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2014 Pod’s Picks: Outfield

The outfield edition of Pod’s Picks may help you find value or learn who to avoid at their current going rates. The bullish section will only include players from my top 64 (which assume four outfielders starting at the Util slot, in addition to the 60 starters at OF), while the bearish group will only include those whose RotoGraphs consensus is in the top 64.

Bullish

Jayson Werth

My Rank: 17 | Consensus: 40

I’m not usually one to overvalue veterans coming off a big rebound year and a new career high in wOBA, so this surprises me. Nothing really stands out as obviously flukey, even though his BABIP and HR/FB rate are likely to decline a bit. I think the biggest question mark is his health, which given his age (turning 35 this year) is a justifiable concern. I would guess a lot of the difference in ranking is a result of different playing time projections. I’m projecting 580 plate appearances, which is more than each of his last two seasons.

Christian Yelich

My Rank: 43 | Consensus: 65

I had no idea I was bullish on Yelich. If anything, I figured he’d be one of those overhyped/valued sophomores hurt by his surrounding cast. Instead, he’s looking like one of my top sleepers at the position. He possesses an intriguing blend of power and speed and is expected to slot into the two hole in the order. With a history of strong BABIP marks in the minors, a weak contact rate won’t automatically mean a harmful batting average.

Brandon Moss

My Rank: 32 | Consensus: 52

I dunno. I guess I figure a similar performance this year and the others are baking in some regression. With an average batted ball distance of 295 feet two years in a row and xHR/FB rate between 18% and 21%, his power is no fluke. That he sits against lefties is annoying for weekly transaction league owners though.

Junior Lake

My Rank: 60 | Consensus: 80

Man, I feel like that newbie Yahoo leaguer who just looks at last year’s stats and ranks players based solely on one season. Despite a high strikeout rate, Lake BABIPed his way to a respectable .284 batting average. Total fluke you say? His xBABIP was .432! He won’t post another nearly 28% line drive rate again though, but he has always sported inflated BABIP marks in the minors. He also possesses power and speed, meaning a full year could yield a 15/20 type season. His playing time doesn’t appear to be set in stone, however, as Ryan Sweeney could potentially steal some at-bats away versus righties if he isn’t part of a straight platoon with Justin Ruggiano.

Bearish

Dexter Fowler

My Rank: 74 | Consensus: 44

Fowler is sure going to miss Coors Field. It’s true that you can’t just take home/road splits at face value and hitters generally perform better at home. But, he’s posted a .384 wOBA at home, versus just a .312 mark away from Coors. His HR/FB rate is double at home than away, and he batted just .241 in away parks. Coors also reduces strikeouts, and Fowler has swung and missed much more often in away games. All this is bad news for his fantasy prospects this year. Of course, he’s also heading to a weaker lineup, which will further cut into his RBI and runs scored totals.

Nick Swisher

My Rank: 58 | Consensus: 38

A valuation thing? I’m projecting a very similar line to what he did last year, with a slight uptick in batting average, and right in line with the projection systems. The only thing I could think of if this isn’t a valuation issue is that my fellow rankers believe his shoulder issues hampered his performance and a healthier Swisher will be improved.

Nelson Cruz

My Rank: 59 | Consensus: 42

I don’t know, maybe the others expect him to be healthier than I am projecting? I don’t think he’ll repeat that 20%+ HR/FB rate, even though his new home park is just as beneficial to right-handed home run hitters. He’s no longer much of a basestealer and he’s hit in the .260s in four of the past five years, so he won’t help you there either. He used to be undervalued in fantasy circles, but I’m afraid he may now be overvalued.

Bonus:

Giancarlo Stanton

My Rank: 21 | Consensus: 7

I skipped a couple of players to get to him because it’s more useful to learn of my pessimism here than it would be for someone ranked outside the top 10 by the other rankers. This isn’t necessarily due to health concerns, as my plate appearance projection of 600 comes in just one less than his career high. My concern is that he’s not a real help in batting average and his surrounding lineup just isn’t very good, resulting in lower RBI and runs scored totals than you would expect from a middle of the order hitter with his massive power. He only knocked in 62 runs last year, even though he swatted 24 long balls! The lineup still stinks and it’s going to be difficult for him to reach the 100 RBI plateau or reach a new career high in runs scored, which currently stands at just 79.