Given virtually every fantasy league requires at least three starting outfielders, the decision of when and with whom to stock the position will have a major impact on the ultimate fate of many fantasy squads.Learn about the top players in this year's outfielder pool below.Tier 1: Michael Trout Trout not
Given virtually every fantasy league requires at least three starting outfielders, the decision of when and with whom to stock the position will have a major impact on the ultimate fate of many fantasy squads.
Learn about the top players in this year's outfielder pool below.
Tier 1: Michael Trout
Trout not only stands in his own tier among outfielders, but also among all fantasy assets. His counting-stat totals during an injury-abbreviated 2017 season extrapolate to 47 homers, 103 RBIs, 131 runs scored and 32 stolen bases across 162 games. Trout continues to improve at the plate (career-best 1.04 BB/K ratio in '17), and this season he will be flanked by arguably the most talented supporting cast of his career.
Tier 2: Charlie Blackmon, Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, J.D. Martinez
Six other outfielders merit first-round consideration beyond Trout, with Stanton, Blackmon and Betts likely to be drafted there in all leagues.
While wise owners will continue to dock Stanton points for his durability problems, the slugger is moving to a loaded lineup and gaining a hitter-friendly home park after leading the Majors in homers (59) and RBIs (132) last season. The injury concerns are valid, but Stanton's upside is undeniable. Blackmon is also coming off a memorable season, leading the big leagues in runs scored (137), topping the National League in batting average (.331) and setting the Major League record for RBIs (104) by a leadoff hitter. And though Betts fell short of lofty expectations last season, he posted a career-best walk rate (10.8 percent) and was the only player in baseball to notch at least 20 homers, 20 steals, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored.
Despite topping the 150-game and 30-homer marks just once in his career and never reaching 100 RBIs, Harper will also receive a Round 1 nod in many drafts thanks to his sky-high ceiling. The Nats star has logged an OPS over 1.000 in two of the past three seasons, finishing with a 1.109 OPS in '15 and a 1.008 OPS last year. Judge joins Harper as a boom-or-bust early-round option after a memorable rookie season (52 homers, 114 RBIs, 128 runs scored) that included an overall 30.7 percent strikeout rate and a troubling stretch (.690 OPS) from the All-Star break through the end of August.
Martinez finishes off this tier on the heels of a colossal showing (45 homers, 104 RBIs, 1.066 OPS) in only 119 games last year. The veteran has posted a .300/.362/.574 slash line across the past four seasons, but he's played fewer than 125 contests in three of them.
Tier 3: George Springer, Andrew Benintendi, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Upton, Byron Buxton
Springer headlines this tier after another successful season as the Astros' leadoff hitter. Making dramatic strides to curtail his swing-and-miss tendencies (career-best 17.6 percent strikeout rate), he finished '17 with personal-best marks in homers (34), RBIs (85), batting average (.283) and OPS (.889) while scoring more than 110 runs (112) for the second straight year.
Ozuna may have been even more impressive than Springer a year ago, producing a .312 average with 37 homers and 124 RBIs in a breakout campaign. Now part of a deep Cardinals lineup, the hard-hitting 27-year-old has the skills and support to deliver a worthy follow-up effort.
With solid power and 40-steal potential, Buxton is a terrific target for those who exit the initial rounds of their drafts without any dependable stolen-bases assets. Benintendi is also an excellent power-speed option, having posted a 20-20 season in his rookie year. Upton can provide his share of steals as well (14 in '17), but fantasy owners should lean on him more for homers, RBIs and runs scored. Set to hold a lineup spot behind Trout, Upton could easily top his career-high of 109 RBIs while attempting to eclipse the 30-homer mark for the third straight season.
Tier 4: Tommy Pham, Christian Yelich, Starling Marte, Lorenzo Cain, Rhys Hoskins, Khris Davis, Billy Hamilton
The fourth tier contains multiple steals sources, with Hamilton headlining the group of speedsters after tallying at least 56 stolen bases in each of the past four years. The Reds center fielder is mostly a one-category contributor, however, so owners looking for more diverse options should turn to Marte (47 steals, .311 average in '16), Pham (23 homers, 25 steals, .306 average in '17), Yelich (18 homers, 16 steals, 100 runs scored in '17) or Cain (.300 average, 15 homers, 26 steals in '17).
Meanwhile, those in need of pure power should look no further than Davis, who is the only player in baseball to produce at least 40 long balls in each of the past two seasons. Davis is joined by Hoskins on the short list of big leaguers who could reach that mark in '18, after the Phillies slugger belted 18 round-trippers in 50 games as a rookie last year.
Tier 5: Yasiel Puig, Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Pollock, Ryan Braun, Ian Desmond, Yoenis Cespedes, Ender Inciarte, Eddie Rosario
The fifth tier contains a diverse array of talents for fantasy owners to choose from when filling out their starting outfield.
Puig is part of a trio of players in this tier who took a step forward last year, as he posted career-best marks in homers (28), RBIs (74) and steals (15). Inciarte also made strides, recording personal bests in all five standard fantasy categories. And Rosario engineered a breakout campaign of his own by making gains in the plate-discipline department while batting .290 with 27 long balls.
This tier also includes some bounceback candidates in Desmond, Pollock and Cespedes. All three dealt with injuries last season but have been among fantasy's most valuable outfielders in the not-so-distant past.
Rounding out this tier are two players who were once first-round options. Braun is an injury risk (140 games or fewer in five straight seasons) who can be a five-category asset when healthy, while McCutchen enters '18 needing to prove he can sustain last year's bounceback effort (28 homers, 88 RBIs, 94 runs scored) in his first season with the Giants.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.