Magazine Content

Showdowns: Outfield

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Often in the midst of your draft, you’ll find yourself deciding between a couple players at the same position. With Player Showdowns, we take two players who are closely ranked by Average Draft Position (ADP) and/or Rotoworld’s 2016 season projections and have writers take a side and debate who should be selected first. Whose side will you be on?

 

 

Andrew McCutchen vs. Giancarlo Stanton

 

McCutchen

 

McCutchen’s 2015 campaign was considered a relative disappointment from a fantasy perspective, which says way more about the lofty expectations than anything else. The Pirates’ center fielder hit .292/.401/.488 with 23 homers while tying his career high with 96 RBI on his way to a fifth-place finish in National League MVP voting. A nagging knee injury early on in the season was mainly responsible for McCutchen’s poor April, and we saw the 29-year-old hit .306/.416/.510 from May on while also starting to run more late in the year (six of his 11 steals came after August 1). Stanton, meanwhile, was in the midst of a big power season in 2015 before a much slower than expected recovery from hamate bone surgery wound up costing him the final three months of the year. The hulking slugger has missed significant time in three out of the last four seasons due to injury, and while he should be fine for Opening Day, it must be noted that hamate bone injuries can often deplete power when the player first returns. I’ll concede that McCutchen probably doesn’t offer the stolen base upside that he used to, but I still see him as a much better bet than Stanton in three of five categories and is an infinitely better bet to stay healthy. I totally get the fascination with Stanton. However, he certainly comes with risk and that’s something you should be trying to avoid in the first round. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)

 

Stanton

 

Stanton may be the best pure power hitter in all of baseball. The 26-year-old slugger was on his way to a career year in 2015, slashing .265/.346/.606 with 27 home runs, 67 RBI and four stolen bases in just 74 games before a broken hamate bone ended his season. It appears as though he's made a decision to sacrifice some batting average to sell out for power, and the upside that choice brings to the table is 50-plus home run potential in 2016. He has also proven to be fleet of foot in recent years, deftly swiping 13 bases in 14 chances in 2014 and thieving another four bags in less than half a season last year. McCutchen is a terrific player. He's safe, consistent and has a very high floor. He's going to hit around .300 with homers in the mid-twenties, and 90-100 runs and RBI. The discouraging trend in his line though, is that his stolen bases have dropped for two consecutive years, to a career low of 11 in 16 chances last year (68.75%). McCutchen is still worthy of being selected in the top two rounds, but his best days are likely behind him. Stanton is entering his prime years and has the type of upside to win your fantasy draft. – David Shovein (@DaveShovein)

 

A.J. Pollock vs. Mookie Betts

 

Pollock

 

Pollock vs. Betts is a really close call, and ultimately comes down to how confident one is that Betts will take a giant leap forward, and how confident one is that Pollock will be able to match last year’s numbers. Pollock ended the 2015 season with a .315/.367/.498 triple-slash line with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, 111 runs scored, and 39 stolen bases. He finished 14th in National League MVP balloting, but was certainly deserving of a top-10 finish. Pollock was the only player in baseball to hit 20 homers and steal at least 25 bases. 2015 was Pollock’s first as a full-time player, but he had shown those tools in more limited playing time in the two prior seasons. Betts has a higher ceiling than Pollock, particularly since he’s five years younger and already has an elite season under his belt. Last year, he hit .291/.341/.479 with 18 home runs, 77 RBI, 92 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases in 654 plate appearances. Strictly for 2016, I believe Pollock will have slightly more fantasy value, particularly in the stolen base department. Truly, though, you can’t go wrong with either player. – Bill Baer (@Baer_Bill)

 

Betts

 

Pollock did some serious work in 2015, blasting 20 homers with 39 stolen bases and 111 runs scored. It was the kind of year that rightly put Pollock firmly in the discussion of being a late first- or early second-round pick in drafts this spring. Betts' year was very good but didn't stack up to Pollock's -- in his first full season with the Red Sox, Betts batted .291/.341/.479 with 18 homers, 21 stolen bases and 92 runs scored. The seasons represented very different things for the two players, though. While Pollock's skillset suggests last year wasn't a fluke, it likely will go down as the best season of his career. And that's OK -- according to Baseball Reference, only 29 players have had such seasons since 1901. At 28 years old, Pollock just doesn't have much room to grow. Betts, meanwhile, spent the entire 2015 season as a 22-year-old. Most guys are still in the minors at 22 years old, not approaching 20-20 seasons in the majors. The rest of their profiles are so similar -- productive lineups, friendly home parks, good contact rates, etc. -- that the players' respective ceilings matter. And while Pollock has almost certainly already reached his, it's not hard to see Betts reaching new heights in 2016. – Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)

 

George Springer vs. Starling Marte

 

Springer

 

Give me Springer over practically anyone. He’s my No. 5 outfielder this year, and it’s not hard to envision him finishing the year in the top three. In 683 major league at-bats to date, he’s hit 36 homers and stolen 21 bases. Sure, that’s a bit more than one full season’s worth of games, but as the Astros’ likely No. 2 hitter in between Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, he’s in position to get nearly that many at-bats in 2016 alone if he can stay completely healthy. Even if he does miss some time (and my projection calls on him to miss 15 games or so), he’d still have time to hit 30 homers and approach the century mark in both runs and RBI. There simply aren’t many more favorable situations in baseball than hitting second for the Astros right now. Springer shouldn’t be much of a liability in batting average, either. He went from striking out in 33 percent of his plate appearances as a rookie to 24 percent last year, raising his average from .231 to .276 in the process. I don’t expect him to improve on that this year, but he can be a big asset in four categories and not hurt teams in the other one. – Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)

 

Marte

 

