Top Fantasy Baseball Performers – Week 9
The offensive explosion has begun. The newest edition of the top performers features star players breaking free from the chains of cold starts and aces continuing unprecedented streaks of dominance. We are quickly approaching the dog days of summer, and with it, the fantasy landscape begins to solidify. Here are the top 10 fantasy hitters and pitchers from the ninth week of the 2022 MLB season, including honorable mentions and specialist categories.
Rankings are based on Fantasy Pros player rater rankings from the ninth week of the season (6/2 – 6/8). 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. Marcus Semien – 2B/SS, Texas Rangers
Week 9 Stats: 30 PA, .414 AVG, 9 R, 5 HR, 5 RBI, 4 SB, 1.364 OPS
Many players struggle in new environments, especially after signing mega-deals, and that has been the case for Semien in Texas in the first season of his seven-year, $175 million deal, as he was sporting a sub-.200 batting average with just one home run entering the month of June. He has been slowly turning things around but broke out in a massive way in week nine, leading all players in home runs and steals, doing the majority of his damage in a doubleheader during which he crushed three bombs and swiped two bags while going 7/8 at the plate. In the week since the calendar changed, Semien has driven his batting average up by 23 points to .222 and the hot week makes his season, from a fantasy perspective, look much more palatable as he owns six homers and 10 steals and seems to be turning things around in full.
2. Brandon Drury – OF/2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds
Week 9 Stats: 24 PA, .435 AVG, 11 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB, 1.284 OPS
I was under the impression that Drury had been slowing down from the hot start that earned him a week five top performers selection, but just as I was writing him off, he took it upon himself to go and stake a claim to another recognition with a trio of homers and a .400+ average. In his last appearance in this article, he led the Majors in runs with nine, but he topped that number and led the Majors once again this past week. For the season, his .266/.326/.514 slash comes out to a career-high 128 wRC+ that I had previously attributed to more patience at the plate, and while that patience is still present, albeit, at a reduced capacity, the driving factor for his success is an increased flyball rate and the ability to hit the ball harder (most likely a result of a change in pitch selection) resulting in more barrels. He’s already just five home runs shy of his career-high of 16 which was set all the way back in 2016.
3. Jake Cronenworth – 2B/1B/SS, San Diego Padres
Week 9 Stats: 32 PA, .333 AVG, 7 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 0 SB, 1.178 OPS
A decidedly slow start to the season kept Cronenworth on the fringes of many fantasy teams across the first two months, as the infielder recorded a wRC+ that was 20% below league average across the first two months. A three-dinger week broke him out of that slump and he led the Majors in RBI while boosting that wRC+ by 18 points, making him Cronenworth a roster spot. His major calling card during his first two Major League seasons was his ability to provide a plus hit tool while striking out less than 15% of the time, and while that rate is above 21% so far this season, he can definitely get it back in line as his contact metrics are similar to recent seasons and the only significant reduction can be found in his zone swing rate, which suggests passivity that can be easily tweaked.
4. Ronald Acuña Jr. – OF, Atlanta Braves
Week 9 Stats: 29 PA, .423 AVG, 8 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, 1.256 OPS
One of the best players of the next generation, Acuña has been slowly working his way back from an ACL injury that kept him out for the second half of 2021 and the first month of 2022. An honorable mention was awarded to him upon his return in week five, but since then, he’s only been making an impact on the basepaths, that is, until week nine. He more than doubled his home run total in a two-game span during which he hit all of his long balls for the week. If his bat starts to turn a corner in June as many expect it to, he is going to be a top-five fantasy player the rest of the season regardless of format, as long as he avoids the injured list.
5. Yordan Alvarez – OF, Houston Astros
Week 9 Stats: 27 PA, .500 AVG, 8 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, 1.638 OPS
In his first week with the security of the six-year, $115 million dollar extension he signed to stay in Houston, Alvarez was right at home at the plate. Recording a hit in half of his at-bats, his .500 average led all players with at least 25 plate appearances while his 1.638 OPS paced baseball by more than 100 points (min. 10 PA). The 6’5” designated hitter has recorded multiple hits in eight out of his last 12 games to bring his average to the precipice of .300. This is Alvarez’s third weekly honor (week four, week six), and as I’ve mentioned in the past, his success is the result of his ability to hit the ball harder than any other left-handed hitter while striking out more than nine percent less often than his career rate, a combination that has resulted in the second-highest qualified wRC+ (195) and home run total (17) in MLB, trailing only Aaron Judge’s 199 mark and 22 homers.
