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? Another young arm in Cleveland came up and looked dominant, but will Cleveland give Tanner Bibee the chance to stick with the club? That’s the big question there. Oakland Athletics catcher Shea Langeliers has been solid to start the season, and just might still be out in free agency in some shallower formats. Ronald Acuna Jr.’s name is all over the leaderboard below, and he’s been excellent to begin the 2023 season. On the other hand, Houston Astros first baseman Jose Abreu is inching closer and closer to getting the fantasy baseball bust label, while I talk about Cincinnati’s Graham Ashcraft being a fantasy baseball sell-high candidate. 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||.427||1||Luis Arraez||.495||1||Max Muncy||.726|
|2||Matt Chapman||.370||2||Matt Chapman||.448||2||Brandon Marsh||.679|
|3||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.352||3||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.440||3||Matt Chapman||.663|
|4||Brandon Marsh||.346||4||Brandon Nimmo||.435||T3||Jarred Kelenic||.663|
|5||Bryson Stott||.336||5||LaMonte Wade Jr.||.429||5||Patrick Wisdom||.624|
|1||Bo Bichette||.351||1||Matt Chapman||.484||1||Joey Gallo||77.4%|
|2||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.344||2||Paul Goldschmidt||.458||2||Aaron Judge||64.4%|
|3||Freddie Freeman||.341||3||Sean Murphy||.453||3||Matt Chapman||64.2%|
|4||Luis Arraez||.338||4||Ronald Acuna Jr.||.451||4||Paul Goldschmidt||61.4%|
|5||Paul Goldschmidt||.336||5||Kyle Tucker||.442||5||Christian Bethancourt||60.0%|
|6||Fernando Tatis Jr.. Jr.||26||2||7||1||4||2||5||.269/.321/.385|
Fantasy Baseball Risers
It was against Colorado away from Coors Field, but Bibee looked dominant in his MLB debut. He struck out eight batters across 5.2 innings with zero walks, showcasing a solid repertoire with two legitimate put-away pitches (slider & changeup). Could he be the next young prospect to come up for a cup of tea and then get sent back down, a la Taj Bradley, Jordan Walker, etc.? Perhaps. However, if he continues to pitch like this, Cleveland may have no choice, and seeing as he threw over 130 innings last year, he can handle 150-160 innings of work this year with little-to-no-concern. I do expect Cleveland to be careful with him, and his leash may be short, but the talent is there, and he’s worth rostering in most formats.
Langeliers should easily have eligibility behind the dish at this point, and that’s where he becomes very useful for fantasy managers. He has three home runs over his last six games, and his plate discipline metrics are showing promise.
At a weaker offensive position for fantasy purposes, he may be worth kicking the tires on in deeper formats. Of catchers with at least 50 plate appearances, he’s tied for the most home runs behind the dish with six round trippers. Those in OBP formats would like to see some more walks from him, as his .298 OBP leaves much to be desired, but if he’s still out in free agency, you could do worse than Langeliers’ .488 SLG and 120 wRC+ through the first 24 games of the season.
Fantasy Baseball Fallers
I loved Ashcraft coming into the year, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say his fantasy value was declining a bit. Yes, he has a 2.10 ERA on the season, but his 3.78 FIP, 4.50 xFIP, and 3.81 xERA aren’t overly optimistic. Despite being a stuff+ savant, the strikeouts have not followed suit (again) for Ashcraft. After looking promising there through the first two starts of the season, he has just 11 strikeouts over his last three starts, which have come against Philly, Pittsburgh, and Texas. He’s not generating whiffs, he’s not getting swings out of the zone, and typically, that combination doesn’t lead to strikeouts. He’s pitching very well right now, and getting a ton of ground balls, but he’s a guy I’d be looking to sell high sooner rather than later.
Clevinger wasn’t a guy I was high on coming into the season, and the early returns have been underwhelming to say the least. He’s trending for the worst strikeout rate of his career, and his 4.81 ERA actually looks good when comparing it to his 5.60 xERA, 5.45 FIP, and 6.30 xFIP. His 13th percentile whiff rate and 24th percentile chase rate are way down, and to be frank, this entire Chicago team has just been scuffling. What we saw in his first start of the year seems to be a mirage, and he’s a guy I’m willing to drop at this point. He’s not going to help your fantasy team and there are likely better options to actually help you out.
Well, it hasn’t been the start in Houston that many were expecting from Abreu. In 2022, he still hit for a great average, but the power dwindled. Now, in 2023, the power still isn’t there, and despite a BABIP (.321) that’s on par with his career mark (.327), Abreu is hitting just .243 with the lowest walk rate (3.6%) and hard-hit rate (38.3%) of his career. This likely goes without saying, but his average exit velocity is down, actually four miles per hour down from his career mark, and his barrel rate is down as well. The chart below is ugly, if I’m being honest.
I hate to say it, and I don’t want to give up too soon, but he’s a guy that could become a drop for me if this slump continues. He’s generally a slow starter for his career, as March/April/May are his worst months in terms of batting average for his career, so maybe that’s the saving grace here.