2019 Fantasy Baseball: Don't Sleep on These Outfielders!
2019 Sleeper Outfielders
Kyle Tucker (OF, HOU)
It looks like it’s showtime for Tucker in 2019. After a minimal chance in the majors last year (.141 with no HRs and four RBI over 64 at-bats), Kyle posted the best season of his young career at AAA (.332 with 24 HRs, 93 RBI, and 20 SBs over 407 at-bats). Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .288 with 61 HRs, 285 RBI, and 91 SBs over 1,535 at-bats. His K rate (17.4) looks major league ready with an above average walk rate (9.2) while falling in line in his brief time with Houston (18.1 and 8.3). Tucker has an ADP of 233 in the high-stakes market in January. His skill set projects to come in at 20/30 out of the gate with a neutral batting average. The Astros drafted him 5th overall in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. With a DH spot in the starting lineup having an opening and Josh Reddick looking rather dull, Houston should try to get his bat in the majors as quickly as possible. I hate carrying players until June so his spring news will be a big key on his draft value.
Update: Tucker has been relatively quiet this spring (6-for-23 with no HRs, four RBI, and one SB) leading to a slide for 50 spots in his ADP (283) since the middle of January (233). His bat will come fast, but his lack of window to start will create a better buying opportunity for a Fantasy owner with vision. The most natural path to own Tucker is to roster him inside of round 20 while just adding Josh Reddick (ADP of 433) in the reserve rounds in deep leagues. Kyle has explosive upside, but he will start his career at the backend of the Astros’ starting lineup.
Christin Stewart (OF, DET)
Stewart will surely fly under the radar in 10 and 12 team leagues while having an ADP of 401 over the last two weeks in the 15-team high-stakes market. Christin is a former first-round draft pick (2015). Over the previous three seasons at High A, AA, and AAA, he hit .258 with 81 HRs, 250 RBI, and six SBs over 1,372 at-bats. Over this stretch, Stewart took 209 walks (12.9) percent which shows he has patience and a feel for the strike zone. His K rate (23.1) in the minors is a bit high, but he did show some growth in his ability to make contact at AAA in 2018 (K rate – 20.7). Christin won’t offer an edge in the field, but his bat should keep in the lineup on most days for the offensively challenged Tigers. At the very least, I expected a 75/25/75 season with some batting average risk, which works well for a Fantasy owner who wants to cheat the last outfield spot. If given 550+ at-bats and a premium spot in the batting order, his final stats could very well push him inside the first 150 picks in the 2020 draft season.
Update: Over ten games this March, Stewart had two HRs and seven RBI over 27 at-bats while hitting .333. His ADP (335) is 70 spots higher than it was over the first week in February. I consider him a lock to be in the starting lineup for the Tigers. Christin is reasonably priced for his upside in power while expecting to hit in a desirable part of the batting order.
Jorge Soler (OF, KC)
This season it will be interesting to see how Fantasy owners rank Soler. After a quiet first two weeks in 2018 (.244 with no HRs and one RBI), Jorge played well over his next 42 games (.278 with 24 runs, nine HRs, 27 RBI, and three SBs over 162 at-bats). A week later his season ended with a broken toe in his left foot. His K rate (26.9) still has risk while still showing the ability to take a walk (10.9). Soler played well against lefties (.315 with four HRs and seven RBI over 54 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (17.0) still fell short of his best seasons in the minors. Over five seasons in the majors, Jorge hit .249 with 121 runs, 38 HRs, 132 RBI, and seven SBs over 1,002 at-bats. He has an ADP of 350 in the early drafts season in the high-stakes market, which is another buying opportunity for me. At age 27, he looks poised to have the best season of his career. His bar starts at .260 with 75+ run, 30+ HRs, and 80+ RBI.
Update: The injury to Salvador Perez does make Soler the most attractive cleanup hitter in the Royals. Over 30 at-bats in spring training, he’s hitting .233 while delivering a pair of HRs with seven RBI. His ADP (307) has jumped 135 spots over the last month, which make him tougher to finesse in drafts. Jorge is just entering the prime of his career while still looking for his first impact seasons.
Austin Hays (OF, BAL)
Hays sure looked major league ready after blasting his way to majors in 2017 after dominating at High A (.328 with 16 HRs and 41 RBI over 262 at-bats) and AA (.330 with 16 HRs and 54 RBI over 261 at-bats). His K rate (17.5) in the minors is better the major league average while needing to add some more walks to his resume (4.8 percent walk rate). Over 60 at-bats in the majors in September of 2017, Austin struggled to make contact (25.4 percent K rate) leading to a .217 batting average with one HR and eight RBI. In 2018, Hays struggled over the first two months of AA (.224 with six HRs, 18 RBI, and five SBs over 174 at-bats) before landing on the DL with an ankle injury that ended up needing surgery in September. Even with no playing time in his career at AAA, Austin could very well make the opening day for Baltimore out of spring training. His lack of walks does hurt his chance to bat near the top of the lineup early in his career, but the Orioles don’t have anyone blocking him from an excellent opportunity this year. Player to follow in spring training as his bat could come quickly. Future .300 hitter with upside in power and a chance at double-digit speed. Fantasy owners will look to add him in the reserve rounds in the high-stakes market in January and February while expecting his draft value to climb with positive spring training.
Update: Hays remains an afterthought for Fantasy owners over the last two weeks. His ADP (591) pushes him to the waiver wire in almost every format in mid-March. Austin did gain 53 spots in his ADP over the last month. His bat is speaking well in spring (.321 with three HRs and seven RBI over 28 at-bats), which makes him a nice backend flier in deep leagues. Confirmation of a starting job in the majors will lead to Hays jetting up the draft board over the second half of March.
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Austin Meadows (OF, TB)
Despite being in the Pirates' system for six seasons, Meadows only had one full year in his minor league resume (2015 - .310 with seven HRs, 55 RBI, and 21 SBs over 533 at-bats). He's a career .294 hitter with 46 HRs, 229 RBI, and 66 SBs over 1,761 at-bats. In 2017, Austin battled a hamstring injury and an oblique issue for much of last year. His game didn’t look major league ready based on his 2+ years at AAA (.250 with 12 HRs, 81 RBI, and 30 SBs over 575 at-bats). After the trade to Tampa, Meadow shined at AAA (.344 over 96 at-bats with 19 runs, ten HRs, 22 RBI, and one SB). His minor league walk rate (8.6 percent) in just above league average with a respectable K rate (16.3). Austin is a former first-round draft pick (2013 - 9th overall) with enough talent to make a significant step forward in the majors. His success last year in the big leagues projected over 550 at-bats would come to 58 runs, 19 HRs, 53 RBI, and 15 SBs with strength in his batting average (.287). Austin looks like the best leadoff option for the Rays with a skill set to hit double-digit home runs and steal 30+ bags. Meadows will be drafted as OF4 in the high-stakes market with an ADP of 180. His unique skill set and upside will make him a player of interest for the sharp Fantasy owners especially if name the leadoff hitter in mid-March.
Update: Meadows looks to be on the right path in March (.308 over 26 at-bats with six runs, two HRs, four RBI, and one SB) to earn a top of an order opportunity for the Rays. His ADP (171) has moved up only slightly since the beginning of January. Austin has a unique skill set, which will make him an attractive out in speed in the middle of drafts. Viable target with the right team structure while expected to bat at the top of Tampa’s line up.