Want a pleasant heat and fuzzy feeling to cheer you up if you’re attempting to keep away from the frigid temperatures outdoors? How about this – Opening Day is lower than 100 days away!
As many people are ready for Opening Day and to unwrap items and spend time with household, right here is an early fantasy baseball current the continuation of our have a look at the very best fantasy keepers by place. This week it’s the 2023 Finest Keepers – Heart Fielders.
The Typical Heart Fielder
The stereotype for middle fielders through the years has been a participant who doesn’t hit for energy however may have a superb slash line and steal bases for you. Whereas typically stereotypes are incorrect, this one appears to straddle the fence. Let’s have a look at what the typical left fielder, middle fielder and proper fielder produced on the plate in 2022:
- LF: .250/.322/.403 19 homers, 72 RBI, 10 steals
- CF: .237/.303/.385 18 homers, 65 RBI, 14 steals
- RF: .241/.309/.385 21 homers, 75 RBI, 10 steals
What’s Out There?
In 2022, middle fielders as a complete hit much less homers and drove in fewer runs than nook outfielders. And so they weren’t pretty much as good on the plate when it got here to their slash line. So the stereotype of being higher hitters didn’t show to be right. However at the least the velocity half did. The actual fact middle fielders stole extra bases is sensible contemplating the velocity they should play the place ought to carry over onto the bottom paths.
The ability numbers are literally considerably inflated due to Aaron Choose enjoying a piece of video games in middle for the Yankees. Choose will doubtless see extra time again in proper area in 2023, leaving a potential energy void at this place in 2024 outdoors of Mike Trout and some different gamers.
Discovering a middle fielder who may give you some steals is considerably simple. Discovering the middle fielder who can present constant energy is far tougher to search out outdoors of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 gamers.
However sufficient of the small discuss. Let’s check out the 2023 Prime Keepers – Heart Fielders.
A fast word: Ages are as of now and the listed crew is who they completed the season with. A participant’s crew could change for 2023, ages definitely will. Gamers who haven’t spent any time within the majors are additionally not ranked. Prospect rankings are for an additional checklist at one other time.
Jake McCarthy is one in all three middle fielders from Arizona who made these rankings. He’s a pure nook outfielder however of his 71 begins he made within the outfield, 10 got here in middle. McCarthy has nice velocity and is coming off a .283/.342/.427 rookie season on the plate during which he stole 23 bases and hit eight homers in 354 plate appearances. Gray had an ideal writeup about McCarthy in his Jake McCarthy Fantasy Baseball Sleeper.
Nick Senzel has not been capable of duplicate his rookie season, when he hit 12 homers, drove in 42 runs and swiped 14 bases in 375 at-bats whereas slashing .256/.315/.427. Accidents have been a difficulty with Senzel, and final season was no completely different as he was restricted to 110 video games. Whereas on the sector, he slashed .231/.296/.306 with eight dingers and 25 RBI. The the previous No. 2 general decide has the expertise to succeed, however is working out of time to show it or else he’ll lose enjoying time to TJ Friedl.
Christopher Morel had a good rookie season, hitting 16 homers whereas slashing .266/.338/.477 via his first 55 video games, he dropped to .194/.269/.376 over his last 58 video games. However with Cody Bellinger now in middle area and Nico Hoerner prone to get a lot of the enjoying time at second in 2023, Morel will doubtless be extra of a utility participant subsequent season.
Bryan De La Cruz, Lane Thomas aren’t younger gamers anymore, however every participant broke via final season to make them worthy of being thought of keepers in deep leagues. De La Cruz hit 13 homers and drove in 43 at-bats in 329 at-bats for the Marlins whereas slashing .252/.294/.432. The OBP is under what the typical middle fielder produced in 2022, however the batting common and slugging share have been each greater.
Thomas bounced up and down between the Cardinals and the minors for 3 seasons earlier than becoming a member of the Nationals in 2021. In 146 video games this previous season, he slashed .241/.301/.404 with 17 homers, 52 RBI and eight steals.
