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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. Yasmani Grandal
2. Salvador Perez
3. Willson Contreras
4. Austin Barnes
5. J.T. Realmuto
6. Yadier Molina
7. Gary Sanchez
8. Robinson Chirinos
9. Martin Maldonado
10. Stephen Vogt

Yasmani Grandal has pushed his way to the top of this week’s catching leaderboard with a .361/.410/.833 line over the past 15 days. Grandal has cut his strikeout rate over that time to a well below-average 15.4% and has not sacrificed much in the way of contact quality to do so. Grandal is, however, still hitting quite a few ground balls, with his five home runs propped up by a 50% HR/FB rate. His season-long BABIP is also almost 40 points above his career mark and has not been supported by any drastic change in his batted ball profile. Grandal’s combination of strikeouts and ground balls likely keep him a tier below the league’s top options at catcher for fantasy purposes, although his defensive prowess makes him more valuable to the Dodgers than to fantasy owners. Grandal’s backup, rookie Austin Barnes, has been one of many quiet contributors on the National League’s top team this season. What landed him on this week’s Player Rater were his two stolen bases. Barnes’ athleticism is apparent (he stole 18 bases with Triple-A Oklahoma City last season and has logged time at second base in his career), but the Dodgers’ lack of opportunity makes him worth avoiding in all but the deepest of leagues. With Grandal ahead of him on the depth chart and the team’s depth across the infield, Barnes only becomes of interest in the case of an injury or in the unlikely event that the Dodgers decide to use him as a trade chip to address a more pressing need. It has been almost two years since Stephen Vogt was an above-average hitter for Oakland, although perhaps a change of scenery can spur an improvement at the plate. Recently claimed off of waivers by Milwaukee, Vogt will, at the very least, benefit from a more hitter-friendly home park, although his playing time may be limited by the presence of incumbent catcher Manny Pina. Vogt’s recent stretch of contact has been fantastic, although he has totaled only 20 plate appearances since June 20, so he will need an extended stretch of production to be of particular interest to either manager Craig Counsell or potential fantasy owners.

First Base

1. Yuli Gurriel
2. Brandon Belt
3. Travis Shaw
4. Joey Votto
5. Jose Abreu
6. Daniel Murphy
7. Eric Hosmer
8. Paul Goldschmidt
9. Hanley Ramirez
10. Logan Morrison

Yuli Gurriel’s .392 batting average since June 20 has placed him atop a positional ranking dominated in recent weeks by Cody Bellinger. Of course, Gurriel cannot possibly hit near .400 for an extended stretch of time, and his strikeout rate recently is actually higher than his season-long rate, indicating that BABIP luck is largely responsible for his recent surge. This is not to say that Gurriel has done nothing worth noting — his recent hard contact rate is above 50% and his line drive rate is above 30%, and hard line drives are of course more likely to become hits than any other batted ball. Gurriel’s ability to make hard contact, third base eligibility and everyday presence in a stacked Houston lineup could make him a worthwhile bench flyer, but his propensity for pop-ups and over-aggressiveness at the plate (he has not drawn a single walk over the past two weeks) likely make him a risk for a prolonged slump at any point. Brandon Belt’s largest flaw as a fantasy asset has long been a home park that drastically suppresses left-handed power. Recent road series in Atlanta and Pittsburgh have helped him to overcome that, as he has hit five home runs since June 20 to tie for the lead among first basemen in that span. Belt has done so with his typical all-fields fly ball approach that will continue to suppress his batting average. Belt’s contact quality and power are real, but his strikeouts and home park make him a fantasy asset more worthy of selective deployment than an everyday fixture in most lineups. One potential cause for optimism, however: recent rumors that the Giants may consider trading Belt given their disappointing 2017 season, which would obviously limit his time spent in AT&T Park.

Second Base

1. Trea Turner
2. Jose Ramirez
3. Jose Altuve
4. Ian Happ
5. Scooter Gennett
6. Jedd Gyorko
7. Robinson Cano
8. Chris Owings
9. Jonathan Schoop
10. Daniel Murphy

[the_ad id=”384″]A broken wrist put on hold Trea Turner’s recent run that had me opining last week that “(he) seems poised to be one of the top fantasy producers of the second half.” Scooter Gennett’s transformation into a slugger is one of the more underappreciated aspects of the 2017 Reds. Gennett has morphed into a pull hitter and has increased his fly ball rate by four percentage points from last season. Most interestingly, Gennett has bumped his hard contact rate 10 percentage points above his career mark without sacrificing any contact ability. The exact reason for Gennett’s improved production and its sustainability are unclear, but his new profile could make him an appealing fantasy asset, and he at least appears worth an add in all leagues at this point. Those looking for a replacement for Turner could do worse than Chris Owings. Healthy this season, Owings has made better contact this year and has seemingly adopted more of a fly ball approach than in years past. Owings’ recent run of success has relied on some home-run luck — his 22.2% HR/FB rate will not last moving forward — but Owings makes a lot of all fields contact, should continue to score runs in a potent Diamondback lineup, and offers speed and positional versatility, making him somewhat a lite version of Turner himself.

