A reader made a great point in the comments last week about updating my stance on stolen bases. While I’ve updated it in the section below, I can summarize it like this: steals are up significantly, and being able to steal 10 bases matters a lot less in 2023 than it did in 2022. Six players stole double-digit bases in the opening month this season, a feat no player accomplished in the opening month of 2022. Twice as many players have stolen three or more bases.
Stolen bases were a highly valued commodity because you had to draft them. You couldn’t pick any up on the wire without extreme sacrifice to other categories. In the current environment, that just isn’t the case. Sure, guys like Esteury Ruiz who can steal 40-50 bases still have value for their speed, but these players now need to provide more than just speed to justify their roster spots in 10-12 team leagues.
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:
- Jose Altuve continues to advance through his rehab, and as a result, he keeps moving up this list. I’m not sure how much higher he can go prior to his return, but it might be Tier 5.
- Christian Yelich has durability concerns, but it’s hard to ignore how good he’s been in May. We’re only about halfway through the month and he has four home runs, four stolen bases, and 22 combined runs and RBI.
- Turf toe has struck Jazz Chisholm Jr., and while it doesn’t sound like a big deal, it’s something that’s likely to keep him out for over a month. It’s a nagging type of injury too, so how much he runs and how he performs when he returns is a big question mark. What a bummer.
- Teoscar Hernández appears to be turning things around, which is good to see. He should go back to being a power slugger and still can get to 30 home runs with an extra hot streak or two.
- Michael Harris II is experiencing a classic sophomore slump. He’ll break out of it and shouldn’t be dropped in just about any format.
- Yandy Díaz is dealing with an injury concern (which is par for the course in his career) but the way he’s continuing to elevate the ball without impacting his ability to make contact and provide ratios is beyond a surprise. It can (and should) take a while to change your perception of a veteran player’s ceiling, but Yandy is doing what it takes to have me do just that.
- Max Muncy moved up because other players dropped, though it should also be a sign that I’m not concerned about his slumps.
- After rebounding a bit, Willy Adames is slumping again, and it’s as bad as before. I’m concerned enough to drop him down a tier, but not enough to recommend dropping him in most formats quite yet unless the replacement-level shortstop is still a Top 100 hitter.
- Josh Jung has cooled off a bit, but that’s because he’s human. He’s making contact and keeping that strikeout rate below 30%, which is exactly what I want to see during his colder moments as that should keep the bottom from totally falling out.
- Brandon Lowe is still playing every day and now has a little three-game hitting streak going after that miserable seven-game outage. The Rays continue to play him every day at second base, so the opportunity to hit a hot streak is still there.
- Lars Nootbaar is back, baby! Well, for the most part, anyway. Aside from the limited power (his .542 slugging percentage is not much higher than his .491 OBP), Nootbaar is doing everything we want him to be doing over the last 12 games—staying in the lineup against lefties, batting leadoff against righties, walking more than he strikes out, and swiping some bases. The Cardinals should be better on offense for the remainder of the season than they were in April, and with Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan failing to secure the leadoff spot, it seems to be Nootbaar’s role for the taking.
- Taylor Ward keeps teasing me with mini-rebounds and it’s exhausting. I still like him long-term, but in three-outfield formats, you can probably grab someone else for the time being.
- Jorge Mateo is ice cold after being scorching hot, and that shouldn’t surprise you. He’s slashing .116/.152/.140 so far this month with a 29.8% strikeout rate as his aggressive approach leaves him prone to this kind of roller coaster performance over the course of a season. He still steals bases from the bottom of the order, but hopefully, Mateo snaps out of it soon.
- Ty France is on a 13-game hitting streak, and that’s cool, but I’m hesitant to put him back in the Top 75 when all he can get from a 13-game hitting streak is one home run and five RBI.
- Riley Greene! Y’all know I am a huge fan of his game, and while the home runs aren’t as numerous as we’d hope, a .412/.444/.588 slash line and three stolen bases in his 13 games this month should make up for it to an extent. I’m hoping and believing in something like a 15-home run, 15-stolen base season with a batting average around .270 or .280.
- The power has slowed down for Brent Rooker and the strikeout rate has been a bit high (28.4%), but the walks keep coming. I think his floor might be higher than some other sluggers like him, but his plate discipline profile still weirds me out—Rooker is in the bottom-seven in the league in contact rate, zone contact rate, and whiff rate.
- Don’t ask me what I think Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s 2023 stat line will be because I have no idea. He’s been a really odd player to follow the last few seasons and projecting him feels like a fool’s errand.
- Seiya Suzuki has looked more like himself over the last two weeks or so, though the upside hasn’t been there yet. I want to see some of that before raising him up the ranks again. I think Suzuki should show us that upside eventually, especially as he gets further and further from that oblique injury.
