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:
- Shohei Ohtani is off the trade market and it is the least-surprising news of the deadline.
- Fernando Tatis Jr. is going through a bit of a slump at the moment, hitting just .179 over the last seven days with only one extra-base hit, one RBI, and one steal, but I implore you to ignore it and stay the course. The Padres have hit well in the second half and Tatis will get back in on the action in no time.
- Maybe Pete Alonso’s wrist is just fine after all. For the record, unless there was an actual surgery that a player returned from much earlier than expected (like Bryce Harper), I am very hesitant to suggest that a power slump is due to a lingering injury. It could be true, but we rarely have any evidence at all and it tends to be just pure speculation. Power hitters are often streaky, and there isn’t always (or even usually) any reason we could possibly uncover for their power outages within the season until they’ve lasted quite a long time.
- Austin Riley wasn’t bad in the first half—his 16 home runs were tied for fifth among qualified third basemen—but his overall production left much to be desired from folks who used a second-round pick on Riley. I’m not sure what tips and tricks Riley picked up over the break, but he has exploded since we’ve resumed action by hitting six home runs in 11 games with 27 combined runs and RBI. Riley’s Achilles’ heel used to be the strikeout rate, and with his plate discipline being pretty standard throughout his “slower” first half, I wasn’t that worried about the type of player he could be. Of course, this is a guy who various projection models have as a Top-10 overall fantasy hitter for the rest of the season, so my ranking at 20 could be perceived as a slight, but seeing as Riley is currently barely in the Top 50 in terms of actual production in 2023, I’m hoping that this rank shows I am extremely confident in his bat and the ample opportunities for RBI Riley should get in the Atlanta lineup. I wouldn’t be shocked, though, if Riley ends up knocking on the door to Tier 2.
- Julio Rodríguez drops five spots despite three home runs and a stolen base over his last five games? Well, yes, but these five games have helped him stay within this tier. This ranking keeps him within my Top-10 outfielders (ninth), but I’m hedging a bit based on how volatile J-Rod has been this season. The important news here is that he remains in Tier 3.
- Manny Machado never fell that far in these rankings because like I’ve mentioned many times before, prolonged slumps are just part of the package. It’s year-to-year consistency he brings, not month-to-month.
- Luis Robert Jr. strikes out in big bunches at times and it hasn’t really prevented him from producing. It kills you in certain points leagues, but it’s just part of his game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the strikeouts become a bigger issue for Lu-Bob as he ages and the bat speed slows a bit, but that won’t be for quite some time (hopefully).
- Wander Franco (and most of the Rays’ offense) is slumping badly, and for Franco in particular, it may be helping me form a better idea of where his 2023 ceiling is, though not in a good way.
- Elly De La Cruz has been one of baseball’s worst hitters in the second half (.104/.173/.229 with a -5 wRC+ over 13 games, albeit with two steals and a home run) and yet he isn’t falling here? No, because I keep trying to tell folks that this is just part of the ride. Maybe if he’s still hitting like this in two weeks he could fall closer to 50 or 60, but the high highs and low lows are what we mean when we say a player is “volatile”, and no player in fantasy has a more volatile profile than EDLC due to his under-developed hit tool.
- I’m very concerned that the Trea Turner ups won’t outweigh the very sad downs. I suppose the good news is that the zone contact rates are back up lately (close to 90% over his last 25 games), but it hasn’t turned into production. It’s sort of on an upswing right now (see the chart below), but if you can move him for a Top-40 hitter, I’d do it.
- Josh Jung dropped a tier here (well kind of, as I consolidated the two tiers above him but his peer group is different now) as he has been a bit slow to make adjustments in the summer, but I still fully believe in the talent as a Top-50 to Top-60 hitter going forward.
- Josh Naylor has impressed me with the ability to keep the ball off the ground, and while I have compared him to Yandy Diaz in a recent Hacks and Jacks podcast, I also want to say that I don’t think Naylor WILL regress back to his old groundball rates, I just recognize that he could.
- I don’t think Nick Castellanos is going to be a dud for the entire rest of the season after being so good to start. Making matters worse, he’s probably darn near impossible to trade away due to the prolonged slump.
- Lane Thomas continues to confound me with his production. I will have a hard time raising him up from here, as neither Baseball Savant or Pitcher List expected stats think he’s been this good. The only real change in his batted ball profile is a higher pull rate, but if that was driving the increased production, our Pitcher List expected stats would be more bullish on Thomas.