Third Base

1. Jose Ramirez
2. Yuli Gurriel
3. Jedd Gyorko
4. Travis Shaw
5. Justin Turner
6. Anthony Rendon
7. Miguel Sano
8. Deven Marrero
9. Adrian Beltre
10. Mike Moustakas

The Jose Ramirez show has continued recently, as he has now topped the third base rankings for three consecutive weeks. His well-rounded skillset has made him, at this point, one of the best players in baseball, and was demonstrated once again this week, as he has slashed .333/.379/.815 since June 27, with three home runs and only one strikeout. A former well-regarded prospect, Deven Marrero has really struggled in his first extended major league time at age 26 this season. Marrero’s batted ball authority has been lackluster, explaining his below-average BABIP despite a hitter-friendly home park, and, while his contact rate has not been horrible, it has certainly not been strong enough to offset his amount of weak contact. Even Marrero’s most recent two weeks have been more solid than spectacular, with a .325/.378/.425 line supported nearly entirely by a .481 BABIP on the back of a 44% line drive rate. Marrero’s contact quality has been stronger recently, but a strikeout rate above 30% and zero home runs make him an unlikely bet to consistently rank on the Player Rater moving forward. Marrero did steal two bases, and he has previously been somewhat of a stolen base threat in the minor leagues, but without a significant uptick over his current .258 on-base percentage, he simply is not productive enough as a hitter to warrant being added for his speed.


1. Elvis Andrus
2. Trea Turner
3. Carlos Correa
4. Orlando Arcia
5. Jedd Gyorko
6. Chris Owings
7. Corey Seager
8. Freddy Galvis
9. Alcides Escobar
10. Andrelton Simmons

Elvis Andrus is once again atop the shortstop rankings, having hit .349/.397/.603 since June 20. Andrus’ underlying numbers support that kind of on-base ability, although his five home runs over that time have been supported by unsustainable HR/FB rate. That said, Andrus has adopted a pull-heavy approach this season that has brought more authoritative contact than he has shown in years past without sacrificing any of his previous profile as a contact-heavy, speed-oriented player. Andrus also stole five bases over the last weeks, combining power and speed to an extent matched by no one in baseball recently. He has already stolen 20 bases this season, he makes contact at an above-average rate, and now, as a legitimate home run threat, Andrus is one of the more well-rounded players at the position. I have noted my skepticism in recent weeks regarding Orlando Arcia’s scorching hot streak, but his most recent week gives legitimate cause for optimism. Any player running a .536/.552/.857 inherently relied on quite a bit of luck to sustain that performance, but Arcia deserves credit for his underlying process. His soft-contact rate over the week of 11.1% is quite low, he struck out in only one of his 29 plate appearances, and he failed to hit a single pop-up. He still has hit a lot of ground balls, which should continue to prop up his batting average but limits his power output, nor does he profile as a top-flight speed threat, so much of his value relies on hitting for a high batting average, but with each passing week, he makes a more compelling case that he can hit for a high enough batting average to be productive. Freddy Galvis has improved his contact rate slightly this season to cut his strikeout rate below the league average, resulting in a 13 point uptick in batting average from last year. Despite that, his season-long 87 wRC+ is quite uninspiring, although he has run a .333/.365/.533 line since June 20. Recently, he has cut his strikeout rate even further and made consistent decent contact, although a large portion of his offensive uptick has been driven by a line drive spike that is unlikely to continue. Galvis’ placement on the Player Rater is largely driven by his three stolen bases, and he did steal 17 bases last season despite ranking dead last among qualifiers in on-base percentage, so the uptick in his batting average may prove to make him a cheap flyer for some steals in the second half. Of course, the chance to accrue some stolen bases from Galvis is paired with slightly below-average production in both batting average and home runs, as well as his lack of runs scored and RBI totals that come from playing on an underwhelming Philadelphia offense.


