MLB Position Power Rankings 2018: B/R's Top 30 Outfielders

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2018

MLB Position Power Rankings 2018: B/R's Top 30 Outfielders

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    We've set out to identify the top 30 outfielders in Major League Baseball heading into the 2018 season.

    A few things to consider before we get started:

    • League averages: For the sake of reference, the league average triple-slash line for an outfielder last season was .260/.332/.436.
    • Eligibility: To be considered for inclusion, a player must have played at least 300 innings in the outfield. Exceptions were made for expected position changes (yes to Dee Gordon and Rhys Hoskins, no to Khris Davis) and injuries (Adam Eaton).

    For fantasy baseball fans, think of this as a big board of the position if the entire league was doing a redraft for one all-or-nothing season in 2018.

    Someone like Andrew Benintendi has more upside than Brett Gardner going forward, but is he going to be better this coming year?

    Let's find out.

             

    Previous top 30 series entries: Catchers, First Basemen, Second Basemen, Shortstops, Third Basemen.

30. Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Age: 29

    2017 Offensive: 120 OPS+, .297/.393/.462, 10 XBH (2 HR), 13 RBI, 24 R

    2017 Defensive: -5 DRS, -24.9 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.4

         

    Outlook

    The Washington Nationals sent Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to the Chicago White Sox in order to acquire Adam Eaton during the winter meetings last offseason.

    Expected to form a dynamic one-two punch with Trea Turner atop the Nationals' lineup, Eaton was instead limited to just 23 games before he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in 2017.

    So what can we expect from a healthy Eaton?

    In his three seasons with the White Sox, he posted a 119 OPS+ while averaging 47 extra-base hits, 88 runs scored, 16 stolen bases and 5.1 WAR.

         

    Honorable Mentions 

    • Ronald Acuna (ATL)
    • Lewis Brinson (MIA)
    • Jay Bruce (NYM)
    • Kole Calhoun (LAA)
    • Yoenis Cespedes (NYM)
    • Michael Conforto (NYM)
    • Adam Duvall (CIN)
    • Dexter Fowler (STL)
    • Avisail Garcia (CWS)
    • Billy Hamilton (CIN)
    • Mitch Haniger (SEA)
    • Ian Happ (CHC)
    • Austin Hays (BAL)
    • Odubel Herrera (PHI)
    • Jason Heyward (CHC)
    • Eloy Jimenez (CWS)
    • Adam Jones (BAL)
    • Max Kepler (MIN)
    • Trey Mancini (BAL)
    • Manuel Margot (SD)
    • Nomar Mazara (TEX)
    • Wil Myers (SD)
    • David Peralta (ARI)
    • Gregory Polanco (PIT)
    • A.J. Pollock (ARI)
    • Eddie Rosario (MIN)
    • Domingo Santana (MIL)
    • Kyle Schwarber (CHC)
    • Bradley Zimmer (CLE)

29. Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Orlando Ramirez/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    2017 Offensive: 144 OPS+, .306/.411/.520, 47 XBH (23 HR), 73 RBI, 95 R

    2017 Defensive: 11 DRS, 12.9 UZR/150

    WAR: 6.2

         

    Outlook

    Tommy Pham can credit "vision-saving surgery" with one of the more surprising breakout performances of the 2017 season, as the oft-injured, longtime minor leaguer went from starting the season in Triple-A to finishing 11th in NL MVP voting.

    There are some regression red flags, though.

    His .368 BABIP ranked fourth among all qualified hitters, and his 26.7 percent HR/FB will be tough to replicate given his physical tools.

    While his mix of power, speed and defensive ability is still enough to land him a spot on this list, expecting a repeat performance is asking too much.

28. Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Age: 29

    2017 Offensive: 94 OPS+, .308/.341/.375, 31 XBH (2 HR), 33 RBI, 114 R

    2017 Defensive: N/A, played 2B

    WAR: 3.1

         

    Outlook

    Dee Gordon will bring his solid contact rate and elite speed to the Seattle Mariners this season after he was shipped out as part of the Miami Marlins' offseason fire sale.

