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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. Yadier Molina
2. Gary Sanchez
3. Willson Contreras
4. Buster Posey
5. Tucker Barnhart
6. James McCann
7. Kevan Smith
8. Austin Hedges
9. Wellington Castillo
10. Robinson Chirinos

Yadier Molina has hit .283/.340/.587 over the past two weeks, along with a single stolen base that helps to vault him to the top of the Player Rater. Molina’s contact rate this season is down somewhat, causing his strikeout rate to spike, although that has come with a corresponding improvement in his contact quality, as his 35.7% hard-hit rate this season is a career-high. On the other hand, a pop-up rate higher than in any season since 2006 has caused Molina’s BABIP to fall, and he has become more pull-heavy this season. Molina hits the ball hard, but with merely above-average, rather than elite, contact and solid but unspectacular power, he lacks a defining offensive attribute. Molina’s all-around production makes him a more than serviceable fantasy starter, but he is not one of the position’s elite offensive performers at this stage of his career. Tucker Barnhart’s last two weeks have been fantastic, as a 6:8 strikeout-walk ratio has helped him to post a .300/.417/.485 since the beginning of August. Neither Barnhart’s HR/FB rate nor his BABIP would suggest that he has particularly benefited from luck, although his 33% line-drive rate this month is much higher than his career average and cannot possibly be sustainable. That said, Barnhart has a long history of hitting line drives and making solid contact to all fields while avoiding pop-ups and making above-average contact. Even without much speed that would allow him to beat out infield hits, Barnhart should hit for a solid batting average, and the Reds’ solid offense and friendly home park make him an appealing play for runs scored and RBI. He has only three career stolen bases, and, despite the solid contact, has never hit more than seven home runs in a season, due to a ground-ball and line-drive approach to hitting. So he is far from flawless, but Barnhart likely offers enough on-base ability to profile as a low-end regular in most fantasy leagues. Kevan Smith has hit a solid .357/.419/.643 in limited playing time this month. To his credit, Smith has limited soft contact and strikeouts, but much of his success relies on unsustainable batted ball luck. He almost never elevates the ball (his ground-ball rate this season is an extreme 60.9%), limiting any power upside, and his free-swinging ways have generally limited his ability to make solid contact. Smith profiles as a reserve in the deepest of leagues only despite his recent hot streak, thanks to a lack of opportunity and less-than-promising statistical indicators.

First Base

1. Cody Bellinger
2. Joey Gallo
3. Paul Goldschmidt
4. Joey Votto
5. C.J. Cron
6. Freddie Freeman
7. Carlos Santana
8. Edwin Encarnacion
9. Anthony Rizzo
10. Eric Hosmer

[the_ad id=”384″]Cody Bellinger’s most recent two weeks have been arguably his most impressive weeks of the season, given his ability to have success through adjustments. After having ridden a pull-only, fly-ball approach to massive success at the beginning of the year, Bellinger has toned down that approach in recent weeks, yet has continued to produce stellar results. His GB-FB ratio recently still sits below 1:1, but it has moved closer to the ratio that would suggest that he could hit for a combination of average and power, as has his adoption of a more all-fields approach. Even if Bellinger reverts to his old approach, his hard contact and plate discipline make him a fantastic offensive performer. If he adds a more sustainable on-base profile and continues to drive the ball (his recent soft-contact rate again sits below 10%), his offensive upside is almost unmatched around the league, given his athleticism and youth. C.J. Cron has never had enough hard-contact to support a fly-ball heavy approach, and his career-high of 16 home runs does not match up to his obvious raw power. Because of this merely average in-game power output, despite a lower-than-average strikeout rate, Cron has been roughly an average hitter. Extreme pop-up rates have limited Cron’s BABIPs, his lack of plate discipline has caused him to run unspectacular on-base percentages, and his 1B-only profile and lack of speed have made him a virtually replacement-level player. Cron’s contact has been stronger recently, however, and that, coupled with a more extreme fly-ball approach, has enabled him to hit four home runs this month. If Cron can maintain that combination of contact and power, then he may be worth adding. For now, however, he remains an under-powered player at a loaded offensive position.

