Previewing 2018 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Aaron Judge trails Giancarlo Stanton, Cody Bellinger in the outfield
Aaron Judge is a player whose weaknesses are as well-documented as his strengths. So where does he land in Scott White's top 30 outfielders for 2018?
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We have to go a little deeper with the outfielders. After all, there are three times as many of them as third basemen, catchers or shortstops.
Still, 30 doesn't give as complete of a picture as 20 does at any one infield spot. Case in point: Marwin Gonzalez, who appears in both the second and third base rankings, doesn't make the cut here.
But he doesn't miss by much, which is instructive in another way. Beyond the top tier at this position, which comprises the top nine or 11 -- or maybe 15 if you want to be really generous because these lines are often blurred -- I have have an especially hard time differentiating between players at this position. While they may contribute in different areas, all have comparable upside and downside.
So beyond that top tier -- wherever you draw the line -- there's an opportunity for you to take a step back and capitalize on position's depth by loading up at other positions (maybe even starting pitcher) instead.
Note: These rankings are intended to be just a first glimpse and aren't tailored for any specific format. In cases where the format would make a big difference, that difference is noted.
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
|Mike Trout has already put together a Hall of Fame career, and he's not even 27 yet. I'd like to hear the justification for putting anyone else here.|
Bryce Harper Washington Nationals RF
|If not for the bruised knee that sidelined him for most of the final two months -- an injury that could have been so much worse -- Bryce Harper might have captured his second MVP before the age of 25, making him an easy choice for No. 2 on this list. I'll take the chance on him staying healthy.|
Charlie Blackmon Colorado Rockies CF
|Though no longer much of a base-stealer, Charlie Blackmon's hitting has improved to the point he's now a no-questions-asked first-round pick. But he's also on the wrong side of 30, which brings its own risks, and there's always the chance the Rockies fall out of contention and deal him away from Coors Field. It's nitpicking, I know.|
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
|No, Mookie Betts didn't get much MVP consideration in 2017, but most of what "went wrong" for him can be explained by an abnormally low BABIP. The outcomes within his control -- power production, base-stealing, walks and strikeouts -- were pretty typical, making him worthy of a first-round selection still.|
Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins RF
|Lost in the home run chase is the fact Giancarlo Stanton became a dramatically more disciplined hitter in 2017, making his batting average not such a liability anymore. But even for previous iterations of the 27-year-old slugger, top-five production was the expectation if he could only stay healthy.|
J.D. Martinez Arizona Diamondbacks RF
|You could argue J.D. Martinez is too low here considering he was the best hitter at-bat for at-bat in 2017, but then again, he's at a position with five first-round mainstays. And while he has gotten just a little bit better every year since his breakout in 2014, little about his track record suggests he'll ever be as good as 2017 again.|
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
|Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger is just getting started, and he has already established himself as one of the game's premier power hitters. His strikeouts became less of a hindrance over the course of 2017, and his fly-ball, pull and hard-contact rates suggest there may not be a player in all of baseball better equipped to hit 50 bombs. Oh, and he's only 22.|
George Springer Houston Astros CF
|George Springer finally eclipsed 30 homers in the same year he made an enormous leap in strikeout rate -- to the point that what was his greatest weakness as a rookie is now a legitimate strength. Yeah, he'll never steal bases as we once hoped, but that's a minor gripe considering.|
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
|Aaron Judge could use his own reduction in strikeout rate, but he has clearly proven he makes the kind of contact needed to overcome that obstacle. Still, in terms of batting average, he has a narrower margin for error than most of the top 10, and considering he'll turn 26 in April, he may not have much more growing to do.|
Rhys Hoskins Philadelphia Phillies LF
|Maybe I'm not downgrading Rhys Hoskins enough for his limited sample of at-bats, but the power production is certainly supported by his minor-league track record. And when you combine it with the sort of plate discipline that made Anthony Rizzo a hit in Chicago, I'm happy to roll the dice on Hoskins after the obvious MVP candidates are off the board.|
Tommy Pham St. Louis Cardinals LF
|The way Tommy Pham bounced back from a late-season recurrence of his longstanding vision issues should relieve concerns that his 2017 breakout was a product of some temporary fix. The 29-year-old may have missed out on his prime years, but between the power, the speed and, yes, the batting eye, he's a stud for right now.|
Andrew Benintendi Boston Red Sox LF
|After what to me is a pretty clear-cut top 11, the rankings start to get a little murky here, but Andrew Benintendi of course has the potential for more as a 23-year-old just completing his first full big-league season. He's pretty good as is, but if he develops more power to go along with a plus hit tool, he could be a second-round type of performer.|
Marcell Ozuna Miami Marlins LF
|Marcell Ozuna's 2017 production merits this sort of ranking, but there's reason to doubt whether he can do it again. His BABIP was much higher than usual despite a typical batted-ball profile, and his strikeout rate actually went the wrong direction. He's a solid selection, no doubt, but how much he stands out at a deep position is fair to wonder.|
Christian Yelich Miami Marlins CF
|It's still amazing Christian Yelich hits the home runs he does given how little he elevates the ball, but having done it now two years in a row, you pretty much know what you're getting with him. He profiles as a little better in points leagues thanks to the plus plate discipline, but he contributes enough in batting average and stolen bases to merit a top-15 ranking in categories formats as well.|