    He led the NL with 60 stolen bases last season and topped 200 hits for the second time in his career while finishing 10th in the NL batting race with a .308 average.

    It remains to be seen how he'll handle the move defensively from second base to center field.

    If nothing else, his speed should allow him to cover plenty of ground at spacious Safeco Field, and that was enough to turn someone like Billy Hamilton into a Gold Glove-caliber defender.

27. Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Age: 27

    2017 Offensive: 89 OPS+, .245/.323/.402, 39 XBH (17 HR), 63 RBI, 58 R

    2017 Defensive: 10 DRS, 4.9 UZR/150

    WAR: 3.0

         

    Outlook

    Jackie Bradley Jr. set the bar high with his 2016 season when he posted a 118 OPS+ with 26 home runs and played stellar defense on his way to 5.5 WAR.

    However, his numbers dipped across the board last season.

    His strikeout rate (22.5 to 22.9 percent), walk rate (9.9 to 8.9 percent) and hard-contact rate (36.0 to 33.3 percent) all moved in the wrong direction, and his over-the-fence power dried up.

    Still, with his Gold Glove-caliber defense, an 89 OPS+ with modest run production is more than enough to make him a top-30 outfielder.

26. Andrew McCutchen, San Francisco Giants

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2017 Offensive: 121 OPS+, .279/.363/.486, 60 XBH (28 HR), 88 RBI, 94 R

    2017 Defensive: -14 DRS, -5.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.4

         

    Outlook

    Andrew McCutchen enjoyed a solid bounce-back season last year after posting the worst numbers of his career in 2016:

    • 2016: 104 OPS+, .256/.336/.430, 53 XBH (24 HR), -0.5 WAR
    • 2017: 121 OPS+, .279/.363/.486, 60 XBH (28 HR), 2.4 WAR

    That was enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates to finally pull the trigger on trading him as he enters the final year of his current contract.

    He's a below-average defender at this point in his career, but he's still an impact offensive player. Entering his age-31 season, he should still have plenty left in the tank.

25. Josh Reddick, Houston Astros

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Age: 31

    2017 Offensive: 134 OPS+, .314/.363/.484, 51 XBH (13 HR), 82 RBI, 77 R

    2017 Defensive: 4 DRS, 0.1 UZR/150

    WAR: 4.3

         

    Outlook

    The Houston Astros gave Josh Reddick a four-year, $52 million deal last offseason, and he played his part in helping the team to a World Series title.

    His 4.3 WAR was the second-highest mark of his career, while his .314 average was a career high and good for fifth-best in the AL.

    Reddick doesn't excel in any one area, but he does a little bit of everything well.

    Heading into his age-31 season, there's no reason to think he won't continue to provide steady defense and a strong batting average with modest power and run production numbers.

24. Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Age: 29

    2017 Offensive: 83 OPS+, .256/.300/.404, 54 XBH (16 HR), 42 RBI, 72 R

    2017 Defensive: 15 DRS, 7.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.8

         

    Outlook

    Kevin Pillar is one of the game's elite defensive players.

    His 58 DRS over the past three seasons rank fourth among all outfielders—trailing only Kevin Kiermaier (89), Mookie Betts (73) and Jason Heyward (60).

    He also set new personal bests in doubles (37) and home runs (16) while adding 15 stolen bases in 21 attempts.

    The 29-year-old doesn't provide much in the way of on-base ability with a 5.2 percent walk rate, and his 27.3 percent hard-contact rate ranked 130th among 144 qualified hitters.

    Still, his defense and power/speed mix is enough for him to crack the top 25 in these rankings.

23. Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press

    Age: 27

    2017 Offensive: 122 OPS+, .288/.354/.496, 60 XBH (21 HR), 72 RBI, 85 R

    2017 Defensive: 5 DRS, 10.3 UZR/150

    WAR: 4.8

         

    Outlook

    Chris Taylor didn't even make the Los Angeles Dodgers roster out of spring training last year.

