Outfield is one of the most loaded positions, with a number of players with the potential to be perennial all-stars. While there isn’t the raw power from years past, there are a number of highly-talented players who could be in the major leagues by the end of the year.
The rankings are broken into three parts: the top 10 prospects in order, the next 10 prospects in alphabetical order and some prospects who could provide some fantasy value in 2015 but are not among the top 20. As always, these rankings are done with fantasy baseball in mind, generally focusing on a standard 5x5 league, but other statistics (e.g., OBP) are considered.
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Highest Level: AA New Britain (Eastern League)
2014 Statistics: .240/.313/.405 with 4 HR (30 games, High-A Fort Myers); .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR (1 game, Double-A New Britain)
A sprained left (non-throwing) wrist and a concussion conspired to prevent the near-consensus top prospect in baseball off the field nearly all season. Buxton has the potential to hit .330 with 30 HR and 30 SB, but will need to remain healthy to make up for lost development time. He should make his major league debut in 2015, and profiles as the next great two-way center field in Minnesota.
2. David Dahl, Colorado Rockies
Highest Level: High-A Modesto (California League)
2014 Statistics: .309/.347/.500 with 10 HR (90 games, Low-A Asheville); .267/.296/.467 with 4 HR (29 games, High-A Modesto)
Dahl missed nearly all of 2013 due to a disciplinary issue (he missed a team flight) and a hamstring injury, delaying his development timetable, but he came back with a vengeance in 2014, hitting a combined .299/.335/.492 with 14 HR, 41 doubles and 21 stolen bases. He profiles as a rangy center fielder who hits .300 with 15 home runs and 20+ stolen bases at his peak. He is unlikely to reach the major leagues until 2016.
3. Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Highest Level: Los Angeles (National League)
2014 Statistics: .303/.435/.582 with 33 HR (121 games, AAA Albuquerque); .143/.351/.143 with 0 HR (18 games, Los Angeles)
Pederson had another fine season in 2014, hitting .303 with 33 HR, 30 SB, and 100 walks while waiting for an opening in the Dodgers’ outfield. He should be the opening day center fielder in Chavez Ravine, but don’t expect a similar line to his 2014 campaign. A solid athlete, Pederson projects as a .280 hitter with 20 HR and 20 SB at his peak, and could go 20/20 in 2015. His huge strikeout total in 2014 (149 in 553 PA in AAA and 11 in 38 PA in the majors) could be a red flag, but he will succeed if he can make the necessary adjustments.
4. Clint Frazier, Cleveland Indians
Highest Level: Low-A Lake County (Midwest League)
2014 Statistics: .266/.349/.411 with 13 HR (120 games, Low-A Lake County)
Frazier made his full-season debut in 2014, holding his own while playing the entire season as a 19-year old. Frazier’s 161 strikeouts in 542 PA indicate the work that needs to be done, but he was the 8th youngest hitter in the Midwest league and will be given every opportunity to improve. He is a good athlete and profiles as an adequate center fielder, though if he is unable to stay in center field, it will put additional pressure on his bat. He has the potential to hit .280 with 20 home runs and a few stolen bases, and is unlikely to reach the major leagues before 2017.
5. Alex Jackson, Seattle Mariners
Highest Level: Rookie Level (Arizona League)
2014 Statistics: .280/.344/.476 with 2 HR (24 games, Rookie AZL Diamondbacks)
Jackson was considered the best prep hitter in the 2014 draft, and was drafted 6th overall by the Seattle Mariners. He was primarily a catcher in high school, but has been shifted to an outfield corner to focus his development on his bat. Jackson’s debut was solid but not spectacular, and he will likely be put on a fast development track due to his offensive potential. At his peak, he has the potential to hit .300 with 20+ home runs.
6. Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies
Highest Level: Low-A Asheville (South Atlantic League)
2014 Statistics: .326/.382/.453 with 9 HR (122 games, Low-A South Atlantic League)
Tapia possesses a seemingly supernatural ability to make solid contact, but often chases pitches out of the strike zone due to his abilities. Tapia has the raw talent to play a solid center field, but will likely end up in a corner due to David Dahl, who is a better outfielder. He has the potential to hit .330 with 15+ home runs, but he failed to hit a home run away from McCormick Field, which is very friendly to left-handed hitters. If Tapia’s power does not develop and he does not improve his approach, he could stall in the minor leagues.
7. Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
Highest Level: AA Pensacola (Southern League)
2014 Statistics: .317/.426/.580 with 13 HR (53 games, High-A Bakersfield); .208/.326/.351 with 2 HR (21 games, AA Pensacola)
Winker started off 2015 on fire, lighting up the California League before being promoted to AA in mid-June. He struggled in the Southern League before missing the rest of the season due to a strained tendon in his right (non-throwing) wrist. Long-term concerns were eased after a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, and he will be ready to go come spring training. Winker lacks all-star talent, but should be a solid corner outfielder who hits .280 with 15+ home runs.
8. Gabby Guerrero, Seattle Mariners
Highest Level: High-A High Desert (California League)
2014 Statistics: .307/.347/.467 with 18 HR (131 games, High-A High Desert)
Guerrero shares a body type, skillset and batting approach with his uncle, nine-time all-star and former AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero had a breakout in 2014, setting personal highs in nearly every offensive category while hitting off both lefties and righties. He hit better in his home park, the offense-friendly Heritage Field, but he still put up a solid line on the road. He lacks the MVP-upside of his uncle, but possess the talent to hit .300 with 20 HR and 20 SB at his peak, while playing a solid right field with a strong arm.
9. Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates
Highest Level: Low-A West Virginia (South Atlantic League)
2014 Statistics: .322/.388/.486 with 3 HR (38 games, Low-A West Virginia)
Meadows missed the first three months of the season due to a hamstring strain, then spent two weeks rehabbing in Rookie leagues before joining the West Virginia Power. He had a solid but not spectacular year, flashing the talent that made him the 9th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Meadows projects as a good defensive center fielder who hits .300 with 10-15 home runs. As Pittsburgh is absolutely loaded in the outfield, Meadows will slowly rise through the minor league system and could be a headliner to a trade if the Pirates need to make a move.
10. Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers
Highest Level: AA Frisco (Texas League)
2014 Statistics: .264/.358/.470 with 19 HR (Low-A Hickory); .306/.381/.518 (24 games, AA Frisco)
In many ways, 2014 was a tale of two seasons for Nomar Mazara. Through May 16, he was hitting .213/.283/.320 in his second season with the Hickory Crawdads. On May 17, something clicked and Mazara hit .294/.400/.560 with 16 HR over his next 66 games, leading to a promotion all the way to AA Frisco, where, as the youngest hitter in the Texas League, he continued to hit. He possess the raw ability to hit .280 with 25+ home runs in a season, but will likely be no more than an average defensive right fielder.
Next 10 (Alphabetical Order):
Albert Almora, Chicago Cubs (.283/.306/.406 with 7 HR in 89 games with High-A Daytona; .234/.250/.355 with 2 HR with AA Tennessee). Almora has the potential to be a gold glove-caliber center fielder who hits .300 with a few home runs, while neither striking out nor walking much.
Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (.335/.384/.502 with 9 HR in 84 games with High-A Bradenton; .287/.343/.309 with 0 HR in 24 games with AA Altoona). Has the potential to hit .300 with 20 HR, but is a slow runner and poor defensive outfielder. Played first base in Arizona Fall League and may soon find himself with a new defensive home.
Rusney Castillo, Boston Red Sox (.333/.400/.528 with 2 HR in 10 games with Red Sox). A “prospect” in the same sense that he is a rookie, as Castillo is a fully developed professional who has played multiple seasons for the Ciege de Avila Tigers before defecting from Cuba. Castillo is a compact, powerful 5’9” and has the potential to hit .280 with 10-15 home runs and 15+ stolen bases while playing a good center field.
