the last time he played competitive ball. He not only needs to shake off the rust but also continue his development and figure out exactly where he's going to play, with second and third base both possibilities. His bat should make him viable wherever.

17. Jesse Winker , 23, Cincinnati Reds

Where played in 2016: Rookie, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .308 BA (393 AB), 5 HR, .804 OPS, 61 BB, 63 K

Winker is trending the wrong direction power-wise, taking the Joey Votto approach of digging his heels in and walking more, almost in defiance, when he doesn't get the pitches he wants (though playing through a wrist injury couldn't have helped). His on-base percentage alone will get him to the majors, and if all the strike throwers up there help him tap into his power, his stock could rise quickly.

18. Tyler O'Neill , 21, Mariners

Where played in 2016: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .293 BA (492 AB), 24 HR, 12 SB, .882 OPS, 62 BB, 150 K

It's not that O'Neill didn't hit for power prior to this year, but seeing as his 32 homers in 2015 came in the hitter-friendly California League, accompanied by a ghastly strikeout rate, the prospect hounds by and large ignored them. Fair to say he won most everyone over en route to Southern League MVP honors this year, showing explosive power to all fields while facing tougher competition.

19. Mickey Moniak, 18, Philadelphia Phillies

Where played in 2016: Rookie
Minor-league stats: .284 BA (176 AB), 1 HR, 10 SB, .749 OPS, 11 BB, 35 K

How is the reigning first overall pick only the fourth-best outfield prospect from his own draft class? It's mostly because Moniak is fresh out of high school, which gives him more hurdles to clear on his path to the majors, but there's also the question of how much power he'll develop along the way. If all breaks right, he's another Michael Brantley .

20. Raimel Tapia , 23, Colorado Rockies

Where played in 2016: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .328 BA (528 AB), 8 HR, 23 SB, .819 OPS, 27 BB, 61 K
Major-league stats: .263 BA (38 AB), 0 HR, 3 SB, .556 OPS, 2 BB, 11 K

Tapia is a divisive prospect because of the way he sells out for batting average, going into a deep crouch when he gets two strikes in order to shrink his zone. But as a Rockies product, he has the built-in advantage of Coors Field, which has made stars of lesser talents. Even if he doesn't develop into a 20-homer man there, he may have a batting title in his future.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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