    That should give you an idea of how surprising his ascension from organizational depth to invaluable lineup catalyst was last season as he saw sporadic time at second base before eventually settling in as the everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter.

    His .361 BABIP is a good indication he's due for some regression, and that explains his placement here in the No. 23 spot, despite a 4.8 WAR a year ago.

    Still, with his mix of power (21 HR) and speed (17 SB), defensive versatility and team control through the 2021 season, he's a valuable asset for the talent-rich Dodgers.

22. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2017 Offensive: 165 OPS+, .259/.396/.618, 25 XBH (18 HR), 48 RBI, 37 R

    2017 Defensive: -1 DRS, 0.1 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.0

         

    Outlook

    Rhys Hoskins has a chance to be a legitimate cornerstone piece for the Philadelphia Phillies thanks to his plus raw power and terrific plate discipline.

    That said, it would be wise to take his rookie numbers with a grain of salt.

    Hoskins took the league by storm, but his play leveled off quickly as opposing pitchers started to better game-plan for the young slugger:

    • First 19 G: 80 PA, .309/.413/.824, 11 HR, 16.3 K%
    • Next 31 G: 132 PA, .225/.386/.480, 7 HR, 25.0 K%

    Until we find out which version of Hoskins is the real deal, it's tough to rank him ahead of more proven options.

21. Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Age: 29

    2017 Offensive: 87 OPS+, .275/.333/.379, 16 XBH (7 HR), 31 RBI, 48 R

    2017 Defensive: 8 DRS, 8.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.4

         

    Outlook

    Starling Marte saw an 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing drug take a significant bite out of his 2017 production.

    However, over the previous four seasons, he was one of the game's best all-around players with a 20.1 WAR that ranked 13th among all position players.

    If he can put it all together for one full season, he's capable of posting an .800 OPS with 20 home runs and 40 stolen bases while also playing Gold Glove defense.

    Owed $42.2 million over the next four seasons, he also has one of the more team-friendly contracts in the majors.

20. Steven Souza Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Age: 28

    2017 Offensive: 121 OPS+, .239/.351/.459, 53 XBH (30 HR), 78 RBI, 78 R

    2017 Defensive: 7 DRS, 5.3 UZR/150

    WAR: 4.2

         

    Outlook

    The Arizona Diamondbacks were unable to find a way to bring back J.D. Martinez in free agency, but they still managed to add some thunder to an already potent lineup with the addition of Steven Souza Jr.

    The 28-year-old turned in a breakout offensive campaign for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, setting career-highs in OPS+ (121), doubles (21), home runs (30), RBI (78), runs scored (78) and stolen bases (16).

    A massive spike in his walk rate from 6.6 to 13.6 percent speaks to an improved overall approach at the plate. As long as the humidor effect doesn't come into play, a 30-homer, 20-steal season is well within reach for a D-backs team that likes to run.

    With team control through the 2020 season and a clear need for a power-hitting corner outfielder, giving up Brandon Drury and Anthony Banda in the three-team trade to acquire him was a no-brainer for Arizona.

19. Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves

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    Brett Davis/Associated Press

    Age: 27

    2017 Offensive: 100 OPS+, .304/.350/.409, 43 XBH (11 HR), 57 RBI, 93 R

    2017 Defensive: 5 DRS, 2.6 UZR/150

    WAR: 3.0

         

    Outlook

    It didn't take long for Ender Inciarte to make the Atlanta Braves look smart for locking him up with a team-friendly five-year, $30.5 million deal that includes a 2022 club option.

    In his first season under that new contract, he won his second straight Gold Glove and earned a spot on the All-Star team for the first time.

    He also hit over .300 for the second time while slugging a career-high 11 home runs. The 27-year-old homered just 13 times in 1,586 plate appearances his first three years in the majors.

    Add to that his 20-steal speed, and it's not hard to see why the Braves wanted to make him a long-term piece of their ongoing rebuilding efforts.

18. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Age: 34

    2017 Offensive: 104 OPS+, .264/.350/.428, 51 XBH (21 HR), 63 RBI, 96 R

    2017 Defensive: 20 DRS, 8.0 UZR/150

    WAR: 4.9

         

    Outlook

    There's something to be said for consistency and durability.

    Brett Gardner has averaged 149 games over the past five seasons, posting at least 3.0 WAR each season and 19.7 WAR overall.

    Offensively, he had the first 20/20 season of his career last year. Defensively, his 20 DRS ranked fourth among all outfielders.

    Throw in the fact that he'll be setting the table for one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, and he should be in for another solid all-around season.

17. Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Age: 23

    2017 Offensive: 103 OPS+, .271/.352/.424, 47 XBH (20 HR), 90 RBI, 84 R

    2017 Defensive: 7 DRS, 1.3 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.6

         

    Outlook

    Andrew Benintendi entered the last season as the AL Rookie of the Year front-runner after hitting .295/.359/.476 with 14 extra-base hits in 118 plate appearances during a late-season promotion in 2016.

    Then that whole Aaron Judge thing happened.

    While he didn't take home the hardware, Benintendi still looks every bit the star in the making he was hyped to be as he rocketed through the Boston minor league system.

    His hit tool stacks up to any young hitter in the game, and he quietly put together just the third 20/20 season ever by a Red Sox rookie.

    Throw in his standout defense in left field—he'd be playing center on almost any other team—and there's a good chance this proves to be too low of a ranking.

16. Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Age: 28

    2017 Offensive: 122 OPS+, .266/.372/.475, 33 XBH (15 HR), 52 RBI, 54 R

    2017 Defensive: 15 DRS, 13.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 3.9

         

    Outlook

    A former first-round pick and consensus top-100 prospect during his time in the Minnesota Twins organization, Aaron Hicks finally delivered on lofty expectations during his age-27 season.

    The New York Yankees acquired Hicks from the Twins prior to the 2016 season in exchange for catcher John Ryan Murphy, and over an identical 361 plate appearances in each of his first two seasons with the team, his numbers could not have been more different:

    • 2016: 65 OPS+, .217/.281/.336, 22 XBH (8 HR), 3 SB, -0.3 WAR
    • 2017: 122 OPS+, .266/.372/.475, 33 XBH (15 HR), 10 SB, 3.9 WAR

    Along with his offensive outburst, he also played stellar defense in center field, effectively pushing veteran Jacoby Ellsbury into a reserve role.

    The Yankees have some juggling to do with a crowded outfield, but Hicks will see plenty of action.

15. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Age: 27

    2017 Offensive: 118 OPS+, .263/.346/.487, 54 XBH (28 HR), 74 RBI, 72 R

    2017 Defensive: 18 DRS, 15.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 3.7

         

    Outlook

    After falling out of favor to the point of being aggressively shopped on the trade market and then demoted to the minors during the 2016 season, Yasiel Puig was once again a vital part of the Los Angeles Dodgers' success last year.

    He slugged a career-high 28 home runs and graded out as one of baseball's best defensive outfielders in the process, committing just one error and making far fewer mental mistakes.

    The next step for Puig will be learning to hit left-handed pitching.

    The 27-year-old posted a brutal .183/.317/.275 line with just seven extra-base hits in 145 plate appearances against southpaws last year.

14. Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2017 Offensive: 112 OPS+, .300/.363/.440, 47 XBH (15 HR), 49 RBI, 86 R

    2017 Defensive: 5 DRS, 2.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 5.3

         

    Outlook

    Lorenzo Cain is back where it all began.

    A 17th-round pick by the Brewers in 2004, Cain joined the Kansas City Royals in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee prior to the 2011 season.

    A five-year, $80 million deal in free agency brought him back as the Brewers look to get over the hump after a surprise run at a playoff spot last season.

