As I was compiling the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings: 150-126 this week, the song “The Final Countdown” popped into my head. Then I told myself that, thankfully, this is only the third installment of the 2023 Dynasty Rankings!
This week the focus is on the Tier 6 players, a group of players that features a few more established players.
There are nine players listed between the ages of 26-29 and six who are 30 or over. While I love to hoard the younger players as much as possible, a dynasty team still needs some solid veteran players.
Pitchers and Corner Infielders
This tier is also heavy on pitchers and corner infielders. Listed are seven starting pitchers and one closer in addition to seven players who can play first or third base. When it comes to the corner infielders, it just shows how interchangeable the players are once you get past the top five at those positions.
Let’s get to the Rankings!
Enough of the small talk. It’s time to take a look at the 2023 Dynasty Rankings: 150-126.
NOTE: Age is as of March 30, 2023
Players On The Move
Kodai Senga has spent the first 11 years of his career playing in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball organization for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 2.59 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 1,089 innings, striking out 28% of the batters he faced. This past year he had a 1.89 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP over 148 innings for the Hawks.
The Mets gave him a five-year, $75 million contract, so they are expecting him to be a force in their pitching rotation. However, he won’t have to be the ace thanks to the presence of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Being the No. 3 pitcher and also featuring a fastball that hits 100 mph to go along with a splitfinger, slider and cutter should allow for Senga to make a smooth transition to the MLB.
Willson Contreras received a nice payday from St. Louis this offseason to leave Chicago. For the third straight full season, he topped 20 homers and has done that in four of the last five full seasons. Probably just as important is the fact that he will be in the lineup for a majority of his team’s games, surpassing 400 plate appearances in the last five full seasons.
Time To Rebound
For three seasons, Lucas Giolito was one of the better pitchers in the American League. He finished sixth, seventh and 11th in Cy Young voting from 2019-2021. Then 2022 happened. Giolito saw his ERA balloon to 4.90 with a WHIP of 1.44 thanks to allowing 171 hits in 161.2 innings of work. If Giolito was 32, last season would be concerning. But he will be 28 this season, so I consider 2022 one bad season and believe Giolito will be the pitcher he was the previous three seasons.
Joe Ryan didn’t win Rookie of the Year in the American League, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have an excellent rookie season. After getting five starts with the Twins in 2021, Ryan took the bump 27 times in 2022 and went 13-8 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He had a 9.2 K/9 rate, thanks to pitches like this, 2.9 BB/9 rate and a 7.0 H/9 rate. Those are a lot of great rates!
Was his rookie season a fluke? I don’t think so. In four minor league seasons he had a 2.63 ERA and 0.86 WHIP while striking out 13/9, walking 2.1/9 and allowing only 5.7 hits/9. And in case you are wondering, he was this good in college as well.
Jorge Polanco had never hit more than 22 homers in his career until he slugged 33 in 2021, smashing that previous high of 22 he hit in 2019. Last season Polanco was limited to 104 games and hit 16 homers, or one every 23 at-bats compared to one every 18 at-bats in 2021. Do I expect Polanco to get back to hitting 30-plus home runs? Nope. But I think he is still good for 22 and 75 RBI, which, coming from the second base position, is pretty good these days.
Corner Infielders, Anyone?
If you like corner infielders, then this is the group for you in this tier. And except for Anthony Rizzo, all of the corner infielders in this group are young.
Leading off the contingent of youngsters is Miguel Vargas, who got some playing time with the Dodgers this past season, slashing .170/.200/.255 in 47 at-bats after putting up a .304/.404/.511 slash line in Triple-A with 17 homers and 82 RBI. Vargas split his time with the Dodgers between first base and left field but should see a lot more playing time at third base now that Justin Turner is gone. He has not won any starting job yet, but his upside makes him a solid dynasty gamble.
