Keeper Strategy — 2013 Impact Rookies: Outfielders

It’s time again to look ahead to the 2013 fantasy baseball season by highlighting the top potential impact rookies at each position. Why? Because it’s never too early to begin thinking about next year, even if you’re still trying to win your league right now.

For those of you in keeper leagues, particularly deeper ones, these primers will be especially helpful, because you’ll find out which young players may be worth snatching up now — before other owners get a clue — so you can hang onto them next season, when their value kicks in. Think of it like an investment requiring only a little up-front cost that could pay off big in the near future.

Much like my Mining the Minors columns on this site, which focus on current-season impact more than long-term upside, these 2013 rookie primers are meant for players who will exhaust (or are expected to exhaust) their rookiedom next year. Also much like my MTM work, the point here is to find the right mix of opportunity and talent, so that you’re picking up a player who can contribute, either in a starting role or as a reserve, from Opening Day or soon thereafter. For now, it’s good to get ahead of the curve with a snapshot of the young talent at each position.

In case you need a brief example of how this sort of strategy can be worthwhile: In two deep leagues, one AL-only and one NL-only, that allow for up to 10 keepers, I picked up Jarrod Parker, Addison Reed and Will Middlebrooks, as well as Paul Goldschmidt, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart around this time last year, keeping them all for dirt cheap. Worked out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Here are the previous position primers: Catchers, Corner Infielders, Middle Infielders

This time? Outfielders.

To be considered, the players must currently be eligible for rookie status in 2013, meaning they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 30 appearances. Certainly, a few listed below may surpass these numbers down the stretch this season, but nonetheless, it’s worth pointing them out now. The players are ranked in order of their potential 2013 fantasy impact and their current level is listed in parentheses.

While there’s one ready-made stud here and one more who’s a little further off, the rest of these outfielders are either 1) young and promising but with at least one major flaw, or 2) capable of helping in one category (maybe two) and not hurting too much in any other. In other words, you’re either 1) hoping a gamble pays off, which isn’t such a bad strategy as long as the price isn’t too high, or 2) figuring a particular player will be a cheaper way to help address, say, stolen bases or batting average. Alas, there’s no Next Mike Trout.

Wil Myers, Royals (Triple-A)
If you play in a standard keeper or dynasty format, Myers is owned — and probably has been for a year or two — because, well, he’s just really freakin’ good. And don’t hold it against Myers that the Royals chose to keep him in the minors when every Kansas Cityan — and fantasy owner — was clamoring for a call-up this summer. After all he’s just 21, but following a .314/.387/.600 campaign with 37 homers (second-most in minors) across Double- and Triple-A, Myers is already perhaps the best all-around hitter yet to play in the majors. Not that Myers is sans flaws: He whiffed a career-high 140 times and was shuffled around from third base to center field to right field (his likely long-term position) as the org experimented with the right fit. But as soon as Myers cleans up his approach, his pure hit tool and improved raw power will be unleashed.
2013 ETA: Sure, we all hoped his ETA would be spoken about in the past tense by now, but the reality is that the Royals will either put him on the Opening Day roster as the starting right fielder, or they’ll wait until early June — once the Super Two deadline passes — to bring him up for good. Let’s hope it’s the former, but either way, Myers will hit. Immediately.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Starting outfielder (as an OF3) in 10-team mixed leagues, once he’s up.

Adam Eaton, D-backs (Majors)
If Myers is the sexy stud in prospect parlance, Eaton is the underrated cutie next door. The 23-year-old profiled as a fourth outfield type entering 2012, mainly because of his size (5’8″, 185), but then went on to lead the PCL in — deep breath now — average (.381), OBP (.456), steals (38), runs (119) and doubles (46). In other words, he’s done enough to paint himself into the D-backs outfield picture, starting with his late-season audition this September: .811 OPS, two HRs, two doubles, two triples, two steals and a tidy 11:13 K:BB ratio in 65 ABs. The numbers won’t be nearly as eye-popping as what he did at Reno, but his approach and speed should mean a useful batting average, a strong steals total and a chance at a nice runs tally if he works his way into a leadoff role.
2013 ETA: Depending on what the club does with trade candidate Justin Upton and slump-prone Chris Young, Eaton could begin next season as a starter in the majors. Worst-case scenario has him up by June in a backup role.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Starting outfielder (as an OF5) in 10-team mixed leagues that require five outfielders.

