Fantasy Baseball Rankings Movers: Aaron Judge becomes the top outfielder; Teoscar Hernandez also makes leap (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Rankings Movers: Aaron Judge becomes the top outfielder; Teoscar Hernandez also makes leap (1)

Some of the big pitcher risers include Mitch Keller and Matt Waldron

By Scott White

10 min read

Fantasy Baseball Rankings Movers: Aaron Judge becomes the top outfielder; Teoscar Hernandez also makes leap (3)

In this space, Scott White will highlight some of the more notable changes to his rest-of-season rankings. You'll find said rankings here and are urged to bookmark them if you haven't already. There's no better resource for gauging player value throughout the long season.

A week ago, I anointed Juan Soto as my new No. 1 outfielder. Since then, Aaron Judge has homered four times. So now I have a new No. 1 outfielder, and as you've probably surmised, it's Judge.

In fairness to me a week ago, I did say it was close between the top four at the position (Kyle Tucker and Mookie Betts being the others), and well, Judge pulled ahead. But it's not just about his power binge nor is it really about the forearm issue that's had Soto in and out of the lineup in recent days. It's all of that in conjunction with 2024 shaping up to be the worst year for power in a decade, as I wrote recently.

If any hitter is immune to such environmental conditions, it's Judge, whose barrel rates (i.e., his percentage of balls batted at the optimal exit velocity and with the optimal launch angle) are always a massive outlier.

Case in point: The last year we thought was a bad year for power was 2022, and in that year, Judge hit 16 more home runs than anyone else. In fact, he hit more home runs than anyone without steroid ties ever has.

Outfield

  • Judge has opened up a five-homer advantage over every other player in the league, which doesn't put him on pace for the 16-homer advantage he had in 2022, but more than likely, Gunnar Henderson's pace will slow more than Judge's will. If 2024 continues to play out much like 2022 did, with Judge being immune to whatever is suppressing power league-wide, then he'll likely be far and away the best player in Fantasy again. As such, moving him to the top spot in the outfield seems like an easy call. Maybe his injury history will come back to bite him at some point, but it's two of his competitors for the top spot (Soto and Tucker) who are presently nursing injuries.
  • Following Judge up the rankings is Teoscar Hernandez, who climbs into the top 10 for Rotisserie leagues and the top 12 in Head-to-Head points leagues after his own little power binge. His year with the Dodgers has so far played out exactly as hoped, putting him on pace for a massive RBI total with so many Hall-of-Fame types batting ahead of him. The surprising part is all the higher-end outfielders who have failed to live up to expectations, but at this point, it's hard to argue that Adolis Garcia, Michael Harris, and Luis Robert have any more potential than Hernandez does.
  • Of course, the biggest riser of any outfielder this week is Heliot Ramos, who jumps about 30 spots, into the top 50. You could argue that's too low given my longstanding policy that anyone who's actually contributing something in the outfield is automatically top 30, but I'm playing it a little safe because of Ramos' strikeout rate. If you want to drop Wyatt Langford or Andy Pages for him, I wouldn't argue too fiercely against it, but I'm more comfortable saying you can drop Jo Adell or Colton Cowser for him, which the rankings now reflect.
  • Speaking of that longstanding policy, TJ Friedl has come back from a fractured thumb flashing the same power/speed combo that propelled him last year, so into the top 30 he goes, ahead of faders like Tyler O'Neill and Taylor Ward. We were skeptical of his power production last year, given his bottom-of-the-barrel exit velocity readings, and you'd think they'd play even worse with the ball not carrying as well this year. But he does have his speed to fall back on, and besides, I've reached such a point of frustration with hitters that anyone who's actually producing is going to get every benefit of the doubt from me.
  • At the lower end of the spectrum, Alec Burleson has climbed another 10 spots, placing him just outside the top 70. I'm hopeful he'll hit enough to stick in the lineup, but the profile is a bit hollow given the low walk rate and middling power (high average exit velocity but low max). I'm also guarding against the possibility of a platoon resurfacing given that he bats left-handed.

First base

  • Cody Bellinger has been decent enough given the struggles of so many other high-end hitters, but we were skeptical of the power he delivered in last year's somewhat favorable league context. That skepticism is elevated with this year's unfavorable league context, particularly since his exit velocity readings are much the same. Long story short, I've dropped him behind Christian Walker.
  • Ryan Mountcastle has been productive of late, so I've moved him ahead of disappointments like Paul Goldschmidt and Yandy Diaz. I'm tempted to keep going since it's not like Jake Cronenworth, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Rhys Hoskins are out-and-out studs, but they're all more disciplined than Mountcastle, whose productivity is tied almost completely to his power. It wouldn't be such a big deal if he didn't play his home games at one of the worst venues for right-handed power.

Second base

  • I still think it's more likely than not that Gleyber Torres comes around, but as I recently wrote elsewhere, the underlying indicators for him are all pretty bad. And frankly, there are enough decent second basem*n that I don't have to wait around and hope. So he's moved down a few spots, to 15th, which puts him behind pleasant surprises like Luis Rengifo, Jake Cronenworth, and Ryan McMahon. Torres still has more upside than those three, but it's not like he has top-five upside at the position.
  • Nick Gonzales continues to inch his way up the rankings, now checking in at 22nd. I'd be tempted to move him up faster if his strikeout-to-walk ratio wasn't so gnarly, but even as it is, his 3.13 points per game are fourth-most at the position, ranking behind only Mookie Betts, Marcus Semien, and Ketel Marte.

