The fantasy baseball season is in full swing and now is about the time when making significant moves to your roster could pay dividends. We’ve seen varying trends with regards to both pitching and hitting this year, but there has been one consistency that can be overbearing at times: injuries. Here are some to keep an eye on with consideration to how teams are handling the situations going forward.
Entering the season, there were hopes that Franmil Reyes would be able to take the next step forward into being one of the game’s best power hitters. His output thus far in 2022 has been anything but, as he’s been incredibly unreliable at the plate with a shortage of home runs, an uptick in strikeout rate, and a lowered walk rate. His struggles were capped off with a visit to the Injured List with hamstring tightness, retroactive to May 25. Despite his struggles, the Guardians will miss his power potential bat in the lineup, due to the fact that he’s likely poised to break out of this slump at some point. In the meantime, the team has been looking for a replacement in the lineup, and they may have found one in Oscar Gonzalez.
Making his Major League debut on May 26, Gonzalez flashed some power in his first game, but not in the way of a home run. While he got on base by hitting the ball, it was the exit velocity he generated while doing so that was really impressive. In fact, over his short tenure as a Guardian (as of games played through June 3), he has hit 25 batted balls over his 29 plate appearances. Of those batted balls, most have been hit at least 90 miles per hour, as he sits with an overall exit velocity of 95.5 miles per hour.
The question then becomes as to whether or not this can be maintained over a longer period of time while Reyes is hurt. Looking at his minor league track record, it seems rather uninspiring to believe that this is anything more than a hot streak. His patience at the plate leaves a lot to be desired, as he recorded more home runs (31) than walks (22) over two levels in the minor leagues in 2021. That trend continued this year before he was called up to the Guardians, where he has yet to walk a single time. And while he’s been able to hit the fastball quite well thus far, his struggles against breaking pitches could manifest themselves if and when pitchers finally make adjustments to Gonzalez.
Conclusion: Oscar Gonzalez has been a nice surprise for the Guardians upon his promotion to Cleveland. He had a successful minor league season last year and began 2022 on a tear with nine home runs in AAA. That being said, there seems to be a flaw in his game around his lack of patience. As it stands, he’s been a nice fill-in because he’s hitting the ball hard and getting on base, but if he can’t adjust to pitchers in the near future, he may be relegated back to the minor leagues in order to fix that flaw in his game. It’s important to keep that in mind if he is rostered on any fantasy teams.
One of the strengths of the Milwaukee Brewers franchise has been their ability to build, mold, and produce high-quality pitchers through their farm system. They were unfortunately given the bad news that one of their better arms, Freddy Peralta, would miss significant time with a posterior shoulder strain, leaving the team with a massive hole to fill in their rotation. With that door closing, it opened a window of opportunity for one of their prized prospects to make his mark, as they believed he could. This paved the way for Aaron Ashby to enter the fray as a starter.
Before being handed the role within the rotation, Ashby flip-flopped his way through the season with spot-starts and with random bullpen appearances. Ironically, it was those opportunities in relief where he found the most success, with significantly better strikeout and walk rates, slamming the door whenever called upon.
Still, as he forged his way into the rotation, it’s been his control that has been razor-sharp, as he’s only issued five walks over his last 16.2 innings pitched while striking out 26 batters. What’s interesting of note too is that entering yesterday’s start, he’s almost eliminated all usage of his fastball while increasing the usage of his sinker to induce groundballs and his changeup to get swings. With four pitches in his repertoire, he is someone who keeps batters guessing and gets a ton of movement on his pitches.
Conclusion: With Freddy Peralta sidelined for the foreseeable future, and with Brandon Woodruff out, for the time being, Ashby has a legitimate shot to make a stand here with Milwaukee. The Brewers are no stranger to building and molding pitchers through their farm system and having them produce at an elite level, and Ashby has the firepower in his arsenal to be one of their finest. If he can limit the walks, he should find continued success and be a mainstay in their rotation for quite some time.
It was announced that Jean Segura would miss anywhere from ten to twelve weeks while recovering from a fractured finger, as surgery would be a necessity. It’s an unfortunate turn of events for someone who was having a career year, as his power output was better than in recent years, he was aggressive on the base paths and his approach at the plate brought about consistently solid contact. Still, his injury seems to summarize the Phillies this season, as their year has been filled with disappointment. Despite being out of the playoff race, for now, they do have an opportunity for a resurgence, partly due to their youth. One such player that has a chance to shine is Bryson Stott.
Selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, and rated as one of the Phillies’ top prospects, Stott entered the year with a lot of hope weighing on his shoulders. While not known as someone with one distinguishing quality, he seemed to be more of a multi-faceted type of player who would contribute anywhere in the infield and offer a nice mix of power and speed at the plate. Instead, his first month was ridden with struggles and a demotion, and it was only out of necessity that he was called back to the Phillies to replace an injured Didi Gregorius. Now, with Segura out for a while, Stott has had the opportunity to shine and most recently made the most of that chance.
FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE HOME RUN BRYSON STOTT!#RingTheBell pic.twitter.com/uY47nm3xl8
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) June 3, 2022
Despite the fact that his power output has been missing until recently, there are also some positive signs that he’s making adjustments. His strikeout rate is trending downward, his walk rate is increasing, and his Early BIP% (Balls in Play/Pitches on 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 1-1 count) has been dropping, all demonstrating that he is waiting for pitches and making the pitcher pitch to him.
Conclusion: There is a lot going on with the Phillies these days. Players are getting hurt, managers have been replaced and opportunities have been given. With Jean Segura out for the foreseeable future, there is a spot in the lineup for Stott to show why he was drafted so early a few years ago. Keep in mind that Didi Gregorius is set to return to the Phillies soon enough, but there is no reason why Stott can’t slide over to play second base and prove his worth. That being said, there’s no guarantee that what he’s been doing will stick, but it’s promising nonetheless.
The off-season signing of Eduardo Rodriguez was an attempt to stabilize Detroit’s rotation with a pitcher who could generate strikeouts and hopefully move the Tigers into contention for the playoffs. Unfortunately for him and the team, it hasn’t necessarily played out that way, as Rodriguez has struggled to the tune of near-career lows in strikeout rates and walk rates, all while giving up an incredible amount of earned runs. His season took an even bigger downward turn when he went to the Injured List with an injured rib cage, causing him to miss significant time. In his absence, there has been an emerging pitcher who may just keep his spot in the rotation once Rodriguez returns: Alex Faedo.
Entering the 2022 campaign, Faedo started his journey in the minor leagues, dominating to the tune of 20 strikeouts over 15.2 innings pitched. He was called up in May, and after a shaky first start, he’s been consistently able to keep runs off the board, while pitching long enough to qualify for a win. In fact, many of his starts look quite similar in production.
What’s been very intriguing about his pitch mix, however, is his slider usage, which has been his primary Whiff generating pitch, and something that has been graded as a 60 valued pitch.
Conclusion: For a team that had high hopes of contending this season, the Tigers will need everyone and every break they can get in order to do so. Alex Faedo has come into the fold and held his own while adjusting to big-league pitching. While his current strikeout rate is significantly lower than his minor league numbers, it’s not out of the question to assume that as he gets more comfortable with the Tigers that his track record could lead to greater success as the season continues.
Aroldis Chapman was one of the most polarizing fantasy players heading into the season, due to the fact that he struggled last year (coincidentally) once the crackdown on sticky substances began. While he was able to rebound somewhat, there were many that hesitated on drafting the former bonafide stud for fear of another breakdown and subsequent loss of time as the team’s closer. While his season started off very well, he recently suffered from Achilles tendinitis and was subsequently placed on the Injured List at the end of May. Immediately thrown into the fire of the new Yankees’ closer, Clay Holmes has not only succeeded in this high leverage role but may have supplanted Chapman for the future.
Holmes came to the Yankees after a troublesome start to the 2021 season with the Pirates. When he arrived in New York, he decided to focus on using his best pitches instead of all of them and was able to throw more strikes as a result. Since that transformation, he finished last season with a 1.12 ERA with the Yankees and was immediately considered for high-leverage roles in the bullpen.
This season, he continued to take a step forward and has surrendered only one earned run all season, which came on Opening Day, and has now accumulated seven holds and eight saves. He’s generating a ton of ground balls, he’s limiting what goes into the air and he’s getting hitters to swing and miss. In short, it’s been masterful.
Conclusion: It goes without saying that Clay Holmes needs to be rostered in all formats going forward. Even if and when Aroldis Chapman does return to the role of closer, Holmes’ outings are just too good to be sitting on the waiver wire. His short inning ratios and counting stats add up to dominance. That being said, with Chapman in a contract year, there is a chance that he gets traded to another team needing some bullpen help, thus cementing Holmes’ role and giving closure to this situation. Both Holmes and Chapman have a lot of value going forward, despite their roles on the team.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)