Mid-Season Rankings AL Roundtable Discussion
Like knights on King Arthur`s court [Editor`s Note: I won`t bore you with the details or how long I fell down the rabbit hole of looking up King Arthurs court and the roundtable, but it is fascinating] we here at TDG believe that no man should lead and that all voices should be heard equally when it comes to discussion but ultimately the final hammer blow falls to our fearless leader, Taylor.
We will be looking at the American League today and what we got right, or horribly, horribly, wrong. I believe in getting bad news out of the way first and to finish off with something good so without further ado here were our misses.
Shame on us for these takes
“At age 33, [Nathan] Eovaldi may have to learn to pitch with diminishing velocity, and our ranking shows skepticism that he will be able to do so.”
Instead of a predicted downturn, Eovaldi has pitched like a legitimate ace this year. 117.2 innings in, he is having his finest season yet with 10 wins, a 2.83 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 109 strikeouts. Importantly, he is doing it with the diminished velocity that he showed last year (average fastball velocity of 95.7 MPH, down 0.2 MPH from last season). He is suppressing the home run ball as well as ever (0.61 home runs per nine innings), getting ground balls at his highest clip (52.6%), and minimizing barrels (7.1% barrel percentage), and allowing hitters to make contact at a minuscule launch angle (4.6 launch angle). He has done this by mostly scrapping his slider (his worst pitch in 2022) and increasing his cutter and splitter usage. Put it all together and you have the pitcher who is sixth in the league in fWAR and was in the running to start the All-Star Game. Well played, Nathan!
(The Roto Red)
I have long been a detractor of Wander Franco, while I always thought he was a solid player I didn`t think he could become a star.
I have generally been the low man in our rankings battles on Wander Franco, I just didn`t see *it*. I forgot one small detail, the kid is freaking young and still maturing as a player. I am able to eat crow with a smile on my face when need be, and I think I need to be served a big ol` slice of crow on this one.
While I am still not positive he will ever hit more than 20 home runs in a year, he should be an elite contributor in every other category and is worthy of a first or second-round draft pick in a startup dynasty draft. No one saw him stealing 28 bases which catapulted his ranking up to our top spot.
MJ Melendez – 30-homer power?!?
This one hurts. I was a big supporter of MJ Melendez going into the offseason, initially ranking him as my #7 Catcher last December. I even remember spouting off some nonsense about him having 30-homer fantasy upside this year – the audacity! Unfortunately, while I considered 2022 to be a bit of a stepstone year, 2023 has proven that it was a stepstone to nowhere.
So far this season, Melendez is slashing .212/.293/.346 with 7 dingers and a combined 69 runs and RBI. Which I guess is nice, if you look at it in the right light. Do the five steals help? Sure. But this has got to feel like a very underwhelming season for the backstop so far. And I apologize.
There are positives, of course. He can still whack the crap out of the ball and Kansas City has no reason to sit him (even now in the outfield), so he’s not a fantasy zero and should remain rostered in deep leagues. I’ll be honest though – I recently dropped him in three leagues (two dynasty, one redraft), and he hasn’t been picked back up. I fear his 85% roster percentage on Fantrax will only continue to fall. I’ll do my best to update readers (and Discord members) if I see any changes from him in the next few months, but if his walk rate doesn’t bump back up to where it was last year/in the minor leagues, and if he can’t hit fastballs (xBA on fastballs is .241), he’s going to have a tough time succeeding.
But wait! These worked out!
“So while [Oscar] Gonzalez’s combination of youth, power, and strong rookie season has caused his price to rise, there is too much risk in this profile for me to invest. I would look elsewhere to round out my starting outfield and let others deal with the potential OBP drag.
Following his strong 2023, it only took 73 ABs for Gonzalez to lose his spot in the Guardians outfield. In his 21 games in April and three games in May, he mostly batted fifth or sixth for Guardians; they were counting on him to drive in runs, but in those 73 ABs, he had a triple slash of .192/.213/.288 with 15 strikeouts and two walks. He had a single home run and drove in five. He was demoted to Triple-A on May 6, 2023.
At 25 years old, there is still hope that Gonzalez can be a deep-league asset. While he is only running a 90 wRC+ in Columbus, he does have 10 home runs and 49 RBI over 250 at-bats, while batting .276. His .312 OBP this season at Columbus is actually higher than his OBP from last year, prior to his call-up. Dynasty managers may want to keep an eye out for a potential promotion (Cleveland could use some power in the outfield), but it is safe to say that he should be on the wire, except in the deepest of leagues.
(The Roto Red)
Gunnar Henderson is going to be OK
I didn`t have an AL bold prediction this year, choosing to focus on my love Oneil Cruz and how he was going to hit a bazillion home runs, but I always had faith that Gunnar Henderson would be ok. After a rough first few months with the underlying data not even looking that great I was starting to be concerned. But my man has turned it around in full force, since June 1st he has done nothing but hit the crap out of the ball slashing .301/.356/.577 with 9 home runs while chipping in three steals during that time. The time to buy low on him has long since passed, however, you might still be able to go out and get him for a reasonable cost as some may think this dazzling month and a half is just a fluke.
If he can go 25/10 this year with a .260ish average he will be one of the better shortstops in the league fantasy-wise and one of the top shortstops in the AL (most of them are…not good.)