Ray Butler’s 2020 High-Value Active Players: Outfielders

Written by: Ray Butler

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The beat goes on. I recently published the infield portion of my 2020 high-value active player list; today, I discuss—at length—13 outfielders who could lead your fantasy teams into the black this season.

A brief reminder on the philosophy of this list: every player you’ll read about throughout this three-part series (infielders, outfielders and pitchers) is a player I expect to outperform their NFBC ADP by at least 20.0%. This means if a player has a ADP of 100.00, we’ll consider his inclusion a success if they finish the season as a top-80 overall player (I use Razzball’s Player Rater to make those determinations).

If this article caught your attention, you’ll probably enjoy reading about the players who were likely most affected by juiced ball last season. You can also check out the latest portion of my 2020 top-200 prospect list here.

Note: The “2020 NFBC ADP” attached to each player is their ADP since January 1st. The “VIP NFBC ADP” attached to each player was their ADP when this list was emailed to VIP members on New Year‘s Day.

Michael Brantley, OF, HOU. Age: 32

Projecting the success of individual players in 2020: trying to figure out which Astros hitters may be mostly immune to the ire of opposing pitchers throughout the regular season. Compared to Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, Brantley—who, of course, was a member of the Indians in 2017—may remain mostly unscathed this season. Don’t think there aren’t evaluators throughout the fantasy world who won’t be taking that into account in their draft preparation this preseason. In all actuality, it appears Brantley may simply be one of the most consistently untrusted players in the fantasy world. But check out Rob’s tweet below: the 32-year-old has now posted consecutive seasons as top-70 players. Like last season, he’ll be batting in the middle of one of the best lineups in all of baseball. Yet, his ADP is currently ~15 spots worse than it was a year ago? Yes, please. Brantley should prove to be an ideal stabilizer on fantasy teams that took a high-ceiling/low-floor offensive path in the first 100 picks. 2020 NFBC ADP: 129

Lorenzo Cain, OF, MIL. Age: 34

One thing I’ve undoubtedly learned by posting the outcomes of my Draft Championship, Online Championship and Best Ball drafts this preseason: a ton of people highly underestimate the commitment it takes to draft the speed you need to be relevant in stolen bases in roto leagues, especially the 15-team variety. In 15-team NFBC leagues last season, 123 stolen bases was the 80th percentile threshold. That number jumped to 135 in 12-teamers. That’s a lot of stolen bases. But it’s that notion that makes me love Cain this season. He played most of last season injured, he’ll be batting at or near the top of the Brewers’ lineup and is a safe bet to bank 15-20 stolen bases—if not more. When you pair that with a helpful batting average (Steamer projects .277 this season), double digit home runs and consistent run producing ability, it becomes easy to understand how Cain could be one of the most important pieces on championship fantasy teams this season. 2020 NFBC ADP: 187

Mark Canha, OF, OAK. Age: 31

Canha didn’t receive the credit he deserved last season while he was in the midst of posting an offensive performance 46 percent better than league average, and the ‘disrespect’ has carried over to the draft room this preseason. Imagine hitting .273 with 26 home runs in less than 500 plate appearances in 2019, slotting right behind Marcus Semien, Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson in a powerful Athletics lineup and still being available to draft after pick 250 in fantasy drafts. The batting average from last season isn’t sustainable (think .240-.250 this season), but 25 HR with 150 R+RBI is certainly within reach. Canha was a top-175 fantasy player last season; he could exceed that standing this season. 2020 NFBC ADP: 264

Nelson Cruz, UTIL, MIN. Age: 39

Cruz’s ADP last season in TGFBI was 84.1. He hit .311 with 41 home runs (163 wRC+) last season despite spending time on the injured list twice. Those numbers made him the 35th most valuable player in fantasy baseball last season according to Razzball’s Player Rater. His current 2020 ADP is—somehow—101.3. “Michael always says K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid. Great advice. Hurts my feelings every time.” Let’s not overcomplicate things. Yes, Father Time is undefeated. The 39-year-old’s skills—as has been the case with every player in the history of the sport–aren’t immune to deteriorating; it will happen at some point. But Cruz has been so good—and so consistent—for so long, we’d be fools not to ride with him until the wheels fall off. The age and UTIL-only eligibility will continue to depress Cruz’s draft day price. We’ll continue to take advantage. VIP NFBC ADP: 101, 2020 NFBC ADP: 85

