Mid Season Rankings Update: NL East Edition
Today we`ll look at some players in the NL East and how they`re faring.
A note on how we generally rank before we get to the goodness. We rank with a three-year window in mind, as most of you know, no one is really sure what the next three years will bring, in our own lives or in the baseball world. We also generalize it to a 15-team roto league with standard categories. Points and head-to-head leagues are a little different ranking-wise, but 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.
Francisco Alvarez, New York Mets, +5 (4)
Is anyone surprised by this small jump? Expectations were high coming into the season for Alvarez, as he was not just our top catching prospect, but he is on a team that had spent a record amount of money on payroll and expected to be a playoff contender. Now, I’ve written about Alvarez before, and I’ve read several times that he needs time to adjust to new levels. In his first 26 games, Alvarez could only hit .218 with four home runs, good for a below-average 92 wRC+. We can blame a 58% groundball rate and .255 BABIP for this. However, things clicked for the young backstop since mid-May, and he’s been red hot. The groundball rate improved to 38%, leading to Alvarez hitting 15 home runs and a 148 wRC+. The combination of huge raw power (114 mph max exit velocity), ability to make adjustments, and good plate approach (which should improve with time) are the reasons for the jump. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were the top dynasty catcher in a short time.
Joey Meneses, -6 (Current Rank: 33)
Last season, as a 30-year-old rookie, Meneses took the league by storm after Josh Bell was traded to the Padres. Over his 56-game sample, he batted .324/.367/.563 with 13 homers. As a result of that strong showing, Meneses jumped into our rankings, but regression was predicted (by our very own Greg Hoogkamp) and it appears that prediction was correct.
So far in 2023, Meneses has batted .279/.321/.394 with six home runs, 34 runs, and 49 RBI, which is a dramatic downturn in the power department. Meneses is barreling fewer balls (-4.1%), has a lower launch angle (-0.7), and has lowered his hard-hit rate (-5%). From what I can tell, it is Meneses’s production against breaking pitches that is the biggest culprit. In 2022, Meneses slugged .592 against breaking pitches and in 2023, he is slugging only .305. The league has caught on; as Meneses fails to produce against breaking pitches, pitchers are throwing more of them (+7.5% from 2022).
The good news is that there are important parts of Meneses’s game that are unchanged from 2022. He is striking out and walking at approximately the same rate, and his exit velocity readings are basically the same. So if Meneses can get back to mashing breaking pitches, then we may see much of the same player that we saw last season. However, if he continues to produce like a 15-home-run first baseman, then we may see Meneses’s ranking continue to drop.
(The Roto Red)
Luis Garcia, Washington Nationals, +4 (Current Rank: 23)
I don’t have children but after seeing the mid-season rankings. I now understand the anger a parent must feel if someone called their kid ugly. After some thought and tears. If you didn’t figure it out. I am a huge fan of Garcia’s and wouldn’t be an impartial judge so I thought it would be better to check out what my TDG cohorts wrote about him.
He (Garcia) did hit the ball on the ground 60.6% of the time, a number that stayed close to 50% in the minors, so improvements are likely to come there. Contact and speed are the strong points in Garcia’s game, but Raw Power grades of 55 could unlock double-digit HRs down the line.
(Bob Osgood – 2B Dynasty Rankings; January ‘21 – Garcia ranked 14th)
His (Garcia) MLB line of .242/.275/.411 shows there’s still work to be done, but his 17.4% K rate was encouraging. He needs to improve a ground ball rate that’s never been under 50% at any level, and it wouldn’t hurt if he’d walk a little more often.
(Ben Sanders – 2B Dynasty Rankings; January ‘22 – Garcia ranked 14th)
The bright spot for García was his max exit velocity which was in the top ten percent among qualifying hitters. His xBA was slightly above average, along with his xSLG, but every other sabermetric for García was below average.
(Brett Cook – 2B Dynasty Rankings; January ‘23 – Garcia ranked 23rd)
Ben and Brett, you made the list. Bob, you are cool. Just kidding…. you all are on the list.
