In deeper formats, it can become difficult to find quality fourth and fifth outfielders because of how many players at the position are used in the league. Fortunately, outfield provides the most opportunities to mix and match in leagues, especially in daily games or in leagues that allow daily lineup changes. Much like the teams themselves, taking advantage of players with extreme platoon splits can provide the line of an expensive outfield for cheap, as long as you’re willing to put in the managerial work. Here are some platoon options I plan to use to help me fill out my deeper rosters next season.
|Darin Ruf vs LHP||227||.295||.390||.529||.919|
|Joey Votto vs LHP||423||.288||.410||.508||.918|
As a rebuilding team, the Phillies will likely stay committed to the trio of Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, and Cody Asche in the outfield in 2016. However, while Darin Ruf may then be limited to platoon duties at first base with still-under-contract Ryan Howard, he should still be outfield eligible thanks to 22 games in left field in 2015. That should suit fantasy owners just fine as Ruf has mashed lefties in his major league career. Since 2013, he’s hit .295/.390/.529 against left-handed pitchers, a slash line similar to that of Mr. Anti-Platoon, Joey Votto. Right-handed platoon partners are generally less valuable in fantasy because of their relatively fewer at-bats, but deep league owners should consider Ruf when he gets the nod against a lefty starter.
|Scott Van Slyke vs LHP||265||.275||.388||.498||.886|
|George Springer vs LHP||207||.261||.396||.483||.879|
The Dodgers have a lot of star power in their outfield with Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, but the good news for Scott Van Slyke is three of those four are left-handed hitters. That should leave Van Slyke with around 250 plate appearances, a number he’s hit almost exactly each of the last two seasons. Meanwhile, Van Slyke has performed quite well in his part-time role over the last three seasons, even after a relatively down season in 2015. He should approach double digit home runs again this season in a third of a season’s worth of plate appearances.
|Kyle Blanks vs LHP||160||.294||.370||.519||.889|
|Matt Holliday vs LHP||315||.289||.419||.467||.886|
The long-time Padre Kyle Blanks landed on a Giants team whose home park is one of only two in baseball with a worse park factor for right-handed power in baseball than Petco was. Still, there is no real concern about Blanks’ ability to produce at the plate. For his career, Blanks has produced a 197 wRC+ versus left-handed pitchers. The major question is whether he can earn playing time. He signed a minor league deal with the team, and opportunities could be hard to come by in an infield where Buster Posey has seen 35 games at first base in each of the last two seasons behind a quality starter in Brandon Belt. If Blanks is going to find a role, it will likely be in the outfield, which features an often-injured Angel Pagan in center field and a hole in left field following the departure of Nori Aoki.
|Carlos Beltran vs RHP||988||.288||.350||.483||.833|
|J.D. Martinez vs RHP||1006||.291||.331||.502||.833|
The 38-year-old Carlos Beltran has one more year on his contract with the Yankees, and before you get too excited for Aaron Judge’s arrival, consider that Beltran is coming off a two-win season. For his career, the switch-hitting Beltran has been similarly productive from both sides of the plate, but he has been particularly effective from the left side in recent seasons. Since 2013, he has hit .288/.350/.483 against right-handed pitchers and taken advantage of the Yankees’ short right-field porch to the tune of 34 home runs over the last two seasons.
|Franklin Gutierrez vs All||316||.272||.319||.566||.885|
|Nelson Cruz vs All||1616||.281||.345||.535||.880|
Between 2008 and 2009, Franklin Gutierrez saved the Mariners 51 runs according to Defensive Runs Saved, and it’s been pretty much ingrained in my mind since then that he is a defense-first outfielder. Injuries cut short Gutierrez’s prime, but even as a defensive outfielder, he is a good fit for next year’s Mariners who were stuck with 700 innings of Nelson Cruz’s poor defense in right field last season and have left-handers Seth Smith and Leonys Martin to potentially platoon* with Gutierrez.
*The Mariners also signed Nori Aoki on Wednesday, but the left-handed Aoki has reverse platoon splits in his career.
As it turns out, it is unfair to call Gutierrez a defense-first player. Albeit in limited at-bats, he has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the last three seasons. In particular, Gutierrez has 25 home runs since 2013 in only 340 plate appearances, making him one of the most prolific power hitters in baseball per plate appearance. With the Mariners’ suddenly crowded outfield and Gutierrez’s history of health issues, his playing time is the most uncertain. However, recent history suggests he is a great player to start when he is in the lineup.
Scott Spratt is a fantasy sports writer for FanGraphs and Pro Football Focus. He is a Sloan Sports Conference Research Paper Competition and FSWA award winner. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @Scott_Spratt