6. Bryce Harper – OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Week 9 Stats: 22 PA, .333 AVG, 6 R, 4 HR 12 RBI, 0 SB, 1.465 OPS
To be honest, I’m not sure how well I’d do against Major League pitching, but I definitely know I wouldn’t even touch a ball if I didn’t have both of my elbows working. Harper, on the other hand, seems perfectly content with playing with a partially torn UCL and continues to rake as he backs up his 2021 NL MVP performance. His four bombs tied him for second in the Majors across the past week and brought him up to 14 for the season, a top-10 total, but he’s still walking at an astonishingly low rate. His 8.2% walk rate is a career-low and is less than half the rate he walked at in the previous seven seasons (17%), but it can be explained by an elbow that is likely forcing him to be more aggressive at the plate as it probably hurts to stand at the plate holding a heavy bat for extended periods of time.
7. Joey Votto – 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Week 9 Stats: 30 PA, .320 AVG, 8 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB, 1.233 OPS
Joey Votto still bangs. After a terrible start to the season and a trip on the COVID-19 IL, Votto has performed a complete 180 on his 2022 line. Prior to the bout with COVID, the Canadian lefty was slashing a hard-to-look-at .166/.278/.135 while striking out more than 32% of the time, but since his return, he’s recorded a hit in all but three of his 18 games while reaching base in all but one and slashing .295/.411/.795 with all five of his season’s homers and a 17.8% strikeout rate. Probably the easiest player to count on to make the adjustments that must be made, the veteran first baseman is putting on a show to finish out his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
8. Aaron Judge – OF, New York Yankees
Week 9 Stats: 33 PA, .357 AVG, 7 R, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, 1.240 OPS
The man can’t be stopped. MLB’s home run leader continues to absolutely crush the baseball, leading the Majors in long balls by a tally of five while pacing the league in a litany of other categories. In his third week of top performer recognition (week four, week six), the hulking outfielder is already making a case to be included in a third straight monthly edition of this article (April, May) thanks to his prodigious power. His 26.4% barrel rate according to Baseball Savant would be the highest in a single season since Statcast began tracking data in 2015, making him the premier ball-crusher in the modern era.
9. Bryson Stott – SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Week 9 Stats: 21 PA, .368 AVG, 8 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, 1.323 OPS
In his first taste of the Majors, Stott wasn’t making the first impression he or the Phillies had hoped, but after a brief demotion to AAA, he is back on the 26-man roster in place of the injured Jean Segura and is proving he deserves a middle infield spot in Philly for years to come. The three home runs were the first three of his career with one of them being of the walk-off variety, and he capped his hot week off with a 4/4 performance in Milwaukee. While his 56 wRC+ for the season isn’t very inspiring and his 84.7 mph average exit velocity suggests he doesn’t hit the ball that hard, this was a top-50 prospect entering the season who had batted nearly .300 with 16 homers across three levels in 2021, so he may have just needed some time to get accustomed to the level before taking off.
10. Jurickson Profar – 1B/OF/2B, San Diego Padres
Week 9 Stats: 33 PA, .379 AVG, 9 R, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 1.006 OPS
An up-and-down April (.186 AVG but 5 HR) and a mediocre May (.262 AVG, 1 HR) made it difficult to analyze Profar’s season entering June. The switch-hitting former number one overall prospect seems to be hitting his stride once again, collecting four multi-hit performances across the past week while batting leadoff every day in San Diego. An inconsistent hitter who has always had loads of potential but has only really tapped into it for limited periods, Profar could be an impact fantasy contributor through the rest of the season if he can maintain his spot in the batting order while providing power, speed, and a seasoned approach at the plate. His current 123 wRC+ would be a career-high.
Honorable Mention: Santiago Espinal
There were lots of players deserving of honorable mentions this past week. Lane Thomas had a three-homer game and four straight multi-hit games; Eduardo Escobar hit for the cycle; and Jack Suwinski batted .500, crushed two bombs, and stole a base; but Espinal (11th-ranked hitter) gets the call after he led the Majors with 13 hits in the first week of June. Five of them went for extra bases (two HR), giving him a 1.243 OPS alongside his league-leading average (.448) among the 26 players that accrued at least 30 plate appearances. He’s an interesting pickup in all formats, especially points leagues where his sub-17% K rate plays up.
