The start of the 2023 baseball season is just weeks away, but here at Razzball, it is always baseball season. To get you ready to go for the upcoming year, here is the first installment of the 2023 Dynasty Rankings.
When it comes to dynasty rankings, you have to look at a little of this, some of that, and can’t forget about the other. You want a team that can contend for years, so do you look only at age? If you do that, it may compromise your team’s performance.
When evaluating players for dynasty leagues, the formula for success thus consists of many factors. It’s a dash of gut instinct mixed in with past experience and a whole lot of what the eye sees. You know a good player when you see him. But you can’t just go with the best player on the board.
The Rules (or at least guidelines)
That said, there are some basic rules I try to follow as much as possible:
Young over old
- I’m always thinking five years down the road. Justin Verlander is great to have on your team this year, but what about next year and certainly in 2024? You will need veteran players, but you don’t want a whole team of veteran players.
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.
Starting Pitcher over Reliever
- This is pretty easy to understand why. For the most part, you know what you are going to get from starters. As a group, relievers are so up-and-down it is maddening. Need an example? Aroldis Chapman. Need another? Josh Hader.
But, what about…
Yes, there is always a caveat, or two. You want to win now – who doesn’t? If a veteran hitter in his early-30s veteran is on the board in round 5 or 6 and is clearly better than some of the younger players ranked close to him then I will take the veteran – just not too often
As for starting pitchers, I prefer the established player in his mid- to late-20s over the first- or second-year starter. I have a good hunch as to what I will get out of the veteran compared to the younger starter.
So, what is the draft formula?
Everyone has their own way of doing things. For me, I know I still need some veterans and solid starting pitching. I just don’t reach for them. If there is a “tie” between a young player and the player four or five years older, I’ll take the younger player.
Additionally, I fill out my starting staff ahead of my closers/relievers, a group that can be found on the waiver wire all season as teams shuffle through the closer of the week. Relievers and starting pitchers are not ignored in my rankings, but you may see them ranked lower than what other people probably do.
Let’s get to the Rankings!
Enough of the small talk. It’s time to take a look at the first set of players as we count down from No. 200 to No. 1 over the next eight weeks.
NOTE: Age is as of March 30, 2023
Just Missed the Cut
The Upside Guys
Royce Lewis had a cup of coffee with the Twins last season, slashing .300/.317/.550 with two homers and five RBI in 12 games. The first overall pick in the 2017 draft, Lewis suffered a torn ACL in 2022, the same injury he had in 2021. Lewis will not be ready to go on Opening Day, and now that Carlos Correa is back in the fold with the Twins, Lewis’ role going forward is not clear, though he could be a super-utility player.
Cal Raleigh didn’t hit for average in 2022 (.211 with a .284 OBP) but there aren’t many five tool catchers out there. His barrel percentage ranked in the 96th percentile and he slugged 27 homers and drove in 63 runs in 415 plate appearances. But there are other catchers I like more, pushing Raleigh outside the top 200.
The Old Men
Mitch Haniger has had trouble staying healthy, playing in 63 games in 2019 and 57 games this past season. When healthy, Haniger provides power to any lineup as he has a career SLG of .476 and OPS of .811. His 162-game average is 32 homers and 93 RBI with a .335 OBP.
Lance Lynn throws one pitch but somehow still finds success on the mound. He missed time last year but still managed 21 starts, a 3.99 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 9.2 K/9. At 34, there can’t be much left in the tank, but I’ve been thinking that for years.
Javier Baez is an old 30. Granted, Comerica Park isn’t a hitter’s paradise and the new dimensions may prove beneficial, but Baez’s first year in Detroit was not good. He slashed .238/.278/.393, way below his career averages of .260/.302/.464. The 17 homers he hit were his lowest in a full season since 2016. Maybe he will bounce back, but at this point, he is a year-to-year player more than a dynasty keeper.
Tough News for Hendriks, Story
I had Liam Hendricks ranked but removed him after announcing he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He likely won’t pitch this year, which really isn’t as important as him just returning to health at some point.
There have been questions about Trevor Story’s arm strength for a while, and now it turns out there was a reason for the questions. Story had elbow surgery and is now expected to miss a good chunk of the season. He is now 30 and hasn’t been producing as much as he did in the past, leaving him a fringe dynasty keeper at this point.
Jack of all Trades
Brendan Donovan didn’t produce eye-popping numbers with only five homers, 45 RBI, and two steals during his rookie season. But he did hit .281 and had an outstanding .394 OBP, which can help anyone’s fantasy offense. But his true value is the fact he can play nearly any position on the field. He qualifies at all four infield positions and both corner spots in the outfield.
