Well, we have made it through the first 100 players in this year’s 2023 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings. Now, just another 100 more players to go.
This week’s rankings feature players ranked numbers 100 to 76 – or my Tier 4 players. This group of 25 players features only eight pitchers, seven of which are starters. The group also skews toward the under-30 crowd as only 10 of the players in this tier are 30 or over.
Season Slowing Inching Closer
Next week the start of Spring Training is here, which means the real season is just around the corner. But until then, the next month will be about you creating a new team (or teams) in dynasty baseball leagues are continuing to tweak your current team(s).
No matter what you are looking forward to – Spring Training, the regular season, drafts or everything – it is a great time of the year. And since we can’t get enough rankings, let’s get to this edition of the 2023 Dynasty Rankings: 100-76.
Another Tommy John Comeback
If it wasn’t for Tommy John surgery, Dustin May would be ranked higher than No. 100. But you can’t ignore the injury and just pretend May will be on track to immediately be the dominant pitcher he appeared to be in 2020 and early 2021 before suffering his injury. During those two seasons, in 15 starts (17 appearances overall), May had a 2.62 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a strikeout ratio of 9.0 K/9 with an ERA+ of 166.
He came back last season to start six games and had a 4.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and an 8.7 K/9 ratio. But if you look a little deeper, you will see that he threw his sinker, fastball, cutter and curve between 28.9% and 21.1% and added in his changeup 5.6% of the time. He averaged 98.1 mph on his fastball and he had a 48.8 Whiff% with his curve, which was also in the 100th percentile in spin rate. May should be 100% healthy this year and will likely make this ranking look way too low by the end of the season.
The Seasoned Veterans
If you need a first baseman, you could do a lot worse than Rhys Hoskins. He is basically good for 30 homers and 80 RBI every year, thanks to power like this. His batting average isn’t going to wow anyone as he is a career .242 hitter, but his 162-game average is 36 homers and 98 RBI and he has not hit fewer than 27 homers in a full 162-game season since his rookie year in 2017, when he hit 18 dingers in 50 games.
Hoskins’ teammate, Nick Castellanos, has a career slugging percentage of .475 and a 162-game average of 24 home runs and 87 RBI. His 13 dingers with the Phillies this past season were his lowest total since 2014. I think Castellanos was trying too hard to prove himself with his new team last year. Expect him to bounce back this and reach the mid-20s in homers, or more, in 2023.
Will Christian Yelich ever return to the days of 2016-2019? I doubt it. But is he now just an average left fielder? I doubt that as well. While his power numbers were down last year, he did have a .355 OBP and steal 19 bases to go along with an OPS+ of 111. I expect him to get closer to 20 homers than 15 in 2023 and get closer to his career slash line of .287/.376/.466.
Coming Into His Own
On December 20, 2020, the Rangers traded a host of players to the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman Nathaniel Lowe and two other players. The players the Rays received haven’t done a thing for the team. Meanwhile, Lowe has established himself as one of the top power-hitting first baseman in baseball.
In his first season with Texas he slashed .264/.357/.415 with 18 homers and 72 RBI. This past year he improved to .302/.358/.492 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI while lowering his strikeout percentage from 25.2% to a league average 22.8%. I don’t know if his 2021 slash line is more who Lowe is or last year’s slash line, but I do he will continue to hit for power.
At Home as a Starter
From 2018-2020, Nestor Cortes went from Baltimore to New York to Seattle, appearing in 42 games and making two starts. During those three seasons, he had a 6.72 ERA and 1.71 WHIP with a 4.3 BB/9 ratio. After the 2020 season, the Yankees brought Cortes back to the Bronx, and his second stint has obviously gone well for the left-hander.
After appearing in 22 games and making 14 starts in 2021, posting a 2.90 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in the process, Cortes went 12-4 last season with a 2.44 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 28 starts and 158.1 innings while finishing eighth in the Cy Young voting. The reason for the turnaround is obvious – Cortes has learned to command his pitches. In 2021 issued only 2.4 walks per nine innings and last season that number fell to 2.2 BB/9.
