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:
- Randy Arozarena continues to take walks and steal some bases, which is great, but like many other players who make contact with pitches in the zone less than 80% of the time, he’s very streaky when it comes to power.
- As Corbin Carroll gets more acclimated to major league pitching, he finds more ways to get the ball in the air and to the pull field, which helps unlock his power potential. Assuming he continues to make adjustments, we could be looking at a 25 home run, 30 stolen base kind of season with good ratios. That’s a big assumption to make, of course, but it’s fun to see him develop and succeed.
- It’s great to see Ozzie Albies hit three home runs over his last five games and strike out just twice over his last 13, though the drop in the batting order is less great. Most concerning, though, is the complete evaporation of stolen bases — he has just five across 124 games since the start of 2022. He’s on pace to hit 30 home runs, which is awesome, but a neutral batting average and no speed limits his fantasy upside.
- Daulton Varsho has been fantasy’s best catcher over the last 15 days according to ESPN’s Player Rater. In his last 15 games, he has five home runs, 21 combined runs and RBI, and has struck out in just 8.1% of his plate appearances with a .271 batting average. Varsho hasn’t stolen many bases over that stretch (just one), but he’s still on pace to steal double-digit bags to go with the 30-home run power. Varsho should also be able to pile up over 80 runs and 80 RBI as part of the Blue Jays offense — numbers that most catchers can’t really dream of.
- Xander Bogaerts should have no issue surpassing his 15 home runs and eight steals from 2022, but it may not be by very much. I’m rather concerned about the lack of hard contact as well — he’s hitting over half of balls on the ground with just a 32.5% hard-hit rate. The high batting average Bogaerts should be bringing to the table won’t be there if he continues to hit so many grounders and making so much poor contact. This is not the rebound we hoped for, and I’m thinking he’s more likely to fall on this list than move up.
- Nathaniel Lowe is hitting .282 and is on his way to 180 combined runs and RBI or more — that’s the good news. The news that’s less good is that he only has seven home runs so far, and two of those came in the last four days. 2022 might be a little fluky from a power perspective (Lowe hits a LOT of grounders, which makes it hard to pile up home runs), but even if he falls shy of 20 home runs, the ratios and counting stats make his floor feel like a top-75 player and top-ten first baseman.
- There is a lot of green in this section, and while some of it is due to intentional jumps (J.D. Martinez, Luis Arraez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.), the rest is due to minor shifts and other players taking a tumble.
- J.D. Martinez looks like a vintage version of himself since returning to action on May 12, and over his last 15 games he has an outstanding 10 home runs and 37 combined runs and RBI. He’s still striking out a bit more than he used to (27.7% in those 15 games), but just seeing the return of his power after just 16 home runs in 2022 gives me hope that J.D. can be a high-level hitter for the remainder of 2023.
- Vinnie Pasquantino hasn’t been a top-25 first baseman so far, though the underlying metrics suggest he’s still roughly the same hitter he was for 72 games in 2022. The plate discipline is still strong, and his expected stats are basically in-line with what he did last season. Luck has been one of the primary factors, as his BABIP is down over 50 points from last season despite his expected BABIP being just four points lower. That said, we haven’t really seen an uptick in home run power from Vinnie P, and I wouldn’t be counting on more than 20 when it’s all said and done. Good ratios and 20 home runs isn’t a bad thing (I mean, I just said it was all Nathaniel Lowe needed), but when it’s stuck on a miserable offense, it’s hard to move up much higher than he is right now.
- Wait, I’m featuring a player who didn’t change rankings? As it so happens, yes — but the fact he didn’t move is pretty meaningful when you consider that Josh Lowe is hitting .209/.222/.256 over his last 13 games with a 2.2% walk rate and a 28.9% strikeout rate. Why isn’t he moving down due to this slump? Because despite being in a slump, Josh Lowe is still contributing for fantasy managers thanks to five stolen bases in those 13 contests and the Rays continue to allow him to hit in the heart of their lineup. This stretch more-or-less represents Lowe’s floor, and yet he’s still finding ways to produce. He does sit against most lefties, sure, but the power and speed combination means Lowe can put up 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases even if he only plays 120 games. If Lowe is available in your leagues due to this slump, I’d see if a deal can be made.
