Welcome to my 2023 Fantasy Baseball rankings. It’s always a glorious time of year when baseball season is finally in our vision and we begin diving into rankings and draft rooms. As usual, I broke down my rankings my position, and tiers within each position along with strategy, early-round players to avoid at ADP, and some of my favorite post-250 targets.
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!
Eric Cross’ 2023 Fantasy Baseball Rankings
This position is deeper now than it has been over at least the last half-decade or so. In the past, I was strongly against grabbing a catcher inside the top 100 overall given the other talent available. I’m still not a fan of it, but this top tier is worth investing in at their ADPs, especially in two-catcher formats. Both J.T. Realmuto and Daulton Varsho bring that lovely speed element to the table while Adley Rutschman and Will Smith are rock-solid four-category contributors. Unfortunately, this entire quartet are highly sought-after in fantasy drafts and you’re going to have to pay up to acquire them in 2023 drafts.
If you’re not keen on using a top-70 pick or higher on those names, this second tier is a fine place to dip your toes into. Both Contreras brothers are great targets. Willson has become one of the steadiest producers at this position and will now be in the middle of a good St. Louis lineup. As for his younger brother, William possesses more upside and could also join Tier 1 given his power potential (13.4% BRL, 46.6% HH). If he can keep the strikeouts in check, I have a feeling we’re going to see a big season from him with additional playing time in Milwaukee.
I’ve always been a big fan of Alejandro Kirk and 2023 will be no different. The contact skills and approach are elite (89.5% Zone contact, 15.4% SwStr, 11.6% BB, 10.7% K), and the upside for more game power is there if he can start hitting the ball in the air more consistently. If the additional power comes in 2023, Kirk will jump up into tier 1. However, the recent acquisition of Brandon Belt gives me slight pause as he’ll likely take some of Kirk’s DH at-bats.
Ideally, I want my catcher (or C1 in 2-C formats) to be from one of these first two tiers. This position does start dropping off in tier three, but there are some fun rookies (mentioned below) and potential bounceback candidates to target.
Early-Round ADP Avoids: None. Just really depends on what price you’re willing to pay. If I had to pick one ADP I’m not crazy about though, it’d be MJ Melendez or Sal Perez.
My Favorite Post ADP 250 Targets: Francisco Alvarez, Logan O’Hoppe, Gabriel Moreno, Bo Naylor
|2||Vladimir Guerrero Jr||TOR|
This position is slowly getting deeper again. At the top, we have an exciting and safe tier of four consisting of Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Freddie Freeman, Pete Alonso, and Paul Goldschmidt. All four returned Top 25 value last season and are good bets to do so again in 2023. Freeman alone is one of the safest bets in baseball to return top 25 value year in and year out. If you’re hoping to get one of this quartet onto your fantasy teams, you’re going to need to use a Top-30 selection.
Alonso and Freeman are the two I find myself targeting the most from this group given what I already mentioned regarding Freeman and Alonso’s massive three-category impact that led to 40 home runs, 95 runs, and a whopping 131 RBI. Another 40/120 season could be in store for Alonso hitting in the middle of one of baseball’s best lineups.
If you’re able to grab one from that top tier, wonderful. But if you can’t, tier two is pretty damn talented as well. In fact, the only one from this tier that I’m out on at ADP is Matt Olson. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very good fantasy first baseman, but I’m not keen on taking him inside the Top 50 overall. Many of the names going 50-70 picks later are better values in my eyes, and that is especially true for Vinnie Pasquantino, who is ranked ahead of Olson for me.
Pasquantino is the real deal, showcasing an elite contact/approach profile (90.4% zone contact, 11.7% BB, 11.4% K, 15.3% SwStr) and budding power potential (46.9% HH). Even in a pitcher-friendly park, I’m banking on Vinnie P returning Top 50 value this season from an ADP close to 100. Others from tier 2 that I’m buying are Jose Abreu (Love the move to Houston), Andrew Vaughn (Should take a step forward back at his natural position), and Nathaniel Lowe.
