Welcome back to part 4 of our 5-part series setting up the post-break action. We’ve already covered catchers and first baseman, second basemen, third basemen and shortstops. For now we’ll buzz through the top-25 outfielders in terms of second half expectations. I'll pop back later with 26-50 at which point I'll change that sentence to top-50 outfielders and delete this one as well as the couple that follow. Please check the @FantasyAlarm or @ToddZola twitter feeds for the announcement that the article is completed, Thanks for your patience. I apologize but when Corey Kluber is on my TV I get distracted and I didn't write as much as intended Saturday afternoon.
1. Mike Trout (1H-2, PROJ-1): While the early-season strikeout barrage has waned, Trout is still whiffing at an elevated rate but a .365 BABIP helps mitigate the damage. His power has picked up and the additional homers are also helping to prop his average. Trout will be the consensus top pick next season but beware, while he’ll still swipe a decent number of bags, 20 is the upside. But 20 from a guy that hits over .300 with 30-something homers is pretty sweet.
2. Andrew McCutchen (1H-7, PROJ-2): It took me a while to warm to McCutchen as an uber-elite fantasy force since I considered his average to be a risk. After seasons of .327 and .327, I was convinced and was all-in this season and have not been disappointed. Cutch’s #7 ranking over the first half reflects the strength of the outfield inventory. Though remember, the cutoff was June 30 so his July numbers of .364-5-13-13-3 didn’t contribute to the first half ranking. With Miguel Cabrera another year older, McCutchen may not only be the second best outfielder, he may be the second best fantasy hitter.
3. Carlos Gomez (1H-4, PROJ-5): Gomez average will probably dip below .300 by seasons end but he’s still an elite fantasy player as he fills all the categories.
4. Nelson Cruz (1H-3, PROJ-52): The low first-half rank was mostly not being 100 percent sure Cruz would play regularly as back in the spring, the Orioles had a few options at DH, though none with the potential of Cruz. Some of it was also a performance hedge as it was unclear how well he’d perform after missing 50 games last season. Well, that question has been answered so now the sole concern is health. Playing DH helps as does getting to trot around the bases as opposed to running hard when the ball stays in the yard.
5. Jacoby Ellsbury (1H-12, PROJ-3): With the move to Yankee Stadium, a little more power was expected, though no one expected Ellsbury to approach the 32 dingers he swatted in 2011. Still, a high teens total was reasonable and it appears he’ll fall sort of that. But Ellsbury is still running which helps ease the paucity of pop. Some of this post-break top-5 rank is the residual expectation of a spike in power which I probably should have tempered, but call it a gut feel, Ellsbury has a hot streak coming that will carry his numbers through the second half.
6. Giancarlo Stanton (1H-1, PROJ-23): I’ve given Stanton a lot of bandwidth already in previous discussions to we’ll keep it brief. The power is not a surprise but the pace for 100 runs and 100 RBI is a bit of a shocker. The tempered second half rank is an injury hedge as well as a bit of team regression.
7. Billy Hamilton (1H-8, PROJ-19): The only reason Hamilton didn’t finish in the top-five for the first half was missing some time due to injury. Allot for the same missed time and carry over the same performance and we end up with a second half rank in the same spot.
8. Adam Jones (1H-9, PROJ-4): Jones continues to carry a very good average despite poor plate skills but to be fair, his power is down a bit and he’s not running as much as previous seasons. I was a big fan of Jones reliability coming into this season and still am. That said, when a player shows a crack (reduced counting stats) the warm and fuzzy feeling abates a bit so Jones may drop down a bit in my rankings next season. Not to mention, he’s the ultimate accumulator – very good but not great skills but pounds up the counting stats by pure volume aided by an allergy to free passes. Counting on what could be a fourth straight season of 160-plus games is a gamble.
9. Ryan Braun (1H-17, PROJ-7): Injuries (first an oblique, now a sore back) have bothered Braun all season so we really can’t tell how much his baseline performance has dropped, but through it all, he’s going to threaten .300 with high teens homers, double digit steals and somewhere around 150 runs plus RBI. The top-ten rank assumes slightly better health the rest of the way which admittedly could be a mistake.
