- It’s catcher time! The top-end of the position has come a long way in recent years, and I could see arguments for any one of Daulton Varsho, J.T. Realmuto, Adley Rutschman, or Will Smith as the top backstop in fantasy. I rank them all together because I think they should all be drafted close together, and don’t be shocked if I change my mind on their precise order several times.
- Over his last 10 games of 2022, Oneil Cruz had as many walks as he had strikeouts and four stolen bases. His power wasn’t quite there like it had been previously, but there is no doubting the power, speed, and raw ability Cruz brings to the table. I saw him as a 20-home-run, 20-stolen-base guy prior to 2022, and I’m going to double down on that projection yet again. The batting average will likely fluctuate wildly, but I think it can end up north of .260 when all is said and done.
- Steven Kwan possesses a top-five hit tool in baseball, and I’m confident that the hit tool will help him easily surpass the six home runs he tallied in 2022. Five of those six came after the All-Star Break, and we also saw an impressive uptick in doubles and triples. The awesome batting average, the 90 runs scored, and the 15-20 stolen bases create a fantastic floor while the 12-15 home run upside could make him a mainstay in the top 30 or top 40 by the end of next season.
- Dansby Swanson is coming off a career year from a fantasy perspective, though some question about where he ends up this offseason suppresses his value just a bit. Due to the injuries to teammate Ozzie Albies, Swanson was able to bat at or near the top of the order for most of the season, but with Albies due back for 2023, there will be more competition for that coveted lineup spot, and in the past, Swanson has lost that competition. Of course, if he DOES leave, he’ll need to land on a strong team that will let him bat first or second to maintain the value he’s had the last few seasons with Atlanta.
- Justin Turner is going to be a Dodger for another year, and that means he should have an impact in 10-team and deeper fantasy leagues when he plays. “When” is the key, of course.
- Max Muncy apparently was dealing with a lack of power stemming from that elbow he injured in 2021, and once it turned a corner, he did too. The batting average might be suspect, but there’s a ton of power here if he stays on the field.
- Gunnar Henderson landed with a bit of a thud last season, slashing just .143/.308/.238 with a 34.6% strikeout rate over his final 52 plate appearances, but I am encouraged by the fact that he also was walking at a 19.2% clip during the struggles. I think this was a normal adjustment period against some divisional foes who had a new plan of attack, and I believe he can overcome those woes and be a 20-25 home run guy with double-digit steals.
- Corbin Carroll probably should be ranked higher than this, though the plate discipline was a little rougher than I expected. Never underestimate how hard it is to hit in the big leagues where basically everyone has more than one good pitch.
- Tyler O’Neill is another guy who I think will get a big bump when the major projections come out. After all of the injuries and slumps, he finished the season with 14 home runs and 14 steals in 96 games, which over a full-ish season looks a lot like a 20/20 player. It’s his final 120 plate appearances that will draw the attention, though, as he had 8 of his home runs and 6 of his steals in that 31-game stretch while hitting .250 and showing strong plate discipline
- Jeremy Peña has rebounded nicely after a mid-season slump that landed him on a lot of 12-team waiver wires. He’s a solid back-end option at shortstop in most formats.
- Seiya Suzuki is still tough for me to get a feel for, but there’s still a decent amount of upside with the power and speed, plus it was his first season in the United States, which brings more challenges than just new pitchers to face.
- Jon Berti led the league in steals despite playing just 102 games. That 102 games played was also a career-high for Berti, and while the speed will put him up in rankings, he’s a very niche player to draft. Leagues like NFBC will also push his rankings up because, well, people need speed.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List: