2023 Mid Season Rankings Update

Mid Season Rankings Update: NL West Edition

The last division…that we know of. Here we go!

Catcher

Joey Bart – San Francisco Giants, Rankings Change: -7 (Current Rank: 35)

It’s a dark, rainy night in Gotham, and an eerie calm hangs over the city. It’s quiet, too quiet. Suddenly, a light brightens up the cloudy sky. A searchlight calling for a hero. No, that’s not the Bat Signal, it’s the Bart Signal. When there’s commentary to write on players/rankings I know when and where I’m needed. In a scene out of a classic Clint Eastwood movie where a sprightly youngster convinces the grizzled old veteran to come out of retirement one last time, Ryan has convinced me to appear here for another Joey Bart write-up. But enough of the theatrics, on to the write-up.

In our pre-season bold predictions article I predicted 2023 would be the season for the Joey Bart breakout. His second-half success in 2022 coupled with his consistently above-average quality of contact rate, seemed to show he was primed to finally put it all together. All the momentum was in Bart’s favor. Then the season started. Immediately everything started to go sideways as Bart hit the IL for the first time with a back strain on April 2nd, a mere two games into the regular season. Bart would hit the IL again after a short return with a groin strain. All of these injuries and missed time have led to only 26 games played here at the midway point of the season and a sharp drop in the once stable and strong quality of contact from Bart. His exit velo has dropped three miles an hour, his barrel rate has dropped two full points and his hard hit rate has been cut nearly in half to well below league average. The one bright spot has been the strikeout rate in this small sample size has seen the decline I was hoping for coming into the season, at 25%, the lowest mark of any of his stints in the major leagues by a wide margin. Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than just fewer strikeouts from Bart to reach the status of the prince that was promised. The window was already closing on the opportunity for the 26-year-old Bart to grab the reigns as the heir to Buster Posey in San Francisco as his development was taking a bit longer than the giants had hoped it would and with this major step back and the emergence of Patrick Bailey, the window now might be nearly slammed shut.

(Keaton O. DeRocher)

Ethan Salas – San Diego Padres, Rankings Change: +Infinity (Current Rank: 48)

Alright, maybe +Infinity was a little much but Salas was unranked in our pre-season list, which even for the top-ranked international signee of the window by mlb.com it’s understandable given the fact he turned 16 a few months before he had signed and plays a position with a notably long development timeline. However, that hasn’t stopped Salas from kicking off his professional career with a bang. San Diego gave Salas what one would presume to be an aggressive assignment, skipping any development leagues and sending him straight to Full Season Single-A Lake Elsinore, where he started the year as a 16-year-old (5.5 years younger than the average age of the level), and has since been thriving.

Salas holds a slash line of .259/.381/.881 with 5 homers and 6 steals so far across 30 games and what’s more impressive is his 22 walks to only 31 strikeouts. It’s clear Salas has a handle on the strike zone for both sides of the plate and his impressive 133 wRC+ shows that San Diego wasn’t really being aggressive with this assignment at all. Defense is usually the hardest and slowest skill to develop, but Salas it’s one of his most polished skill sets already, and that’s saying something. For fantasy purposes, this is important because this won’t slow down his path to the Majors. In fact, the Padres have already been having Salas work with their major league staff because 1. he can already handle them at such a young age, and 2. they want him as prepared as possible for what it takes to be a major league catcher because it appears they have no intention of holding him back. The only question with Salas was if his bat would hold its own and develop as hoped, as so far the early returns are impressive and Salas is on his way to becoming a rare 5-tool catcher.

(Keaton O. DeRocher)

First Base

Jake Cronenworth, -25 (Current Rank: 40th)

It was 2020. Covid was underway, keeping many of us at home, and the time was right to devote many extra hours to dynasty baseball. Come late July Jake Cronenworth was the hot add; he qualified at multiple positions and came out of the gate hot. But he was also a free agent in both my leagues (1,040 players rostered), so that was curious. No matter, Cronenworth came up and hit: .356/.411/.624 in his first month in the bigs with four homers and 12 doubles + triples. From there, though, and through the present, it hasn’t nearly been as rosy.

At least in 2022 he hit 17 homers and a decent .332 OBP with 176 RBI + R. But guys who rely on their value from Runs and/or RBI and not Homers and/or Steals are prone to big dips in value, especially if the team around him isn’t producing. Thus far in 2023 he’s been the first baseman for the Padres and is one of the many reasons the Padres stink this season. A .210/.308/.350 slash line will not do at 2B, and it definitely does not play at 1B, and neither will eight homers. The Padres would’ve been better keeping Hosmer at that rate (burn!).

Way back in January 2021 he was one of my two 2B avoids that year (Gavin Lux was the other, wow did I hit right there, doesn’t happen often, so don’t mind my revelling). Though I wish I would’ve taken my own advice and now I’ve held him too long. Still rostered in 84% of Fantrax leagues somehow, I don’t see a bounceback coming because he was overhyped to begin with. Put him on the block and take what you can get before his value gets any lower, as I’m about to do.

