Top Fantasy Baseball Performers – Week 16
The second half is officially underway, and with it, the real fun of the baseball season begins. First, the trade deadline will be at the front of fans’ and teams’ minds. Second, end-of-season numbers and records will become more clear. Third, the playoff picture and subsequent races will kick into full gear. Right now, step one is underway, as countless fantasy managers await to see if the evaluations of their teams might change after a few blockbuster trades in real life. Other fantasy managers may be considering how they can upgrade their teams before the fantasy deadline hits. Either way, this is an exciting time to be a baseball fan and is a pivotal moment for fantasy managers. The standings in fantasy leagues are becoming more disparate, and with it, the true contenders are becoming clearer and are weighing their options for the final two months. The top teams likely featured a couple of the MLB standouts from the past week. Here are those performers: the top 10 hitters and pitchers from the 16th week of the 2022 MLB season, with honorable mentions and position-specific awards for good measure.
Rankings are based on Fantasy Pros player rater rankings from the 16th week of the season (7/21 – 7/27). 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. Aaron Judge – OF, New York Yankees
Week 16 Stats: 33 PA, .393 AVG, 7 R, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, 1.485 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week Four, Week Six, Week 15
There isn’t much more to say about the soon-to-be free agent. Not only did he lead the Majors in homers, but he also leads the big leagues with a whopping 38. Adding on a league-leading RBI total, the second most runs in baseball, the highest OPS (min. 30 PA), and the best fWAR (0.9) in MLB was just icing on the cake, as Judge claimed his second number one finish in these weekly articles. With his 2022 season appearing to be a runaway train, he hasn’t lost any momentum and is poised to become the first American Leaguer to cross the 60-home run threshold since Roger Maris in 1961. Oh, and he tacked on a stolen base just for the heck of it, putting him at an impasse with the nine he swiped in his AL Rookie of the Year Award-winning 2017 campaign.
2. Adolis García – OF, Texas Rangers
Week 16 Stats: 30 PA, .444 AVG, 7 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB, 1.389 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week 10
Many fantasy managers didn’t buy into last year’s breakout because García struck out more than 31% of the time and didn’t make up for it with patience. This notion is apparent when looking at his ESPN ADP of 242, suggesting that he was going off the board after round 20 in 10-teamers and 12-teamers. He has quieted all of his doubters by doing what made them doubt him in the first place. Somehow, he continues to defy all of the odds and has even improved his strikeout rate, pushing it below 28%, which is a much more palatable mark. Regardless, his power-speed combo completely makes up for what he lacks in the batting average department, and he displayed those skills in week 16. The outfielder was the only player to swipe multiple bases and hit multiple home runs, while he led baseball in average (min. 30 PA) and tied for the second-most runs and RBI.
3. Steven Kwan – OF, Cleveland Guardians
Week 16 Stats: 35 PA, .412 AVG, 7 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 SB, .987 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week One (HM)
It feels like it’s been a decade since Kwan took the league by storm to open the season, earning himself an honorable mention in the inaugural edition of this series of articles. Since that improbable opening stretch, the rookie outfielder hasn’t been one to light the fantasy world on fire, as he’s more of an empty batting average player with the ability to swipe a few bags, in the same vein as David Fletcher. Even after a week during which he played every day, racking up the most plate appearances in baseball, and delivered just his second long ball of the season while stealing a couple of bags and scoring the second-most runs in the bigs, Kwan’s fantasy production remains underwhelming. His slash line sits at .294/.368/.381 (352 PA), and he is most popular in points leagues where his second-best in baseball 8.5% strikeout rate sets him apart.