1. Josh Reddick
2. Michael Taylor
3. Mookie Betts
4. Tommy Pham
5. Trea Turner
6. Jose Ramirez
7. Khris Davis
8. Curtis Granderson
9. Ian Happ
10. Scooter Gennett

The top player overall on the Rater this week, Josh Reddick has hit .487/.500/.923 since June 20. His strikeout rate over that time is a miniscule 10.9%, although he has somewhat offset that by hitting pop-ups on 31.3% of his fly balls. Despite the pop-ups, Reddick has generally made solid contact, albeit nothing to support his nearly .500 BABIP. Reddick’s most impressive achievement, resulting in his placement atop the Rater, is his recent ability to contribute in all five major categories. While his ridiculous 17 runs scored and 13 RBI over his last 12 games are obviously outliers, his presence as a well above-average hitter in one of the best lineups in baseball make him a safe bet to continue to produce in those categories. Reddick is also one of the league’s elite contact hitters, and while his lack of top-of-the-scale power limits his batting average somewhat, his tendency to use all fields makes him a solid bet to hit near .300. The most fickle of his contributions, clearly, were his four stolen bases recently. Having never accrued more than 11 steals in a season, Reddick does not profile as a burner, and Houston has seemed disinclined to run with its best players this season, but Reddick seems a legitimate contributor in all five categories, with elite runs scored and RBI totals a possibility. Thomas Pham’s strong season has continued recently, as he has run a .316/.400/.561 slash since June 20, boosted by a 50% HR/FB rate and a .412 BABIP. Pham’s contact quality is elite, although it comes at the expense of a strikeout problem. That general profile has continued last week, with Pham’s hard contact rate at a fantastic 42.1% mark and his strikeout rate at 29.2%. Pham has consistently run above-average BABIPs, and will likely continue to do so, thanks to his hard contact, and his contact rate has substantially improved from last year, enabling him to cut his strikeout rate by almost 14 percentage points, albeit still to a point where he strikes out more than average, so he should hit for a decent average despite his strikeout tendencies. His propensity for ground balls and lack of elite speed make him only average in home runs and stolen bases, but Pham’s on-base ability could make him a solid contributor across the board available for cheap.

Starting Pitchers

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Max Scherzer
3. Chris Sale
4. Corey Kluber
5. Aaron Nola
6. Masahiro Tanaka
7. Rich Hill
8. Michael Fulmer
9. Jacob deGrom
10. Jimmy Nelson

There is little to say about Clayton Kershaw that has not already been said, as the best pitcher in MLB has thrown 20 innings without allowing an earned run while striking out 31 over his last three starts. Aaron Nola has quietly worked at least seven innings with two or fewer earned runs in each of his last three starts, striking out at least eight in each. He has been aided by some batted ball and strand luck, as the contact quality that he has allowed supports an opponent’s BABIP of well north of .225, but his strikeout rate and ground ball rate are both at elite levels, and while he may not accrue many wins thanks to a poor Philadelphia lineup and bullpen, he seems to be a well above-average starting pitcher, with his curveball again a solid, if not necessarily elite, off-speed pitch. Masahiro Tanaka has looked like an ace recently, inducing ground balls at a 60.8% clip over his last three starts with 4.4 strikeouts per walk. Tanaka’s stuff has seemed largely intact all season, making his early-season swoon all the more perplexing, but his strong performance recently likely puts to rest any concerns about Tanaka moving forward. Yet another early-season underperformer, Rich Hill has performed well recently, accruing 26 strikeouts in his last 19 innings, albeit against the less-than-imposing lineups of the Mets, Angels and Padres. Hill has seemed to struggle with his curveball this season, although he more consistently located down and away from left-handed hitters recently, perhaps a sign that is moving past his previous blister concerns.

Relief Pitcher

1. Brandon Kintzler
2. A.J. Ramos
3. Jim Johnson
4. Brandon Maurer
5. Justin Wilson
6. Chris Devenski
7. Kenley Jansen
8. Joakim Soria
9. Greg Holland
10. Brad Brach

The reliever rankings inherently rely on miniscule sample sizes and save opportunities. Brandon Kintzler, A.J. Ramos, Jim Johnson, Brandon Maurer, Justin Wilson, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland and Brad Brach have all jumped onto the Rater thanks to strong saves totals. Joakim Soria has run a 10:1 strikeout-walk ratio over his last seven innings, inducing much soft contact in the process. Should the Royals fall out of contention and trade Kelvin Herrera, Soria could be in line for some saves in Kansas City, although the team looks more likely to make one last run with their current core than to sell off pieces.

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