We’re now a month into the regular season and whether you’re sitting near the top of your league’s standings, hovering near the cellar, or caught somewhere in between, there is always work to be done. Welcome to the fourth edition of Deep League Risers and Fallers, where each week we aim to identify some targets in deeper leagues that have caught our attention, for good or not-so-good reasons, with the hope of providing some guidance on improving your team.
Last week, my esteemed colleague Sam Lutz wisely recommended Mickey Mantle…I mean Brent Rooker…as a speculative add when he was rostered in 25% of leagues. He’s now rostered in 72% of leagues after hitting three more bombs and is currently ranked as a Top 15 fantasy player. Hopefully, you nabbed him. Or Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski who had another terrific week as well. My man Sam is giving out winners all over the place!
Note: There are many different league shapes and sizes. We’ll primarily be discussing players that were roughly ranked outside the Top 200 during draft season in March and/or are currently rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo! leagues at the time (at least for the players we are bullish on.)
Some of my previous recommendations:
OF Chas McCormick HOU (21% rostered) – Immediately landed on the IL without playing another game but should be back this week. I still like his stolen base and run-scoring potential if he continues hitting atop the Astros lineup.
SP Mitch Keller PIT (53% rostered) – Make it five straight quality starts for the 27-year-old right-hander who is still somehow only rostered in 53% of leagues. Change that now!
OF Harrison Bader NYY (41% rostered) – The 28-year-old outfielder should be activated by the Yankees later this week. He’s been ice-cold at the plate on his minor league rehab assignment, so he might be more of a wait-and-see guy depending on the size of your league. With that said, he offers a nice power/speed blend if you need an outfielder.
RP Reynaldo López CHW (22% rostered) – More struggles recently, now a new biceps injury, and Liam Hendriks is on his way back. Move on from Reynaldo, this was a swing-and-a-miss.
SS Adalberto Mondesí BOS (34% rostered) – Still a worthwhile luxury stash for the immense speed upside if you can afford it.
SP Germán Márquez COL (11% rostered) – Another ill-timed injury, as Marquez returned from the IL last week only to immediately get re-injured, landing right back on the injured list with more arm troubles. And Tuesday it was announced the veteran right-hander will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, as feared. He’s obviously a drop candidate in all leagues.
Tanner Bibee, SP, Cleveland Guardians
The Guardians called up one of their top pitching prospects last week, right-hander Tanner Bibee, and he was terrific in his MLB debut against Colorado. Bibee fell just one out shy of recording a quality start, hurling 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball while striking out an impressive eight batters against the Rockies. The 24-year-old has an advanced repertoire with four quality pitches and had both the batters and announcers baffled with some of his off-speed offerings on Wednesday. Bibee had a very impressive track record in the minors (2.17 ERA in 2022) and lines up as a two-start pitcher this week against the Yankees (without Aaron Judge) on Tuesday night and the Twins this weekend. Bibee offers immense strikeout potential and needs to be rostered in virtually all leagues at this point, assuming he does not get sent back down to Triple-A in the next few weeks.
4 innings of 2-hit shutout ball with no walks and 7 K's.
What a start to his @MLB debut for Tanner Bibee.
The 7 strikeouts:
84.8 mph changeup
83.3 mph slider
82.7 mph slider
83.6 mph slider
83.6 mph slider
84.2 mph changeup
95.3 mph fastball pic.twitter.com/Pipdmh1xNg
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 26, 2023
Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sticking with the prospect theme here. The Diamondbacks have a vacancy in their starting rotation after Madison Bumgarner was jettisoned last week. Enter Brandon Pfaadt, one of the highest-ranked pitching prospects in the minors currently, who also led the entire minor league system in strikeouts last season despite pitching in very not-pitcher-friendly environments. There is no specific timeframe for when Pfaadt may join the Diamondbacks, who has yet to be placed on Arizona’s 40-man roster. However, with Arizona sitting in a tie for first place at 16-13, it should be soon. The 24-year-old pitched well in Spring Training and makes for a worthwhile stash candidate if you can afford the roster spot.
5/3/23 update – It was announced Tuesday that Pfaadt will be officially recalled by the Diamondbacks and make his professional debut on Wednesday against the Rangers. He should be added in the majority of fantasy leagues due to his upside and the volatility of the pitching market this season.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
Rendon is an enigma, as he was mentioned as a “faller” in this very article a week ago. So what gives?