If you’re looking for some upside plays, look no further than tier 3. This is also where several of my favorite targets land if I decided to wait a bit on this position in my drafts. The four I’ve been targeting the most are Jose Miranda, Ryan Mountcastle, Triston Casas, and Alex Kirilloff. All four have the upside to move into tier 2 this season.
Casas and Kirilloff have plenty of potential, and Kirilloff especially is a great value pick in drafts going close to pick 350. Yes, his PT is up in the air and he’s coming off another wrist injury, but I’m willing to bank on the upside at what is essentially a free price tag in most leagues. Keep an eye on how he looks in spring training and bump him up your draft board accordingly. Luckily for him, Arraez is out of town so he has a chance to snag that first base gig. Mountcastle is a sneaky target as well around pick 150-160 or so. When I dug into his profile, I came away more impressed than I anticipated.
Ryan Mountcastle is one I'm moving up my rankings heading into 2023.
Top 9% in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, & xwOBACON
Higher whiff/chase rates & Camden robbed him of several HR, but the profile is intriguing overall.
Solid value at ADP (153)#FantasyBaseball #Orioles pic.twitter.com/CuiiGXzUM9
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) December 21, 2022
The same can be said about Anthony Rizzo…
I was too low on Anthony Rizzo in my 2023 rankings.
– Good QoC (10.9% BRL, 41% HH)
– Good approach (10.6% BB, 18.4% K, 88.1% Zone Contact, 9.7% SwStr)
– Pull profile fits his park
Moving him up to my 1B 15.
Solid CI option or back end starting 1B if you wait.#FantasyBaseball pic.twitter.com/Itoybzpczs
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) January 18, 2023
You’ll find even more exciting upside plays in tier 4 as well. Specifically in the trio of Miguel Vargas, Spencer Torkelson, and Matt Mervis. Torkelson looked a bit better down the stretch after being recalled from Triple-A, posting a 12.3% barrel rate, 93.1 mph AVG EV, and a 50.7% hard-hit rate. Don’t write him off quite yet, but do keep in mind that Comerica isn’t going to do him any favors. If Vargas and Mervis get full-time ABs (they should but not guaranteed), both have the offensive upside to move up one or two tiers this season. Vargas is the one I’m targeting more heavily though given his advanced bat and the lineup he’ll be in out in Los Angeles. Both are great targets though.
Early-Round ADP Avoids: Matt Olson (Just going a bit too high for my liking)
My Favorite Post ADP 250 Targets: Matt Mervis, Wil Myers, Spencer Torkelson, Miguel Vargas, Alex Kirilloff, Harold Ramirez
|4||Jazz Chisholm Jr.||MIA|
This has to be the most exciting tier 1 has looked for the second base position in quite some time. Yes, even including when Trea Turner had eligibility here for one season. And depending on the platform you play on, Mookie Betts might be eligible here as well. The entire top tier will go inside the Top 50 of most drafts, sometimes even inside the Top 30. For 2023, I’m giving the slight edge to Marcus Semien. After an abysmal start to the season, Semien completely flipped his season around on May 27th. Starting with a three-hit performance that day, Semien slashed .271/.327/.493 the rest of the way with 26 home runs, 73 RBI, 87 runs, and 21 steals. He was one of just two players to go 20/20 over that span (Adolis Garcia) and one of just nine players to have 70+ runs and 70+ RBI in that span.
You could make a strong case for Jose Altuve, Ozzie Albies, and even Jazz Chisholm in that top spot as well. The sexy profile and upside play is obviously Chisholm. In just 241 PA last season, Chisholm racked up 39 runs, 14 home runs, 45 RBI, and 12 steals with a 16.7% barrel rate, 46.7% hard-hit rate, and 94th percentile sprint speed. If you extrapolate that line out over 650 PA, you’d have 105 runs, 38 home runs, 121 RBI, and 32 steals. Easier said than done though.