Catcher of the Week: Alejandro Kirk
This makes back-to-back “Catcher of the Week” honors (week eight) for the affable and rotund Kirk (23rd-ranked hitter), earning this week’s award by leading the Majors with a .526 average (min. 20 PA) and sending out a couple of homers. With Danny Jansen out of the picture with an injury, Kirk will have all the playing time he desires, and the Blue Jays will be more than happy to provide it as he’s batting .322 for the season while walking (12.2%) more than he’s striking out (9.3%) and sporting a wRC+ more than 50% above league average.
1. Sandy Alcantara – SP, Miami Marlins
Week 9 Stats: 1 W, 16 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.69 WHIP
Surging across an all-time great string of starts, Alcantara is making my preseason NL Cy Young Award prediction look prescient. He currently leads the Majors in innings pitched (84.2) thanks to a string of six straight starts in which he’s completed at least seven frames, making him the first player to throw at least 48 frames across a six-outing span since Max Scherzer did the same in 2017. He earned his pitcher-leading fourth weekly honor and third in a row (week three, week seven, week eight) thanks to two incredible starts; one against the Giants where he struck out eight across seven scoreless innings, and the second a complete-game shutout against the Nationals that saw just six hitters reach base while swinging and missing 17 times. He tallied by far the most scoreless innings across the past week and has looked unstoppable on the mound.
2. Graham Ashcraft – SP, Cincinnati Reds
Week 9 Stats: 2 W, 13 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 0.69 ERA, 0.62 WHIP
Tossing 97+ mph cutters and sinkers paired with a whiffable slider, Ashcraft is letting the league know that he is not someone to take lightly on the mound. He was able to shut down both the Nationals and Diamondbacks across week nine, and despite players with high velocity usually struggling with command, walked just one batter in his two starts. He has Ashcraft-ed a plan of attack that is working well against hitters and forcing them to hit the ball into the ground at a 61% rate. A 1.14 ERA for the season is unsustainable, especially in Great American Ballpark, but he has all of the makings of a pitcher that could turn heads throughout the summer.
3. Tony Gonsolin – SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Week 9 Stats: 2 W, 12 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 0.75 ERA, 0.58 WHIP
This is Gonsolin’s introduction to the weekly articles after he earned a top performers selection for the month of May. He continues to flummox hitters, recording the lowest WHIP among pitchers with at least two starts, keeping both the Mets and White Sox in check during two six-inning outings. His calling card has been his ability to limit hard contact, as his 17.6% hard contact per plate appearance rate according to Pitcher List is the fifth-lowest in the Majors and has helped him to become one of just two starters with a perfect 7-0 record, alongside his teammate Tyler Anderson.
4. Nathan Eovaldi – SP, Boston Red Sox
Week 9 Stats: 2 W, 11 IP, 10 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
A hard thrower with a selection of four secondaries that keep hitters guessing, Eovaldi earned his first weekly honors by following Sandy Alcantara as the only two-start pitcher to keep the scoreboard clean. Despite the lower innings total, he was a whiff machine, earning 16 swinging strikes against Oakland before dominating in Anaheim with 14 more. One of the more interesting traits about Eovaldi is that, despite having top-tier velocity throughout his career, he’s only recently become a strikeout pitcher, but it was a long road to get there as he’s increased his strikeout rate in every full season since his first year of at least 30 starts in 2014, and has continued the trend in 2022, sporting a full-season career-high of 25.8%.
5. Diego Castillo – RP, Seattle Mariners
Week 9 Stats: 2 W, 2 SV, 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP
“The Decision Maker” should be Castillo’s new nickname after he led the Majors with four decisions in the past week. He may not be the full-time closer in Seattle with Paul Sewald around, but if his teammate is used more often as a high-leverage reliever, Castillo could be left with plenty of ninth-inning opportunities, making him a great pickup in all formats. His 5.57 ERA will scare many managers away, but it must be noted that he’s been chipping away at it for quite some time with eight straight scoreless innings since his first on May 23rd while striking out 53.8% of batters faced. Since moving to the Fantasy Pros player rater in week four, he is the first reliever to earn himself a spot in one of these articles without the help of a “Reliever of the Week” selection.