Shut Down Closer
Emmanuel Clase doesn’t blow batters away like some other top closer, striking out only 9.5 batters per nine. But the Guardians’ closer has impeccable control. Last season he allowed only 43 hits and 10 walks in 72.2 innings for a 0.729 WHIP while posting a 1.36 ERA. I think the below graphic sums up how good Clase is:
If you want a closer and Clase is available, he would be a great addition. At only 25-year-old, I don’t see him suddenly falling off the cliff as many relievers do.
Logan Gilbert showed great progress in 2022, cutting his ERA from 4.68 in 2021 to 3.20 during his second season with the Mariners. Interestingly, his strikeout rate actually decreased while his walk rate increased. Also, his xERA in 2021 was 4.09 while it was 4.11 in 2022. But those numbers are skewed by a horrendous month of August for Gilbert. In 26.2 innings, he had a 1.69 WHIP and 6.75 ERA. He struck out only 5.1 hitters per nine innings and his K/BB ratio was 1.67.
From April through July, Gilbert’s worst ERA was 3.44, his worst WHIP was 1.26 and his lowest K/9 rate was 8.1. And after his horrible August, Gilbert rebounded to post a 2.00 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 36 innings of work with a 10.3 K/9 rate. Overall, Gilbert had a good season and will soon be, if he already isn’t, the ace of the Seattle staff.
He’s Still Only 26
Gleyber Torres just completed his fifth season in the majors – and he will only be 26 this year. All he did in 2022 was slash .257/.310/.451 and slug 24 homers with 76 RBI and 10 steals. And last season wasn’t a mirage. As a rookie in 2018 he hit 24 homers and drove in 77 followed by a 38-homer, 90-RBI season in 2019. The Yankees hopefully have figured out that Torres should play at second base and only second base.
But since numbers are always fun to look at, Torres has a .272/.328/.472 slash line with a 4.6% home run percentage as a second baseman while at shortstop his slash line is .267/.343/.447 with a 3.9% home run percentage. Point is, he is a powerful bat at second base. Maybe the Yankees should check out the numbers to figure that out.
New Home in Houston
I’m giving Jose Abreu a pass on his 2022 season with the White Sox concerning his home runs as he hit only 15. The veteran first baseman still slashed .304/.378/.446 and drove in 75 runs. While the 15 homers are concerning, the following numbers are his home run totals since his ROY season in 2014 through 2021 – 36, 30, 25, 33, 22, 33, 19 (2020 COVID year), and 30.
The Astros signed Abreu this offseason to hit home runs. With the short porch to left field, I fully expect Abreu to get back to his 30-homer production.
One Nasty Pitch, One Nasty Pitcher
If a hitter doesn’t get to Kevin Gausman’s fastball, then good luck trying to get a hit. Last season opposing batters hit .331 against Gausman’s fastball. But when hitters tried to hit his split-finger fastball, they basically failed. Batters hit only .191 with a .291 slugging percentage against his disappearing split. In 2021 those numbers were .129 and .216 and in 2020 they were .091 and .137 respectively.
Gausman can’t throw that pitch every time, and he features a mid-90s fastball along with a slider and change that helps make him one of the best starters in baseball and a great dynasty pitcher. Over the last three seasons, he is 29-19 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.13 WHIP with a 10.9 K/9 ratio and 2.0 BB/9 ratio. Yes, he will be 32 this season, but he has a host of good years remaining before age catches up to him.
Grab Him If You Can
I went back and forth with myself about where to rank Francisco Alvarez. He is only 21 and has only 14 career plate appearances. But he has been a beast in the minors the last two years, hitting 24 homers with 70 RBI in 2021 and adding 27 dingers and 78 RBI this past season. In his three years in the minors, his slugging percentages have been .510, .554 and .511. Alvarez basically has no experience in the majors, but his upside is too high to overlook or rank lower.
