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Showdowns: Outfielders

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
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 and have writers take a side and debate who should be selected first. Whose side will you be on?



Charlie Blackmon vs. George Springer




Blackmon was never considered a top prospect, and he didn’t get a chance at a regular job in the majors until he was 27. Perhaps that’s why some have seemed to underestimate him as an elite fantasy option the last couple years. He’s finally getting his due this spring following his monster 2016, as most ADP data has him as the No. 4 outfielder off the board and a second-round pick. I have him as my No. 3 outfielder and a borderline first-round selection.  Blackmon finished as the No. 3 outfielder and was a top-10 hitter last season when he hit a blistering .324/.381/.552 with 29 homers, 82 RBI, 17 stolen bases and 111 runs scored. He might not challenge the 30-homer plateau again, but Blackmon upped his flyball rate and average flyball distance in 2016. We should also see a resurgence in Blackmon’s stolen base total in 2017, as new Rockies manager Bud Black has been vocal about the outfielder running more after Blackmon was held back by leg issues last year. This is a five-category stud who will hit leadoff on what should be one of the better offenses in baseball, and that offense will get to play 81 games at Coors Field. I’m a big Springer fan, but he’s not a good bet for average and has been a big disappointment in the stolen base department since arriving in the majors (and he has indicated that he doesn’t plan to be aggressive on the bases in 2017). Both of these guys are top-10 outfielders, but Blackmon has a higher floor and has shown a higher ceiling, as well. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)




Blackmon clearly had a better 2016 season than Springer, but it was also the best season of Blackmon’s career -- by a good margin -- and I’m wondering if it will stand as an outlier as opposed to becoming the norm for him. Blackmon turns 31 years old this summer, so I’m leaning toward the latter. Springer, meanwhile, is entering his age-27 campaign and he looks like a guy who might just be scratching the surface on what his upside could be. He didn’t run as much in 2016 as his fantasy owners would have liked, but the power saw a big jump -- 29 homers, 82 RBI in 162 games -- and he has the raw ability to wade into 30-homer territory in 2017. Coors Field in Denver is a better park for offense than Minute Maid Park in Houston, but Springer is the better talent in my eyes and he has youth on his side. I’ll probably be reaching above Springer’s average draft position to grab him this year. I believe we’re going to see a full-on breakout that might even generate some up-ballot MVP votes. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)


Ryan Braun vs. Giancarlo Stanton




Braun is a guy who seems to be undervalued every single season in fantasy drafts. Sure, injuries limited him to just 135 games in 2016, but the 33-year-old still slashed a robust .305/.365/.538 with 30 homers, 91 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He easily graded out as a top-10 option in the outfield despite the time missed. It’s also encouraging to see that he cut his strikeout rate in 2016 to 17.4%, the lowest it has been since 2011. His power has shown no signs of fading and he’s still hitting in the middle of a potent Brewers’ lineup while playing half of his games in the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park. A career .304 hitter, he’s a lock for a strong average, great counting stats, 25 or more homers and 15 or more swipes, with the upside for much more. Meanwhile, Stanton has never quite been able to live up to the massive hype surrounding him. Like Braun, he has dealt with a wide assortment of injuries and has only played more than 123 games in a season twice. He has never scored more than 90 runs and has only driven in 90 or more one time. He’s a .266 career hitter and hit .240 in 2016, so he won’t be an asset in that category. He also doesn’t run anymore, as he didn’t even attempt a stolen base in 470 plate appearances last season. He’s likely to beat Braun in home runs while getting crushed in the other four categories, yet on average is going 10 picks higher than him in fantasy drafts. – Dave Shovein (@DaveShovein)




Sure, you could take the safe route and draft Braun. He'll probably give you a .300 average with solid power, though his days of being an elite hitter are plainly behind him. Can we say that with such certainty for Stanton? The 27-year-old has averaged only 120 games per season, true, but he hasn't finished with fewer than 22 home runs. The power is as persistent as it is prodigious, and Stanton has never strayed too far from his .896 career OPS. Staying on the field has obviously been his biggest challenge, but right now he's fully healthy by all accounts. I'd rather bet on his bat than against his body. Stanton is a specimen, built like a tank at 6-foot-6 and 240. He isn't fragile by design and many of his injuries have been fluky in nature. We saw what he can do when healthy in 2014 when he was MVP runner-up with 37 homers and 105 RBI. If he is able to avoid misfortune this summer, the only ones feeling the hurt will be fantasy players who passed him up. – Nick Nelson (@NickNelsonMN)


Jose Bautista vs. Yasmany Tomas




It’s understandable to be down on Bautista after what we saw last season. The 36-year-old was hobbled for a good portion of the year while putting up his lowest OPS since 2009. Power isn’t hard to find right now, so Bautista is bound to drop down draft boards this spring. I get it, but I’d still take a chance on his upside over Tomas. This isn’t to say that we didn’t see progress from Tomas last year. He socked 31 homers and posted one of the league’s highest hard-hit rates to go along with it. He also plays in a hitter-friendly ballpark. It’s just that he doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls. If he fails to maintain a home run-to-fly ball rate which ranked fourth in the majors last season, we could actually see a decline in power in 2017. Say what you want about Bautista’s health, but hitting fly balls isn’t a problem for him and neither is hitting the ball hard. Thankfully, he’s back in Toronto for another year. Despite hitting just .234 compared to Tomas’ .272 last season, Bautista topped him by 53 points in on-base percentage and ended up scoring just four fewer runs despite logging 46 fewer plate appearances. Neither of these guys run, so I think this showdown is ultimately about whether you prefer the younger slugger over the accomplished veteran. Tomas simply hasn’t earned my trust yet. - D.J. Short (@djshort)




