With the All-Star break cutting the week in half, performances were muted. Nonetheless, the players that went off right before the festivities at Dodger Stadium ensued deserve their due. Juan Soto won the Home Run Derby and Giancarlo Stanton won All-Star Game MVP, but those incredible nights were just the capper on an incredible first half of baseball. Let’s dive into the standouts from the 15th week of the 2022 MLB season.
The 15th week was cut in half due to the All-Star break, meaning there were only games from Thursday through Sunday (7/14 – 7/17) to cover. As a result, this week’s list will include the top five players in fantasy baseball because the stats aren’t as impactful and the difference between the players in the bottom half of the list and players just missing is minuscule. We will still maintain the same format of including honorable mentions and position-specific honors, and we will return to normalcy in the week 16 recap.
Rankings are based on Fantasy Pros player rater rankings from the 15th week of the season (7/14 – 7/20). The player rater is 5×5 rotisserie-based because that is the most universal format, making it easy to compare players across different sites. Position eligibility is listed according to ESPN. All stats via Fangraphs and Pitcher List.
1. Matt Carpenter – 2B, New York Yankees
Week 15 Stats: 19 PA, .429 AVG, 6 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 1.793 OPS
Weekly Honors: N/A
The mustachioed man has been given the power of the gods and he cannot be stopped! Carpenter continued his unexpected renaissance in New York in week 15, hitting a homer on Thursday before crushing a duo of dingers on Saturday, racking up a league-leading 12 RBI in the process – a total that would even be impressive in a full week. His 0.6 fWAR and 1.793 OPS were also tops in the Majors. The 36-year-old veteran is now slashing an unthinkable .354/.469/.911 (97 PA) and he is already up to 13 home runs on the season, which puts him on a 162-game pace of 84. The Yankees no longer have an excuse to not let him play every day, so pick him up in every fantasy format, but it will be interesting to see if the Yankees trust him enough to avoid being big buyers at the trade deadline.
2. Aaron Judge – OF, New York Yankees
Week 15 Stats: 18 PA, .400 AVG, 7 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 1.500 OPS
Joining Carpenter with the same distribution of long balls across the past week, Judge tied him atop the league in that category while crossing home the second most often in baseball. His magical home run chase lives on as he’s now up to 33 on the season, putting him on pace for 58 by the end of the year, so he will need to turn it up a notch in the second half if he wants to etch his name in the history books. Pretty much everything there is to say about the towering slugger has been said, whether it be about how hard he impacts the ball or his newfound aggressive approach at the dish, but what hasn’t been talked about much is the speed he’s been bringing to the table, as he’s one theft shy of tying his career high of nine set back in his rookie campaign.
3. Andrew Vaughn – OF/1B, Chicago White Sox
Week 15 Stats: 18 PA, .529 AVG, 2 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 1.556 OPS
Weekly Honors: N/A
A promising debut season had many pegging Vaughn as a 2022 breakout, but the uncertainty surrounding his role in the Chicago offense depressed his draft stock. Being taken after pick 200 on average, the right-hander has been a major boon to any fantasy manager that took the chance on his previous pedigree as a top-tier hitter in college and in the minors. The #3 overall pick from 2019 has quietly had a fantastic season, batting .301 (306 PA) with 10 homers and a 134 wRC+ while striking out less than 17% of the time. Not only did he knock in the second most runs in week 15, recording multiple RBI in all four of his games, but he also was one of just three players with a .500 or better batting average (min. 15 PA).
4. Michael Harris II – OF, Atlanta Braves
Week 15 Stats: 15 PA, .286 AVG, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 SB, .905 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week 10
MH2 will be fighting his teammate Spencer Strider for the NL Rookie of the Year Award thanks to his display of power and speed during his Major League introduction. He set the fantasy world on fire in week 10 and he’s been able to keep up the pace since then, contributing in all five categories even while batting ninth the majority of the time. Leading MLB in steals for a week is one thing, but Harris II did all of his damage in one game, swiping a trio of bags two days after going yard. The 21-year-old southpaw is now batting .284 and has already racked up eight dingers and double-digit swipes, and while it doesn’t count in most fantasy leagues, his 1.9 fWAR leads all National League rookie position players with help from his exceptional defense.
5. Matt Olson – 1B, Atlanta Braves
Week 15 Stats: 18 PA, .333 AVG, 4 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, 1.056 OPS
Weekly Honors: N/A
Compared to 2021, it has been a disappointing debut for Olson, Atlanta’s big offseason acquisition and the replacement for franchise legend Freddie Freeman. He’s only batting .255, a 16-point drop from last year, and while his 17 home runs are more than Freeman, his 126 wRC+ pales in comparison to last year’s 146 high watermark. Week 15 was the moment that Olson started to make up ground as he’s now homered four times across the past two weeks and has knocked in and scored a run in each of his past six games. In a loaded lineup, run production will be his calling card, but his best ability last year was the patient approach at the plate that led him to a 0.78 BB/K ratio. That mark is at 0.47 this season, as he’s chasing more and making less contact, so hopefully, the break allowed him to get his head right and prepare for an explosion in the second half.
Honorable Mention: Mike Yastrzemski
While he added to his roto value by swiping two bags, Yastrzemski’s (6th ranked hitter) main contribution came when he capped off a wild comeback against Josh Hader in the ninth with a walk-off grand slam. According to the San Jose Mercury News, this was the Giants’ first comeback win when trailing in the eighth inning or later this season, and Yaz’s bomb was the club’s first walk-off homer since August 2020 and the first of the four-RBI variety since Bobby Bonds in 1973. Apparently, no team in MLB history had ever gone yard three times in an inning that ended the way it did for the Giants on Friday. With the hot week, the grandson of a Hall of Famer now owns a 115 wRC+ and nine home runs on the season.