When you play in keeper/dynasty leagues, and since you might be studying this, I assume you do, then Leody Taveras and Jesus Sanchez have been identified names for some time, particularly Taveras. The Rangers middle fielder was a top-100 ranked prospects for years earlier than dropping off the Baseball America and MLB Pipeline lists after 2018 whereas nonetheless being ranked by Baseball Prospectus via 2021.
Taveras is just not an influence hitter. His job is to get on base and make the most of his velocity. He had a troublesome time doing that in his first two seasons within the majors. In 119 at-bats in 2020, Taveras slashed .227/.308/.395 with eight steals and adopted that with a .161/.207/.270 slash line in 2021 with 10 steals. However final yr Taveras slashed .261/.309/.366 with 11 steals in 314 at-bats. He decreased his strikeout price and elevated his stroll price and I feel he ought to have a stable likelihood of reaching 20 steals in 2023.
Like Taveras, Sanchez is a former top-100 prospect who has taken some time to settle in with the Marlins. He hit .040 in 25 at-bats in 2020 after which produced a .251/.319/.489 slash line in 2021 with 14 homers and 36 RBI in 64 video games. This previous season he regressed a bit, slashing .214/.280/.403 with 13 dingers and 36 RBI in 98 video games. However his strikeout price dropped from 31.1% to 26.8% final season and his 162-game common is 25 homers and 70 RBI.
Pace and Pace + Energy
When you want steals, then Myles Straw is a superb keeper. Straw is mainly solely good for steals as he produces no energy numbers. However he swiped 21 baggage final yr and his 162-game common is 27 steals whereas producing a hit price of 87%.
Harrison Bader provides a superb dose of energy to go together with his velocity. Whereas Bader hit solely 5 homers this previous season, his 162-game common is 16 homers, 52 RBI and 17 steals, the identical quantity he had with the Cardinals and Yankees in 2022. His profession slash line is .245/.317/.405. Examine that to what the typical middle fielder produced in 2022 – .237/.303/.385 with 18 homers, 65 RBI and 14 steals – and you may see Bader is healthier within the slash line and on par with homers and steals, making him a stable keeper.
Chas McCormick was not a fulltime starter, but when given the prospect in 2023, he could put up some shocking numbers. In solely 359 at-bats, he hit 14 residence runs and drove in 44 runs whereas slashing .245/.332/.407. The Astros re-signed Michael Brantley, so McCormick will doubtless battle for the beginning job in middle in spring coaching however ought to have the within observe to be the starter.
One thing to Show
Dylan Carlson appeared poised to be a high middle fielder keeper for years to come back after the 2021 season after hitting 18 homers and driving in 65 runs whereas slashing .266/.343/.437. However then got here 2022. He slashed solely .236/.316/.380 with eight residence runs and 42 RBI in 432 ABs. Carlson is simply 24 and shouldn’t be written off but.
Alek Thomas had a troublesome debut season with the Diamondbacks. He had a slash line of .231/.275/.344 with 8 homers, 39 RBI and 4 steals. However practically all of that manufacturing got here in his first 62 video games (.250/.301/.406, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB) as he slumped within the second half with a .207/.242/.266 slash line. However the former high 100 prospect shouldn’t be written off but. His profession slash line in 4 minor league seasons is .313/.389/.499 with a ten% stroll price and his 18.4% strikeout price matches what he had with Arizona (18.1%)
Actually One thing to Show
How far has Cody Bellinger fallen? The previous NL ROY in 2017 and NL MVP in 2019 was dumped by the Dodgers after the season, main Bellinger to signal a one-year cope with the Cubs after slashing .210/.265/.389 with LA in 2022. The intense spot is he did hit 19 homers, drive in 65 runs and steal 14 bases. Bellinger has one thing to show, and maybe being out of LA and in Chicago will give him the recent begin he wants.
Riley Greene is the teenager on this tier. Solely 22, he had a stable rookie season for the Tigers, slashing .253/.321/.362 with 5 homers and 42 RBI. His energy numbers within the minor counsel he ought to hit extra homers, so I anticipate an upside in his energy numbers.
