What a great Valentine’s Day.
Yeah, I had a nice date night with the wife, but more importantly, pitchers and catchers in Arizona and Florida are reporting for Spring Training! Baseball is officially back.
And you know what else is back? Another edition of the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings. This week we dive into my Tier 3 players – numbers 75 to 51 on the overall list.
Young Over Old, Position Players Over Pitchers
As we count down and get closer to the final tier of players, the number of pitchers and players older than 30 will be getting smaller and smaller. This goes back to my original rules concerning dynasty leagues:
Young over old
- I’m always thinking five years down the road.
Hitter over Pitcher
- Since the introduction of the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, 113 hitters have been awarded the Rookie of the Year compared to 39 pitchers. In this century alone, 33 hitters have been named ROY to 13 pitchers. Young hitters perform better than young pitchers, and veteran hitters are more consistent than veteran pitchers.
In this tier, only seven of the players are pitchers, and four of those appear in the first group. While there are five players who are 30-years-old or older, there are eight players who are 25 or younger. This is a ranking for dynasty leagues, so it only makes sense for the older players to be pushed aside for the younger players with more upside and more years ahead of them to help you win.
Building With Athletes
This tier is also heavy on athletic players. The masher who plays first or third is great to have, but let’s face it, those two positions, as a whole, do not deliver everything you need to win. Speed is always good to have as well as players who can simply get on base. The players who often do that the best are outfielders and middle infielders.
So, if you have been wondering where some of the top outfielders and middle infielders have been, you are going to love this tier as there are six outfielders and seven middle infielders. And you can probably guess that the next two tiers will be heavy on these two groups of players as well.
But for now, let’s concentrate on this week’s 2023 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings: Players 75-51
Justin Verlander simply defied Father Time en route to winning the Cy Young Award last season. Making only one start in 2020 before undergoing Tommy Surgery and missing all of 2021, Verlander returned to the mound for the Astros to post a 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP with a 9.5 K/9 rate. Verlander features a 4-seam fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. These were the batting averages opposing hitters had against those four pitches – .194, .188, .158, and .167.
For dynasty purposes, Verlander has to be considered a year-to-year player. And it is highly unlikely he will match his 2022 season this year with the Mets. But Verlander has shown that age isn’t slowing him down, so look for him to “only” be above average this year instead of extraordinary.
Meanwhile, Max Scherzer may be feeling the effects of getting older – at least when it comes to staying healthy. Last year he was limited to 23 starts and 145.1 innings of work. But in 2021 Scherzer made 30 starts and threw 179.1 innings, so I’m thinking last season’s injury was more a blip than a trend.
When healthy, Scherzer is still the pitcher who has won three Cy Young Awards and has five other top-5 finishes. Last season he had a 0.91 WHIP and 2.29 ERA while striking out 173 in his 145.1 innings. There is no reason to think Scherzer is going to suddenly not be able to pitch at the level he has his entire career.
Andres Gimenez was a key piece in the trade that sent Francisco Lindor from Cleveland to the New York Mets. He struggled throughout the 2021 campaign but finally had his breakout season for Cleveland in 2022, slashing .297/.371/.466 with 17 home runs, 69 RBI and 20 steals. While he does have some pop and speed, he also has excellent bat control, which could be very beneficial this year as the shift is now gone.
He could learn to take a few more walks, but he actually had a career-high 6.1% walk rate. Everything else is trending in the right direction for Gimenez to only get better at the plate.
A Youngster and the Veteran
Triston McKenzie is the poster boy of the young pitcher needing some time to adjust to the majors. After a cup of coffee with Cleveland in 2020 in which he had a 3.24 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 33.1 innings, McKenzie regressed in 2021 as he had a 4.95 ERA and 1.183 WHIP thanks to a 4.4 BB/9 rate.