Masataka Yoshida joins the Red Sox this season after a seven-year career in Japan’s NPB, all with the Orix Buffaloes. His stats with Orix were outstanding, slashing .327/.421/.539 with 133 homers and 467 RBI in 762 games. Since 2018, he has topped 21 homers in each full season, hitting 26 in 2018 and 29 the following year. He has hit 21 homers in each of the last two seasons.
The Red Sox signed him with the expectation that he will continue to hit for power. The obvious question is will he be able to adjust to major league pitching and hit for power or struggle?
Hunter Brown had a breakout year in Triple-A S before being added to the Astros roster in September and earning a place on the postseason roster. The young righty appeared in seven games, making two starts, striking out 9.7/9 and compiling a 0.89 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 20.1 innings of work. He then added another 3.2 shutout innings in the postseason. With Justin Verlander no longer in Houston, there may be a spot in the rotation for Brown, especially if the Astros use a six-man rotation as they did throughout the 2022 season.
William Contreras is coming off an All-Star season in which he hit 20 home runs for the Braves while driving in 45 and slashing .278/.354/.506. Traded to Milwaukee this offseason, Contreras will be the No. 1 catcher for the Brewers and can get additional playing time at DH and, in a pinch, can play in the outfield.
Is Now His Time?
I was on board the Gavin Lux 2022 train before I jumped off at the first station as he just hasn’t lived up to the hype. Still, it is hard to give up on him as he is only 24, has shown flashes, and appears to have been given the job at shortstop, giving him a third position you can slot him into this season.
CJ Abrams isn’t going to hit for a lot of power. He never has and likely never will. But I think he will eventually hit for a nice average and steal a ton of bases. After joining the Nationals in a midseason trade with San Diego, he slashed .258/.276/.327 with six steals in 44 games.
The Miami Marlins have built a nice pitching staff, and Edward Cabrera is one of the reasons why. After an ugly seven starts in 2021 (5.81 ERA, 1.63 WHIP), Cabera showed why he was considered a top prospect early in his career. In 14 starts, Cabrera had a 3.01 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 9.4 K/9. He did walk 4.1 batters/nine, but that was offset by the fact he allowed only 44 hits in 71.2 innings. Once he learns to command the strike zone, he will be scary good.
Bounce Back Season Expected
The Detroit Tigers were expecting Austin Meadows to anchor the offense last season after acquiring him from Tampa Bay for Isaac Paredes. But Meadows appeared in only 36 games, slashing .250/.347/.328 with zero homers and only 11 RBI. Compare those numbers to 2019 and 2021 when Meadows combined for 60 homers and 195 RBI in 280 games. Meadows turns only 28 in May, so I don’t think it would be wise to write him off and expect a bounce-back season in 2023.
The Old Men of the Group
In their quest to remake the team’s starting rotation, the Texas Rangers added Andrew Heaney this offseason. Heaney suffered a shoulder injury in April and was limited to 14 starts and 16 appearances overall. But when he was on the mound for the Dodgers, he was outstanding.
He posted a 3.10 ERA, 1.087 WHIP and a 136 ERA+. Even more impressive was the 13.6 K/9 rate. I don’t think he will match that rate again for the Rangers, but even if he is closer to his career rate of 9.7 that will still be good. At 31, he isn’t a five-year keeper, but he is worth being on your staff the next three years.
Like Heaney, Eugenio Suarez is no spring chicken. However, he does do one thing very well – hit homers. In the last four full seasons, he has hit 34, 39, 31 and 31 home runs. His 162-game average is 32 homers and 89 RBI. With that kind of power, it is worth giving up average and OBP for the next three to five years. Just don’t look for him to help your batting average or OBP. For his career, he is a .250/.334/.465 hitter, but he hasn’t hit better than .236 since 2019.
Gabriel Moreno was stuck in a catching glut in Toronto before being traded to Arizona this offseason. I love his bat as he hit .319 for the Jays and had a strikeout rate of only 11% and has a career slash line of .310/.365/.479 in the minors. He also has versatility as he started one game in left for Toronto and has seen time at first and third base in the minors.
Three Pitchers, Three Stages of their Careers
Roansy Contreras is the type of pitcher I talked about earlier – young hurler with talent but still too young to be close to his best. Contreras had a solid season with the Pirates, going 5-5 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 95 innings of work. But he had a 3.7 BB/9 rate and an 8.1 K/9 rate. He’s going to get better, it will just a few years for him to reach his maximum potential.