The upside is enormous, but can Jazz stay on the field for 650 PA? Can he maintain/improve his contact skills and approach? The ADP is fair, but picking him versus the other trio comes down to your risk tolerance this early in the draft. Albies is a good value pick as well. Yes, 2022 was pretty much a lost season, but don’t forget that he had three straight full seasons of 24+/14+ coming into 2022 with a 30/20 season in 2021.
For me personally, if I don’t wind up with one of the first four at this position, I’m likely going to wait a bit. The second and third tiers are mostly filled with players whose ADPs I’m not overly excited about. Trevor Story’s metrics are trending down (Whiff/Chase) and he’s now out for a large chunk of the season. I’m not sure we can count on him to even hit .250-.260 anymore. Andres Gimenez is fine, but his metrics hint that he’s more of a .270/15 type offensively than a .300/20 one. And then we have several underperformers from 2022 such as Jonathan India, Ketel Marte, and Jake Cronenworth, and Brandon Lowe. My two favorite targets from these tiers are Tommy Edman for his speed and Vaughn Grissom for his all-around offensive potential. Both are in good lineups and both will have dual eligibility (later in April for Grissom).
Keep an eye on the prospects if it’s looking like they might break camp (or be up soon) with their respective Major League team, especially Connor Norby, Jordan Westburg, and Curtis Mead.
Early-Round Avoids: None
My Favorite Post ADP 250 Targets: Luis Rengifo, Nick Gordon
|2||Bobby Witt Jr||KCR|
If you’ve still been consuming fantasy baseball content through the winter months, you already know that the hot corner is top heavy and falls off quickly. If you’re just now jumping back into fantasy baseball content, consider this your warning that this position falls off in a hurry. With that said, the top of this position is incredibly potent with five players going within the first 25 picks overall. Jose Ramirez is once again a top-5 selection while Bobby Witt Jr has snuck into the top 10. Some are worried about JoRam’s less than stellar second half (.269/10/7 in 70 G), but I’m willing to chalk up most of that to his injury and bank on Ramirez returning to his elite Top 5 production once again in 2023. Literally zero worries here.
I’m also 100% fine with the ADPs for Bobby Witt Jr, Rafael Devers, Manny Machado, and Austin Riley as well. Grabbing Witt also gives you dual eligibility and added flexibility for later in your draft. Grabbing one of these five mostly depends on where you slot in the draft order. The next tier depends on how early you want to reach for Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Gunnar Henderson (also dual eligibility), and Carlos Correa once he presumably signs with the Mets.
In my early drafts thus far, I’ve noticed these four usually being reached for a bit early due to the drop off at this position that follows them. My recommendation is to not reach. Might sound odd, but the more I’ve looked at the next tier, the more I’m becoming relatively okay with it. Is it a great tier? No. But there are some nice targets in here that you can draft several rounds later than the aforementioned quartet.
The group consisting of Jose Miranda, Max Muncy, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Eugenio Suarez, and Josh Jung represent the last players I’d be somewhat okay with having as my starter at this position. If you want some speed and upside, go Hayes. Power? Go Suarez or Muncy. Young rising bats with a solid ROI possibility? Go Miranda or Jung. After these names, that’s when it really starts falling off quick into a land with more questions than answers.
Early-Round Avoids: None
My Favorite Post ADP 250 Targets: Jordan Walker, Luis Rengifo, Justin Turner
|2||Bobby Witt Jr.||KCR|
|4||Fernando TatIs Jr.||SDP|
|40||Elly De La Cruz||CIN|
How does this position continue to get deeper and deeper every season? It’s unfathomable how much talent is at this position this season. To put it in perspective, I don’t even have the newest
San Francisco Giant New York Met Minnesota Twin, Carlos Correa, inside my top 15 at this position.