Michael Conforto, New York Mets (2014 draft, 1st round, 10th pick). Conforto is a polished hitter who should be in the major leagues before the end of 2016 and profiles as a slugging left fielder. His peak potential is a .300 hitter with 15-20 home runs who plays average corner defense.
Braxton Davidson, Atlanta Braves (2014 draft, 1st round, 32nd pick). Davidson is a natural first baseman, but has the raw physical ability to be a solid corner outfielder. Peak potential to hit .300 with 15+ home runs, though his swing-and-miss tendencies may limit overall production.
Manuel Margot, Boston Red Sox (.286/.355/.449 with 10 HR in 99 games with Low-A Greenville; .340/.364/.560 with 2 HR in 16 games with High-A Salem). He is already a very good defensive center fielder, and has the potential to hit .300 with 10 home runs and 30+ stolen bases. The Red Sox’s glut in the outfield could slow Margot’s ascent, though he would be a valuable trade chip.
Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets (.322/.448/.458 with 4 HR in 62 games with High-A St. Lucie; .238/.339/.396 with 6 HR in 65 games with Double-A Binghamton). He has a patient approach at the plate that borders on passive, and projects to be a .280 hitter with 15 HR potential. He will likely be a below-average defensive center fielder, but would be a good defensive left fielder as he lacks the arm for right field.
Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays (.319/.397/.471 with 6 HR in 70 games with High-A Dunedin; .295/.378/.473 with 3 HR in 31 games with AA New Hampshire; .358/.393/.453 with 0 HR in 12 games with AAA Buffalo; .231/.302/.436 with 1 HR in 17 games with Toronto). Few players start the year in A-ball end the year in the major leagues, but Pompey took major positive strides in closing the gap between potential and production. Stated to be the starting center fielder for the Blue Jays, he may struggle offensively in 2015, but has the talent to hit .300 with 20-plus HR and 30-plus SB at his peak.
Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres (.295/.370/.565 with 16 HR in 69 games with High-A Lake Elsinore; .232/.307/.353 with 5 HR in 60 games with AA San Antonio). Renfroe has above-average power, but his aggressive approach often leads to pitchers counts and high strikeouts. Has the potential to hit .270 with 25+ home runs, but will need to get past the massive log jam ahead of him in the Padre outfield.
Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians (2014 draft, 1st round, 21st pick). He is the younger brother of oft-injured Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer, and has the potential to hit .300 with 10-15 home runs and 20+ bases at his peak.
2015 Fantasy Value (Alphabetical Order):
Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres. No longer a rookie (49 days on active roster) and beyond blocked in the suddenly-loaded Padre outfield. Could be a nice trade chip. Peak potential to hit .280 while going 20/20.
Mikie Mahtook, Tampa Bay Rays. Potential to be a .300 hitter with 30+ doubles and 10+ stolen bases, but is blocked in the outfield. Will likely get called up if there is an injury or poor performance.
Kyle Parker, Colorado Rockies. Peak potential to hit 20+ home runs while hitting .280, but there are serious questions regarding his ability to hit for average. May be better suited for first base.
Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals. Solid but not spectacular, but has the talent to hit .280 with 10+ home runs while playing a solid right field. Blocked in St. Louis, but could be a good trade chip.
Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals. Should be the starting right fielder in DC for the first month of the season while Jayson Werth recovers from offseason surgery on the AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder. Werth says his goal is to be ready to start the season in Washington, but Taylor could see consistent playing time as a fourth outfielder, especially if Matt Williams wants to ease Werth, Harper and Span into the season. Taylor has the potential to hit .280 with 15-20 HR and play a solid center field, Taylor capitalizes on mistakes, which will come less frequently in the major leagues.