Anthony Gose, Blue Jays (Majors)
Sticking with the established theme, Gose would be that girl you know who’s hot enough for the occasional booty call, but not necessarily one you’d want to go all long-term with. The 22-year-old (who will soon reach the 130-AB mark) can get the job done (wink, wink), thanks to his plus speed (think: 40-plus SBs in his prime) and intriguing pop (think: double-digits in doubles, triples and homers). But Gose remains very raw and needs to continue improving his strikeout and walk rates to fulfill his potential. His defense will help him get and stay in the lineup (even if it doesn’t directly impact his fantasy value), and owners should certainly take advantage of what is likely to be a streaky player next season, one who can be a steals-and-runs binger. But don’t feel bad about cutting him loose if he starts to get clingy.
2013 ETA: While it’s a possibility, there’s no guarantee Gose will have a clear path to a job next spring, but he should be up by the end of May as either the left fielder (if Moises Sierra, below, fails) or center fielder (if Colby Rasmus continues to devolve).
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Starting outfielder (as an OF5) in 10-team mixed leagues, as long as he’s seeing regular action.

Leonys Martin, Rangers (Majors)
Martin is the chick who just wants a chance, despite the fact that she’s constantly overlooked. At 24, he’s not likely to be a major impact player, but one who could be ownable and even start-able once he gets that shot, a la Alejandro De Aza. The Cuban import’s first full season in America was a good one (.359/.422/.610 at Triple-A) once he got over a torn ligament in his thumb, and he has the ability to hit at or near the top of the always-potent Rangers order, but his above-average speed has yet to translate, as he’s stolen just 29 bases out of 49 attempts in the minors. The big question, though, is how Martin fits into the Texas lineup: If Josh Hamilton leaves in free agency, Martin’s fantasy value could increase significantly, but it still wouldn’t be a guarantee that he inherits the starting center field job — he’ll have to earn it.
2013 ETA: Even if the Rangers choose to re-sign Hamilton, Martin has shown he’s ready to be at least a backup as of the first game of next year.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in 12-team mixed leagues, with a chance to be starter-worthy (as an OF5) in 10-team mixed leagues once he gains a foothold.

Brett Jackson, Cubs (Majors)
Jackson’s female equivalent? That train wreck who leaves all sorts of damage in her wake. The 2009 first-rounder has an enticing blend of power and speed — Jackson has 20-20 upside and could reach double-digits in both next year — but the risks are already more than evident, too. Jackson, 24, struck out 34% of the time at Triple-A this year, and since being promoted to the majors, that number has gone from something’s-gotta-change bad to potentially-career-killing ugly. That’s right, folks: Jackson has K’d in 54 of 126 PAs (43%). Despite this, the Cubs don’t have much else and will almost definitely give 500 at-bats to a guy they hope can be their center fielder of the future, so Jackson will have plenty of opportunity to be a fantasy compiler. But his average could be a huge anchor, and the Windy City is going to get a lot windier whenever Jackson’s up.
2013 ETA: Even with his catastrophic contact problems, Jackson might very well be an Opening Day starter.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Starting outfielder (as an OF5) in NL-only leagues, but only to be used when necessary.

Oscar Taveras, Cardinals (Double-A)
You know that girl who you swear looks 25 but is actually jail bait? That’s Taveras. (Okay, that’s the last one. Promise.) He’s skyrocketed up the minors by putting up consecutive monster seasons — all by the age of 20. The aggressive approach and violent swing would probably not work for anyone else, but Taveras somehow gets it done, as he owns a 321/.381/.525 career slash line and showed even more power than ever with 23 homers and 37 doubles. There might not be another player in the minors who hits the ball on the barrel as hard and as frequently as Taveras does. The Cards basically took a let’s-see-how-you-handle-this approach by pushing Taveras to Double-A to start the season, and he responded — and then some. With a solidified outfield, St. Louis doesn’t need to rush Taveras to the majors, but he just might force the issue if he comes anywhere close to repeating his production next year. And with the aging Carlos Beltran and injury-prone Allen Craig, it’s not hard to see how the Cards might need Taveras sooner rather than later.
2013 ETA: Despite the fact that his fantasy value will be held down since he’ll certainly start the season at Triple-A, Taveras has the goods to come up after the All-Star break and kill it if he gets regular run.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: If called up as a backup, Taveras will be a reserve outfielder in 12-team mixed leagues, but if he’s promoted to play regularly, he’s potentially a starting outfielder (as an OF3) in 10-team mixed leagues.