10. Jose Bautista (1H-10, PROJ-17): Bautista continues to be one of the more reliable power hitters in the league. He’s going through a slide now, perhaps due to pressing with the absence of Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie. If his owner is panicking, and you need power, help a brother out and take him off their hands.
11. Yasiel Puig (1H-11, PROJ-8): Puig is docked some injury-risk at bats which tempers his outlook. A big fuss was made over Puig’s numbers over his first 162 games – they were of course electric. But he’s exhibited no reason to expect he’ll play a full 162 in a season so those numbers are more for entertainment purposes than setting expectations. There’s talk he’s now a first-rounder. That may be the case, but for me there needs to be about 24 teams in the league for Puig to be a first rounder and even then I’m not sure.
12. Hunter Pence (1H-14, PROJ-13): I’ve set it before and I’ll say it again; Pence looked like a bad actor portraying a ballplayer in a baseball movie. But yet he continues to do a little of this and a little of that.
13. Carlos Gonzalez (1H-62, PROJ-6): You know the deal – top-five talent in between DL visits.
14. Michael Brantley (1H-5, PROJ-38): After a top-five first half, there’s nothing wrong with a mid-teens ranking for the rest of the season. Maybe Brantley keeps up the pace but chances are something will fall back a tad – be it average, power or speed. Regardless, the overall package will still be one of the best.
15. Alex Rios (1H-24, PROJ-10): Before saying “I told you so” and calling me a fool for having Rios as a top-tem outfielder in the spring, that’s where he ended up the previous two seasons. This season his average is actually up but his power has swooned and he’s not running as much – perhaps due to a poor success rate. From a selfish point of view, this means I can go back to getting Rios at a discount next season.
16. Jayson Werth (1H-34, PROJ-33): There’s nothing wrong with Werth’s skills and production when healthy. But at 35 years of age, that’s the key. Werth played just 129 games last season and only 81 the year before. He’s on a pace to finish around 145-150. If he indeed stays healthy the rest of the season, a top-twenty finish is well within reach.
17. Justin Upton (1H-16, PROJ-18): What you see is what you get. The path to get there will be bumpy, but by season’s end Upton will have 20-something homers and low teens swipes. But there will still be someone willing to pay the “this is the year” tax next spring.
18. Matt Kemp (1H-38, PROJ-9): Kemp has teased with some of the raw athleticism that made him such a wonderful fantasy specimen. But he also is more fragile and inconsistent. I suspect he’ll settle into a very good but not great groove – perhaps sooner than later.
19. Jay Bruce (1H-39, PROJ-15): Bruce has been my personal whipping boy and has given me no reason to back off. The strikeouts continue to be elevated and Mr. Streaky hasn’t hit more than four homers in a month since June 2013. Though to be fair, he does have three so far this month.
20. Leonys Martin (1H-32, PROJ-21): It’s apparent by the initial #21 and present ranking at #20 that I expected and continue to expect more from Martin. Over the first half he was hindered by hitting at the bottom of the order. He’s been hitting higher lately which should help his counting stats. Martin isn’t running as much as expected, perhaps due to a poor success rate (18-for-26, 69 percent). For some reason, the entire Ranger team is getting caught stealing more as the squad’s success rate is a lowly 65 percent. This could serve to hurt Martin as well as Rios as their attempts are likely to diminish.
21. Starling Marte (1H-27, PROJ-20): Many did not factor in gravity pulling Marte’s stellar 2013 campaign down so they may be disappointed. But the truth is, If it weren’t for missing a few games, Marte is doing basically what should have been expected. There’s still a lot of work to be done in the plate skills areas before Marte sniffs value commensurate with a 5th round ADP.
22. Kole Calhoun (1H-56, PROJ-31): An early season injury curtailed Calhoun’s first half but he’s back atop an order with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton looking to knock him in. If Calhoun can maintain anything resembling the .387 OBP he’s sported since June 1, his teammates will be able to do just that.
23. Melky Cabrera (1H-13, PROJ-47): When the Blue Jay’s offense was hitting on all cylinders, Cabrera was a big part. Now that they’re dinged up as a team, his run production has dropped back a bit. Cabrera will still be a 5-category contributor, just to a lesser extent.
