The outfield will be the foundation of many fantasy teams in 2021.
Seven of the first 15 players in MLB.com's player rankings are outfielders, including four of the top five. Managers who don’t grab an outfielder in the first two rounds will still have an ample supply of impact players to choose from after that.
Here are this year’s top fantasy outfielders, broken down into tiers.
You can make a case for a number of players to go first overall in 2021 drafts, but we’re giving Acuña a slight edge over Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Here’s the 23-year-old’s per-162-game averages over the past two seasons: 45 homers, 37 steals, 105 RBIs and 139 runs with a .274/.374/.531 slash line.
The well-rounded Betts is our second-ranked outfielder and No. 3 overall player, followed by Trout, who continues to deliver at the plate year after year and remains among fantasy’s top five players despite his decline on the bases (one steal in 2020).
Up next is the 22-year-old Soto, whose production over his first three seasons has him drawing comparisons to Hall of Famer Ted Williams. You can't go wrong taking him in the top five, either.
Yelich and Bellinger, the National League MVP Award winners in 2018 and '19, respectively, turned in disappointing campaigns a season ago, but we’re expecting big things from both in '21.
Harper wraps up the first tier. Once regarded as injury-prone, the 28-year-old has missed only 10 games over the past three years combined, averaging 36 homers, 107 RBIs, 105 runs and 16 steals per 162 games in that span.
This tier includes a number of power-speed options, led by Tucker and Robert, who both went 30/30 in the Minors in 2019 and continued to contribute on multiple fronts in '20. Robert may have the higher ceiling of the two, but he also has the lower floor. Among players with at least 200 plate appearances last season, the 23-year-old had the fourth-highest chase rate, the third-highest whiff rate and the sixth-highest strikeout rate, making him a high-risk, high-reward pick in the early rounds.
Judge’s 12.5 AB/HR rate ranks fourth among players with 50-plus homers since the beginning of 2017. However, the slugger has missed nearly a full season’s worth of games (142) over the past three years due to an assortment of injuries, which is something for fantasy managers to keep in mind.
Springer has been one of the most productive outfielders in the game over the past five years, and he has joined up with a Blue Jays team that averaged 5.03 runs per game in 2020. Ozuna, meanwhile, is back with the Braves after signing a four-year contract. Having to play the field regularly could hinder his production, but the fact that he led the NL with 18 homers and 56 RBIs while hitting .338/.431/.636 last season can’t be ignored.
The third tier is filled with enticing players, but it’s also rife with uncertainty.
Arozarena is coming off a postseason for the ages, on top of a strong finish in the regular season. All told, he hit .333 with 17 homers and a 1.158 OPS over 43 games in 2020. But that represents the bulk of the 26-year-old’s big league experience.
Similarly, Grisham has played fewer than 120 games in the Majors. The 24-year-old hit .251 with 10 homers, 10 steals and 42 runs in 59 games for the Padres last year.
Hernández (.919 OPS) and Gurriel (.882 OPS) are looking to validate their breakouts, and Conforto is, too, to an extent. The veteran has been a productive fantasy bat for several years, but his 2020 slash line (.322/.412/.515) was well above his performance from 2017-19 (.257/.363/.492).
Martinez started cold and never recovered last season, and Meadows was never right after dealing with COVID-19 in July. Castellanos and Blackmon, meanwhile, faded dramatically after blazing starts.
Then there’s Stanton, who might be the biggest boom-or-bust pick in fantasy. The 31-year-old remains one of baseball’s most imposing sluggers, but he has appeared in just 41 regular season games over the past two years. If Stanton stays on the field in 2021, his production could swing many fantasy leagues.
The fourth tier features OF3 candidates of every type.
Need more power? Gallo, Soler, Lewis, Yastrzemski, Happ, Rosario and Mountcastle can provide it. For a boost in the batting-average category, target McNeil, Verdugo or Brantley. Buxton, Myers, Pham, Laureano, Moore and Carlson could be double-digit homer and steal guys.
Tier 5: Anthony Santander, Victor Robles, Clint Frazier, Max Kepler, Kyle Schwarber, Jesse Winker, Trey Mancini, Andrew McCutchen, Jarred Kelenic, AJ Pollock, Andrew Benintendi, Mark Canha, Chris Taylor, Nick Solak, Mitch Haniger, Aaron Hicks, Brandon Nimmo, Lorenzo Cain, Joc Pederson, Garrett Hampson
Fantasy managers can still find some starting-caliber outfielders in this tier.
Santander is locked into an everyday role with the Orioles, and he has produced 31 homers with 91 RBIs and an .807 OPS in 130 games over the past two years.
Robles struggled in 2020, but he had 17 homers, 28 steals, 65 RBIs and 86 runs in '19 and has no competition for playing time this season.
The Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner, but they may finally give Frazier a chance to play every day. The 26-year-old made notable strides at the plate in 2020, posting the best chase rate (14.1%, second lowest in MLB), walk rate (15.6%), hard-hit rate (43.2%) and barrel rate (12.5%) of his career. He also improved dramatically on defense, recording +2 Outs Above Average after finishing at -13 in just 53 games in the field in 2019, so his glove is no longer a reason to keep him out of the lineup.
Mancini is back after missing 2020 because of Stage 3 colon cancer. The 28-year-old hit .291 with 35 homers, 97 RBIs, 106 runs and an .899 OPS the last time we saw him.
The wild card in this tier is Kelenic, MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect. The 21-year-old had 23 homers and 20 steals in the Minors in 2019, but that’s the only full Minor League season he’s played, and the left adductor muscle strain he suffered in his fourth Cactus League game spoiled any chance he had of cracking the Mariners’ Opening Day roster. There's still a chance we'll see him in the Majors before the end of April, however, so he's someone to keep in mind in the latter half of fantasy drafts.