But McKenzie turned everything around in 2022. Making 30 starts and throwing 191.1 innings, he had a 2.96 ERA and 0.951 WHIP. His strikeout rate actually dropped to 8.9 from 10.2 K/9 the previous season. However, his walk rate also dropped, coming in at 2.1 BB/9. Opponents only mustered a .203 average against his fastball, which he threw 56% of the time. Against his nasty curveball, which he featured 22% of the time, they hit only .120.
While McKenzie is just now establishing himself in the majors, Luis Castillo has been a workhorse for several years. In his first five seasons in Cincinnati, he had a 3.72 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with a strikeout rate of 9.8 K/9 and a 122 ERA+. He started the 2022 campaign with the Reds and had a 2.86 ERA and 1.071 WHIP in 14 starts before being traded to the Mariners. In 11 starts, he had a 3.17 ERA and 1.10 WHIP while striking out 10.6 batters per nine innings.
No. 2 Prospect
I am probably being conservative with Corbin Carroll by ranking him 70th overall. That is due mostly to the lack of games he has under his belt. But he has all the tools to be a building block in fantasy baseball. His best tool is his speed, which will lead to a lot of infield hits like this. The No. 2 prospect in baseball behind Gunnar Hendeson, Carroll ranks in the 100th percentile when it comes to spring speed. He only stole 2 bases for the Diamondbacks last year, but in the minors, he stole 31 bases in 36 attempts and for his career was 52 of 59.
However, Carroll isn’t just all speed and not hit. He slashed .307/.425/.611 across three minor league levels last year and for his minor league career he slashed .310/.426/.588 and hit 28 homers in 142 games.
Not Enough Love
When it comes to Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia, I don’t think he gets the love he deserves. Yes, he can drive you crazy with his strikeouts. But his career 29.8% strikeout rate is about his only blemish when it comes to fantasy baseball.
Garcia finished fourth in the AL ROY voting in 2021 when he hit 31 homers, drove in 90 runs and stole 16 bases while slashing .243/.286/.454. He was even better this past season, slashing .250/.300/.456 with 27 homers, 101 RBI and 25 steals while lowering his strikeout rate from 31.2% to 27.9%. With the new pickoff rules and larger bases, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Garcia swipe 30+ bags this year.
The Braves’ New Shortstop
Unless something drastic happens during camp, Vaughn Grissom will be the new starting shortstop for the Braves. Ranking Grissom this high is a case of loving the tools. Grissom was the talk of baseball in August as he slashed .311/.354/.473 with three homers, 10 RBI and only 12 strikeouts in 20 games. But September/October saw him slash .269/.351/.403 with two round trippers, eight RBI and 22 strikeouts in 21 games.
But at the young age of 21, there is plenty of room to adjust to what pitchers were doing to him over the final month of the 2022 season.
Power Hitting Catcher
Alejandro Kirk was part of a logjam of catcher in Toronto last season and entering the offseason. But with Gabe Moreno being traded to Arizona, Kirk will get plenty of at-bats at catcher and DH. He is coming off a .285/.372/.415 season with 14 homers and 63 RBI in 470 at-bats, and he hit those homers despite posting a home run percentage of 2.6% after posting rates of 4.2% and 4.0% in 2021 and 2020. If he gets back to lifting the ball a bit more (20.4 FB% in ’22 compared to 26.9% in ’21), the power numbers will be there and more homers like this will be seen.
Even if the power remains in the mid-teens, Kirk should hit for average. Last season he had a strikeout percentage of 10.7 while his walk percentage was 11.7.
Yearly Cy Young Candidate
Framber Valdez finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting this past season after going 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.16 WHIP and a league-leading 201.1 innings pitched. And Valdez will likely have more Top 5 Cy Young finishes in his career. Valdez can spin the ball as his curve spin rate was in the 90th percentile and limited opposing hitters to a .146 average with a 45.4% Whiff%. He also ranked seventh in the AL in strikeouts with 194.
