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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, accordingly to the ESPN Player Rater.


1. Yadier Molina
2. Mike Zunino
3. Alex Avila
4. J.T. Realmuto
5. Gary Sanchez
6. Russell Martin
7. Buster Posey
8. Austin Hedges
9. Evan Gattis
10. Tyler Flowers

Yadier Molina’s placement at the top of the list is due largely to his two stolen bases last week, which is unlikely to continue, given that the slow-footed catcher has totaled double-digits in stolen bases just once in his 14-year MLB career. Mike Zunino’s seven-RBI performance on June 3 placed him on the list, but having a 41.3% strikeout rate this season (and somewhat shockingly having struck out in 22 consecutive games that he has started and finished), he is more likely to be demoted to Triple-A Tacoma than to cement himself as a top fantasy catcher. Alex Avila has ridden four home runs, including three in his last four games, to the top of the catcher rankings, and his batted ball profile supports his ascent. While Avila’s .433 BABIP is certainly unsustainable, his quality of contact is fantastic, with only teammates J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera having a higher percentage of their balls in play hit at least 95 MPH. Couple that hard contact with one of the league’s lowest ground ball rates, and Avila’s power seems real.

First Base

1. Ryon Healy
2. Lucas Duda
3. Justin Bour
4. Anthony Rizzo
5. Yuli Gurriel
6. Ryan Zimmerman
7. Justin Smoak
8. Yonder Alonso
9. Danny Valencia
10. Marwin Gonzalez

Ryon Healy’s 13 extra-base hits over the past two weeks have vaulted him to the top of the first-base leaderboard. Healy has made more hard contact and pulled the ball more often over the last 15 days, suggesting that some of the power gains that he’s made may be legit. However, his 13:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in that time frame does not offer much hope for improved plate discipline. On a poor Oakland offense with a limited on-base profile, Healy lacks the run or RBI upside to be considered an elite option. Always a somewhat underrated hitter, Lucas Duda is healthy and once again producing this season, with more encouraging strike zone feel than Healy has demonstrated. While his fly ball propensity will likely limit his batting average somewhat, Duda has real power and plate discipline with a roughly average strikeout rate, with durability concerns his seeming only red flag. Yuli Gurriel’s all-around production placed him in the top five, although his lack of power caps his ceiling. The power strides made this season by Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso, three hitters with strong exit velocities who have improved their launch angles this season, are well-documented, with legitimate reasons for optimism for all three players.

Second Base

1. Trea Turner
2. Whit Merrifield
3. Chris Taylor
4. Jonathan Schoop
5. Jose Altuve
6. Dee Gordon
7. Neil Walker
8. Jose Ramirez
9. Scooter Gennett
10. Robinson Cano

Trea Turner and Dee Gordon have sprinted onto the list with nine and five stolen bases, respectively, in the past two weeks. Both were likely high draft choices in March based on their legs, so this is an encouraging development for their owners. Whit Merrifield has sprayed solid contact across the field the last two weeks, with only two strikeouts in his last 50 plate appearances, running a .413 batting average in the process. Overall, though, neither Merrifield’s quality of contact numbers nor his plate discipline numbers show any sign of substantive change, so while he will likely continue to put the ball in play, he is most likely a one-dimensional contact hitter on one of the worst teams in baseball moving forward, hardly an inspiring package. Chris Taylor’s strong season in Los Angeles has somewhat flown under the radar. His contact quality has been exceptional this year, as he has shown a knack for driving line drives to all fields. Never a free swinger, he has vaulted his plate discipline numbers to elite levels, making him a legit batting average and on-base threat on a good offensive team that should enable him to rack up solid run and RBI totals. While his .424 BABIP portends inevitable regression, his ability to reach base makes him a solid add, particularly in leagues with a thin bench, where the importance of his defensive versatility is magnified. While not trying to throw cold water on Scooter Gennett’s historic performance on June 6 that single-handedly moved him into the top 10, as he himself noted afterwards, he is neither a power hitter nor a burner. So while his team and home ballpark could make him useful, his overall profile is generally unexciting, outstanding performance against St. Louis notwithstanding.

Third Base

1. Anthony Rendon
2. Ryon Healy
3. Chris Taylor
4. Mike Moustakas
5. Yuli Gurriel
6. Danny Valencia
7. Eduardo Nunez
8. Marwin Gonzalez
9. Jose Ramirez
10. Jake Lamb

Having added 12 more extra-base hits and six more walks to the ledger in an exceptional season, Anthony Rendon has likely cemented himself as a top-flight third base option. Mike Moustakas’ bizarre season, in which he seemingly has transformed from a contact-oriented doubles machine into a free-swinging home run hacker, continued, as he hit five home runs over the past two weeks against only eight singles. Eduardo Nunez has stolen only one base over the past 15 days, but he hit .388. He doesn’t strike out, but he also doesn’t walk or hit for power, and his dramatic uptick this season in pull rate does not bode well for a player with a slash-and-dash game like Nunez’s.


