To compete in the hitting categories, fantasy baseball managers must get notable production from their outfielders. The position is loaded with superstar talent, including seven potential first-round picks and many more who will populate the early rounds of drafts. As managers move into the middle of their drafts, there is a variety of skill sets to choose from, which makes this position an essential part of balancing a roster.
Managers in rotisserie leagues need to get plenty of stolen bases from their outfield group. This doesn't mean they need to draft five speedsters, but getting at least two players who will post sizable steals is an absolute must. There are few catchers and corner infielders who regularly steal bases, and leaving all the steals in the hands of the middle infielders is too much to ask of them.
Whether a league requires the manager to start three or five outfielders, wise drafters will anchor the position with at least one superstar. Then they will slowly chip away with additional picks throughout the selection process. A good plan also includes leaving an outfield position open until the later rounds, as the volume of options at the position means there should be some intriguing players who slip through the cracks.
Here are a few players who fit that description.
Chas McCormick took a big step forward (22 HR, 19 SB) but has plenty of room for improvement after appearing in just 115 games last season. He hit .285 with 14 homers and 10 steals in 64 games during the second half and is now a fixture in one of baseball’s best lineups. It’s easy to envision game-changing production from him across 150 games.
The Dodgers deserve plenty of credit for being patient with James Outman, who remained a lineup regular, despite posting a .552 OPS across May and June. The rookie rewarded his organization by logging an .851 OPS in the second half, and the club's offseason moves have left the 26-year-old locked into a full-time role in center field. Making strides against southpaws (.665 OPS in 2023) is the next step for this power-speed threat who compiled 23 homers and 16 steals last year.
Winston Churchill would've described Tyler O’Neill as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” St. Louis soured on O’Neill after two unproductive, injury-impacted seasons, but it’s hard to forget that he hit .286 with 34 homers and 15 steals in 2021. A fresh start in Boston could be just what the 28-year-old needs to rediscover his top form.
It’s possible that Jarred Kelenic is hopeless. Maybe he simply cannot cut it as a major leaguer. But the former elite prospect has an incredible opportunity to turn around a lackluster start to his career now that he is part of a Braves offense that torments opposing hurlers. Kelenic is a terrific late-round option in shallow leagues, as he should show in April if he is waiver-wire fodder or a potential 20-20 player.
Kerry Carpenter elicits some comparisons to both McCormick and Outman. The McCormick comparison comes with wondering what Carpenter will do with more playing time this year after he hit .278 with 20 homers in 118 games. And like Outman, Carpenter is a lefty batter who has plenty of room to improve against same-sided hurlers. As you can see, there are multiple ways for the 26-year-old to take a step forward.
Surprisingly, managers can get a 30-homer outfielder in the last round of their draft. Brent Rooker accomplished that feat last year, albeit with very little fanfare due to being on the lowly A’s. That said, the slugger was incredibly inconsistent, going deep nine times in April and on eight occasions after Sept. 1. Like Kelenic, Rooker is the type of boom-or-bust player to target near the end of drafts.
Nelson Velázquez could be an even better late-round power source than Rooker. The 25-year-old hit 33 homers between the majors and minors last year, with 14 of those long balls coming in 40 late-season games with the Royals. Velázquez hits oodles of fly balls, and his Statcast data suggests that his power totals from last year were justified. If installed as the Royals' full-time DH, he could go deep 30 times.
Jarren Duran enjoyed a great first half before a miserable August that included a slump at the dish and a toe injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. He should open 2024 as the team’s leadoff hitter, which provides the potential to collect 85 runs and more than 30 stolen bases. The one caveat is that he will likely experience some regression on his .295 average and .381 BABIP from a year ago.
Those who need speed at the end of their draft can consider Johan Rojas. The 23-year-old stole 62 bases in the minors in 2022 and totaled 44 swipes between the majors and minors last season. Reaching base will be the key for Rojas, as most projection systems have him pegged for an OBP in the range of .300. If he can play every day and beat that mark, the Phillies prospect could tally 30 swipes.
Finally, here are the best of the superstars who were mentioned at the start of this article.
Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves
Julio Rodríguez, Seattle Mariners
Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks
Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Juan Soto, New York Yankees
Fernando Tatís Jr., San Diego Padres
Yordan Álvarez, Houston Astros
Luis Robert Jr., Chicago White Sox
Adolis García, Texas Rangers
Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays