This Year’s Aaron Judge (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
Coming into last season, I did nearly six months of preparation. I dug into every player and watched a ton of games. I spent countless hours writing and discussing players with some of the smartest people in this industry. I developed my strategies and figured out who I wanted to target and who I was fading. Even when you put in the kind of work that I do, you are going to have mistakes. There was no bigger swing and miss than my decision to fade Aaron Judge.
Now, hear me out. I faded Judge for the right reasons. He had one healthy season out of the previous four. It was hard to believe we were going to get another full season of production. On top of that, New York City had enforced COVID-19 vaccine restrictions on employees that prevented athletes from competing in the city if they were unvaccinated. Judge was unvaccinated and would have been forced to miss 81 home games, any games in Toronto and any games against the Mets. This was a huge risk to take on someone going in the top 40 picks.
Well, we know what happened. Prior to Opening Day, New York City repealed their COVID-19 season and Judge played in the most games he has in a season in his entire career, going on to have an historic season and make me look about as dumb as can be. So, who will be the player that will make me look silly for fading them? Who will be this year’s Aaron Judge?
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This Year’s Aaron Judge
Yordan Alvarez (OF – HOU)
Alvarez is a stud hitter. He hit .306/.406/.613 with 37 home runs in 561 plate appearances in 2022. The red flags are mostly about health. I was already fading him prior to the hand issue popping back up because of his myriad of injury concerns over his career, including the hand and arthritic knees.
Alvarez also doesn’t run, so you know that he is just a four category stud and, while I love the production you get from those four categories, I typically want safety and five categories from my early hitters.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS,OF – SD)
This one is pretty simple. Tatis is suspended for the first few weeks of the season and coming off of shoulder surgery. When healthy, he is a stud and could easily be the top player in fantasy because of his ability to contribute monster numbers in all categories in what is arguably the best lineup in baseball.
That being said, the history of these types of shoulder surgeries are not great. Tatis has had other injuries that have kept him off of the field at times as well. There is just so much risk to draft him as high as he is going.
Jacob deGrom (SP – TEX)
There is no doubt, on a per-inning basis, that deGrom is not just the best pitcher in baseball, but he could easily be the top player in fantasy pretty easily. He is so dominant that he would only need about 150 innings to be in contention for being the best pitcher in fantasy.
Even prior to having the side issue which has delayed his first spring training start, I was worried about deGrom’s injury risk. He only threw 64.1 innings in 2022 and just 92 in 2021. There have been fears about his elbow since that 2021 season. It is just such a huge risk to take for a guy that is going so early in drafts.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B – MIA)
Chisholm is a guy that’s easy to love. Even before the amazing upside in home runs and stolen bases, he is just a fun player to watch because of his flash and competitiveness. That being said, while the upside is huge, he has struggled to stay on the field, only playing in 60 games last season, 124 games in 2021 and just 21 of the 60 games in 2020.
If Chisholm puts a full season together this year, he will be a monster. However, with his injury risk and the bad team around him, there is just too much risk to take on a guy going as early as he has been in drafts.
Gunnar Henderson (3B – BAL)
Henderson is widely considered a top-three prospect in baseball with power and speed. He had 132 plate appearances in the Majors that went fairly well last year. He also plays at a perceived weak position. However, I don’t think third base is as weak as others. I also have real concerns about Henderson’s ability to be a huge fantasy breakout considering his red flags.
Henderson didn’t steal very much once he got to the Major Leagues, going 1 for 2 on the base paths. He also struggled mightily against left handed pitching hitting (.130/.231/.217), and, while it is a small sample, it is something he struggled with at times in the minors. I think there is clearly a path for him to have monster season, but I also think that there are roadblocks that scare me from using a top-100 pick on him.
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