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Four Bases of Fantasy: Braves Outfielders

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Atlanta’s Outfield offers some obvious and hidden value for fantasy and dynasty owners.

Divisional Series - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves - Game Five Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

THEY ARE BACK!

And Better than Ever?

Time will tell, but we can currently hope all we want for now!

While many Braves fans may be dreaming of postseason successes and title chases as fans, they also are likely preparing for another fun year of fantasy and dynasty baseball. Right now is the peak of draft season, so knowing who has value and where they should be taken to maximize that value is important. While fans may have differing opinions of whether or not they prefer to own players from their favorite team, Atlanta offers a lot of good fantasy options.

In 2019, the Braves had several players who offered significant fantasy contributions, especially offensively. This not only occurred through players that were drafted, but several Braves offered value once picked up off the waiver wire. Atlanta could be a similar source of fantasy finds in 2020, as while much is the same, there are new players with significant roles to excel in for Atlanta to take its desired next step as a franchise. The beauty of playing dynasty and fantasy baseball along with being a Braves fan is that you could profit from the success of these players along with the Braves.

As a result, I felt it would be fun to look at four different groups of Braves players and prospects and how each individual player could impact your fantasy or dynasty team in 2020 and beyond. The first group will be the outfielders, a group that can offer plenty of value either on draft day or as the season progresses. Overall, this year’s Atlanta outfield likely has its best duo of producers since Jason Heyward and Justin Upton roamed the grass at Turner Field.

Adam Duvall

Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

2019 Summary: Decent production as a waiver wire target in last third of season, but playing time likely too up in air to make a priority.

2020 Redraft - Do Not Draft, Watch List, Decent Waiver Value Potential

2020 Dynasty - End of Draft Bench Option or Wavier Value Potential

Following a horrific debut as a Brave in 2018, Adam Duvall absolutely destroyed Triple-A for the first half of the 2019 season before working his way into the Braves outfield rotation. Once back in the majors, Duvall made the most of his opportunity, producing a .267/.315/.567 triple slash line and 10 home runs in 130 plate appearances. Duvall showed that he still has the ability to produce at or perhaps even above his 30 home run campaigns in 2016 and 2017 if given a good amount of playing time.

However, in the case of Duvall, the risk of not knowing how much opportunity he will get likely overcomes the reward of his production. Though starting 2020 in Atlanta rather than Gwinnett is better for Duvall and gives the Braves a stronger bench, a best case scenario of Duvall being the right handed option against southpaws in a platoon with Ender Inciarte contains marginal fantasy value. In 2020 redraft leagues, Duvall’s only avenue to value occurs if Inciarte struggles, an injury occurs, or he is traded. In dynasty leagues, Duvall may be worth a bench option to see if he finds another opportunity in the future. In deeper leagues, Duvall could be a last of the draft focus as an off day filler. When he plays, Duvall could provide instant value, so he could be an astute play for those that like to dabble in daily leagues.

Nick Markakis

2019 NLDS Game 5 - St. Louis Cardinals v. Atlanta Braves Photo by Mike Zarrilli/MLB Photos via Getty Images

2019 Summary - Though he had another consistent campaign with decent numbers, Markakis’s production took another step toward becoming easier to replace with options that offer more upside.

2020 ReDraft - Do Not Draft, Watch List, Low Waiver Wire Potential

2020 Dynasty - Do Not Draft, Potential Short Term Waiver Wire Add

Markakis has to be one of the more polarizing yet enduring players to a fanbase in all of baseball. Though Markakis is good for amazing quotes and moments off the field from time to time, his production on the field has naturally declined as he has aged. On paper, his .285/.356/.420 triple slash line is valuable for fantasy lineups, especially those heavy with percentage statistics. For any hitter with 450 plate appearances in 2019, Markakis was 13th in K% and 12th in BB/K ratio among 169 hitters. However, he was 149th in ISO and 150th in HR/FB ratio. Markakis has a very good eye and makes plenty of contact; unfortunately, there is not a lot of potential for him to get past first base on his own merit either way.

Ideally, Markakis is looking at a bench role for the 2020 season. With Ronald Acuna Jr. and Marcell Ozuna as likely everyday locks, there is only one position to fill each game between Duvall, Markakis, and Inciarte. Of these three, Inciarte plays center field and the best overall defense, while Duvall smashes lefties. Unless injuries or a prolonged bout of Snitker Stubbornness occurs, there is a good chance Markakis is primarily a first bat off the bench option for the Braves. This role makes him have very little value in redraft leagues, and along with age likely keeps him off the radar in dynasty. Beyond offering sneaky last resort options in daily leagues, Markakis may likely have the least fantasy value of any Braves outfielder this year.

Ender Inciarte

MLB: AUG 16 Dodgers at Braves Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2019 Summary: Injuries plagued Ender Inciarte throughout the 2019 season, though his offensive profile remained on pace with his production in previous years.