4. Jeimer Candelario – 3B, Detroit Tigers
Week 16 Stats: 25 PA, .458 AVG, 5 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 1.522 OPS
Weekly Honors: N/A
It’s been a rough season for the entire Detroit lineup, and Candelario is no exception. Prior to week 16, the switch-hitter was batting .191 (263 PA) with a 62 wRC+. He has finally figured things out, posting the highest OPS (min. 25 PA) and average (min. 25 PA) while tying for the second-most dingers in the league, bringing his season total up to 10. With just this mini hot streak, Candelario has already driven his batting average up 24 points to .215 (288 PA) and his wRC+ up 13 points to 85. Those numbers won’t blow anyone away, but they are much more respectable, and the seven-year veteran is on the right path to redemption. Career-lows in walk rate (6.3%) and BABIP (.251) are likely the main culprits for his first-half struggles.
5. Yordan Alvarez – OF, Houston Astros
Week 16 Stats: 25 PA, .353 AVG, 7 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, 1.520 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week Four, Week Six, Week Nine, Week 11
With his fifth weekly honor, Alvarez ties Freddie Freeman and Sandy Alcantara for the most weekly selections in 2022. An injury coming out of the All-Star break wasn’t enough to slow down the best hitter in baseball this season. Some people may find that recognition controversial, but his league-leading 201 wRC+ is 10 points better than the second-place finisher and more than 100% better than the league average. Scoring the second most runs and mashing a trio of dingers is par for the course for the brawny slugger, it was the stolen base, his first of the season and the second of his career, that caught everyone’s eye and helped him land inside the top 10 this week.
6. Hunter Renfroe – OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Week 16 Stats: 28 PA, .280 AVG, 5 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB, 1.117 OPS
Weekly Honors: N/A
Roaming the Milwaukee outfield for the first time as a member of the home team, Renfroe has continued to flash his top-notch power, despite nagging injuries that have limited him to just 65 games this season. Nonetheless, he has delivered when in the lineup, bringing his season-long dinger total to 17 with four across the past week. He also landed on the leaderboards by tying for the second most runs knocked in. In his time with the Padres early in his career, he was an all-or-nothing slugger, striking out too much to provide anything other than power and a reliable glove. With a reduced strikeout rate (22.7%), he broke out last year and has carried over those gains into 2022 for the most part (24.8% K%). As long as he continues to barrel the ball north of 13% of the time, he should continue to be a fear-inducing bat in the middle of the Brewers lineup.
7. Matt Chapman – 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Week 16 Stats: 23 PA, .474 AVG, 7 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 1.302 OPS
Weekly Honors: N/A
Chapman’s final two season’s in Oakland didn’t inspire much confidence in A’s fans after the platinum glover dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness. It seemed as though the case would remain the same in Toronto, as the third baseman batted just .186 (170 PA) with a 74 wRC+ through May 26th. Since then, however, Chapman has woken up his bat and recaptured the form that made him an MVP candidate in his early days in the Bay Area. From May 27th through week 16, he has batted .286 with 10 homers and a 145 wRC+, capping off his renaissance with a sock (HR) and a shoe (SB) as well as a robust .474 average. His season-long numbers are still being depressed by the cold start, so if you’re looking for a third baseman at the fantasy trade deadline, ask your league mates what it would take to acquire Chapman, as he is finishing the season on a high note in one of the hottest offenses in baseball.
8. Mookie Betts – OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Week 16 Stats: 34 PA, .300 AVG, 6 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, 1.016 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week Three, Week Six, Week Seven, Week Eight
It’s been a while since Betts was the most dominant fantasy player during May, racking up three straight weekly honors, but with his selection in week 16, he finds himself in a four-way tie with Yordan Alvarez, Freddie Freeman, and Sandy Alcantara for the most mentions in these articles thus far. He totally earned it, crushing a trio of bombs to bring his total on the season to 23, and he added on a stolen base as well, his seventh. Betts’ first full season in LA was somewhat of a disappointment, but he’s making up for it in spades this year with a top-15 fWAR (3.9) and leadership on a team primed for a deep postseason run.