Khris Davis, UTIL, OAK. Age: 32

That’s right, back-to-back utility-only players included on an outfield list. This is the perfect storm of value this preseason. The UT designation lays the foundation here, but Davis’ self-admitted, injury-fueled dip in performance last season and subsequent return to health for the upcoming season is the main reason why we’ll head to the window to collect our Davis winnings in 2020. From 2016-2018, the 32-year-old averaged 91 runs scored, 44 home runs and 112 RBIs per season. After clearly being hindered by the injury sustained in the imbedded video below, we now have the opportunity to potentially draft 90 R, 40 HR and 100+ RBIs in the 11th round of 15-teamers? It’s true that Davis won’t be much help in the batting average department, but the counting stats—which should be accrued in the middle of one of the league’s best lineups in Oakland—are simply too savory to pass up at this discounted price. 2020 NFBC ADP: 177

Corey Dickerson, OF, MIA. Age: 30

Dickerson is a largely forgotten fantasy commodity because shoulder and foot injuries caused the outfielder to miss 84 games last season. That fact—along with the inherent uncertainly that comes with free agency—has created the perfect storm for Dickerson to help us win fantasy leagues this season. Couple of important items worth noting: 1) the 30-year-old is a better asset in AVG leagues than OBP leagues, and 2) we should hope he signs with a non-contender. The handedness makes us assume the outfielder is probably a strong-side platooner, but there’s actually only an 18-point difference in Dickerson’s career average versus right-handers (.290) and left-handers (.272). Signing with a contending team with already-established outfielders might mean the moderate difference in performance relegates the 30-year-old to four starts a week vRHP. Signing with a bubble team or non-contender might mean Dickerson finishes the season with 500+ plate appearances. If the latter occurs, that’s .290 BA/20 HR value that’s currently sandwiched between Ender Inciarte and Tucker Barnhart on draft boards. Surely you catch my drift. Note: Dickerson signed with the Marlins in late December, but I am leaving the original write-up to illustrate how pumped you should be he signed with the Marlins. Full steam ahead on this inclusion. VIP NFBC ADP: 335, 2020 NFBC ADP: 312

Avisaíl García, OF, MIL. Age: 28

Allow me to start with an eye-opening take you may not be aware of: García might be the most underrated athlete in the big leagues. Built like a linebacker at 6-foot-4 and 250 lbs., the 28-year-old posted a Sprint Speed in the 90th percentile amongst all MLB position players last season. The outfielder’s 28.8 feet/second is identical to that of Cody Bellinger and faster than players like Tim Anderson, Dansby Swanson, Tommy Pham, Ozzie Albies, Javier Baez and Whit Merrifield amongst many other impressive names. But athleticism alone doesn’t help us win fantasy championships, so we’re lucky García was twelve percent better than league average offensively last season as a member of the Rays. Recently snatched-up by the Brewers via a two-year free agent deal worth $20 million, the 28-year-old could accrue a career-high in plate appearances this season while playing both left field and center field in Milwaukee. An aggressive approach means we’ll likely never see García’s massive raw tools fully manifest themselves statistically, but a simple repeat of last season’s output (.282 BA/.332 OBP/20 HR/10 SB in 125 games) would make the outfielder a top-150 fantasy player in 2020. That would be north of a 100-pick improvement compared to where he’s currently being selected in redrafts. VIP NFBC ADP: 264, 2020 NFBC ADP: 224

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Trent Grisham, OF, SD. Age: 23

