As we reflect on the 2023 baseball season, the standout moments and developments are impossible to ignore. This season saw a multitude of rule changes aimed at revitalizing offense within the game, and they largely achieved their goal.
Batting averages, slugging percentages, run-scoring, and especially stolen bases all reversed their recent downward trends. The result? A fantasy baseball season that was a thrill for everyone, except perhaps the pitchers. But amid this offensive resurgence, one player's performance stood out as truly historic – Ronald Acuña Jr.
His incredible season included an unprecedented combination of 40 home runs and 70 stolen bases, along with a remarkable .336 batting average, 143 runs scored, and 101 RBIs. In the fantasy baseball world, Acuña's performance translated into a staggering $60 in earnings, according to Baseball HQ.
No player in the history of fantasy baseball has delivered a more valuable season, surpassing even the likes of Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Pedro Martinez, and Alex Rodriguez. Even if you were to combine the offensive and pitching statistics of Shohei Ohtani, a remarkable player in his own right with a value of $53 ($35 as a hitter and $18 as a pitcher), it still wouldn't match what Acuña achieved in 2023.
While there is no doubt that Ronald Acuña Jr. was the standout player of the 2023 fantasy baseball season, it's important to recognize other remarkable performances as well.
Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs Cody Bellinger, after enduring three challenging years offensively, made a stunning comeback with the Cubs.
He matched his MVP-winning season's .305 average, approached 100 runs and RBIs, and even stole a career-high 20 bases. Bellinger's 26 home runs may seem modest for an MVP, but his remarkable adjustments as a hitter, including a career-low 15.8% strikeout rate, were truly impressive.
With an average draft position (ADP) of 182 overall, Bellinger became a valuable asset for those who believed in his resurgence.
Fantasy Pitcher of the Year:
Blake Snell, San Diego Padres Despite facing criticism for his high walk rate, injury history, and inability to pitch deep into games, Blake Snell excelled as a fantasy pitcher in 2023.
With 234 strikeouts in 180 innings, a .181/.293/.286 opponents’ slash line, and a league-best 2.25 ERA, Snell's numbers spoke for themselves. He outperformed his ADP and ranked as the second-most valuable pitcher in fantasy behind only Gerrit Cole.
Waiver Pickup of the Year:
Josh Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays Josh Lowe, initially overlooked in drafts with an ADP of 547, became a fantasy gem. He made an immediate impact with a stellar April performance, hitting .375 with five homers, five steals, 17 runs, and 18 RBIs.
Breakout Performer of the Year:
CJ Abrams, Washington Nationals CJ Abrams, after a challenging MLB debut in the previous year, blossomed with the Nationals. He slugged 18 homers and stole 43 bases, marking a significant improvement over his previous performance.
Biggest In-Season Turnaround:
Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves Michael Harris II overcame a slow start to the season and finished strong with impressive stats, including 15 homers, 15 steals, and 60 runs scored over 91 games.
Least Valuable Player:
Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays Alek Manoah, despite high expectations, struggled immensely in 2023, pitching only 87 1/3 innings with a 5.87 ERA and 1.74 WHIP, making him one of the least valuable players in fantasy baseball.
In addition to these individual performances, memorable moments from the season include Adolis Garcia's incredible five-hit, three-home run, and 8-RBI game in April, as well as Domingo German's perfect game against Oakland on June 28.
Looking ahead to 2024, fantasy baseball enthusiasts can anticipate an exceptionally deep pool of elite talent, potentially making late first-round picks the most coveted. The top 15 picks for next season are likely to feature a wealth of outfielders and infielders, with the possibility of Gerrit Cole and Spencer Strider being excellent value picks in the second round.
In conclusion, the 2023 fantasy baseball season was one for the record books, highlighted by Ronald Acuña Jr.' s historic performance and a host of other standout players and moments that made it a memorable year for fantasy baseball enthusiasts.