    As a player who relies so heavily on his speed both offensively and defensively, it remains to be seen how well that contract will age.

    For now, the 31-year-old remains one of the best two-way outfielders in the game, and he could see a nice uptick in his power numbers with a move to Miller Park.

13. Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels

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    Masterpress/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2017 Offensive: 135 OPS+, .273/.361/.540, 79 XBH (35 HR), 109 RBI, 100 R

    2017 Defensive: 8 DRS, 3.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 5.7

         

    Outlook

    Before the sky fell on this year's free-agent class, Justin Upton signed a five-year, $106 million deal to stay with the Los Angeles Angels after originally opting out of the final four years of the contract he signed with the Detroit Tigers.

    It's almost impossible to believe Upton is still just 30 years old, as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft made his MLB debut at the age of 19 and was an everyday player by the following season.

    Along the way, he's quietly piled up some impressive counting numbers with 256 home runs and 812 RBI, to go along with a 121 OPS+ for his career.

    He fits better in left field than right field defensively. and he's capable of stealing 20 bases when he decides to be aggressive on the bases, so another five-WAR season is well within reach.

12. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Age: 24

    2017 Offensive: 94 OPS+, .253/.314/.413, 36 XBH (16 HR), 51 RBI, 69 R

    2017 Defensive: 24 DRS, 13.1 UZR/150

    WAR: 5.2

         

    Outlook

    Byron Buxton may still just be scratching the surface for the Minnesota Twins.

    Billed as one of baseball's top prospects since going No. 2 overall in the 2012 draft, Buxton struggled to find any consistency at the plate in his first two seasons in the majors, and too often his progression was derailed by injury.

    Finally healthy last year, he emerged as one of the game's elite defenders, also flashing enough offensive game to show he could one day soon be a two-way superstar.

    He slugged 14 doubles and 16 home runs and wreaked havoc on the bases with 29 stolen bases in 30 attempts.

    The 29.4 percent strikeout rate still needs work if he's going to be a top-of-the-order catalyst, but the 2017 season was a huge step forward for a guy many were quick to write off as a bust.

11. Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2017 Offensive: 145 OPS+, .312/.376/.548, 69 XBH (37 HR), 124 RBI, 93 R

    2017 Defensive: 10 DRS, 2.3 UZR/150

    WAR: 5.8

         

    Outlook

    The St. Louis Cardinals gave up Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen and Daniel Castano to acquire Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins.

    With that, the Cardinals now have their first prototypical middle-of-the-order power threat since Albert Pujols walked in free agency.

    Playing in the shadow of Giancarlo Stanton, Ozuna went largely unnoticed while he ranked among the NL leaders in OPS+ (145, fifth), batting average (.312, seventh), hits (191, fourth), home runs (37, third), RBI (124, third) and position-player WAR (5.8, ninth).

    A full-time move from center field to left field also led to his first Gold Glove, as he's far better suited at a corner spot.

10. Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Age: 27

    2017 Offensive: 114 OPS+, .276/.338/.450, 33 XBH (15 HR), 39 RBI, 56 R

    2017 Defensive: 22 DRS, 5.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 5.1

         

    Outlook

    Kevin Kiermaier is the best defensive outfielder in baseball.

    It's as simple as that.

    In his four seasons as a regular in the Tampa Bay Rays outfield, he's piled up a ridiculous 90 DRS, which tops all other position players during that span except Andrelton Simmons (103).

    The thing is, he's played roughly 1,800 fewer innings than Simmons as a result of various injuries, so he could easily rank as the game's top run saver over a similar workload.

    While he may never win a Silver Slugger or a batting title, Kiermaier had a career-high 15 home runs and 16 stolen bases last year.

    With better health, he could be a legitimate eight-WAR player.

9. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2017 Offensive: 117 OPS+, .282/.369/.439, 56 XBH (18 HR), 81 RBI, 100 R

    2017 Defensive: -6 DRS, -0.7 UZR/150

    WAR: 3.9

         

    Outlook

    Christian Yelich has been flying up fantasy baseball draft boards ever since he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason.

