NL Outfield Rankings: September

Previous rankings:
March/April (Preseason)

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It’s hard for me to feel like these rankings are worthwhile. Something like two-thirds of you are in your respective league’s playoffs or have already been eliminated. For those of you to whom this pertains, now we’re rolling the dice on small sample sizes — something inherently subject to volatility. Also, we’re practically a week into the month already.

So I won’t waste too much breath here. The following rankings reflect classic 5-by-5 rotisserie (“roto”) formats. Just please remember: this is your playoff hunt. If you play in a roto league, you know which categories you need to chase. I can’t answer that for you. But that category (or plural) are inherently more important to you, and you should value National League outfielders who contribute meaningfully to that category (or plural) accordingly. If you play in a points league, find power bats who minimize the split between their strikeouts and walks (assuming you are punished for the former and rewarded for the latter).

With that said, let’s dig in.

Tier 1: The Elite

Kris Bryant
Starling Marte
Hernan Perez
Charlie Blackmon
Ryan Braun
Billy Hamilton (inj.)
Wil Myers
Bryce Harper

Perez continues to replicate Marte’s production with more power, and while Perez is almost certainly an inferior ballplayer, most fantasy baseball leagues don’t give a damn about the finer points of sabermetrics. Flog me if you must. Or, you can blame Harper for being bad, and Stanton and Hamilton for getting injured. But, honestly, Stanton hasn’t ben good enough to justify a top-3 slot anyway.

Oh, and other problems: Hamilton suffered an oblique injury that will derail him for at least a week but possibly the rest of the season. Billy Hams could not possibly be any more valuable — during a season in which home runs and stolen bases are trending in opposite directions in terms of recent history, Hamilton is on pace to steal the 5th-most (or 6th-most) stolen bases in a second half ever. The relative scarcity of stolen bases and Hamilton’s incredible pace made him an absoute juggernaut.

I think I have to rank Harper at the bottom of the top tier for reasons of posterity, pride, shame, etc., but I admittedly would demote him perhaps dozens of spots to roughly Andrew McCutchen territory if the 2015 season never happened.

Tier 2a: Speed, Etc.

A.J. Pollock was drafted as high as 4th overall prior to his spring training injury. Treat him accordingly. (edited 1:19 pm EDT)
Gregory Polanco
Stephen Piscotty
Christian Yelich
Trea Turner
Eduardo Nunez
Travis Jankowski
Keon Broxton

I’ll remind you in every tier: stolen bases are scarcer than ever relative to home runs. Eighty-five hitters have hit at least 20 home runs apiece and will could very well threaten the 100-hitter mark, only cracked twice (in 1999 and 2000) since the dawn of fantasy baseball in 1988. Meanwhile, only 20 players have stolen at least 20 bases, and there’s a high probability 2016 will produce the fewest 20-SB guys outside of the 2003-’05 seasons.

In other words, power is very easily found; reliable speed, not so much. Again, your value of speedsters depends on your needs. But, scarcity. Supply and demand. Whatever. Just take heed.

Turner will slow down, but this is him in a nutshell: below-average hit tool, plus-plus speed, a little bit of power. Six home runs through 213 plate appearances is already more than anyone expected, so consider it gravy. As for the batting average: be wary. The .403 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) will not float, and his plate discipline is currently Matt Kemp-ugly.

Nunez has slowed down quite a bit but he’s running enough to still be plenty worthwhile, kind of like a Marte Lite. Jankowski is, mmmmmm, Turner Lite, but with much less alarming plate discipline.

I reviewed Broxton here; he’s running up numbers akin to Chris Davis, Chris Carter and Khris Davis, but he’s running at the same time. Unfortunately, players like him with his most unusual skill set succeed very, very infrequently. But if there’s anyone on whom you want to play BABIP roulette in order to accrue 20 home runs and stolen bases combined, Broxton is your guy. His slot here is incredibly bullish but reflects the desperate, wild-card nature of his value and skill set. As for 2017… I’m sure we’ll revisit that in the offseason.

Tier 2b: Power

Giancarlo Stanton is back? As a pinch hitter, for the time being? I’m actually kind of nervous about that. It seems like they rushed him back. Proceed with caution here. (edited 7:28 pm EDT)
Yoenis Cespedes
Matt Kemp
Yasmany Tomas
Jay Bruce
Marcell Ozuna
Carlos Gonzalez
Adam Duvall
Curtis Granderson
Jayson Werth

It is what it is.