Andrew McCutchen Pittsburgh Pirates CF
|Andrew McCutchen's 2017 more or less restored his Fantasy standing after a disappointing 2016, but he's still not the player he was in his prime, profiling for a much lower BABIP now than he did then. So if he's no longer the standout he was in batting average and stolen bases, his game is mostly about power, which is merely above-average in today's environment, and plate discipline.|
Justin Upton Los Angeles Angels LF
|Part of me thinks I should know better than to rank Justin Upton here considering his improved batting average wasn't the result of an improved strikeout rate, but he did make some of the hardest contact of any hitter in 2017 and may have gotten short-changed in the BABIP department the previous two years. And it's not like he's all power, drawing his share of walks and helping a little in steals.|
A.J. Pollock Arizona Diamondbacks CF
|Injuries have so defined A.J. Pollock's past two seasons that it's hard to say what he is anymore. But when he was healthy in 2017, he wasn't the five-category stud we saw in 2015, running less frequently and failing to deliver a high batting average. Realistically, he still profiles as plus in both areas, but not to the same extent or with the same conviction as he once did.|
Khris Davis Oakland Athletics LF
|After back-to-back seasons of more or less identical production, we should know what to expect from Khris Davis by now. He's a flawed hitter who happens to excel at the most valuable of contributions. You'll have to watch out for the strikeouts in a points league and the batting average in a categories leagues, but you'll take the home runs at this stage of the draft.|
Eduardo Nunez Boston Red Sox 2B
|Eduardo Nunez is like the yin to Davis' yang -- a throwback put-the-ball-in-play type who isn't afraid to steal a base and offers just enough power to be worth your while in this environment. More likely than the outfield, you'll draft him to play second or third base, where he's also eligible.|
Jay Bruce Cleveland Indians RF
|Jay Bruce has gone from being consistently overrated because of perceived upside to consistently underrated because of that two-year stretch when he hit .222. He has bounced back nicely the past two years, though -- and in a way that's supported by an improved strikeout rate. If you think of him as a slower Upton, you have the right idea.|
Eddie Rosario Minnesota Twins LF
|If you don't know why I'd rank Eddie Rosario so high, you need to check out what he did from June 13 on. It was basically Pham-level production, going by Head-to-Head points per game. Of course, Rosario doesn't have the diverse skill set of Pham, deriving almost all of his value from what happens on contact, but he makes plenty of said contact and is experiencing a power breakthrough at an age that makes sense.|
Ryan Braun Milwaukee Brewers LF
|Ryan Braun's batted-ball tendencies were mostly the same as in 2016, which inspired me to rank him as a top-10 outfielder at this time a year ago. But I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt with regard to durability. It's less about the DL stints than the fact he sits about once a week even when "healthy," greatly limiting his upside.|
Yoenis Cespedes New York Mets LF
|Another Fantasy mainstay, Yoenis Cespedes may be going the way of Braun, having lost significant time to leg injuries the past two years and struggled to play every day even when "healthy." The production is still high-end, but counting on him as more than your second or third outfielder is a mistake.|
Michael Conforto New York Mets LF
|Michael Conforto's 2017 percentages are more impressive than this ranking, and the 24-year-old has the pedigree to back them up. But the injury that ended his season -- a tear in his left shoulder capsule -- is one known mostly to pitchers and known mostly for ruining them. He may not be back for the start of 2018, and he may not be "back" -- as in back to form -- ever.|
Lorenzo Cain Kansas City Royals CF
|Without much fanfare, Lorenzo Cain got back to performing at the level that made him a Fantasy standout in 2015, but a 15-to-20-homer season doesn't mean now what it did then. Fortunately, Cain also contributes in batting average and stolen bases -- not enough to lead the league in anything, but enough that you'll want to target him in the middle rounds. And if he signs to play in a more hitter-friendly venue, even better.|
Byron Buxton Minnesota Twins CF
|Byron Buxton's July and August production offered of a glimpse of how good he could be if he had a normal strikeout rate. But even if he continues to strike out at the rate he did for all of 2017, the resulting line isn't so bad. It's bolstered in large part by his base-stealing prowess, which may not be enough to negate the strikeouts in points leagues, but you should factor in continued growth as well.|
Starling Marte Pittsburgh Pirates LF
|At his best, Starling Marte was right there with Carlos Santana (only the other way around) in how much his points-league value differed from his categories-league value, but in a season marred by a PED suspension, he was no longer a standout in batting average. He had a normal strikeout rate, though, so given his track record and relative youth, you can hope he gets back to lining balls all over the field in 2018.|
Michael Brantley Cleveland Indians LF
|You should flip-flop Marte and Michael Brantley in points leagues, where Brantley's exceptional contact rate and doubles pop counts for more than Marte's batting average and stolen base potential, but of course Brantley is so low to begin with because of his continual health concerns. The sprained ankle that ended his 2017 had nothing to do with his previous shoulder issues, though, so he's a reasonable bet to bounce back.|
Adam Jones Baltimore Orioles CF
|Adam Jones' production hasn't declined too much since his days as a second-round pick in Fantasy, but the relative value of home runs has. And that's basically all he brings to the table. Reliability and predictability keep him in the top 30, but there are lower-ranked outfielders with more upside.|
Billy Hamilton Cincinnati Reds CF
|If you draft Billy Hamilton, you better need steals, and chances are someone will by this point in the draft. In fact, there's a good chance someone will target him sooner than this given that he's a one-stop shop in that scarcest of categories, but understand there's a tradeoff there.|
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