Nicklaus Gaut’s 2022 Outfielder Rankings


“Must…hit…publish…before nine more transactions force more revisions.” We have no time for chit-chat.

Okay, a little chit-chat. I left the high-priced guys behind for analysis and mostly focused on pockets for particular categorical values, sticking to players taken in the latter parts of drafts. If you’re just joining us, here are the ranks for first base, third base, and catcher.

ADP taken from recent NFBC drafts and players are sorted by their most valuable fantasy position, following a hierarchy of: C > 2B > OF > 3B > 1B > S

 

Nicklaus Gaut’s 2022 OF Ranks + Projections

Fantasy Notes For Recent News

  • Fernando Tatis Jr. (broken wrist) – Tatis breaking his wrist obviously has the biggest fantasy implications, as the consensus top-three pick now looks to miss ~3 months. I dropped him to OF 34 (with 350 PA) but even that might be too aggressive with wrist injuries that are notoriously tricky to hit the ground running with. Zero interest.
  • Kris Bryant (signed with COL) – The internets are telling me that this move might just increase Bryant’s fantasy value. And I can’t say I disagree! The problem for me is that the projection bump only gets his value up to just above what his pre-signing ADP was, not where it’s going to shoot up to now.
  • Seiya Suzuki (signed with CHC) – He won’t be in as good of a lineup as he would’ve been in other destinations (RIP “Breaking news: Seiya Suzuki signs with the Padres for 5 yrs/$70 million) but Chicago could end up being a bigger boon for fantasy players considering how favorable Wrigley Field is for right-handed power. And I might not be too conservative on his plate appearances and a boost might come once spring once we see more lineups. But I also might be too aggressive on his performance because while leading the NPB Central League with a 1.073 OPS in 2021 was impressive, the counterpoint is that the 1.006 OPS in second place belonged to Tyler Austin.
  • Kyle Schwarber (signed with PHI) –  As soft as a spot as he could land; great lineup, great home park.
  • Eddie Rosario (signed with ATL) – Pretty much ditto from above; resigning with Atlanta makes total sense and his home park/lineup gets him a small bump in projections.

Tier: Post-200 ADP Speed Bubble

  • Tommy Pham, OF 50: 16 SB (250 ADP, OF 73)
  • Josh Rojas, OF 53: 13 SB (224 ADP, OF 63)
  • Harrison Bader, OF 56: 14 SB (217 ADP, OF 62) 
  • Ramón Laureano, OF 57: 14 SB (228 ADP, OF 65)
  • Raimel Tapia, OF 64: 19 SB (258 ADP, OF 68)

One of many mid-tier players whose free-agent status could be depressing their price, Tommy Pham seems a pretty reasonable bet to provide ~30 HR+SB even if he doesn’t sign in a situation where more than 500 PA seems likely. But it is nice to hear that he’s open to playing first base to improve his free-agent desirability so hopefully, that flexibility will lead to him piecing together something closer to a role with +550 PA.

But  I’m most excited because Pham gives me a chance to finally fulfill my official tout-ligation for asking: “why draft this guy here when you can draft this guy here?”. Because, I mean, come on…Why draft Trent Grisham at a 129 ADP when you can draft Tommy Pham at a 250 ADP? Thank you. Wow, what a terrific audience.

Tier: Post-300 ADP Speed Bubble

  • Rafael Ortega, OF 80: 14 SB (314 ADP, OF 82)
  • Manuel Margot, OF 76: 15 SB (318 ADP, OF 92)
  • Lorenzo Cain, OF 77: 16 SB (343 ADP, OF 96)

Lorenzo Cain has been of my favorite targets when needing to fill in some speed late in deeper leagues even though it is, of course, worrisome that the nearly 36-year-old missed over half of 2021 with a variety of leg injuries. But Cain also admitted after missing half of the spring with his first pulled quad that he’d ramped up his running too quickly after opting out of the 2020 season and I think its reasonable to assume the similar injuries that followed were about a soft-tissue domino effect more so than his body going into old-man breakdown mode – and yes, OMBM is a real disease, with doctors, and everything.

The projections for his playing time seem to reflect this worry but I’m more optimistic considering Cain had crossed 600 PA in four of the previous five seasons prior to his 2020 opt-out. I have him for 500 PA but think that might still end up being conservative as the incoming NL DH will allow the Brewers to get him more rest days in the field. And he missed time but don’t forget just how productive Cain was last year in just 78 games:

286 PA: 8 HR – 40 R – 36 RBI – 13 SB

Tier: Possible Low-Key Sources of Value Following Oakland’s Seemingly* Inevitable Fire Sale

  • Seth Brown, OF 91 (435 ADP, OF 120) – rookie contract, two years from arbitration.
  • Tony Kemp, OF 94 (382 ADP, OF 102) – owed $2.25 million in 2022, Arb 3 in 2023, FA in 2024.
  • Chad Pinder, OF 119 (525 ADP, OF 143) – owed $2.725 million in 2022, FA in 2023.
  • Stephen Piscotty, OF 139 (644 ADP, OF 168) – owed $7.58 million in 2022, club option in 2023.

