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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. Gary Sanchez
2. Robinson Chirinos
3. Wilson Ramos
4. J.T. Realmuto
5. James McCann
6. Yasmani Grandal
7. Alex Avila
8. Yadier Molina
9. Chris Iannetta
10. Brett Nicholas

For much of the negative attention that Gary Sanchez seems to get for his defensive questions, his offensive upside is unmatched amongst MLB catchers. His most recent two weeks have seen him hit .352/.403/.870 with a shocking nine home runs, placing him second on the Player Rater regardless of position. With the exception of slightly below-average plate discipline, there is very little in Sanchez’s offensive profile that is particularly concerning, and he should be the top option at the position (and one of the most valuable assets in baseball) down the stretch, although an oncoming suspension for his role in a recent bench-clearing brawl will sideline him for a little bit. Should his appeal unexpectedly drag into the fantasy playoffs, this could cause a problem for owners, but it instead seems likely that he will be serving his punishment within the next week or so. Chris Iannetta has hit only .226 over his last 37 plate appearances, although six walks over that time have helped him to post a .900 OPS. His contact rate has fallen dramatically this season, resulting in a seven percentage point uptick in his strikeout rate. However, a fly-ball oriented approach has enabled him to hit 12 home runs in limited playing time, and his elite plate discipline remains, as he is walking in over 10% of his plate appearances this year, which he has done in every season of his professional career, giving him opportunities to score runs despite hitting at the bottom of Arizona’s lineup. Iannetta should be seen only as a flyer in the absolute deepest of leagues due to his poor batting average and sparse playing time, but he does have some encouraging offensive traits. Brett Nicholas has only seen action in four games over the past 15 days, although his performance in those games was enough to place him on the Player Rater at the extremely fickle catching position. He has been fantastic in his limited major-league time over the past two seasons offensively, and he has performed fairly well at Round Rock. However, there are major questions about his defense, and the Rangers seem reluctant to play him in the midst of a postseason race, so he can safely be left on the waiver wire barring an injury to starter Robinson Chirinos.

First Base

1. Rhys Hoskins
2. Jay Bruce
3. Jose Abreu
4. Anthony Rizzo
5. Joey Votto
6. Edwin Encarnacion
7. Mike Napoli
8. Eric Hosmer
9. Luis Valbuena
10. Josh Bell

Never a favorite of most scouts, Phillies’ rookie Rhys Hoskins has been spectacular in his introduction to the major leagues. Since making his MLB debut on August 10, Hoskins has been one of baseball’s best hitters, hitting .283/.406/.755 with eight home runs. Of course, his 40% HR/FB rate will not last, but he does not need to hit four home runs per week to remain a very effective hitter. He has made a fantastic amount of contact (particularly when swinging at hittable pitches in the strike zone), helping him to run an 11:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio, despite his approach being geared towards hitting fly balls to maximize his power output. It is worth noting that his damage has come against San Diego, San Francisco and Miami (three of the worst pitching staffs in the league), and that he was never considered to be a top 100 prospect for any major media outlet until this mid-season, so there are some reasons to remain skeptical. However, Hoskins’ minor-league numbers have been stellar, and his early major-league results (and peripheral statistics) have been nothing short of phenomenal. Projecting him as a top ten first baseman for the rest of the season may be too bullish, but there is, at the very least, no reason for him to remain on the waiver wire in any league at this point. After an abysmal start to the season, Luis Valbuena has been quietly fantastic when he has played in the second half, with offensive results 63% better than league-average by wRC+. Valbuena’s most recent two weeks have seen him hit a ridiculous .409/.552/1.136 with five home runs, seven walks and only four strikeouts. Of course, that five of the nine fly balls that he has hit over that time have left the yard has inflated his numbers dramatically, and the Angels seem to remain skeptical, continuing to limit his playing time versus left-handed pitching. He has also lost some line drives this season for fly balls, and that he is a pull-oriented, fly-ball hitter should be expected to depress his batting average on balls in play. That said, his .216 BABIP this season shows signs of some terrible luck, his exit velocity has ticked upwards in recent weeks and, most importantly, he has cut his strikeout rate since the All-Star Break by seven percentage points while maintaining his walk rate. Valbuena has never been a star, and at a strong offensive position, is still a lower-tier option, even if he does bounce back to his previously-established offensive levels. However, there are many reasons to believe that his current .206/.289/.431 line is misleadingly poor and to expect continued strong performance in the weeks ahead.

