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ESPN Player Rater Retrospective

It can often be difficult to place into context how well (or how poorly) certain players have performed recently. A glance at ESPN’s Player Rater, which attempts to quantify a player’s overall fantasy value by analyzing their performance in each facet of the game, can focus targets for fantasy owners looking for help on the waiver wire. Of course, when dealing with small sample sizes, a player’s results can be fluky, but placement at or near the top of these lists could be indicative of a substantive change to a player’s profile. Here are the top 10 players at each position for the past 15 days, according to the ESPN Player Rater.


1. Welington Castillo
2. Gary Sanchez
3. Yadier Molina
4. Robinson Chirinos
5. Buster Posey
6. Mike Zunino
7. J.T. Realmuto
8. Yan Gomes
9. Bruce Maxwell
10. Rene Rivera

Despite having drawn only six plate appearances over the past week, Welington Castillo remains the top catcher on the Player Rater thanks to his sensational week prior. A groin injury that required hospitalization is said to be minor, but Castillo will be sidelined for at least a few days presumably, with Caleb Joseph and potentially rookie Chance Sisco to pick up playing time in his stead. Bruce Maxwell has hit .321/.424/.607 in 33 plate appearances over the past two weeks, enough to place him on the Player Rater amidst some very poor offensive performances at the position recently. Maxwell demonstrates a  good feel for the strike zone and above-average bat-to-ball skills, but his batted ball authority is relatively underwhelming, resulting in a below-average .103 isolated power this season. Given Oakland’s time share of Josh Phegley, Dustin Garneau and Maxwell behind the plate, the 26-year-old can safely be left off all rosters at this point. Similarly to Maxwell, Rene Rivera should be left on the wire, with a lack of consistent playing time and a poor offensive record much more meaningful than Rivera’s most recent 28 plate appearances, wherein he has hit .375/.444/.583. With the regular season coming towards the end and rosters expanded to 40 men in September, playing time behind the plate continues to be more evenly distributed, making it increasingly difficult for owners to scan the wire for a suitable replacement in the event of an injury.

First Base

1. Matt Olson
2. Jose Abreu
3. Wil Myers
4. Freddie Freeman
5. Jose Martinez
6. Eric Hosmer
7. Rhys Hoskins
8. Edwin Encarnacion
9. Kendrys Morales
10. Albert Pujols

A’s rookie Matt Olson has very quietly been one the league’s best hitters this half, with a .307/.375/.703 line since his recall from the minors on August 8. Long considered a power-over-hit prospect, Olson has delivered both over that time, with a hard-contact rate of 42.7% and a strikeout rate of 23.2%, down substantially from the 36.1% strikeout rate that he had in sporadic MLB playing time prior to the demotion. Olson’s fly-ball rate sits at 44.1% for the year, enough to consistently elevate the ball and maximize his power output, while balanced enough that he has managed to make better contact in order to hit for a higher batting average. Olson’s most recent success, in short, looks the part, and it is conceivable that he is simply a much-improved hitter than he was previously, having experienced a legitimate breakout at age 23. Supporting that notion was the stellar .272/.367/.568 line that he ran in the Pacific Coast League after his demotion. On the other hand, he is clearly not going to hold a HR/FB rate north of 35%, even if he should be expected to run a home-run rate well above-average, and, despite being a former supplemental first-round draft choice, Olson’s prospect shine had largely worn off prior to this year, with Baseball America ranking him 17th among Athletics farmhands pre-season, and Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen even more pessimistic, placing him 19th in the system, due to some solid but unspectacular minor-league seasons and questions regarding his athleticism. Whether he can continue to make contact at a rate near the league-average is an open question and a necessity if Olson is to continue to produce anywhere near this level. Still, I have noted before that Rhys Hoskins, despite not being considered a top prospect until forcing his way into Citizens Bank Park this summer, seems to have the golden trio of bat-to-ball skills, plate discipline, and raw power, and Olson has now demonstrated all three of those skills to a lesser extent as well. The arrow is, at the very least, pointing decidedly upward at the moment. Jose Martinez was a controversial choice to make the Cardinals’ roster out of the gates, but he has arguably been their most productive offensive player on a per plate appearance basis. Now starting daily, Martinez has responded with a .419/.479/.721 line since August 28, with a hard-contact rate near 50% and a 6:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Martinez has, interestingly, boosted his fly-ball rate over that time north of 50% compared to the 31.1% mark that he has for the season. While it seems unlikely that he has made any sort of dramatic change to his swing, given that he was already having a stellar offensive season, even a slight uptick in his fly-ball rate moving forward could do him a world of good, as his contact quality has been solid all year, with power upside there if he can continue to elevate the baseball. Even more encouraging is that, as his fly-ball rate has ticked up recently, so has his contact quality, while his strikeout rate has actually decreased. Martinez already demonstrated good contact skills, solid-average plate discipline and an ability to make hard contact, with consistent playing time and elevation the seeming factors holding him back offensively. With the former now in ample supply and the latter potentially climbing as well, Martinez appears to be the whole package offensively, and he should be owned and deployed in all leagues as a result.

