Mid Season Rankings Update: AL East Edition
Welcome to the first article in our mid-season update here at The Dynasty Guru! Everyone in the office has put a lot of work into these rankings and articles and I want to thank them personally. We have never done this before for various reasons, because *have you ever tried herding cats before, that’s what it’s like in a nutshell.* You can find a link to our primer here which explains in general how this whole thing will work. In general, the players below are ones we feel are noteworthy since we first ranked players for 2023 starting in the offseason. Each player will be named, show the rankings movement from the offseason until now, and their current rank.
A reminder of how we generally rank and how to read the blurbs below before we get to the goodness: we rank with a three-year window in mind, as most of you know, but no one is really sure what the next three years will bring, in our own lives or in the baseball world. Yet we do it anyway! We also generalize it to a 15-team roto league, and although points and head-to-head leagues are a little different ranking-wise, we feel you can still use these as a general tool. Chris Knock and friends will be coming out with a Top 500 OBP dynasty update soon after our rankings finish just like before the season started.
Again, we value all of your feedback and critiques and hope you enjoy. And if you want access to all of our positional rankings NOW, donate below!
Alejandro Kirk, -6 spots (11)
Not much has gone right for the 24-year-old this season, but not much has gone wrong if you can believe it. It’s all just sort of…meh, for him this year as he`s hitting just .247/.330/.321 with three home runs. For the most part, he is still showing the same tendencies that brought him success last year and the year before; he hovers around a 90% zone contact rate and 27% chase rate whereas the MLB average is 28%, whiffing less than last year.
So, what gives? Well, his max EV has lost 2.4mph and whereas he was crushing four-seamers last year to the tune of a .528 xSLG, this year he is just barely getting by with a .368 xSLG against them. There`s another problem with the four-seamer too, he`s whiffing on them 15% of the time compared to the 11% he showed last year. Digging into Savant he just isn`t turning on those fastballs (four-seamers, cutters, sinkers) at all, and when he does, they`re generally right to the shortstop.
So, what`s the prognosis for Kirk’s rest of the season and beyond? He’s a talented hitter with a good eye and is still young enough so it stands to reason he will figure this out and the projections agree with that, Steamer ROS has him hitting .274/.359/.429 with six home runs and I can get behind that assessment.
Triston Casas, -6 spots (16)
I sit here, quiet, alone, in my office, on the night of July the 4th, very disappointed in Triston Casas’ season so far to date. Is that because I know him personally? No, not at all. Is that because I like his style (I very much do), and think he deserves better? No – though, to be clear, I do like his vibe, and wish he played in San Diego. Even still, is it because I made the bold prediction back in March that he’d be a top-6 first baseman this season!?
Lamentations aside, Casas’ 2023 .225/.330/.398 slash line so far this season is nothing close to what he’s capable of. But there is hope! Since the start of June, his bat has heated up with the weather, and he’s batting .269 with a .813 OPS in his last 120-ish plate appearances. So I’m not saying the other Gurus are crazy, but we had Casas as the #10 first basemen in the offseason, and he stuck there for me this time around as well. Verdict? His rough April and May are still holding back his overall line, so it’s time to get him before things really take off.
Brandon Lowe, -5 Spots (15)
As a male in his now late thirties […my god…] I feel for Brandon Lowe battling back problems, it generally doesn’t get easier and is something you always deal with. Unfortunately, Lowe has again missed a chunk of time this year (while also limiting him to just 65 games last year) due to a back issue which has to be a factor in his poor play this year. He fell out of our Top 10 for second baseman sliding all the way to 15th after being just two years removed from a 39 home run campaign that saw a wRC+ of 137.
I worry that this back issue has sapped him of his power and that it may not return fully, he’s also pulling the ball more than ever before at a 48% clip (according to Fangraphs) which may indicate he’s pressing a bit. The projection models are all bullish on him for the rest of the season, expecting a bounce back for the most part, giving him ten home runs and a .230ish average that is slightly better than his current line of .213/.308/.410.
I’m hoping the best for Lowe, I am, but back issues linger and pop up frequently and how much longer will the Rays keep giving him regular at-bats when they have a dearth of infielders sitting in Triple-A that are MLB-ready?
Junior Caminero, +31 Spots (9)
Checking in at number nine in our third base rankings is Junior Caminero, jumping all the way into the top ten from the 40 spot in just a few short months. It’s an aggressive ranking for sure, but Caminero warrants it. As a 19-year-old jumping from High-A (where he had a .685 SLG) to Double-A he has more than held his own slashing .293/.357/.475 with four home runs while also lowering his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate.
Timelines are always tough to project for Rays prospects (or any prospects, but especially those wily Rays) but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he can contribute to the big league team at some point next season.
Wander Franco, +4 Spots (1)
Temper tantrums aside (does anyone still remember that?) Wander Franco vaults into our #1 dynasty shortstop slot from number five earlier in the year. Honestly, it’s easy to see why with a .286/.347/.463 slash line with nine home runs and an eye-popping 26 steals so far. I`m still suspicious about how many home runs he will run into and think he will struggle to reach more than twentyish in a year, but the steals are a game-changer and something that no one really saw coming.
I expect him to stay at the top of our rankings for the foreseeable future if he can keep stealing as he has, at least until Oneil Cruz puts together his perennial 40/40 seasons.
