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To this day, I think I don’t fully understand what y’all want. With these monthly rankings, do you want end-of-season rankings or rest-of-season rankings? For the record, given we just eclipsed the halfway point of the season, end-of-season rankings would equally weight players’ first and second halves. Rest-of-season ranking, meanwhile, would unequally weight a player’s second half in favor of his first half. First-half performance informs second-half rankings, but more in the sense that “regression will hit this guy hard” and so on.
I ask because, man, y’all rip into us pretty good with these rankings sometimes. And I know I’ve failed to adequately communicate my criteria for ranking particular players a given way because I simply don’t have enough words or time.
With that said, I will provide for you here rest-of-season rankings for National League outfielders, complete with anticipated regression and all that. Tiers will be named in order of my favorite Every Time I Die albums, which is totally not obscure in any way. Enjoy! (Or not.)
Tier 1: Hot Damn!
I think we have to give Harper the benefit of the doubt for occasionally being human. Bryant is a juggernaut clearly capable of making adjustments and is currently hitting at the heart of an equally juggernauty (jugger-naughty?) lineup.
Myers has finally become everything we ever thought he might be, even after worrisome injuries, especially to his wrist. He’s hitting for immense power, and while he likely won’t sustain it, he’ll finish with 30 home runs with maybe 25 stolen bases with a solid batting average. That’s huge.
Upton will certainly be the contentious name here. But you can no longer deny what’s happening: he’s hitting for legitimate (if not somewhat modest) power, but he’s also running so much that he could hit for zero power and zero average and still be Billy Hamilton, who is still owned in all standard leagues, as far as I can tell. Even if his batting average falls apart and he becomes vintage B.J., the 30-plus stolen bases are, similarly, huge.
I wrote about Marte yesterday. His power spike last year was insincere, and I’m gravely concerned about a .400 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) that will certainly slip in the second half.
Tier 2: From Parts Unknown
If I’m treating Duvall like a top-25 outfielder, I have to give Stanton the benefit of the doubt much like I’ve done for Harper. Truth of the matter is Stanton is not so far different from Chris Davis or even Chris Carter: the power is prodigious, but the batting average rollercoaster hurts. I maintain we have overestimated Stanton (although not grossly) for some time now. It’s perfectly reasonable that Duvall joins this Stanton-Davis-Carter trio and, now that he dominates left field reps, will be a legitimate power threat, if not a similarly frustrating one, for the foreseeable future.
It’s good to see Blackmon back, although the lack of stolen bases hurt. I’m finally giving Ozuna and CarGo the love they maybe deserve, although I won’t be surprised if some will still think they are ranked too low. To be clear, I’m still very concerned with both of their elevated BABIPs. They’re great hitters, and you could ride them out through September if you wanted to. But they’re also decent sell-high candidates considering you’ll likely get a substantial return for either of them.
Also, Odubel Herrera. He’s probably ranked a little too high because of the deficiency in counting stats, but I’m a sucker for how well he does everything else.
Tier 3: Ex-Lives
You may notice an incredibly bullish Willson Contreras ranking. I have basically ranked him at his ceiling, which is unrealistic. And that ceiling accounts for Joe Maddon still giving Contreras ample playing time even after Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler return from disabled list — something that’s far from a guarantee. Still, he has great pop. That’s what everyone sees now. It’s actually the plate discipline that entices me, however; Contreras should have no problem establishing himself as a regular once his cup of tea turns into, uh, a bottle of gin, or something. That’s how that saying goes, yeah? Anyway, he reminds me of Jonathan Lucroy, and Jonathan Lucroy is a hell of a catcher.
You may also notice an incredibly bearish Andrew McCutchen ranking. I anticipated back before the 2015 season that we’d see the inevitable demise of his baserunning proficiency. That his plate discipline and batted ball profile have declined so much incite a great deal of worry in me. Everything is trending in the wrong direction for a guy approaching the wrong side of 30. I would love for Cutch to prove me wrong, but there’s now a light at the end of the tunnel of this excellent career. He’s still a must-start in all formats, but he’s not an elite bat anymore and is now merely the third-best option in his own outfield (which actually says more about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfield than anything else).
Tier 4: New Junk Aesthetic
Some good bats with more modest talents and/or a little less playing time. Coming out of Cuba, Tomas looked like the kind of bat who would flounder at the Major League level, especially when compared to the talent of his contemporaries. To his credit, he has done an excellent job of transforming as a hitter, and he has made a much smoother transition than I could have ever anticipated.
I ranked Heyward fairly low last month, and I’m doing it again. (I also favored Upton over Heyward here a couple of weeks ago.) Nothing has changed. He’s an utter mess at the plate — borderline unstartable, even despite hitting second for baseball’s most potent lineup. I guess that warrants moving him down a bit, but he can’t go down much farther than he already is for a guy with a guaranteed starting gig. Everyone else who follows mainly falls into part-time duty.
Puig arguably has the most upside here, but until he actually taps into it and proves he can stay healthy, he’s resigned to the Heyward treatment. He may deserve a bit better of a ranking, but I’m trying to prevent you from being enamored by the name brand. But you’re probably way ahead of me already.
Tier 5: Last Night in Town
Mostly dudes on part-time duty or recently called up from the minors. Grichuk is here only as long as it keeps Moss out, probably. Grichuk really isn’t bad, but the Cardinals had no patience with enduring his BABIP growing pains. For Almora, same as Grichuk but Almora regarding Fowler and Soler. Modest power and speed but good contact skills. Should stick quickly, but might be slow to blossom elsewhere. Less true for Nimmo. Williamson flashes power (although it has tapered off significantly since his 2013 stint at High-A ball) but also has considerable holes in his swing and approach.
The Big Dirty
Tiered ranks upon return.
Chris Owings (mid-July): Tier 4. Modest speed and mostly guaranteed playing time.
Dexter Fowler (late July): Tier 2.
Brandon Moss (late July?): Tier 3. Vintage Moss power with vintage Moss platoon issues.
Joc Pederson (late July): Tier 3. Well, kind of like Moss.
David Peralta (late July): Tier 4. Really has to prove something.
Jorge Soler (late July): Tier 5. Same, on part-time duty.
Gerardo Parra (early August): Tier 3/4. Really hadn’t done much after his hot start.
Jon Jay (early August): Tier 4. Empty batting average.
Hunter Pence (mid-August): Tier 2.
Domingo Santana (mid-August?): Tier 5. Growing pains.
Mallex Smith (late August): Tier 3. Highly underrated speed with decent power; a bit of a Delino DeShields flavor, but we know how he turned out this year.
Tiered ranks upon return and assuming full playing time.
Michael Conforto (AAA): Tier 3. Great skills with BABIP pains.
Peter O’Brien (AAA): Tier 4. Huge power, but needs to prove he can hang.
Michael Taylor (AAA): Tier 4. Power and speed, but miserably bad batting average.
Jeremy Hazelbaker (AAA): Tier 5. Largely a flash in the pan.
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Happens almost every time: let me know if I forgot someone. It wasn’t a deliberate omission, I promise you.