Right off the bat you have four players going within the first 25 picks on average. That includes Fernando Tatís Jr who will miss the first 20 games of the season. If you’re risk-averse, I can see passing on him given the 20-game absence and high likelihood of additional missed time. But man, the upside makes it hard to pass him over. Trea Turner is definitely the safest of the bunch, having finished as a top 5 overall fantasy player in each of the last three seasons according to the Razzball Player Rater. Can Bobby Witt Jr build on his 20/30 rookie campaign? I’m sure banking on it. If you want him on your team, a top-10 pick is the price.
Tiers two and three are filled with established players and the shiny new toy, Oneil Cruz, is thrown into the fray. Drafting Cruz comes down to how risk-averse you are, but the power and speed could allow him to cut his ADP in half for 2024. In 361 plate appearances last season, Cruz racked up 17 home runs and 10 steals with a 15.5% barrel rate, 46.1% hard-hit rate, and a 98th-percentile sprint speed. However, all of that came with a 34.9% strikeout rate and a 35.4% whiff rate. He’s arguably the biggest boom or bust selection within the top 100 overall picks.
As for the veterans in this tier, I’m all-in on a Corey Seager bounceback season. Swanson, Bogaerts, and Anderson all represent solid value picks as well.
I'm buying Corey Seager everywhere right now, including dynasty.
Approach & QoC still very good.
Slightly improved his Zone Contact & Whiff rates in 2022.
Shifted against 93.3%
BABIP Shift vs Non-shift: .235/.343
ADP: 72#FantasyBaseball pic.twitter.com/cYrembVhmO
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) January 5, 2023
While this position is loaded at the top and relatively deep, don’t wait too long on grabbing your shortstop. After the Correa/Pena/Rosario range around pick 125, the options at this position provide more questions than answers, both with performance and durability. If you happen to wait too long, Vaughn Grissom is a decent fallback option though. He won’t have SS eligibility to start the season but is slated to take over as the starting shortstop for Atlanta with Swanson now with the Cubs.
If you miss out on all of those guys including Grissom, I’d recommend grabbing one of the high upside youngsters to offset whatever shortstop you selected that didn’t inspire you. I’d mainly recommend targeting Oswald Peraza or Ezequiel Tovar due to their likely starting role out of the gate. Anthony Volpe and Royce Lewis are also nice late-round fliers if you can wait a little bit for them to contribute to your teams.
Early-Round Avoids: Fernando Tatís Jr (If your risk-averse), Oneil Cruz (Same), Andrés Gimenez (Not really an avoid, just don’t see much ROI opportunity)
Post ADP 250 Targets: Ezequiel Tovar, Oswald Peraza, Ha-Seong Kim, Luis Urias
|1||Ronald Acuna Jr.||ATL|
|8||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SDP|
|10||Michael Harris II||ATL|
|48||Bryan De La Cruz||MIA|
|69||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||ARI|
Surprisingly, the outfield position has taken a step back this season overall. While the elite talent is still there in groves, the options in the middle rounds are less certain than in previous seasons. That’s why I’m trying to secure at least two outfielders before I get to pick 100. That’s not to say the middle rounds are completely lacking talent, but the options I feel safe with having as my OF2 ends in the Bryan Reynolds/Taylor Ward area.
But getting back to the top, there are plenty of elite options to feel comfortable about in the early rounds. It also depends on where you are picking in the round as the entire first tier could be gone by pick 11 or so. I have literally zero issues drafting any of the seven. Proceed with confidence. After them, it boils down to whether or not you personally trust Mike Trout/Luis Robert to stay healthy, believe in what Michael Harris II did, or wanted to wait until the Eloy Jimenez/Corbin Carroll range. But again, don’t wait too far because the dropoff is approaching quickly.
Assuming you do grab two outfielders in the top 100 picks or so, I’d try and grab my OF3 in the next 100 picks. Some of my favorite mid-round targets are Jake McCarthy, Steven Kwan, Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, Anthony Santander, and Seth Brown. All of which I’d be fine with having as my 3rd outfielder.