* And by seemingly, I mean ongoing, as Matt Olson and Matt Chapman have now officially joined Chris Bassitt in the ranks of former A’s, with the clock ticking on Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas.

This tier is only relevant in 15-team leagues and up but all of the above could return value from deep in the draft if their playing time and batting orders are artificially inflated following a sell-off by the Bay. Or, they could end up being waiver-wire fodder after being the things that get sold, winding up as little more than spare parts on contending teams. It’ll probably depend on which salaries Oakland can convince potential trade partners to eat.

Going just by contract status, Seth Brown seems to be the safest bet to stick around and his power also gives him the highest fantasy ceiling – after all, he did hit 20 HR last season in just 307 PA. The .214 AVG it came with certainly isn’t appealing but the power looks legit (and he did hit 37 HR in 500 PA at Triple-A in 2019) with the home runs in 2021 backed by a 13.9% Brl% that rose to 16.7% in the second half. If you’re looking for a lottery ticket with the upside of a poor man’s Joey Gallo, Brown’s your man. Speaking of…

Tier: Just Have a Little Batting Average Foresight

  • Joey Gall0, OF 29 (186 ADP, OF 50)
  • Adam Duvall, OF 46 (231 ADP, OF 60)

Confession; I don’t stress about batting average that much. Well, at least, I don’t stress about it later in drafts because I generally build my teams to have a good batting average base early. That way I can be free to grab power later whilst having nary a worry about getting weighed down by a BA sink like Joey Gallo. Because even with a .199 AVG and a fairly low 77 RBI, Gallo was still a top-70 hitter in 12-team leagues in 2021, yet is being drafted as a top-120 hitter on NFBC in 2022, with an overall 197 ADP.

Playing in a park that is seemingly built for his left-handed light-tower power (and in a Yankee lineup that gets better by the day), coming in around 40 HR and 170 R+RBI doesn’t seem like its a super high bar – hell, my man Pico will even throw in 5 SB. As long as you’re not scared by batting-average boogiemen and do a little planning, Gallo is one of the easiest profit sources in this range.

Just can’t stomach the Mendoza-like qualities of our guy Joey? What would you say about trading some of that power (and counting stats) for ~30 points of batting average and an ADP about 50 picks later for a player who was a top-50 hitter (and top-20 OF) in 12-team leagues in 2021 according to both the RazzBall player rater and the FanGraphs auction calculator? Is that something you might be interested in?

Because Adam Duvall crushes bombs:

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Duvall hit 42 HR split across the majors and minors in 2019, hit 16 HR in just 57 games in 2020, and finished 2021 with 38 HR in 555 PA. And while his .324 wOBA in 2021 may have been mundane, you’re paying for what he does on contact and he certainly didn’t disappoint there. Duvall posted career-highs in 2021 both with a .448 wOBAcon and .457 xwOBAcon, while his 16.1% Brl% (also a career-high) was in the top-8% of baseball, with an even better 17.0% Brl% in the second half.

I repeat, Adam Duvall crushes bombs:

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Not to belabor things but I can at least understand the hesitancy when it comes to drafting Gallo, who simply might not fit a lot of team builds, regardless of the power upside. But the lack of love for Duvall seems undeserved considering his career .232 AVG in today’s low-BA game is nowhere close to the average liability that Gallo is, while also playing in a good hitter’s park and in the middle of what should again be an excellent offense.

Not to go full-narrative but after a series of one-year deals, buyouts, and arbitration, the 33-year-old Duvall will enter 2023 as an unrestricted free agent with likely his last chance for a big cash-in contract…And he’s proven he has the three-step plan that just might pull it off:

Step 1. Crush more bombs
Step 2. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Step 3. Profit

Tier: Oh No, I Drafted Joey Gallo Without Any Batting Average Foresight and Now I’m On the Verge of Panicking

Take a deep breath, everything will be fine. Contrary to what our assumptions might be in this whiff-heavy modern game, there are still good batting averages lying around in the second half of drafts. And not just average, as this tier also has some sneaky goodies and is one of my favorites to shop in.

  • A.J. Pollock, OF 45 (211 ADP, OF 55) – 2021: .297 AVG, .285 xBA
  • Charlie Blackmon, OF 58 (240 ADP, OF 59) – 2021: .270 AVG, .292 xBA
  • Michael Brantley, OF 63 (257 ADP, OF 64) – 2021: .311 AVG, .312 xBA
  • Raimel Tapia, OF 64 (258 ADP, OF 68) – 2021: .273 AVG, .249 xBA
  • Brandon Nimmo, OF 47 (287 ADP, OF 76) – 2021: .292 AVG, .271 xBA
  • Luis Arraez, OF 78 (298 ADP, OF 78) – 2021: .294 AVG, .294 xBA

Michael Brantley will eternally be the natural batting average handcuff to players like Gallo but just because something is obvious doesn’t mean it won’t work. We know what we’re getting from Brantley; he’ll give you better than a .300 AVG and a non-embarrassing amount of runs – everything else will be gravy.