Third base

  • I had already moved Elly De La Cruz behind Gunnar Henderson in points leagues, but I've decided to do the same in categories leagues even with De La Cruz being an absolute monster for stolen bases. (Naturally, this move also applies to shortstop, where they're both eligible.) The determining factor was less about Henderson doubling up De La Cruz in homers (a gap that I suspect will shrink some moving forward) than Henderson opening up a huge advantage in runs and RBI while batting atop the Orioles lineup. As is always the case in categories leagues, the value of a player depends somewhat on your own surpluses and shortages, but for all the good De La Cruz can do in stolen bases, I think the sum of Henderson's contributions is more valuable.
  • Noelvi Marte is eligible to return from his PED suspension in only a couple weeks now just began a "rehab assignment" at Triple-A Louisville. He was one of the late-season call-ups that made the strongest impression last year and clearly has a spot open to him with Christian Encarnacion-Strand potentially done for the year. For now, Marte is up to 24th in my third base rankings, but it wouldn't surprise me if he climbed another dozen spots within a month.

Shortstop

  • Ezequiel Tovar has some of the worst plate discipline of any full-timer, and part of me (the one that looks at his Statcast page) is skeptical of everything he's doing. But as I've already pointed out, we're not in a position to be so dismissive of any hitter who's actually producing right now. Tovar has a top prospect pedigree and a home venue that can paper over some of his shortcomings. All things considered, it's hardly a stretch to move him into the top 20, ahead of disappointments like Carlos Correa and Thairo Estrada.
  • David Hamilton has become a fixture in the Red Sox lineup, at least against right-handed pitchers, so he makes his rankings debut this week, coming in just ahead of Willi Castro. It's a fitting placement because he's basically doing what we hoped Castro would do, making a worthwhile contribution in stolen bases without killing us in the other categories.

Catcher

  • With the news that he'll miss a month due to meniscus surgery (a removal, not a repair), J.T. Realmuto has fallen to seventh in my catcher rankings, behind Cal Raleigh and Ryan Jeffers. I'm skeptical that he'll return from this procedure with a renewed studliness even with the revelation that he's been playing through the injury for about a month. He is 33, after all, and already saw his numbers decline to a certain degree last year. Still, there are so few catchers that even approach the description of "studly."
  • Is David Fry studly? Well, he's off to a slow start in June. He's to the point where he's playing nearly every day, though, and his overall numbers still look amazing. I've lost enough faith in Jonah Heim and Sean Murphy that I don't see much reason to continue ranking them ahead of him, so Fry is up to 11th.

Starting pitcher

  • I've bumped Gerrit Cole up another spot, to 31st, now that he's two starts into his rehab assignment (with maybe just one to go). I figured that I needed to make a similar move with Max Scherzer now that he's back to starting in minor league games, so he's up from 44th to 38th, putting him between the surprising Carlos Rodon and the disappointing Justin Steele. Obviously, there's room for the 39-year-old to climb from there, but we've already seen him suffer a setback once, in April.
  • In the same vein, I've continued to move Clayton Kershaw up, from 85th last week to 75th this week. He's on the verge of his own rehab assignment, which puts him maybe no more than a month away, and there's little reason to doubt his effectiveness when he returns.
  • I never imagined a day would come when I was too low on Mitch Keller, but that's exactly what I discovered with this latest rankings audit. He's been excellent since the end of April, having picked up some velocity thanks to a mechanical adjustment that incorporates his lower body better, and is now verging on top-40 status after previously sitting in the mid-60s.
  • I've been underwhelmed with Bryan Woo's strikeouts so far, but the man simply doesn't give up baserunners, for reasons that aren't altogether fluky. He's up about 15 spots, putting him ahead of Yusei Kikuchi and Zach Eflin and into the top 60.
  • A sixth consecutive strong start was I guess the last push I needed to make a major move with Matt Waldron. He's still outside the top 60 but now on the fringes of the pitchers that I consider to be must-roster. Hopefully, that doesn't come off skeptical -- overall, I'm encouraged -- but knuckleballers are impossible to evaluate by conventional methods and prone to ugly collapses given the volatility of that one pitch.
  • A big faller from this past week is Bailey Ober, whose latest start continued an ugly stretch that has pushed his ERA over 5.00. It probably won't stay that high -- he's good at limiting baserunners, at least -- but given that but he's not a big strikeout pitcher and doesn't often work deep into games. I've moved him just behind Waldron, which means he's now on the fringes of the pitchers that I don't consider to be must-roster.
  • Some pitchers who I'm buying into enough to move into my top 100 for the first time (and top 90, it runs out) include Jake Irvin, Mitchell Parker, Kyle Gibson and Albert Suarez.

Relief pitcher

  • I've finally moved Josh Hader behind Emmanuel Clase. They're still my top two closers, with Hader remaining the better strikeout source, but Clase is lapping him in the saves department, which is ultimately what matters more. I'm always careful not to turn my relief pitcher rankings into a saves leaderboard, having learned from experience that the distribution of saves over the course of an entire season is frustratingly uneven, but something about the way the Guardians are constituted consistently puts Clase among the saves leaders. It seems even more likely with the team being so good this year.
  • Craig Kimbrel had his little blip in late April/early May but is back to dominating, having allowed four baserunners of any kind in his past 12 appearances. I'm comfortable moving him back ahead of Paul Sewald, Jhoan Duran and Kirby Yates given all the save chances the Orioles figure to provide him. Duran hasn't looked as sharp this year anyway, and Yates has fallen into a deep saves drought, for whatever reason, having recorded just one in the past month.

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Fantasy Baseball Rankings Movers: Aaron Judge becomes the top outfielder; Teoscar Hernandez also makes leap (2024)

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