2016 Impact Rookies: Outfielders (2 of 3)

We’ve been running a series looking at the potential top rookie producers at each position around the baseball diamond for a few weeks now. This series should be valuable for anyone participating in a fantasy league that allows keepers. It could also help anyone playing in more traditional formats who may need to fill holes throughout the season or may be in need of a little spark.

The outfield freshmen class has a chance to be a really strong group this year, although there are a lot of questions marks in terms of playing time. Last week we looked at the players with the best shots at regular playing time. This week — in two parts — we’re looking at the bigger questions marks — although they’re outfielders that could still have a fantasy impact in 2016.

First Basemen
Second Basemen
Third Basemen
Outfielders (1 of 3)

Names to Know:

Anthony Alford, Blue Jays: With Jose Bautista rumored to be after $150 million over five years with his next free agent contract, Toronto will likely be looking for a new right-fielder in 2017. Alford, an outfielder just so happens to also be the Jays’ top prospect and finished last year in Double-A. With a little more seasoning at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, he could be ready for some time in the Majors before the year is out. And with the breakdown of a deal that would have seen oft-injured Michael Saunders leave town (for Jay Bruce) the Jays will no doubt have to tap into their outfield depth in the coming year. Eventually, Alford could be a four- or five-tool talent — and should easily top 30 steals in a season.

Lewis Brinson, Rangers: Texas has traded some solid prospects over the last year but they were wise to hold onto Brinson. He’s been overshadowed by some other guys but he could end up being a real stud in the middle of the Rangers order. Just 21, he hit for average and power while also swiping some bases in 2015, He played at three different minor league levels and topped out in the Triple-A. As mentioned last week with Joey Gallo, the continued injuries surrounding Josh Hamilton could and should provide playing time opportunities but there are still lots of talented, young outfielders in the Rangers system fighting for the same opportunities.

David Dahl, Rockies: Dahl’s development was slowed last season by a nasty accident that eventually led to the loss of his spleen. A trade of Corey Dickerson should have given Dahl a lot more hope for regular playing time with the Rockies in 2016 but the free agent signing of Gerardo Parra through a relatively large, wet blanket on that idea. Dahl’s minor league numbers don’t jump off the page but he has the tools to develop into a real stud, especially playing in Colorado. He doesn’t walk much but he should hit of a high average, steal some bases and, eventually, slug some homers.

Aaron Judge, Yankees: New York has been reluctant to part with Judge in trades and it’s understandable why they would take that stance. The young outfielder has above-average power and could eventually develop plus-plus power. The Yankees’ starting right-fielder, Carlos Beltran, will see his contract expire at year’s end so the club will no doubt want to give Judge an opportunity to get his feet wet. Injuries to the Yankees’ aging roster could accelerate the freshman’s timeframe.

Manuel Margot, Padres: The Padres outfield looks pretty full right now but with the likes of Melvin Upton, Jon Jay and Matt Kemp around, things could go downhill in a hurry. Add in the fact that San Diego likely won’t be competitive in 2016 and you have a great opportunity for Margot — who was acquired from the Red Sox in the offseason — to establish himself as a big leaguer after spending half the year in Double-A last season. Margot is raw but he should steal a lot of bases and could eventually hit for both average and power.

Nomar Mazara, Rangers: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Mazara is yet another Rangers outfield prospect that could make an impact at the big league level in 2016. Just 20, he’s a former large-bonus signee off the international free agent market and he split ’15 between Double-A and Triple-A. Mazara has excellent raw power but he made huge strides with his hitting abilities last year and could develop into a .280-.300 hitter in the Majors now that he’s started to chip away at his strikeout rate.

Billy McKinney, Cubs: Chicago will open the 2016 with some solid talent in the outfield, anchored by recently-signed Jason Heyward (and the surprise return of Dexter Fowler), but both Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler are young players that have yet to prove themselves for an extended period of time. Struggles by one or both of the players could open up an opportunity to McKinney. From an offensive standpoint, though, the outfield prospect’s fantasy impact could be limited to his ability to hit for average; he hasn’t shown much ability to hit for power and he hasn’t stolen many bases in his career. For those reasons, he could end up as more of a fourth outfielder than a true impact bat.

Tyler Naquin, Indians: Cleveland’s outfield is a bit of a dog’s breakfast — especially with Michael Brantley possibly out until May with an injury. That definitely works in Naquin’s favor but the Tribe also has some other outfield prospects looking for their shot at The Show. Naquin, though, might get the first shot after showing a good hit tool… and not to mention the club invested a first-round pick in him not long ago (2012). Like McKinney above, though, he could end up as more of a tweener due to his lack of outstanding offensive tools (beyond hitting for average).

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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To what extent does the Desmond signing impact Mazara and Brinson? Are we not seeing those guys in 2016 if there are no or minimal injuries?

As for Judge, you say, “The young outfielder has above-average power and could eventually develop plus-plus power.” Everything I’ve ever read about him suggests his power is already an 80, and that his “mammoth home runs” are already a thing of legend (I always believe spring training and MiLB comments are reeking of hyperbole)…
Is he the next guy up if there’s an injury? Anyone else I need to look at if not?


Let’s all pump our brakes a bit on Judge. When we say 80 power we’re talking Mike Stanton type power (a true 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale). Multiple sources (including Keith Law) stated that he struggled mightily with breaking stuff away, particularly at more advanced levels. With a K% of just shy of a 30% and a pedestrian slg% and wOBA, it seems a bit early to anoint him a superstar. He certainly has the tools to be a star, but he is not a finished product.