Catcher Turned Outfielder
I’m not sure how many games Daulton Varsho will play at catcher in 2023, but no matter what, he is eligible to play there in fantasy baseball and that just adds to his value. But even beyond this season, Varsho is a great player to have. Varsho had a breakout season for the Diamondbacks in 2022, hitting 27 homers, driving in 74 runs and stealing 16 bases. He can play center, right, and left for the Blue Jays this year and take a few turns behind the plate if needed. His 162-game average is 23 homers, 69 RBI and 14 steals, making him a top keeper at catcher or any position.
Small Sample Size, But A Good Sample
Gunnar Henderson had an outstanding season in the minors (.946 OPS, 19 homers and 22 steals in 407 at-bats) before joining the Orioles in 2022. With Baltimore, Henderson showed why he enters the season as the consensus top rated prospect as he slashed .259/.348/.404 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 116 at-bats. Henderson also possesses good speed. While he had only one steal with the Orioles, he was 40 of 47 during his minor league career, including stealing 22 bases in 25 attempts at Double-A and Triple-A last season.
Henderson is a shortstop by nature but he saw the majority of his playing time at third base. But it doesn’t matter if he is playing third, short or anywhere else on the field – he is a power/speed threat for Baltimore and will be one of the best second-round picks playing in the majors for years to come.
Yet Another Young Shortstop
If people didn’t know who Jeremy Pena was before the start of the postseason, they certainly know who he is now after earning MVP honors in the ALCS and World Series. Pena had a very good rookie season for the Astros, hitting 22 homers, driving in 63 runs and stealing 11 bases while slashing .253/.289/.426.
Pena’s season took off when manager Dusty Baker moved him into the No. 2 hole in the lineup. Hitting behind Jose Altuve and in front of Yordan Alvarez, Pena slashed .290/.315/.522 with 13 homers and 31 RBI in 207 at-bats. Over 150 games that projects to 39 homers and 92 RBI.
Don’t Overlook Zac
Varsho’s former teammate, Zac Gallen, was acquired by the Diamondbacks in 2019 for Jazz Chisholm, a deal that left a few people shaking their heads. But Gallen has showed why Arizona traded for him.
After posting a 2.72 ERA and 1.183 WHIP for Miami in 2019, Gallen had a 2.89 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in eight starts with Arizona, providing Arizona fans (and fantasy players) a glimpse of what he could do on the mound. He followed that with a 2.75 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 2020 to finish ninth in the Cy Young voting. After a hiccup in 2021 (4.30 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), Gallen rebounded with a career-best 2.54 ERA and 0.913 WHIP over 184 innings. He also struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings, though that was down from the 10.3 rate or better he posted in every previous season.
Still Only 29
Tim Anderson missed half the 2022 season, but I expect him to rebound and at only 29-year-old, there is no reason not to want him on your team. When on the field for the White Sox last season, he slashed .301/.339/.395 and still stole 13 bases in 332 at-bats.
A healthy Anderson will likely keep the same slash line but go back to hitting 18 homers instead of the six he had this past season.
Great Time For a Breakout Season
Facing free agency after the 2022 season, Dansby Swanson picked the right time to become a good hitter. After slashing .248/.311/.449 with 27 homers, 88 RBI and nine steals in 2021, he followed that up by hitting 25 homers with 96 RBI and 18 steals while slashing .277/.329/.447. The biggest reason why he isn’t ranked higher is due to the fact that he has posted an OPS+ over 100 only three times in his career.
Now in Chicago with the Cubs, Swanson’s power numbers may actually increase. Looking at his expected home runs by park, he would have had 24 in Atlanta, 25 in Miami, New York and Philadelphia and 30 in Washington D.C. Compare that to his new home in the Central Division. St. Louis and Pittsburgh depressed his home run total to 21 in each park, but he would have had 35 in Milwaukee, 33 in Chicago and a whopping 38 in Cincinnati.
Can He Stay Healthy?
Eloy Jimenez is an outstanding player, but the man can’t avoid injuries. When he plays a full season, he puts up great numbers. As a rookie in 2019 he played in 122 games and hit 31 homers and drove in 79 runs. In the 2020 COVID season he played in 55 games and hit 14 dingers with 41 RBI and a slash line of .296/.332/.559.
