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Dynasty Rankings Risers and Fallers: Hitters

In the blink of an eye, we’re in the home stretch of the 2022 fantasy baseball season, but rankings are still changing given player performances, I’m going to discuss some notable dynasty risers and fallers on the offensive side of things in this piece below, discussing changes, values, and projection moving forward. I’ll discuss hitters and prospects in separate articles.

If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. For more rankings, check out Eric’s Top-400 Prospect Rankings or Chris Clegg’s Top-500 OBP Dynasty Rankings, and make sure to check out the Fantrax Toolshed Podcast for more dynasty talk!

Dynasty Risers and Fallers: Hitters

Who is #1 Overall?

This season has brought more questions than answers when it comes to the top of dynasty rankings. My pre-season #1, Juan Soto, has had a down season for his standards, at least for fantasy. Soto is still posting his usual gaudy walk and OBP numbers, but the AVG and overall run production have taken a dip. As for the two Juniors, Ronald Acuña Jr still appears limited by his 2021 knee injury and hasn’t been the same producer offensively while Fernando Tatís Jr hasn’t even played this season due to various injuries and now an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs that will keep him out of action until the middle of May in 2023.

All of that opens the door for Mr. Shohei Ohtani, who probably should’ve been #1 to begin with. While he’s a few years older than the other three, Ohtani is still just 28 years old and can provide top-20 value both as a hitter and pitcher. In daily leagues where he’s dual eligible, Ohtani is #1 without question and should be valued as the top dog in weekly leagues as well.

The only other player in the mix for #1 overall who could ascend to that spot very soon is Julio Rodriguez. The 21-year-old phenom has enjoyed a spectacular rookie season with elite speed, quality of contact metrics, and a chance to go 30/30 with a strong finish to the season. He’s already busted down the door to the top-5 and #1 overall could be his for the taking as soon as early-2023.

Michael Harris II (OF – ATL): #28 Overall (+30)

With his skillset and how he’s performed this season, Michael Harris II deserves this top-30 ranking. And frankly, I probably could have and should have gone a tad higher and into the top-25 overall. Through his first 95 games, Harris has already racked up 66 runs, 18 homers, 57 RBI, and 16 steals for a 162-game pace of  113/31/97/25 to go along with a .313/.353/.566 slash line. Those are fantasy first-round numbers folks. Sure, the approach is a bit aggressive and that’s been talked about by many, but Harris has steadily been improving in that regard, as mentioned last week by my Fantrax Toolshed co-host, Chris Clegg.

Beyond that, Harris has always been a plus or better runner and ranks in the 94th percentile for sprint speed this season while showing more power than expected. Harris currently sports an 11.4% barrel rate and a 46.1% hard-hit rate while also ranking among the league leaders in xSLG and xwOBACON. He’s also done all of this with an elevated 55% groundball rate. Some might look at his lofty 28.1% HR/FB rate and suggest power regression moving forward. That could be true. However, one could also counter that by saying that the HR/FB regression could be offset by Harris trimming his groundball rate.

Regardless, Harris looks like an annual .280+/20+/20+ producer that should be valued as an early-round pick in all formats. He’s for real.

Vinnie Pasquantino (1B – KCR): #54 (+43)

The Italian Breakfast has enjoyed a solid, yet unspectacular rookie campaign on the surface, slashing .257/.346/.426 in 211 plate appearances. But the real impressive numbers happen when you dig into his underlying metrics. Pasquantino possesses all the skills you’d want from a top-5 first baseman and top-50 overall player.

  • Approach: 86.5% Contact, 91.6% Zone Contact, 14.1% Whiff, 6.1% SwStr, 11.4% BB, 13.3% K
  • Quality of Contact: 10.8% barrel, 91.9 mph AVG EV, .484 xSLG, 48.4% Hard-hit

All of those metrics combined are a rare blend to find in any baseball player, giving Pasquantino both a high floor and high ceiling moving forward. While he might never ascend to Freeman/Vlad territory, Pasquantino could easily settle into the 2nd tier of fantasy first basemen as an annual .280+/25+ bat that adds 175+ R+RBI hitting in the middle of a young and improving Kansas City lineup.