A lousy defensive outfielder with a lousy walk rate, Tomas has a long way to go before he’s a quality regular for a major league team. For fantasy purposes, though, he’s already there. He was able to hit 31 homers with a solid .272 average in his second year in the bigs. I don’t think that homer total is going up in year three – it seems rather flukish that 25 percent of his flyballs left the yard last year, compared to just 13 percent as a rookie – but his exit velocity is well above the league average and he gets an assist from his home park, not only when it comes to homers, but for singles and doubles as well. Plus, that whole never-walking thing helps him out as a fantasy outfielder, giving him more chances to drive in runs. Tomas is still relatively young at 26 and this is just his third year in the U.S., so real growth as a hitter can’t be ruled out. I think it’s more likely that we’ll simply see more of the same, but that’s still enough to make him a top-25 fantasy outfielder while batting behind Paul Goldschmidt for 150-155 games. I don’t think the same can be said about Bautista, given the injury likelihood and the probability of a sub-.250 batting average. – Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)


Adam Duvall vs. Jorge Soler




Soler was once considered to be among the top prospects in the Cubs’ system, but that began looking silly as guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras began graduating into immediate difference-makers at the MLB level. Soler never did become a difference-maker for the Cubs, who traded the Cuban defector to Kansas City in December for one year of veteran closer Wade Davis. Soler is a decent bet to eventually find new life with the Royals -- they have him under control for at least the next four years -- but it’s certainly not a sure thing and Kauffman Stadium can be awfully tough on power bats. I like Duvall because he’s going to play half of his games this year at Great American Ball Park, one of the most power-friendly stadiums in the majors. And because he proved his ability to rack up meaningful counting stats last year with 33 home runs and 103 RBI in 150 games. Soler had 12 home runs and 31 RBI in 86 games with Chicago. To me, this showdown is easy. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)




I mostly try to focus on building up players I believe in, not tearing down those that I don't, in these showdowns. In this instance, though, ranking Soler ahead of Duvall has less to do with any conviction I might have that Soler is the budding star he once seemed to be, and more to do with the fact that I'm just not a huge believer in Duvall. On paper, the two actually look a lot alike -- lots of strikeouts, low batting average, tons of power. In fact, of the two, Duvall is the one who's actually done it over the course of a full season. My problem with Duvall, then, is that he's a one-trick pony in a league where a lot of ponies do the same trick. Maybe Soler will never be a boon to a fantasy team's batting average, but I don't believe he'll actively hurt it like Duvall will. Duvall also plays in a great park for hitters but doesn't benefit from a great Reds lineup around him, meaning a lot of those homers will be solo shots, while Soler will enjoy hitting in the middle of a decent Royals order. In a league where homers were easy to find in 2016, Duvall's just don't do enough for me to warrant a higher ranking. – Nate Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)


Yasiel Puig vs. Carlos Beltran




It's been more high-profile than most, but Puig's story hasn't been unique. A hotshot youngster with immense talent reaches the majors, experiences immediate success, and then runs afoul. The Cuban star went supernova in 2015, with frustration mounting over repetitive hamstring issues and dwindling production. Things came to a boiling point last summer when Puig was demoted at the deadline as the Dodgers acquired Josh Reddick to replace him. Oftentimes, in these all-too-familiar scenarios, a wakeup call is needed, and maybe Puig got his with the humbling turn of events. He reported to Oklahoma City and wore out Triple-A pitching for a month, then returned to Los Angeles in September and put up a .900 OPS the rest of the way. Even in his worst season Puig still showed the core skills that make him an exciting asset, finishing with respectable numbers across the board. He might be down to his last chance with the Dodgers but the 26-year-old is primed to take advantage. Whereas Beltran's story is reaching its epilogue, it feels like Puig's best chapters have yet to be written. – Nick Nelson (@NickNelsonMN)




Yes, Beltran is old, as he will turn 40 shortly after Opening Day. However, the possible Hall of Famer sure didn’t show signs of slowing down last season with a .295/.337/.513 batting line, 29 home runs and 93 RBI for the Yankees and Rangers. Beltran also landed in about as good of a situation as he possibly could over the winter, returning to his former team in Houston where he’ll serve as a designated hitter and cleanup man on what should be an excellent offense. Being used regularly in the DH spot should help save Beltran’s legs and allow him as many at-bats as possible as he tries to take advantage of the Crawford Boxes. Meanwhile, Puig has sported an unsightly .260/.323/.425 batting line over the last two seasons, has had numerous hamstring issues and was even demoted to the minors for a while last year. The tools with Puig aren’t difficult to spot, but it’s been a while since he’s done anything noteworthy and he has only one full, productive season in the majors under his belt. The Dodgers have options in their outfield, so if Puig gets off to a rotten start or gets hurt again, he could lose his job. The 26-year-old is the higher upside choice, but the 40-year-old is the much, much safer option. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)






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