I don’t always go for a pun in my ledes, but if today’s headline invokes some of the uncomfortable, surreal, and ultimately terrifying vibes of Jordan Peele’s film (which coincidentally was released six years ago today, my how time flies!) it wasn’t an accident. I’ve found while drafting over the last few months that for fantasy purposes, the outfield position has gone from being a place of strength and comfort to being the spot on my roster most likely to give me a horribly unsettling feeling about halfway through many of my drafts.

Before proceeding any further, it’s once again time for my weekly disclaimer/warning/reminder: know your league, know the overall landscape of each position in 2023, and know at least a little about how other drafters are valuing players at said positions. Combining all of this knowledge into a plan of attack specific to your league is crucially important when it comes to navigating the outfield this year, because I’m sensing more outfield platoon situations/hazy roster battles than ever as spring training begins (the Dodgers alone are making my early-drafting head spin on that front). Somewhat paradoxically, I’m almost finding it easier to fill five OF roster spots in deeper leagues than shallower, I suppose because in a deep league I expect to have a part-time guy or three in my active lineup and that’s just business as usual. In the 12-team mixed league I’m currently drafting, however, I drafted four outfielders I like okay, but then had a bit of a panic upon realizing that there literally wasn’t a player left on the board that I had projected as close a full-timer who I thought would produce solid value throughout the season. This league is a draft and hold without waivers no less, and I really wish I’d grabbed another OF-eligible player in the first third of my draft. Again, it all comes down to league type… when I start drafting in the RCL format where there will be daily adding, dropping, streaming, and churning, I won’t be anywhere near as concerned about outfield depth on my roster. (Speaking of RCL drafts, I can’t wait! My $100 league is all filled up — yay! — but there are plenty for you to choose from if you haven’t signed up for any yet, or even if you have. And since we’re talking about customizing your draft strategy to your individual leagues, I’d be remiss not to point out that now would be a good time to consider a Subscription if you’d like to add some incredibly valuable tools, like Rudy’s spectacular war room, to your drafting repertoire.)

Okay, now that we’ve gotten a few overall positional thoughts plus a little business out of the way, let’s get into deep-league mode and look at a handful of outfielders being drafted outside the top 300, according to current NFBC ADP. (And just so you know how slim the pickings may be at this point, some not-particularly-inspiring-for-fantasy outfield names being drafted inside the top 300 include Trey Mancini, Nick Gordon, Charlie Blackmon, and Jorge Soler).

Jake Fraley (ADP #302). I’ve got a couple shares of Fraley already, and even though his price has gone up a bit since I started drafting (just looked it up and I took him at pick #380 in my first NFBC draft and hold league a few months ago), I may still end up with him on another team or two. I think the playing time will be there and that he’ll be on the strong side of a platoon at worst, in a great hitter’s park no less, and he just helped me too much in too many leagues down the stretch last year for me not to at least try going back to the well this year at his current cost. Steamer predicts a 25-point decline in batting average (from last year’s .259 to .234) which doesn’t thrill me, but also predicts 16 homers and 10 steals in just 110 games, which to be honest does thrill me a little, especially since I’m hopeful that Fraley will eclipse that 110 game number for the Reds this year.

Juan Yepez (#323). I keep not drafting Yepez because he feels like a hitter without a position, but then I also keep forgetting that the NL has that thing now where they’ve allotted an extra spot for a hitter without a position. Even with the DH there may not be enough at bats to go around in St. Louis, but for now, Yepez projects to get enough time there to make him a potential steal this late. The Cardinals’ lineup is a fluid situation — will we have a simple O’Neil/Nootbaar/Carlson outfield, or will Jordan Walker lay claim to one of those spots this spring? And should we be completely forgetting Alec Burleson? And what if Nolan Gorman reminds everyone he exists and manages to leapfrog back over Brendan Donovan, who played 39 games in the outfield last year, on the Cards’ second base depth chart? Lots of moving parts, but back to Yepez. You’ll never get steals from him no matter how big the bases get, but his average shouldn’t hurt you, and if he can learn to draw a few more walks he’ll be more likely to stay in the lineup. He’s right-handed but hit lefties (.255) and righties (.253) equally well last year, and should be a solid power source: I’m definitely intrigued by his ZIPS projections, which have him at a .263 average and hitting 17 homers in just 78 games.

Jose Siri (#345). Siri is someone I’ve targeted late but haven’t drafted yet, which makes me suspect that his ADP is rising as folks are realizing that they may need to reach a little to get an outfielder who could actually produce some decent fantasy stats this year. The batting average might be atrocious (Steamer projects .230, which is a hefty increase over THE BAT’s .210 projection and Siri’s actual .213 average in 2022, at least), and is largely why I haven’t been willing to move Siri up my own draft rankings. Also, as we all know, playing time may come and go in Tampa Bay — Steamer projects 118 games for Siri. The good news is that Steamer also predicts 15 homers and 19 steals from him this year, which could be excellent value this late.

Oswaldo Cabrera (#355). The Yankees have one of those hazy spring battles looming in terms of their left field situation, and if Aaron Hicks is really in line for regular reps at that position then maybe he’s the one I should be blurbing about. (And if you do want to draft Hicks in the deepest of leagues, why not at his current price, #689?) But I think most of us feel that Cabrera is the one likely to emerge from this battle with some degree of fantasy usefulness, even if it ends up being as a super utility player: during last year’s impressive albeit small cup of coffee, Cabrera appeared multiple times at 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, and RF, in just 44 games total. He may never be a hitting superstar, but this late and without much to lose, I don’t mind betting the over on Steamer’s projections of games played (75), homers (10), and steals (8).

Avisail Garcia (#378). If you were burned by Garcia last year as I was in one or two leagues, it’s difficult to pull the trigger even this late. But again, not much to lose, and if there’s even a mild bounce back I like the potential value here. I’m having trouble projecting what the Marlins hitters will do this year but overall don’t hate the lineup; perhaps I’m being too optimistic about the improvement the offseason acquisitions of Jean Segura and Luis Arraez might make. But if Garcia can stay on the field, which granted is a fairly big if, I think it’s likely he improves his average to where it doesn’t hurt you too much and combines that with 15-20 homers, 5-10 steals, and halfway decent run/RBI numbers. Halfway decent as we near ADP 400 is about all we can ask for, right?

Next week we’ll dive even deeper into the outfield pool and see just how eerie and disturbing things get once we’re outside the top 400. Happy draft prep to all, and enjoy the first week of actual spring training games (or ignore them entirely so the best-shape-of-his-life comments don’t overly influence your opinions and rankings, if that’s your thing!)