9. Josh Rojas – SS/2B/OF/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Week 16 Stats: 19 PA, .438 AVG, 3 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 SB, 1.151 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week Seven (HM)
Making his first top performer article outright, Rojas was a demon on the basepaths, tying for the league lead in thefts. That was about all he needed to do to earn a weekly honor, but he went above and beyond, batting .438 as well and tallying his sixth long ball of the year. Rojas’s fantasy profile might be overlooked but he has actually been a valuable contributor since missing the season’s first month with an injury. A .283 average with the aforementioned six long balls and 11 steals would be cromulent full-season production, and he still has two months to build upon those numbers. It’s really too bad his counting stats are limited batting at the top of the order for a team with a bottom ten wRC+ (93).
10. Paul Goldschmidt – 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Week 16 Stats: 14 PA, .462 AVG, 4 R, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, 1.885 OPS
Weekly Honors: Week Six, Week Eight, Week 10
The frontrunner for the NL MVP Award, Goldschmidt continues to vie for the honor of being the most dangerous offensive threat in the Senior Circuit. His 191 wRC+ is the best in his league and trails only Yordan Alvarez in all of baseball. With just 14 plate appearances in week 16 due to his placement on the restricted list as his team traveled north of the border, Goldschmidt was still impactful enough to secure the final spot in the objective rankings by going deep four times in a three game span. He is now up to 24 dingers on the season to go along with an eye-popping .335 average, pairing nicely with his league-leading OPS (min. 10 PA) from the week.
Honorable Mention: Jose Miranda
The cousin of prominent musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jose (17th ranked hitter) was nearly as brilliant with the stick in week 16. The rookie corner infielder tied for the league lead in batting average (min. 10 PA), notching a hit in 10 of his 17 plate appearances (.625 AVG) while sending one of those hits over the wall and combining for 10 runs-plus-RBI. A .973 OPS at Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 pumped up the hype for Miranda’s 2022 debut, but he disappointed prospect fans with a .176 average (77 PA) and a 46 wRC+ through his first month of play. Since then, however, Miranda has changed course and is now living up to the hype, batting .341 (138 PA) with a 170 wRC+ since the calendar flipped to June.
Catcher of the Week: Carson Kelly
Wait, I thought C. Kelly was one of the idiots on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I could be wrong, but this guy is a lot better at baseball than I expected him to be. Carson (26th ranked hitter) was the most elite offensive backstop in week 16, scoring the most runs (seven) and producing the highest OPS (1.511, min. 10 PA) at the position while batting .462 (17 PA) with a homer. For the season, his wRC+ is 20% below the league average and none of his counting stats have made up for it, but this performance is a step in the right direction
1. Cole Irvin – SP, Oakland Athletics
Week 16 Stats: 2 W, 14 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 1.93 ERA, 0.64 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week 13 (HM)
It happens quite often that, shortly after I award an unheralded player an honorable mention, they make the top 10 outright. That is the case here with Irvin, and he did it about as well as possible, earning the top spot with two impressive starts against the duo of Texas teams. He started the week off by striking out a season-high eight Rangers while allowing just one earned run, before capping it off with another strong seven-inning outing against the Astros. He has been Houston’s arch-nemesis in recent weeks, holding them to two runs or less in each of his last three meetings with the team, all coming in his last four starts. In a weak period for pitching, Irvin was the only starter to be credited with two wins, while his WHIP was the second-best among two-start pitchers and he tied for the most innings pitched. Irvin will need to continue relying on his finesse approach, which has resulted in a 4.8% walk rate on the season and a 3.05 ERA (109.1 IP), if he wants to maintain the success he’s been having.
2. Yu Darvish – SP, San Diego Padres
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 14 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 20 K, 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week Seven
Darvish may be taking his game to the next level at just the right time, as the Padres are getting set to welcome Fernando Tatis Jr. back and reach full strength. The Japanese import has struck out at least nine batters in five of his last six starts, continuing that streak with a nine-K, one-run outing in Queens before fanning 11 Tigers in Detroit. Lasting at least seven frames in each of the starts, Darvish tied for the league lead in innings pitched while his 20 punchouts were three more than anyone else. At 35 years old, Darvish keeps chugging along and has been having tons of success even though it may be under the radar. He has traded strikeouts (career-low 24.6% K%) for fewer walks (career-low 4.9% walk rate), but if he can marry his newfound ability to limit the free pass with his recent strikeout success, his 3.24 ERA (122.1 IP) and 0.97 WHIP will only get better.