Vaughn Grisson (2B/SS – ATL): #72 (+270)

Hey, look, another Atlanta rookie breakout. Is this ranking aggressive? Perhaps. Crazy? Not a chance. Just as Harris did earlier in the season, Vaughn Grissom burst onto the scene straight from Double-A and immediately made his presence known as a strong fantasy contributor. Grissom already has accumulated five homers and five steals in just 118 plate appearances with a solid .309/.356/.491 slash line. His quality of contact metrics don’t stand out at the moment, however, Grissom has always shown at least average power with the potential for more if he adds a bit more bulk to his frame.

While he might not reach the level of power/speed that Harris can offer, Grissom projects as a high AVG bat that can flirt with 20/20 annually. It will be interesting to see where he winds up on the diamond once Ozzie Albies returns, but taking over at SS if Swanson leaves via free agency is an option, or maybe a corner outfield spot. Wherever it is, Grissom has the skills to be a well-rounded fantasy bat that will likely continue to be a tad undervalued.

Nathaniel Lowe (1B – TEX): #82 (+198)

It looks like Nathaniel Lowe isn’t so lowe in the rankings anymore. Over the last couple of months, few hitters have been hotter than the non-Tampa Bay Lowe. In 221 plate appearances since the all-star break, Lowe has slashed a robust .366/.421/.614 with 12 home runs, 31 RBI, and 24 runs scored. His .442 wOBA and 196 wRC+ rank 3rd in baseball over this period, trailing only Eloy Jimenez and some guy named Aaron Judge.

Is it for real though? Probably not to this extent, but Lowe’s metrics have always hinted at more production than he’s had in the past. Lowe has had a barrel rate and hard-hit rate above 9% and 43% respectively in each of his four Major League seasons while improving his strikeout rate in each of the last two seasons, down to a respectable 22.3% this season. He also doesn’t chase of whiff at a concerning level and his xBA and xSLG rank among the top-12% of hitters this season. I’m not sure we ever see him ascend to the top-50 overall, but Lowe could settle in as a top-100 producer that hits .270+ annually with 25+ home runs, 160+ R/RBI, and maybe even a handful of SB.

Christian Walker (1B – ARI), #196 (+240)

Alright, who took the old low-average Christian Walker and replaced him with this version that has a .299 AVG since the all-star break? Fess up! Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble though. We like this new and improved Walker. More patience has led to higher contact rates, lower whiff and chase rates, and a heightened level of production all around. We’ve always known that the elite power was there, but Walker’s improved contact skills make him more than just a streaming option when he’s on a bender. Walker is now a viable corner infield option.

Steven Kwan (OF – CLE), #226 (+107)

While he likely will never be the big-time power/speed threat that many of us covet, Steven Kwan has already proven to be an elite source of average that won’t be a zero in the home run and stolen base departments. In fact, Kwan has three homers and nine steals in 47 games since the all-star break with a .307 AVG, .380 OBP, and as many walks as strikeouts (23). Even as a 5-10 HR, 15-steal producer, that will still allow Kwan to provide solid fantasy value when you add in a .290+ AVG and 80+ runs scored or so.

Notable Fallers

Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA), #236 (-110)

The slide for Jarred Kelenic continues and even picks up steam in the process. This former top prospect has looked thoroughly overmatched as a Major Leaguer, slashing just .167/.246/.329 across an even 500 plate appearances. His only positive month was last September, but at this point, the number of demotions outweigh the positive months. Until he shows some sort of progress at the Major League level, his fall will likely continue in future rankings updates.

Whit Merrifield (2B/OF – TOR), #294 (-114)

The demise of Whit Merrifield has been swift and unpleasant. From underperforming in Kansas City to underperforming and simply not playing often in Toronto, he’s become nearly unusable in all formats. Has this ship sailed off into the sunset for good? Probably not. But that proverbial ship is being loaded with supplies as we speak. We’ll have to see if he can secure additional playing time with Toronto in 2023. If he can, he might just become a sneaky and cheap buy-low for a win-now squad. Just don’t pay much to get him.