But seriously from reading their analysis, I gained a better understanding of why Garcia was ranked 19th. As Brett mentioned he still is below average in most sabermetrics that many of you, analytical types live and die with. But I saw substantial improvements that should lead to better numbers. Patience is a virtue, Brett!!
Why am I still being patient?
What jumps out to me from watching Garcia’s tape is his quick wrists and bat-to-ball skills. The tape also showed excellent hitting mechanics. He is quiet in the box and shows great pitch recognition. The loading phase is a thing of beauty when he shifts his weight to his back foot and turns his upper body. He generates a considerable amount of torque that is needed to step into the ball. Equipped with an exaggerated stride for his timing mechanism (which I thought for sure he would have to taper down when he got to the majors) he can get that explosion in his hips and lower body as well. He keeps the ball behind him and has a sweep follow through which always looks good from a left-handed hitter.
Has he improved on the weaknesses that Bob, Ben, and Brett wrote about?
- He has improved his ground ball rate from 2020 but it still is not under 50% but that looks to be by design with a contact-first approach. He is currently at 54.5%.
- He has actually decreased his impressive 17.4 K% rate in ‘21 to an elite level of 12.0% this season. (I’ll elaborate on that later)
- xBA has improved to .271 which is in the 75th percentile (from .265 in ‘22)
- xSLG has also improved to .420 from .373. That lands him in the 52nd percentile.
- His max EV has decreased from 133.4 mph last season to 109.9 mph but is still above average. (58th percentile)
- He has improved his Hard Hit percentage from 30.6% in ‘22 to 32.5% this season.
- His walk rate has improved but it is still well below the league average with 5.7% (20 BB) from 2.9% (11 BB)
Why do I like this season?
His vast improvements in plate discipline and eye for (understanding of) the strike zone. He is in the top 10 in K% with a 12.0 This season he decreased his swings outside the zone (O-swing%) considerably from 43.7% to 33.2% from last season. As well as increased his swings inside the zone (Z-swing%) from 68.0% to 76.1%. His O-contact is 78.6% and Z-contact% is 90.6 which are both at elite levels. This has led to his overall contact (Contact%) jumping to 85.9% from 74.8%. He is in the 91st percentile in Whiff% as well. But the two most impressive stats is his SwStr% at 7.1% (13.4% in ‘22) and he has 0.0 IFBB% (pop-ups). He doesn’t get fooled and again, quick wrists. I am surprised he hasn’t stolen more bases (5) with the rule changes but he did have a hamstring injury earlier in the year and that might be playing a factor.
It is easy to forget that Garcia is only 23 years old since he has been in the majors for three years and unlike popular opinion. Twenty-three is still young! As I highlighted, he has shown improvements in what has been considered his weaknesses. Along with his ability to adjust these are very good signs that he will continue to progress. He shouldn’t be this low in the rankings next season. I am talking to you Eppler and Knock!
(Ryan Felix Fernandes)
Brett Baty, +7 (Current Rank: 10)
I think Brett Baty is a beneficiary of timing in our ranks. His current numbers do not scream ‘Top Ten Dynasty Asset’ for any position, let alone the power-driven profiles that typically are listed at third base. His triple slash line after 69 games is .238/.305/.354, resulting in an OPS that in redraft is likely bested by someone on the waiver wire.
We ranked players in mid-June, and looking at Baty’s first two full months of numbers showed that he was underproducing. His first 130 plate appearances resulted in 4 homers and 15 RBIs, not bad for an early season call-up though not great either. He was essentially average with a 97 wRC+, a near 10% BB-rate, and a more than acceptable 23% K-rate.
Since June 1, those ‘almost good’ numbers have continued to drop. He’s been striking out a third of his plate appearances since that point with almost non-existent power (.085 ISO). While his LA is just 5 degrees with an avgEV of 89 MPH, barrelling the ball in less than 6% if his swings.
Last year, much was made of Baty’s swing changes and new launch angle results. Regardless if he’s continuing those mechanical changes, the results are not there. The Mets though seem to be willing to allow him breathing room to get through this in the bigs. I hope Baty proves their faith (and our ranks) correct here. I wouldn’t be surprised though to see him down a dozen spots the next time we at TDG combine our ranking brains.
