Welcome to Deep League Risers and Fallers. Lucas Spence absolutely nailed his recommendations last week. Anthony Rendon made the leap from faller to riser and provided four runs, six RBI, and a dinger with a .471 batting average last week. Esteury Ruiz kept things rolling with five runs and five RBI, a .346 average, and a whopping five stolen bases.
Tanner Bibee struck out five over five-plus innings in a no decision allowing two runs on just four hits and no walks at Yankee stadium. Then he stumbled against the Tigers. Brandon Pfaadt was the only recommended riser who didn’t shine immediately, but the Rangers are a terrifying offense to face these days, especially in an MLB debut. So let’s see if we can keep the hits coming with this week’s collection of Risers and Fallers.
Brian Anderson, 3B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers
I usually like the keep the recommended adds under 50% rostered, but with the fallers I think it is best to get ahead of the curve in the other direction. Anderson had a nice month to start the season, batting .255/.330/.459 through the end of April with five homers, 16 runs scored, 20 driven in and five balls hit into the stands. He was however, buoyed by a .328 BABIP.
Through five May games, Anderson is slashing just .235/.381/.353. He is still getting a bit lucky with a .333 BABIP, (which sits well above the MLB average of .296) and he has drawn four walks while striking out just five times over that span. The power and run production has disappeared though, and overall he has now struck out 39 times over 133 plate appearances.
Anderson’s underlying numbers do not inspire much confidence either. His average exit velocity is barely above the bottom tenth of the league and his hard hit percentage is only slightly better, slotting into the leagues’ bottom fifth. Both his whiff and strikeout rates sit in that same range as well. His walk rate places in the league’s top third, but he is not fleet of foot and has been unsuccessful on all three of his attempts to steal thus far.
Anderson was definitely a nice and helpful April surprise, but the fun appears to be over. If Rendon is still available, make the switch while you can.
Nolan Gorman, 2B, St Louis Cardinals.
This one is a little bit tougher to swallow. Gorman’s surface stats look pretty good with a .255/.348/.510 triple slash. He has seven round-trippers and three steals while playing at a premium position for fantasy.
His underlying numbers back up that performance too. Gorman’s hard hit percentage and barrel rate both clock in right around the leagues top ten percent of hitters, and his exit velocity ranks in the top quartile. Sure, he strikes out a lot with a whiff and K rates in the bottom quartile, but his strong walk rate have helped him get on base even when the hits were not coming.
Gorman’s biggest issue is his poor defense, mixed with the Cardinals’ poor roster construction. The 6’1″ lefty slugger slotted well in the lineup between the two big righties, Goldschmidt and Arenado, but defensively, he played DH more often (16 games) than he played 2B (11 games) and 3B (3 games) combined. You may have read that the Cards have decided to play Wilson Contreras, the veteran catcher they signed to a 5-year 87 million-dollar deal this past offseason to DH for a while. And their outfield is already over-crowded.
Compound the Contreras move with the return of shortstop Paul Dejong pushing Tommy Edman back to second base and top it off with perennial gold-glove winner Nolan Arenado entrenched at the hot corner – you end up with very little room for Nolan the younger. Gorman has only started four out of seven games since the calendar flipped to May, and could be at risk of following his teammate Jordan Walker to AAA to get full time at bats if the Contreras-as-DH experiment lasts a while.
I’m not going to advocate dropping Gorman, he’s still a very good hitter, but it may be a good idea to shop him around while his surface stats still look as good as they do. As a Bucco fan, I’m convinced the Cardinals are going to figure things out, move an outfielder or two for some starting pitching, get out of the National League cellar, and manage to contend by the end of the season. But it is also possible that without Yadier Molina the magic has run out and the Devil is finally getting his due.
Michael Conforto, OF, San Francisco Giants
Raise your hand if you traded Mitch Keller for Michael Conforto a few weeks ago and deeply regret it. Huh, just me then? To be fair to myself, Conforto was at least batting above the Mendoza line at the time. My, how quickly things can change.
Conforto rather famously turned down what was reported to be a nine figure contract from the Mets prior to the 2021 season. He then turned in a disappointing 2021 season, finishing with a .729 OPS nearly 200 points lower than the .927 mark he reached in the shortened 2020 campaign. He then missed the entire 2022 season following shoulder surgery before signing a two-year deal with the Giants.
Things are not going great, as Conforto has slashed just .175/.298./309 through the first five weeks of the season. He has hit four homers and driven in just ten runs. On a positive note, Conforto’s 13.2% walk rate is tied for his career high and he has hit the ball hard when he does make contact. Both his hard hit percentage and average exit velocity place in the league’s top 20%.
