We've reached the quarter-way point of the 2022 season, making now a perfect time to take stock of how the top of the player pool has changed. And how better to represent it than by redrafting the first two rounds?
When I say "redrafting," it's not with the intent of replaying the first quarter of the season. What's done is done, and we don't get to relive it. Our focus is the rest of the season, the final three-quarters. And while the first quarter might offer clues as to how the final three will go, things are sure to change.
It's why, to some, these updates won't be drastic enough. They'll wonder why Taylor Ward or Tommy Edman isn't featured prominently. But as good as those two have been so far, I don't believe they have it in them to sustain top-24 production all season long. It doesn't mean they have nothing to offer. It's just that it's a high bar to meet.
Meanwhile, some underachieving studs deserve the continued benefit of the doubt. Their data remains strong and their track records sparkling. I'll grant that it's harder to know what's real amid all the talk of humidors and deadened baseballs, so we can't play oblivious and trust everything to work itself out. Suffice it to say, though, that for all the underachievers depicted here, the quality of contact remains high even if the production doesn't.
One adjustment you'll notice right off the bat is the devaluing of pitchers as a whole. Turns out offense is what's in the shortest supply, what with the deadened balls and all.
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
|Turns out he's no worse for wear after a lost season, keeping him in the conversation for best hitter in baseball. It's where he's always been, and given the current state of hitting around the league, that kind of reliability counts for even more.
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Guardians 3B
|Quality third basemen have turned out to be as scarce as everyone feared, but the best of them has continued to do his thing even with all the drama surrounding the baseball.
Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves DH
|The playing time has been a little sporadic in his first few weeks back from ACL surgery, which might be the only thing keeping him out of the top spot. His willingness to steal bases with reckless abandon has been especially encouraging.
Juan Soto Washington Nationals RF
|With more walks than strikeouts, he should slot ahead of Acuna in points leagues. His batting average is what's most lacking so far, and that's probably the most trustworthy part of his skill set (apart from the walks).
Vladimir Guerrero Toronto Blue Jays 1B
|His launch angle has slipped a little, but he's still clobbering the ball while making contact at his usual high rate. Keep the faith in last year's No. 1 overall player.
Manny Machado San Diego Padres 3B
|The gap between the haves and have-nots is so wide at third base that you should target the haves as early as you can justify it. Machado deserved better than he got last year, according to Statcast, and has a history of first-round production.
Rafael Devers Boston Red Sox 3B
|Machado's stolen bases break the tie, but the same third base logic applies for Devers, who's the more bankable hitter of the two.
Trea Turner Los Angeles Dodgers SS
|Part of me thinks I've downgraded him too much, but his slow start in the home run column has me wondering if he's the sort of player whose power is nerfed by the deadened ball. He should continue to do everything else well, though.
Mookie Betts Los Angeles Dodgers RF
|Though he may not be as prolific of a base-stealer anymore, his power is playing just fine. Plus, he's been scoring more than a run per game as the leadoff hitter for the game's top offense.
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
|His ability to impact the ball like none other counts for more now that home runs aren't so prevalent anymore, and he's opening up a commanding lead in the category. Still, the injury history has to give you pause.
Yordan Alvarez Houston Astros DH
|The batted-ball metrics say he's like a left-handed version of Judge, perhaps with an even higher capacity for batting average. Judge gets the edge because of his track record, though.
Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels DH
|He's lower here than during the preseason, but for no reason other than the inherent risks of his two-way play. He's striking out less as a hitter and is throwing so well that you might actually consider using him as a pitcher instead.
Bryce Harper Philadelphia Phillies DH
|You could make the case for him to be as high as eighth based on performance, but he's playing with UCL damage in his elbow that's already confining him to DH in the short term. It hasn't impacted his production so far, but the road ahead could be turbulent.
Kyle Tucker Houston Astros RF
|It's the second straight year that the underlying numbers tell a very different story from the slow start, and we see how he righted the ship last time. You have to like how he's doubled down on the base-stealing.
Luis Robert Chicago White Sox CF
|His continued improvement in the strikeout column should have made him a veritable star by now. The numbers are pretty good as it is, but he'll need to elevate better to get the most out of his power potential.
Corbin Burnes Milwaukee Brewers SP
|The top two pitchers are still borderline first-rounders in points leagues, where there are fewer hitter spots to fill and the demand for steals is lower. Burnes is again looking like the best one pitch for pitch, but innings could still become a factor later.
Gerrit Cole New York Yankees SP
|Again, you can bump him to the end of the first round in points leagues, maybe as high as eighth or ninth. If you get the sense he's disappointed this year, it goes to show you how big of a standout he used to be, because the numbers are still stellar.
Freddie Freeman Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
|The deadened ball seems to have had the effect of turning his home runs into doubles, but at least they're still hits, keeping the batting average and runs high. His quality-of-contact numbers are still superlative, so you can trust that more of those batted balls will fly out as the weather heats up.
Bo Bichette Toronto Blue Jays SS
|In terms of exit velocity, launch angle and so on, he's impacting the ball almost exactly like he did a year ago, which might be good news except for the fact the ball has changed. Still, if his April had gone like his May has gone, no one would be sweating his stat line right now.
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
|You could find things to nitpick in the underlying numbers, but given the track record, it seems kind of frivolous. The innings will be there. The wins will be there. Even among high-end pitchers, he seems particularly bankable.
Kevin Gausman Toronto Blue Jays SP
|Remember those concerns about him moving to the AL East? With home runs harder to come by, he's no longer as vulnerable to them, which, combined with his whifftastic splitter, has moved him firmly into the elite tier at starting pitcher.
Tim Anderson Chicago White Sox SS
|He not only has his usual high BABIP this year but has also cut his strikeout rate in half, making for the rare .360 batting average that actually works on a logical level. Between that and the career-high steals pace, he might be a legitimate stud.
Carlos Rodon San Francisco Giants SP
|Pitch-for-pitch, he's about on Burnes' level, and if not for one disastrous start at St.Louis, he'd have a 1.98 ERA right now. Of course, he has yet to perform like an ace over a full season, his breakdown in the second half last year is well documented.
Pete Alonso New York Mets 1B
|Any number of players could have gone here instead -- with Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Altuve and Zack Wheeler probably coming the closest -- but I'm giving Alonso the nod because he's the likeliest of them to provide what's in the highest demand right now: home runs.