6. Shane Bieber – SP, Cleveland Guardians
Week 9 Stats: 1 W, 11.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 17 K, 1.59 ERA, 0.71 WHIP
Baby, baby, ba- no, I won’t make the joke (even though I already have). Bieber has been able to survive this season despite diminished velocity (four-seamer down two full mph from 2021 and 3.4 mph from 2020), pitching to a 2.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and a 26% strikeout rate. In week nine, he continued to drive that strikeout rate north by leading the Majors with 17 strikeouts in his starts against the Orioles and Rangers. The outing in Baltimore was the most impressive as he struck out 11 batters across seven frames while inducing 23 whiffs with a spectacular 40.8% CSW. While he’s been able to survive thus far in the season thanks to his slider inducing the 12th-highest swinging-strike rate in the Majors according to Pitcher List, it may be hard for him to continue at this rate without his usual fastball velocity.
7. Alek Manoah – SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Week 9 Stats: 2 W, 13.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 9 K, 1.98 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
During a week that saw four other starters record two wins, Manoah stood out by limiting damage in his outings against the White Sox and Royals. A more than 5% drop in strikeout rate has sapped Manoah’s level of dominance, but he has been able to get by nonetheless. He has had great run support, as he sits with a 7-1 record while sporting a 1.81 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. He earned his first weekly honor in week four and will continue to be one of the game’s top pitchers thanks to his imposing frame and nasty slider even if the strikeouts don’t tick back up this season.
8. Josiah Gray – SP, Washington Nationals
Week 9 Stats: 1 W, 11 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 15 K, 0.82 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
One of the headliners, along with Keibert Ruiz, from the Trea Turner trade a year ago, Gray has not fully lived up to his potential because he fails to limit the free pass and serves up too many long balls. This past week, he was able to avoid those downfalls while showing what made him such a promising pitching prospect during his time in the minors, striking out the second-most batters in the Majors while limiting the Reds and holding the Marlins scoreless. With 15 whiffs across each of those outings, Gray had a feel for all of his pitches, but his slider did the most damage, racking up 18 swings and misses by itself, and helping him lower his ERA to 4.33.
9. Sean Manaea – SP, San Diego Padres
Week 9 Stats: 1 W, 13 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 11 K, 1.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Manaea has been an underrated ace across the past two seasons, and so far, this might be the best year of his career as he owns a full-season career-low 3.52 ERA as well as a 25.6% strikeout rate that nearly matches his career-high full-season mark from last year. He went to Milwaukee at the beginning of the week and struck out eight across six frames with 16 whiffs prior to attacking the Mets for seven innings of one-run ball. It’s basically a two-pitch mix with a sinker and a change, but the lefty throws a smattering of curves and sliders to keep batters off-balance, and as long as he keeps that fastball velocity north of 91 mph, he should continue to perform exceptionally. This was his first weekly nomination since way back in week one.
10. Corey Kluber – SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Week 9 Stats: 2 W, 11 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 3.27 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
With no singular starts being worthy of a spot in the top-10, Kluber’s two-win week was enough to secure him the final spot, his second weekly selection of the season (week four). It was a change of pace for the former two-time Cy Young Award winner as he had recorded just one win on the season entering this week, tripling that total with two strong performances against the Rangers and Cardinals. He isn’t what he was at his peak, not even close, but after years of ineffectiveness and injuries, the Rays have figured out a way to get the veteran righty back on track in more ways than one, helping him to a 3.88 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 3.9% walk rate that’s top-15 in the Majors according to Pitcher List.
Honorable Mention: Michael Wacha
Putting together an unnoticed sub-2.00 ERA across 2+ months is a difficult task, but Wacha (13th-ranked pitcher) has been able to do that because it seems so unreal next to his 17.4% strikeout rate and terrible 23.7% CSW for the season. Nonetheless, he made this list because of his complete-game shutout in Anaheim where he allowed just four baserunners and struck out six, the highlight of his magnificent season thus far.
Reliever of the Week: Emmanuel Clase
Clase (16th-ranked pitcher) was somewhat lucky to earn “Reliever of the Week” honors because he would have missed the cut if Diego Castillo hadn’t claimed a top-10 spot. Three saves and six strikeouts across four innings with just a single baserunner and a spotless ERA was enough to land Clase his first weekly selection, and he now owns a 1.93 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP, a career-high 29.7% strikeout rate, and 10 saves on the season.
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