24. Torii Hunter (1H-49, PROJ-26): When healthy, Hunter still produces. Just be ready with Plan B as the Detroit Tigers have a bunch of outfielders that can slide into his spot so Hunter is likely to miss some games over the remaining ten weeks, if only to keep him fresh for a hopeful deep run into the playoffs.
25. Charlie Blackmon (1H-6, PROJ-107): Blackmon followed an April which featured a .374 average with five homers and seven steals with a May and June where he sported a .261 average and a combined seven homers and eight steals. The latter production is more typical and is what’s expended going forward. So long as Blackmon continues to see regular at bats he’ll be a useful fantasy asset – just not top 6 overall useful.
Coco Crisp (1H-23, PROJ-32): This wasn’t a hard call. Crisp’s total of 22 HR in 2013 would fall and he’d steal more than 21 bases. The tough part was over/under the 131 games played. Looks like unless he goes through the second half unscathed he’ll fall short. Take the under.
Matt Holliday (1H-46, PROJ-12): It was bound to happen sooner or later – a drop in performance from one of the game’s most consistent and reliable players. Skills-wise, he’s not all that far from normal – his contact rate is fine and Holliday still has a good eye. The question is whether the precipitous drop to a 7 percent HR/FB rate is a decline in skills, injury-related or just dumb luck. Holliday will be 35 next spring, he’s big guy and has a history of back woes. I have a feeling I’ll let him be someone else’s problem.
George Springer (1H-29, PROJ-76): Batting average is a category too and amidst all the #SpringerDingers and handful of swipes is a 33 percent strikeout rate and .231 average. Having the potential for 50 combined homers and steals is enticing, but unless Spinger can raise his contact into the mid-70’s, it will come at a cost.
Brett Gardner (1H-15, PROJ-57): This ranking surprises me a bit and appears to be a function of not accounting for Gardner hitting at the top of the order more than originally planned. A continuation of what he’s done so far is likely which means a ranking in the mid-teens.
Jason Heyward (1H-35, PROJ-30): I may be conservative to a fault, missing out on some breakouts. But I also don’t pay for the hype and potential like some did (and will continue to do) for Heyward. One of these years he may get it together, but the bottom line is he doesn’t make enough hard contact, especially for someone of his build. Not only that, his hard contact rate is dropping for the second straight year – and rather significantly.
Khris Davis (1H-21, PROJ-34): A preseason rank of 34 suggests I wasn’t too surprised Davis had a strong first half, but the drop to 31 for the post-break stretch says I anticipate a little regression. Still, this is low end OF2, high end OF3 territory in a 15-team league and I bet you got him as your OF5 or UT.
Rajai Davis (1H-19, PROJ-55): Davis’s rank reflects the anticipation Andy Dirks will come back and wrest some at bats from Davis (and J.D. Martinez). With Dirks out of the picture, at least for now, it looks as though Davis and Martinez will continue to split left field while filling in for Torii Hunter and possibly Victor Martinez, though V-Mart looks like he’s healthy again. That would likely vault Davis up a few spots but not all the way to 19 since he and J.D. Martinez were able to play together a lot in the first half – which may not be the case the rest of the season.
Alex Gordon (1H-20, PROJ-29): He’s no longer a sexy prospect, Gordon is now just a solid five category contributor. The slight drop in expectations is a function of hitting lower in the order and the Royals struggling to score runs.
Yoenis Cespedes (1H-18, PROJ-24): There may appear to be a disconnect with Cespedes ranking but keep in mind the first half encompassed games through June 30 and Cespedes had had a stinkeroo month of July, hitting .113 with no homers. Those numbers were left out of the first half rank but contributed to the baseline to derive the post-break expectation.
Bryce Harper (1H-118, PROJ-16): I bet if we help a draft right now with the idea being we’d play it out next season Harper would still be a top-25 pick. Until Harper shows he can play 150 games, he’s going to be someone else’s headache.
Angel Pagan (1H-33, PROJ-44): More of the same is expected for Pagan but that was before he got hurt.
Desmond Jennings (1H-44, PROJ-25): Jennings has avoided the injury bug so far and while he isn’t having a bad season, he’s playing at the lower end of his skills range so he’s down just a little across the board. There’s nothing that says he can’t pick up the pace and makes a decent buy low if you need a little help everywhere.