Early-Round Avoids at ADP: Cedric Mullins, Byron Buxton, Kyle Schwarber (Not a full avoid, but not crazy about the price)
Post ADP 250 Targets: Masataka Yoshida, Brandon marsh, Nick Gordon, Alex Kirilloff, Esteury Ruiz, Michael Conforto, Wil Myers, Garrett Mitchell, Will Brennan
|51||Lance McCullers Jr.||HOU|
Once again, the pitcher position is incredibly deep. In fact, this might be the deepest this position has ever been. At least in the last several years at least. That depth is overflowing both in general and for elite talent as well. Looking at my rankings, I’d be fine with as many as 18 of them as my fantasy ace, maybe even up to 20. This is why I’ve been waiting a little bit in drafts to grab my ace unless an arm falls to me at a good value in the first three rounds. The one I’ve found falling a bit is Shane McClanahan, usually going off the board as the SP 6-8. People seem to be overly worried about his second half, but not me. He was at the most innings of his career and the metrics are elite.
The other two aces I’ve been finding myself with several shares of are Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. Nola was simply elite last season with a 3.25 ERA (2.74 xERA), 0.95 WHIP, 3.6% walk rate, and a 29.1% strikeout rate. Elite numbers with elite metrics and a high floor? Sign me up. But as long as I can grab my first starter before we get to the Gausman/Manoah range, I’ll be happy. That’s the range where we begin transitioning over into SP2 territory in my eyes.
With the amount of pitching injuries always seemingly on the rise, accumulating quality depth is important. There are a lot of fun, riskier arms that you might be tempted to take, but drafting too many of these guys sets you up for failure. That’s why it’s crucial to go after some of the Chris Bassitt/Lance Lynn/Jordan Montgomery types. These arms usually fall a bit in drafts too.
Early-Round Avoids at ADP: Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow
Post ADP 250 Targets: Nathan Eovaldi, Hunter Brown, Justin Steele, Cal Quantrill, Ross Stripling, Brayan Bello, Brandon Pfaadt
Valuing relievers comes down to the depth and format of your league. In saves-only leagues, especially in deeper formats like draft and holds, bestballs, and DCs, the top relievers take on more importance. You’ll see Edwin Diaz, Emmanuel Clase, and others pushed up into the early rounds, probably before you’re willing to take them.
In save/holds leagues, there are more options available to you, which allows you to wait a bit if you so please. Just make sure you know the format and act accordingly. In saves-only leagues, the safe and reliable targets dry up quickly while the world of shared roles and bullpen committees takes over. So don’t wait too long to secure your saves in this format.
Lastly, I decided to take Liam Hendriks out as we don’t know when he’ll pitch again. But that is secondary to his health at this point as he battles cancer. Prayers go out to Liam and his family as they take on this battle.
Early-Round Avoids at ADP: All really depends on the format. I don’t particularly hate any of these ADPs.
Post ADP 250 Targets: Evan Phillips, Dylan Floro, Brandon Hughes, Kendall Graveman
Media Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire, Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire, Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sports, Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire, Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire, Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
Thoughts on Matt Manning? Feel like he pitched well at the end of the year. Not including him based on his end-of-season injury or just don’t feel like he’ll keep it up?
He might be able to be a back-end TOp-100 guy, but I’ve lost hope for anything more than that. We discussed him on the latest Toolshed pod too.
What do you think about Matt Manning? Feel like he pitched pretty well at the end of the year. More based on the injury at the end of the year or just not trusting that he’ll pitch like that next year?
He might be able to be a back-end TOp-100 guy, but I’ve lost hope for anything more than that. We discussed him on the latest Toolshed pod too.
Out on Alek Thomas?
Not at all. Just don’t see him playing a ton initially. Think he gets some time in Triple-A to begin the season.