We’re into June, meaning the MLB season is roughly one-third over. Many of the April surprises have faded, and the cream is starting to rise to the top. A month ago, we revealed our inaugural PLV All-Stars. Today, we’ve updated the list with statistics through May. While some of April’s stars have remained effective, all of the faces in this month’s lineup are new. As a reminder, if you haven’t checked out Nick Pollack’s “What is PLV?” primer yet, read it first. This article will be far more enlightening if you do.
This month, we’ve set the qualification thresholds at ~600 pitches seen for batters, ~800 pitches for starters, and ~400 for relievers. Below are the nine hitters and two pitchers who made our starting squad for May, listed with their season-to-date stats and PLV rankings.
Starting Pitcher: Spencer Strider
Strider has picked up where he left off last year, leading the league in strikeouts while posting impressive statistics for Atlanta.
His 5.48 PLV leads MLB for pitchers who have thrown more than 500 pitches, and his 2.38 PLA ranks fourth.
Strider features a four-seamer, slider, and changeup, but it’s his fastball that makes him so effective. His four-seamer clocks in at over 97 mph and has the lowest PLA in baseball. He’s generated a 17.7% SwStr% on the pitch in 2023, which ranks in the 98th percentile.
Reliever: Yennier Cano
Yennier Cano has turned a lot of heads this season for a good reason. His numbers are remarkable, and he didn’t give up an earned run until May 19.
Cano’s 5.72 PLV and 1.21 PLA lead the sport, and it’s not particularly close.
Cano excels with two of his three pitches, and though his slider is below average, it’s still reasonably effective with a 3.14 PLA. Plus, he only throws it 7% of the time. He controls his elite sinker incredibly well, keeping it in the strike zone at a 63.2% clip, which ranks in the 90th percentile. But it’s his changeup that has been truly incredible. The PLV on the pitch is off the charts, and the 0.11 ERA is nearly a run lower than the next lowest, 1.07, by Lucas Giolito.
Catcher: Will Smith
Sean Murphy was our catcher last month and remains deserving. To broaden our credit, we went with Smith as our backstop this month, as he’s been just as good.
Smith missed a chunk of games in late April after a hot start to 2023 and didn’t slow down after his return to the lineup. He ranks average or better in all PLV categories and is especially strong on Contact and Hitter Performance.
The lowest Smith dipped on HP this season was about the 75th percentile. He’s been extremely consistent and productive, averaging nearly two runs added per 100 pitches seen this year.
First Base: Freddie Freeman
Freeman had a May for the ages. After a solid April, the veteran slashed .400/.462/.722 for the month and rode a 19-game hitting streak through May 31.
Freeman’s YTD PLV #’s are strong across the board, led by an overall Hitter Performance that ranks among the league leaders.
The chart below reveals how hot Freddie has been of late. He’s skyrocketed from barely above league average to start the year to adding nearly four runs per 100 pitches recently.
Second Base: Marcus Semien
Marcus Semien paced the Rangers while Corey Seager (who would’ve been in the lineup with more plate appearances) was on the IL. The shortstop-turned-second-baseman is putting up terrific numbers in Texas’ surprisingly lethal lineup.
Semien has been slightly below average in Power but thrived in every other PLV category.
In particular, his Strike Zone Judgment has been stellar all season. Semien has made the right call on whether or not to swing nearly 75% of the time this season.
Shortstop: Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor is the most surprising player in our lineup, as outside of his excellent power, his season-to-date statistics aren’t very impressive.
Taylor’s problem has been his inability to make contact consistently. He ranks well below average in this category, evidenced by his 35.2% K-rate. However, Taylor has excellent in Strike Zone Judgment, Decision Value, and Power. He swings at the correct pitches most of the time, and when he makes contact, he hits the ball hard. His ISO of .273 backs this up.
Taylor may seem like a free swinger, but he’s not. He’s less aggressive than most and has made the right call on balls and strikes on roughly 73% of the pitches he’s seen this year.
Third Base: Patrick Wisdom
Patrick Wisdom has been similar to Taylor but better. His .313 ISO ranks third in MLB among qualified hitters, but he’s striking out in nearly 36% of his plate appearances.
Wisdom’s judgment isn’t quite as good as Taylor’s, but it’s still well above average, and only Aaron Judge has matched his Power.
Wisdom averages 0.3 extra bases per batted-ball event on the year, and his 21.4-degree launch angle is in the 97th percentile.
Left Field: Juan Soto
Soto is the only hitter with an 80 Decision Value. He rarely makes the wrong choice, reflected by a nearly identical BB% and K% (21.5% and 21.9%, respectively). He isn’t aggressive and has a below average Contract rank, but he also possesses tremendous Power.
Soto’s DV has steadily climbed since earlier this year, and he now averages about 2.25 runs added per 100 pitches seen.
Center Field: Aaron Judge
The reigning AL MVP is doing his thing again in 2023. Since coming off the IL on May 9, Judge has been on a tear, slashing .342/.474/.882 with 12 HRs and 25 RBI. His recent hot streak puts him among the league leaders in several categories, despite his missing ten games to a hip injury.
The Yankees’ slugger is the only player with two PLV ranks of 80. Like many sluggers, Judge’s Contact rank is below average, but he makes up for it with excellent plate discipline and off-the-charts Power.
Judge was good, but not great, in April. The chart below provides a great visual of his current run, which is stretching the chart to new limits. He’s been contributing nearly five extra runs per 100 pitches as of late.
Right Field: Ronald Acuña Jr.
Acuna has been one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball all year. In addition to his YTD stats below, he leads the NL with 23 stolen bases.
Acuna doesn’t shine in one particular PLV category. Instead, he’s checking all the boxes with above-average ratings across the board.
Despite a mini-slump over the last ten days of May, Acuna’s HP remains among the best in the league.
Designated Hitter: Yandy Díaz
Yandy Díaz has been one of 2023’s biggest breakout stars. He’s always been a good hitter but has never displayed as much power as he has this season. His 12 HRs are only two short of his career high, and we have four months remaining.
Diaz is a patient hitter who ranks near the top of the league in Decision Value while making excellent contact. He doesn’t hit many fly balls (27.8%), but he ranks among the league leaders in HR/FB% when he does.
Diaz has made excellent decisions at the plate all year, consistently ranking near the top of MLB in DV. His power increase has transformed him from an OBP machine to an OPS monster.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Leslie Plaza Johnson, Julian Avram & Jeff Robinson / Icon Sportswire