(Phil Barrington)

Second Base

Ketel Marte, +5 (Current Rank: 6th)

Marte’s midseason ranking could’ve been in the low 20s if he had had a 2023 thus far as bad as 2022. Our own Drew Klein put it perfectly in the pre-season rankings “Volatility, thy name is Ketel Marte. Marte has moved up and down the ranking lists and was one of the more hotly debated players for these rankings. The volatility in his ranking is directly correlated with his unpredictable production.” In 2023 Marte has 15 home runs, which is already the second-highest total of his whole career. Six steals is the most since 2019. His K% and BB% are in line with his career averages, and he nearly has as many Runs + RBI (115) so far as he had in all of 2022 (120) and that was in 558 Plate Appearances. Marte is hot right now, only 29 years old, and the future is still bright…but (and it’s a big one) remember what Drew pinpointed just a few sentences back. This appears to be an “ON” season for him, but will next year be the same? If you can take the risk, ride the wave with Marte into the playoffs (hopefully), and then plan to sell high in the offseason.

(Phil Barrington)

Third Base

J.D. Davis, +15 spots (21)

Ever since the 2019 season with the Mets, where J.D. Davis slashed .307/.369/.527 with 22 home runs, Davis has always stayed on our radar but never followed up with another useful fantasy season. The idea of J.D. Davis was always more exciting than having J.D. Davis on your team. He would get hot, be in all the waivers columns, give you a nice week or two, and then go cold and head back to waivers. With a 33.0 K% in 2021-2022, that’s a lot to overcome to be an everyday player.

Nonetheless, the signs were there when he did make contact. With a Hard Hit %, Barrel%, and Exit Velocity in the top 5 percentile in 2022, you couldn’t count Davis out entirely to get back to a useful player. And considering that TDG ranks for OBP leagues, his walk rate has stayed above 10% since 2020. Although Davis’s batted ball metrics aren’t quite on the same level in 2023, he is still hitting the ball hard and striking out less, at 28.5%.

The most important thing in my mind for Davis, however, has been his defense which has kept him in an everyday role. Davis, who has never had a positive Outs Above Average in any season, has a +4 OAA at third base in 2023. As a result, he has already reached the most plate appearances (365) that he has had since 2019 before the 2/3rd mark of the season. The right-handed hitting Davis’s reverse splits (.273 BA vs. RHP / .221 vs. LHP) have kept him on the field against righties and resulted in a strong move up our third base rankings from the start of the year.

(Bob Osgood)

Shortstop

Adael Amador, +15 (Current Rank: 22)

Colorado Rockies top prospect Adael Amador is showing that last year’s breakout was not a flash in the pan.  In addition to adding muscle to his frame which has helped increase his slugging percentage to .514, he continues to show great plate discipline and is walking more than he strikes out (12%BB/10%K). Halfway through the 2023 season he’s batting over .300 and chipped in 12 stolen bases.  Even though the Rockies have a recent history of slow playing their prospects’ rise through the system, Amador is going to make that difficult for them to do.   A likely move to second base isn’t going to hurt his dynasty value at all.

(Drew Klein)

Outfield

Jake McCarthy, -22 (Current Rank: 60)

Did you know that Jake McCarthy has the second most steals in the majors over the last couple of months? Now you do! With a total of 22 on the year, McCarthy has stolen 20 of them since May 26th. Not coincidentally, that was the same day the D-Backs recalled him from his month-long regrouping in the minors. 

For the first month of the year, McCarthy was a shell of what the fantasy community expected. He had a terrible time in the batter’s box, and as his 29 wRC+ showed he seemingly brought a pool noodle with him to the plate. On the basepaths, he only attempted 4 steals and got caught twice. Something was wrong, and he was sent to fix it in AAA.

And since his return, McCarthy has course-corrected while earning himself a consistent starter role in right field. He’s back to being the terror on the base paths as I mentioned above. With those 20 steals, he only has been caught once. But whatever average power he once flashed has all but disappeared. His 12 XBH total gives him a .351 SLG and there’s a non-zero chance he’ll finish with one of those weird, MiLB-type lines where his OBP (currently .329) is higher than his SLG. 

McCarthy likely will earn himself a top 50 ranking entering ‘24, but until he hits the ball with more authority we should be cautious in expecting much more from him. 

(Chris Knock)

Starting Pitcher

Blake Snell, Ranking Change: +11 (Current Rank: 27th)

Ok, I was wrong. So please, consider this an apology letter. First, I want to apologize to Blake Snell, who I thought was just another name added to the long list of players the Tampa Bay Rays sold high on. With their philosophy of selling high on established stars for an assortment of prospects. Can you blame me? They have a pretty good track record with those moves. Snell has had a couple of subpar seasons since the Rays flipped him for a few prospects back in 2021. Wait…. maybe those prospects the Rays got in return are tearing up the minors and I don’t have to write this stupid apology.  

