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When people talk about awards this time of year, they usually mean MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, etc. Rest assured, I have my thoughts about how those should go:

AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP, LAA
NL MVP: Ronald Acuña, OF, ATL
AL CY: Gerrit Cole, SP, NYY
NL CY: Blake Snell, SP, SD
AL ROY: Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS, BAL
NL ROY: Corbin Carroll, OF, ARI

But that's not really my focus here. What I'm looking to do is highlight the players who made this Fantasy Baseball season what it was -- the good and the bad, the offbeat and the just plain weird.

Won't you join me?

Most valuable hitter
ATL Atlanta • #13 • Age: 26
AVG
.337
HR
41
R
149
RBI
106
SB
73
OPS
1.012
Normally, the emphasis here is on "value" which is pretty easy to quantify in Fantasy, but Acuna just delivered arguably the best Fantasy season ever, stealing 27 more bases than any other 40-homer guy in history, hitting 13 more homers than any other 70-steal guy in history, and scoring the second-most runs (149) for any player since 1949, all while sustaining a batting average (.337) that would have led the majors three of the past five years.
Most valuable pitcher
ATL Atlanta • #99 • Age: 25
W
20
ERA
3.86
WHIP
1.09
INN
186.2
BB
58
K
281
Like Acuna, Strider commanded a hefty investment on Draft Day, which undermines the "value" angle, but he had three more wins and an astonishing 44 more strikeouts than any other pitcher, which is hard to get past in an overall blah year for pitching.
Bobby Big Bat award
MIA Miami • #36 • Age: 28
AVG
.250
HR
34
R
71
RBI
80
SB
1
OPS
.821
One of 29 players to hit 30-plus homers this year, Burger was perhaps the most unexpected, looking like just a spare part for the White Sox at the start of the year. He impacts the ball like an elite slugger and has established himself as an integral part of the Marlins lineup.
Freddie Fleet Foot award
OAK Oakland • #1 • Age: 25
AVG
.254
HR
5
R
47
RBI
47
SB
67
AB
449
Everyone knows Ronald Acuna was the stolen base king this year, but the gap between him and No. 2 was only six while the gap between No. 2 and No. 3 was 13. Ruiz was that No. 2, and while he provided little else offensively, his contributions in that category were enough to carry you in it.
Ace-up-the-sleeve award
MIL Milwaukee • #51 • Age: 27
W
12
ERA
3.86
WHIP
1.12
INN
165.2
BB
54
K
210
Peralta showed his ace potential in 2021, but after an injury-plagued 2022 and a 4.72 ERA through 19 starts this year, nobody viewed him in that light anymore. He was a league-winner in his final 11 starts, though, delivering a 2.44 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 13.2 K/9 rate, along with a 17 percent swinging-strike rate that would stack up against anyone.
Biggest breakthrough
BAL Baltimore • #38 • Age: 27
W
12
ERA
2.83
WHIP
1.04
INN
168.2
BB
44
K
168
Bradish was bad-ish, if not outright bad, with a 4.90 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 2022, but score one for the nerds, who said the underlying metrics hinted at ace potential that indeed came to fruition this year. Notably, he had a 2.14 ERA in his final 16 starts.
Biggest breakthrough, midseason edition
WAS Washington • #5 • Age: 23
AVG
.245
HR
18
R
83
RBI
64
SB
47
OPS
.712
With apologies to Triston Casas and Spencer Torkelson, whose second-half improvements were more all-encompassing, Abrams went from being impossible to start to impossible to sit simply by choosing to run more -- like, way more. He had nine stolen bases in the first three months compared to 38 in the final three.
Fakeout of the year, hitter edition
ATL Atlanta • #12 • Age: 29
AVG
.251
HR
21
R
65
RBI
68
OPS
.844
AB
370
The only concern for Murphy in the first half, when he slashed .306/.400/.599, was that he ceded more at-bats to his No. 2, Travis d'Arnaud, than most catchers of his caliber would. But the workload distribution became a non-issue when he slashed .159/.310/.275 in the second half.
Fakeout of the year, pitcher edition
CIN Cincinnati • #41 • Age: 24
W
8
ERA
3.87
WHIP
1.32
INN
109.1
BB
44
K
120
Despite lacking a traditional power profile, Abbott put up ridiculous strikeout numbers in the minors, and when he kicked off his big-league career with a 1.90 ERA in 10 starts, many in this pitching-starved environment were eager to buy in. There were warning signs even then, though, and they eventually gave way to a 6.42 ERA over his final 11 starts.
