* * *
The more I do this, the harder it gets. Each month I struggle with shedding my preconceived notions of a player’s value and coming to grips with the performance we have actually observed. And then there’s the additional element of teasing out what’s real and what’s not. Occasionally, there’s no change. That makes it easy. But for the guys who have made strides or taken big steps back — that makes it a bit harder. And then there’s accounting for over- and under-performance. Trying to anticipate when regression will occur, if at all, makes my head hur.
Also, there are just so many outfielders. And so many of them seem to be performing at a high level this season. It can be excruciatingly difficult to tease them apart. At a certain point, we’re splitting the microscopic hairs that grows on regular hairs. Full tiers become indecipherable blobs.
You know the rules, but if you don’t: hitters are pretty fluid within tiers. It’s not feasible to talk about every single guy, so feel free to ask questions (or leave criticisms) in the comments. (I know I left off a lot of hitters who make up the shallow side of a platoon or ride the pine. ) If I omitted a legitimate someone, let me know; unless it’s a part-time guy or a prospect, I probably just forgot. It happens from time to time.
I love Bob’s Burgers, so I’m going to name the tiers by my favorite episodes of all time. Because I can! This is off the top of my head, though, so I’ll probably screw up my own list. Oh well. Fight me!
Weekend at Mort’s
Kids are amazing! Even if they try to burn you alive in a coffin. And they will do that. But it’s good. Because you see your whole life pass before you as you’re burning. And every pair of pants you’ve ever worn. And you’ll see the love of your life, dancing salsa, in Jamaica, by herself!
Harper is the ESPN Player Rater’s 4th-best National League outfielder, and that’s with a .229 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). He’s not human, right?
I can tell when you’re lying, Bob. Whenever you lie, your eyes get crossed a little.
None of this is surprising except that Polanco is the highest-ranked Pirate, and Stanton barely cracks the National League’s top-10. The tricky part about these rankings is I have to anticipate how a player will perform for the rest of the season. Marte will not sustain a .400 BABIP. But he’s running like crazy, which kind of makes me mad because I predicted his fantasy utility would finally slip once the wheels slowed down. They haven’t.
McCutchen’s have, though. As I mentioned this offseason, his durability and high floor will keep his value afloat. He’s just not a juggernaut anymore.
As for Stanton, he is what he is. The Miami Marlins don’t give him the run-scoring opportunities he needs to be a true powerhouse, and Stanton’s tenuous relationship with contact (such as his 15-strikeout ordeal in May) will put his owners through some really rough patches. The power is obscene, but he’s not untouchable. If he was, Chris Davis should be, too, but you never really hear the two compared that way. This will probably put me in some hot water, but I have maintained that Stanton has always been a little overrated.
An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal
Lance the Turkey: Bob. Bob! BOB!
Lance the Turkey: Can you turn the light on? I get scared.
Bob: [chuckles] Sure thing, buddy.
Lance the Turkey: It’s too bright.
OK, so here’s where things get really murky. You have your dual power-speed threats. That’s basically everyone here. And if they lack either power or speed, they make up for it in plate discipline or batted ball skills. In other words, they aren’t one-trick ponies, and they see ample (full) playing time to buoy their values.
Melvin and his brother, Justin Upton, must have pulled off some Freaky Friday stunt or something. Once a Mendoza Line enthustiast, Melvin has parlayed better batted ball skills to make his power-speed combination much more palatable. But nothing looks too different, so it’s worth wondering if the BABIP will slip down to their intolerable levels from a couple of years ago. The fact that I’m basically calling him a top-10 NL OF is utterly absurd.
Blackmon has been a legitimate top-5-overall outfielder the past few years, but he has resumed baseball activities very slowly since being reinstated from the disabled list. He derives most of his value from his legs, but he has barely used them thus far. This is a glass-is-half-full approach to a dude who may have seen his somewhat brief stint as an elite fantasy option come and go. If you’re pessimistic, sell; until July, I won’t have a very good idea of what to expect from him.
Uhhhh Linda. Uhhhhhh Linda. I don’t feel well. I don’t feel well. … I did this?
Cool. Cool, cool, cool. What a helpful tier. I think how you rank the hitters here depends on your preferences. Power tends to be a bit flashier than speed, so your power hitters are up top. But guys like Span, Harrison, Yelich, even post-hype Owings — they provide a little bit of power, a little more speed, and solid batting averages. They epitomize “not flashy,” but they provide plenty of utility, especially in points leagues where you’re docked points for strikeouts. Plate discipline plays up in those formats.
It’s worth casting extra spotlight on Owings. He’s quietly putting together a nice campaign in A.J. Pollock’s absence, and he could put together an Ender Inciarte-esque eight home runs and 25 stolen bases.
Revere, like Blackmon, should be given a bit more time to ensure his legs haven’t turned to stone. Had he been healthy all year, he could have threatened to lead the league in steals. And he typically hits for a high average. Be patient.
David Peralta (DL)
Angel Pagan (DL)
Domingo Santana (DL)
Maybe it won’t be so bad.
And, here, we find guys who don’t see full playing time. Pederson, Duvall, Moss, Hamilton — they’re all one-trick ponies who receive at least occasional rest. There are some interesting new names in here — especially Drury and Thompson. Neither of them ever figured to be standout prospects, but they both flashed their fair share of power in the minors.