  • Luis Patiño – A 6-5 record in the majors with a 5.16 ERA and currently 3-4 with a 7.06 ERA in Triple-A…. Ok, that isn’t ideal but he is still only 23.
  • Francisco Mejía – An average of .238 with a .282 OBP, 17 HRs, and 85 RBIs in 719 plate appearances since becoming a Ray. Yeah, but being a catcher he doesn’t have to be an offensive juggernaut. 
  • Cole Wilcox – 3-10 with a 4.25 ERA between A and Double-A. This isn’t looking good but we have one more prospect to go.
  • Blake Hunt – six seasons in the minors with over 1400 at-bats and a .242/.322/.392/.714 slash line. Yeah, I don’t think Hunt will tilt this trade in the favor of the Rays. 

Sh*t… As I was saying. I apologize Blake Snell. I apologize for ranking you 62nd (TDG rankings -38th) out of all starting pitchers in the TDG ‘23 preseason rankings even with the improvements you made in the second half of ‘22.

Why did I rank him so low? Well, let me see, his mounting injuries, regression in Statcast numbers, his age, and limiting his pitch mix because of the declining effectiveness of his curve and change.  

In 2018, when he won the Cy Young he threw the curve 20.1% of the time and had a 13.2 pitch value. Last season, he threw it only 15.1% of the time with a negative 0.6 value. Also, he ditched the change last season after a negative 8.6 pitch value in ‘21. He only threw the change 5.0% of the time and that garnered a negative 1.8 pitch value. Again in ‘18, he threw that same change 19.3% of the time and netted a 7.2 value. He also had an upward trend in HardHit% with 38.9% in 311 events coupled with a sweet spot of 17.1 LA that led to a 7.4 Barrel% compared to  32.1% in 414 events with a 10.7 LA and 6.8 Barrel% in ‘18. I know. I can’t just keep comparing stats from what he did five years ago. But that was the only season that resulted in elite numbers across the board so I want to use that to show how much of a decline he truly has made.

This season though, he regained the dominance he had with the curve. He has done this by improving the extension and spin resulting in hitters hitting only .091 against it. So far this season, he has thrown it 17.5% of the time resulting in a  9.1 pitch value. And he also reintroduced the change to his pitch mix with a jump to 17.5% in usage with an improvement in extension to 7.0 from 6.8 last season and with less spin leading to a 7.7 pitch value, and a .159 SLG against. And with these improvements in these two pitches they have become his top two primary putaway pitches with the curve at 36.4% and change at 24.2% being used on a two-strike count. This also led to him not having to rely on throwing in the zone as much. He has decreased pitches in the zone 4.6% less of the time but still has a K/9 at 11.92 and a 31.6%. (both are better than what he did in his Cy Young season) He also has been able to fool hitters more with a 1.3% improvement in called strikes with a 15.5 CStr%. But with the good, there is some bad. A rise in BB/9 to 4.92 (+1.42 higher from ‘22) and HR/9 to 0.92 (+.15) from last season. But even with those negatives, he still has improved his ERA from 3.38 to 2.67.

As for his Statcast numbers, hitters are hitting at a 12.1 LA inducing more groundballs with a spike to 43.1 in GB% compared to 36.6% of the time last season. He also has had an improvement of 2.9% (17.7% Soft%) in soft contact. All in all, he has better results across the board except for Barrel%. And finally, he is red in EV, HH%, xBA, xSLG, Whiff%, Fastball velocity and spin, and xERA/xwOBA (whatever the hell that is) in MLB percentile rankings. 

I’m not sure if it was an issue with not being healthy the last two seasons that caused him to lose effectiveness and confidence in his curve and change. Or chalk it up to it being his contract year. It doesn’t matter, I was wrong and I’m sorry for doubting you, I’m sorry, Blake Snell.

 And with that, this brings me to the other person I want to apologize to. The biggest and also the only Padres fan I know, and that is Mr. Taylor Case. (@TCasesLoaded) 

Taylor, 

I want to apologize for laughing at the misery your Padres have bestowed upon you since I started writing for the last three years. For saying Snell was washed up and your Padres got fleeced… also for purposely ranking every Padre ten slots lower than where you rank them… and for messaging you as soon as I heard that Tatis got suspended and said that he will forever be a cheater no matter what he does in his career…. and finally, for messaging you after every Padres loss from one of my five burner accounts on Twitter with, “The Padres are”…. crying face emojis or poop emojis or fire with poop emojis. I sincerely hope you can accept this apology. I’m sorry Taylor….. I’m sorry that $253,468,488 couldn’t buy a .500 record or third place in your division! Ha! I’ll never forget ‘84 and that stupid Cub-Buster song! 

 Your friend forever and ever,

           RFF       

(Ryan Felix Fernandes)

The Author

Ryan Epperson

Ryan Epperson

Lead prospect analyst and managing editor for The Dynasty Guru.

1 Comment

  1. July 31, 2023 at 11:13 am

    Amador has wrist surgery earlier this month. Probably pushes his ETA out another year.

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