Jose Miranda joined the Twins in May and produced a nice .268/.325/.426 slash line with 15 homers and 66 RBI in 125 games with only an 18.8% strikeout rate. His home run rate, EV and Hard Hit% were all above the major league average last season. He was pull-happy last year, hitting all of his home runs to the left of center field. As he learns to hit with power to the opposite field, his home run totals will certainly rise.
The Old Man
Last season Anthony Rizzo knocked 32 balls out of the park while driving in 75 runs for the Yankees. Rizzo has not hit fewer than 22 homers in a full season since 2012, when he hit 15 in 87 games. With a swing tailor-made for the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, Rizzo should continue to pile up the homers for the next several years as he has become an extreme fly ball hitter (35% fly ball rate in 2022 compared to his career average of 26.1%).
His batting average last season was not great (.224). But with the shift no longer allowed, the few grounders he hits to the right side of the infield may now produce more hits and raise his average closer to the .250 range.
Back To The Youngsters
I’m on the Josh Jung bandwagon. He was likely to be the Opening Day third baseman for the Rangers in 2022 before a fractured foot ended those hopes. When he returned to Texas late in the season, he showed off his power, slugging five home runs in 98 at-bats. And yes, he needs to cut down his 38.2% strikeout rate and hit better than .204 to become a real threat. But he was an outstanding hitter in College at Texas Tech (.348/.455/.577 slash line in three seasons) and had a .311/.381/.538 slash line in three minor league seasons. Jung knows how to hit and hit with power.
If there was one player who really didn’t like the left field fence being moved back at Camden Yards last year, it was Ryan Mountcastle. In 2021, Mountcastle hit 33 home runs and drove in 89 while slashing .255/.309/.487. In 2022, Mountcastle’s slash line wasn’t too much different (.250/.305/.423) from 2021, but his home runs dropped to 22. However, he still had 85 RBI and he still ranked in the 88th percentile in average EV, 82nd percentile in hard hit percentage, and in the 94th percentile in barrel percentage.
|139||Lance McCullers Jr.||HOU||SP||29|
The Question Mark Group + One
For those who have had Brandon Lowe on any fantasy team, you know you are in for a rollercoaster ride. Lowe has looked amazingly horrid at times at the plate, like last April and August when he hit .187 and .193 respectively, or in 2021 when the first two months of the season saw batting averages of .182 and .196. But then he goes on streaks where he looks like the Incredible Hulk. slugging .615 or .500 like he did in May and July of last year. But by the end of the year, he will have a bunch of homers at a position that doesn’t produce a lot of power.
Lance McCullers didn’t appear in his first game with the Astros until August, but once back in the rotation, he looked like the pitcher who finished seventh in the Cy Young voting in 2021. He had a 2.27 ERA, a 171 ERA+, and a 9.4 K/9 rate in eight starts. Featuring a nasty for his slider and curve, he held opposing hitters to a .185 average against his slider and a .116 average against his curveball. If McCullers can stay healthy then he is a Cy Young candidate. But staying healthy has always been a problem for him.
Youngsters With A Future
Since being selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 2018 draft, Grayson Rodriguez has made pitching look like a leisurely walk in the park. In his minor league career he has a 2.47 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .173 batting average. Oh, he has also struck out 419 hitters in 292 innings while allowing only 98 walks. Simply put, he has been dominant in the minors. But will that carry over to the majors?
Maybe not at first as nearly every young pitcher has a steep learning curve once they join the parent club. But Rodriguez features a fastball, slider and change that are all plus pitches and already has shown the ability to command those pitches.
Spencer Torkelson had a rough rookie season with the Tigers, slashing .203/.285/.319 with only eight homers and 28 RBI in 110 games. But it is way too early to give up on the No. 1 overall pick from the 2020 draft. If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is the fact Torkelson showed improvement over the second half of the season.
After slashing .167/.224/.205 with no homers and four RBI in June, he improved to .220/.278/.320 with one homer and five RBI in July and then posted a .219/.293/.385 slash line in the final month with three dingers and seven RBI. Not great numbers, but better than how he started his career. Torkelson is too good to cast him to the trash bin already.
