Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Outfield (2023)
We’re onto our final positional edition of this pre-draft fantasy baseball sleepers series. We’ve made our way around the entirety of the infield and now head to the outfield. Outfield is a crucial position when it comes to fantasy baseball. In most leagues, the designation of an outfielder is simply that. It will not be position specific in terms of left, center or right. As for other leagues they may require positional designations.
Outfield is a position that must be drafted early in drafts. If we take a look at the current average draft positions seven of the top ten projected picks are outfielders. That’s saying something. The outfield is also unique because you find a wide variety of stats. You have your power hitters, your speedsters, your guys who hit for average. Every statistical box can be checked in the outfield.
Due to the majority of leagues offering three starting outfield spots opposed to the one for most positions, I have five sleepers in the outfield. Enough talk, let's get into things!
Each year I do this sleepers series, offering my favorite sleepers per position leading up to draft season. Typically per position I will offer my three favorites, while offering five sleepers for the outfield, starting and relief pitchers.
You can find the other editions of this series below:
Masataka Yoshida (Red Sox)
2021 Stats: N/a
2022 Projections: 565 PA, .305 BA, 20 HR, 82 RBI, 70 R, 3 SB & 62 SO (ZIPS)
Masataka Yoshida joins the Red Sox after a very successful career in Japan. The 29 year-old is currently receiving consideration of hitting out of the leadoff position for the Red Sox. This would see him hitting before the likes of Rafael Devers and Justin Turner. However, projected lineups are all over the place on Yoshida. He may even hit cleanup for Boston. Only time will tell.
He hit for an impressive .419 OBP in Japan. To put that in perspective Aaron Judge ran away with the stat a year ago, leading the league with a staggering .425 OBP but second place was Freddie Freeman with a .407. Not saying that the pitching in Japan equates to that in the MLB, I’m just putting it out there that Yoshida knows how to get on base.
He’s currently being drafted in the 15th round of 12 man-leagues. ZIPS has him projected in hitting over .300 with 20 home runs and over 80 RBIs. Any guy hitting over .300 with those types of power numbers should be off the boards in the first five rounds. You’re getting him in the 15th. This is the type of sleeper that can win you a league. Become familiar with Yoshida prior to your drafts or you may regret it.
Riley Greene (Detroit Tigers)
2021 Stats: 418 PA, .253 BA, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 46 R, 1 SB & 120 SO
2022 Projections: 409 BA, .258 BA, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 47 R, 3 SB & 103 SO
Riley Greene, a once top prospect, injured his foot in spring training last year which delayed his MLB debut. He didn’t live up to the expectations a year ago but he is still 22 years-old and doesn’t even have a full season under his belt. Once he did get going however, he came around to becoming an average MLB hitter.
It’s worth noting that the dimensions on what was one of the worst ballparks for hitters have changed. Comerica Park lowered the outfield wall heights and brought in center field by a few feet for the upcoming 2023 season. This will help hitters in a big way.
Greene sported an above-average exit velocity and hard-hit rate a year ago and despite the 28.7-percent strikeout rate, offers an underlying plate discipline. He’s currently being had in the 16th round of 12 man-leagues. It’s too early to write Green off. He probably won’t become the star he was once tagged with, but he may end up being an above-average hitter.
Jesse Winker (Milwaukee Brewers)
2021 Stats: 547 PA, .219 BA, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 51 R, 0 SB & 103 SO
2022 Projections: 522 PA, .253 BA, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 62 R, 2 SB & 98 SO
Jesse Winker had a down year in 2022 due to a multitude of injuries and his struggles can be attributed to that. He ended up needing both knee and neck surgeries in the off-season but is expected to be ready for opening day. Winker’s 2022 struggles, along with the injuries, too can be attributed to the move from one of the league’s best ballparks for hitters in The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to T-Mobile Ballpark in Seattle, one of the hardest ballparks for hitters.
He now moves to Milwaukee, where the ballpark offers a bit more forgiveness as it is middle-of-the-road when it comes to hitter friendly parks for left-handed hitters. Although ranked in the middle, it ranks fifth in terms of home runs to left-handed hitters.
Winker can currently be found in the 19th round of 12-man leagues. He was a high level hitter as recently as 2021 where he was an all-star in his final season in Cincinnati. He too is a career .270 hitter so the .219 average a season ago can almost be thrown out the window. He hit 24 homeruns in 2021 as well as hit for .305. I’m not saying he will return to those numbers but flirting with 20 home runs and getting to that .270 batting average number in the 19th round of 12-man leagues is my definition of a sleeper.
Seth Brown (Oakland Athletics)
2022 Stats: 555 PA, .230 BA, 25 HR, 73 RBI, 55 R, 11 SB & 146 SO
2023 Projections: 508 PA, .226 BA, 22 HR, 66 RBI, 56 R, 9 SB & 132 SO
Seth Brown has the unfortunate position of playing for the Oakland Athletics. Due to this, his RBI and run numbers will be down but that doesn’t mean he’s a wash in fantasy. He still hit for over 70 RBIs a year ago and plated 55 runs.
Brown not only offers a bunch of power with his bat, shown a year ago with 25 homers, but he too can swipe some bags. He stole 11 bases a year ago and with the new base sizes, I don’t see why he can’t push that number to 15. He will take a hit to your batting average as he is projected to hit under .230 but that’s not why you’re drafting Brown.
Among outfielders a year ago, he ranked tenth for home runs and was top 20 in RBIs. He made improvements in his walk-percentage and strikeout-percentage from 2021 to 2022 and those improvements should continue into 2023. Brown can currently be found in the 20th round of 12-man leagues. A guy who will hit over 20 homers and flirt with 70 RBIs and can swipe a few bags along the way, has no right being drafted so late.
Bryan De La Cruz (Miami Marlins)
2021 Stats: 355 PA, .252 BA, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 38 R, 4 SB & 90 SO
2022 Projections: 399 BA, .262 BA, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 41 R, 4 SB & 94 SO
If you’re an analytics guy, Bryan De La Cruz’ StatCast page suggests signs of stardom. He’s at least in the 80th percentile or better in average exit velocity, barrel rate and hard-hit rate. His expected xOBA last season of .355 would have placed him between names such as Byron Buxton and Pete Alonso. It too would put him ahead of guys such as Kyle Tucker, Teoscar Hernandez and Giancarlo Stanton.
If we take a look at what he did in September of last year he did hit like a star. He had a line of 388/.419/.718 with six home runs in 23 games. If this is a sign of things to come and not just a hot streak, De La Cruz could be another budding star produced by the Marlins.
He’s currently being drafted in the 23rd round of 12-mean leagues. There are worse ways to invest a pick that late, that is for sure.