It’s admittedly been a slow start for Rendon but a look under the hood suggests better days could be on the horizon. The 32-year-old continues to bat cleanup for the Angels, behind Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. We like that. And he currently boasts terrific strikeout and walk rates, ranking in the 91st percentile or better in both categories. So he’s getting on base, and he’s not striking out much. We like that too. Rendon is hitting .246 currently, but his xBA is a rock-solid .285.
Rendon’s superstar days are a thing of the past, as evidenced by the fact that he is yet to homer and his OPS is sitting well below .700 at the moment. But the third baseman scored a run in five straight games last week and could still prove to be a steady, albeit somewhat boring, fantasy contributor this season. If he was dropped in your league and you need help at the hot corner, he may prove to be a worthwhile add after all.
Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox
Pause. Go add Duran. Then come back and finish reading…
Okay, welcome back.
A former highly-regarded prospect, the 26-year-old speedy outfielder has been terrific for Boston since being called up from Triple-A, as he enters Tuesday hitting .404 with a 1.113 OPS after homering for the second time on Monday night. Duran has shown glimpses of fantasy potential in the past, especially in regard to stolen bases when he had a stent as the Red Sox leadoff hitter last season. Hitting against left-handers and hitting near the bottom of the Red Sox lineup are both valid concerns currently, but Duran has been getting consistent playing time in hitter-friendly Fenway Park, was moved up to fifth in the batting order on Monday (we like that!), and is currently riding a six-game hitting streak. He’s worth an add in 10-team and 12-team leagues, especially if you need some speed.
Esteury Ruiz, OF, Oakland Athletics
He’s entrenched as Oakland’s leadoff man and stole four bases in a game last week (11 steals on the season).
That’s the only argument I need, Shawn!
Brady Singer, SP, Kansas City Royals
Man, the wheels have really fallen off for Singer, after being charged with 8 ER in just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday against Minnesota. The Royals are bad and Singer has been worse, as he is giving up a ton of hard contact (60.6% HardHit%) and currently ranks dead-last in the majors in ERA (8.49). I mean, the poor guy’s xBA is .312 for crying out loud. I liked Singer entering the season after he had a terrific second half in 2022, but there is no denying that he is doing more harm than good to fantasy rosters at this point.
With all that said, he has a very favorable matchup against Oakland this weekend at home. If you roster Singer, maybe give him one more turn and then try to trade him immediately for a bag of crackerjacks or something. Like, literally, start sending out offers 10 minutes after the game ends, hope he registers a quality start, and try to ride the wave. If not, you’ll have your answer and time to move on.
A.J. Minter, RP, Atlanta Braves
Despite registering his sixth save in game 1 of their doubleheader on Monday, Minter owns an 8.56 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. More importantly for our purposes, closer Raisel Iglesias should return to the Braves bullpen within the next week, pushing Minter back into his customary set-up role. He’s an easy cut candidate.
M.J. Melendez, C/OF, Kansas City Royals
Remember this scene in Moneyball when the scouts are discussing different players around the roundtable?
Beane: “Can he hit?”
Scout #1: “He’s got a beautiful swing, right Barry?”
Scout #2: “The ball explodes off his bat”
Scout #3: “He throws the club head at the ball and when he connects, he drives it…it pops off the bat…and you can hear it all over the ballpark”
Scout #4: “A lot of pop coming off the bat.”
Beane: “If he’s a good hitter, why doesn’t he hit good?”
That’s where I’m at with M.J. Melendez, who is currently hitting .174 with a .582 OPS. Why doesn’t he hit good?
Since last year, proponents of advanced metrics have consistently proclaimed Melendez as a breakout candidate, as evidenced by his 53.6% HardHit% and 97th percentile exit velocity this season.
However, it just has not translated, neither this season nor last season when he hit .217 last season with a .706 OPS.
His xBA this season is a dreadful .200 and his Whiff% and K% (35.2%) are amongst the worst in baseball. If he can’t hit the baseball regularly, the advanced metrics on hard contact don’t really matter. Also, as mentioned previously, the Royals are simply not a good team and their offensive situation is even worse, compounded by a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
I can easily name a dozen catchers I would prefer over Melendez for the rest of the season. For instance, I would much rather roster Jonah Heim or “Big Dumper” Cal Raleigh than Melendez moving forward.
Photo by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)