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"My Guys" For 2023 - Jon Anderson's 5 Favorite Fantasy Baseball Players to Draft

George Kirby - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

It's my third year of writing up the "My Guys" post right here on RotoBaller. Each year, I give my five favorite fantasy baseball players to draft, all things being considered. Last year, here is who I ended up with:

  1. Willy Adames
  2. Pete Alonso
  3. Eduardo Rodriguez
  4. Andrew Heaney
  5. Max Kepler

I would call that a two-for-five. Adames and Alonso had great seasons, Rodriguez and Heaney couldn't stay on the field, and Kepler was just bad. Since the Alonso pick was a bit of a cheap shot, we shouldn't call that post a great success. So keep that in mind when you're reading this. I will do my best to give my reasoning, and hopefully, I can learn from my mistakes in the past and have more success this year.

I am trying to evenly distribute my picks up and down a 400-pick draft or so. However, I don't think it's very useful to take someone in the top 25, since those guys are all studs and nobody is really being served by being told that studs are studs. Let's get to it, my five favorite players to draft for 2023.

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Corey Seager, Texas Rangers

A lot like Alonso last year, this feels cheap to me. However, Seager goes late enough (typically after pick 45) to justify it. He's in a range where one can still "reach" for him, so if you believe in what I'm selling you here, maybe you want to go ahead and do that.

If you've been reading any significant amount of fantasy baseball stuff this offseason, you already know a lot of what I have to say. Almost every single study of the shift ban concluded that Seager stands to benefit, including my own. As people have become more aware of that, his ADP has been on the move.

There is a chance we're not quite right about how serious the impact of the shift ban will be, and that suggests maybe the market has overcorrected in this regard. But wait, there's more.

I have always been a big fan of Seager because he has plate skills that not a lot of hitters have. Since 2019, Seager has posted a strikeout rate below 17% with a barrel rate of 10.7%. The only other hitters in the league with a strikeout rate below 20% and a double-digit barrel rate (with 1,500+ PA) are Freddie Freeman, Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Manny Machado, and George Springer. It's an elite group.

Seager has the rare ability to hit for a high batting average while being among the league leaders in longballs. One other legitimate knock on his fantasy game in the past has been the lack of steals. With steals certain to increase significantly (I would guess by more than 25%), that is not nearly as big of a problem as it has been in the past. It's not like it wouldn't be a problem if he doesn't steal any bases while the league steals more, but it becomes less of a problem taking a low-steals player with a very early pick in your draft - you can patch it up later much more easily than in years past.

So we have an already elite hitter who could benefit a ton from the new rules, and with his only real flaw being tamped down in importance this year. I have supreme confidence in Seager turning in a studly season at the dish, and he is not a guy that costs you a top-30 pick.

 

Teoscar Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

This pick is mostly driven by the fact that Hernandez is significantly cheaper this year than last, and how that makes no sense to me.

 

People will tell you that he's going to a worse park. I push back on that. Last year, barrels from right-handed batters went for homers 56.6% of the time in Seattle, that's the fourth-best mark in the league (Toronto was down at 50.2%). Isn't that really the main thing we're talking about with Tesocar? You want homers and RBI from the guy, and you get a whole lot of those from barrels.

The Mariners lineup is also not a big step down from what he had in Toronto, and it might not be a step down at all.

Oh, and then there's the fact that Hernandez is just a really good hitter. Since 2019, he has hit a .270 AVG and a .507 SLG with a 14.2% barrel rate. Yes, the strikeouts are an issue (28.7% since 2019), but the quality of contact has kept his BABIP high - and the sample is big enough to believe that it will stick.

Does he have a .300 batting average upside like Seager? No, I don't think so. But I believe this guy can hit 40 homers this year while hitting close to that .270 mark we've seen from him in recent years. The other thing to like is that he's been a stolen base guy in the past, swiping a dozen bags in 2021 and attempting nine steals last year. He has above-average foot speed, so to me, he's one of those guys in the perfect spot to really take advantage of the new steals-friendly environment. I think there's a 30-20 upside in Hernandez, and he goes around pick 100.

 

George Kirby, Seattle Mariners

I love a pitcher who does not give out free passes. Of all of the pitchers that made at least 15 starts last season, Kirby's 4.1% walk rate was sixth-best in the league. And he didn't do that by just throwing the ball down the pipe - his locations were magnificent.

That is one huge box checked. The next one to check would be the strikeout rate. In that regard, he was pretty much average (24.5% K%), but what I see is the upside for more on that. After the All-Star break, Kirby's strikeout rate came up to 27%, and over that 13-start span, he posted a 21.6% K-BB% - exactly what we want.

His fastball didn't grade out all that well by the Stuff+ models, but it's a live pitch. He has a ton of velocity on it, and the 16% SwStr% it generated is eye-popping.

What Kirby needs to do to take the next step into ace-hood is to enhance his secondary stuff. You can see some really solid Stuff+ numbers on his slider and changeup there, but overall they didn't produce great results. Given this kid's talent, however, I would be really surprised if he hasn't made a lot of improvements over the offseason.

Kirby has all of the tools you want under the hood, and innings aren't much of a question for him (he threw 156 total last year). You could see Kirby get to 180 innings this year, and he has the talent to be an SP1. Sign me up!

 

Dustin May, Los Angeles Dodgers

We're moving down past pick 150 in the ADP now, and it's another young pitcher with an electric arm. May is my favorite pitcher in the league to watch. His stuff is breathtaking. Last year, over six starts, he posted a sweet 13.9% SwStr% with a ridiculous 139.8 Stuff+. His curveball was one of the best individual pitches in the entire game with a 206.5 Stuff+. He did all of that while generating another high ground ball rate.

May's ability is top 10 in the league, and he arguably has the optimal supporting cast situation going for him.

The reason for the lower ADP is that the box score numbers didn't turn out all that great for him last season (4.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 30 innings), and there are concerns about how many starts he can make. He has thrown just 143.2 Major League innings in his career, and that's across four seasons. It's hard to imagine he can jump up to 150 in one season, but I hardly think it's out of the question.

We have seen talk of the "Tommy John honeymoon" a lot lately. The data supports that pitchers typically hold up quite well for two or so seasons after Tommy John surgery - and that's great news for May.

Do I think May can be a top-five fantasy SP this year? Overall - the answer is no. But I absolutely think he can do that on a per-inning basis, and for where he gets drafted, I don't think he's going to let anybody down as long as he can clear 100 innings - which I think is very likely right now.

 

Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics

Laureano is projecting for 15+ homers and 15+ steals in every single projection system, and he routinely falls past pick 200. He's a talented player that has had his last two seasons derailed by injury and suspension.

This isn't to say that there aren't concerns about his health or his performance after returning from suspension, but the smart money, I think, is on projecting him to be who we have seen in the past - and that is a very useful fantasy player.

Yes, he plays for Oakland, a team that really has not produced a great fantasy hitter in quite some time. That said, Laureano is a very logical trade candidate for them as a guy who will turn 29 in July and is unlikely to be part of the Athletics' future plans (if they have any of those). I think you could get performance worthy of a third outfielder from him while he's in Oakland, and then see him get dealt to a contender where he will be supported by a better lineup and likely a much friendlier park.

Laureano is on a ton of my teams, and I don't plan on slowing down.

There you have it, my five favorite fantasy baseball players to draft for 2023. I look forward to looking back at this once again! Thanks for checking it out.



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