I’ll own up to it: ranking Carlos Gomez first last month was careless of me. I blindly assumed production from him when his peripherals advised otherwise. Josh Shepardson recommended cutting bait in keeper and dynasty leagues. Frankly, the long-term outlook at this moment isn’t great.
Also, I’ll own up to undervaluing Justin Upton. That was also a strangely careless oversight. Frankly, I love five-category contributors, and so should you, so I don’t know why he didn’t excite me more.
I’m going to undertake the impossibly difficult task of creating tiers by Coen Brothers films. This will probably be harder than ranking the outfielders, so go ahead and have your “so the guys in the bottom tier are actually the best?” jokes locked and loaded.
All rankings reflect expected rest-of-season production. Rankings are fairly concrete between tiers but fluid within them, meaning a hitter can probably be moved up or down a few spots. Also, I always find it hard to rank players actively on the disabled list, so please take DL guys with a grain of salt or feel free to re-rank them in your head. I have provided expected DL timelines for your consumption.
One could make a legitimate case that Harper should own the top tier by himself and truly be the Big Lebowski — you know, the other Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire. One could also make a legitimate case that Upton should usurp the top spot.
I think the most important discussion, however, needs to concern Blackmon’s baserunning: after stealing a mere two bases on four attempts in April, he stole eight bases in May and another 11 in June. He’s on pace for roughly 45 stolen bases, but if we ignore May, it looks more like 50-plus. We know baserunning waxes and wanes as the year progresses, but Blackmon is clearly in a groove. I’m willing to take some heat for this rank, but five homers and 20 steals looks like his rest-of-season floor, with 10 homers and 25 steals looking more like a mean expectation.
As far as tier names, I won’t be surprised if this one takes the most heat. I think it was masterfully written and criminally underrepresented at the 2010 Academy Awards. Let’s talk Pirates: I know McCutchen turned things around after his horrible start to the season, but May was his truly hot month, not May. He’s simply no longer a five-category fantasy contributor when he’s not running. A 20-homer, 10-steal campaign is serviceable, but Upton is almost already there and we’ve not yet reached July. I’m almost tempted to move him down into the next tier. Meanwhile, Marte is also running less, and his batted ball profile doesn’t really support his power surge. I’d be surprised if he reached 20 dingers, but he should still flirt with 30 steals if he can somehow play more than 135 games, the magic number at which he seems to enjoy stopping.
Also, I have no idea how to rank Hamilton.
The Puig ranking is debatable, but his continually improving plate discipline should make up for holes in the rest of his offensive game. I’d be happy if he reached double-digit homers by the season’s end, and it’s hard to say if he’ll run, but the almost-.300/.400/.500 line amid a potent Dodgers lineup spells good things to come.
Hitters of modest power and speed comprise most of the rest of the tier. Bruce and Granderson are almost clones of each other — Granderson’s batted ball profile had anticipated his recent power spike for a long, long time. Span, Maybin, Fowler and Heyward are filling all statistical categories nicely; what really separates one from another is plate discipline, and Maybin has shown a good deal of it.
Although his timetable is fairly clear, Stanton is still kind of hard to rank. I really have no doubts he’ll outperform every outfielder listed below him even with a month’s less playing time. And, ah, there’s Gomez. His batted ball profile hasn’t declined much — he’s only hitting about four percentage points fewer fly balls and hard-hit balls — but at 29 years old, any declines can be worrisome. The baserunning, however, is most troubling because it’s, uh, not happening.
Kemp is starting to rebound but will probably not replicate last year’s second-half surge let alone any of his prior MVP-caliber production. However, I acknowledge he maybe deserves to be in the tier above, nestled somewhere between Heyward and Granderson. Taylor and Grichuk and crushing the ball while striking out a whole lot, making for interesting high-power, moderate-speed, low-average rookies with potentially bright futures in keeper and dynasty leagues, as prospectors already know.
Matt Holliday (DL: mid-July?)
Jorge Soler (DL: mid-July?)
Khris Davis (DL: mid-July)
Guerrero has Yoenis Cespedesian power, so he’s definitely a powerful dude, but his 10 homers in nine at-bats or whatever he accomplished earlier in the season made him the poster boy for regression. Holliday’s batted ball profile has taken a huge nosedive since last year, marking a much larger decline than in years’ past. During the preseason, I wrote that I’d believe the decline when I saw it; well, it looks like Holliday could be entering the twilight of his career. He’ll remain plenty serviceable, especially with a .300 average and .400 OBP, but if I was his owner, I’d be happy if he reached double-digit home runs.
Soler has not elevated nor pulled the ball this season, making it hard for the young phenom to flash his power. He’s probably still a lost cause this season after he returns from his injury, but I’d be very reluctant to drop him in long-term leagues. Most batted ball metrics correlate fairly strongly over time — that is, a player’s fly ball rate last year can reasonably predict his fly ball rate this year — but line drives don’t fit the bill. Thus, Soler and his way-above-average 29-percent line drive rate can certainly evolve into something much more next year.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Jayson Werth (DL – mid-August)
Wil Myers (DL: August)
Corey Dickerson (DL: unknown)
Nori Aoki (DL: unknown)
Carl Crawford (DL – mid-July)
Michael Morse (DL – early July)
Scott Van Slyke
Werth, Myers and Dickerson all greatly concern me. After a flashy April, Myers reinjured — reinjured!!! — his wrist. This is the same injury that allegedly sapped all his power last year. Meanwhile,
Werth also reaggravated the injury that forced him to miss Opening Day (edit, 12:58 pm EDT: no he didn’t), and Dickerson’s plantar fasciitis continues to flare up. They will all return at some point, but I hesitate to place much faith in them. I’ll re-rank them in August, but until then…
Considerable apologies to Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and True Grit. Even more apologies to Inside Llewyn Davis and Miller’s Crossing because I have no idea why or how I haven’t watched them yet.