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Fantasy Baseball 2021: Outfielder rankings, tiers, draft strategies and more to know

Get ready for your 2021 fantasy baseball draft by diving in to the outfielder position
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How you approach the outfielder position will likely be dictated by your league format. Start three outfielders in a 12-team league? Then there's no reason to reach for anyone but the absolute best of the best at the position, as there will be plenty of quality players available in free agency all year long. But that changes in a five-outfielder Roto format where you're starting 60 players at the position instead of 36. If you're in a H2H points league, there will be guys like Joey Gallo in the middle rounds with prodigious power upside and a great OBP based on plate patience, as well as excellent upside to be found in the later rounds. If you're in a Roto or H2H categories league, make sure you're adding players with steals upside earlier in the draft as those dry up pretty quickly by the time you get to the second half of the proceedings.

So how should you attack the position heading into your draft? I've done numerous mock and real snake and salary cap drafts heading into the 2021 MLB season, and I'm here to share the things I've learned so far. If you're a regular subscriber to SportsLine, you probably know me from dominating NFL picks for years, but did you know I actually got my start in sports media as a fantasy baseball analyst? I even finished No. 1 among all experts for my draft rankings the first year FantasyPros tracked MLB expert accuracy on their site.

Want more fantasy baseball tips from CBS Sports' panel of experts? Go sign up for our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit to have our full set of rankings, strategies, tiers and more sent directly to your inbox.

More tiered rankings: C1B2B3BSSOFSPRP

Here's how I'm ranking and approaching the outfielder position for fantasy baseball in 2021:

Outfielder ranking tiers

1. Ronald Acuna, ATL
2. Mookie Betts, LAD
3. Juan Soto, WAS
4. Mike Trout, LAA  

There's no wrong order to put these guys, as they should either be the first four batters off the board in all formats or four of the first five (including Fernando Tatis Jr.). Trout likely comes in fourth in Roto and H2H categories formats as strange as that sounds, but he stole just one base last year while the other three will definitely help managers in that aspect of the game. But in H2H points I trust him and Betts the most and wouldn't mind taking either No. 1. With all the caveats of the smaller sample size from the 2020 season, Soto hit .351/.490/.695 last year, and he could easily go fourth in this group depending on the preferences of the people drafting at the top. None of these guys really deserve to be fourth, but one has to be.

5. Christian Yelich, MIL
6. Bryce Harper, PHI
7. Cody Bellinger, LAD

Yelich is the player most likely to finish in the top tier who isn't starting the season among the first foursome, thanks to following up his MVP campaign in 2018 with an even better 2019 before last year's struggles. The latter makes him a slight discount, and he's worth considering at the Round 1/2 turn. Harper is a nice snag in Round 2 in H2H points leagues thanks to a high walk rate that contributed to his .420 OBP in 2020. There's a pretty big drop at the position after Bellinger, but if you play in three-OF formats, that doesn't mean you should feel pressure to get one of the top seven.

8. Marcell Ozuna, ATL
9. George Springer, TOR
10. Kyle Tucker, HOU
11. Whit Merrifield, KC
12. Eloy Jimenez, CHW
13. Starling Marte, MIA
14. Aaron Judge, NYY
15. Luis Robert, CHW
16. Randy Arozarena, TB
17. Austin Meadows, TB

Something clicked with Ozuna in Atlanta last year, leading to a .338/.431/.636 line with 18 home runs in 267 plate appearances. He'll regress a bit, but if we expected a full repeat he'd be in Tier 2 at the very least. Springer was like many Astros in that he saw his numbers take a dip last year, but his 39 homers in 2019 speak to his upside. Tucker is more potential than production to this point but he has massive upside, as do other youngsters in this tier like Jimenez and Robert. Arozarena will have to prove his incredible 2020 run wasn't a fluke, but I see no reason to doubt him. I'm typically grabbing one guy from this tier if I didn't get one of the top seven at the position, maybe two if Arozarena presents good value and I don't love the other options on the board.

18. Michael Conforto, NYM
19. Nick Castellanos, CIN
20. Charlie Blackmon, COL
21. Trent Grisham, SD
22. Brandon Lowe, TB
23. Teoscar Hernandez, TOR
24. Lourdes Gurriel, TOR

There's nothing wrong with the outfielders in this tier, but by this point in the draft I'm addressing other needs and plotting to take advantage of the deeper talent in the outfield a little later. However, I have seen Gurriel and Hernandez go at a pretty solid value, so if one of them hangs around a round later than the rest of the end of this tier, that's a guy I can end up with from this group.

25. Cavan Biggio, TOR  
26. Eddie Rosario, CLE
27. Jeff McNeil, NYM
28. Tommy Pham, SD
29. Dominic Smith, NYM
30. Joey Gallo, TEX
31. Byron Buxton, MIN
32. Wil Myers, SD
33. Mike Yastrzemski, SF
34. Alex Verdugo, BOS
35. Michael Brantley, HOU
36. Ian Happ, CHC

I love going after Smith and Gallo from this tier, particularly in H2H points leagues. Buxton is an underrated asset in Roto and H2H categories, but he just needs to finally figure out a way to stay healthy. Happ continues to be consistently undervalued in all formats.

37. Ramon Laureano, OAK
38. Kyle Lewis, SEA
39. Trey Mancini, BAL
40. Victor Robles, WAS
41. Dylan Carlson, STL
42. Tommy Edman, STL
43. Max Kepler, MIN
44. Nick Senzel, CIN
45. Anthony Santander, BAL
46. Ryan Mountcastle, BAL
47. A.J. Pollock, LAD
48. Myles Straw, HOU

Mancini missed last year while recovering from colon cancer, but his last action on the diamond provided fantasy managers with a .291/.364/.535 line with 35 home runs in 2019, so don't forget about him on draft day. Robles could wind up sticking at leadoff for the Nationals if he performs, where he'd provide fantasy managers with plenty of runs and steals. Senzel could be ready to cash in on his upside with regular playing time this year, while Straw is a stolen-base asset to remember later in drafts.

49. Andrew McCutchen, PHI
50. Kyle Schwarber, WAS
51. Dylan Moore, SEA
52. Clint Frazier, NYY
53. Jesse Winker, CIN
54. Aaron Hicks, NYY
55. Jarred Kelenic, SEA
56. Alex Dickerson, SF
57. Brandon Nimmo, NYM
58. Nick Solak, TEX
59. Andrew Benintendi, KC
60. Raimel Tapia, COL

Outfielder strategies

I typically miss out on one of the big four at the top but I have no issue going with Christian Yelich or Bryce Harper in late Round 1 or early Round 2. If you can't get them either, look to attack Tier 3, scooping up a Marcell Ozuna or George Springer in Round 4, or one of the Rays guys a round or two later. But don't go crazy on outfielders early, as there are plenty of value options after Pick No. 100, and I would go to battle with a Joey Gallo-Mike Yastrzemski-Ian Happ type of outfield if it meant I was stacked everywhere else.

The depth continues after that, with plenty of young players with upside lurking in the form of Nick Senzel, Kyle Lewis, Dylan Carlson and plenty of others, including minor-leaguer Jarred Kelenic, one of the top prospects in all of baseball. If you went sparse early, don't forget to pick up a few unsexy but reliable options; even players like Aaron Hicks, Mark Canha and Joc Pederson can help you super late in drafts. Otherwise, attack high-ceiling players late, stashing Kelenic, Jo Adell or other top prospects who could see playing time this year on your bench.

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R.J. WhiteSuper Stat Geek