Orlando Arcia, 0 (48)
Ok, we may have swung and missed on this one, how can the NL representative for the All-Star Game at shortstop be ranked all the way down at 48, where he was at the beginning of the season? It just all feels…fluky ya know? He`s not crushing the ball, but he`s doing just enough to hang in one of the best offenses in baseball. It`s a wonder what being a strong defender at shortstop can do for a guy`s career as he`s in the 94th percentile in OAA (Outs Above Average.) The Braves are willing to take an average-hitting shortstop as long as it comes along with stellar defense.
All of this to say that while he`s underrated by us, I don’t think it`s by much, part of the reason why I wanted to highlight him here is to explain that. He`s in a good situation and performing OK, but circumstances can change year to year and Arcia will most likely turn into a pumpkin in short order.
If he started stealing bases again, he would certainly be in the running. [Editor`s Note: Please God, no more puns]
Ronald Acuna Jr, +1 (Current Rank: 1)
We’re highlighting players who’ve made huge improvements and I can’t ignore Acuna. Not that he needed to improve his batting average, but this year he cut his K% in half and maintained his superb counting stats. I’ll stop here because the guy is amazing and I don’t need to convince anyone that. If you’re wondering, he should be the first dynasty player drafted in any format that doesn’t include daily rosters. Until he learns how to pitch (what a bum!) then he’ll always be behind Ohtani in those overall ranks.
I did want to share an Acuna dynasty anecdote. Back in 2018, I rostered the young buck in my home league. I didn’t think he would be a fantasy impact immediately, so I traded him early in the season and later hoisted the trophy. What if I hadn’t moved Acuna, who wasn’t yet in the bigs when I made the swap, in a package for all-star level veterans in the OF and P? Well, in retrospect, I probably still would have won honestly #notsohumblebrag. He came up early and lit the league on fire. But there was no way of being certain on this before the trade and it would have been foolish at the time to pass up the offer with a potential championship on the line. Bottom line – flags fly forever, but they can come with regrets. Though I’d still move ‘the next Acuna’ if it secures the trophy.
Eury Pérez, +27 (Current Rank: 15)
No pitcher has materially improved his standing more than Pérez, who jumps all the way up to SP15 in our midseason rankings. After dominating the minors since 2021 (2.85 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 260 strikeouts in 186 innings), Pérez has hit the ground running in his first year with Miami. So far with the Marlins, Perez has made 11 starts, pitched 53.1 innings, and recorded a 2.36 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 61 strikeouts, and only 17 walks, and this includes his July 1st start against the Braves where he gave up six earned runs while only recording one out.
In other words, Pérez has been an Ace for dynasty managers. With a lethal combination of age (20 years old), physical tools (6’8″), and performance, one could argue that he should be ranked higher. The Marlins have been keeping Pérez on a tight pitch count in 2023, so dynasty managers can expect the full breakout in 2024, and at the point, we may be looking at our future No. 1 starting pitcher.
(The Roto Red)
Dave Robertson, New York Mets, +50 (89)
I will be honest – I’m not happy about writing this. Edwin Diaz’s season-ending injury in the WBC was the only reason Robertson was given the Met’s closing job. That’s not to say Robertson isn’t a good relief pitcher. In 2022 he saved 20 games for two teams with a 2.40 ERA and 17% K-BB%. But let’s be honest – he was 38 at the start of the season, doesn’t have big velocity, and is a flyball pitcher. Normally this is not a recipe for success, but Robertson has been getting it done – 2.13 ERA, 19 saves + holds, and 20% K-BB%. His primary pitch is a cutter and only averages 93 mph, but he has elite spin (100th percentile), and his curveball has elite velocity and spin (93 mph & 2,646 RPM). Because he doesn’t throw very hard (and pitches in a park that suppresses home runs), I see no reason why Robertson can’t keep up with what he’s doing. It wouldn’t surprise me if he pitched this well for the next 2-3 seasons.