Biggest overachiever
SF San Francisco • #7 • Age: 31
W
14
ERA
2.25
WHIP
1.19
INN
180
BB
99
K
234
I've already said my choice for NL Cy Young is Snell because his ERA is what it is, but what Statcast says it should be is 3.74, which makes for a bigger gap between actual and expected ERA than any other qualifying pitcher. It might have something to do with his 5.0 BB/9, which I'm not sure we'll ever see again from a Cy Young winner.
Biggest underachiever
TOR Toronto • #27 • Age: 25
AVG
.264
HR
26
R
78
RBI
94
SB
5
AB
602
Guerrero's .374 xwOBA was almost halfway between the same mark from 2021, when he was the best player in Fantasy, and 2022, when he was still good but a disappointment of sorts. The actual production, though, was the worst of the three seasons, his .264 batting average and .444 slugging percentage falling well short of his expected .291 and .494 marks, according to Statcast.
Sizzle-reel award
CIN Cincinnati • #44 • Age: 22
AVG
.235
HR
13
R
67
RBI
44
SB
35
AB
388
For a second straight year, a freakishly tall shortstop whose name ends in Cruz dazzled with his feats of athleticism following a midseason call-up, hitting a ball harder than all but two players, throwing a ball harder than any infielder in Statcast history and trailing only Bobby Witt in sprint speed. As with Oneil Cruz last year, though, De La Cruz's strikeout rate prevents him from being a surefire stud next year.
The one Fantasy Footballers won't see coming
COL Colorado • #22 • Age: 25
AVG
.297
HR
20
R
60
RBI
62
SB
20
AB
367
It's not that those who ducked out early haven't heard of Jones, who was doing some pretty interesting things for the Rockies as far back as May, but he might have been the Fantasy MVP in September, batting .349 (37 for 106) with seven homers and 12 steals. He finished with exactly 20 homers and 20 steals despite playing just 106 games.
The one no one saw coming
HOU Houston • #20 • Age: 28
AVG
.273
HR
22
SB
19
OPS
.842
AB
403
K
117
Nothing about McCormick's first two seasons suggested he could become anything more than a fourth-outfielder type, particularly at age 28, but there he was midseason piling up multi-hit games with enough power and speed to earn his place in all scoring formats. He ended up hitting .290 (92 for 317) with 18 homers, 15 steals and an .877 OPS over the final four months.
The one who I wouldn't shut up about
KC Kansas City • #55 • Age: 26
W
7
ERA
3.47
WHIP
1.16
INN
96
BB
41
K
113
Yeah, sorry, I don't know why I was so mesmerized by a left-hander who returned from his latest minor-league stint striking out everyone in sight with a new wipeout slider and a fastball that peaked at 101 mph. All Ragans did over his final 11 starts was put together a 2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 11.6 K/9.
Oops-I-did-it-again award
ARI Arizona • #53 • Age: 33
AVG
.258
HR
33
R
86
RBI
103
SB
11
OPS
.830
Nobody was eager to draft Walker following an age-31 breakout that saw him homer 36 times and drive in 94 runs, but it turns out he was every bit as good in his age-32 season. If you're looking for reason to doubt again, though, his average exit velocity was only 23rd percentile compared to 69th percentile in 2022.
Rebuilder's delight
WAS Washington • #28 • Age: 28
AVG
.268
HR
28
R
101
RBI
86
SB
20
OPS
.783
While rebuilding clubs are often a wasteland for Fantasy, they do provide openings for players who wouldn't get the time of day from actual contenders, and sometimes hidden gems emerge. Thomas is one such example from 2023, placing 11th among outfielders in points leagues and 10th in Rotisserie.
Mr. Glob
PIT Pittsburgh • #23 • Age: 28
W
13
ERA
4.21
WHIP
1.25
INN
194.1
BB
55
K
210
In a year defined by unpredictable pitching and wild fluctuations in ERA due to blow-up starts, Keller was Exhibit A. If you take out the four starts in which he allowed seven earned runs or more, he has a 3.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.1 K/9, but because that's not the way stats actually work, he was instead part of an indistinguishable glob of uninspiring pitchers.
Mr. Wait, who?
PHI Philadelphia • #61 • Age: 27
W
3
ERA
3.44
WHIP
1.05
INN
99.1
BB
16
K
96
Sanchez joined the Phillies rotation in mid-June as a 26-year-old with no prospect pedigree and an uninspiring minor-league track record. He would go on to have the league's second-best ground-ball rate and fourth-best walk rate -- if he had the innings to qualify, that is -- and showed legitimate bat-missing potential, too, with a pair of 10-strikeout efforts in September.
Mr. 2022 didn't really count
TOR Toronto • #17 • Age: 29
W
11
ERA
3.65
WHIP
1.19
INN
189.2
BB
52
K
184
From 2017 through 2021, Berrios had a 3.74 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 9.2 K/9, which is pretty much exactly what his numbers were in 2023. It's probably safe, then, to ignore his 2022, when he had a 5.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 7.8 /9.