    FanGraphs wrote: "Combine his already strong track record with a new lineup and remarkably favorable ballpark, and it's easy to see the hype."

    We're not ranking players on fantasy value here, but the point still stands.

    Yelich has never hit more than 21 home runs in a season, but there's legitimate 30-homer power packed into his lanky 6'3" frame, and the move to Miller Park could finally unlock it.

    He also has a strong defensive track record as a corner outfielder, strong on-base skills and the speed/instincts to swipe 20 bases.

    He's ranked ahead of a number of guys with better 2017 numbers, but we're projecting for 2018. He has a chance to put together a huge season.

8. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2017 Offensive: 166 OPS+, .303/.376/.690, 74 XBH (45 HR), 104 RBI, 85 R

    2017 Defensive: -5 DRS, -14.8 UZR/150

    WAR: 4.1

         

    Outlook

    J.D. Martinez figures to see the bulk of his action as the Boston Red Sox's designated hitter, but all it will take is one injury and he'll be manning a corner spot while Hanley Ramirez slides into the DH role and Mitch Moreland sees everyday at-bats at first base.

    Since he's not necessarily locked into the DH spot, we're including him here with the outfielders.

    Martinez played out of his mind in a 62-game stint with the Diamondbacks after being traded last season, posting a 1.107 OPS with 29 home runs and 65 RBI in his time with the team.

    If seeing significant time at DH can help keep him healthy over a full season, a 50-homer campaign playing his home games at Fenway Park doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.

7. George Springer, Houston Astros

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Age: 28

    2017 Offensive: 144 OPS+, .283/.367/.522, 63 XBH (34 HR), 85 RBI, 112 R

    2017 Defensive: -2 DRS, -5.3 UZR/150

    WAR: 5.0

         

    Outlook

    George Springer was the catalyst of baseball's best offense last season, scoring 112 runs and posting a 144 OPS+ out of the leadoff spot for the Houston Astros.

    He's not the prototypical leadoff hitter, as he slugged a career-high 34 home runs last season and stole just five bases in 12 attempts.

    However, there's little question he sets the tone for the reigning champions.

    Springer was also asked to move from right field to center field last season. In his second full season at the position, he could easily grade out as a plus defender.

6. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

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    Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

    Age: 28

    2017 Offensive: 165 OPS+, .281/.376/.631, 91 XBH (59 HR), 132 RBI, 123 R

    2017 Defensive: 10 DRS, 7.1 UZR/150

    WAR: 7.6

         

    Outlook

    The move from everyday outfielder to at least part-time DH will take a bite out of Giancarlo Stanton's overall value, as he's actually an excellent defensive outfielder.

    There's also his lengthy injury track record to take into consideration when projecting where he'll fall among the league's top outfielders for the upcoming season.

    That said, it's impossible to drop him any lower than the No. 6 spot in these rankings.

    Even without the two-way impact, and even if he only plays 120 games next year, Stanton is an absolute star offensively as he's turned himself into more than just a slugger.

    More significant than his 59 home runs last season was an improved walk rate (10.6 to 12.3 percent) and strikeout rate (29.8 to 23.6 percent). Those strides are what will continue to make him an elite hitter going forward.

5. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Age: 31

    2017 Offensive: 142 OPS+, .331/.399/.601, 86 XBH (37 HR), 104 RBI, 137 R

    2017 Defensive: -5 DRS, -0.7 UZR/150

    WAR: 6.0

         

    Outlook

    You don't see many leadoff hitters post the type of numbers that Charlie Blackmon did for the Colorado Rockies last season.

    The 31-year-old won the NL batting title (.331) while also leading the Senior Circuit in hits (213), runs (137), triples (14) and total bases (387).

    That was enough to earn him his second straight Silver Slugger, and he eventually finished fifth in NL MVP voting.