- This entire tier is a group of young players who I’m quite intrigued by.
- Josh Lowe isn’t making contact like he did to start the year, but is hitting for power when he connects. James Outman has cooled off in a big way and the strikeout rate is spiking, but his seven home runs and four steals in April is nothing to sneeze at. Both guys will likely struggle with strikeouts from time to time, but both also have 25 home run upside. Lowe can also steal 20 bases while Outman is probably capped at 15, though Outman’s playing time feels considerably more secure over the course of the season.
- Anthony Volpe is the most exciting and dynamic (by a lot), but he’s having to learn the big leagues on the fly. He’s younger than the rest of the tier and less experienced, though seems to be improving week to week.
- Isaac Paredes continues to carve out playing time in Tampa, and his ability to make contact continues to shine through. I think he’s also on his way to a 20-25 home run season, and while he isn’t walking as much, I think he can hit .260 or better if he keeps the ball off the ground. Statcast is not a believer in the versatile infielder, but I am.
- Nolan Gorman went through a rough patch but is now out of it. If he can keep bouncing back quickly, he should be a 30-home run player.
- Jarren Duran is holding steady by hitting for a high average and has swiped five bags this month. I’m not sure he clears 15 home runs even if he plays the rest of the season, but 20 stolen bases shouldn’t be an issue, and the batting average should be a plus.
- Esteury Ruiz isn’t ever going to walk like he did in the minors in 2022 at the big league level, but he doesn’t have to because you’re going to roster him to get 50 stolen bases and hopefully a .250 batting average. Five home runs is probably all he can muster, though, so his value is very dependent on league format, unlike the rest of the group.
- Watch out for falling veterans!
- Javier Báez makes no sense to me. He’s a completely different hitter than he’s been his entire career, so forgive me if I remain skeptical about how long this lasts.
- C.J. Cron hit the IL with back issues, and that really scares me.
- This tier has a ton of guys who jumped up—mostly young players with upside who have found opportunities or are playing well. They’re likely available in most leagues, too.
- I’d been holding off on ranking Ezequiel Duran due to Corey Seager’s imminent promotion, but the injury to veteran speedster Travis Jankowski does open up at-bats for Duran. Keep an eye on the strikeout rate, as he isn’t someone who walks, but given the opportunity he can be a useful fantasy piece.
- Christopher Morel has been hot in the minors and majors to start the season after being one of the toughest players to watch in the spring. I won’t deny that Morel has power and speed and that he’s probably worth a look in a lot of formats, but I also feel compelled to tell you that the hot start to the season still displays his greatest flaw—whiffs. Morel strikes out a LOT, and it’s hard to stay hot when you strike out as much as he does. Unless he starts proving he can make contact consistently, Morel will be a dangerous player to chase as his hot streaks can end abruptly and turn into extended slumps.
- I could have moved Harrison Bader up this week, but I figured I’d wait to see just one more healthy week.
- I’ve ranked Taylor Walls, but also I think his upside is fairly limited. He’s versatile and a superb defender, though, so he should continue to get playing time.
- Triston Casas is showing signs of being the big power hitter with a high walk rate we’ve been waiting for. Now he just needs that consistent playing time.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List:
And here’s the Taxi Squad, presented in no particular order:
Scott, in a 10-team h2h categories league (OBP instead of AVG, and we play with Corner spot in the lineup), my 3B-eligibles are Gunnar and Spencer Steer. Given the shallowness of the league and the shortcomings of each of those guys (Steer outside of CIN and Gunnar just being hugely disappointing and not very productive), are either or both holds, or am I just as well off streaming at 3B with hot hands or volume plays? Out on the wire: guys like McMahon, Burger, Candelario, Senzel.
Burger is a decent power play for the next week or so until Eloy returns.
Sounds like CHW are prepping Eloy for more OF duty (https://twitter.com/JRFegan/status/1660318542326030336?s=20); maybe they can keep Burger’s bat in the lineup at DH.
How is Tovar ranked so high?
Highly regarded prospect who had a nice little surge in late April and early May. He’s fizzled hard since, so he’s likely back to the bottom tier/taxi squad.
The last 2 tiers and the Taxi Squad aren’t separated by very much.
CJ Abrams was a much higher rated prospect with better grade tools and is having a better season so far than Tovar, and you took him off the taxi squad. That doesn’t make sense to me.
“Esteury Ruiz who can steal 40-50 bases”
You mean by the ASB?
Having an elite SB guy like Esteury still plays and has immense value. You can pair with with a couple of moderate SB threats on the rest of your roster with a guy like Esteury, and just focus on power everywhere else.