Unlike Contreras, it appears Jordan Montgomery has mastered the craft of pitching. Over the last three seasons, his ERA has gone from 5.11 to 3.83 to 3.48, including a 3.11 mark with the Cardinals after being traded by the Yankees. His WHIP has also gone done the last three years, starting at 1.29 down to 1.09 in 2022. He won’t rack up the strikeouts, but he won’t hurt in any one category.
Justin Steele was two pitchers during the 2022 season. The first version of Steele was horrible, compiling a 5.40 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in April and May for the Cubs. Then the light came on in June. For the remainder of the year, he posted a 2.05 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He may not match those numbers for the entirety of the 2023 season, but he is certainly not going to be the pitcher he was in April and May of 2022.
He Can’t Get Hurt Again, Right?
It has been a while since Anthony Rendon has played an entire season. Over the past two years, he has played in only 105, producing 11 home runs and 58 RBI. At 32, Rendon may have a tough time duplicating his numbers from 2017-2019, but I don’t think he has completely forgotten how to hit and has several good years of production left in his bat.
Andrew Benintendi slashed .304/.373/.399 with five homers and 51 RBI in 126 games in 2022, so how is he still a top 200 player? Because from 2017 through 2021, his 162-game average was 18 homers, 88 RBI and 17 steals while slashing .273/.347/.435. He is also playing half his games in a good hitter’s park, so I expect him to produce like he has for much of his career.
Two Former A’s
Just think how good the Oakland Athletics would be if the team could (would) actually spend money and keep its players.
Matt Chapman is never going to hit for a high average or put up a great OBP. But he hits the ball over the fence well, topping 24 home runs in each of the last five full seasons. With power usually comes a lot of RBIs, especially in a loaded Blue Jays lineup. If power is what you need on your team, then Chapman is your man.
Meanwhile, Sean Murphy has escaped Oakland after being traded to Atlanta and is coming off an 18-homer season with 66 RBI in a whopping 148 games. In 2021, he hit 17 homers drove in 59 runs in 119 games. With a better lineup surrounding him and a much better atmosphere to play in, I expect a 20+ homer season from Murphy.
After a great year pitching mostly out of the pen in 2021, I expected Michael Kopech to be a beast in 2022. Instead, he was just good, compiling a 3.54 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. I didn’t expect a strikeout rate of only 7.9 K/9, but I think that will increase over the next few years.
Like young pitchers, some young hitters need a few extra years before finally breaking out. I am putting Alex Kirilloff in that category. In 104 games over the last two years, he has 11 homers and 55 RBI with a .251/.295/.398 slash line. But he is only a few years removed from being a top-100 prospect and is only 24 years old. There is too much upside in his game to ignore.
Alex Verdugo didn’t have a great slash line in 2022 (.280/.328/.405) compared to his career line of .286/.341/.431. But he is good for about 15 homers and 65 RBI per year and those numbers could get better as he enters his prime.
As for C.J. Cron, he is here thanks in large part to the Coors Field affect as the first baseman seems to have found a home in Colorado. In his two seasons with the Rockies, he has hit 57 homers and driven in 194. He strikes at a lot, but he slugs homers and drives in runs. That’s fine with me.
Look, a Reliever!
Raisel Iglesias was a shell of his former self with the Angels in 2022, posting a 4.04 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 16 saves. But then came a trade to Atlanta. With the Braves, he recorded only one save but he still posted a 0.840 WHIP and a 0.34 ERA. That’s right, a 0.34 ERA, allowing only one earned run in 26.1 innings of work. With Kenley Jansen leaving free agency, Iglesias is back in the closer’s role with a team that will rack up a lot of wins.
A Top Prospect and a Former Top Prospect
Jordan Lawlar is the first of a few pure prospects that will show up in these rankings. The Diamondbacks pushed Lawlar through four different levels last season, with him winding up at Double-A. Overall he slashed .303/.401/.509 with 16 homers, 62 RBI and 39 steals in 100 games. While it is more than likely he starts the season at Double-A, perhaps Triple-A, it shouldn’t be long before he joins Arizona, who currently have Nick Ahmed or Geraldo Perdomo slated to start at short.
Max Meyer didn’t last long enough in his rookie season to wow anyone as he blew out his arm in his second start in the majors. He had Tommy John surgery in August and won’t be pitching this season. But he is worth stashing on the IR list all year. Meyer has a fastball that sits near 95 and can get close to 100 and features a nasty slider, helping him record a 10.4 K/9 rate in his minor league career.
The End…Until Next Week
Thanks for reading. Next week I will break down my Tier 7 players, No. 175-151. Until then, have a great week.