But he appeared in only 55 games in 2021 and 84 last year. But he was a beast in those 84 games, slashing .295/.358/.500 with 16 home runs and 54 RBI, with 11 of those homers and 38 of those RBI coming in the last two months of the season.
This Bird Can Fly
Cedric Mullins didn’t quite match his 2021 season in which he hit 30 homers and slashed .291/.360/.518, but he still had a very good 2022 season for the Orioles. His home run total fell to 16, but he drove in 64 runs, more than what he did in 2021, and he stole 34 bases while slashing .258/.318/.403. Mullins will continue to steal bases and as he enters his prime, I think will hit between 20 to 23 homers, making him a great keeper.
A Jolly Good Pirate
When Bryan Reynolds is mentioned as a possible trade candidate by the Pirates, talking heads on TV line up to give the long list of teams that would love to add Reynolds. Why? Just look at all the red boxes above. Except for his strikeouts and Whiff%, Reynolds is above average to outstanding in nearly every other category.
The switch-hitting center fielder completed the 2022 season with a .262/.345/.461 slash line with 27 homers and 62 RBI. His 162-game average is 24 homers and 79 RBI with a .281/.361/.481 slash line and OPS+ of 127 and twice he has hit better than .300 and slugged higher than .500 (2019 and 2021).
Another Jolly Good Pirate
Here’s a news flash – Oneil Cruz hits the ball really hard. He ranked in the 91st percentile in average EV, 100th percentile in max EV, and in the 96th percentile in barrel percentage. In 331 at-bats with the Pirates this past season he smashed 17 homers and drove in 54 runs.
But Cruz, who is 6-foot-7, isn’t all power at the plate. He ranked in the 98th percentile in sprint speed as he stole 10 bases and his sprint speed ranked in the 98th percentile. He needs to improve on his 34.9% strikeout percentage, ranking in the 1st percentile and improve his chase rate, which ranked in the 39th percentile. But Cruz is a talented player who is only going to get better.
Dude is For Real
In case you still think Max Fried is a fluke on the mound, it’s time to forget that notion. In 2019, Fried was 17-6 for the Braves but had a 4.02 ERA and 1.334 WHIP while allowing 174 hits in 165.2 innings of work. Thus, it was wise to be skeptical of Fried entering 2020. Well, he proved he was an even better pitcher than he was in 2019, going 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.089 WHIP to finish fifth in Cy Young voting.
The last two seasons have been just as good, going a combined 28-14 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.048 WHIP and a 153 ERA+. His walk rate has gone from 3.1 BB/9 in 2020 to 1.6 BB/9 last year and in 2022 his ERA was 2.48 with a 1.014 WHIP as he finished second in Cy Young voting.
For Paul Goldschmidt, age is the only thing knocking him down lower in these dynasty rankings. He obviously had a great season across the board (.317/.404/.578 with 35 homers and 115 RBI) in 2022, but at age 35, how many more seasons is he going to have like this? Quite a few is the answer thanks in large part to his ability to hit to the opposite field as well as pull the ball while having a career strikeout percentage that is league average.
He will remain above average for several more years because he is simply that good.
Another Power Hitting Catcher
There are a host of great catchers in MLB, but Will Smith is one of the best. And at 27-years-old, he has many more peak years ahead of him. Smith had a 16.6% strikeout percentage and 9.7% walk percentage last year, and over the last four seasons, Smith has posted OPS+ numbers of 133, 162, 127 and 120.
While the OPS+ is great, it doesn’t easily translate to fantasy numbers. So for those only concerned with the counting stats, he has hit 25 and 24 homers the last two seasons while driving in 76 and 87 runs. And not to be overlooked is the fact Smith plays a lot of games. He appeared in 130 in 2021 and 137 last year.
