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Trout, Betts headline stellar outfield options

Rankings replete with potential stars across all fantasy categories
February 18, 2017

While other positions certainly make valuable contributions to fantasy lineups, arguably none is as important as the outfield group. The ultimate fate of many fantasy squads will hinge on when -- and how -- owners stock their outfields.• Full fantasy outfielder rankingsTier One: Michael Trout, Mookie Betts The two players

While other positions certainly make valuable contributions to fantasy lineups, arguably none is as important as the outfield group. The ultimate fate of many fantasy squads will hinge on when -- and how -- owners stock their outfields.
Full fantasy outfielder rankings
Tier One: Michael Trout, Mookie Betts
The two players in this tier will likely be selected first and second in most 2017 drafts.
Trout -- a 25-year-old who has averaged an impressive 33 homers, 116 runs scored, 96 RBIs, 28 steals and a .310 batting mark since the outset of '12 -- is the safest and most spectacular asset in the game.

But owners who wish to target a player with a stellar skill set and an elite supporting cast may bypass the Angels star in favor of Betts. Arguably the top fantasy asset in '16, the Red Sox outfielder should again flash his elite power-speed blend on a regular basis as he bats from a premium spot in Boston's high-scoring lineup.

Tier Two: Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Charlie Blackmon, Starling Marte, George Springer
Nationals teammates Harper and Turner offer the most potential among the players in this group.
Still just 24 years old, Harper was the top overall pick in many '16 drafts after delivering a National League MVP Award-winning campaign the year before. Possessing one of the highest ceilings in the game, Harper is a viable late first-round option based on the expectation that he can bounce back from a relatively disappointing '16 season.

Turner can also be considered late in Round 1, as his eye-popping stats (.340 average, 13 homers, 33 steals) after the '16 All-Star break suggest he's one of the only players in baseball capable of topping 20 homers and 50 stolen bases.

With the ability to contribute across the board, Blackmon and Springer are terrific Round 2 options for fantasy owners. Blackmon has hit .305 with 46 homers and 60 steals across the past two seasons, and Springer compiled 29 long balls, 82 RBIs and 116 runs last year.

Marte doesn't possess a great deal of power (nine homers in '16), but he may be a perfect early-round pick for owners who grabbed a top-notch slugger with their opening selection. Despite playing just 129 games a year ago, the Pirates speedster racked up 47 steals to go with his .311 average.

Tier Three: Yoenis Cespedes, Nelson Cruz, J.D. Martinez, Ian Desmond, A.J. Pollock, Christian Yelich, Gregory Polanco, Ryan Braun
A trio of power hitters stands out in this tier. After leading the Majors in average exit velocity (95.7 mph, min. 200 balls in play, per Statcast™) last year, Cruz may be capable of delivering his fourth straight 40-homer campaign in '17. Wise owners will look past his advanced age and recognize the immense value Cruz can provide.

Cespedes and Martinez have yet to reach the 40-homer plateau in their careers, but both players have found comfort zones with their current clubs. Over 189 games since joining the Mets in a July '15 trade, Cespedes has produced 48 long balls, 130 RBIs and a .903 OPS. And since signing with the Tigers in March '14, Martinez has logged 83 home runs, 246 RBIs and an .898 OPS over 401 contests.
Fantasy owners will also find a pair of breakout candidates in this tier. A lifetime .293 hitter with solid speed, Yelich is on the rise after tying for the Major League lead in average fly-ball distance (347, min. 50 fly balls, per Statcast™) and producing a career-best 21 homers in '16. Polanco, too, may be able to reach another level in '17 after fighting through nagging injuries to compile 22 homers and 17 stolen bases last season.
Pollock may have the most upside of anyone in tier three, as he was the lone big leaguer to produce at least 20 homers, 30 steals and a .300 average in '15 before missing most of '16 with an elbow injury.

Like Pollock, Braun is a power-speed option who can hit for a high average. But the outfielder has dealt with nagging injuries over the past four years, playing 140 games or less in each campaign.
Desmond can also provide a good deal of power and speed, but his ability to match last year's .285 average is in question. After all, the lifetime .267 hitter owns a career 23.5 percent strikeout rate and is coming off a '16 second half in which he batted .237 for the Rangers. Still, a move to hitter-friendly Coors Field could help the veteran provide strong fantasy value again.

Tier Four: Billy Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton
Stanton and McCutchen are solid options for owners who are willing to assume some risk in their pursuit of upside. Stanton has played more than 125 games just twice in his seven-year career, but he is arguably the most powerful player in baseball. And though McCutchen is coming off a down '16 campaign, he averaged 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 96 runs, 19 steals and a .313 batting mark from '12-15.

Power is plentiful in this tier, with Kemp, Gonzalez and Upton all having the potential for 30-homer campaigns. Meanwhile, Hamilton is definitely the top option for those who have a need for speed. Despite making four disabled-list stints over the past two years, the Reds outfielder has swiped a big league-leading 115 bases in that span.

Tier Five: Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, Adam Eaton, Stephen Piscotty, Lorenzo Cain, Khris Davis, David Dahl, Jose Bautista, Andrew Benintendi
Fantasy owners in search of power have plenty of options in this tier, including Trumbo -- who led the Majors with 47 homers in '16 -- Davis (42 homers in '16), Bautista (62 homers across '15-16) and Jones (56 homers across '15-16). Piscotty doesn't offer as much power as any of those four players, but he is valuable in his own right after hitting .273 with 22 homers, 85 RBIs and 86 runs scored in his first full season.
A handful of players with balanced skill sets also populate tier five, with Eaton, Cain, Dahl and Benintendi all serving as potential five-category contributors.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.