Catcher of the Week: J.T. Realmuto
Earning his second “Catcher of the Week” honors (week 13), Realmuto (11th ranked hitter) has been scorching hot for a few weeks now, batting .349 (48 PA) with three long balls and two steals since June 30th. He secured his weekly selection by batting .545 (12 PA), the second-highest average in the Majors (min. 10 PA), and adding on a dinger and a dash for good measure. It has been a down year in the power department for the veteran catcher who held a .196 ISO across the previous five seasons combined. That mark is down to .147 this year, his lowest since 2016, but since the beginning of June it’s at .180, so he’s on his way to reclaiming his old form in the second half.
1. Triston McKenzie – SP, Cleveland Guardians
Week 15 Stats: 1 W, 8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.63 WHIP
Weekly Honors: N/A
With no two-start pitchers in a half week, McKenzie soared above his competitors with a dozen strikeouts across eight shutout innings in a comfortable matchup against the punchless Tigers. He induced 18 whiffs, with 10 of them coming on his hammer curve that turned in a 50% CSW. As a result of his command evading him from time to time and his reliance on fly balls being caught, the lanky right-hander is prone to blowups, but he has pitched around his warts in 2022, posting a 3.20 ERA (101.1 IP) and a 0.98 WHIP with a 24.2% strikeout rate. It’s easy to forget, but the man is just 24 years old and still has a lot of room to grow, and nights like these where he displays the full extent of his talent reveal what his ceiling might be when he fully matures.
2. Clayton Kershaw – SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Week 15 Stats: 1 W, 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.13 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week One
The starter for the National League in the All-Star Game taking place at his stomping grounds of Dodger Stadium, Kershaw previewed his scoreless inning on the big stage with a close encounter with history. The legendary lefty took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the other LA-based team, allowing his first baserunner to reach on a double to start that frame. This was the second time this season Kershaw has thrown at least seven frames of perfect baseball, so he is still able to be at the top of his game on some nights, even in the late stages of his career. His ERA crept up over 3.50 last year for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2008, but he’s brought that mark below 2.15 this season despite a relentless decline in his heater velocity because he maintains impeccable command and a slider that has become one of the most lethal in baseball.
3. Aaron Nola – SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Week 15 Stats: 1 W, 8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP
Mirroring his status on the season as the best innings-eater in baseball not named Sandy Alcantara, Nola led MLB in outs secured in week 15, pitching into the ninth in an appealing matchup in Miami. Not only did he fan double-digit batters, but he did so thanks to 18 whiffs and 35.2% CSW across all of his pitches. The remarkable outing brought his season ERA to 3.13 (126.2 IP) to go along with a 0.91 WHIP that is propped up by the second-lowest qualified walk rate in the Majors (3.3%). The only thing holding Nola back is the horrific defense backing him up.
4. Dylan Cease – SP, Chicago White Sox
Week 15 Stats: 1 W, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP
I ranted and raved about Cease’s incredible season that has skirted with trouble as he sports the highest walk rate in the Majors. He followed up last week’s top performer selection with a 10-punchout performance in Minnesota during which he induced 15 swinging strikes with his slider alone. That pitch has been on a roll for him recently, as he’s racked up double-digit whiffs on the pitch in each of his last eight starts, averaging 14.6 whiffs per start with the sweeper. He was one of the biggest All-Star snubs so maybe he uses that as motivation to continue his incredible first-half run with the chance of taking it to another level if he can throw his pitches for strikes more often and maintain the effectiveness of that wicked breaking ball.
5. Gerrit Cole – SP, New York Yankees
Week 15 Stats: 1 W, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 12 K, 2.57 ERA, 0.57 WHIP
While Cole may be the only pitcher to allow a run on this list, he made up for it by tying for the week’s most strikeouts in a matchup with the rival Red Sox. Additionally, he was the only starter in the top five to reach the 20-whiff threshold, riding his four-seamer to half of those as it sat at 98 mph and earned a 42.4% CSW. He may never again reach the heights of his 2019 season with Houston, mostly because of the sticky stuff ban, but he will continue to eat innings, rack up Ks, and produce exceptional ratios while pitching for a team that will secure him plenty of wins with its elite offense and shutdown bullpen. You drafted Cole, not for his ability to post a sub-2.00 ERA and a 40% K%, but because he is one of the most consistently elite starters no matter who he faces and he stays on the field. You should be more than satisfied with his 3.02 ERA (113.1 IP) and 32.9% strikeout rate if you grabbed him in the first round this past spring.
Honorable Mention: Braxton Garrett
Despite missing out on a win, Garrett (13th ranked pitcher) earns the honorable mention because he was more than deserving of a victory, fanning 11 Pirates across six shutout frames with just four baserunners. He induced a whopping 23 whiffs, 11 of which came via his slider and nine by way of his sinker. The mid-80s slider is his most-utilized pitch and it does a great job of getting swings and misses, but the rest of his arsenal is pretty underwhelming, as the southpaw tosses his heaters in the low-90s. This start might be misleading as I think he settles in with a strikeout rate in the low-20s, but he could be effective as long as he maintains the command he displayed in this outing.
Reliever of the Week: Matt Festa
The Mariners saw a fiesta of strikeouts when Festa (6th ranked pitcher) took the mound, and they rewarded him by crediting him with a victory and a save. Overall, the 29-year-old right-hander tossed three perfect frames with six strikeouts, a line that is very familiar for the reliever with a 3.65 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, and a 38.4% strikeout rate across 24.2 innings this season. With so much depth in the Seattle bullpen, Festa likely doesn’t see many more save opportunities in the season’s final 2.5 months, but he was very successful in the first half as the M’s continue to pump out Major League-caliber arms.