Second Base

1. Jose Reyes
2. Jose Ramirez
3. Dee Gordon
4. Yolmer Sanchez
5. Whit Merrifield
6. Trea Turner
7. Brian Dozier
8. Scooter Gennett
9. Jose Altuve
10. Ozzie Albies

[the_ad id=”384″]Jose Reyes’ five stolen bases since August 28 are the driving forces behind his ascent to the top of the positional Rater for the week. Reyes’ .306/.424/.551 line with three home runs is actually more encouraging than the stolen bases, however; his 6:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in that time is stellar, while his three times caught stealing are less so. While Reyes’ batted-ball distribution during this stretch is sound (he continues to use the whole field with a nearly 1:1 GB:FB ratio), his actual contact quality is largely the same as it has been all year, with his hard contact rate only up three percentage points from his season average. He has long had a knack for making contact, a skill which remains intact, and he continues to profile as an above-average baserunner, but his contact quality is uninspiring, depressing his batting average and power enough to make him only a speed-oriented bench player in most leagues.

Third Base

1. Jose Reyes
2. Jose Ramirez
3. Yolmer Sanchez
4. Eduardo Escobar
5. Freddie Freeman
6. Nolan Arenado
7. Scooter Gennett
8. Manny Machado
9. Asdrubal Cabrera
10. Nicholas Castellanos

Despite a pedestrian .231/.313/.462 line over the past week, one impacted slightly by a sore wrist, Jose Ramirez managed squared up seven of the 14 balls that he put into play and did not strike out, continuing to serve as one of the crucial pieces on arguably baseball’s best team. While a minor ankle malady cost Asdrubal Cabrera a game, he was reinserted into the lineup on Tuesday and should be healthy moving forward. Cabrera has been boosted by a .500 BABIP recently, which has helped him to hit .404/.442/.681 over that time. Cabrera’s solid underlying metrics are largely in line with the production that he has offered all season, a combination of solid but unspectacular contact and batted-ball authority. Cabrera’s multi-positional eligibility could make him a bench play (fantasy owners need not be considered about his defense), but his power output is about average and, despite his solid contact quality, the fact that he pulls nearly half of his balls in play and has comfortably below-average speed limit his BABIP upside. Without any sort of defining skill and playing on a rebuilding Mets offense, Cabrera’s well-rounded offensive profile is probably not enough to make him worth rostering.


1. Francisco Lindor
2. Jose Reyes
3. Elvis Andrus
4. Eduardo Escobar
5. Tim Anderson
6. Trea Turner
7. Jorge Polanco
8. Manny Machado
9. Ozzie Albies
10. Asdrubal Cabrera

Francisco Lindor has reinvented himself as a fly-ball hitter this year, boosting his fly-ball rate by 13 percentage points from last season. Whether intentional or not, the results have followed, as Lindor has doubled his home-run total while seeing his batting average and on-base percentage fall by about .025 points. In yet another example of the home run explosion, Lindor now has 30 for the season, in all likelihood a better offensive player than ever before. He is a top-end shortstop for the rest of the season and for the future, still yet to turn 24 years old. Despite being one of baseball’s youngest players, having been born in January 1997, Ozzie Albies has adjusted extremely well to MLB, offering above-average hitting and baserunning with a favorable defensive profile. Since making his debut a little over a month ago, Albies has slashed .293/.354/.469, with a nearly equal number of grounders and fly-balls and a hard contact rate of a fantastic 36.3%. He has expectedly been less inclined to run than he was in the minors, with only three stolen bases, and he has only 16 career minor-league home runs. That said, he rarely strikes out, he hits the ball hard enough to expect an above-average BABIP and some more power as he matures physically, and he offers 20 stolen base upside over the course of a full season, all while offering eligibility at both middle-infield positions. For the rest of this season, Albies remains a fringy fantasy option as largely a one-category contributor on a poor offensive team, but he is undoubtedly one of the higher-upside prospects in baseball for dynasty owners, particularly those who believe that his shorter frame belies his power potential.