Moises Sierra, Blue Jays (Majors)
Sierra, 24, was relatively unknown prior to this year, overshadowed by the likes of Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick among Toronto’s outfield prospects. He lacks the upside of those two, but he’s already proving he can at least hang in the majors: .242-6-14 in his first 128 ABs (so yes, he’ll exhaust his rookie eligibility any day now). He’s benefited from the numerous injuries that befell the Blue Jays and has looked overmatched at times (28% K, 5% BB), so he won’t see as much PT next year as he has over the past two months. But the Jays 2013 outfield is up in the air aside from Jose Bautista, so there’s a path for Sierra.
2013 ETA: Sierra is capable of staying up in the bigs at the start of next season, probably in some sort of platoon or bench role, but he may be shuttling back and forth throughout the year.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Starting outfielder (as an OF5) in AL-only leagues.

Avisail Garcia, Tigers (Majors)
Garcia debuted much sooner than anyone could’ve expected, mainly due to the org’s desperation down the stretch and heinous season-long production from right field sleeper-turned-bust Brennan Boesch. The 21-year-old’s role is being managed strictly, starting only against left-handers, and he’s done okay (13-for-34). Garcia has a burgeoning all-around skill set, but his approach (4% BB) needs an overhaul before he’s ready to succeed in the majors. It would be wise for Detroit to stick with Boesch in right field (or search for another option via trade or free agency), rather than entrust any sort of significant role to Garcia at any point next year. Then again, we’ve seen the Tigers brass disregard the too-much-too-soon approach many times before.
2013 ETA: Garcia needs more time in the minors, considering his age and that he’s yet to play at Triple-A, so unless the Tigers fail to find outfield help, he’s probably not up until midseason. At the earliest.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in AL-only leagues.

Tim Wheeler, Rockies (Triple-A)
Starting with Wheeler, all of the names from here on out are longshots to make any real impact, given that they have yet to play in the majors at all and still have either flaws to be addressed or limited upside — or both. As for Wheeler specifically, he hit just two homers at Triple-A this year, but that could be in part due to an early-season hamate injury, since he does have solid power in his lefty swing (33 HRs in 2011). If something were to happen to any of the Rockies starting outfielders, the 24-year-old could fill in.
2013 ETA: The Rockies outfield is fairly settled for now, but Wheeler could work his way into the mix by midseason, provided he stays healthy and his regains his pop.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in NL-only leagues.

Bryce Brentz, Red Sox (Triple-A)
Brentz is a decent enough prospect, so he gets a mention here because Boston’s outfield sitch is a mess. Jacoby Ellsbury? An injury waiting to happen and a trade candidate. Cody Ross? A soon-to-be free agent. Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Scott Podsednik? Not exactly long-term answers. Brentz, 23, is athletic and sports good power but will probably struggle initially in the majors because he has some holes in his swing.
2013 ETA: Brentz made it to Triple-A at the very end of the year, so he’ll return there to start next season and could use at least half a season more in the minors, maybe more.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in AL-only leagues.

Jackie Bradley, Red Sox (Double-A)
Bradley had one of the better breakout campaigns among outfield prospects this year, slashing .315/.430/.482 across High- and Double-A. Despite being only 22, the lefty-hitting Bradley isn’t too far off, considering he’s a plus defender in center and has very good plate discipline (89:87 K:BB). Bradley won’t be super fantasy-friendly in standard formats, but he gets a bump in OBP leagues, and he has enough speed for 20-plus steals, plenty of gap power (42 doubles) and the chance to approach double-digits in homers while scoring lots of runs as a leadoff type. Very possible, Bradley could turn out to be another Denard Span.
2013 ETA: Again, this sort of depends on what the Sox do with their outfield in the offseason, but Bradley would be one to keep tabs on as a second-half call-up.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in AL-only leagues.