2020 Redraft- Late Round NL Only League Value, Watch List, Decent Waiver Wire Value

2020 Dynasty- Late Round Draft Value, Especially in Deeper Leagues

Without a doubt, much of the value Ender Inciarte has added during his career has been because of his defense. Directly, that does not carry much weight in fantasy baseball. However, indirectly, it can allow a player to earn one of the most needed traits for fantasy value: opportunity. If Inciarte can return to his gold glove form in center field, he will likely have plenty of opportunity to play.

Simply put, logic seems to suggest that the Braves most valuable outfield alignment in 2020 is Ozuna, Acuna Jr. and Inciarte. Though Inciarte’s defense is the reason for him to be in the lineup, his offense is what will be needed to keep him there. Inciarte has consistently found his wRC+ to land in the 93-100 range, while he has always been much more productive after the All-Star Break than before it. At this point, Inciarte has likely established his expected offensive profile. If he were to remain healthy, Inciarte could approach 500 hundred plate appearances, with a reasonable shot at 5-8 home runs, 15 steals, and 60-70 runs. Those numbers certainly become achievable if Inciarte can build upon his career high 11.3% walk rate in 2019. Overall, rather in redraft or dynasty, Inciarte will likely remain on the waiver wire in most drafts. However, he could add decent value as a in season add or late round selection in deeper leagues in 2020.

Marcell Ozuna

New York Yankees v Atlanta Braves Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

2019 Summary- Much like 2018, Ozuna was a bit of a an enigma, as his expected production results supported a top 20 fantasy outfielder, but his results in reality placed him just on the edge of the top 40 outfielders.

2020 redraft- Value Target, Should be focus around rounds 8-10 in standard 12 team leagues, placing him in the 33rd-37th position among outfielders taken, with realistic chance of returning top 25 outfield production

2020 dynasty- Value target, and may be worth a bit more of a reach due to being a good source of power, still around rounds 8-10 and among the 30th-35th outfielder taken, with supporting abilities to be a top 25 outfield value this year and beyond

As has been mentioned about Marcell Ozuna in reality on several occasions this offseason, the same conundrum accurately describes him as a fantasy or dynasty asset. On one hand, Ozuna’s totals of 112 home runs, 377 RBIs, and 317 runs since 2016 is a statistical threshold only 11 other major leaguers have accomplished over that time frame. This group includes some of the most valuable hitters in fantasy baseball. However, Ozuna was able to produce an OPS of .801 or better in only one of those years. Furthermore, while Ozuna can make elite contact, his results in reality due not reflect the outcomes that are expected.

As a result, it can be hard to trust Ozuna as a premier anchor to your fantasy offense. However, you could do far worse than targeting Ozuna as your second or third outfielder on draft day. There is a decent chance that Ozuna, in a new environment with a staff that has shown the ability to maximize a player’s hitting potential, could produce enough to be considered a top 20 outfielder in fantasy and dynasty. If his health and career high 11.3% walk rate from 2019 can be maintained, there is plenty to like regarding his production. As a result, I would feel confident drafting Ozuna, in redraft or dynasty, around overall pick 105-115, between round 8 and ten, as your fifth to eighth best offensive option and second or third outfielder. Like Josh Donaldson last year, there is a legitimate chance Ozuna could one of the better offensive values in 2020 fantasy drafts and beyond.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

2019 Summary- Just missing out on becoming the youngest 40-40 member in history by three steals, Acuna Jr. still generated historic production and firmly established himself as a top 5 overall dynasty and fantasy asset for the next decade and beyond.

2020 Redraft- Top 10 overall Selection, with very minimal chance of regret drafting him number one overall, though others in their prime may offer more immediate upside.

2020 Dynasty- DRAFT HIM NO.1 OVERALL YOU COWARDS!!!!

If you play fantasy or dynasty baseball, you likely are a true degenerate and play fantasy or dynasty football as well.

You know that awesome feeling that few things can compare to when you get the top overall pick and cannot wait to draft a Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey to dominate your league for that season or seasons to come?

That is the equivalent of landing Ronald Acuna Jr. in a fantasy baseball draft, and unlike Barkley or Mccaffrey, Acuna Jr. could be here to stay for a long while. For the first time in eight years, Mike Trout may have finally been dethroned as the top overall dynasty asset in fantasy baseball, and his name is Ronald Acuna Jr. And do not just take my word for it. I am simply repeating what has been written here , here , and here.

An Atlanta Brave is the Crown Jewel of Fantasy Sports.

As the future unfolds, there could be a year or two that others emerge to surpass Acuna Jr., as he may not reach Trout’s level as a hitter. However, no player offers elite across the board contributions while also being an asset in percentage based categories like Acuna Jr. The amazing thing is that there is also clear room to grow if Acuna Jr. can cut down on his 26% K rate in time. If you are a Braves fan, there is no doubt that Acuna Jr. should be your top target, as 30 home runs and 30 steals should be his floor over the next several seasons, with a good chance he significantly exceeds those numbers on an annual basis.

If Acuna Jr. is truly the Braves’ biggest reason is to why they are legitimate title contenders for the foreseeable future, there is no better way to enjoy that than having Acuna Jr. as the main reason your fantasy teams are title contenders for years to come as well.