Curtis Granderson (1H-40, PROJ-27): It took a little while for Granderson to get settled but he’s not playing as expected. He hit a dismal .136 with 1 HR in April but followed that with a pair of 5 HR months with a .253 average in May and .300 in June. So far July has seen 3 HR and a .286 average. Knocking five out a month is just about right, though he’s more a .250 guy than the .281 he’s tallied since April.
Marlon Byrd (1H-22, PROJ-61): Some things you just have to accept. Byrd has developed into a very useful fantasy player despite fanning a ton and possessing no speed. He carries an above average BABIP which will keep his average useful and so long as he doesn’t get moved to a big park, the homers will continue as well.
Christian Yelich (1H-37, PROJ-58): I’ve mentioned this previously but Yelich is fast becoming one of my favorite ballplayers to watch and that’s transferring over to my fantasy side as he’s pretty cool to own as well. That said, he has one of the most bizarre profiles I have ever seen. Yelich has a HR/FB mark well above average at 18 percent. That normally translates to at least 20, maybe more than 30 homers. But Yelich has a ridiculous 19 percent fly ball rate. I honestly don’t know how to treat this – it’s so bass ackwards.
Marcell Ozuna (1H-25, PROJ-60): In the spring, there was some talk of sending Ozuna down to start the season but a couple of injuries (and a strong last couple weeks in the Grapefruit League) led to an opening day roster spot and a regular gig. Ozuna hits down in the order which tempers his production. He’s also striking out too much but that means there some room for growth. Actually, cutting down on the whiffs will help mitigate the likely drop in BABIP. His present .343 mark isn’t supported by a 16.6 percent line drive rate.
Ben Revere (1H-28, PROJ-49): Where he hits in the order is everything to a player of Revere’s ilk and he’s hitting at the top so the steals and runs should keep flowing. Just don’t expect a repeat of the power spike Revere enjoyed in the first half. Though I suppose an inside-the-park job is possible.
Nick Markakis (1H-30, PROJ-42): Boring but steady, it takes a couple of Markakis-types to stabilize a fantasy roster. Four steals in the first half elevated his ranking a tad.
Josh Hamilton (1H-81, PROJ-40): Your guess is as good as mine.
Austin Jackson (1H-66, PROJ-46): Jackson’s back to hitting leadoff which bodes well for his counting stats and possibly steals. That said, a .322 OBP won’t cut it for long at the top. I thought Jackson may show some growth this season but he’s actually taken a step back in the power department and isn’t running as much as expected.
Denard Span (1H-36, PROJ-59): Span is running more than he has in the past which has rendered a higher ranking. Everything else is status quo.
Shin-Soo Choo (1H-50, PROJ-14): Choo got a lot of attention a few weeks back when the first falf ranks were reviewed. The Cliff Notes version is everyone has Choo as a great buy-low guy – and he is. Just don’t expect a return to his normal pace for homers and steals. Choo should raise his average, I just think he’s playing hurt which has hindered his power and speed.
Lorenzo Cain (1H-43, PROJ-75): Cain took over the top spot in the order from Norichika Aoki and looks like he’ll be keeping it for the second half. This is a good thing and may lead to a higher finish if he can stay healthy.
Carlos Beltran (1H-84, PROJ-11): A lot of pundits are expecting a strong finish from Beltran. I question his ability to finish the season without injury.
Michael Morse (1H-31, PROJ-77): Morse’s low ranking is due to what’s likely an unfair injury hedge. All his numbers are in line with career norms which means a higher finish if he stays healthy.
NEXT TIME: We'll conclude with the pitchers
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Affectionately known as Lord Zola, Todd was the 2013 Fantasy Sports Writers Association recipient of the Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year, Web. He's been with Mastersball since its inception in 1997 and presently Todd writes for the ESPN Insider and Baseball HQ. Todd is a frequent guest on SiriusXM and is a regular on HQ Radio. He's a veteran of Tout Wars and LABR as well as a multi-time NFBC champion. Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddZola
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@BostonSportsHb I think it's time for a poker night intervention
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Anyone that is bummed the @DraftKings Millionaire Maker is over and needs something to do, please feel free to send me $27.
Looks like my Brandon Finnegan gambit in early leagues will go for naught. @Mastersball Platinum update by midnight.