Make Yourself Conforto-ble
Michael Conforto (SF): 3-4, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB.
Sometimes it’s important to remember just how volatile early-season statistics can be. We spend the offseason researching, listening to podcasts, and pouring over draft boards to find our favorite players to target, only to rethink all of it as soon as we get the results from just a handful of games.
Rate statistics swing wildly in the season’s first few weeks. You pick up that hot batter on the waiver wire and a couple of bad games later his overall numbers look awful. Your last-round pick started slow so you drop him, only for a couple of big games to make you look like a fool. Michael Conforto is a great example of this.
A few years ago, the 30-year-old right fielder seemed destined for a big payday as he approached free agency, putting up 15 fWAR from 2017-20. In 2021, his contract year, Conforto struggled and saw his production at the plate drop significantly. When the offseason finally rolled around, Conforto had to undergo right shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2022 season.
Now, three years removed from his last strong fantasy campaign, Conforto was going after pick 200 in most fantasy leagues. If you took him, you probably did so as one of the last guys on your roster, taking a shot on the upside that he returns to his All-Star form and rejuvenates his career in San Francisco.
Conforto entered play on Thursday with a .143/.250/.286 batting line with one home run and a 51 wRC+ If you had him on your team, you were probably starting to think about dropping him. Then he went out and absolutely crushed yesterday, going 3-4, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, and 2 BB in the Giants’ 16-6 demolition of the White Sox.
That one game was enough to raise Conforto’s triple slash line to .240/.367/.480 and his wRC+ to 133. In fantasy leagues that Conforto wasn’t rostered in, he’s now sitting pretty high on the list of top-performing free agents, looking like a nice pickup when just yesterday he looked like a clear player to avoid.
Finding the right time to buy or sell is tricky, especially in early April, but knowing when to be patient and when to make a move is the difference between success and failure.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday:
J.D. Davis (SF): 3-6, HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.
Conforto wasn’t the only Giant to have a huge day yesterday. Davis joined the party with three hits in the blowout, with the big one being a grand slam in the top of the ninth with position player Hanser Alberto on the mound. It’s easy to discount Davis for the home run he hit coming against a non-pitcher, but it counts all the same. The long ball was the second of the year for Davis as he’s up to a .313/.353/.688 batting line. He’s started just three of the Giant’s first six games, but keep an eye on him if he starts getting more consistent playing time. Davis had an .857 OPS in his 49 games with the Giants last year, and that certainly plays well in fantasy if he’s cracking the lineup regularly.
Rafael Devers (BOS): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
After inking a 10-year, $300+ million extension with the Red Sox this offseason, Devers is off to a red-hot start. The 26-year-old third baseman was locked in against Tigers’ starter Spencer Turnbull, hitting the ball at 106.6 mph or harder in all three of their matchups, good for a home run, double, and an absolute rocket of a ground out. He’s hitting .323/.344/.613 through his first 32 plate appearances.
Orlando Arcia (ATL): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
A surprise demotion of Vaughn Grissom in late March paved the way for Orlando Arcia to claim the starting shortstop job in Atlanta. In typical Braves fashion, they wasted no time in signing him to a three-year, $7.3 million extension, and he’s rewarded their faith in him. Typically a light hitter, Arcia’s flipped that script, slashing .370/.414/.667 in the first seven games. Last night he homered and doubled, but his biggest hit was a walk-off single that sent Braves fans home happy with a 7-6 win on Opening Day in Atlanta.
Jake Cronenworth (SD): 1-2, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 BB.
Cronenworth’s seen his offensive production drop in every year he’s been in the big leagues. He debuted with a 126 wRC+ in 2020 and has since seen it drop to 116 and 109 in the following years. Entering Thursday’s contest, it was at a measly 53, but as we’ve talked about, those numbers change quickly. He hit his first home run of the year yesterday while working two walks, more than doubling that wRC+ to 113.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR): 3-5, HR, 2 R, RBI.
The furthest hit ball of Thursday belonged to Guerrero, a 436-foot home run to left-center field that came off a Jordan Lyles sinker. The homer was Guerrero’s second in as many days. Early returns have the 24-year-old looking an awful lot like he did in his insanely strong 2021 campaign when he hit 48 home runs. Guerrero has an incredible 1.117 OPS so far, but the best parts of his early season numbers are the almost unbelievable 2.9% strikeout rate and 14.7% walk rate.
Blake Sabol (SF): 3-6, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Scoring 16 runs and having 40% of the day’s games postponed s a great way to have three of your players mentioned in Batter’s Box. Way to go Giants. Sabol actually hit his home run against a White Sox pitcher yesterday, homering against Lance Lynn in the second inning — the 434-foot blast to centerfield was the second furthest hit ball of the day. Sabol is an interesting name to keep your eye on if you’re playing in a two-catcher league. He’s started all six games so far, but only two have been behind the plate. His .222/.333/.389 batting line isn’t amazing, but it’s certainly better than a lot of the other available two-catcher options, and it should come with more counting stats given the Giants’ propensity to start him in left field.
Elvis Andrus (CWS): 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.
Andrus seemingly revived his career with a strong 43 games in Chicago late last year, going from a .673 OPS with eight home runs and seven steals in Oakland to a .773 OPS with nine home runs and 11 steals in Chicago. He hasn’t been able to replicate that success he found on the South Side so far this year, though. Yesterday was easily the best showing Andrus has had, but his season line is still a weak .185/.241/.222. He has two stolen bases already, but with steals up across the league, you need more from him with the bat to justify rostering him in fantasy.
Sean Murphy (ATL): 2-3, 2B, R, 2 BB.
The cross-country move has proven difficult for Atlanta’s new backstop so far, but it looks like Murphy broke out of his early season slump yesterday by reaching base four times. If you add up all of his home runs, runs, and RBI, he has… one. On the plus side, Murphy has impressed with improved plate discipline numbers thus far; his 17.6% strikeout rate and 23.5% walk rate would both be career-best marks over a full season.
Kris Bryant (COL): 2-4, 2B, RBI.
The lone run in the Rockies’ 1-0 home opener win over the Nationals came on Bryant’s single in the fifth inning. The former MVP added a double on the day as well and has collected at least one hit in every game of the year. The allure of Bryant playing his home games in Coors Field was quickly forgotten during an injury-filled 2022, but the new season brings new hope, and if you took a chance on Bryant in your fantasy draft you have to feel pretty good right about now. He hasn’t hit a home run yet, but his .357 batting average is a nice consolation prize as you wait for the power to arrive.
Freddie Freeman (LAD): 2-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI.
Freeman led the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in the Arizona desert last night, doubling down the rightfield line against Merrill Kelly and then taking a pitch the opposite way for a home run to left field against Kyle Nelson. The homer was the first of the season for Freeman, and it’s shaping up to be another excellent one from the six-time All-Star and former MVP. Through seven games Freeman is slashing .385/.500/.577 with a 12.5% strikeout rate and an 18.8% walk rate.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)