1. Elvis Andrus
2. Trea Turner
3. Carlos Correa
4. Zack Cozart
5. Xander Bogaerts
6. Jordy Mercer
7. Eduardo Nunez
8. Jose Iglesias
9. Andrelton Simmons
10. Jose Peraza

[the_ad id=”384″]The top player on the Rater overall, Elvis Andrus has hit .364/.400/.582 with seven stolen bases over the past two weeks. Andrus’ HR/FB rate for this season is nearly three times as high as his career rate, so he appears to still not be a true home run threat, although he has eclipsed 20 stolen bases in each of his first eight major-league seasons and will do so again this year. With his batted ball profile right in line with his career production, Andrus again profiles as a speedy shortstop with gap power in a power lineup in a hitter-friendly ballpark. Carlos Correa’s overall profile is nearly perfect, with his refusal to steal bases the only blemish. Zack Cozart’s power output at the plate has continued, albeit with exit velocity numbers that don’t truly support that breakout. That said, Cozart has been more selective at the plate this season, as Fantrax’s Greg Jewett recently noted, enabling him to take advantage of his home park. While a trade could deal a blow to Cozart’s fantasy stock, and as an impending free agent on a rebuilding club, he is almost certain to go elsewhere within the next few months, his immediate future looks somewhat bright.


1. George Springer
2. Trea Turner
3. Charlie Blackmon
4. Domingo Santana
5. Gerardo Parra
6. Adam Duvall
7. Chris Taylor
8. Giancarlo Stanton
9. Kevin Kiermaier
10. Steven Souza

George Springer has hit seven home runs in the last 15 days on an Astros team that won 11 in a row. While his 33.3% HR/FB rate over that time period is unsustainable, his fly ball percentage of 41% in that time period is significantly above his season average of 30.9%, indicating that he may be making a real effort to hit the ball in the air. Regardless, leading off for the best team in baseball should allow him to continue to rack up runs and RBI with contributions nearly across the board. Interestingly, however, Springer, like Correa, has yet to steal a base this season (although he has attempted three), indicating that the Astros may be cautious with the running game with their star players. Domingo Santana has hit five home runs in the past two weeks, and he has enough raw power and makes enough hard contact to be a power threat. However, his 27.1% strikeout rate, including 18 whiffs in the last 15 days, and his 44.2 percent ground ball rate are seemingly preventing him from joining the realm of elite power hitters. Kevin Kiermaier has come around recently, batting .358 in the past two weeks, although a sky-high pop-up rate and an above-average strikeout rate over that time indicate regression is coming. That said, he still offers an assortment of contributions with contact, power and speed.

Starting Pitchers

1. Max Scherzer
2. Robbie Ray
3. Chase Anderson
4. Sean Manaea
5. Drew Pomeranz
6. Tanner Roark
7. Luis Severino
8. Stephen Strasburg
9. Edinson Volquez
10. Tim Adleman

The first six pitchers on the list were boosted by their three wins in the last three starts, a pace at which none of them can reasonably continue. That said, there are still real reasons for optimism with many of them. Robbie Ray looks to have finally found the contact suppression to match his career strikeout totals, with only command and his home park limiting him from reaching an elite level. Chase Anderson’s ground ball rate in his last three starts sits at 53.1%, partly supporting his home-run suppression, although his three-start stretch without allowing an extra-base hit will come to an end sooner rather than later. That said, his strikeout rate over the past few games sits at a strong 28.3% and has risen steadily every year since 2014. Sean Manaea’s peripheral statistics indicated that he was likely to receive better results, which he received last week. He has gotten opposing hitters to chase 33% of his pitches outside of the strike zone this season, with hitters coming up empty about half the time. While his .227 BABIP against over the past few weeks will rise, his strikeout rate in his last three starts has been elite. Tim Adleman, the most surprising name on the list, has been aided by an unsustainable .160 BABIP against and has stranded 91.5% of baserunners who reached against him in the last two weeks, both unsustainable numbers that, when paired with his roughly average strikeout and walk rates over that time, make him a risky play moving forward.

Relief Pitcher

1. Roberto Osuna
2. Craig Kimbrel
3. Luis Severino*
4. Ariel Miranda*
5. Alex Colome
6. Raisel Iglesias
7. Brandon Maurer
8. Brad Hand
9. Ty Blach*
10. David Robertson

*Obviously, none of Luis Severino, Ariel Miranda or Ty Blach fall into standard reliever category, with each incorrectly flagged as relievers despite being starters this season.
The reliever rankings inherently rely on miniscule sample sizes and save opportunities, not coincidentally paralleling many of the hottest teams in baseball. Roberto Osuna and Craig Kimbrel, of course, are elite relievers closing on strong teams. Brad Hand, however, appears on the list despite recording only two saves thanks to an 11:2 strikeout-walk ratio in eight innings, and he has quietly cemented himself as one of the game’s best relievers the past two years. With trade rumors swirling, it is unlikely he accrues many saves moving forward upon a move to a contender, although a trade out of San Diego could make him a strong play for fantasy owners seeking holds.

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