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Last month, I asked what you all wanted from rankings. A few responded with answers I expected: rankings should reflect rest-of-season performance, informed by past performance. It seems almost silly I even asked in the first place. The reason it came up is because I think fantasy owners occasionally underestimate how impactful a month or two of extreme regression can be. It makes it especially difficult to rank someone like Marcell Ozuna circa June 1: he had a monster BABIP (batting average on balls in play) through May, and while he flashed still-legitimate power, we could reasonably expect the batting average to fall.
Like clockwork, it has. Ozuna’s BABIP by month: .281, .459, .284, .280. May was the obvious outlier in which all of Ozuna’s good fortune on balls in play was concentrated. The isolated power has, too, somewhat predictably, dipped since then. Ozuna wasn’t even a top-60 outfielder in July. Such is the nature of small samples. And yes, two months of baseball is still a fairly small sample. Joey Votto was batting only .249 through June 30. Then July happened, and now he’s batting .293 with about 20 more runs and RBI apiece (as well as a dropped foul ball).
Anyway. I’ll step down from my soapbox for this month. Now, something I don’t think I’ve ever clearly articulated before:
All rankings cater to standard 5-by-5 rotisserie formats. If you play in an OBP (on-base percentage) or OPS (on-base plus slugging) league, adjust your expectations accordingly. If you play in a points league, adjust your expectations accordingly. Players do not generate value identically across formats.
The usual disclaimers: Any full-time outfielders omitted from this list are (typically) done so by mistake. Also, I may have missed some infielders with newfound outfield eligibility. Oh, and trades, too; I removed Melvin Upton Jr., but maybe I’m missing others who swapped teams as well.
Prepare to be upset at how highly I valued certain stolen base dudes.
This actually might be a bit contentious, given how poorly Harper has played this season (relatively speaking, of course). Yell, shout, curse — that’s fine. Just know that Harper’s career BABIP is a solid 80 points higher than what it is right now. If he catches fire for the final two months, he will be a fantasy juggernaut. There’s also the distinct possibility, however, that he never benefits from the positive regression he likely deserves. Would I blame you for trading him for a seemingly more stable asset? No, not really. Just know the .158 BABIP from which he has suffered the last 30 days is not permanent nor predictive.
With that said, the status quo remains.
The point of contention in this tier, I anticipate, is the enigmatic, frustrating, very fast Hamilton. I will never enjoy ranking him. For crying out loud, he has 15 RBI on the season. That’s insane(ly bad). But the fact of the matter is the dude has stolen 37 bases and provides enough value in one category to make up for all his other deficiencies. And in a season where power comes a dime a dozen, stolen bases are all the more critical. Again, fight me on this — that’s fine. I will never, ever roster Hamilton. I imagine owning him is a headache and a half. But value is value, and Hamilton is ESPN’s 10th-best NL outfielder on only 75% playing time.
Annnnd for our next point of contention…
I don’t care how mad you get. We need to confront this issue. Hernan Perez has hit five home runs and stolen nine bases since the All-Star Break. That’s not even three weeks ago. He has been fantasy baseball’s most valuable outfielder the last 30 days, and it’s not even close. He’s the National League’s Eduardo Nunez, and his prorated season line is an impeccable Starling Marte impersonation, down to the woeful plate discipline. That’s probably your biggest concern: Perez is just not that great a hitter.
Perez’s stolen bases are worth their weight in gold, though, and the non-zero pop he provides is gravy. He has basically played full-time since the break and
has fewer impediments to playing time with Upton out of the picture. (edit: Perez plays for Milwaukee; I’m an idiot; etc.) Perez will likely be a top-5 base-stealer the rest of the season with a handful of home runs to boot. Swallow your pride and roster him, for he could be a difference-maker in roto formats.
The other six names here are essentially status quo. Kemp sucks, but in a classic roto format, he’s immune to his downside.
(CarGo rolled his ankle; early reports indicate he’ll be OK.)
It’s really impressive how Tomas has evolved as a hitter, especially in light of how poorly Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu have recently performed. Tomas was something of a free-swinger back in the Cuba Serie Nacional, making him far less enticing than his fellow countrymen. Yet here he is, shoring up his strikeout rate while hitting for power. He’s still not a fantastic real-life asset by any means, but he has gradually improved his stock to the point that he’s a bona fide mixed-league starter.
Poor Cutch. Mike Petriello, formerly of FanGraphs, published this graph depicting Cutch’s exit velocity by month. It just doesn’t look good. The gradual decrease in baserunning aptitude signaled the onset of decline, but this is bad. And sad.
Jankowski doesn’t play every day, making him tough to rank (although Upton’s absence now brightens his outlook). But after a mere 193 plate appearances, he is already 7th among all hitters in stolen bases, contributing two more last night. He always had elite speed; like fellow teammate Perez, he could steal another 15 bases before October. In this sense, he’s no worse than Hamilton, perhaps testifying to his ranking being too low.
Turner is Jankowski 2.0 — starting to see consistent playing time and running like crazy. Horrid plate discipline thus far à la Perez, Marte, et al., so it’s hard to get overly excited. But the tools are present.
The usual. Some nice tools here with defects elsewhere. Holliday, Moss, Pederson, Granderson and Grichuk all provide power at the expense of batting average. I have faith that Contreras, who exhibited excellent plate discipline throughout the minors, will rein in the strikeouts and not have to rely solely on BABIP. He could accrue five home runs and stolen bases apiece with a solid batting average through September.
Dickerson is doing what I thought Contreras would do. Incredible what prospect hype can do; I’ve barely heard a peep about Dickerson, who is owned in one-fifth as many leagues as Contreras. Dickerson took several remarkable strides at Triple-A this year prior to his call-up — most notably shaving down his strikeout rate and finally living up to his above-average raw and game power. I’m very prepared to elevate him for the September update.
Like Dickerson, I’m prepared to boost Altherr and Dahl going forward. Dahl reminds me a lot of Michael Taylor (whom the Nationals recently demoted, mind you). Dahl oozes tools but his plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired; calling Coors Field home helps, but I think once again the fantasy baseball community has gotten carried away with prospect tags. Meanwhile, Altherr is a bit more polished with arguably the same “flashy” tools; he just plays for a crap team. Altherr was gaining a lot of traction as a popular sleeper this preseason up until his spring training injury, so ignore him at your own peril.
I still really like Conforto’s skill set. His excellent hard-hit rate (Hard%) should translate to more power soon. He should be seeing a lot more time with Juan Lagares on the shelf, too. Conforto’s very comparable to Grichuk, so if Conforto deserves a promotion, I would cap him at Tier 4. For 2017 and beyond, I hope for more from Conforto, but I’m keeping expectations for the rest of 2016 in check.
Boom-or-bust platoon bats and underperforming veterans. Nitpick to your heart’s content.
Sorry. I just get tired when we run this deep. Props to analysts who don’t.
Bench bats in no particular order, really. Except for Frazier, who has demonstrated quality contact skills and above-average speed for some time now and has carried both over from Triple-A in a part-time role. He’s worth a look for cheap speed and batting average in deep leagues.
Loosely ordered by how I’d rank them as DL or bench stashes.
Yoenis Cespedes (DL)
Mallex Smith (DL)
Trayce Thompson (DL)
Gerardo Parra (DL)
Jorge Soler (DL)
Jon Jay (DL)
Mac Williamson (DL)
Justin Ruggiano (DL)
Domingo Santana (DL)
Peter Bourjos (DL)
Juan Lagares (DL)
Loosely ordered by, I don’t know, whatever