From today until the end of the Major League Baseball season, Saturday is for looking at the various streaks and trends across MLB, as well as those fantasy baseball players with rising or falling stocks. 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? Popular pre-season fantasy baseball sleeper Justin Steele is off to a hot start, and Seattle Mariners’ outfielder Jarred Kelenic is looking like the young stud we expected him to be years ago. Bryson Stott and Ty France own the longest active hit streaks, and Luis Arraez continues to hit for a high average. On the other hand, Chris Sale and Blake Snell are off to tough starts to the season. 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||.500||1||Luis Arraez||.558||1||Matt Chapman||.800|
|2||Matt Chapman||.460||2||Matt Chapman||.518||2||Jarred Kelenic||.780|
|3||Josh Rojas||.395||3||Adley Rutschman||.492||3||Brandon Lowe||.757|
|4||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.. Jr.||.393||4||LaMonte Wade Jr.||.488||4||Luis Arraez||.696|
|5||Bo Bichette||.391||5||Ian Happ||.481||5||Nolan Gorman||.692|
|T1||Bo Bichette||.435||1||Matt Chapman||.533||T1||M. Melendez/D. LeMahieu||68%|
|4||Freddie Freeman||.396||2||Brandon Lowe||.530||3||Matt Chapman||66.7%|
|5||Matt Chapman||.395||3||Adam Duvall||.527||4||Aaron Judge||62.5%|
|6||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.. Jr.||.371||4||Jarred Kelenic||.517||5||Jarred Kelenic||62.1%|
|7||Adam Duvall||.366||5||Bo Bichette||.495||6||J. Pederson/L. Raley/C. Joe||61.9%|
Fantasy Baseball Risers
Steele was a favorite of mine coming into the year, and the early returns are positive. Here is what I wrote about Steele in our Draft Guide:
“Over his final seven starts of the season, he posted a 0.98 ERA and 11.54 K/9 before heading to the IL with a back strain. Over those seven starts, he posted a 30.9 percent strikeout rate and 22.4 K-BB%, which for comparison’s sake is on par with Corbin Burnes (30.5 K%, 24.1 K-BB%) and Shane McClanahan (30.3 K%, 24.3 K-BB%).... His slider and curveball can wreak havoc on opposing hitters late in the count, and if he minimizes hard contact like he did last year, he's in line for a productive 2023.”
Well, through three starts, he’s 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 26.4 percent strikeout rate and he’s posted a quality start in each outing. He’s primarily used his fastball and slider this year, so he’ll need to use a third pitch a bit more as the season goes on to keep hitters on their toes, but his slider has posted a 40 percent whiff rate, and his fastball’s whiff rate has jumped up a couple percentage points from last season too.
We are finally seeing the Kelenic we all expected to see back in 2021 when he got the call. Between 2021 and 2022, Kelenic hit .168 with a 29.9 percent strikeout rate, not to mention a contact rate of 73.3 percent, and a swinging strike rate of 12.8 percent. This year, all of the tools he possesses have come together and he’s absolutely punishing the baseball. The talented youngster has a top ten barrel rate amongst qualified hitters, and he’s top five in hard hit rate. His plate discipline metrics have improved as well, and while the team may protect him against good lefties, he did hit a home run off a left-hander yesterday and he has two hits in five at-bats against lefties this season, with only one strikeout. I was pessimistic coming into the year, but it’s hard to ignore the astronomic ride his fantasy stock has enjoyed over the first two weeks of the season.
If you ever wondered what would happen if Chapman could cut back on the strikeouts and make more consistent contact, you are seeing it now. His contact rate of 81.9 percent is far above his recent marks and getting the bat to the ball more often has resulted in Chapman posting a 19.6 percent strikeout rate through the first 13 games of the season. From 2017-2022, his strikeout rate was 27 percent, for a frame of reference. Prior to his recent 0-for-4 day, he had four straight multi-hit games, including three home runs during that stretch. His offensive production is going to come back down to Earth at some point, but one thing that is very interesting is that while he has only one stolen base, he has three stolen base attempts on the season. Last year, he only attempted four steals, and in the year prior, he attempted five. He’s not going to hit .460 all season, but we all know the power is legit, and if he keeps the strikeouts down a bit and continues to run, we could be looking at a 25/8 season from Chapman, with one of the better batting averages of his career.
Fantasy Baseball Fallers
Despite a loaded offense behind him, an 0-2 start with a 6.92 ERA (7.26 xERA, 6.22 FIP) is not what fantasy managers were hoping for at this point. Listen, rostering Snell is going to be a wild ride, and it will be full of glorious highs, and frustrating lows. The walks have been a major problem this season. He has ten walks in 13 innings pitched, which is the tenth-highest walk rate amongst starters with at least ten innings pitched on the season. Snell is flirting with a dangerous combo, which is the fact that he’s throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone than ever before, but also getting fewer swings outside of the zone than ever before.
You can’t drop Snell, but if you want to get off the roller coaster, wait until he strings together a couple of good starts, and then look to trade him away. One thing I will note is that for Snell’s career, he gets better as the year goes. For his career, he has a 4.09 ERA in the first half of the season, and a 2.74 ERA in the second half. Additionally, his walk rate tends to go down as the year goes on as well. I believe it’s fair to say that he’s a notorious slow starter.
A .277 BABIP isn’t helping Miranda’s start to the season, but that .271 xBA looks pretty good, right? He’s underperforming all of his expected statistics, so things should turn around for Miranda, but he’ll need more than just luck. Compared to last season, his average exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard-hit rate are all down, and I don’t love the increased swinging strike rate either. To his credit, he’s staying in the zone more, which has pushed up that walk rate. Miranda isn’t a big-time slugger, but any growth in the power department will be thwarted if his current batted ball profile sticks around for a while. I believe he’ll turn it around, so don’t give up on Miranda yet.
Sale’s velocity is down from last year across the board, but more interestingly, he may not believe in his fastball as much as he has in years past. His four-seamer usage has tumbled, whereas his sinker usage has skyrocketed. However, the only problem is that the opponents have hit these pitches at a .600 and .438 clip respectively.
His strikeout numbers have been really good, posting a 14.25 K/9 through three starts, but he has a 7.62 FIP, 3.75 HR/9 and his 5.25 BB/9 would far and away be the highest of his career. That walk rate is reminiscent of young Sale in Chicago! It’s encouraging that he’s still racking up strikeouts despite not getting many swings out of the zone, and his .406 BABIP isn’t likely to stay, so there is room for optimism. However, fantasy managers are not getting what they were hoping for from the Boston southpaw, and outside of the strikeouts, there hasn’t been much fantasy value to be had.