Second Base

1. Tim Beckham
2. Brian Dozier
3. Javier Baez
4. Whit Merrifield
5. Cory Spangenberg
6. Chris Taylor
7. Howie Kendrick
8. Jose Altuve
9. Kolten Wong
10. Jean Segura

As I noted last week, Tim Beckham’s fantastic August has been driven largely by batted-ball luck, although Beckham’s offensive production has been strong, independent of result, and it is possible that a change in scenery has allowed him to fulfill some of his offensive upside. Howie Kendrick has a stellar .441/.472/.824 this month, albeit with a subpar strikeout-walk ratio. Much of Kendrick’s recent success has been the result of his hitting four home runs out of only six fly balls. Kendrick has always been a ground-ball hitter, explaining his career .130 isolated power and only 101 home runs in nearly 5,700 plate appearances. Despite that, Kendrick has always made contact at an above-average rate and hit for high batting averages, and that has continued this season. An inflated BABIP and home-run rate have largely explained his outlandish season, but Kendrick has long been a capable big-leaguer and his peripherals are quite similar to his career averages this season. Kolten Wong’s placement on the Player Rater is largely a result of his 12 runs scored over the past two weeks. While St. Louis has performed well as a team recently, and Wong’s .458 OBP this month has put him in scoring position frequently, counting on a player to continue to score runs at this rate is inadvisable, especially given that runs scored relies nearly entirely on the contributions of a player’s teammates. As for Wong’s performance, his .425 BABIP is obviously unsustainable, although both his 9:5 strikeout-walk ratio and 41.5% hard-hit rate are encouraging. Wong has cut his chase rate by three percentage points this season, leading to a career-high 10% walk rate, and his speed, all-fields approach and above-average contact have combined to make his .302 batting average believable. Unfortunately, Wong has seemingly decided to stop running this season, as he has only gone 4-for-6 in stolen base attempts and has been a below-average overall baserunner for the first time in his career. Without much power or speed, Wong’s overall profile is somewhat underwhelming for fantasy purposes, although his plate discipline and plate coverage make him a worthwhile buy in OBP leagues.

Third Base

1. Josh Donaldson
2. Manny Machado
3. Joey Gallo
4. Justin Turner
5. Javier Baez
6. Cory Spangenberg
7. Chris Taylor
8. Mike Moustakas
9. Alex Bregman
10. Rafael Devers

Josh Donaldson is back to elevating the baseball, once again making him one of the better hitters in the league. At the beginning of this season, Donaldson’s ground-ball rate had spiked above his career average. Recently, however, both Donaldson’s fly-ball and hard-hit rates have bounced back to his normal levels, and a spectacular 6:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio has helped him to post a .500 on-base percentage this month. With all of Donaldson’s recent indicators back to full strength, it appears that he has finally put his injury troubles behind him, making him arguably the top option at the position down the stretch. Javier Baez has hit five home runs and stolen two bases this month, demonstrating the combination of power and athleticism that has long made him a promising player. Of course, Baez has had longstanding approach issues that have capped his offensive output, and his 14:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio since August 1 does not give any indication that he is on the verge of solving those. Despite a significant strikeout problem, Baez has long managed to run serviceable batting averages thanks to an ability to beat out infield hits and hit the ball hard, and he has real power upside despite a ground-ball heavy approach thanks to his electric bat speed. Unfortunately, Baez’s struggles with contact and plate discipline have only magnified this season, so he remains a massively flawed hitter. That said, his favorable defensive profile (he has positional eligibility at all three key infield positions in ESPN leagues), power and teammates still make him a decent asset. It does not seem, however, as though this recent stretch is any indicator that he has finally turned a corner. An elite prospect who has begun his major-league career with a .348/.411/.667 line, Rafael Devers offers a rare blend of contact and all-fields power. It goes without saying that Devers’ numbers are magnified in a small sample, and he does not offer much speed, but his offensive upside appears real. He should be owned in all leagues at this point.


1. Tim Beckham
2. Manny Machado
3. Javier Baez
4. Jean Segura
5. Alex Bregman
6. Elvis Andrus
7. Paul DeJong
8. Tim Anderson
9. Andrelton Simmons
10. Eduardo Nunez

Jean Segura’s placement on the Player Rater is the result of his five stolen bases since August 1. Segura’s .280/.379/.420 line over that time is good but unspectacular, and Segura has long been a contact-oriented player who hits specializes in lining the ball around the diamond. Most encouraging was that he drew seven walks over that time, as an improved on-base percentage will, of course, give him more opportunities to run and score runs. That said, Segura’s plate discipline metrics are largely in line with his career averages, while his contact quality is largely the same. At the very least, however, it is encouraging to see Segura running once again, as his most notable fantasy contribution is as a base-stealer. Tim Anderson’s recent .286/.298/.661 line is rather misleading, as that has come with an 18:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Anderson’s five home runs are largely the result of an inflated HR/FB rate, and while he has shown more power than was likely expected (Anderson’s 14 home runs are more than he has hit in any professional season), he has likely been one of the more disappointing performers of this season. His combination of abysmal plate discipline and weak, ground-ball contact has rendered him ineffective offensively, as have his six stolen bases (Anderson’s elite speed was largely the main selling point for him as a fantasy asset preseason).


1. Giancarlo Stanton
2. Andrew Benintendi
3. Nelson Cruz
4. Cody Bellinger
5. Joey Gallo
6. Lorenzo Cain
7. Eddie Rosario
8. Whit Merrifield
9. Cory Spangenberg
10. Justin Upton

Giancarlo Stanton’s elite run of performance has continued, as he has slugged 1.111 over the past week. Eddie Rosario has hit .354/.385/.750, cutting his soft contact rate below 10% over that time. Rosario has increased his pull and hard-hit rates recently, although the opposite has held true for the season as a whole. He rarely pops-up, strikes out less often than average, and has generally made solid, all-fields contact, so he will likely continue to hit for a solid batting average, although likely not at the .296 clip he is currently sporting. Given his balanced batted ball profile, he seems a safe bet to also hit for a solid amount of power. Despite being an above-average baserunner overall, Rosario does not steal bases at a strong clip, and the Twins’ average offense is not conducive to elite runs scored or RBI totals. However, his combination of contact and power make him a solid, low-end starter in the outfield.

Starting Pitchers

1. Corey Kluber
2. Dylan Bundy
3. J.A. Happ
4. Justin Verlander
5. Kenta Maeda
6. Cole Hamels
7. Danny Salazar
8. Trevor Bauer
9. Dinelson Lamet
10. Jake Arrieta

J.A. Happ has picked up a win in each of his last three starts, the primary reason that he sits near the top of the Player Rater. Happ gave up one earned run in each of those starts, however, with a solid 23:8 strikeout-walk ratio. Happ’s sinking fastball is running a little bit less this season, making it less effective than it has been previously, although an increased use of his changeup has resulted in slightly softer contact this year than in previous seasons. Happ should not be expected to win all of his starts, and his peripherals are about average, but he has a two-year history of slightly outperforming those statistics. He should be a competent back-end fantasy option moving forward. Dinelson Lamet has a mediocre 17:7 strikeout-walk ratio over his last three starts, but he has benefited greatly from some fantastic ball-in-play results, with opponents running only a .154 BABIP against him. Lamet has induced pop-ups at a solid rate, and has generally limited hard contact, but his fly-ball profile is dangerous and could result in a home run problem if he cannot continue to induce weak contact. Lamet is solely a two-pitch pitcher, and his slider is a fantastic offering, meaning he should continue to induce whiffs, but his spotty command, lack of a changeup, and inability to induce ground balls still make him a risky proposition moving forward. He is best selectively deployed against weak offenses, preferably ones with many right-handed hitters, who are more inclined to be susceptible to his devastating slider.

Relief Pitcher

1. Corey Knebel
2. Kenley Jansen
3. Craig Kimbrel
4. Arodys Vizcaino
5. Sean Doolittle
6. Alex Colome
7. Edwin Diaz
8. Trevor Rosenthal
9. Brad Hand
10. Fernando Rodney

Each of the relief pitchers on this list has been propped up by high save totals. All (with the potential exception of Fernando Rodney) seem safe bets to close for their teams moving forward, with team performance more important to their continued save totals than anything specific to the pitchers themselves.

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