From today until the end of the Major League Baseball season, Saturday is for looking at the various streaks and trends across the MLB, as well as those fantasy baseball players with rising or falling stock. Who should be your priority waiver wire pickups? Who deserves some of your precious FAAB? Are there any potential fantasy baseball buy low trade candidates? As always, we’ll start by talking about some fantasy baseball risers and fallers, highlighted by Hyun Jin Ryu, who has been excellent for Toronto in his return from Tommy John surgery. A post-hype prospect in Spencer Torkelson has shown some of the upside we all dreamed of, though the hit tool hasn’t quite shown up yet. However, it’s coming, don’t fret. On the other hand, Framber Valdez and Alex Cobb have been sliding a bit in August, and while Valdez did fire seven no-hit innings last night, the overall numbers still aren’t great this month. Let’s take a look at some of the notable hit streaks and current trends across Major League Baseball, as well as fantasy baseball risers and fallers.
|1||Luis Arraez||.354||1||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.418||1||Shohei Ohtani||.665|
|2||Freddie Freeman||.341||2||Freddie Freeman||.415||2||Mookie Betts||.604|
|3||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.334||3||Shohei Ohtani||.408||3||Matt Olson||.593|
|4||Yandy Diaz||.325||4||Mookie Betts||.405||4||Freddie Freeman||.580|
|5||Cody Bellinger||.316||5||Yandy Diaz||.403||5||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.570|
|1||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.349||1||Aaron Judge||.480||1||Aaron Judge||64.5%|
|2||Corey Seager||.332||2||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.453||2||Matt Olson||57.5%|
|3||Freddie Freeman||.323||3||Corey Seager||.441||T2||Matt Chapman||57.5%|
|4||Luis Arraez||.318||4||Shohei Ohtani||.434||4||Corey Seager||56.6%|
|5||Bo Bichette||.315||5||Yordan Alvarez||.423||5||Juan Soto||56.5%|
Fantasy Baseball Risers
Since returning from injury, Ryu has been great for Toronto. While he hasn’t pitched past five innings yet through four starts, he has a 1.89 ERA, 7.11 K/9, and 1.05 WHIP. His velocity is down a bit, which should be expected to some extent, but the concern with that shouldn’t be as large for Ryu because he’s never been a guy that relied on velocity to win on the mound. Compared to 2022, his spin rates are right on par, and the early returns have been promising. He’s available in roughly 80 percent of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues and nearly half of Fantrax leagues.
Matt Selz and I talked Torkelson on the Fantasy Alarm Fantasy Baseball Podcast this week, so, go check that out! However, I’ll speak a bit about it here. His prospect profile painted the picture of a powerful corner infielder with great bat-to-ball skills. Well, the power has come along this year, as a massive August has him up to 23 long balls on the year, but that .233 average is not what many were expecting. Compared to 2021, many of his numbers are trending in the right direction, and he’s staying in the zone more, whiffing less, and he’s inching closer and closer to an 80 percent contact rate. For the 2023 season, he’s slashing .233/.316/.443, but he has an xBA of .263 and an xSLG of .501. Despite his struggles through the early parts of his young career, his walk rate has hovered right around 10 percent, so once the batting average gets closer to where it should be at his peak, he’s going to be even better in OBP formats. He may only have a .253 average in August, but he’s hit eight home runs with five doubles, 17 runs scored, 10 RBI, and a .367 ISO.
Fantasy Baseball Fallers
What has happened to Framber Valdez? Through June, he had a 2.49 ERA, 56.5 percent ground ball rate, and 9.43 K/9. However, since July 1, he has a 5.08 ERA, 51.2 percent ground ball rate, and 7.78 K/9. He allows a ton of hard contact, but with his ground ball rate, he can get by with that. However, since his ground ball rate has dropped of late, we’ve seen his HR/9 jump to 1.43 over his last eight outings. Starting in July, he upped the usage on his changeup, while drastically lowering the usage on his cutter, which was interesting, given that the latter was actually a pretty good pitch for him, statistically speaking, through the first half of the season.
The hope is that he can turn it around, but fantasy managers may need to pick and choose their spots while Valdez is dealing with some summer struggles. He did just throw seven no-hit innings against Detroit, but even in that contest, he walked five batters, giving him two or more walks in eight of his last 10 starts. Despite a good start here against the Tigers, his overall fantasy value isn’t exactly trending in the right direction, as he’s been shaky of late.
For the year, Cobb’s 3.74 ERA doesn’t look too bad, but his strikeouts are down compared to the last few seasons, highlighted by his 8.5% SwStr%, which would be his lowest mark since 2018. However, over the past few weeks, his fantasy value has dropped drastically. In five August starts, he’s served up a 6.84 ERA, and despite a 53.3 percent ground ball rate, somehow has allowed a 2.73 HR/9 mark. Yes, he did face Atlanta recently, but that’s the only start out of his last five where he didn’t serve up a roundtripper. Crazy, right? He’s been throwing his curveball a bit more of late, and his velocity looks fine, but his .305 BABIP during this run is below his mark for the whole season (,333). Is it just bad luck with home runs? It could be, but when you aren’t missing bats, and opponents have a 94.2% Z-Contact%, you could be in some trouble.