But when you take the combined 2021 stats for a hypothetical (and very swarthy-sounding) “Joel Brantello”, you end up with two players with an average line of: 23 HR – 79 R – 62 RBI – 4 SB – .253 AVG. That might not seem overly sexy but it should be considering the needs you can fill at their two draft prices.

Barring a trade out of town, dem boys in Colorado both have draft costs that seem far too low. Because even having relatively down seasons, both Charlie Blackmon and Raimel Tapia finished as top-50 outfielders in 12-team leagues according to the RazzBall player rater, coming in even better on the FanGraphs auction calculator (#39 and #43, respectively). For comparison, that’s higher than Dylan Carlson, Trent Grisham, and Jorge Soler, all of whom are being drafted far earlier.

The field has been further crowded by the impending arrival of Freddie Freeman but I’m still bullish on A. J. Pollock, who gets no respect in drafts and thereby continues to be one of my favorite targets in 2022. Pollack finished as a top-40 OF last season, even though he was limited to just 422 PA, and should reap the benefits of an NL DH that will lead to more PAs and (hopefully) more health to go with the decreased time in the field.

My Brandon Nimmo hype train got derailed by injuries in 2021, finishing with 386 PA in 92 games after finger and hamstring injuries sent him to the IL. But it’s time to get that train back up to speed and officially declare 2022 as the SZN of Nimmo.

Comparing mine to other projections, the main differences are in playing time and batting average. For example, ATC projects a .262 AVG over 123 games and 522 PA, while FG Depth Charts says a .259 AVG over 134 games and 581 PA. But I think there are good reasons to be bullish on both.

  1. Nimmo ran a rotten .221 AVG in 2019 but also ended the year on fire after missing a large chunk of the season with a neck injury. He returned in September to slash .261/.430/.565 over his final 93 PA, with a .409 wOBA and .995 OPS. And in his total 692 PA since that return, Nimmo has slashed .283/.401/.461, with a .376 wOBA and .862 OPS.
  2. It may seem suspicious that his.292 AVG in 2021 was backed by a .366 BABIP and .271 xBA, with a .346 BABIP and .263 xBA from the period in #1 but Nimmo also has a .345 BABIP and .252 xBA. And I’m okay with banking on the BABIP gods continuing to smile upon a left-handed hitter with plus speed.
  3. Assuming health is always a dicey proposition but barring injuries there aren’t many reasons (offensive or defensive) to think that Nimmo won’t be playing nearly every day. He was a plus-defender in centerfield last season, with an OAA (outs above average) in the 86th percentile and a 6.2 UZR/150 that was the 11th highest among qualified center fielders (min 500 innings). The glove should play just as well with Starling Marte now pushing him to a corner (likely right field, with Mark Canha in left). And at the plate, Nimmo is better vs RHP  but was still slashed .306/.429/.398/.827 over 120 PA vs LHP in 2021, with a .372 wOBA (.369 wOBA vs RHP) and 139 wRC+.
  4. In 160 games since returning from injury in September of 2019 (excluding pinch-hitting/running) Nimmo has batted second in 10 games and leadoff in 129 games. In addition to not having any splits issues, he is an on-base machine, with a career .393 OBP and over a .400 OBP in three of his past four seasons. Given history and skill-set, the rational part of my brain refuses to believe that the Mets won’t go Nimmo/Marte at the top of their order. And the Mets are always rational, right?
  5. Plate appearances are a function of lineup spot and team scoring. No more, no less. Batting leadoff in a majority of his games, Nimmo averaged 4.2 PA per game on a Mets team that scored 636 runs in 2021 – the fourth-fewest in baseball. Leadoff hitters on a top-10 scoring offense, on the other hand, will generally average around 4.4 PA/G or more. If you believe Nimmo is batting leadoff (I do!) and believe the Mets will be much better offensively (I do!), then Nimmo’s plate appearances will necessarily shoot up in an everyday role.

But Nicklaus, even though he’s the 77th OF by ADP, does ranking him as the OF 47 really necessitate declaring a formal Nimmo SZN? I mean, we do try not to joke around with things like that.

Well, let me definitively state for the committee that I promise to be the last person to ever disrespect the sanctity of declaring official SZNs. So, while Nimmo is ranked off of data-driven projections, I’m also not disallowing the chances he far outperforms them because the baseline dominoes for doing so aren’t unreasonably high.

If the Mets are a top-10 offense, Nimmo will blow past his PA projections if he’s playing every day and batting leadoff. Given health (big given!) and going by recent history, the latter two seem reasonable. And with how new-and-improved the Mets are, the former better seem reasonable, or else a whole mess of New Yorkers will spend 2022 even grumpier than usual.

Thus, the SZN designation has been bestowed on Nimmo because he would cruise to 650 PA in the above scenario, contributing in five categories while providing a plus batting average and pushing 100 runs scored.

Nim-mo SZ-ZN, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.



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