I truly anticipated extra residence runs out of Randal Grichuk this previous yr after he landed in Colorado. Grichuk managed solely 19 homers however nonetheless drove in 73 runs and slugged .425. His greatest drawback final season was a floor ball share of fifty.4%, practically 10 factors greater than his profession common of 40.6%. If he makes the adjustment again to his profession averages, anticipate extra homers.
Below Strain to Produce
Brandon Nimmo signed an enormous contract this offseason to stay with the Mets. Now comes the stress to provide and dwell as much as the contract. Nimmo performed in a career-high 151 video games this previous season, the primary time he’s topped 100 video games in a season since 2018. I don’t anticipate large energy numbers from Nimmo as that has by no means been his recreation. However he did slash .274/.367/.433 in 2022 and he ought to duplicate or higher than going ahead.
Byron Buxton doesn’t must show himself as a lot as he must show he can keep wholesome. When he performs, Buxton is among the high middle fielders within the recreation. He hit 28 residence runs this previous season whereas driving in 51 and stealing six bases. However that got here in solely 340 at-bats as accidents restricted him to 92 video games. Since enjoying in 140 video games in 2017, Buxton has been restricted to twenty-eight, 87, 39 (out of 60), and 61 video games from 2018-2021.
Able to Bounce Again
That is what I wrote about Tyler O’Neill in my left area rankings, and the identical holds true for the middle area rankings: If I used to be penning this in 2021, O’Neill could be in Tier 1 as he hit 34 homers, drove in 80 runs and added 15 steals whereas slashing .286/.352/.560.
Then got here 2022 and the harm bug, limiting O’Neill to solely 96 video games and decreasing numbers throughout the board. I anticipate him to bounce again in 2023 and be a lot nearer to the participant he was in 2021.
Adolis Garcia can drive you loopy together with his strikeouts. However his profession 29.8% strikeout price is about his solely blemish in the case of fantasy baseball. Garcia completed fourth within the AL ROY voting in 2021 when he hit 31 homers, drove in 90 runs and stole 16 bases whereas slashing .243/.286/.454. He was even higher this previous season, slashing .250/.300/.456 with 27 homers, 101 RBI and 25 steals. He even lowered his strikeout price from 31.2% to 27.9%.
Given common enjoying time, Dalton Varsho had a breakout season for the Diamondbacks, hitting 27 homers, driving in 74 runs and stealing 16 bases. He can play middle area, proper area (and left if Arizona decides to place him over there) and catcher. The one motive why Varsho isn’t ranked greater is I wish to see him duplicate his 2022 season, which I don’t assume is out of the query. His residence price has gone from 2.6% in 2020 to three.5% in 2021 to 4.6% final season.
Simply Lacking Tier 1 Standing
Cedric Mullins didn’t fairly match his 2021 season during which he hit 30 homers and slashed .291/.360/.518, however he nonetheless had an excellent yr for the Orioles. His energy fell to 16 homers, however he drove in 64 runs, greater than what he did in 2021, and he stole 34 bases whereas slashing .258/.318/.403. Mullins will proceed to steal bases and I feel will get to between 20 to 23 homers, making him an ideal keeper.
When Bryan Reynolds is talked about as a potential commerce candidate by the Pirates, speaking heads on TV line as much as give the lengthy checklist of groups that might love so as to add Reynolds. The switch-hitting middle fielder accomplished his fourth season with a .262/.345/.461 slash line with 27 homers and 62 RBI. His 162-game common is 24 homers and 79 RBI with a .281/.361/.481 slash line and OPS+ of 127.
Like a number of different gamers in these rankings, accidents are the rationale Robert is just not in Tier 1. His on-field expertise is superb, however he can not keep wholesome. He appeared in solely 68 video games in 2021 and 98 this previous yr. When wholesome, Robert hit 12 homers, drove in 56 runs and stole 11 bases for the White Sox whereas slashing .284/.319/.426. His profession OPS+ in 122 and his 162-game common produces 26 homers, 95 RBI and 19 steals.