From Dud to Stud
As I may have mentioned a few times, young pitchers rarely come in and dominate Major League hitters as the learning curve between the minors and majors is large. An example of that is Hunter Greene. He was the poster boy of learning on the job last season for the Reds, going from horrific to amazing over the course of the year. For the season, he went 5-13 with a 4.44 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. From April through July, he had monthly ERAs of 6.00, 5.81, 5.46 and 5.16.
But over his last five starts (one in August, four in September/October) he showed everyone what he is capable of. In 29 innings of work, he allowed only two earned runs on 13 hits and seven walks for a 0.62 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP while posting a 14 K/9 strikeout rate thanks in large part to being able to throw gas like this. I am a fan of Greene and really like his upside and think his future will consist of many more months like last September/October.
MVP Talent, but…
Minnesota center fielder Byron Buxton doesn’t need to prove himself as much as he needs to prove he can stay healthy. When he plays, Buxton is one of the top center fielders in the game. He hit 28 home runs this past season while driving in 51 and stealing six bases. But that came in only 340 at-bats as injuries limited him to 92 games. Since playing in 140 games in 2017, Buxton has been limited to 28, 87, 39 (out of 60), and 61 games from 2018-2021.
Just Play Him
The New York Yankees seem to have an aversion to playing their prospects until they almost aren’t prospects anymore. Last year the Houston Astros said goodbye to Carlos Correa and inserted rookie Jeremy Pena in at shortstop, despite the fact he never played above Double-A. With a deep lineup, the Yankees could, and should, do the same with Anthony Volpe. All he has done in the minors is rake and steal bases.
In 2021 at Class A and High A, he slashed .294/.423/.604 with 27 homers, 66 RBI and 33 steals in 109 games. Last year at Double-A and Triple-A, he struggled a bit with the slash line (.249/.342/.460 at age 21), but he smashed 21 homers, drove in 65 and swiped 50 bases. There is no reason why the Yankees shouldn’t be starting Volpe from Day 1, which means they will stash him in the minors for another three months. But, if possible, he should still be added to your dynasty team.
Still High on O’Neill
After an outstanding 2021 season, Tyler O’Neill was a top target when it came to dynasty leagues as he hit 34 homers, drove in 80 runs and added 15 steals while slashing .286/.352/.560. Then came 2022 and the injury bug, limiting O’Neill to only 96 games and reducing numbers across the board. I know some think 2021 was an outlier, but I expect O’Neill to bounce back in 2023 and be much closer to the player he was in 2021.
Older but Still Raking
J.T. Realmuto hits for a decent average, posts great OPS+ numbers, hits for power, drives in runs and can also steal bases. However, the 21 steals he had this past season were a career high, and before 2021, the only other time he posted double-digit steals was 2016. He may still swipe a few bags, but I don’t expect him to keep stealing 21 bases per season.
But I do expect him to keep hitting. Over the last four seasons, Realmuto has posted an OPS+ of 126, 109, 110 and 129 – great numbers for a catcher. He may be 32, but when it comes to catchers, I’m taking the best available.
Another Tommy John Victim
If you have never had Tommy John surgery, you obviously have never been a pitcher! Walker Buehler will likely miss most, if not all, of the 2023 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. But if you can stash him, he is an obvious grab. When healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in the game, posting a career 3.02 ERA and 1.04 WHIP with a 9.7 K/9 rate and 137 ERA+ while finishing in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting twice.
Seattle’s Newest Outfielder
The Seattle Mariners did a lot of wheeling and dealing this offseason, and one of the club’s key additions is Teoscar Hernandez. The former Blue Jay hit 25 homers last year while slashing .267/.316/.491 as he consistently hit the ball hard. He ranked in the 94th percentile or better in Average EV, Max EV, Hard Hit%, xSLG and Barrel%. His career slugging percentage is .499 and his 162-game average is 33 home runs and 95 RBI while career OPS+ is 121. Hernandez can hit.
