After fielding many questions surrounding the breakthrough campaign by this Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman, I've examined Jake Lamb's profile closely and vaulted him within my top 100 overall players. Simply put, he's earned it, deservedly ranked in the third/fourth third-base tier that includes Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria.
Much of the foundation for Lamb's breakthrough year comes from an adjustment he made to his swing during the winter, which has fueled a noticeable jump in power: His isolated power has nearly tripled (.123 in 2015, .328 this season), he has increased his fly-ball rate by more than two percent (26.2 percent in 2015, 28.6 percent in 2016) and he has boosted his average fly-ball rate by 22 feet (301.6 in 2015, 323.7 in 2016).
Perhaps equally encouraging is Lamb's boosted performance against left-handed pitching: He's a .190/.307/.429 hitter, for .238 isolated power, after sub-.100 isolated power numbers against them in both 2014 and 2015. That helped earn him six starts in the Arizona Diamondbacks' past 11 games against left-handed pitchers.
Still, Lamb's ranking (97th overall) might seem modest for the No. 36 name on the Player Rater. Some regression needs be baked into any rest-of-year projection, particularly in the power department. For the season, Lamb has homered on 18.6 percent of his fly balls, second-highest among qualifiers, and since May 9 he has a major league-high 22.0 percent rate, resulting in 18 of his 21 homers for the season. To put that number into perspective, consider the major league leaders (among qualifiers) the past five seasons: Giancarlo Stanton, 15.2 percent in 2011; Chris Davis, 16.3 in 2012; Pedro Alvarez, 18.3 in 2013; Stanton, 17.3 in 2014; Nelson Cruz, 18.4 in 2015.
My best guess at his projection: .275-.280 batting average, 10-12 home runs.
Here are some quick thoughts about the week's other big movers...
There might not be a tougher player to rank this week than Clayton Kershaw, who was shut down indefinitely following a setback with his injured back. It's possible that this might merely push back his recovery by a matter of days, rather than weeks, but the chances we'll see Kershaw before August are now poor, and he's now enough of a risk that a compelling case could be made to lower him to 14th at the position (roughly 50th overall). Your hope should be eight top-shelf starts upon his return.
Wil Myers is legit. Consider: .313 BABIP (81st in the majors, and four points beneath his career number), 13.4 home run/fly ball percentage (29th, and in line with his 12.7 percent rookie-year number).
Jacob deGrom's return to the top 10 starting pitchers is much more a testament to his own ability than it is a criticism of the position's depth in the 11-20 tier. He's once again the "safe" guy, with a 2.32 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 29.4 percent strikeout rate in his past 10 starts, and that's quite an asset to own in a season like this.
I'm only lowering Gregory Polanco amidst concerns about his recent hamstring injury. He's a .171 hitter thus far in July -- nine games, though -- and I'm somewhat concerned that he'll be playing these next few weeks at less than full strength.
We talked quite a bit about Dallas Keuchel's performance on Wednesday's Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast, and while I think he's no longer a Cy Young-caliber pitcher statistically speaking, he's back to being a solid member of the top 20 starters, thanks to six consecutive quality starts as well as a 3.52 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 21.9 percent strikeout rate in his past 10 turns.
With Dee Gordon's return upcoming -- he's eligible to play in eight days, barring Miami Marlins rainouts between now and then -- he might be under-ranked as the No. 13 second baseman and No. 118 player overall. I think he's closer to 8-and-80 in those sets from the day he returns, so he'll almost assuredly rank there in a week.
Kudos to the Chicago Cubs for giving Willson Contreras nine starts behind the plate in their past 17 games overall, signaling that he's now their top choice to start a majority of the time there. Contreras also has eight starts in left field during that time, and has generally been batting fourth or fifth, giving him a playing-time advantage that no other catcher quite enjoys. Will it last? If so, he probably warrants a top-100 ranking rather than 152nd (and sixth among catchers), but I'd like to see a little more first.
Most projections systems continue to love Drew Smyly, but after a nine-start stretch during which time he had only one quality start and an 8.03 ERA and 1.72 WHIP, he's perhaps too generously ranked as even my No. 52 starting pitcher. I still think there's top-20 talent in that left arm, though, but my patience is running out.
New ESPN position eligibility
The following players added new position eligibility within the past two weeks. As a reminder, position players need to appear 10 times at a new position to gain in-season eligibility, while pitchers need to make three starts to earn starting-pitching eligibility or five relief appearances to earn relief-pitching eligibility.
Chris Beck (RP), Willson Contreras (OF), Chase d'Arnaud (OF), Wilmer Flores (1B), Raisel Iglesias (RP), Jordan Lyles (RP), Jefry Marte (OF), Shawn O'Malley (SS), Ramiro Pena (2B), Jose Peraza (OF), Hernan Perez (OF), Jurickson Profar (1B), Rob Refsnyder (OF).
The following players are within two games of earning new eligibility, with their total games played noted at the listed position.
Cristhian Adames (2B, 9 games), Mike Aviles (2B, 9 games), Christian Colon (3B, 8 games), Chase d'Arnaud (2B, 9 games), Stephen Drew (3B, 9 games; SS, 9 games), Prince Fielder (1B, 9 games), Adam Frazier (OF, 8 games), Jedd Gyorko (3B, 9 games; 1B, 8 games), Matt Holliday (1B, 8 games), Howie Kendrick (1B, 8 games), Matt McBride (C, 9 games), Jose Reyes (3B, 9 games).
Going-forward rankings: Week 15
Listed below are my updated, going-forward rankings. These are based upon an ESPN standard league of 10 teams and Rotisserie 5x5 scoring. Click here to see these rankings sorted by position.