    The classic home/road splits question hangs over his numbers, just like any Rockies player, so it's worth a look:

    • Home: .391/.466/.773, 24 HR
    • Road: .276/.337/.447, 13 HR

    While those splits are enough to bump him out of the top five, don't be surprised if he turns in another MVP-caliber performance in 2018.

4. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2017 Offensive: 171 OPS+, .284/.422/.627, 79 XBH (52 HR), 114 RBI, 128 R

    2017 Defensive: 9 DRS, 7.7 UZR/150

    WAR: 8.1

         

    Outlook

    Aaron Judge put together arguably the greatest rookie season in MLB history last year as he exploded onto the scene for the New York Yankees.

    We'd be talking a lot more about his second-half swoon if not for a huge final month of the season:

    • 121 PA, .311/.463/.889, 7 2B, 15 HR, 32 RBI, 29 R

    The AL leaders in walks (127), Judge already possess elite plate discipline as he took a free pass at an impressive 18.7 percent clip.

    However, he also struck out a whopping 208 times at a 30.7 percent rate, and that's enough to raise at least a few questions about the sustainability of his rookie performance.

    Still, Judge is going to be a perennial threat for a .400 on-base percentage and 40-plus home runs.

3. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2017 Offensive: 108 OPS+, .264/.344/.459, 72 XBH (24 HR), 102 RBI, 101 R

    2017 Defensive: 31 DRS, 18.9 UZR/150

    WAR: 6.4

         

    Outlook

    It speaks to just how good Mookie Betts was in 2016 that last year was considered a disappointment.

    Offensively, there was some obvious surface-level regression:

    • 2016: 133 OPS+, .318/.363/.534, 31 HR, 9.7 WAR
    • 2017: 108 OPS+, .264/.344/.459, 24 HR, 6.4 WAR

    However, some of that can be attributed to bad luck.

    His .268 BABIP ranked 127th among 144 qualified hitters, while his hard-contact rate actually increased (33.4 to 35.7 percent), so expect his batting average to rebound.

    A jump in his walk rate from 6.7 to 10.8 percent was also an encouraging sign of bigger things to come.

    Meanwhile, he remained an absolute star defensively, and his 63 DRS the past two seasons lead all of baseball.

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2017 Offensive: 157 OPS+, .319/.413/.595, 57 XBH (29 HR), 87 RBI, 95 R

    2017 Defensive: 4 DRS, 4.2 UZR/150

    WAR: 4.7

         

    Outlook

    A torn thumb ligament limited Bryce Harper to just 111 games last season.

    That didn't stop him from putting up huge numbers offensively, and he ended up finishing 12th in NL MVP voting.

    Now, as he gets set to enter a contract year, it's not out of the question to think he could add another MVP award to his trophy case in 2018.

    Harper won't turn 26 until October, yet he already has 785 hits, 150 home runs, 421 RBI and 26.1 WAR on his resume over six MLB seasons.

    He has elite power, elite plate discipline and enough of a hit tool to be a perennial threat to bat over .300.

    Thrown in a cannon arm in right field that tallied eight outfield assists, and it's hard not to wonder just how much he'll command on the open market next offseason.

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Age: 26

    2017 Offensive: 187 OPS+, .306/.442/.629, 61 XBH (33 HR), 72 RBI, 92 R

    2017 Defensive: -6 DRS, -7.3 UZR/150

    WAR: 6.7

         

    Outlook

    No big surprise here, right?

    Mike Trout has been widely regarded as the best player on the planet for years now, but his game is still evolving.

    The progression of his walk and strikeout rates is the perfect example:

    • 2014: 83 BB (11.8%), 184 K (26.1%)
    • 2015: 92 BB (13.5%), 158 K (23.2%)
    • 2016: 116 BB (17.0%), 137 K (20.1%)
    • 2017: 94 BB (18.5%), 90 K (17.8%)

    He's still getting better, folks.

    If not for a torn ligament in his left thumb, he likely would have put together a career year last season. With a better supporting cast, bigger and better things could be coming in 2018.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.