On a significantly less positive note, his strikeout rate places in the league’s bottom tenth and his whiff rate is only slightly better. He has been somewhat unlucky with just a .232 average on balls in play, but with his poor contact rates, his expected batting average is still just .197, which rests uncomfortably at the bottom
of the ocean five percent of all hitters.
I do think there are better days ahead for the Giant’s offseason acquisition, and it is definitely possible that Conforto needs more time to fully bounce back from surgery and an entire season away from the game. He could definitely be this year’s Max Muncy, and shrug off a bad first half to be a key piece later in the season. But that won’t matter if your team is out of it by then, and I think you have a better chance to stay in contention without Conforto on your squad.
Christopher Morel, All the Positions, Chicago Cubs
Morel debuted for the Cubbies last year and flashed some high-ceiling potential with 16 long balls and 10 swipes over 425 plate appearances. His average barrel rate and sprint speed were up near the top tenth of the league and his average exit velocity was encouragingly above average. He did strike out at an unsightly 32% clip, but also walked at a slightly above-average 8.9%. He did not break camp with the Cubs this year, mostly due to a lack of clear path to playing time since the cubs added so many free agents over the off season.
That path hasn’t exactly cleared itself up, with Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson manning second and short and Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ, and a resurgent Cody Bellinger in the outfield. But Morel has smashed AAA to the tune of .330/.425/.730 thus far. He has gone deep 11 times and stolen a handful of bags, but also has struck out 41 times over 134 plate appearances. That’s a lot of Ks, but represents a bit of improvement over his rate last year.
I know this recommendation seems at odds with the Gorman take you just read a couple minutes ago. The difference is that Gorman has been losing at bats due to the Cardinals’ roster issues, while Morel has practically forced the Cubs to give him a call up and can play all over the field. Everything is relative.
I expect Morel to be employed as a super utility player for a while until an injury or slump from another Cubbie possibly gets him full time at bats. He already qualifies at three infield positions and outfield. He can help in lots of ways and this an occasion where I think it’s worth betting that the talent will win in the end. Morel does carry plenty of risk with that high strikeout rate, but his ceiling is very high and he could be a major asset if things break right.
Yennier Cano, Relief Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles.
Cano is the first reliever mentioned in this space, and he could very well be the last. I prefer to leave the saves chase to folks who specialize in that area and generally enjoy leagues where saves and holds are stacked in a single category. But what Cano has done so far is nothing short of incredible. The big righty mostly tosses a 95+ MPH sinker and a 90 MPH change with a dash of slider thrown in.
Cano resides within the top three percent of MLB pitchers in the following categories: average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, expected batting average and slugging percentage, barrel rate, strikeout rate, and walk rate! His chase rate just barely cracks the top ten percent, so there’s room for improvement.
Seriously though, over 12 appearances which encompasses 16 innings, Cano has allowed just two hits, while maintaining a pristine 19/0 strikeout to walk ratio. He is not the Orioles closer, but has picked up a win, two saves and a hold on the season and could be a very nice player in leagues that respect the work of relievers outside of the ninth inning.
Logan Allen, Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Guardians
It has been a heck of a year for rookie starting pitchers so far. Bibee has already been a big recommendation from Lucas Spence last week. Bryce Miller has been excellent through two starts, but his roster percentage likely means he’s gone in any deep leagues. Taj Bradley started strong but was shipped back to the minors to get on a five day schedule. And Bryce Elder (lots of Bryces lately) has been excellent for the Braves.
Allen has managed to fly under the radar a bit and is more widely available than the names mentioned above, but has been very good so far and should stick around with Zach Plesac optioned to the minors and Triston McKenzie still on the 60 day IL.
Allen is not a flame thrower, with his average four-seamer velocity at 92 MPH. And his underlying metrics don’t inspire confidence. His average exit velocity allowed and hard hit percentage are both in the league’s bottom fifth and barrel rate allowed is pretty awful at nearly 15%. (MLB average is 6.8%)
But Allen does possess above average strikeout and walk rates and was a big strikeout producer in the minors, compiling 320 strikeouts over 240 innings between 2021 and 2022. He has started three games for the Guardians thus far and has yet to allow more than two runs in an outing while producing a nice 19/5 strikeout to walk ratio over 16.2 innings. He has just one quality start, falling one out shy in his last turn.
I don’t love Allen’s stuff compared to some of the names mentioned above, but he has solid strikeout and walk numbers, some job security for the moment, and has been successful in his small sample size. I am not super excited about his next start, as he is currently set to host the Angels on 5/12, but he lines up to face the White Sox after that. If you missed out on Bryce Miller or Bibee or Elder, Logan Allen could be a very helpful consolation prize.