The outfield rankings are broken into four parts: the top 10 prospects in order, the next 10 prospects in alphabetical order, a few prospects worth targeting in dynasty leagues and a list of those who could provide some value in 2015. As always, these rankings are done from a scouting perspective but with fantasy baseball in mind, generally focusing on standard 5x5 league categories, though other statistics (e.g., OBP) are considered.
Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
Rusney Castillo, Boston Red Sox
Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays
Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals
Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays
The Top 10:
1. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
2015 Level: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern League)
2014 Stats: .240/.313/.405, 10 XBH, 6 SB (30 G, High-A Fort Myers); 0-for-3 (1 G, Double-A New Britain)
Byron Buxton entered 2014 as the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball, and all signs pointed to him debuting with the Minnesota Twins before the end of the season. Unfortunately, he spent the season battling one injury after the other, each of them resulting in a lengthy stay on the disabled list, and he ultimately played in just 31 games on the year, batting .234/.307/.395 with 10 extra-base hits in 137 plate appearances. Buxton has the ceiling of an MVP-caliber player in his prime, with five potentially plus tools and a feel for making in-game adjustments. But after losing nearly all of 2014 due to injuries, the 21-year-old faces at least some pressure to make up for the lost time.
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, 20-25 HR, 30+ SB
2. David Dahl, Colorado Rockies
2015 Level: Double-A New Britain (Eastern League)
2014 Stats: .309/.347/.500, 49 XBH, 18 SB (90 G, Low-A Asheville); .267/.296/.467, 14 XBH, 3 SB (29 G, High-A Modesto)
David Dahl, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 draft, made up for his lost 2013 season with a strong performance this past year between Low-A Asheville and High-A Modesto. Though he played his home games in Asheville’s notoriously hitter-friendly park and spent most of the second half in the California League, the 20-year-old outfielder’s 63 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases in 119 games were still plenty impressive, as was his .299/.335/.492 batting line in 547 plate appearances.
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, 15-20 HR, 20+ SB
3. Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies
2015 Level: High-A Modesto (California League)
2014 Stats: .326/.382/.453, 42 XBH, 33 SB (122 G, Low-A Asheville)
Tapia showcased an assortment of loud tools and advanced secondary skills this past season at Low-A Asheville, as he finished third in the South Atlantic League in batting average (.326) and hits (157) and fourth in on-base percentage (.382) and stolen bases (33). The 21-year-old’s hit tool could ultimately be plus or better, thanks to his plus bat speed, preternatural bat-to-ball ability and outstanding barrel control, while his below-average power is likely to play up at Coors Field.
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, 10-12 HR, 20+ SB
4. Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
2015 Level: Double-A Pensacola (Southern League)
2014 Stats: .317/.426/.580, 28 XBH (53 G, High-A Bakersfield); .208/.326/.351, 7 XBH (21 G, Double-A Pensacola)
Winker, 21, is one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues, as he features a smooth, compact stroke from the left side of the plate and is adept at using the entire field. The 6’2”, 210-pound left-handed batter has hit at least 15 home runs in each of his first two years in full-season ball, and his frame and line-to-line approach suggest more will come. More importantly, Winker possesses plate discipline and pitch recognition well beyond his years, which is reflected through his impressive strikeout (17.5 percent) and walk (14.3 percent) rates over 1,100 minor league plate appearances headed into the 2015 season.
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, .350+ OBP, 15-20 HR
5. Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers
2015 Level: Double-A Frisco (Texas League)
2014 Stats: .264/.358/.470, 42 XBH (106 G, Low-A Hickory); .306/.381/.518, 11 XBH (Double-A Frisco)
Mazara made the jump directly to Double-A Frisco last season after posting an .828 OPS with 19 home runs while repeating the Low-A level. The 19-year-old right field impressed during his 24 games in the Texas League, batting .306/.381/.518 with 11 extra-base hits and 16 RBI. The 6'4", 205-pound, left-handed hitter features plus bat speed, whipping the barrel through the zone to generate effortless plus raw power, and the fact that it’s already showing in games at such a young age is very encouraging. Mazara’s hitting talent has the potential to be average, although his swing does have some unnecessary movement, and he’s generally struggled against same-side pitching.
Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, 25+ HR
6. Clint Frazier, Cleveland Indians
2015 Level: High-A Lynchburg (Carolina League)
2014 Stats: .266/.349/.411, 37 XBH, 12 SB (120 G, Low-A Lake County)
After scuffling through the first three months of his full-season debut at Low-A Lake County, Frazier, 20, ultimately settled in to bat .282/.367/.448 with nine home runs and 11 doubles in 65 games during the second half of the season—when most of his full-season-debut peers were battling fatigue. Overall, he batted .266/.349/.411 with 37 extra-base hits (13 home runs), 12 stolen bases and a 161/56 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 120 games. Frazier's strikeout rate is somewhat concerning after he fanned 29.7 percent of the time in 2014, but at the same time, he still produced a respectable 10.3 percent walk rate behind an approach that noticeably improved as the season unfolded. Expect Frazier to take a big step forward this year in the Carolina League.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 20-25 HR, 10-15 SB
7. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
2015 Level: Double-A Trenton (Eastern League)
2014 Stats: .333/.428/.530, 26 XBH (65 G, Low-A Charleston); .283/.411/.442, 19 XBH (66 G, High-A Tampa)
There was concern last spring about how Judge would fare when thrust into full-season ball after a quad injury prevented him from making his professional debut in 2013. However, the 22-year-old outfielder answered those questions by batting .308/.419/.486 with 17 home runs, 24 doubles and a 131/89 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 131 games between both Class-A levels. As a 6-foot-7, 275-pound right-handed hitter, Judge features a surprisingly compact swing, keeping his hands close to his body while his barrel stays in the hitting zone for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, the combination of his tremendous physical strength, bat speed and huge extension after contact produces enormous raw power to all fields.
Fantasy Upside: .270 AVG, .350 OBP, 30+ HR
8. Alex Jackson, Seattle Mariners
2015 Level: Low-A Clinton (Midwest League)
2014 Stats: .280/.344/.476, 10 XBH (24 G, Rookie-level Arizona League)
Alex Jackson, the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft, suffered a broken bone in his left cheek in late July when he was struck by a fly ball after losing it in the lights during an Arizona League game. The injury kept the 19-year-old outfielder out of action for exactly a month, but he returned to finish his professional debut with a .280/.344/.476 batting line and 10 extra-base hits in 23 games.
Jackson projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter thanks to his plus bat speed, natural hitting ability and big-time raw power. His projection for plus power stems from the combination of his explosive bat speed and the extension he achieves through contact, as he drives the ball with backspin carry to all fields.
Fantasy Upside: .270 AVG, 25 HR
9. Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres
2015 Level: Double-A San Antonio (Texas League)
2014 Stats: .295/.370/.565, 40 XBH, 9 SB (69 G, High-A Lake Elsinore); .232/.307/.353, 17 XBH, 2 SB (60 G, Double-A San Antonio)
Hunter Renfroe made the most of his assignment to the California League last season, as the 2013 first-rounder batted .295/.370/.565 with 40 extra-base hits (16 home runs) in 316 plate appearances. However, his aggressive approach and swing-and-miss tendencies hurt his power frequency after a midseason promotion to the Texas League. The 23-year-old has the potential for at least average tools across the board, with power and arm strength.
Fantasy Upside: .260 AVG, 25 HR, 10-12 SB
10. Albert Almora, Chicago Cubs
2015 Level: Double-A Tennessee (Southern League)
2014 Stats: .283/.306/.406, 29 XBH, 6 SB (89 G, High-A Daytona); .234/.250/.355, 11 XBH (36 G, Double-A Tennessee)
Almora overcame a sluggish first half at High-A Daytona last season to bat .283/.306/.406 in 89 games, but the 20-year-old then struggled in his first taste of Double-A following a mid-July promotion. The soon-to-be 21-year-old is a premium athlete with the potential for five average-or-better tools at maturity. The right-handed hitter has a compact swing with preternatural barrel control and a knack for making consistent contact - which he did 86.4 percent of the time last year as a 20-year-old. His power should develop as he matures, with the potential to be average by the time he reaches the major leagues.
