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Forecasting Outfield in 2018: Trout Still on Top?

Outfield is loaded with prospects who have legitimate shots at becoming All-Star players. At the moment there are several future fantasy first-round talents, which makes it incredibly difficult to pinpoint which one will sit atop the positional thrown four years down the road.

To complicate matters, unlike several of the positions already featured, the uber-elite major league staples are just as young as the next crop of talent. In other words, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper aren’t going anywhere.

To catch up on the previous 2018 posts, you can find them here:

As usual, here is the typical boiler plate crystal ball language for the series. A ton can change in five years. How many players are truly good enough to be can’t miss, top-of-the-heap talents, or for players already tearing up the league today to do it another five years down the road? Barring some crazy elites, it just doesn’t happen. OK, I’m done trying to manage your expectations — it’s time to own it! Here we go with the future of outfielders.

Current Player to Bet On

Smile, Mike. Adam says you'll still be the best come 2018 (Photo: Mashable.com)

Smile, Mike. Adam says you’ll still be the best come 2018 (Photo: Mashable.com)

I am not exactly breaking any news by telling you this is a two-man race. On one hand you have Mike Trout, the most complete player in the league and a true impact player in every single category that could ever matter in any type of fantasy league. I honestly don’t believe Harper will ever put up numbers that eclipse the fantasy value of Trout’s .330 BA, 100 R/RBI, 30 HR, 30 SB seasons, so the only real questions are whether Trout will still be able to put up numbers like this four years from now and whether Harper will ever realize the potential we have been led to believe he has.

In my opinion the answer to the first question is yes. We have seen plenty of examples of the all time great power/speed combination outfielders having elite seasons over 8-10 year periods – Ken Griffey Jr., Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Carlos Beltran, etc. Those are just a few examples of great players with power/speed longevity, and I see no reason why Trout’s name won’t be added to that list. Plus, he will still be in his 20s in 2018 so while he will have some mileage, age won’t really be working against him.

In Harper’s case I do believe he has the skills and speed to have a 40/40 season, but I have serious doubts he will ever even go 30/30 because he plays with such reckless abandon that he may never get enough healthy games in a single season to do it. Even in a season where he avoids the DL I have a hard time believing he will go without several to many of those dreaded “DTD” labels next to his name when viewing your fantasy roster. I would be surprised if he ever hits consistently above .275. Simply put, even Harper is not on Trout’s level. Can you tell I am a bit sour on Harper?

The Next Big Thing

Buxton could develop into the next Andre McCutchen (Photo: Philly.com)

Buxton could develop into the next Andrew McCutchen (Photo: Philly.com)

The next crop of outfield super stars is deep. I really can’t go wrong by picking any of the Big 4 — Byron Buxton, Oscar Taveras, George Springer, and Gregory Polanco, listed in order of how I would rank them for 2018, which by definition means Buxton is the winner of the highly coveted label “Adam Nodiff’s Next Big Thing.”  Woo! Go, Buxton!

It’s always more fun to go against the grain, but the reason why I, like practically all other fantasy analysts, cozy up to Buxton so much is because I think he will put up numbers very similar to Andrew McCutchen. He does it all; he has lots of speed, good power, and projects as a high batting average hitter too. He’s the complete package. Will he be better than Trout? No, I don’t think so, but who is?!

At this point Buxton is still leveraging his raw talent so his future success will depend on just how refined his game becomes. With that said there doesn’t appear to be any glaring holes for him to work on, meaning even his worst case scenario is a floor higher than most other well above average type prospects.

The Dark Horse

Raise your hand if you expected Frazier to look a little less...red (Photo: Cleveland.com)

Raise your hand if you expected Frazier to look a little less…red (Photo: Cleveland.com)

Clint Frazier is a powerful man. He was the Cleveland Indians first-round pick in 2013 and has legit superstar potential. Like most prospects he still has some kinks to work out, primarily his aggressiveness at the plate; his 33% strikeout rate in rookie ball last year has a long way to go.

Even so, he still managed a .297 batting average so my guess is that he was just used to crushing basically every pitch a high school pitcher could throw at him, no matter the location. This tendency to expand the strike zone is something I think he will clean up with more experience, and scouts rave that he has the work ethic to do it.

Down the road he profiles as a five-tool player, someone who can hit over .270 with 3o home runs and steal low double digit bases. I would guess that sounds a lot like something you might be interested in!

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About the author: Adam grew up in a New York City suburb, which has doomed me to a life as a Mets fan. Attending Muhlenberg College and then living outside Philadelphia (during a run of some excellent Phillies teams) certainly didn’t make being a Mets fan any easier. Currently, he calls Boston home after attending graduate school at Boston College, and his favorite players to own include Ben Zobrist, Troy Tulowitzki, and Pablo Sandoval. (@ANodBaseball)

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  • Chris

    Buxton good! But Bryant will be in OF by then. So I will go Kris Bryant as a darkhorse candidate here, being maybe one of 3 people in all of MLB hitting 35+ HR in 2018.

    • Adam Nodiff

      That is a great call, I think he works as “The Next Big Thing” too. He is such a big time name it is hard to call him a dark horse, but I love where you are going with it!!