Mr. No, but it actually did
BOS Boston • #54 • Age: 29
W
8
ERA
4.88
WHIP
1.31
INN
184.1
BB
73
K
204
Like Berrios, Giolito followed up several years of high-end production with a complete misfire in 2022. Unlike Berrios, he didn't bounce back in 2023. He looked like he might for the first four months, but a 7.14 ERA over the final two brought his overall ERA to 4.88, just two points off from his 2022 number.
Long-live-the-DH award
ATL Atlanta • #20 • Age: 33
AVG
.274
HR
40
R
84
RBI
100
OPS
.905
AB
530
NYM N.Y. Mets • #28 • Age: 36
AVG
.271
HR
33
R
61
RBI
103
OPS
.892
AB
432
SEA Seattle • #18 • Age: 33
AVG
.270
HR
19
R
45
RBI
50
OPS
.870
AB
296
One longstanding argument for the DH is that it extends the careers of aging hitters. It did more than that for these three, with Marcell Ozuna and J.D. Martinez reversing years of decline to become impact sluggers on elite offenses while Mitch Garver finally got the consistent playing time needed to shine as a Fantasy catcher.
Biggest weirdo
TB Tampa Bay • #17 • Age: 25
AVG
.250
HR
31
R
71
RBI
98
OPS
.840
AB
492
While Jake Burger cracked the 30-homer mark with some of the most impressive exit velocities in baseball, Paredes did with some of the least impressive, making up for icy blue Statcast readings with extreme fly-ball and pull rates. It's a neat trick that he's pulled off in back-to-back seasons, but you don't want to get caught holding the bag when he doesn't.
Biggest about-face
TB Tampa Bay • #44 • Age: 26
W
2
ERA
2.14
WHIP
0.76
INN
42
BB
5
K
38
It's hard to overstate how completely Pepiot reversed his biggest flaw in just one year, going from walking basically everyone (4.4 per nine innings between the majors and minors in 2022) to walking basically no one (1.4 per nine between the majors and minors in 2023). It's taken him from being just an interesting arm to perhaps a lock for a rotation spot next year.
Strongest skinny guy
TEX Texas • #32 • Age: 21
AVG
.306
HR
5
SB
3
OBP
.413
OPS
1.058
AB
62
The knock on Carter at the time of his September promotion was that he's underdeveloped physically, and seeing him in his helmet is reminiscent of Rick Moranis' character in Spaceballs. But he quickly showed that his polish more than makes up for it, delivering excellent numbers across the board, including in the home run column.
Parallelism award
ATL Atlanta • #23 • Age: 23
AVG
.293
HR
18
R
76
RBI
57
SB
20
OPS
.808
Harris ended up slashing .293/.331/.477 as a sophomore after slashing .297/.339/.514 as a rookie. Pretty close! What's more amazing is that had exactly the same number of stolen bases (20) and was only one off in home runs (18 vs. 19). What's most amazing of all is that he did it after batting just .174 over the first two months.
Everyone-deserves-someone award
OAK Oakland • #46 • Age: 24
AVG
.267
HR
14
SB
14
OPS
.840
AB
270
K
82
The Athletics fielded a joke of a team in 2023, losing 112 games while being outscored by 339 runs (nearly 100 more than any other team). But Gelof arrived in the second half to become a genuine second base standout, proving once again that nature abhors a vacuum.
Vinny Vindication
MIN Minnesota • #23 • Age: 24
AVG
.309
HR
15
SB
6
OPS
.921
AB
217
K
55
Lewis was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, but after twice tearing his ACL and missing another chunk of time this year with a strained oblique, everyone was pretty much over it. He gave them reason to care again after returning in mid-August, though, homering 11 times in a 32-game span, with four of them being grand slams. Now, he's at risk of being over-drafted in 2024.
Magic weakling
CIN Cincinnati • #29 • Age: 28
AVG
.279
HR
18
R
73
RBI
66
SB
27
OPS
.819
Friedl's average exit velocity was in the 10th percentile this year. His hard-hit rate was in the 5th percentile. If Isaac Paredes' Statcast page was nothing but icicles, Friedl's was even shorter icicles. And yet he took advantage of his favorable home park to deliver 18 home runs, including seven in September, which, along with his other contributions, made him a top-25 outfielder.
Launch angle revolutionary
PIT Pittsburgh • #13 • Age: 27
AVG
.271
HR
15
R
65
RBI
61
SB
10
OPS
.762
The knock on Hayes is that while he hits the ball hard, he doesn't put it in the air enough for it to matter. That changed over the final two months, during which FanGraphs has him at a 41.5 percent fly-ball rate. He hit 10 of his career-high 15 home runs during that time.