As both a fantasy analyst and the managing editor here at FantraxHQ, every year about this time I face a conundrum. Diehard fantasy baseball enthusiasts are hungry for content but with Spring Training still a few weeks away, MLB rosters are still a long way from what they will become. There’s a lot up in the air as far as playing time and starting jobs, and it seems like the American League has more than its fair share of uncertainty this season. With that said, I’m still breaking out my 2023 AL-Only fantasy baseball rankings, but as you comb through them and nitpick them apart, do realize that this is my early take. Trust me, these rankings will change before we get to Opening Day.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
2023 AL-Only Fantasy Baseball Rankings
The rankings below are broken down by position and are based on a typical 12-team, 5X5, AL-Only Rotisserie league. I’ve used the 20-game threshold for position eligibility and have only ranked players at the position they will most likely be drafted with the exception of a few players who fit equally well at two different positions. For example, Daulton Varsho is ranked at the catcher position despite the fact that he will most likely be in the outfield this season in Toronto.
I’m also probably leaving off some rookies that will earn positions this spring. I’ll add them as rosters start to take shape over the next few months.
If your draft is coming up and you need something on paper to take with you feel free to grab this Printable Version. If you think my rankings are the fantasy equivalent of 2022 Joey Gallo but you like the format, feel free to make this Downloadable Excel File your own. Also if you’re viewing these rankings on your phone, you may want to turn it sideways (queue the Rock) and view them from that aspect. The tables used will display much better that way.
And please, If I’m missing a player let me know about it… but try to be nice about it. There aren’t many of us dinosaurs left who specialize in the -Only leagues.
AL-Only Catcher Rankings
I did these rankings a couple of weeks ago and I’m still up in the air on a few spots. I think Mike Zunino gets the bulk of the playing time in Cleveland but I’m seeing a lot of speculation that Bo Naylor may be the guy. If that’s true or if there’s more of a split than I think there will be, then feel free to bump Naylor up to the slot just ahead of Zunino.
Overall I think the AL cast of catchers is reason for optimism. There are some young bats that seem to be ready to fully break out within the next year or two in Adley Rutschman, MJ Melendez, Cal Raleigh, Logan O’Hoppe, Shea Langeliers, and Bo Naylor. Daulton Varsho and Alejandro Kirk seem to have reached their prime and Salvador Perez is still bopping. This may be the one position where the AL has more depth than the NL.
AL-Only First Base Rankings
There are some good bats in this group but honestly, the position has question marks very early in the rankings. Vinnie Pasquantino seems like the real deal, but will there be growing pains? Can Nathaniel Lowe maintain the power gains from last year? Is Andrew Vaughn ready to reach the lofty standards we had for him just a few years ago?
In my drafts, I’m spending a couple of extra bucks on one of the top four or I’m waiting on Miranda, France, or taking a shot on Torkelson getting comfortable after his early failures.
AL-Only Second Base Rankings
The second base player pool seems a little weaker than in recent years. If you don’t get one of the top seven or eight you could be looking at very little offensive output from that slot. In order to get Marcus Semien or Jose Altuve you’ll have to grab them in the second round at latest. For me, the top value is Jorge Polanco whose average ADP on FantasyPros is 156 overall. If you’re looking for a deeper sleeper Jonathan Aranda may be a solid play. With the Rays’ failure to add any offense whatsoever, Aranda is very likely to see significant at-bats and has a lot more upside than the other second basemen in his draft neighborhood.
AL-Only Third Base Rankings
Third base in the AL has a bit of depth but in a 12-team league, you’ll still have a huge advantage if you draft Jose Ramirez or Rafael Devers. Barring one of those top two, you may be able to wait a bit and gamble on slight bounce-backs from Josh Donaldson or Justin Turner. One player I think that could be a value this season is Jose Miranda. Check out his minor league numbers. There’s more to him than he showed in 2022.
AL-Only Shortstop Rankings
This may be the deepest position in AL-Only leagues. I’d love to grab one of the top three, but I’m okay with any of my top 10 as my starting shortstop. Add another solid option once Gunnar Henderson gains shortstop eligibility. Right now he’s only eligible at third base in most leagues as he played 24 games there as opposed to just seven at shortstop. Even with plenty of solid options at shortstop, the middle infield slot in AL-Only leagues could look pretty ugly. In fact the entire lack of depth in the American League will have me spreading my salaries around in my AL auctions. Stars and Scrubs will be a tough one to pull off with so many holes.
AL-Only Outfield Rankings
Am I a pessimist? I look at the outfield and get slightly sick to my stomach. Sure there are plenty of big bats in the top two tiers, but after the top 30 or so, it’s a big mess. I didn’t even bother trying to break the bottom 50 outfielders into tiers. There will be plenty of movement within this group during Spring Training and probably on into the season to be honest.
AL-Only Starting Pitcher Rankings
There is a nice glut of top starting pitchers in the AL and that second tier is pretty nice as well. A couple of young pitchers I’ll be targeting are Garrett Whitley and Tyler Wells. I think both have not even scratched the surface of what they can do. I also think we may see the full breakout of George Kirby this season. In fact, if his second-half numbers are any kind of indicator, he’s already broken out. Take advantage now, before the other members of your league figure it out. Brady Singer is another pitcher who quietly turned into what we were looking for when he came up. He had a 2.53 ERA and 1.05 in the second half of 2022.
UPDATE: Added Pablo Lopez and Grayson Rodriguez to the rankings. Lopez joins a Minnesota team that seems to be improved and there’s talk of Rodriguez starting the year in the Orioles rotation. Both probably have some upward mobility from where I currently have them in my rankings.
AL-Only Relief Pitcher Rankings
Yuck. Emmanuel Clase is in a tier by himself and the questions start right after him. If your league wasn’t paying attention to the Orioles, then they may not know just how dominating Felix Bautista was last year. His 2.19 ERA, 12.06 K/9, and 0.93 WHIP are the real deal. Another pitcher who looked lights out at the end of last season was Pete Fairbanks. Health is always a concern but in 24 innings upon his return, he struck out 38 hitters against just three walks. That all added up to 0.65 WHIP. Though it’s hard to predict how the Rays will handle their bullpen, Fairbanks was just signed to an extension, so he may be more of a traditional closer than many people think. Pair him with Jason Adam and you’re golden.
Got a beef with Doug’s AL-Only rankings? Let him hear about it in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!
Your printable AL-only cheat sheet left off the DH’s (heard that Ohtani dude is worth drafting).
I’ll have to look and see what happened with that. If I remember correctly though Ohtani was the only AL player who was eligible only at DH. I’ll add a note in the text, as you are correct, Ohtani may be a decent reserve round stash if he ever figures things out 🙂
Thanks for the AL article! We’ve had a 10 team league going since 1995 so it’s nice to get a little AL only love. Hoping Wander Franco has a fully healthy, breakout season and rocks your SS rankings.
I work in the press box at the Trop so I hope you’re right. He better start doing a little more from the left side of the plate if he wants to really be an impact bat.
I am a AL Only, NL Only person. Thank You for this. When will the NL Only be out?
When is the NL list coming up?
I am a fellow AL only dinosaur also but I have Eric Swanson rated higher over Anthony Bass as I think he becomes the closer if Romano goes to the IL. Thank you for this list, very valuable to us AL guys!
I’ll have to look into the Toronto pen a little more. There seem to be a lot of wide-open positions in the AL this year.
That trade happened right after I did my initial starting pitcher rankings. He’ll be added in my next run-through. Right now I’d put him around No. 21 or so.