Fantasy Upside: .280 AVG, 12-16 HR, 7-10 SB
The Next 10 (Alphabetical Order):
Lewis Brinson, Texas Rangers (.288/.354/.458, 31 XBH, 12 SB – 89 G, Low-A Hickory/High-A Myrtle Beach)
Brinson returned to Low-A Hickory in 2014 and promptly took the South Atlantic League by storm, batting a robust .335/.405/.579 with 19 extra-base hits, before moving up to the Carolina League, where his production came back to earth in the form of a .246/.307/.350 batting line. While the 20-year-old managed to improve his contact rate by lowering his hands and staying more closed with his front side, it will be the development and utility of his hit tool that dictates his impact at the highest level.
Michael Conforto, New York Mets (.331/.403/.448, 13 XBH – 42 G, Short Season Brooklyn)
Conforto, 22, possesses above-average bat speed and employs a quiet swing with good weight transfer and hip rotation. The left-handed hitter demonstrates excellent plate discipline to go along with advanced pitch recognition, while his impressive strength and easy swing generate plus raw power. He’s going to hit for average and consistently reach base at a high clip, though questions remain about his potential power frequency in the major leagues.
Derek Fisher, Houston Astros (.303/.378/.408, 9 XBH, 17 SB – 41 G, Short Season Tri-City)
After being selected with the No. 37 overall pick in last year’s draft, Fisher flashed his offensive upside in the Short Season New York-Penn League by batting .303/.386/.419 with 10 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases in 41 games. The 21-year-old left-handed hitter has a quick, compact swing with plus bat speed, but his barrel path through the hitting zone is too linear and prevents him from creating leverage through contact. Therefore, Fisher could emerge as breakout prospect in 2015 with a meaningful uptick in the power department.
Gabby Guerrero, Seattle Mariners (.307/.347/.467, 48 XBH, 18 SB – 131 G, High-A High Desert)
The nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, Gabby showcased more consistent power as well as better plate discipline last season in the California League, as the 21-year-old established career highs in most offensive categories including home runs (18), doubles (28), RBI (96) and stolen bases (18). Guerrero has the potential to hit .270 while hitting 20 home runs with 15-20 stolen bases, but he will likely need a full season in Double-A in 2015 before making his major league debut in mid-2016.
Manuel Margot, Boston Red Sox (.293/.356/.462, 42 XBH, 42 SB – 115 G, Low-A Greenville/High-A Salem)
Margot, 20, is an outstanding athlete with natural strength to his wiry frame. The right-handed hitter features a quick but explosive swing, as his bat-to-ball skills and aggressive approach produce consistently hard contact across the whole field, but especially from gap to gap. But Margot’s top tool is speed, as he’s a grade-70 runner who wreaks havoc on the bases and runs down everything in center field. His approach might be challenged by more advanced stuff and sequencing in the upper minors, but the potential is there for a dynamic top-of-the-order hitter at maturity.
Billy McKinney, Chicago Cubs (.264/.354/.412, 41 XBH, 6 SB – 126 G, High-A Stockton/High-A Daytona)
McKinney’s bat came alive in early July after he was traded to the Cubs, with the 20-year-old batting .301/.390/.432 in 210 plate appearances at High-A Daytona. McKinney has a natural feel for hitting, with good bat-to-ball skills and a very quiet, line-drive approach, while his advanced pitch recognition permits him to work deep counts and utilize the entire field. But even though McKinney consistently pounds the gaps and collects his share of doubles and triples, he’s unlikely to offer anything more than fringe-average power at maturity.
Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates (.322/.388/.486, 17 XBH – 38 G, Low-A West Virginia)
Meadows, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 draft, missed the first three months of the 2014 season with a hamstring injury, but he returned during the second half to hit for both average and power in the Low-A South Atlantic League. He’s unlikely to reach the major leagues until 2017, but he carries the upside of a .300 hitter with 15-homer power and a decent chance of remaining in center field.
Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets (.278/.394/.426, 40 XBH, 14 SB – 127 G, High-A St. Lucie/Double-A Binghamton)
Nimmo’s plate discipline enables him to work deep counts and coax walks, and it should lead to solid on-base rates throughout career. He hasn’t begun to fully tap into his raw power as hoped, but the 22-year-old left-handed batter continues to hit for average and get on base at a high clip while also holding his own at multiple outfield positions. Nimmo probably won’t be a sexy fantasy option - unless he develops consistent power - but he’s well-rounded enough to offer some value across the board.
Tyrone Taylor, Milwaukee Brewers (.273/.326/.388, 45 XBH, 23 SB – 135 G, High-A Brevard County/Double-A Huntsville)
Taylor’s production last season in the High-A Florida State League mirrored his full-season debut at Low-A Wisconsin from the previous year, and he moved up to Double-A for the final week of the regular season. The 20-year-old center fielder likely won’t be ready for the major leagues for another two years, but the 20-year-old has the makings of a first-division center fielder with 20-20 potential in his prime.
Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians (.304/.401/.464, 17 XBH, 11 SB – 45 G, Short Season Mahoning Valley)
One of Cleveland’s first-round draft picks in 2014, Zimmer made an immediate impact last summer in the New York-Penn League, showcasing an advanced feel for hitting as well as good gap power and speed on both sides of the ball. The 22-year-old has the potential to hit .280+ with 10-15 home runs and 20+ stolen bases, though he’d lose value (both in real life and fantasy) if he’s forced to move off center field.
Michael Gettys, San Diego Padres: After receiving a seven-figure signing bonus as the No. 51 overall pick in last year’s draft, Gettys enjoyed a strong professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, batting .310/.353/.437 with 16 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 233 plate appearances. At the plate, the right-handed hitter has explosive bat speed and plus raw power. However, his swing mechanics hinder his ability to make consistent contact, which helps explain his 28.3 percent strikeout rate last summer. If Gettys is to come anywhere close to his huge ceiling, then his hit tool will need to be at least serviceable at maturity.
Monte Harrison, Milwaukee Brewers: A three-sport standout in high school known mostly for his highlight-reel dunks and three-star recruit rating as a wide receiver, Harrison, 19, proved to be more advanced than expected last summer in his pro debut, posting an impressive .261/.402/.339 batting line with a 13.8 percent walk rate and 32 stolen bases over 50 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Look for him to make big developmental strides next season, which will be his first as a full-time baseball player.
Derek Hill, Detroit Tigers: Hill, the Tigers’ first-round draft pick last June, was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after signing, where he posted strong numbers before having to miss time with a lower-back issue. Things didn’t get any better for the 19-year-old after moving up to the Short-Season level, as he finished his professional debut with a .208 batting average and 11 steals in 47 games. Hill’s future fantasy value is tied to his plus-plus speed, which makes his ability to make consistent contact and get on base even more important.
Brett Phillips, Houston Astros: Phillips seemingly came from nowhere in 2014 to claim the Astros’ Minor League Player of the Year with a .310/.375/.529 batting line, 60 extra-base hits (17 home runs) and 23 stolen bases between both Class-A levels. An athletic left-handed hitter, Phillips has a short, compact swing that produces hard contact across the whole field, though most of his power is to his pull side. Meanwhile, his above-average speed translates well on the base paths, making him a threat to steal 15-20 bases and pile up extra-base hits.
2015 Fantasy Value (Alphabetical Order):
Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres
Steven Moya, Detroit Tigers
Kyle Parker, Colorado Rockies
Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals
Yorman Rodriguez, Cincinnati Reds
Domingo Santana, Houston Astros
Scott Schebler, Los Angeles Dodgers