Oswaldo Arcia, Twins (Double-A)
Speaking of Span, if the Twins actually make the decision to deal their longtime center fielder by July, then Arcia might be next in line in Minnesota, with Ben Revere shifting to center. (Forget about Joe Benson as a regular; he’s proven too injury- and strikeout-prone.) Arcia bounced back very nicely from an elbow injury that curtailed his 2011 season by hitting well at High-A before jumping up to Double-A, where he mashed: .955 OPS with 10 homers and 67 RBIs in 69 games. Along the way, the 21-year-old improved his walk rate from last year’s 6% to 10% in 2012.
2013 ETA: Where Arcia starts the year will be worth noting, as he may have shown the Twins that he’s ready for Triple-A from the get-go, which could mean a post-All-Star break promotion, especially if Span gets moved around the same time.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in AL-only leagues.

Robbie Grossman, Astros (Double-A)
Grossman, 23, came over in the Wandy Rodriguez deal and does one thing really well: get on base. After leading the minors with 104 walks in 2011, Grossman earned 77 free passes this year, so he should have more fantasy value in OBP formats, but may not offer much else. He does have doubles power and passable speed, but neither will play up in the majors, so we’re looking at a player who is more of a won’t-hurt-you type. The Astros may have the most in flux outfield in all of baseball — 29-year-old Justin Maxwell leads the way — so while Grossman isn’t going to be a savior or anything, he could see time in one of the corner spots sooner than later.
2013 ETA: After a productive but not impressive Double-A season, Grossman should start out at Triple-A with a chance to be promoted in the first half if he starts off hot — or the incumbent Astros outfielders tank.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in NL-only leagues.

Gary Brown, Giants (Double-A)
Brown looked like a potential fantasy monster coming off a 2011 in which he hit .336 with 34 doubles, 13 triples and 14 homers (.519 SLG) while swiping 53 bases. Following a much less exciting 2012, though (.279 average with seven homers, a .385 SLG and 33 SBs), it’s worth wondering just how much of his previous season was the product of the Cal League. There’s little doubt the 23-year-old will be a strong fielder with the ability to steal 30-40 bases and score runs, but the offensive upside is probably not what it looked like a year ago.
2013 ETA: Brown could return to Double-A or be bumped up a level to start the year, but even with the Giants in need of outfield help, he will have to earn his way by bouncing back.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in NL-only leagues.

Evan Gattis, Braves (Double-A)
This dude has quite a story, including time spent in drug rehab and a depression diagnosis. But he’s back playing ball — after four years away from the game. Given that he’s 26 years old, it would stand to reason that the Braves might want to see what Gattis can do sooner rather than later, and he has shown the past two seasons that he’s capable of handling himself in the batter’s box with .986 and .995 OPSes in 2011 and 2012, which he finished at Double-A. The bigger issue is where he plays defensively, since he’s not likely a big league catcher and has only recently been introduced to the outfield. He might find his way to Atlanta, though, as a utility type who could fill in here and there (OF, C, 1B) and hit enough to hold down a job.
2013 ETA: Gattis missed a good chunk of the year with injury, so a return to Double-A is a possibility, but if he continues bashing, he could slug his way to the majors by the second half.
POTENTIAL 2013 FANTASY ROLE: Reserve outfielder in NL-only leagues.