One Powerful Bat
What stats are used in fantasy baseball – hitting or defensive? Easy question to answer, as we all know it is hitting. Thus, the fact that Kyle Schwarber is not going to win a Gold Glove doesn’t matter one bit. What matters is the fact Schwarber can mash the ball, and his bat found the perfect stadium in Philadelphia to hit in in 2022. While Schwarber hit only .218 last year, he still had a .323 OBP and .504 SLG thanks to his 86 walks and 46 bombs.
He also drove in 94 runs despite hitting at the top of the lineup and even stole 10 bases. The steals were a career high and may not happen again, but he has topped 30 homers four times during his career, so the power is going to stay.
Jordan Walker is listed at 6-5, 220 pounds – and he doesn’t turn 21 until May 22. The height or weight may be off a smidge, but there is no doubting Walker is a big man. And he also has big talent to match his size. Walker enters the season as the No. 4 prospect by Baseball America and MLB and No. 2 by Baseball Prospectus. Last season at Double-A he slashed .306/.388/.510 with 19 homers and 68 RBI. Oh, he also threw in 22 steals.
A first round draft choice in 2020, Walker’s minor league career numbers are .310/.388/.525 with 33 homers, 116 RBI and 36 steals in 201 games. Drafted as a third baseman, he got lots of action in right field this past season and in the Arizona Fall League as he is locked out of third base thanks to Nolan Arenado. Walker may not break camp with the Cardinals, but it would be a shock to see him in right field sooner rather than later this season.
Two Tough Righties
Joe Musgrove has come into his own since joining the Padres. Last year he ended the season with a 2.93 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. In two seasons in San Diego, he is 21-16 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, a 125 ERA+ and a strikeout ratio of 9.6 K/9. Additionally, he owns a 4.03 K/BB ratio.
What makes Musgrove so good is the fact he has four above average pitches. Last season opponents mustered only a .217 average against his slider and averages of .222, .229 and .205 against his 4-seam fastball, cutter and curve. And his breaking pitches are just filthy. His slider also produced a Whiff% of 36.0 while the Whiff% against his curve was 32.4%.
Like Musgrove, Zack Wheeler has found his groove since joining the Phillies. From 2013-2019 with the Mets, Wheeler was basically an average pitcher, posting a 3.77 ERA and 1.298 WHIP with a k/9 ratio of 8.7. But after landing in Philadelphia in 2020, Wheeler has been one of the best pitchers in the game. He is 30-19 with the Phils with a 2.82 ERA, 1.045 WHIP and a 9.5 K/9 ratio to go along with a 149 ERA+.
Some First Base Love
Andrew Vaughn played most of last season out of position as he saw plenty of time in left field as well as right field. Despite that, Vaughn slashed .271/.321/.429 (up from .235/.309/396 as a rookie) with 17 home runs and 76 RBI. Now playing his natural position, don’t be shocked to see Vaughn routinely reach 25-plus homers for the White Sox for the next several seasons.
You may think that Vinnie Pasquantino is ranked too high considering his age and lack of proven history on the MLB level. Obviously, I disagree with you. In only 258 at-bats, he had 10 homers, including this majestic shot, and slashed .295/.383/.450. Even more impressive is the improvement he made month to month. He slashed .230/.325/.340 in 27 games in June. That improved to .329/.392/.600 in 20 July games. In 23 games in September/October, he slashed .361/.449/.482.
Three straight months of improvement while also finishing the season with more walks (35) than strikeouts (34). If you have him, you better keep him. If you don’t have him, try to get him.
The End…Until Next Week
Thanks for reading. Next week I will break down my Tier 3 players, No. 75-51. Until then, have a great week.
In case you missed the earlier rankings:
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 200-176
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 175-151
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 150-126
2023 Dynasty Rankings: 125-101