A Giant. No, a Met. Nope, a Twin
Injuries plagued Carlos Correa early in his career as he didn’t top 110 games played from 2017-2019. But he then played in 58 of the 60 games in 2020 and has appeared in 136 games or more the past two seasons. When healthy, Correa is one of the top hitting shortstops in the league with a career OBP of .357 and .479 slugging percentage.
His 162-game average is 28 homers and 101 RBI through his age 27 season, and his worst OPS+ was a 93 during the COVID year. The last two years it has been 131 and 140. Those are numbers that prove he is one of the top hitting players at his position.
The Astros Love Javier; So Should You
Cristian Javier, who also has been used out the bullpen at times, had a 2.54 ERA and 0.95 WHIP this past season with an 11.7 K/9 rate. The righty ranked in the 92nd percentile or higher in xERA/xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, K% and curve spin. Despite throwing fastball that averages 93.8 mph, opposing hitters had only a .183 average against that pitch and managed only a .121 average against the slider and .226 average against his curve.
But Javier isn’t a one-year wonder. Just look where at his numbers since 2020. But he put everything together last year. In case you forgot, he was part of two combined no-hitters, the first coming against the Yankees during the regular season and then in the World Series against Philadelphia. Javier has firmly entrenched himself into the starting rotation and will be a stud for years to come.
The End…Until Next Week
Thanks for reading. Next week I will break down my Tier 2 players, No. 50-26. Until then, have a great week.
In case you missed the earlier rankings:
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 200-176
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 175-151
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 150-126
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 125-101
So, if you’re thinking five years down the road as you say, why are Scherzer and Verlander still ranked so high?
I get it. I get why you ranked them somewhat where you did. You have to rank them somewhere. But as good as those two guys are, they wouldn’t get much value on the trade market in most dynasty leagues.
In the dynasty league I play in, someone traded Clayton Kershaw for a prospects draft second round pick and promplty took Jace Jung (Deroit | 2B ). Essentially they traded Kershaw for a prospect that played in High-A last year.
I’d put slightly more value on Verlander than Kershaw and about the same value on Scherzer as Kershaw for the reasons you stated above (injury probability and age). I’d also probably rank them between 110-120, if that. There’s not much I would trade for either of them. Dynasty is a long game and those guys don’t have much left to their careers.
Not asking you to justify your rankings of them. Just wondering if you considered ranking them lower with the “five years down the road” thought process coming into play?
I understand what you’re saying, but even in dynasty leagues you want a stud pitcher, even if they are 40.
Do I want a staff of Verlanders? No, because of the age. But if I have McClanahan, Burnes, Nola, Javier, Springs, Dunning, Heaney, and some other young pitchers (which I do in one of my leagues) then I’m going to add a Verlander or Scherzer if they are still on the board or available in a trade.
Also, there are tons of very good young pitchers I can get later in a dynasty draft, so I’ll take one of these two pitchers for a year or two if I am wanting to win now or use them as trade chips as someone will be willing to trade for them, as you showed.
As always, thanks for reading and the comment.
Yeah, it makes sense for certain scenarios just like you said. I’m always thinking long term as I try to sustain success for the long haul so age plays a major factor in whether I want a guy, will trade for him, or will cut him from my roster.
I was offered Kershaw for my second round pick, too, and declined. I drafted Bryan De La Cruz instead. That’s an example of how I play, thinking of who will be more valuable 3 to 5 years from now. I like Cruz, but it might be neither lol.
If I felt like one of those old farts could help me win it, I might be persuaded to make a deal for one of them in August. But I like to follow a simple rule I learned long ago about fantasy: You try to get younger at the start of the season and you try to get older at the trade deadline. You won’t see me trying to acquire any old fart before July in any year.
It’s a very sound philosophy. But when putting together any rankings, I try to think how others may view a player and not just go with strictly my view. They are too good to rank lower.
If I’m starting a team from scratch, I’m going as young as I can. But if you’re in a league that’s been around, the older players like Verlander or Scherzer are going to have more value. So it is an interesting balancing act.