Some of you out there didn't trust that Michael Brantley was the best fantasy outfielder going into the 2015 draft, but he had another great season, less the 25 games he missed. Everything else was right on pace for another huge season. In terms o outfielders, there's just too much data to go through, here, so draft at will. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, and, yes, Michael Brantley... and then there's Giancarlo Stanton who had a great comeback year (until he got injured again), Adam Jones, Yoenis Cespedes... as we said, the list goes on and on. This year's list will get a pretty good shuffle, but among the top outfielders, you know who to draft in 2016... or do you?
Before we get into our fantasy outfielder analysis, we need to bring you up to speed on how we analyzed this year's crop of outfielders, why our criteria is different, and even more importantly how it's going to ultimately help you all season long with scouring the waiver wires to replace your injured or otherwise-sucky players. We've taken our fantasy analysis a step further than the other sites with the outfielders in 2015. We have the:
Standard 5x5 Fantasy Rankings
This one's a "duh." This is arguably the most-reliable source of fantasy baseball information available: the rankings in the standard 5x5 stats of Runs, HR, RBI, SB and Batting Average. It also lets you know who (mostly) played a full season and who put up the best fantasy numbers during that full season. What it doesn't tell you, however, is who was on pace for a top-notch fantasy performance before being cut down by an injury.
Fantasy Stats Projected out to 600 At Bats
Projecting everyone out to an even playing field (i.e.: 600 at bats) doesn't just let you know who was on pace for what in terms of fantasy performance. More importantly, projected stats let you know what you can expect out of a player when he's in your lineup.
Remember that you may only have a certain outfielder in your lineup for a few days at a time when he has a good matchup, or for a few weeks while he fills in for an injured player on your roster. While you may not benefit from a full season of stats, looking at how players compare to each other when it's apples-to-apples will let you know what you can expect from a guy when he's in your lineup.
For instance, Steve Pearce ranked 35th among all fantasy outfielders in standard, season-long 5x5 stats, however, he accumulated those stats in just 102 games and just 338 At Bats. Projected out to 600 AB, Pearce suddenly jumps up the rankings to #14 among all fantasy outfielders, a clear indication that his stats - while actually in your lineup - will make a much more significant impact than, say, Khris Davis who put up slightly better overall 5x5 stats, but it took him an extra 163 At Bats to get there when compared to Pearce.
Of course, there are cases where the 600 At Bat projections are a bit skewed from a player having a short, yet awesome stint in the majors. For example, the guy who tops our list of 600 AB Projected outfielders is Rusney Castillo. Castillo projected out to 100 runs, 33 HR and 100 RBI while hitting .333 and stealing 50 bases... none of those stats are going to happen. Nonetheless, it does tell you the impact he could have had in your lineup in his brief, 10-game stint with the Red Sox last year. Rusney Castillo may be a starter for the Red Sox this season, but he's 5'8", 186 lbs., so there's no way those projections will come to fruition. He may crack 10-15 HR with a .280 average and 20-25 stolen bases, so he's still a decent sleeper pick, but we just wanted to set the record straight that the 600 At Bat projections can be skewed if there isn't a significant cross-section of data to use (in Castillo's case, there were just 10 games of stats to dissect).
The 600 At Bat projections may turn out to be useful for guys like Scott Van Slyke and JD Martinez. Scott Van Slyke may be forced into long-term duty in the Dodgers' lineup this season, so looking at his 600 at bat projections will help you understand what you can expect out of him if he plays on a more-consistent basis in 2015. Imagining him playing in 150 games last year as a full-time player, you wouldn't be too surprised to see his projected stats come to fruition (91 runs, 31 HR and 82 RBI). We'd expect fewer runs and HR, but not by a lot.
Likewise, JD Martinez solidified himself as an everyday player in Detroit after last season, although it took him a while to get there. Projecting his 123 game, 441 AB season out to 600 ABs, and you'll see numbers you may be able to expect out of JD Martinez in 2015: 78 runs, 31 HR and 103 RBI. He may not hit over .300, but we still see his production being pretty accurate to the 600 at bats projections.
In general, the 600 AB projections are helpful for guys who missed time with injuries as well as guys who got called up mid-season or guys who got nudged into a starting role somewhat unexpectedly. Now that we know AJ Pollock is (supposedly) going to be the leadoff guy for the Arizona Diamondbacks, his 600 at bat projections give us the most-accurate depiction of what to expect from him in a full season at the top of the order. 93 runs, 16 HR, 54 RBI and 32 stolen bases should be pretty accurate to what his 2015 fantasy stats look like. If anything, we see his stolen bases staying around the 20-25 mark, but we wouldn't be surprised to see him crack the 30 stolen base mark.
Another guy to look at in our 600 at bat fantasy projection list is Pirates' outfielder, Gregory Polanco. The Pirates are a solid offensive team, and Gregory Polanco is slated to hit #2 in the lineup after Josh Harrison. Of course, with Andrew McCutchen hitting behind him, Polanco will score plenty of runs so long as he gets on base. Probably not the mathematically-projected 108 runs, but 90-100 is not out of the question. The other numbers seem doable (15 HR, 72 RBI), and we see his batting average rising to the .270 range, too. Also, 30 stolen bases may be a bit much, but 20+ is more than reasonable.
Fantasy Outfielder Rankings: 3x3 Stats (Runs, HR, RBI)
Top 25 Fantasy Outfielders: Runs Scored
Top 25 Fantasy Outfielders: Home Runs
Top 25 Fantasy Outfielders: Runs Batted In (RBI)
Top 25 Fantasy Outfielders: Stolen Bases (SB)
Top 25 Fantasy Outfielders: Batting Average (AVG)