Second Base

1. Cory Spangenberg
2. Javier Baez
3. Paul DeJong
4. Brian Dozier
5. Scooter Gennett
6. Tim Beckham
7. Jose Altuve
8. Whit Merrifield
9. Anthony Rizzo
10. Brandon Phillips

[the_ad id=”384″]Cory Spangenberg’s hot streak continues to be largely BABIP-fueled, as his strikeout and walk rates remain uninspiring, while his actual contact quality remains subpar. Spangenberg has hit five home runs since August 10, despite a 52.9% ground-ball rate in that time. His season-long metrics largely line up with this pattern, as well. While he has cut his soft contact rate by four percentage points this season relative to his career average, this has come at the expense of a few more strikeouts, but not with more consistent elevation of the baseball. Also considering that Spangenberg is not an elite speed threat (although he should eclipse double-digit stolen bases this season and has largely been a positive baserunner overall) and that this level of power production is unprecedented (Spangenberg has more home runs in the last two weeks alone than he has ever hit in any professional season for his career) for him, he remains a lower-tier option at best, despite his impressive results over the past few weeks. Anthony Rizzo’s inclusion on this list is not in error, although it is asinine (due to a strange bunt defense alignment, he has technically logged the requisite time at the position). Nevertheless, he immediately becomes one of the best “second base” options in leagues in which he qualifies at the position.

Third Base

1. Eugenio Suarez
2. Manny Machado
3. Adrian Beltre
4. Cory Spangenberg
5. Josh Donaldson
6. Javier Baez
7. Paul DeJong
8. Rafael Devers
9. Nicky Delmonico
10. Brandon Phillips

A product of one of the more blatant steals in recent trade history, Eugenio Suarez has quietly had an All-Star caliber season in Cincinnati. His performance over the past two weeks has been exceptional: a .400/.556/.822 line with 15 walks against only nine strikeouts. Suarez’s hot streak has curiously involved an all-fields, fly-ball approach (generally not the best combination for a high batting average, although a 51% fly-ball rate combined with only a 14% strikeout rate offers a rare combination of contact and power potential), but his season-long batting profile has been much more traditional. He pulls the ball and elevates enough to take advantage of his hitter-friendly home park and to tap into his above-average power, yet his approach is not so extreme as to affect his ability to make contact or to limit his output on balls in play. Add in comfortably above-average plate discipline, and Suarez looks like the rare hitter capable of hitting for a high batting average, hitting for power and drawing walks. He does not run very often, and he can be overshadowed by some of the superstars at his position, but Suarez appears to have genuinely broken out this season, one of a few bright spots offensively for the Reds. Another third baseman on a rebuilding club, Nick Delmonico has been off to a sensational start to his big-league career, hitting .307/.429/.573 in the early going. Delmonico’s surge, however, is less supported by his underlying metrics. His plate discipline has been solid, and he has made quite a bit of contact, skills which he has exhibited throughout his minor-league tenure as well. Unfortunately, it appears that Delmonico’s power outburst at the major-league is unlikely to last, as his batted ball authority is unspectacular and he has become more pull-heavy upon his promotion. The contact profile should enable him to hit for a solid batting average (although, if he continues to hit nearly half of balls in play to right field, the shift may end up taking away some hits), but Delmonico’s early-career numbers have been propped up by some home run luck which, even in Guaranteed Rate Field, is unlikely to hold up.


1. Manny Machado
2. Javier Baez
3. Paul DeJong
4. Jorge Polanco
5. Tim Beckham
6. Elvis Andrus
7. Amed Rosario
8. Alex Bregman
9. Zack Cozart
10. Francisco Lindor

Manny Machado has hit .333/.364/.599 in the second half of the season, reestablishing himself as one of the game’s elite performers after an uncharacteristically poor first half. Jorge Polanco has bounced back from a terrible first few months that saw him lose his starting job to hit .308/.333/.596 since August 10. Polanco’s batted ball profile in that time has been fantastic, as he has run a soft contact rate below 10% and upped his fly-ball rate to 40%, with those two factors combining to help him hit home runs in four consecutive games. Similar to Delmonico, it is worth questioning, however, how much impact Polanco can continue to produce, as his season-long batted ball metrics are unspectacular, and, like Hoskins, he has done much of his damage against a depleted pitching staff (in this case, the White Sox’s). That said, Polanco has become more aggressive against pitches inside of the strike zone this season, while more frequently laying off of pitches outside of the strike zone, a change in process that has yet to manifest in tangible results. His .272 BABIP is likely too low for a player with his balanced batted ball profile (although he, again similarly to Delmonico, can get a bit pull-heavy at times). Additionally, Polanco’s line drive rate has nearly been cut in half this season, and, while it would be unreasonable to expect that he can bring that back to last season’s unsustainable levels, his current 19.6% mark seems prime for positive regression. In many ways, Polanco looks like much the same hitter that he was last season, and while his .282/.332/.424 line from last year involved some luck, that is likely much closer to his true talent level than his .246/.293/.377 mark this year. Should he revert to merely an empty batting average, he is unlikely to be a starting-caliber player, but he looks to be firmly in the mix of the many capable but unspectacular reserve shortstops available, and it is worth noting that his most recent hot streak has largely been supported by an underlying statistical improvement.