- I called out Jonah Heim and Andrew Vaughn in previous iterations, and now look silly for doing so.
- Ryan Mountcastle is driving in plenty of runners and hitting his fair share of home runs, but he’s been alarmingly bad against right-handed pitching (28% strikeout rate, .547 OPS). It’s been enough to be a top-12 to top-15 first baseman so far, but the batting average may not rebound as much as we’d like if he can’t find a way to get some better outcomes against same-sided pitching.
- Brandon Drury is on a hot streak, hitting .326/.396/.651 over his last 11 games. It’s unlikely that Drury will get close to the 28 home runs he hit last season, but 20-23 home runs is feasible with acceptable ratios and decent counting stats to go with his positional versatility.
- Esteury Ruiz is still running a lot, but a .180/.231/.213 line over his last 15 games with just five runs scored and three RBI, it’s worth wondering if the speed is always worth it in shallower leagues — especially when it’s head-to-head categories. If I had a comfortable lead in steals for the week, I’d consider benching him for someone with a stronger bat until Ruiz turns it around a little.
- Carlos Correa was slumping and now he’s dealing with health issues (which may not be a surprise to most of you). This could get ugly in a hurry.
- MJ Melendez is showing impressive plate discipline of late, with a 15.6% walk rate and 20% strikeout rate over his last 11 games. The home run pop isn’t quite there so far in 2023, but I still think he could get close to 20 home runs with better ratios than he had last season (which isn’t that high of a bar). That’s enough for Melendez to be considered a locked-in catcher for 2023 and beyond for fantasy purposes.
- Tim Anderson isn’t hitting home runs nor is he stealing bases, so it’s mostly just empty batting average right now.
- Moving Taylor Ward up feels good. He continues to hit first or fourth, and he’s on a seven-game hitting streak where he’s hit three home runs while slashing .367/.387/.700. I still believe in the talent.
- Spencer Steer has been outstanding for the Reds of late. Coming into the season, I thought Steer was someone who’d be interesting in deep leagues due to having a full-time role and 20-home run power, but what he’s showing is making me reevaluate what the ceiling for Steer looks like.
- Welcome back to the list, Jake McCarthy. He’s playing every day and running wild, which are the two things I wanted to see after he was called up from triple-A. What McCarthy accomplished in 2022 was a massive surprise, so it’s hard to know what to expect going forward and the floor is extremely low, but the ceiling is also a top-60 player.
- Kris Bryant and Brandon Lowe are pretty close to droppable at this point, especially if you don’t have a deep IL in your league. They both still have potentially high ceilings, but those ceilings seem really out of reach right now.
- Ezequiel Duran returned from the IL and is finding plenty of playing time, which was my chief concern. If he’s playing, he’s probably worth starting.
- Nolan Jones was crushing the ball in the minor leagues, so I’m glad he’s up for the Rockies. I’m interested to see how he handles the upcoming road trip. Jones was once a touted prospect, but strikeout issues pushed him down a lot of lists.
- Elly De La Cruz is up and has supreme talent in a volatile profile. Watch the strikeout rate – it’ll help us understand how quickly he catches on.
- I don’t know what it would take (apart from a demotion) to have Anthony Volpe or Michael Harris II fall off the list entirely, but it’s becoming more and more of a realistic possibility.
- I want to give Anthony Rendon a little bit of time to show he could still be the old Anthony Rendon, but in shallow leagues I don’t think I’d wait very long if an interesting player was on the wire.
- Jordan Walker gets another chance, which is all we ever asked for.
- A back injury and a lack of production are a scary mix for a guy like Lars Nootbaar, especially when a top prospect who can play the outfield has been called up in his absence.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List:
And here’s the Taxi Squad, presented in no particular order: