The outfield is a special place on the ballfield. Open grasses, the last line of defense to the long ball and nobody to hear the inevitable self-scolding when something does not go as planned. Not only is it a special place, but over the years it has allowed us the opportunity to witness immensely talented defensive wizards such as Nelson Cruz, Kyle Schwarber, Matt Adams and even Jose Canseco (who had Canseco on the Razzball bingo board?).
Position scarcity is not what it once was, but outfield is still a rather deep position at the draft table. Today I profile 3 players you have specifically requested, and all are coming off strong showings in the unique 2020 season. Let us look and see if we have any diamonds in that rough outfield grass for the 2021 fantasy baseball season.
Ian Happ (ADP – 160)
After a few years trying to find a spot in the Chicago lineup, Happ played in 57 of 60 games for the Cubs in 2020. He ended up sitting in the 84th percentile for exit velocity, 89th for hard hit rate and 71st for xSLG. Yes, he can mash out of the lead-off spot where he spent most of 2020. Last year was a small sample size (ignore 2020 if we want), but even in 2019 Happ had a similar profile while only lacking playing time. One area of caution as much of the power (31 HR pace) was driven by more than a quarter of his fly-balls leaving the yard where I would expect some level of regression.
In 2021, I can see Happ flirting with 30+ HR if he continues to hit the ball hard as he has done all his career. The question regarding how likely he is to break that barrier depends on if he can start putting the ball in the air more while continuing to gain in his plate discipline. There is a path to a breakout here, but I would warn to not invest too eagerly as he will likely be a detriment in average while doing limited favors on the base paths.
2021 Projection: 81/27/77/.251/6
Wil Myers (ADP – 125)
Myers made a real shift in Spring Training last year in his approach. He was basically free at the draft table and an interesting lottery ticket. Myers parlayed that change of approach into the regular season with his lowest chase rate since his rookie year and the lowest first pitch swinging rate in his career. This allowed him to focus on pitches that were easier to square up as he jumped to the top 7% in the league for his barrel rate while also showing notable improvement against off-speed pitches. It might be difficult for him to maintain a 40-homer pace over a full season without some luck, but much of what we saw in 2020 looked to be backed by actual changes rather than small sample luck.
Going into 2021, Myers has remained the old guard on the remade San Diego Padres. He projects to hit in the middle of the lineup behind the likes of Tatis, Machado and Hosmer. I expect this to be a high scoring lineup that will help bolster the counting stats of Myers. I am hopeful the price stays reasonable as I expect some San Diego inflation thanks to their offseason hype machine.
2021 Projection: 83/24/89/.269/8
Anthony Santander (ADP – 152)
If we combine 2019 and 2020, Santander has a line across 130 games of 70/31/91/.261/1. In 2020, although a small sample size, Santander was on pace for over 40 home runs. Still only 26 years of age, 2020 gave a glimpse into a few improvements in his profile:
- K% dropped from 21.2% to 15.2%
- xBA jumped to .286
- FB% jumped to 49.6%
For a more in-depth view, as only Grey could provide, see this sleeper post from early December.
I believe the Orioles lineup will be slightly better in 2021 and Santander will continue to grow as a hitter. His profile lends itself to a lower BABIP, but I expect some positive regression on his .248 mark from 2020 as he continues to barrel the ball up and put it in the air. Keep an eye on that ADP as it will be rising come spring.
2021 Projection: 89/35/93/.271/3
At their current draft prices, I am taking Mr. Oriole himself, Anthony Santander. I often will tend towards the player with a fuller stat sheet such as Myers, but the upside in Santander coming off the board two rounds later is just too much to pass up. I also see some potential in Happ, but a much lower floor than I would be comfortable with at this point in the draft. Jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride to a 35-homer season from Mr. Santander.