The times of George Springer being a fulltime middle fielder could also be closing because the Blue Jays signed Kevin Kiermaier to patrol middle with Springer transferring to proper area. However till he not qualifies on the place in fantasy leagues, Springer will stay a Tier 1 middle fielder. He supplies energy and velocity, as proven by his 25 homers and 14 steals final season and his 162-game common of 36 homers, 94 RBI and 11 steals with a .269/.358/.494 slash line.
When the Atlanta Braves referred to as on Michael Harris II to take over in middle area, he took benefit of the chance and by no means appeared again. Making the leap from Double-A, Harris ended up successful the NL ROY after slashing .297/.339/.514 with 19 homers, 65 RBI and 14 steals in 114 video games. The ability was considerably of a shock as he hit solely 16 homers in 739 minor league at-bats. So there’s a likelihood his 19 homers are on the high finish of the size for him, however his velocity is actual and so is his hit software.
Trout at No. 3?
When it got here to rating the ultimate three gamers, I went forwards and backwards over who to rank the place. Do you reward the profession of Mike Trout, who many take into account the very best participant within the recreation outdoors of Shohei Ohtani? Or do you set Aaron Choose as the very best middle fielder after his record-setting season? That will imply dropping Julio Rodriguez down to 3rd after a improbable rookie season.
As you may see, I went with Trout at No. 3, then Choose and Rodriguez at No. 1. Trout continues to be an ideal hitter, however he’s additionally on the injured checklist as a lot as he’s on the sector. In solely 119 video games final yr, he walloped 40 homers and drove in 80 runs whereas slashing .283/.369/.630. The one factor he actually doesn’t do now could be steal bases. And that reality is a second motive he’s behind Choose and Rodriguez.
What a Season!
What’s there to say about Choose? Even non-baseball followers know what he did final yr (in case you forgot, he slashed .311/.425/.686 with an AL file 62 homers, 131 RBI and 16 steals). Regardless of his dimension, Choose is a superb athlete who has turned himself into an ideal hitter. He was a .257 hitter in 2020, then .287 in 2021 earlier than topping .300 this previous yr whereas sustaining a strikeout price of 25% – above league common however by lower than three p.c.
However there isn’t any method Choose can duplicate his 2022 season. The 16 steals are the primary time he has ever topped 9 in a season. I’d be surprised if he approaches 62 homers once more, although 45 is simple to consider. And Choose is 30-years-old. He isn’t going to fall off a cliff, however his finest years should not forward of him. And his days of being a middle fielder are in all probability over because the Yankees now have Bader to play there all season, transferring Choose again to proper area.
Energy, Pace…He Has it All
For Julio Rodriguez, his finest years are forward of him as he turns 22 on Dec. 29. Thought-about a high prospect in baseball for a number of years, Rodriguez confirmed what all of the hype was about throughout his AL ROY season. Rodriguez has energy, slugging .509 with 28 homers 132 video games. He additionally has velocity, swiping 25 bases. Oh, and he can hit as properly, hitting .284 with a .345 OBP. The hit software isn’t any fluke. In his three minor league seasons, he slashed .331/.412/.543.
If you’re solely involved about subsequent yr, then Choose is the highest middle fielder. However trying forward three or 4 years, like good keeper/dynasty league gamers do, then Rodriguez must be the top-ranked middle fielder as he can do all of it and can stay in middle for the Mariners for years to come back.
JJ Bleday didn’t have an ideal debut with the Marlins, slashing .167/.277/.309 with 5 homers, 16 RBI and 4 steals in 204 at-bats. However the Marlins gained’t surrender on the fourth general decide in 2019 after a small pattern dimension and neither must you.
Austin Slater isn’t going to present you nice numbers, however he isn’t going to harm you both. He has some velocity, stealing 12 baggage final yr, and slashed .264/.366/.408.
Adam Duvall and AJ Pollock are each free brokers and never getting any youthful as Duvall is 34 and Pollock 35. However when wholesome, Duvall can present energy as he has topped 30 bombs 3 times throughout his profession and has the power to play all three outfield spots whereas Pollock will present about 15 homers and a .300 OBP.
Thanks for studying. When you missed any of the earlier Prime 2023 Keepers articles, you could find them right here: