Top Fantasy Baseball Performers – May
Two months of the 2022 MLB season have now been completed and it’s once again time to check in on the top fantasy performers. May saw league-wide offense begin to tick up, leading to multiple three-homer performances and many epic displays of pitching. Now is the time to look back at the best players from a fantasy perspective from the second month of the season: 10 each of the hitter and pitcher variety, with an honorable mention for each side and two new segments in addition.
Rankings are based on Fantasy Pros player rater rankings from the second month of the season (5/1 – 5/31). The player rater is 5×5 rotisserie-based because that is the most universal format, making it easy to compare players across different sites.
1. Mookie Betts – OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
May Stats: 129 PA, .342 AVG, 31 R, 12 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB, 1.156 OPS
Once again looking like the best player in baseball not on the Angels, Betts led the Majors in fWAR (2.6) and showed immense power, tying for the Major League lead with his 12 homers while finishing second among qualifiers in slugging percentage (.746), leading to his MLB-leading 31 runs. He should come back to Earth a little bit, but hitting atop one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball will continue to afford him run-scoring opportunities and his Statcast metrics are the best they’ve been since his move to LA. From a fantasy perspective, his four steals aren’t breathtaking, but he’s become more of a 10-15 steal guy over the past few years, and if he’s providing above-league-average production in that category alongside some of the best offensive stats in the game, no one will complain.
2. Paul Goldschmidt – 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
May Stats: 119 PA, .404 AVG, 20 R, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 1 SB, 1.288 OPS
What an incredible month for Goldschmidt. He was one of two batters to finish May with a .400 average or better, and he added to that production by leading baseball in RBI and qualifiers in OPS and SLG (.817) while finishing second in fWAR (2.4). He is currently riding a 22-game hitting streak, showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, and is putting to rest his slow start and any thoughts he may be slowing down with age. Through two months, Goldschmidt has made a case to be considered the best first baseman in baseball and is quickly building a Hall of Fame case as he’s approaching 50 fWAR for his career.
3. Trevor Story – SS/2B, Boston Red Sox
May Stats: 120 PA, .218 AVG, 19 R, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 5 SB, .841 OPS
Story’s cold start to April bled into the first couple weeks of May, but he broke out in a Major way with seven of his dingers coming in the final 12 games of the month, including a three-home run game in that power barrage. All of those bombs helped Story finish second in baseball in RBI and he was able to counteract his poor average by swiping five bags. Red Sox fans have got to feel a lot better about their offseason acquisition after his hot two-week stretch, and this month should be a sign of things to come for the rest of the season as he is producing a career-high 14.4% barrel rate.
4. Aaron Judge – OF, New York Yankees
May Stats: 119 PA, .311 AVG, 25 R, 12 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, 1.077 OPS
One of two hitters to secure a monthly recognition in both April and May, Judge continued his home run surge, tying for the Major League lead in home runs, bringing his season total to a whopping 18, and putting him on pace for nearly 60 long balls. It’s a long shot that Judge becomes the sixth player ever to reach that threshold, and it may even be a stretch to suggest he reaches his career-high of 52 home runs from his rookie season because of how the ball is performing, but if he stays healthy and continues to display the best power metrics in baseball (25.6% barrel rate, 62% hard-hit rate), it will be hard to deny him the AL MVP award at season’s end. For now, Yankees fans should savor Judge’s at-bats, considering he’s a free agent this upcoming offseason and will be warranting a nearly $300 million contract based on this performance.
5. Rafael Devers – 3B, Boston Red Sox
May Stats: 126 PA, .381 AVG, 25 R, 8 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB, 1.132 OPS
Devers continues to quietly perform like one of the top pure hitters in baseball, leading the Majors with his 45 hits in May while finishing third in fWAR (2.4). Somehow, he is still only 25-years old and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep him out of the discussion of best hitters in baseball, especially when he’s hitting like this and producing the best hard-hit rate (54.1%) of his career. While his walks are down (4.5% walk rate compared to 7.6% for his career entering 2022), he has made up for it by hitting everything in sight, leading to a career-high 177 wRC+ on the season.
6. Pete Alonso – 1B, New York Mets
May Stats: 128 PA, .315 AVG, 19 R, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB, 1.010 OPS
“The Polar Bear” has been one of the best power hitters since he debuted with 53 homers in 2019, and he is proving in 2022 that his reduced strikeout rate from 2021 wasn’t a fluke, helping him maintain a career-high .286 average for the season. While he didn’t lead the Majors in any one category, he chipped in across the board and is now leading the National League with 47 RBI throughout the year. Interestingly enough, and despite the expected metrics on Statcast being out of wack due to the “dead” ball, Alonso is underperforming across the board and could continue to get better as the season wears on.
7. Trea Turner – SS/2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
May Stats: 128 PA, .313 AVG, 14 R, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 6 SB, .879 OPS
The greatest fantasy baseball performers usually hit for a high average with power and speed, and Turner has done that exceptionally for his entire career. His first full season with the Dodgers has been no different, as he’s currently riding a 23-game hitting streak and tied for the third-highest total of stolen bases in the month of May. He won’t hit as many homers as the big boppers above him on this list, but his infusion of elite speed and a solid hit tool makes him one of the safest and most valuable middle infield fantasy options.
8. José Ramírez – 3B, Cleveland Guardians
May Stats: 107 PA, .261 AVG, 18 R, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 7 SB, .972 OPS
J-Ram is unstoppable at the plate. For the season, he leads the Majors in RBI (51) and BB/K (1.87) while leading the American League in OPS (1.048), wRC+ (197), and fWAR (3.1). Despite how good his May was, it could be considered a down month for him, and he made up for it by tying for the second-most stolen bases. During the month, he struck out less than anyone with at least 50 plate appearances (5.6% K%) while walking at the second-highest clip among qualifiers (17.8% BB%), leading him to post an unheard-of 3.17 BB/K ratio, making him the best offensive player in points leagues by a wide margin.
9. Francisco Lindor – SS, New York Mets
May Stats: 130 PA, .243 AVG, 25 R, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 4 SB, .745 OPS
The switch-hitting shortstop finished out the month in style, knocking in a run in each of the final nine games of May. His other numbers weren’t too spectacular, but when you’re one of just 11 players to tally at least four dingers and four swipes while racking up a boatload of counting stats, you can sneak your way onto a list like this. Lindor’s .260/.346/.444 slash line for the season is probably what we should expect going forward, as it lines up well with his expected Statcast metrics, but despite that line not standing out much, his 128 wRC+ on the year would be his best since his 38-homer 2018 campaign, revealing that he has been much better than the league-average bat he was across the past two seasons.
10. Dansby Swanson – SS, Atlanta Braves
May Stats: 112 PA, .304 AVG, 18 R, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 6 SB, .847 OPS
A month of April during which Swanson batted just .216 with one home run and two steals pales in comparison to his impressive 136 wRC+ from May. Long known as a streaky hitter, Swanson was on the upswing in May, logging tough at-bats while gaining a majority of his fantasy value from his aggressiveness on the basepaths. He is now just two steals shy of his career-high and while it’s hard to pin down exactly what has led to this speed surge, it’s most likely a result of him becoming more accustomed to the Majors and getting a better feel for what it takes to swipe a base. Or maybe he’s just talking to Ronald Acuña Jr. more.
Honorable Mention: J.D. Martinez
Joining Goldy as the only qualified hitters to eclipse a .400 average, Martinez (20th ranked hitter) added on four homers, 23 runs, and a 208 wRC+ to bring his season-long batting average north of .360. He’s morphed into more of a contact hitter at this point in his career, reducing his home run total across each of the past three full seasons, but he remains an elite fantasy contributor thanks to his bat-to-ball skills and his position in the middle of a dangerous lineup.
Catcher of the Month: Willson Contreras
With the “Catcher of the Week” added to the weekly versions of this article, I felt it was only logical to nominate a “Catcher of the Month”.
The inaugural “Catcher of the Month” award goes to Contreras (38th ranked hitter) for his consistent efforts at the dish that included the most homers by a catcher (six), the second most runs at the position (17), a .289 AVG, and a position leading 184 wRC+ (min. 60 PA). Interestingly, Contreras was also the inaugural winner of “Catcher of the Week” back in week five, and if he can maintain his career-high 58.7% hard-hit rate and career-low 20.2% strikeout rate, he should earn many more awards throughout the season.
1. Martín Pérez – SP, Texas Rangers
May Stats: 4 W, 42.1 IP, 29 H, 3 ER, 9 BB, 33 K, 0.64 ERA, 0.90 WHIP
Prior to the start of the season, there wasn’t one person that could have told you that Pérez would be the top pitching performer for an entire month of the season, but he’s been on such a roll across his past few starts that you can’t deny him this honor. Pinpoint control on his sinker and changeup have been the keys to unlocking this new level, so it may subside if he loses the rhythm he’s obtained, but his Major League qualifier-leading ERA is nothing to scoff at. On top of that pristine ERA, he pitched the second-most innings, including the month’s only shutout, tied for the league lead in fWAR (1.4), and continued his string of 10 straight starts to begin the season without giving up a home run.
2. Sandy Alcantara – SP, Miami Marlins
May Stats: 3 W, 42.1 IP, 26 H, 10 ER, 12 BB, 43 K, 2.13 ERA, 0.90 WHIP
What’s not to love about Alcantara? The game’s premier workhorse, Alcantara tied for second in the Majors in innings pitched thanks to a string of four starts to end the month in which he pitched at least seven frames. He capped off that string with an incredible eight-inning, 14-strikeout masterpiece to tie his single start career-high in Ks while putting the league on notice that his 2021 second-half strikeout improvements weren’t a fluke. An upper-90s sinker paired with a wicked slider and changeup has vaulted Alcantara into the ace tier of starting pitchers, and now that he’s begun to rack up the strikeouts again, he could take off for the rest of the season.
3. Shane McClanahan – SP, Tampa Bay Rays
May Stats: 4 W, 31.1 IP, 21 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 39 K, 1.15 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
An impressive rookie debut led many (including myself) to tout McClanahan as one of the budding aces in MLB, and so far, all he’s done is improve on last year’s success. He’s been nearly unhittable this season, sporting the highest strikeout rate (36.3%) in the Majors by a good margin, and in May he continued the trend, striking out batters at the second-best rate (33.6%) and rocking the second-lowest ERA and WHIP among qualifiers. With one of the deepest and nastiest arsenals, featuring four pitches with CSW rates north of 33%, the 25-year-old lefty won’t be slowing down any time soon and should finish the season in the AL Cy Young Award conversation.
4. Nick Pivetta – SP, Boston Red Sox
May Stats: 4 W, 38.1 IP, 26 H, 9 ER, 6 BB, 35 K, 2.11 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
The cover boy for the sixth week of top fantasy performers was driven by a string of three consecutive starts during which he tossed 22 combined frames while allowing just two runs and striking 20 batters, but it didn’t end there as had a couple more solid starts to end the month. Ultimately, he finished May with the third-best WHIP among qualifiers while racking up a top-five innings total, and a top-three fWAR (1.3). Pivetta has had periods of looking dominant throughout his career but has struggled to avoid the long ball, so this hot stretch may only keep up as long as he maintains his career-low 9.5% HR/FB ratio, as none of his other metrics are much different than years’ past.
5. Framber Valdez – SP, Houston Astros
May Stats: 4 W, 43 IP, 33 H, 11 ER, 10 BB, 33 K, 2.30 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
If Alcantara is the premium innings-eater among right-handers and National League pitchers, Valdez is his counterpart among lefties and American Leaguers. The second in command in Houston logged the most innings in the month of May and did so successfully by coaxing the third-most ground balls (62.3%) among qualified starters. It may seem unsustainable to rely so heavily on a clear outlier groundball rate, but Valdez has earned this reputation thanks to a 70.3% GB% in 2021 and a 65.7% rate across both months of 2022, and as long as his effective sinker and yacker curve are working in tandem, he will continue to keep his infield busy, eat innings, and keep runs off the board.