1. J.D. Martinez
2. Mitch Haniger
3. Jose Ramirez
4. Matt Olson
5. Mike Trout
6. Mookie Betts
7. Ender Inciarte
8. Whit Merrifield
9. Eddie Rosario
10. Carlos Gonzalez

J.D. Martinez is going to set reach 40 home runs in a season for the first time in his career, and despite the curiously-quiet market for him at the trade deadline, he has been one of the league’s best hitters this season, arguably a top three fantasy outfielder for the rest of the season. Injury and underperformance quieted the buzz around Mitch Haniger following his superb April, but his September results have been even better thus far. Since September 1, he has slashed .457/.457/.761, although his underlying statistics have some red flags. Most obviously, his plate discipline this month has been subpar, as he has struck out 10 times without having drawn a single walk. Additionally, his ground-ball rate has increased recently to 50%, and his season-long mark sits at 44.6%, negating some of the upside of his batted-ball authority. Haniger makes a fair amount of contact, but his plus speed has yet to play in games (he has only four stolen bases), and his .341 BABIP is likely due for regression, especially given that he pulls nearly half of his balls in play. Haniger offers exciting tools and is worth holding in deeper leagues as a result, but his underlying numbers indicate that he has likely not yet broken out as an above-average player. (Of course, discussion of Mike Trout is not relevant for fantasy purposes, he is as much of a plug-and-play as anyone in recent memory, but it is worth noting that his .319/.459/.646 line this season is the best of his fantastic career).

Starting Pitchers

1. Robbie Ray
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Corey Kluber
4. Justin Verlander
5. Carlos Carrasco
6. Luke Weaver
7. Trevor Bauer
8. Chris Sale
9. Michael Wacha
10. Andrew Cashner

Michael Wacha has won his last three starts to push him onto this week’s edition of the Player Rater. Despite St. Louis being a solid team, expecting Wacha to consistently receive the run support required to continue winning at this rate is unwise unless Wacha’s performance improves. While he has recorded quality starts in each, including eight shutout innings against Pittsburgh in his most recent outing, Wacha’s peripheral statistics indicate some forthcoming regression. Despite the soft contact rate against him remaining under 20%, for instance, opposing hitters had only a .262 BABIP, a mark surely unsustainable. Similarly, Wacha’s 15:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 42.9% ground-ball rate against, while both solid, are unspectacular, and Wacha will likely need to rack up a few more strikeouts to profile a top-end fantasy option. Without an elite off-speed pitch, he seems unlikely to take any major step forward in that department, but Wacha has a solid four-pitch with plus command and continues to profile as an average to slightly above-average starter moving forward. Another pitcher who has had success recently with underwhelming peripherals is Andrew Cashner. Opponents have mustered only a .171/.212/.227 line against line Cashner over his most recent three starts, despite a pedestrian strikeout rate of his own. Cashner has been more adept at manipulating contact recently than Wacha has been, particularly in the way of generating pop-ups (something which he has done rather effectively all season), but his 12.9% strikeout rate is one of the worst in baseball this season, a curiosity when considering that his pure stuff, while down somewhat, is still solid. Despite above-average velocity, not a single one of Cashner’s pitches has managed to generate a swinging strike rate of over 10% of his offerings, a massive red flag when considering the sustainability of his success. On the one hand, he has managed to succeed all year with these poor peripherals, having been 30 percentage points better than the league-average pitcher at preventing runs; on the other, it still seems difficult to entirely buy into Cashner as a worthy fantasy option so long as hitters continue to make as much contact against him as they have.

Relief Pitcher

1. Corey Knebel
2. Cody Allen
3. Greg Holland
4. Brad Hand
5. Alex Colome
6. Sean Doolittle
7. Scott Alexander
8. Ken Giles
9. Arodys Vizcaino
10. David Robertson

Each of the relief pitchers on this list, with the exception of David Robertson, has been propped up by high save totals. Nine of the closers seem safe bets to continue to close for their teams moving forward, with team performance more important to their continued save totals than anything specific to the pitchers themselves. Scott Alexander seems to have locked down the ninth inning in Kansas City, riding a 93 MPH sinker to a 75% ground-ball rate this season. Robertson has been an elite set-up option in New York, but he is at least second in line for saves in a loaded Yankee bullpen.

Note: All player statistics have been drawn from

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