A.J. Pollock, D-backs (Majors); L.J. Hoes, Orioles (Majors); Xavier Avery, Orioles (Majors); Logan Schafer, Brewers (Majors); Khris Davis, Brewers (Triple-A); Caleb Gindl, Brewers (Triple-A); Corey Brown, Nationals (Majors); Kole Calhoun, Angels (Majors); Brandon Guyer, Rays (Majors); Eury Perez, Nationals (Majors); Roger Kieschnick, Giants (Triple-A); Francisco Peguero, Giants (Majors); David Lough, Royals (Majors); Thomas Neal, Indians (Majors); Scott Van Slyke, Dodgers (Triple-A); Michael Taylor, A’s (Triple-A); Matt den Dekker, Mets (Triple-A); Kevin Mattison, Marlins (Triple-A); Aaron Hicks, Twins (Double-A); Alfredo Marte, D-backs (Double-A); Michael Choice, A’s (Double-A); Joe Benson, Twins (Double-A)
–If you’re looking for Starling Marte, Pirates (Majors), he’s not here only because he’s already exhausted his rookie status this year. Otherwise, he’s a potential 10-homer, 20-steal type — who might struggle to hit north of .250.
–Big-money Cuban defectors Yasiel Puig, Dodgers (High-A) and Jorge Soler, Cubs (Single-A) are intriguing because there’s less to go on (the promise of the unknown and all), but it would be rushing things for either player, especially Soler, to make it to the majors in their first full season in American pro ball.

Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11

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11 years ago

If I can only keep 5 guys, should I be considering keeping a MiLB guy like Taveras or would it only be worth it to keep a Profar/Myers/Bundy-type?

I have a lot of viable cheap MLB keepers like Headley ($3), Medlen ($3), Rizzo ($3), Aaron Hill ($3), Altuve ($1) and some more expensive studs like Granderson ($28), Bourn ($20), and Joey Bats ($42).

11 years ago
Reply to  BStu185

i wouldnt keep grandy for sure. and id be on the fence with bourn. i think joey b, medlen, profar, myers, and headley is where id go….although it might depend on where myers starts next year.

11 years ago
Reply to  Jason Catania

12 teams, roto pts, daily transactions, categories are R, HR, RBI, Total Bases, SB, OBP (no AVG), SLG, IP, QS (no Wins), K, ERA, WHIP, SV, K/BB. Positional start limits: 176 games per position, 200 starts. Keeper value is 120% of previous year, min $1 increase.

Cliff, The top MiLBers like Profar/Myers/Olt/Bundy are owned by other guys. I only own Taveras.

I actually think Grandy and his 40 HRs at $28 is decent value considering the top preseason players like Kemp, J-Up, Tulo, Bautista, etc were $35-45. I wouldn’t expect them to be kept at those values (Bautista and Bourn are actually Waiver pickups), but I’m unsure about what their value will be in the draft because there might be a perceived “scarcity of talent” if the top guys are all kept. It’s the first year of the keeper so I don’t know if guys will go for all cheap talent or keep their big, expensive bats.

Here are the guys in consideration for my 5 ($last year’s draft value): Hill ($3), Altuve (1), Grandy (28), BJ Upton (15), Beltran (12), Bautista (42), Bourn (20), Rizzo (3), Taveras (3), Sandoval (20), Headley (3), Latos (11), Darvish (15), Medlen (3), Peavy (3).

11 years ago
Reply to  Jason Catania

Appreciate the in-depth reply. I agree about Headley, Medlen, and Rizzo. Considering their age, production/potential, and relative price, I think they are no-brainers to keep for a combined $12. So that’s 3.

I was a big fan of Latos coming into the season and expected him to be a potential keeper since the moment I won him for $11. However, I’m hesitant for two of my five keepers to be SPs, just because in my experience good bats are much harder to come by. I’m pretty confident in my ability to rely on a bit of streaming in a daily league: I have 8+ pts in 5 of 7 pitching categories despite losing 7 (count em, SEVEN!) pitchers to season-ending arm injuries BEFORE THE ASB. I could never fully recover from my ERA and WHIP being submarined by some god-awful starts to the season by Scherzer ($6, dropped him after his abysmal April/May, but we won’t talk about that), Latos, Hudson, and Minor. Darvish and Latos are actually my only two remaining SP draftees.

I’ll have to keep pondering my other two, maybe I can swing a trade in the off-season like you suggested. Peavy drew interest at the trade deadline. I think I’m liking Hill at his low price for my 4th keeper. I’m higher on Grandy than you seem to be; despite his low OBP, 100/40/100/10 ain’t too shabby in my book. We’ll see where Upton lands in the offseason. Lots of time before I need to make a final decision.

Thanks for your input. Keep the keeper articles coming. I guess going back to my original question, I won’t be keeping Taveras 🙂