Jordan Westburg, +20 Spots (25)
For the past year and a half, Jordan Westburg has done nothing but hit at Triple-A (.295/.372/.567, 18 home runs) while playing a multitude of positions (SS,2B,3B, OF) to maximize his versatility. Upon being called up to the big leagues, Westburg has continued to hit with a .313/.389/.375 slash line. He hasn`t recorded a home run yet but they will come. He does have a worrisome 50% ground ball and pull rate, but I can chalk that up to him pressing at the plate being newly called up. I expect he will settle into his normal all-fields approach as he gets more comfortable. He should retain most of his position eligibility as he`s looking like a super-utility man who will play every day all over the infield which ups his value even more.
Josh Lowe, +51 Spots (23)
An amazing two-month run to start this season helped catapult Josh Lowe back into the collective consciousness of the fantasy world. Since then it hasn’t been as pretty for the outfielder. In the month of June, his wRC+ was almost cut in half to 84 from the April/May total of 162.
During the hot start, he was hitting the ball with authority (.584 SLG) while limiting his strikeouts to 22% of his plate appearances. June’s swoon has resulted in a return of his free-swinging ways (35% K-rate) and a loss of that thump (.341 SLG). Lowe never shook the platoon role during the combo-meal explosion to start his season either. So even if he does show better again at the plate, it’s tough for me to recommend a part-time player to be your OF2 or OF3. When we ranked OFers in late June, I had Lowe in the mid-30s on my personal list and he may be even further back now. I’m concerned that his value may have peaked, so I’d look to move Lowe for more consistent at-bats.
Kevin Gausman, +13 Spots (5)
There was something in the preseason that was preventing everyone from fully being in to the Kevin Gausman breakout. Perhaps it was the 1.24 WHIP a year ago, despite Gausman’s 2.38 FIP. Or the general concept of pitching in the AL East after being unsuccessful in that venture earlier in his career. Gausman was a completely different pitcher earlier in his career, sporting a career K/9 of 8.1 from 2013-2018 in his years with the Orioles. From 2019-2023, he has been a 10.87 K/9 pitcher, with Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and now Toronto for a year-and-a-half worth of studly outings.
Gausman’s split-finger continues to be one of the elite “out” pitches in all of baseball. Of his American League-leading 153 strikeouts at the all-star break, 83 of those have come on the splitter, a pitch he throws 38% of the time. Gausman is very much in the AL Cy Young conversation just beyond the half-way point of the season, and will likely be going in the top two rounds of redraft leagues next spring.
Luis Severino, -54 Spots (84)
Those Cy Young contending seasons in 2017 and 2018 held on a lot of weight in Severino’s ranking in the preseason. Yes, Severino threw a solid 102 innings in 2022, but after only throwing 18 major league innings in the three seasons before that, it was a huge leap of faith that he would be able to ramp up the innings count from there. He injured his lat in spring training, didn’t make his debut in 2023 until May 21st and his proceeded to get bombed for four runs or more in six of his last seven starts to enter the all-star break.
After allowing a .186 BA allowed on his fastball a year ago, Severino has allowed a .337 BA and .604 SLG on the pitch this season. His Statcast page is absolutely appalling, allowing some of the hardest contact in all of baseball, with an expected wOBA that has gotten much worse over the past 100 plate appearances.
It’s possible that Severino isn’t fully healthy, but he was still throwing 96.5 mph in his most recent outing and seems more so to be having issues with command. He’s still just 29 years old but with a couple more similar outings, he could be headed to the bullpen as the Yankees rotation continues to get healthy.
Félix Bautista, +5 Spots (2)
Like the mountain,
Immeasurable, (Actually 6’8 and 284 lbs; Hence “The Mountain” moniker)
Ever growing (12.06 K/9 in ‘22 to 18.00 K/9 in ‘23)
Or you decrease (2.19 ERA in ‘22 to 1.07 ERA in ‘23)
Hateful Spin, (98% Active Spin Four- Seam FB; 90% Active Spin – Splitter)
Now it’s break (7.3 inches of break – FB; 6.3 inches of break – Splitter)
And then sharp drop, (35.6 inch drop – Slider; 27.4 inch drop – Splitter)
You play the game of the mind. (86.6% LOB)
Poverty (5 ER against in 39 appearances)
Power (99.2 mph avg – 437 four-seamers pitched)
Always precise. (39.4 K-BB%)
Chase Rate (33.3% – 89th percentile)
And empty (only 4 barrels given up in ‘23; 88th percentile)
You are a rolling when you deal (1.65 FIP; 1.67 xFIP)
Elite status (100th percentile K%, xBA, & Whiff%; 99th percentile xERA/xwOBA & FB Velo)
No salvation (50.9% K Rate)
Whiffing (39.3 Whiff% Four-Seamer; 57.4 Whiff% Splitter)
Undervalued (187.94 ADP in ‘23)
And underrated (7th ranked RP on TDG pre-season ranking)
You are also looking to improve your EV (90.2 mph; 26th percentile)
Now King (Félix) of the game (Just kidding Mariners fans)
Back (door slider) bare (12.3% in ‘22 to only 4.1% so far this season)
You will bear your (Orioles) your prime.
The fate of Charm City
And only season two,
against hitters now, (.138 AVG Batting Against and .166 in ‘22)
You leave hitters frozen (15.1% Called Str%)
And failure (5 Blown Saves)
Always beauty (10.6 FB & 3.8 SF Pitch Value)
10.9 miles per hour (difference between avg FB speed 99.2 mph and Splitter 88.3)
Without sway (6.4 inches of horizontal movement which is -13% less than league avg)
Touching 102 mph with the heat
That by your over-the-top arm slot
Your projections are strong (outperforming ZIPS, Steamer, FGDC, THE BAT, & ATC DC)
All rejoice with me.
I really needed an orchestra, or at least a couple sopranos singing the opening lines to get my rendition of Bautista’s entrance music. It really sounded so much better in my head.
(Ryan Felix Fernandes)