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:
- It was good to see Ronald Acuña Jr. back in the lineup and getting some hits to show that he’s still healthy. Health is the only actual concern with Acuna, and while it’s a significant risk based on his story, it’s not enough to keep him from being the top player on the board. One stat we haven’t talked about as much—he already has 101 runs scored!
- As a reminder, if you play in a daily league where Shohei Ohtani is one player, he is still the top overall player. These rankings are strictly for Ohtani the hitter.
- Matt Olson and Austin Riley continue to produce in that explosive Atlanta lineup, and there’s a chance both of them make a case for Tier 2 over the next few weeks.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has not been a Top-10 first baseman so far this season in batting average or OBP formats, and while he exploded out of the gate in the second half on the back of an excellent Home Run Derby performance, Vladito has just one home run and two doubles over his last 15 games.
- Speaking of a lack of power over their last 15 games, Corbin Carroll has exactly zero home runs in that stretch with just two doubles and a triple. Carroll has stolen seven bases, to his credit, and the Diamondbacks have also played with him in the leadoff role, though I’m not sure that does much to change his overall fantasy value apart from trading some RBI for runs scored. As I’ve mentioned in podcasts and this article, any late-season slump from Carroll could be in part due to fatigue, as prior to 2022 he had never played close to a full season, and Carroll only played 123 games last season (he’s at 110 now). He won’t be leaving this tier, though, if you’re wondering.
- Adolis García takes a bit of a fall due to me finally giving up the idea that he will steal 15 or more bases. The Rangers just don’t seem interested in giving him the green light (or if they are, Adolis doesn’t seem interested in taking it).
- Wander Franco may also be a victim of fatigue as the season wears on as he has never played more than 114 games in a season thanks to injury and the fact that most of his career has been in the minor leagues. He’s at 109 now, though unlike the two other guys on fatigue watch, Franco is heating up after an extended slump, hitting five home runs over his last 10 games. I’m still not expecting more than 20-23 home runs, with a peak year being closer to 25, but I do think there’s another level to his batting average, plus the Rays should continue to steal bases at unprecedented levels (at least until someone figures out how to stop them).
- I still believe Bryce Harper will get more power as he gets healthier, and a .490 slugging percentage so far in the second half combined with a bunch of starts at first base tell me he’s starting to feel healthier (though he has reported soreness recently).
- Michael Harris II continues to climb as he shows his early season slump is a thing of the past. The key change has been his ability to make contact—Harris has never been a good decision-maker in the big leagues, but his excellent bat-to-ball skills took a step back early in the season, though they’ve now recovered (see below). In terms of dynasty outlook, I’d be patiently awaiting Harris’s next slump, and more importantly, how quickly he breaks out of it. That’s the key for him (and really every young major league player) long term.
- I’m going to show you three of our charts—one for Contact Ability, one for Swing Aggression, and one for Decision Value. Here’s how to understand what you’re seeing: First, Elly De La Cruz is actually kinda good at making contact, despite a second-half strikeout rate of 40.7%. How can that be? Well, EDLC is extremely aggressive and has gotten more aggressive as he’s seen more pitches. Elly makes contact with a lot of pitches most players can’t hit, and our metric gives him additional credit for that feat. That skill allows him to get away with some aggression.That contact ability combined with his aggression can be good if Elly is making OK swing decisions, heck, even if he’s making below-average ones (like Michael Harris II). It doesn’t work, though, if you make awful decisions, and that’s what we are seeing. I think Elly can correct this course with time and coaching, but it will take time and patience.
- A Gunnar Henderson that makes contact is a Gunnar that can reach his potential, and that’s been the difference for him this season.
- Jazz Chisholm Jr. has the talent to be in Tier 3 or Tier 4, but I need to get out of this blasted platoon first. I think he will, as I believe the platoon is more health-related than anything else. Avisaíl García isn’t going to keep taking time away from Jazz for very long.
- Cody Bellinger, you beautiful enigma. Three of my favorite projection systems—THE BAT, THE BAT X, and ATC—are all over the board on Bellinger, ranking him 35th, 53rd, and 80th (respectively). I took the middle route. I’m not sure how much, if at all, these projections are reacting to Bellinger having already stolen five bases this month, and to be honest, I’m not even sure they should. This guy doesn’t make much sense to me, but I can’t argue with the extended period of excellent production. I think I said the exact same thing about Lourdes Gurriel Jr. earlier this season, though they are two very different players.
- The Dodgers expect J.D. Martinez back this weekend if you’re curious. He’s not the guy he once was and keeps striking out a lot more than expected, but J.D. should still finish with 30-35 home runs and 100 RBI, and that still means something in this crazy world.
- Just when Nick Castellanos looks broken, he goes on a 10-game hitting streak with five home runs. Make sense of this man at your own peril.
- Alec Bohm has been on fire and it’s because I cut him in a shallow points league. You’re welcome. #analysis
- Lars Nootbaar is back to being exciting, folks. I’m not sure how much higher can he go, but it will be determined by how much power Noot can bring to the table (and also how much he can keep batting in the top half of the order).
- A big leap for Jeimer Candelario because I’m just going to have to accept that 2023 is his year. He has six extra-base hits in nine games as a Cub and Candelario is showing excellent plate discipline over this small sample. This is close to the ceiling for Jeimer, but that’s not an insult.
- CJ Abrams was a big disappointment earlier this season, but he’s come alive since July began with 18 stolen bases in 33 games along with a .311/.361/.485 line. While I don’t expect Abrams to put up another 16-stolen base month like July, I believe he should be able to swipe something like 10-15 more bases over the rest of the season. It’s worth noting that projections think he’ll get closer to eight more the rest of the way, but projections are cowards. The .311 batting average isn’t something I expect to keep going either, but I also think he can beat the .245-.260 projections and be closer to .275-.280 with his excellent contact ability and improving decision-making skills.
- Brandon Drury is healthy and hitting near the top of the order, and his positional flexibility is a big help at this time of year.
- Spencer Torkelson just had a double-dinger day, but his consistency is the reason he falls here, not his upside.
- Ian Happ has been up and down this season, but this Cubs team has a very different feel to it than the one we were subjected to early in the season. He’ll bat in the heart of what is now a dangerous lineup instead of being forced to be the primary run-maker, and that’s a much better role for Happ.
This Tier has a net +7 to all player rankings
- Since July 1st, Spencer Steer is hitting just .234/.289/.395, though he has picked up the power production in recent days with four home runs and four doubles in his last 13 games. The elevated strikeout rate we’ve seen lately should come down eventually, and when it does, he’ll be a useful run producer again. Or at least I hope he will.
- Trevor Story is back, and while I originally intended to put him in the final tier, I did him just a little bit better. He performed well in his 10 rehab games in the minors, but that’s to be expected for a player with over 3,500 plate appearances in the big leagues. Story has the potential to be a power and speed contributor hitting in the heart of the order for Boston, but he’ll need to prove he’s healthy and can keep the strikeout rate below 30%. He’s off to a troubling start so far, but I’m far more worried about his health and his performance—streakiness has been part of Story’s game since he debuted in 2016 and age hasn’t changed him much in this regard.
This Tier has a net +10 to all player rankings
- James Outman is striking out less and that’s meaningful, though not as meaningful as how long the improved decision-making and contact ability lasts.
- Ryan McMahon has his ups and downs, and he’s fairly up right now. It’s a war of attrition at second and third base with injuries all over the place, and to his credit, McMahon has been quite durable over the years.
- I see you, Joey Meneses. He’s made some kind of adjustment lately to get the ball in the air more and it’s paying big dividends, with nine home runs over his last 27 games along with 40 combined runs and RBI and a .280 batting average. As long as Meneses keeps getting the ball in the air, he can be a decent power and counting stats contributor.
This Tier has a net +5 to all player rankings
- My initial fear of Amed Rosario being a short-side platoon player did not completely come to fruition, so he’s back on The List for now. He has sat twice in the last three games against righties, though, so expect him to keep sitting once or twice a week—or more if there aren’t many lefties on the docket. On the bright side, when the Dodgers do face a lefty, Rosario should bat in the middle of the order.
- I never ranked Chas McCormick that high because he felt like just a hot hitter with a middling overall upside in standard leagues. While he continues to take tons of walks and show a decent floor in OBP formats, McCormick is hitting just .233 over his last 12 games with a 40% strikeout rate.
- Welcome back to The List, Jake Cronenworth. He has multiple hits in seven of his last 12 games and a .383/.420/.596 line in that stretch, though it comes with a single home run and two steals. The ceiling is heavily capped due to Cronenworth’s limited power and speed, but he shouldn’t have too many issues putting the ball in play, and that should lead to decent counting stats in the San Diego offense.
- Maybe Jeremy Peña just isn’t going to make enough of an adjustment this year to show us what he did last season. It’s possible he has a scorching fall and playoffs like he did in 2022, but I’m not counting on it right now.
- Triston Casas has a chance to become an everyday player, but couldn’t sustain the heat long enough. The fairly average walk rate he’s shown at several stages this season also concerns me, as double-digit walk rates were Casas’s calling card in the minors and his 2022 debut.
- Ezequiel Duran remains on The List because the injury to Josh Jung should give him a chance to play every day at third base for the next six weeks. Do not take this as a sign of excitement from me, though—I’d still cut him in shallow leagues.
- Josh Naylor is expected to miss three-to-six weeks, and that’s a significant chunk of the season. Six weeks would have been enough to fall off completely.
- Mike Moustakas being ranked should tell you how volatile and rough the waiver wire is getting at this time of year thanks to injuries.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List:
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