The Non-Question Mark
In the last two seasons, Jake Cronenworth has hit 38 homers and driven in 156 runs, all while playing all over the infield. Cronenworth played mostly second base last season but will likely be the primary first baseman for the Padres this season. While his position may be an unknown each night, his bat has been consistent and another 20 or so homers should be expected this year.
Only Going To Get Better
I fully expected MJ Melendez to become one of the top hitting catchers by 2024, if not the end of this season. While he hit only .217 for the Royals, he smashed 18 homers and drove in 62 runs. His home run percentage (3.4%) was better than league average while his 12.4% walk percentage was 4.2% higher than league average and his 90.7 mph exit velocity was 2.6 mph higher than league average.
Making Melendez even more valuable is the fact he can be slotted into your lineup as a left fielder (23 starts) or right fielder (14 starts). His versatility will allow him to get more at-bats than the average catcher.
Luis Garcia produced another solid season for the Astros in 2022, showing his 2021 rookie year wasn’t a fluke. As a rookie, he went 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.18 WHIP while striking out 9.7 hitters per nine innings and allowing only 7.7 H/9. Last year he was 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with a 9.0 K/9 and allowing 7.5 H/9. Garcia does feature a mid-90s fastball as well as a nasty cutter and curveball to put hitters away. Batters hit .151 against Garcia’s cutter with a 42.8 whiff percentage while they hit .191 against the curve with a Whiff% of 35.1%.
Not Under 30, But Not Over The Hill
It seems every time Blake Snell has a good year, he follows it up with a not-so-good year. Last season was a good year for Snell, posting a 3.38 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP while posting a 12.0 K/9 rate. His fastball velocity ranked in the 83rd percentile while his Whiff% was in the 90th percentile and K% 92nd percentile. Snell still walks too many hitters and he is not going to give you seven innings per start. However, he is still a solid pitcher to have on your dynasty staff.
Brandon Nimmo is not a superstar, but he is a player who will help your dynasty team win. He puts the ball in play, gets on base and has enough power to be useful in that department. Healthy last year after being limited to 92 games in 2021, Nimmo slashed .274/.367/.433 with 16 homers and 64 RBI. His OPS+ was 130, matching his career OPS+. He doesn’t put up a lot of sexy numbers, but he is solid across the board.
The Return of Darth Hader
Midway through the 2022 season, Josh Hader was lost on the mound. But he rounded back into form the last month of the season and looked like the Josh Hader of old. After posting a 12.54 ERA in July and a 19.06 ERA in August, Hader came back to post a 0.87 ERA in September/October with a 0.581 WHIP. In 10.1 innings, he allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out 13. When on, he is one of the best relievers in baseball and be a dynasty keeper for several more years.
|128||Elly De La Cruz||CIN||SS||21|
Here is a series of numbers: 22, 34, 37, 24, 37, 27, 27, 59, 38, 35, 31. Those are the numbers of home runs Giancarlo Stanton has hit every year in which he reached 300-plus plate appearances. Stanton’s slash line dropped like a rock last season (.211/.297/.462), but his career slash line is .264/.354/.537.
Does he strike out too much? Yep. But he also hits the snot out of the ball, like he did in this at-bat and this at-bat. Last year he was 90th percentile in average EV, 100th percentile in max EV, 98th percentile in Hard Hit%, 89th percentile in xSLG, and 98th percentile in Barrel%. Even if his batting average remains low, the power numbers are still going to be there.
Kyle Wright is the poster boy when it comes to young pitchers needing time to find their way as major league pitchers. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Wright appeared in only 21 games between 2018 and 2021 with the Braves, compiling a 6.56 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in 70 innings of work while walking more than six batters per nine innings.