3. Zac Gallen – SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 12 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 0.75 ERA, 0.50 WHIP
Weekly Honors: N/A
One of my favorite pitchers to draft entering the 2020 season, Gallen has been unable to capitalize on the potential he displayed in the early stages of his career. Still just 26 years old, the right-hander is transforming into a different pitcher to recapture that form. Similar to Darvish, he has improved his control (career-low 6.8% BB%) by limiting his efforts to record punchouts (career-low 23.6% K%), and the change has worked out how he intended it to, leading to a full run improvement in ERA over last season (from 4.30 [121.1 IP] to 3.24 [105.2 IP]). In week 16, his favorable outcomes continued as he shut out the Nationals across seven innings and held the Giants to just one run. Those outings helped him produce the best WHIP and the second-best ERA among two-start pitchers.
4. Tarik Skubal – SP, Detroit Tigers
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 12 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 11 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week Five, Week Eight
June and the first half of July were not kind to the 25-year-old left-hander. In what was turning out to be a breakout season, Skubal pitched to a 2.15 ERA (58.2 IP) through June 1st, but between then and week 16, he wrestled with his control to the tune of a 6.86 ERA (42 IP). Despite continuing to hand out free passes, a matchup with the light-hitting A’s got him back on track, as he fanned nine and didn’t allow an earned run across six frames while inducing 17 whiffs. He maintained that streak of a pristine ERA by keeping the Padres bats at bay later in the week. By way of those two outings, Skubal led the Majors with his perfect ERA, shedding 44 points off his season-long mark in the process to bring it to where it currently resides (3.67 [112.2 IP]).
5. Pablo López – SP, Miami Marlins
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 12 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 17 K, 4.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week Three
An up and down season for López has led to a quietly fantastic 3.03 ERA (116 IP) and 1.04 WHIP in what has already become his most healthy season to date. His ERA for the week doesn’t stand out (or maybe it does, just in a bad way) and that was the result of a five-run blowup at the hands of the Rangers. However, just like he’s done all year, he bounced back with a spectacular 11-strikeout, one-run, seven-inning outing in Cincinnati where he produced 18 whiffs and a magnificent 41.5% CSW. It was basically that start alone that helped the right-hander rack up the second-most Ks in MLB, but it has been a constant theme for him as he boasts one of the best swinging strike rates (14.8%) in the big leagues.
6. Merrill Kelly – SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.38 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week Five, Week 13
The best one-start pitcher of the week, Kelly muffled the Giants’ bats in a near shutout that decreased his 2022 ERA to 3.04 (118.1 IP). In his third full season in the States, Kelly is performing better than he ever has, with a career-low ERA and career-low WHIP (1.15). It’s hard to imagine he keeps it up for much longer as he doesn’t stand out in the strikeout or walk departments and doesn’t limit hard contact or induce ground balls to a crazy degree, but as long as he continues to ride his favorite secondary pitch (his changeup) and changes speeds, he may be able to escape regression until 2023.
7. Max Scherzer – SP, New York Mets
Week 16 Stats: 0 W, 13 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 14 K, 1.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week Six
He’s back and better than ever. Scherzer missed nearly two months on the IL but has returned with a vengeance, fanning eight Padres at the beginning of the week and shutting out the mighty Yankees for seven innings at the end. Walking away with no victories to show for it is unlucky, but the future Hall of Famer did what you expect him to do every time he takes the mound. While his individual season is noteworthy, sporting the lowest ERA (2.09, 82 IP) of his career, Scherzer’s career accomplishments just keep growing. Not only is he the winner of three Cy Young Awards and a World Series, but he has also racked up well over 3000 strikeouts and is just four wins away from reaching the coveted 200 mark. At 37 years old, he still has a lot of life left in his arm, so enjoy him while you can, because he will go down as one of the best to ever do it.