1. Giancarlo Stanton
2. Byron Buxton
3. Rhys Hoskins
4. Jay Bruce
5. Charlie Blackmon
6. Justin Upton
7. Curtis Granderson
8. Cory Spangenberg
9. Eddie Rosario
10. Yoenis Cespedes

After having powered his way to the top of the Player Rater last week, Giancarlo Stanton has hit .290/.405/.613 since August 16 (numbers which do not include another exceptional performance on Friday) to retain the crown, and, extremely quietly, vault Miami back onto the fringes of postseason contention. Once again, Byron Buxton is providing reasons for optimism for fantasy owners and Twins fans alike. As I noted in my Twins’ season preview, much of Minnesota’s season relied on Buxton enthusiasm, yet, by and large, he has again failed to deliver on his prodigious gifts offensively (his defense, on the other hand, has arguably been the league’s best among outfielders, according to Statcast). Buxton has crushed the ball when he has made contact over his last 62 plate appearances, en route to a .333/.344/.702 line recently. As the miniscule gap between his batting average and on-base percentage illustrates, however, he still appears not to have developed a discernable feel for the strike zone, with a 15:2 strikeout-walk ratio again clouding a potential breakout. Buxton has adjusted from his stratospheric strikeout rate at the beginning of the season, although he will almost undoubtedly always have a large amount of swing-and-miss to his game. Also concerning is a very high 15% pop-up rate that largely explains his only having a .320 BABIP despite pure speed nearly unmatched around the league, and his poor on-base profile (as well as, potentially, his height) does not allow him to maximize that speed as a base-stealer to the extent that fantasy owners would like. Buxton remains young, however, as toolsy as anybody in the game today, and has demonstrated (contrary to his reputation) a capacity for making adjustments as he has climbed the ladder, so optimism is warranted. However, he remains flawed, and fantasy owners should be wary of deploying him in the playoffs.

Starting Pitchers

1. Patrick Corbin
2. Corey Kluber
3. Carlos Carrasco
4. Dallas Keuchel
5. Jake Arrieta
6. Blake Snell
7. Rich Hill
8. Trevor Bauer
9. Cole Hamels
10. Chris Archer

Patrick Corbin has been brilliant in his three most recent starts, running a 21:4 strikeout-walk ratio while facing two of the league’s most talented lineups (Chicago and Houston) along the way. Corbin’s one earned run allowed, along with his winning all three of those starts, obviously involve some measure of good fortune, although he largely limited solid contact and was inducing ground balls at nearly a 60% clip against some of the league’s best hitters. Corbin has demonstrated a capability for strikeouts, walks and ground balls all season, although, without having developed a third pitch for handling opposing right-handed hitters, he remains susceptible to poor ball-in-play results. Equipped with a devastating slider and solid command, Corbin is a passable back-end option in most fantasy leagues, but he likely needs continued development of his changeup to emerge as anything more than that. After a dominating performance against Seattle on August 20, Fantrax’s Greg Jewett made the case for owners to buy-in once again on former top prospect Blake Snell. Another former top prospect with strong recent results, Trevor Bauer has picked up the win in each of his last three starts, striking out 23 in the process. Despite the strikeouts, Bauer has largely been hit hard when opponents have gotten the ball into play, allowing a .293/.354/.573 line against him over that time. Some timely pitching with men on base has allowed Bauer to escape with a solid 3.32 ERA, and run support from a strong offense has helped him to grab the win in each start, but no pitcher can retain a strong level of performance so long as they are being hit this hard. Bauer’s fastball-curveball combination gives him two plus pitches to work with, and the depth of his arsenal has long made him an exciting, if sometimes frustrating option, so there remains a lot of raw material to work with. Howeverl, Bauer’s placement on the Player Rater at the moment seems more indicative of good timing than a true breakthrough.

Relief Pitcher

1. Corey Knebel
2. Kenley Jansen
3. Brad Ziegler
4. Craig Kimbrel
5. Alex Colome
6. Cam Bedrosian
7. Matt Albers
8. Alan Busenitz
9. Blake Treinen
10. Cody Allen

Each of the relief pitchers on this list, with the exceptions of Matt Albers and Alan Busenitz, have been propped up by high save totals. All of the closers seem safe bets to continue to close for their teams moving forward, with team performance more important to their continued save totals than anything specific to the pitchers themselves. Busenitz’s 1.71 ERA this season has come despite a pedestrian 17.7% strikeout rate, so he seems unlikely to retain this level of run prevention or to garner higher-leverage work in Minnesota, while Albers has been fortunate enough to pick up two wins in relief, which would be foolish to expect moving forward.

Note: All player statistics have been drawn from

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