Vidal Brujan (2B/OF – TBR), #338 (-105)

Whatever gypsy magic cursed Jarred Kelenic’s bat did the same to Vidal Brujan’s. When he was nearing his MLB debut, Brujan was considered an above-average to plus hitter with elite speed and the potential double-digit home runs annually. The speed is still there (although 83rd percentile), but Brujan has exactly two barrels in 123 BBE with a 25.2% hard-hit rate and .165/.234/.245 slash line. This isn’t even a contact% issue or an approach issue. It’s been a “put everything softly on the ground” issue. I’m not fully out the door on Brujan, but he needs to show some progression offensively or risk entering fantasy oblivion as a platoon/bench bat for the Rays.

Jarren Duran (OF – BOS), #346 (-137)

Let’s keep this struggling former top prospect party going, shall we? As a Red Sox fan, I’ve seen the vast majority of Jarren Duran’s Major League tenure, and trust me, it hasn’t been pretty on either side of the ball. You don’t need to look further than the first few inches of his Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, or Baseball Savant page to confirm that either. Through his first 331 plate appearances, Duran has a lowly .218/.269/.355 slash line with a 31.1 % strikeout rate compared to only a 5.4% walk rate. However, the profile also shows an 8% barrel rate, 39.1% hard-hit rate, and a 93rd percentile sprint speed. Expectations need to be adjusted moving forward, but I wouldn’t be opposed to buying low on Duran (very low) given those metrics.

Top Newcomers

Jake McCarthy (OF – ARI), #197

For those of you that were able to snag Jake McCarthy off of waivers, pat yourself on the back. McCarthy has been an absolute godsend for fantasy managers this season, providing all-around production and elite speed. Through 281 plate appearances, McCarthy is slashing .300/.362/.474 with eight homers, 17 steals, 41 RBI, and 46 runs scored. The speed is 100% legit as evidenced by his 99th percentile spring speed and 79 career MiLB steals in just 232 games. As a full-time player, McCarthy could easily provide 30+ steals annually.

As for the bat, I’m not expecting him to maintain a 20-homer pace. He’s never shown that level of power and has middle-of-the-road quality of contact metrics with Arizona and a groundball rate north of 50%. The same can be said for his AVG remaining at or above .300. His contact skills are solid, but not plus, and he profiles more as a .270 type that hits 10-15 home runs. But let’s put that all together: .270, 10-15 HR, 30 SB. That’s still highly valuable for fantasy purposes and gives off some Tommy Edman vibes.

Jake Fraley (OF – CIN), #324

There was a point when Fraley was considered a top-50ish fantasy prospect following his strong showings in Hi-A, Double-A, and Triple-A back in 2018 and 2019. But unfortunately, Fraley couldn’t carry that success over into the Majors. Until now, that is. In 141 PA since the all-star break, Fraley is slashing .292/.390/.567 with nine home runs, a pair of steals, and a .275 ISO. That’s great and all, but what is equally as impressive has been Fraley’s improved plate discipline, posting a 12.8% walk rate and a tidy 17.7% strikeout rate. For reference, Fraley had a 28.7% strikeout rate entering this season. Fraley also improved his contact rates and dropped his whiff rate.

The only reason I didn’t go higher than #324 overall was his platoon issues. For his career, Fraley has a mediocre (putting it nicely) .152/.269/.214 slash line in 130 PA, and Cincinnati hasn’t been using him much against southpaws. If Fraley can curb those issues, he has the potential to jump up into the 100-150 range overall.

Joey Meneses (1B – WAS), #361

Meneses has been a man on fire since his debut, setting the Nationals rookie record for hits across his first 30 games, 40 games, etc. And the Nationals will be quick to remind you of that endlessly since one of the men he passed was the recently traded Juan Soto. However, Meneses is already 30 years old and is hard to rank moving forward given the fact that it took him so long to break through and he’s bounced around quite a ton, even playing overseas. For now, I’d ride the wave and possibly look to sell in the offseason if the price is right.

Media Credit: Chris Clegg, MLB Pipeline, Arizona Diamondbacks

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