- Cody Bellinger gets a bump because he’s healthy and hitting, but I am incredibly skeptical of his rest of season value. He can be this good, but between injury risk and performance risk, it’s hard to get a good gauge on his overall value. If you need to mitigate risk and you have Bellinger on your roster, I highly recommend trying to move him for a different Top-60 guy.
- Taylor Ward looks poised for a strong second-half run like he had in 2022.
- Bryan Reynolds dropped five spots, but due to the other changes in the tier, he ended up exactly where he was before. I don’t know why Reynolds just disappears some seasons and I wish I did.
- At any given moment, Byron Buxton could explode and be a top-10 hitter for a few weeks. The only problem is that you may not be in a position to wait long enough for it to happen. If you roster Byron Buxton, you just have to be aware of this volatility.
- Austin Hays is prone to longer slumps due to his approach. Unlike other streaky hitters, Hays doesn’t often run into easy-to-spot strikeout issues, but instead makes too much bad contact that leads to easy outs.
- I’m trying to be reasonable with Spencer Torkelson, and I just love how he looks at the plate right now. I could see a path to the Top 75 if he continues to show power.
- I still don’t know how to rank Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and I probably never will. The way he shifts from looking amazing to looking terrible is truly confounding.
- Being traded to the Dodgers isn’t actually good news for Amed Rosario, as a lot of his value came from hitting high in the order every single day for Cleveland. The Dodgers don’t need him to do either of those things. Rosario could fall a long way if he ends up being a part-time player. I’d try to trade him today if I could and would probably even take a Tier 12 player. The small chance that he’s a regular for LA keeps him just inside the Top 100.
- Points league players can drop Daulton Varsho. It was his worst format anyway. If you’re cutting bait in other formats, I would only want to do that for another catcher on this list.
- Maybe Jeremy Peña is just going to be stuck in long slumps of weak contact every season. That’d be a major bummer, but the glove will always keep him in the lineup.
- Seiya Suzuki is showing signs of life and projections love him, but I am far more skeptical.
- Christopher Morel will probably always linger on the list, but the streakiness will likely drive you nuts all season.
- Mickey Moniak is tallying up hits but never walks and strikes out a lot. It is extremely difficult to do that over any extended period of time, and while he’s done it for 48 games so far, I just don’t see how he’s anything like this for another 48 games. I’m aligned with the projections here— .230-.240 batting average and a .270-.280 OBP, though it’ll still come with some power. You don’t need to cut him right now, obviously, but the long-term outlook is not rosy.
- Triston Casas is still a part-time player, but he’s also crushing the ball every time he plays lately. He was a highly-regarded prospect for his eye and power, and I’m sure the Red Sox would love for him to be an everyday player, so I’m hoping Casas gets that role soon.
- Edouard Julien’s plate discipline in the minors hasn’t exactly translated in the big leagues, but he’s doing damage with the bat near the top of the order and is taking walks. Jorge Polanco is being activated this weekend, so we will learn a lot about where the Twins plan to put Julien in the lineup hopefully by early next week.
- Lars Nootbaar is very judicious at the plate and has more power than he showed early in the season. He’s well worth a look in deeper leagues (more than three outfielders).
- I don’t have any real expectations for Tyler O’Neill because I have no idea if he can stay healthy for more than a few weeks. If he does, there’s that always-tantalizing power and speed, though O’Neill has been just as likely to be a total dud. He’s a lottery ticket for me.
- My patience for players batting ninth is quite short, and that’s why the slumping Leody Taveras takes a tumble. He’s hitting .237/.263/.368 in July with just two stolen bases.
- Chas McCormick is hot, but I’m not convinced he’s good. Stream him, but don’t think your outfield is set for too long. He ranks right above Gorman because his floor is potentially higher.
- How long can Nolan Gorman stay hot this time? His hot streaks are better than most, but his slumps are among the most painful to watch in the entire league. I won’t be shocked if Gorman is droppable again by September.
- Alex Kirilloff has a good bat, but he rarely stays healthy and the return of Polanco may cause him to sit even more than he does now.
- Sal Frelick is a slap hitter who could be fairly useful in short spurts—particularly in points leagues—but who has a very capped ceiling.
- Zack Gelof is making more contact than I suspected early on, and hey, maybe that continues. I don’t think it will be all that great, but I’ve been more wrong than this many times before.
- Anthony Volpe needs more chicken parm.
- Tyler Stephenson is one of the guys who seems to be sitting quite a bit with the promotion of Christian Encarnacion-Strand and now he gets normal catcher playing time. Yuck.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List: