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My Guys: Reviewing Players I Told You to Draft

With the regular season winding down, I figured it would be a good exercise to go back and review some of my off-season work. A good analyst is able to not only evaluate the picks that hit, but also those that were wrong. Looking back at my “My Guys” article from right before the season, there are several players I was right on and several that missed. In this article, I analyze what went right and wrong for each player and then hint at their 2023 fantasy baseball draft outlook!

Catcher- MJ Melendez – Kansas City Royals

All in all, I would say this pick was a success for those that invested in MJ Melendez. To me, it seems as though his season has been overshadowed by the ridiculous rookie campaign that Adley Rutschman is having. Melendez was going on average in drafts as C29 and no earlier than C15. On the season, Melendez currently has the ninth highest score amongst catchers. This is ahead of players like Keibert Ruiz and Tyler Stephenson who were going well ahead of Melendez. In addition, he even has outfield eligibility which improves his fantasy value.

The overall numbers look disappointing for Melendez. Right now, he is batting just .220 and slugging under .400. My biggest reason for optimism was his incredible power. Looking at his profile, I still believe there is room for growth. Melendez has a double-digit barrel rate, well above average exit velocity, and strong pull rates which should help his home run total. Even when he gets into slumps, Melendez still holds fantasy value, especially in OBP leagues with excellent plate discipline. I even see reason for optimism in his batting average as he has just a .265 BABIP despite a hard-hit percentage over 35 and a line drive rate over 21%. Out of 19 batters, the only ones that met both of those thresholds and had a lower BABIP were Santander and Seager. I think the Melendez recommendation was a success and will be buying back in for 2023!

First Base- Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies

One of the best parts of Rhys Hoskins’ season has been his ability to stay healthy. He is up to 141 games after only playing 107 last year and 41 the year before. Right now, according to Fantrax scoring he is 1B10. He was previously going as 1B13 during draft season, so it is hard to be too proud about this one. The one bright spot is that he has out produced many of the first basemen going around him in drafts. If you were waiting on a first baseman, Hoskins has been better than Abreu, Mountcastle, Walsh, and Cronenworth who were all going ahead of him.

To be clear, this has not been a bad season for Hoskins. Overall, he is slashing .248/.337/.466. He has 28 home runs while producing 71 RBIs. On the downside, between 2020 and 2021 Hoskins slugged .522. He has seen his barrel rate fall to 11.7%. While this is still above average, it is much lower than the previous two seasons. He has also been primarily batting second in the lineup. As a result, his RBI production has been much lower than anticipated. I still like Hoskins but viewing him as a top-five first base option might have been a stretch.

Second Base- Enrique Hernández – Boston Red Sox

Hernandez is the first player on this list that was a bad pick. I apologize to those who followed my advice, but hopefully, you were able to replace Hernandez with somebody better. Hernandez has struggled to stay healthy this season playing in just 78 games so far. In those 78 games, he is batting just .227/.294/.356 with six home runs and zero stolen bases.

This season, Hernandez has a career-low 5.6 HR/FB%. After posting career highs in both barrel percentage and exit velocity in 2021, Hernandez has regressed. His barrel rate is the second worst of his career, while the 87.7mph average exit velocity is the worst. Part of the issue could be the increased percentage of breaking balls Hernandez has seen. In past seasons, Hernandez did much of his damage against the fastball. Pitchers have countered by throwing him more breaking balls. He has hit just .176 against them while whiffing over 39% of the time. Boston has committed to Hernandez for next season handing him a $10 million dollar extension, but I am not expecting to be in on him for the 2023 season.

Shortstop- Fransisco Lindor – New York Mets

Lindor was my favorite bounce-back player for the 2022 season. I advocated for him a lot thinking that he had a chance to finish as the top-rated SS in fantasy. Although this did not happen, Lindor currently ranks third at the position this year. He ranks ahead of players like Bo Bichette, Trevor Story, and Xander Bogaerts who were all going ahead of him in drafts. Lindor has seen his average and power bounce back while stealing 16 bases for the Mets.

One thing you will never have to worry about with Lindor in the Mets lineup is his RBI and run-scoring opportunities. Lindor has been great in both categories this season. He leads all SS in RBIs eclipsing 100 for the first time since 2018. Looking ahead to 2023, his draft price will definitely increase for redraft leagues. I believe he will be an elite option at the SS position next year. His profile looks almost identical to how it looked heading into the 2022 season, and he is a clear keeper in keeper leagues. This was the first very clear success of “my guys” and I hope you listened and drafted him to your fantasy team!

Third Base- Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies

The 2022 season has not gone quite as according to plan for McMahon. In many of my leagues, I played the waiting game with 3B and took McMahon to be my starter there. McMahon has not been bad by any means. He ranks 12th at the position this season and has posted numbers in line with his career stats. However, since he made my “my guys” list, I was clearly hoping for more. McMahon hit 23 home runs in 2021 and I believed that playing in Coors Field he had 30 home run potential. Instead of seeing that number increase, he has seen it drop to 18 so far in 2022 and seen his home run per fly ball rate drop to 15.8% (below his career average of 18.8%). McMahon has seen his strikeout rate increase again back up to 26.3% even though his whiff rate has decreased.