8. Jon Gray – SP, Texas Rangers
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 12.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 13 K, 2.92 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week 11, Week 14
Leaving Coors is a Colorado pitcher’s dream. It took a while for Gray to capitalize on his environment change, but he has been making up for lost time over the past two months. Since June 12th, the right-hander owns a 2.25 ERA (56 IP), a 1.00 WHIP, and a 29.7% strikeout rate, placing himself among the best starters in baseball as he finally lives up to the billing of his status as the number three overall pick in the 2013 draft. His first start of the week in Miami was representative of what he’s been doing recently, as he shut them out across six frames, inducing 10 whiffs with his slider and sitting 96.6 mph on his four-seamer. His next start in Seattle wasn’t as impressive, as he surrendered four runs, but he made up for the plate touchers by whiffing eight batters. A start against the Orioles is next on his schedule as he looks to kick August off on a high note.
9. Corbin Burnes – SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 11 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 16 K, 4.09 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week Eight, Week 13
Burnes’ transformation from terrible starter to elite ace is a wonderful story, but we’re past the point of being amazed by it and we’re now at the point where his dominance is expected. Terrorizing the Rockies for five frames and striking out 11 Twins was par for the course for baseball’s number one ace. He secured the number four spot on the strikeout leaderboard and owns a top-five qualified strikeout rate for the season (32.4%). A 2.31 ERA and 0.92 WHIP are the heights of Burnes’ career as he is somehow topping last year’s NL Cy Young Award-winning campaign.
10. Braxton Garrett – SP, Miami Marlins
Week 16 Stats: 1 W, 11 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 15 K, 4.91 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Weekly Honors: Week 15 (HM)
If you thought Irvin earning the top spot just two weeks after being the honorable mention was cool, check out Garrett landing in the top ten the week after his mention! The 24-year-old left-hander is in the midst of his third cup of coffee, and this time it’s been much less bitter. He followed up his breakout start against the Pirates last week with another dominant outing against the Bucs, striking out seven across six frames with just three batters reaching base. His next start in Cincinnati wasn’t as fortunate, as he gave up five runs while punching out eight batters, but it didn’t stop him from landing inside the top 10. With a larger sample size, it’s now clear that Garrett’s slider is a special one, as its 24.6% swinging strike rate displays its impressive ability to induce whiffs. He will need to lean on it even more going forward as I don’t believe in his low-90s sinker holding a 34.8% CSW through the end of the season.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Freeland
Calling Coors home is unpleasant if you’re a pitcher, but the Colorado-native Freeland (14th ranked pitcher) has been calling it his home for his entire life. He didn’t have a chance to prove his comfortability pitching in Denver because he pitched in Milwaukee this week, fanning seven across seven scoreless innings, permitting just four hits and one walk to earn the victory. Freeland is not a coveted asset in fantasy leagues, but he has his nights, and this week he showed hints of his miraculous 2018 campaign during which he pitched to a 2.85 ERA (202.1 IP).
Reliever of the Week: Brent Suter
A funky deliver allows Suter (13th ranked pitcher) to limit hard contact (17.6% hard-hit/PA), and it also allowed him to earn his first “Reliever of the Week” honors. He did so with four punchouts across four scoreless frames, allowing just one hit while garnering the majority of his fantasy value with his pair of wins. His 4.12 ERA (39.1 IP), 1.22 WHIP, and 18% strikeout rate won’t catch the eyes of fantasy managers, but the Brewers have consistently put him in situations the past two years where he can vulture wins.
In a more traditional sense, Edwin Díaz (20th ranked pitcher) was the top closer of the week, racking up a duo of saves while striking out six across 3.1 scoreless frames. His 51.6% strikeout rate is the second-highest of all time (min. 40 IP), trailing only Aroldis Chapman’s 52.5% clip in 2014.
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