If you’re looking for a dart throw that could net you >20 home runs and >10 stolen bases after pick 300, Grisham is your guy. Acquired with Zach Davies by the Padres this offseason for Luis Urías, Eric Lauer and additional considerations, there’s a growing sentiment with people who are plugged-in to organizations that Grisham will eventually be considered the unquestioned crown jewel of the trade. Between Double-A and Triple-A last season, the 23-year-old slashed .300/.407/.603 with 26 home runs, 12 stolen bases and nearly as many walks (15.2 BB%) as strikeouts (16.3%). Those numbers are insane, especially when you consider Grisham was barely an above average offensive performer in prior professional seasons since debuting at Low-A in 2016. The story somehow becomes even wilder when you consider a change in the way Grisham grips the bat served as the catalyst for his ascension last season. The outfielder projects more in the .240-.260 BA range as a big leaguer compared to the gaudy batting averages he posted in the minor leagues last season, but the counting stats make him a delicious fourth or fifth outfielder in NFBC leagues. Oh, and he’ll be one of the biggest ‘risers’ in OBP league rankings this season. Buy now. 2020 NFBC ADP: 334

Editor’s note: Trent Grisham was retroactively added to this list on Sunday, March 15th, 2020.

Adam Haseley, OF, PHI. Age: 24

This is a five-tool talent who 1) seems destined to receive the lion’s share of starts in center field for the Phillies, and 2) currently has an ADP around 600. This price is going to skyrocket by Opening Day, so it’s paramount you take advantage of Haseley’s current price before the market corrects itself. If the Phillies are telling the truth and the 24-year-old is an everyday starter in 2020, you can simply distribute his rookie season performance last season to 600 plate appearances and we quickly arrive at a profit (.266 BA/.324 OBP/12 HR/10 SB from a current >500 ADP). If you’re bullish and think the former top-150 prospect takes a small step forward in his first full season in the big leagues, a 15 HR/15 SB output would basically make Haseley the 2020 Lite version of Adam Eaton, who’s currently being drafted more than 300 picks earlier the 24-year-old. VIP NFBC ADP: 525, 2020 NFBC ADP: 591

Austin Hays, OF, BAL. Age: 25

Two separate thoughts behind this eleventh hour inclusion: 1) volume is king during the sprint season, and Hays should be the every day leadoff hitter (and center fielder) for an Orioles lineup that plays its home games in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in the league. 2) Hays has flown under the radar since a fantastic September last season. The outfielder slashed .309/.373/.574 with 4 home runs and a pair of stolen bases in just 21 games and 75 plate appearances, notching a 40.0 Hard% with a Sprint Speed in the 86th percentile. Often, September samples from prospects are easy to discard; however, Hays picked up where he left off during Spring Training, and he’s reportedly remained hot during Summer Camp. Much like Bryan Reynolds (who was also a late addition to this list; read about him below), don’t be surprised if the 25-year-old provides a surprising amount of stolen bases this season. As a frequent leadoff hitter in a short season, Hays’ run scoring ability—paired with above average power for a 1-hole hitter—should lead to the outfielder exceeding his draft slot as an OF4 or 5 in deep leagues. Post-Shutdown NFBC ADP: 276


Editor’s Note: Hays was retroactively added to this list on July 19th, 2020. 

Aaron Hicks, OF, NYY. Age: 30

Hicks was a late-round dart throw prior to the COVID-19 shutdown this spring, but he has ascended to ‘must roster’ territory for me prior to a shortened season that won’t begin until July 23rd. The outfielder appears to be fully-healed from offseason Tommy John surgery, and he’s destined to return to his every day role as the Yankees’ center fielder. With his patient approach, he could also lead off at times this summer for one of the league’s best lineups; this would be crucially important, since volume will be king during a 60-season game season. Oh, and batting in front of DJ Lemahieu, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton wouldn’t hurt either. On days LeMahieu leads off, the center fielder should slot sixth or seventh in the lineup. Hicks has never been a batting average asset, but he should hit for power while scoring a ton of runs while sitting atop of one of the league’s best lineups. If we’re lucky, he’ll also add a few stolen bases for good measure. It’s obvious the 30-year-old played most of his 2019 campaign injured (he battled a UCL injury for awhile before finally succumbing to surgery after the Yankees were eliminated in last season’s ALCS), and his mediocre 102 wRC+ in 255 plate appearances continues to suppress his price tag despite the fact we should see a different player this summer. Hicks is an ideal OF4 or 5 in NFBC leagues, and a huge value in leagues that use OBP instead of AVG. Post-Shutdown NFBC ADP: 371

Editor’s note: Hicks was retroactively added to this list on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

 JaCoby Jones, OF, DET. Age: 27

Out of all the Major League players featured on my high-value list this preseason, I might be most excited about JaCoby Jones. It went basically unnoticed, but something changed for the 27-year-old last season. The outfielder increased his Hard Hit% by more than ten percent. His strikeout rate decreased and his walk rate increased. He easily posted his best wRC+ of his big league career. All of this is being masked by the fact Jones only played in 88 games last season. Let’s focus on the first fact a little more: the 27-year-old’s 45.9 Hard% ranked 46th amongst all big league hitters in 2019 (no plate appearance minimum), ahead of players like Trevor Story, Bryce Harper and Cody Bellinger amongst many others. A pull-heavy approach with a strikeout rate just under 30.0% means Jones will never sparkle from a BA or OBP standpoint, but a repeat barrel performance this season (and good health) would mean the outfielder flirts with a 20 home run campaign this season. Assuming he’s the Tigers’ everyday center fielder, a 20 HR/10 SB campaign is within the realm of possibility for Jones in 2020. Even with a light on base skills, that would make the 27-year-old a top-250 player in fantasy this season. With a current ADP outside of the top-500, we have an opportunity for a huge return here. VIP NFBC ADP: 539, 2020 NFBC ADP: 577

Cameron Maybin, OF, DET. Age: 33

Two things: Cameron Maybin is somehow still only 32 years old (2020 will be his Age 33 season), and the gains last season were legitimate. Here are Maybin’s barrel percents from the last five seasons: 2.7%, 2.8%, 3.3%, 4.1%, 10.2%. A similar increase is evident in Launch Angle, Hard Hit %, xSLG, xwOBAcon and other relevant and indicative statistical categories. And sure, it’s more likely than not the 33-year-old will hit .250 in 2020 instead of the .285 mark he posted last season in 269 plate appearances, but it’s the counting stat upside that lands Maybin on this list. I’m really high on JaCoby Jones this season (his write-up is directly above this), but Maybin and his walk rate might be the better fit for the leadoff slot in Detroit in 2020. Regardless of where he slots, the outfielder—who should be penciled into the Tigers’ lineup on an everyday basis—is a solid bet to post double-digit homers and steals this season, all with a little bit of run production upside. Those players don’t grow on trees after pick 400, much less at Maybin’s current ADP. If he maintains his power gains from last season, it’s likely Detroit will shop the 33-year-old to contenders prior to the trade deadline, which might slash his playing time for the final two months of the regular season. Don’t worry, we’ll have cashed out on this inclusion long before then. 2020 NFBC ADP: 717

Andrew McCutchen, OF, PHI. Age: 33

After only playing in 59 games last season after tearing his ACL in June, McCutchen is being largely discarded in 2020 redrafts. Simply put, this is a mistake that we’re going to pounce on. Of course this is an inexact science, but if distribute the 33-year-old’s counting stats to 600 plate appearances (which is a light total had he played the entire season), he finishes 2019 with a .256/.378/.457, 23 home run, 5 stolen base line. His 120 wRC+ in 59 games was in-line with his performance from both 2017 and 2018. His ADP last season was in the 130-range, and now we get an 80-pick discount following an outlier injury in a career defined by durability? Don’t mind if I do. McCutchen will likely bat either immediately before or immediately after the trio of Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto (my money is on before), so the run-producing opportunities should be plentiful. I suspect the outfielder will be on a lot of league-winning rosters this season. VIP NFBC ADP: 211, 2020 NFBC ADP: 204

Marcell Ozuna, OF, ATL. Age: 29

If you believe in the power of positive regression, Ozuna is an under-the-radar 40 home run candidate in 2020. No hitter had a bigger difference in wOBA (.340) and xwOBA (.382) last season. The 29-year-old also had a robust .047 xBA – BA in 2019, which is odd misfortune when you pair that stat with a 96th percentile Hard Hit %. For good measure, Ozuna swiped 12 bases last season (85.7% success rate), which might have been the most nonchalant, ‘I had no idea’ stolen base output in all of baseball. Now officially inked with the Braves, the outfielder will slot behind Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman in what should be one of the best lineup quartets across the big leagues this season. Assuming health, Ozuna will feast on this opportunity, likely topping 100 RBIs with >30 home runs and on base skills that won’t hurt your fantasy team. Post-signing, early returns suggest DC and OC players aren’t accounting for Ozuna’s pillow-like landing spot; we’ll take full advantage. I fully expect the 29-year-old to rank closer to Jose Abreu (current ADP: 79) than Mike Soroka (current ADP: 106) in value by the end of the season. The rest would simply be a cherry on top. VIP NFBC ADP: 104, 2020 NFBC ADP: 102

Hunter Pence, OF, SF. Age: 37

*whispers* Hunter Pence was a top-250 fantasy player last season in just 83 games and 316 plate appearances. The veteran completely re-tooled his swing last offseason, and it led to a whopping 42.6 Hard Hit%, a .508 xSLG and 9.1 Barrel%. Oh yeah, and he posted those numbers while also possessing the same sprint speed as Jose Altuve and Whit Merrifield. Dude is a physical freak. It’s true that he’s 37-years-old and is unlikely to make it thru a full, 162-game regular season completely unscathed physically. But having recently signed with the Giants, Pence should be unencumbered for playing time when healthy. Even if he only matches his playing time from last season, it’s hard to imagine us taking an L on this inclusion. If he can somehow muster 100 games and 400 plate appearances (or more), Pence—back with the organization he won two World Series championships with more than five seasons ago—could be one of the sport’s best stories this season. 2020 NFBC ADP: 658

Bryan Reynolds, OF, PIT. Age: 25

Ever witnessed a non-elite prospect over-perform in a large sample during their rookie season. Often, the fantasy world underrates that player the following season, demanding an encore performance before investing too much stock in a player who was never near the top of prospect lists. Enter: Bryan Reynolds. The 25-year-old slashed .314/.377/.503 in 134 games and 546 plate appearances last season, hitting 16 home runs in the process. Sure, the BABIP was a bit inflated (.387), but Reynolds posted a modest Pull% (37.0%), and his xBA (.294) was actually higher than his batting average thanks in no small part to an above average Hard Hit% and underrated sprint speed. Now, the outfielder enters his sophomore season primed to hit second in the Pirates’ lineup. He’s also publicized his desire to attempt more stolen bases in 2020, which would be a lovely addition to an awesome batting average, valuable run-producing ability and moderate power. In a 60-game season, Reynolds should be considered a sleeper to lead the league in batting average, all while maintaining the volume to be a huge factor in counting stat categories. At his current price point, the road to profit is wide and comfortable. Post-Shutdown NFBC ADP: 192

Editor’s Note: Reynolds was retroactively added to this list on July 19th, 2020

Anthony Santander, OF, BAL. Age: 25

For where you’re drafting him, Santander is surprisingly solid. After pick-300, you realize how quickly 20+ home run outfielders with an adequate batting average become extinct. But then there’s Santander, who—thanks largely to an above average exit velocity, xBA, xSLG and sprint speed last season–projects to hit around .250-.260 with something like 20 HR/3 SB in the middle of a 2020 Orioles lineup that’s better than most people assume. We won’t rely on the 25-year-old to be our OF1 at the end of the season, but I suspect he’ll rank near the very top of players drafted to slot as an OF5. 2020 NFBC ADP: 380

Editor’s note: Anthony Santander was retroactively added to this list on April 13th, 2020.

Raimel Tapia, OF, COL. Age: 26

What if Raimel Tapia is everything we thought Sam Hilliard would be this summer? The thought process here is simple. Everyone thinks Hilliard will be the Rockies’ every day left fielder throughout the shortened season, but it appears most signs are actually pointing towards Tapia filling that role. If you’re buying those signs, there’s a huge market inefficiency regarding the 26-year-old’s price point leading up to Opening Day. The outfielder bulked-up during the offseason, and he already possessed the batting average and speed floor worth eye-balling in five-outfield fantasy leagues. Something like .280/5 HR/5 SB is very much within the realm of possibility here, which would make Tapia a top outfield option in the late rounds of fantasy drafts. If you’re wondering how valuable that could be relative to price tag, the outfielder is yet to be drafted in either NFBC Main Event. Post-Shutdown NFBC ADP: 690

Editor’s Note: Tapia was retroactively added to this list on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Paul Sancya and the Associated Press

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