Risers & Fallers in Points vs. Category Leagues (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
It’s 2023, and points leagues are as popular as they’ve ever been in fantasy baseball. While it may seem easy to spot a points league superstar, it’s not always that simple. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that Aaron Judge is an excellent points league player; 62 home runs play well in every single format. There are quite a few others that may fly a bit under the radar, though.
In category leagues, you really want to focus on complete players. People that are going to help you in 3+ categories. Someone like Julio Rodriguez and his combination of power, speed, and average plays incredibly well. Things like strikeout and walk rates don’t play much into account. Neither do things like doubles or triples. In points leagues, these things are crucial.
In your standard points league, the key is total bases, runs, RBI, walks, and stolen bases. Things like high strikeout rates and consistently being caught stealing are a negative.
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Player Values: Points vs. Categories Leagues
Let’s key in on some guys who may not be as crucial in most league types but shine in the points league spotlight.
Steven Kwan (OF – CLE)
If you played in a points league last year, you know how amazing Kwan was. He finished the year as the 28th-best outfielder in yahoo scoring but was sixth on ESPN, 12th on CBS, and 17th on Fantrax. Little ol’ Steven hit his way into the hearts of points league managers everywhere.
He did it with his incredible eye at the plate. Kwan’s 9.4% K rate was the second-best in all of baseball. In a format where strikeouts take away points, getting a guy who’s pretty damn good at just not doing that is something to look for. In category leagues, Kwan really only contributes in average and runs scored. He stole 19 bases in 2022, so if you wanna argue he’s also a speed demon, I won’t fight you on it. Things like his seven triples don’t really have much fantasy impact. Sure, they put him in scoring position to add one more run to his total for the week, but in points league, that’s three crucial points.
I’m convinced Steven Kwan was built in a lab specializing in making points league players
9.4% K rate 🤤
.373 OBP 🔥
78th percentile sprint speed 🙌
Potential double digit home run power 💪
(2021: 12 HR in 77 games)
Average ADP – 108 (Buy Buy Buy)
— Blake Meyer (@Buhhlockaye) February 14, 2023
His statcast page won’t really wow you, but his end-of-the-year points league rankings will. As a seemingly middle-of-the-road category option, Kwan has shown he has tier-one outfielder potential in points leagues. Depending on the platform, of course.
Luis Arraez (1B, 2B, DH – MIA)
The new slugging second baseman for the NL East powerhouse Miami Marlins is, you guessed it, also much more valuable in points leagues. Ok, they may both be void of power, but at least one of them is still a reliable option when it comes to generating wins.
Arraez and his league-best 7.1% strikeout rate are something points league players dream of. This is going to be a recurring theme a bit, so just be patient with me. While his profile is very similar to Steven Kwan, he’s pretty limited in the speed department. He has eight career steals compared to the 19 Kwan put up last year. He has an excellent eye for the ball, though. Arraez was in the 100th percentile for whiff rate and 97th percentile in xBA.
In category leagues, Arraez is a valuable option when it comes to batting average. His .316 average was the fourth-best in baseball last year. He scored 88 runs last year, which gave him some help there as well. Outside of that, he didn’t offer much with single-digit home runs and steals. His 33 doubles, on the other hand, led to an excellent points league season for Arraez. He finished 2022 as the 10th-best points league second baseman on Fantrax. He was also 13th best on Yahoo, eighth best on CBS, and third best on yahoo. Not half bad for an honestly pretty boring ball player in the counting stats department.
Yandy Diaz (3B – TB)
This is a fun one. Yandy Diaz may be the most overlooked player in baseball. He keeps his head down, hits the hell out of the ball, and minds his business. Is he flashy in category leagues? The easy answer is no. In 2022 he had just nine home runs, 57 RBI, three stolen bases, and scored 71 runs. Lackluster would be a pretty good word for category leagues.
But not for points leagues.
In points leagues last year, Yandy Diaz was a machine. His .296 average and 33 doubles helped him finish anywhere from the seventh-best third baseman in ESPN leagues to the 21st-best on Yahoo. Not bad for a guy not much more than a bench option in category leagues. It wasn’t just the average and doubles that helped him, either. He was one of the rare players who struck out (10.9%) less than they walked (14%).
First pitch of the game and Yandy Díaz sends it over the monster! 💥
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 26, 2022
Diaz saw a power bump in the second half of last season worth noting as well. In 53 second-half games, he hit 15 doubles and six home runs. In turn, he also saw a boost in his average exit velo (93.3 MPH), barrel rate (7.2%), and hard-hit rate (53.3%). If he can build off that strong second half, Diaz seems primed to be a consensus top-10 points league third baseman.
Jeff McNeil (2B, OF – NYM)
If you’ve made it this far, this selection probably shouldn’t be a surprise. The 2022 MLB leader in batting average was also excellent at not striking out. Because of this, his points league value is exponentially higher than category leagues. In category leagues, McNeil was there to offer you an elite batting average. Outside of that, he didn’t offer much else in the standard 5×5. He ended the year with nine home runs, 62 RBI, four stolen bases, and 73 runs scored.
On the points league side, though, he excelled. The man was an absolute doubles machine in 2022. His 39 doubles more than made up for his single-digit home run numbers. His strikeout rate was also *chef’s kiss* perfection at just 10.7%. Whatever tweaks he made to his swing between 2021 and 2022 worked wonders for McNeil, and it seems it will carry onto next season.
Just like Diaz, McNeil also had a monstrous second half of the season. After a July in which McNeil only hit .208, he proceeded to string together the best couple of months of his season. In August, McNeil hit .385. He followed that up by hitting .357 in September/October. His strikeout rate cut all the way down to 7.1% in the second half as well.
Mcneil is a guy who enters 2023 poised to hit in a prime spot in a powerful Mets lineup. While he may not offer a ton when it comes to category leagues, he has excellent points league potential. He finished 2022 ranked sixth on CBS, fourth on ESPN, eighth on Fantrax, and twelfth on Yahoo. A far cry from the middle-of-the-road option in category leagues.
DJ LeMahieu (1B, 2B, 3B – NYY)
Here’s a name you may not hear many fantasy analysts talk about for 2023. DJ “I feel like this dude has been playing forever,” LeMahieu. While his fantasy value may not be that of the others on the list, he still belongs here. In category leagues, LeMaheiu is probably not even draft-worthy currently. He put together a 2022 season where he hit .260 with 18 doubles and 12 home runs in 119 games. What he did, though, was still turn that into a serviceable points league year.
LeMahieu finished 2022 with a career-best 12.4% walk rate. His strikeout rate (13.1%) was also his lowest in a full season since 2016 (not counting the short covid season). He made pretty good contact last season as well. His 5.3% barrel rate was the second highest of his career, and his 87th percentile xBA showed he has some room for improvement.
He hovered right around the 25th-best points league third baseman last year. He’s not going to offer you 20+ home runs ever again, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t outpace the 24 doubles he put up in 2021 should he stay healthy. Hitting in that strong Yankees lineup with a high walk rate, low strikeout rate, and solid doubles upside leaves LeMahieu a serviceable utility player in points leagues.
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