Tier 3: The Rising and the Beleaguered

Andrew McCutchen
Alex Dickerson
Hunter Pence
Odubel Herrera
Angel Pagan
Denard Span
Mallex Smith (DL60)
Chris Owings
Ben Zobrist
Ender Inciarte
Nick Markakis
Dexter Fowler
Michael Bourn is on the Orioles, I guess (edited 1:19 pm EDT)
Gerardo Parra

I’m super high on Dickerson. The plus minor league plate discipline has translated almost seamlessly, and he hits the ball hard. He might run a below-average BABIP, but he should contribute meaningfully to all five categories. Twenty homers, 10 steals, .275? Maybe the slight under on all, given he’ll be entering his age-27 season in 2017, but wouldn’t you be pretty jazzed about that in a deep league? He might even provide mixed-league value.

Herrera, Pagan, Span, Zobrist — they’re plate discipline specialists providing your batting average value with modest contributions to power and speed. I personally think they deserve a bump, but if I ranked them higher than the pure power hitters, people would flip. (Not saying that I would, but in the same tier — yeah, there might be issues.)

Smith should be back soon. He and Owings will provide cheap speed. Bourn trails them.

If you guessed Inciarte ranks second only to Bryant in WAR for the second half among NL outfielders, give yourself a pat on the back. It’s all riding the coattails of a .411 BABIP and some solid defense, so let’s not get too excited. He belongs in the same discussion as Herrera et al. above. Throw Markakis on that list as well.

Fowler and Parra provide five-category production, so to speak, but it’s modest in all regards. Both had something of a renaissance last year, but having endured injuries this season, both have yet to replicate those performances. I might be a little too low on them, but at this point, they’re not just not dynamic enough to carry you across the finish line in your league. I think I’d rather settle for someone who contributes meaningfully to four (or even three or two) categories than modestly to four or five.

One last time: value is relative to your needs at this point. Be smart.

Tier 4: Part-Timers, Mostly

Brandon Moss
David Dahl
Aaron Altherr
Joc Pederson
Willson Contreras
Scott Schebler
Randal Grichuk
Michael Conforto
Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Howie Kendrick
Tommy Pham
Kolten Wong

Moss, Pederson, Schebler, Grichuk, Conforto, Niewenuis, Pham — they’re all great sources of power for platoon bats. I really like what Schebler is doing so far. Despite being a kinda-old non-prospect, he flashed tools in Dodgers’ farm system in 2014-’15. He’s finally making good on them, smacking home runs with admirable, albeit not great, plate discipline. If the trend continues in September, it would alarm me if Schebler wasn’t in the Reds’ starting lineup come March 2017. They could certainly do worse (and will probably try to).

A note on Dahl: he’s running a .417 BABIP yet is only batting 18 percent better than league-average (118 wRC+). That should tell you how empty his power-speed combination will be once the regression hits. I’m guessing he’ll be overrated come draft day next season. The speed helps, but he’s a lot like the cyclically-demoted Grichuk and Conforto who by no coincidence occupy this same tier. “Coors Field!” Sure, yeah. Tiny boost. But it’s not the cure-all antidote.

Altherr is fun, dudes. Keep an eye on him. I’m telling you, he would have been on many a bold prediction list had he not gotten injured in the spring.

Tier 5: Less-Promising Part-Timers

Jorge Soler
Yasiel Puig
Domingo Santana
Josh Reddick
Michael Taylor
Jason Heyward
Jeff Francoeur
Peter Bourjos
Alejandro de Aza
Brandon Drury
Ichiro Suzuki
Ben Revere

It’s incredible that Heyward has been relegated to even most-time duty. There’s just not much hope for salvage this season. If you’re still holding on to him, you’re probably not contending, honestly.

Santana is interesting, but, eh. I mean, these guys could all be interesting if you’re desperate enough.

Disabled List

Giancarlo Stanton (DL15): According to the Miami Herald, the soonest Stanton would return is the last week of the season, making him essentially useless. You can drop him if you really need to and not think twice.
Matt Holliday (DL15): Hoping to return sometime in mid-to-late-September. OK to drop him as well.
Trayce Thompson (DL15): His chances of returning this season are dim. OK to drop.

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I’m running on fumes. Good luck all in your playoff pursuits. If I forgot anyone, let me know in the comments. I hope I didn’t miss any August trades. Don’t want to look like a ding dong, you know?

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Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant. Reigning FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Now a Tout Wars competitor.

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Bourn was traded to the Orioles in a move so boring that even as a DBacks fan I didn’t realize it for a few games.