This column will be posted on Underdog Network every Monday throughout the 2022 season. The goal is to shed insight on the latest happenings within the sport, which can hopefully be of interest to season-long fantasy enthusiasts, DFS players, bettors, and analytically-minded fans.
Conversation is always encouraged. I can be reached on Twitter @toomuchtuma. Now let's dive in.
Notes entering Monday
MJ Melendez is getting the Salvador Perez treatment, starting 7 straight games through Sunday. This includes catching both halves of a doubleheader on Tuesday!
JT Realmuto is starting to hit lower in the order, batting 7th on Tuesday and 8th on Saturday.
4 of Lourdes Gurriel Jr.'s past 5 starts have come hitting 7th or lower.
Meanwhile, Santiago Espinal has hit 5th for the Jays in 3 straight.
Nolan Gorman hit 6th in his MLB debut on Friday, sat versus a lefty on Saturday, and hit 2nd in a "getaway day" lineup on Sunday.
Steven Kwan hit 8th on Sunday. It was his first time not batting 1st or 2nd since Opening Day.
Austin Riley opened the year as the Braves' locked in No. 3 hitter but is starting to move around the order more. He has batted 6th on 2 occasions of late.
Adley Rutschman batted 6th and 5th in his first 2 starts in the majors. He was the Orioles' DH in the second one, which is something I expect to continue.
Keibert Ruiz hit 2nd on Sunday, in front of Juan Soto. This could really help his runs scored total if it keeps up.
Julio Rodriguez hit 3rd or 4th in all 4 games the Mariners played in Boston for their most recent series.
Royce Lewis' first 4 defensive assignments back at Triple-A: SS, 3B, LF, SS.
In an effort to keep this weekly piece fresh I want to connect with readers a bit more. We'll try and do mailbag-style blogs every now and then. Questions can be for redraft, dynasty, prospects, non-fantasy thoughts about baseball, baseball in pop culture, life, etc.
Thanks to everyone who sent questions in via Twitter. Let's dig in.
@CJBaseball16 -- Is Chapman done as the closer in NY?
This is a perfect question to kick things off as Clay Holmes was going to be a player I spotlighted anyways.
The 34-year-old Chapman has struggled this year with a career-low 22.7 K% and a BB% that nearly matches last season's career-worst mark. The biggest issue has been a four-seam fastball that is down to averaging 96.8 mph (compared to 98.3 mph in 2021). His heater has also lost some "ride", down to 0.8 inches in vertical movement (1.3 in '21, 2.2 in '20).
We then found out he received treatment for an Achilles injury after Sunday's game. That is not good. Could it explain some of his struggles? Perhaps, but unless he gets his fastball back it might not matter.
Factor in Holmes' emergence and there's so much signal that he could be the Yankees' closer for a sustained stretch here. I recently bid (and won) Holmes for $9 FAAB ($100 budget) in a saves-only roto league. This is a situation to get out in front of quickly.
@bilinda_butcher -- What is the deal with Manoah’s relatively low strikeout rate / are you concerned at all?
So Manoah's K% is down from 27.7% as a rookie to 22.3% in 2022. However, his BB% has also dropped from 8.7% to 4.7%.
He's also getting really good results on batted balls (Statcast is blood red), so I think this is just a situation where he's pitching to contact a bit more; the first pitch strike% is up from 2021.
His 1.62 ERA won't last of course, but it's backed up by a 2.58 xERA and a 2.94 FIP. The lack of Ks is a bummer but he's on pace to easily out-produce his draft day value.
@Holland8634 -- What to do with Mackenzie Gore in redraft. @Holland8634 -- What is George Kirby rest of season outlook?
I'll start with Gore since he has a bigger data set and therefore we can draw more meaningful conclusions from his results.
From a dynasty perspective I think Gore has already hit a 99th percentile outcome from where he was at this time last year. The 23-year-old has a 2.06 ERA (2.33 FIP) through his first 35 big league innings. On Sunday against the Giants he completed 6 frames for the first time in the majors. We'll take that!
The question becomes how are the Padres going to use him this summer? Gore pitched 3 spectacular innings out of the bullpen when San Diego had 7 healthy starters at the start of last week. It was very encouraging that they didn't send Gore down. The plan was to use Gore and Nick Martinez as piggyback options until there was an opening in the rotation.