Then came last season as Wright put everything together and showed why he was such a high draft pick. The righty went 21-5 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He dropped his walk rate down to 2.6 per nine innings while managing 8.7 K/9.
Shortstops To Grab
Elly De La Cruz hasn’t spent a day in the majors yet, but there is no reason for him to not be the Reds’ everyday shortstop or third baseman by May. A switch-hitter, he has great bat speed that produces plus power while still maintaining a solid average. Oh, he also has good speed. In 120 games across Class A and AA last season, Cruz slashed .304/.586/.945 with 28 homers, 86 RBI, and 47 steals.
If you, like me, have been waiting for Nico Hoerner to start producing at a level many had expected sooner, your patience was rewarded in 2022. Hoerner didn’t blast a ton of homers, hitting only 10. However, he drove in 55 runs and stole 20 bases while slashing .281/.327/.410. I expect those numbers to get even better in 2023. Additionally, with Dansby Swanson now with the Cubs, Hoerner will slide over to second base – a spot where he will actually be more valuable due to the lack of depth at that position.
If a player for the Los Angeles Dodgers can fly under the radar, then Tony Gonsolin is that player. While wins are no longer valued as they once were for starting pitchers, they still count in fantasy baseball, and Gonsolin went 16-1 for LA last season. But even more impressive was a 0.87 WHIP to pair with his 2.14 ERA. In 130.1 innings pitched, he allowed only 79 hits! For his career, he is 26-6 with a 2.51 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. At this point, I’m not sure what else Gonsolin has to do to prove he is a great pitcher to have on your staff.
The End…Until Next Week
Thanks for reading. Next week I will break down my Tier 5 players, No. 125-101. Until then, have a great week.
In case you missed the earlier rankings:
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 200-176
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 175-151
I have a bench spot I can use on either Colas or Luciano. Does the former excite you enough to draft him and punt on Marco, who may end up being more valuable over the next few years? (Apologies for the random question!)
Edit: Or Pfaadt?
I’m actually pretty excited about Colas, though he already 24 – old for a prospect. I think his power is legit and is pretty close to breaking in with the Sox. But it is hard to compare shortstops with outfielders without knowing your roster.
If you are loaded with outfielders, then you keep Luciano as it is only a matter of time before he takes Crawford’s job in San Francisco. If you have some young shortstops and so-so outfield depth, go with Colas.
If just asked to pick one, no matter what, I probably lean Luciano. Really good upside and still very young.
As for Pfaadt, I’m not in love with him. He’s 24 and just reached Triple-A last year. He has shown good command of his pitches, but I’m going to take a young hitter over the young pitcher.
Thanks for reading and for the question.
thanks so much!
Do not buy into the myth that Spencer Torkelson was better in the 2nd half, or in September/October. Two of those three homers during his supposedly improved final month were hit in one day during a doubleheader. Probably nobody had him in their lineup that day because he was 1-for-34 going into that contest. Dude can’t hit a 95 mph fastball in the center of the strike zone. We’re not talking about offspeed stuff or breaking balls. We’re talking fastballs. The Tigers are known to be frustrated with his refusal to change his swing and sent at least four batting coaches to Arizona this offseason in an attempt to get him to do so. He left the Tigers for Arizona following the season and said he was looking forward to an offseason of playing with his new puppy.
Hey Stosh, thanks for reading and replying. Concerning Torkelson, we obviously have a difference of opinion – but that is part of the fun when building dynasty teams. I firmly believe he is going to turn it around. I think Detroit rushed him a bit to the majors. He dominated NCAA pitching, but that is still not the same as facing professionals every day.
He got only 685 at-bats in the minors. Instead of learning to adjust down there, he was brought up and expected to adjust on the fly. By the end of the season, he was showing that ability to adjust. He strikeout rate from Apri-July was 25.5% but dropped to 21.7% in September/October. His slugging percentage went from .295 to .385.
Those final numbers aren’t great, but they lead me to believe that he is on the right track to becoming the hitter everyone expects him to be.