Springer is a tantalizing talent with the ability to rack up counting stats in bunches. He possesses that rare combination of power and speed that fantasy owners are always hunting for, and he bats in the heart of a very good lineup. He's also in the thick of the typical baseball prime age-wise, having turned 26 years old last September. But you know what? All of those same things can be said about Marte. The 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic racked up 19 home runs, 81 RBI, 30 stolen bases, and 84 runs scored in 153 games last season for the Pirates, ranking near the very top tier of fantasy outfielders. Compare that to Springer's 16 homers, 41 RBI, 16 steals, and 59 runs in 102 games (he did miss nearly two months with a fractured right wrist). Marte has done this now for three years at the major league level, while Springer is basically just beginning his big league career. And there is probably still some upside for Marte to tap into. Of course you could say the same about Springer. I like both players a whole lot in 2016, but give me the more proven commodity. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)

 

Yoenis Cespedes vs. Nelson Cruz

 

Cespedes

 

Cruz was met with a healthy dose of skepticism after slugging 40 home runs in 2014, especially after leaving the Orioles for the Mariners, but he actually bested those numbers last season by amassing a career-high 44 home runs to go along with a .936 OPS. It feels silly to doubt the power production, but the odds are against a repeat in batting average. He had a .350 BABIP last season, nearly 50 points higher than his career average. He also posted his highest strikeout rate since 2007. While getting more time out of the DH spot should help him stay healthy, keep in mind that he’s in his mid-30s and already dealing with some knee issues this spring. Not ideal. Those expecting Cespedes to repeat his strong finish from last season will likely be disappointed, but he’s four years younger than Cruz and capable of putting up similar power numbers. The two could very well be a wash in batting average, but Cespedes is usually good for a handful of steals and the superior supporting cast with the Mets should give him the edge in RBI and runs scored. When you look at age and potential all-around impact, Cespedes simply feels like the safer slugger to take here. - D.J. Short (@djshort

 

Cruz

 

For some reason, Cruz gets disrespected every season. He had a career year with the Orioles in 2014, clubbing 40 home runs and plating 108, yet the move to the Mariners and Safeco Field had his average draft position outside of the top five rounds in 12-team drafts (67th overall). He silenced even his most ardent critics in 2015, slashing a career best .302/.369/.566 with 44 home runs, 90 runs, 93 RBI and three stolen bases. While his draft position has increased (44th overall) and he'll celebrate his 36th birthday during the season, Cruz is still a strong bet to return a profit at that price. He's still hitting in the middle of a strong offense and historically the skills of elite power hitters remain intact well into their late thirties. As long as he remains healthy (which is a concern), he should blast around 40 long balls and plate close to 100 runs yet again. There's no doubt that Cespedes was a monster after joining the Mets last season. He lunched 17 home runs in 57 games with the Mets, leading to a career-best 35 bombs on the year. His gains in power appear legit and are supported by an increase in hard contact, but a full repeat appears unlikely. Cespedes will give a slightly higher average and few extra steals, though that won't be enough to offset the extra 8-10 home runs I expect Cruz to clobber. – David Shovein (@DaveShovein)

 

Stephen Piscotty vs. Randal Grichuk

 

Piscotty

 

I should first note that I just recently took Piscotty and then Grichuk back-to-back in a keeper league draft (they were 20 picks apart), so the gap between the two for me isn’t large at all. That said, I do view Piscotty as a much safer pick and one whose upside might be underrated. Piscotty was a .288/.360/.444 hitter in the minors and his single-season high for homers on the farm was 15. Good numbers, sure, but hardly eye-popping. However, scouts have always noted Piscotty’s good raw power, and it began showing itself more in 2015 after the Stanford alum made changes to his swing last offseason. The 25-year-old smacked 21 home runs between the minors and majors last year (postseason included) while hitting .309 over 249 plate appearances with the big club. I’ll be the first to admit that whatever power gains Piscotty has achieved with the new swing, he still can’t match Grichuk in that department. Grichuk slugged 17 home runs in 350 plate appearances last season and could easily push for 30 over a full season of at-bats. The 24-year-old has some risk, though. He’s dealt with back issues on multiple occasions, as well as groin, foot and elbow problems during his relatively short time in the majors. An elbow strain sidelined Grichuk for nearly all of the final seven weeks of last season, and anytime a ligament is involved there’s always some concern of re-injury. Plus, Grichuk has major plate discipline problems with a 141/27 K/BB ratio across 466 big league plate appearances. Piscotty is the safer choice for average and health and could also be a decent source of power. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)

 

Grichuk

 

Let's start with a few truths. Firstly, Grichuk hit 17 home runs in 350 plate appearances last season. Secondly, Grichuk has a stated goal of achieving 600 plate appearances this season. Third and finally, Grichuk's home run per plate appearance rate in 2015, extrapolated over 600 plate appearances, put him on pace for 29 home runs. Last year, only 20 players in baseball hit 29 or more home runs. In case that doesn't effectively assert Grichuk's place as a legitimate power source, he ranked fourth -- behind only Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Paul Goldschmidt -- in average exit velocity among hitters with as many trackable at-bats last season, per Baseball Savant. The question with Grichuk will be his ability to hit for average. It would be disingenuous to tout his .276 batting average from last season as hope for something similar this year, but Grichuk is still just 24 years old and never struck out in the minors at the rate he has as a major leaguer. With even a modest step forward in contact rate, it's not hard to see him sitting somewhere around .260 going forward. As to his goal of 600 plate appearances, Grichuk is in good position to be an everyday player as the Cardinals' best and, arguably, only option in center field. Piscotty is a nice player, but he can't match the fantasy star potential of Grichuk. – Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)

 

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Catcher

First Base

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Third Base


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