McMahon’s power output was even lower a couple of weeks ago. Since September 9, McMahon has hit six home runs and is flashing the kind of power potential that I saw in him during the off-season. When digging a little bit deeper on McMahon, I have found out that he is one of only six players this season with a BB%>10, HH%>38, K%<30, and a LD%>19. The other five players on that list are:

  • Aaron Judge
  • Yordan Alvarez
  • Shohei Ohtani
  • Alejandro Kirk
  • Max Muncy

Talk about a great list to be on! You do not end up on that list by coincidence. McMahon clearly has all the skills necessary to breakout. Although it did not happen for him in 2022, I still believe the breakout is coming. I will likely be buying back in on McMahon as a cheap option at 3B for 2023!

OF1- Aaron Judge- New York Yankees

This was clearly the best pick of the bunch. Aaron Judge was a high-round selection in all 2022 drafts, but boy has he paid off. Judge is the front runner for AL MVP and is chasing Roger Maris’ home run record. He has been incredible this season currently posting a 209 wRC+ and a WAR of 10.7. In my original article, I mentioned how although Judge would not steal you 20 bases, he was one of the few players who could score 100 runs while halso knocking in 100. This has not been entirely incorrect as Judge has blown past the century mark in both runs and RBIs. He also has remained below 20 stolen bases, although he is up to a career-high 16 already this season. Judge has been incredible in every facet of the game and was well worth your early-round pick.

Taking a quick look ahead to 2023, Judge figures to be a consensus top-five pick in fantasy drafts. Although that is certain, there remains the possibility Judge will not be in pinstripes next year. On top of natural regression, Judge could see his home run totals take a slight hit if he no longer plays his home games in Yankee Stadium. I also expect the stolen base totals to drop in relativity next season. Before this year, Judge had never stolen more than nine. 2023 will be his age 31 season and even if stolen bases are easier to come by with the pitch clock, I do not expect Judge to be as prolific on the base paths.

OF2- Ian Happ- Chicago Cubs

I profiled Happ as a player with league-winning potential. Happ is another player that has not been bad by any means but is somebody who I expected more from. Happ currently has a career-high 3.4 WAR. He sits inside the top 30 in terms of outfielder’s fantasy value. Considering he was going outside the top 50 during draft season, this is still a successful my guy pick. Although Happ has not provided league-winning results, he has been a solid contributor to any fantasy team he was on.

The two areas where Happ’s 2022 season has been the most disappointing has been power and speed. These of course are the two biggest areas for fantasy baseball. Looking back at Happ’s 2021 second half, he had seven stolen bases in September alone. I was expecting Happ to run more in 2022 but so far, he has just nine stolen bases on the year. I also believed Happ had 30 home run potential. His 17 so far this season are fine, but he has seen his HR/FB% drop from the mid to high 20’s the last two seasons to 12.7% this year. The biggest culprit for this being a drop in barrel percentage from a career average of 10.4% to 6.7% this year.

His .336 BABIP on the season has helped keep his average as high as it is. I expect Happ to experience regression to his average next year, but also would not be surprised to see his power return. If Happ’s 2023 draft price is as low next year as it was this year then I will be buying back in!

SP1- Dylan Cease- Chicago White Sox

Dylan Cease not only appeared in my “my guys” article but also appeared in my breakout pitchers for 2022 list. I do not think that there was a bigger snub from the All-Star game this year than Cease. Cease has been incredible posting a 2.06 ERA on the year and currently ranks fourth in the MLB in strikeouts. One of the biggest issues for Cease in 2021 was his inability to work deep into games. He has taken significant strides forward in that area in 2022 and has increased his IP/GS from 5.175 in 2021 to 5.774 in 2022. The pure stuff from Cease has always been undeniable, but his new reliance on the slider has brought Cease’s game to the next level. Cease has been a top-10 pitcher in fantasy this season and was well worth the draft stock you invested in him this off-season!

Looking ahead to next year, there are some red flags with Cease. He will likely go inside the top-10 pitchers next year and here are some things that you need to be aware of. Although the ERA has dropped to 2.06 in 2022, his walks have not decreased at all. In fact, they have gone up slightly. What has changed has been his BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB%. Cease is doing a better job of avoiding the middle of the plate and forcing weak contact, but all three of those numbers will likely experience regression in 2023. I still believe Cease will be a top option in fantasy moving forward, but there is a possibility his draft stock is too high for me next season!

SP2- Triston McKenzie- Cleveland Guardians

Going into the 2022 season, I had high hopes for Triston McKenzie. I believed that the changes he made during the second half of last season would help lead to success in 2022. Despite my optimism, I never fully believed that the results would be this good for McKenzie. He currently ranks inside the top 25 in terms of SP. This is incredible value considering he was going as the 87th pitcher in drafts. McKenzie ranks sixth in the MLB in terms of WHIP and has transformed himself from a pitcher with significant control issues to one of the most effective pitchers in baseball. There is a possibility that McKenzie would rank even higher in terms of fantasy value if he was provided with more run support. His 11-11 record does not jibe with his 3.04 ERA.

What has been most impressive about McKenzie has been his ability to adjust and continue improving as the season has gone on. In 2021, McKenzie threw his fastball over 60% of the time. This led to significant home run issues for McKenzie. Flashing forward to 2022, McKenzie entered the year with the same approach. He was going to attack hitters and had full faith in his fastball. However, McKenzie ran into some serious issues in June posting a 6.44 ERA and giving up 3.07 HR/9. From that month forward, McKenzie has reduced his percentage of fastballs thrown each month. He is relying more and more on his off-speed pitches and has posted a sparkling 2.25 ERA since the start of July. McKenzie continues to improve his game and is a pitcher that could continue taking steps toward greatness in 2023!

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