Fantasy baseball draft season is finally here, which also means organizations such as ESPN and Yahoo! have released their rankings. But are their rankings always a good guide to follow? Today, we’ll analyze three outfielders who we think are ranked higher than they really should be.
ESPN Ranking: 61
Yahoo! Ranking: 61
Let’s start with new Padres outfielder Tommy Pham. Last season with the Rays, Pham was one of five outfielders to put up a 20-20 season in the Majors. Among outfielders, Pham was sixth among outfielders in stolen bases (25), and was in the top 20 among qualified players at the position in OBP (.369). And on top of that, Pham’s exit velocity numbers in 2019 were also quite strong, as his Hard Hit% was in the top 20% of the league. It was another fine season for the 31-year old outfielder, but Pham now moves to San Diego in 2020. Pham was acquired via trade this past December, and the outfielder should give the Padres a boost at the top of their lineup given his prowess to get on base.
However, the move to San Diego is a bit concerning. While Pham could see an uptick in runs scores this season, he may produce a lower home run total, thanks to Petco Park. Despite that, we still like Pham a lot. The 31-year old gets on base a lot, steals bases and can hit for power. However, we believe he should be ranked a bit lower, somewhere in the 100-125 range.
ESPN Ranking: 95
Yahoo! Ranking: 100
Yasiel Puig had the typical Yasiel Puig-type season last year. Across 149 games with two teams (Reds and Indians), Puig batted .267 and hit 24 home runs, while driving in 84 runs. It was the third consecutive season that Puig hit 20 or more home runs, and the Cuban native set a career high in RBI last season. The 29-year old also set a career high in stolen bases last season, as he stole 19 bases in 26 attempts. Puig has been quite consistent over the past few seasons, as he’s been good for a .260 average, 20-25 home runs, and about 15 stolen bases a season every year. So, why’s he on this list? Well, he doesn’t have a team at the moment.
As of right now, Puig is still a free agent, and it’s possible he may enter the spring without a team. That’s concerning for obvious reasons (missing Spring Training time, where he’ll play, etc.), so it’s important to keep that in mind when drafting, especially if you have an early draft. If you do have an early draft, stay away from him. If you have a later draft, keep a close on eye on news surrounding the Cuban outfielder. We do like Puig entering 2020, but the uncertainty surrounding him is a problem from a fantasy perspective.
ESPN Ranking: 152
Yahoo! Ranking: 106
Cleveland Indians outfielder Oscar Mercado had a fine rookie season in 2019, batting .269 for the Tribe while smacking 15 home runs and 43 extra base hits. Mercado also had 15 stolen bases in 115 games, and given his great speed and production last season, it does make some sense that he’s rated pretty high. However, we’re concerned about Mercado for a few reasons.
For one, the 25-year old has never really been much of a power hitter throughout his pro career. Between AAA and the Majors last season, Mercado hit 19 home runs. Prior to 2019, his career high in a single season was 13 in AA back in 2017. Second, it’s fair to wonder how much Mercado will get on base in 2020. Last year, Mercado had the 16th lowest BB% rate (5.8%) among outfielders who had 350 or more plate appearances. He needs to get on base in order to rack up stolen bases, so that fact that he had a low walk rate last year is a bit concerning.
If you’re looking for an outfielder who can give you both some pop and stolen bases later in the draft, it’s probably wise to look for someone else. A good outfielder to target later in the draft instead of Mercado would be Phillies outfielder Scott Kingery. Kingery, who’s ranked #199 by Yahoo!, is not only eligible for multiple positions, but also hit more home runs last season than Mercado, and also took more pitches per plate appearance last season. If you need an outfielder later in the draft, you’d be better off taking Kingery.
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