And I’m back! It’s been a wild few weeks taking care of the newborn babies and many thanks to my friend and colleague Dave Swan for filling in. With a month in the books, it’s time I start looking at all of the data we’ve got so far (including PLV data) to make some bolder moves.
PLV data, in a nutshell, comes from our exclusive data model that goes into pitch-level data to compare a pitcher or hitter’s performance with the rest of the league based on the location, velocity, and situation of a specific pitch and/or batted ball to help us get a sense of whether a player is making a good or bad decisions, and whether the outcome was better or worse than we expected from that situation.
To access PLV data on your own, you simply need to become one of our PL Pro members and access the Pro Tools hub. It’s extremely valuable data that’s not really available elsewhere, and using the data we have can help give you an edge in an era of fantasy sports where everyone has access to immense amounts of information.
Let’s get some basics out of the way regarding how to interpret these rankings. None of this stuff should come as any major surprise, but it never hurts to provide background:
- Pretty much all of the upward movement in this tier can be attributed to players who fell as opposed to believing more in the specific players.
- I’m tempted to move Byron Buxton up this list due to his recent performance and upside, but then I remembered that he’s also a massive injury and performance risk at any given time.
- Corey Seager should begin his rehab assignment this week.
- Nick Castellanos looks like his old self, which is great considering I couldn’t figure out what was even wrong with his game in the first place. Like, it was bad, but I have no idea why.
- Willy Adames falls to the bottom of this tier, but I should be clear that his recent slump isn’t a low point for him—he’s had slumps like this in 2021 and 2022 as well. In fact, they were much worse.
- Christian Walker has been on absolute fire of late, showing us the type of explosive power he flashed for stretches in 2022 as well. If he can keep approaching this kind of performance—even in short spurts—he’ll continue to rise in the rankings. It’s worth noting that he’s doing it without the elevated walk rate from 2022, though that walk rate had been trending down ever since the middle of last season.
- I’m not sure where Masataka Yoshida’s ceiling is, but it’s looking a bit like 25 home runs, a handful of steals, and a .300 batting average. He’s really found his feel for contact as he’s been exposed to more and more major league pitching, which bodes well for his future.
- Teoscar Hernández’s aggressive approach makes his floor extremely low, and that’s what we’re seeing right now. You can’t cut him yet—he could turn all this around in short order with a hot streak or two, but it’s not a very fun time to roster him right now and I empathize with you.
- Eloy Jiménez can’t catch a break.
- Taylor Ward is turning things around, alebit somewhat slowly, but this drop was a long time coming.
- Josh Jung is rostered in just 31.9% of ESPN leagues, which can’t possibly be right, can it? He’s a must-add for anyone with even a little bit of space for a corner infielder. I mean, Anthony Rendon has been hot, but there’s absolutely no reason he should be rostered in more leagues than Jung. In fact, it probably shouldn’t even be close.
- Yandy Diaz gets one more boost because we maybe didn’t boost him enough, but it’s worth noting that his flyball rate has dropped sharply over the last two weeks. He’s still producing, mind you, but the secret to a major power breakout for Yandy is a flyball rate consistently north of 40% or so.
- Brandon Lowe is an all-or-nothing kind of player, and I think we just need to accept that.
- Anthony Santander, and other power hitters like him who don’t like to walk, run really hot and cold on a regular basis. The trick is to not overreact to either end of the spectrum.
- Cody Bellinger isn’t going to hit 30 or more home runs like he did in 2017 and 2019, but the significantly improved strikeout rate and the Cubs’ willingness to let him run could certainly turn him into a 25 home run, 25 stolen base player if things break right. That’s more of a ceiling, probably, but you should at least be banking on a 20/20 season at this point.
- Jorge Mateo’s strikeout rate is primary bellwether of his production. When it’s high, he stinks. When it’s low, he doesn’t. Right now, it’s as low as it as ever been.
- Alec Bohm started showing us power, but it remains a fleeting skill for him, and he doesn’t do enough when the power is out to keep him ranked higher.
- Brent Rooker’s power is very legitimate, but I continue to worry about his ability to make contact. Rooker doesn’t miss because he chases, though—he misses in the zone. It’s not easy to miss as often in the zone as he does and be successful, and as the season has worn on, Rooker is trending in the wrong direction. I moved him up in the ranks because of the upside, but felt the more important conversation to have about him is the potential downside.
- Don’t look now, but Riley Greene has turned it on after his abysmal beginning to 2023. He’s hitting .353 over his last 13 games, though the real burst has been over his last six games as he’s stolen three bases while also knocking three doubles and a home run. I dropped him in the rankings, but honestly I’ve been over-ranking him all season so even just keeping him up here says a lot.
- Jonah Heim might not keep this up, but a catcher showing this much power over the last two seasons should be rostered everywhere.
- Seiya Suzuki should look better when he’s completely over that oblique injury, but who knows when that will be. Core injuries are rough.
- I’d cut Alejandro Kirk for Jonah Heim in most formats.
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is an enigma.
- Jarren Duran is mastering the art of hitting balls into the Green Monster, and that could help him keep that batting average higher than projections suggest. I think there’s a real shot at 13-15 home runs and 20 or more stolen bases to go with that average, too.
- Gunnar Henderson’s contact woes from late last season did not correct itself over the offseason and have evolved into a more terrifying problem.
- Orlando Arcia continues to post solid, steady production when healthy and I should probably stop ignoring that.
- Jack Suwinski’s contact woes (which are similar to Rooker’s) are catching up to him fast. He has a 46.9% strikeout rate over his last nine games with just a single home run, though the chase rate is still pretty low (though it is starting to rise again). If he keeps focusing on pitches in the zone, I think Suwinski can rebound. If he starts expanding the zone too much, it could get even uglier.
- I’m sure many of you want me to rank Esteury Ruiz higher, and I get it. I could see someone ranking him as high as 110 on this list and I wouldn’t give them any grief about it (15 spots isn’t that many at this point on the list). I rank him a bit lower than that because he still feels like a player who I can’t rely on for more than a batting average that’s just north of average and a boatload of steals. In head-to-head category and points formats, steals aren’t nearly as valuable as they are in roto—particularly deep roto. If you’re in an NFBC-style league (15 teams, big rosters), then Ruiz is probably inside your top 100 because of the scarcity and value of steals combined with his consistent playing time. In shallower head-to-head leagues, though, those steals are only situationally valuable, and I find myself recommending that someone punt steals more often than I recommend finding more steals.
- Yes, you can drop Tommy Edman. If the Cardinals can get their offense back on track or if Edman gets more shots at batting first, I’ll reconsider.
- In fact, this entire tier is well within the realm of streaming. There’s no real need to show any loyalty to any of these players (or quite frankly, the players in a tier or two above it depending on the depth of your league).
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List:
And here’s the Taxi Squad, presented in no particular order:
You might wanna remove this section from your preamble…
“I’ve gotten more level-headed over the years regarding weighing stolen bases, but I still think they’re precious given how rare they’re becoming….”
Stick to Pitching lists, guys.