6. Tony Gonsolin – SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
May Stats: 4 W, 28 IP, 14 H, 6 ER, 8 BB, 31 K, 1.93 ERA, 0.79 WHIP
While this list doesn’t require a starter to be among qualifiers to earn a spot, it is certainly odd to find someone who didn’t qualify because they have to make up for their lack of innings by excelling in other aspects. Gonsolin did just that, surrendering no more than two runs in each of his five starts, leading to a top-five WHIP and top-15 ERA amongst starters with at least 20 IP. Other than that, he got lots of help from his offense, helping him record a win in four of his five starts, making him one of 14 pitchers to reach that threshold in the month and adding to his fantasy value. Wins aren’t a stat that the pitcher has too much control over, so take solace in the fact he’s one of the best hard contact suppressors and not in his ability to secure wins.
7. Nestor Cortes – SP, New York Yankees
May Stats: 3 W, 32.1 IP, 18 H, 7 ER, 9 BB, 33 K, 1.95 ERA, 0.84 WHIP
“Nasty” Nestor continues to befuddle batters and fantasy analysts alike, shutting down lineups left and right despite mediocre pitches and concerning underlying metrics. Nonetheless, he toppled his competition by locating and keeping hitters off-balance, leading him to become one of just five qualified pitchers with a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP across the month of May. He pitched into the eighth inning in three of his starts and tied for the second-fewest hits allowed among qualifiers, so he’s making the most of his repertoire and he should be able to keep this up for the foreseeable future thanks to his usage of different arm slots and five pitches.
8. Zac Gallen – SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
May Stats: 4 W, 35.1 IP, 28 H, 12 ER, 8 BB, 35 K, 3.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
Gallen was someone to be wary of during draft season considering his elbow troubles and lack of success in the latter half of last season, but he’s put all of those doubts to rest with a dominant month of May during which he made six starts and earned a win in four of them. He didn’t stand out in any one category, contributing across the board, but he did tally a top-20 total of strikeouts by inducing swings out of the zone on 36% of his pitches. He’s displaying increased fastball velocity (94.2 mph) but he’s going to need to improve his 9.8% swinging strike rate if he wants to maintain his pristine 2.32 ERA as batters are making too much contact against him.
9. Jameson Taillon – SP, New York Yankees
May Stats: 4 W, 31.1 IP, 24 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 22 K, 2.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
Who would have guessed that the Yankees would have two starters land on this list and neither of them would be $300 million dollar man Gerrit Cole? Not me! Taillon earned his nomination by continuing to outpitch his underlying metrics and topped out at just seven strikeouts in a matchup with the White Sox. He’s been getting away with reduced strikeout abilities thanks to pinpoint command that led to him walking fewer batters than just two other qualified starters, earning him a top-five WHIP for the month. He added a cutter this season and that may have been the key to unlocking this next level.
10. Justin Verlander – SP, Houston Astros
May Stats: 4 W, 31.2 IP, 24 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 27 K, 2.27 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
The only pitcher to secure top performer honors in both April and May, Verlander was once again the 10th-most valuable fantasy starting pitcher as he continues to show that age, surgery, and sticky-stuff bans aren’t enough to slow him down. He ended his month on a sour note, surrendering six runs to the Mariners, but before that start, he had strung together three straight scoreless outings. His 3.45 xFIP on the season portends regression for his 2.03 ERA, as the right-hander is striking out batters (25.5%) at his lowest rate since 2016, but if anyone can figure out how to pitch around regression, it’s the future Hall of Famer.
Honorable Mention: Frankie Montas
Montas (19th ranked pitcher) surely would have made this list outright if he were fortunate enough to secure even one win, but alas, that is the downside of pitching for the lowly A’s. The right-hander pitched to a 2.31 ERA (35 IP) and an even 1.00 WHIP and was one of just eight pitchers to rack up at least 40 strikeouts on the month, as he was more than deserving of a top-10 selection and has been an underrated ace so far this year.
Reliever of the Month: David Bednar
Similar to “Catcher of the Month”, with “Reliever of the Week” being added to the weekly articles, I found it made sense to also add a “Reliever of the Month” section.
The inaugural “Reliever of the Month” award goes to Bednar (18th ranked pitcher) after he secured seven saves, won two ball games, and pitched to a 1.65 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP with a 21/2 K/BB ratio. It may seem odd to have a reliever on such a poor team be nominated for this honor, but with Bednar being so dominant, it is difficult to deny him as he now has nine saves and a 1.38 ERA on the season.
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