Then Mike Clevinger (triceps) landed on the IL on Sunday. It isn't expected to be a long-term issue, and Martinez is starting Monday, but these situations are going to keep arising. Gore is pitching well and as long as that continues the Padres will give him as many starts as possible. He's a firm hold in redraft.
As for Kirby, he was simply spectacular in his MLB debut back on May 8th -- spinning 6 shutout innings while allowing just 4 hits and striking out 7 versus the Rays. He hasn't been as sharp in his past 2 outings against the Mets and Red Sox, both on the road, but those were much tougher matchups.
Kirby faces the A's on Tuesday and that is one where I really want to see him dominate. His 10.8% swinging strike rate is fine and the walk rate is obviously elite. That combination likely renders him a high-end streamer in redraft leagues.
@MikeJon26654461 -- How you feel about Jeffrey springs rest of season?
Don't worry if you haven't heard of Springs. He began the year as a multi-inning RP/opener for Tampa Bay and they've slowly been building up his workload. Springs is a classic "out of nowhere" arm that the Rays acquired for nothing, and now we're writing about him for fantasy baseball purposes. Incredible.
He started on Saturday against the Orioles and logged 5 2/3 innings, which was his first outing to top 5 frames this season. The biggest selling point for Springs is a 15.2% swinging strike rate. It's easier to generate whiffs at this clip when you aren't pitching as many innings, but Springs still recorded plenty during Saturday's start.
As of today, May 23rd, he's someone to monitor. If he keeps starting and maintains the SwStr% then he could be a nice pickup for the second half of 2022. I'm thinking similar to what Ranger Suarez provided for fantasy managers last year.
@heyiamgreg1 buy low RP ideas? @heyimagreg1 Top 5 impactful prospects for redraft ROS
Lumping these questions in together since they're from the same reader. For buy low RPs I'll start by just putting out some thoughts on teams without an obvious closer right now. These views are for saves-only leagues:
John Schreiber and Matt Strahm are Boston's best relievers. I'd love to see one of them get a chance at full-time closing duties.
Clay Holmes, of course.
Andrew Kittredge is on the IL for the Rays and I have no idea who will get the next save for them. I'm also betting against it being just one person.
Jhoan Duran picked up his 3rd save on Sunday. Please, Twins...
Dany Jimenez is basically operating as Oakland's full-time closer.
Joe Barlow hasn't recorded a save in a bit but is still the guy in Texas.
David Bednar is an elite closer and I'm not sure everyone fully realizes it yet.
Ryan Helsley is the ultimate high-upside stash but probably needs an injury to Giovanny Gallegos to see consistent save opportunities.
Daniel Bard remains Colorado's full-time closer.
I'm not messing with the Reds' bullpen. Alexis Diaz if you're desperate..
As for impactful prospects, here are the names I'm keeping an eye on. They combine talent with proximity to the majors:
Bonus: Riley Greene, Jarren Duran, Miguel Vargas.
@kaufdrop36 -- Would be interesting to hear about some potential future Uber-Elite prospects! Anyone that could be in the tier of a Wander Franco / Bobby Witt Jr. / Julio Rodríguez.
I'm in the process of a midseason update to my Top 50 Prospects for Patreon subscribers, so this is a question that's very much on my mind right now. If you're looking for more in-depth thoughts on the names below and other prospects, the Patreon update will be finished by Memorial Day.
Another way to look at it is "who could be the top prospect in baseball this time next year?" Here are some candidates:
Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks -- I wrote about him last week on Substack.
Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees -- He was a strong candidate for this honor entering the season, but a slow start has calmed the hype train. There's an outside chance he doesn't have the freakish athleticism to be an uber-elite talent, but I remain in on him and wouldn't sell low in dynasty.
Marco Luciano, SS, Giants -- Has adjusted back to High-A in a huge way to begin 2022. Thunderous power and a limitless offensive ceiling.
Jordan Walker, 3B, Cardinals -- Dominating Double-A as a teenager (he turned 20 this past weekend). Once the power kicks in he'll become a household name.
Robert Hassell, OF, Padres -- He does everything right. Similar to Walker, once the power fully arrives the excitement will skyrocket.
@thewonkypenguin -- Which of these prospects do you think is the most likely to be a bust: Alex Kiriloff, Jo Adell, Jarred Kelenic?
Based on expectations, Kelenic has been the biggest letdown. I still believe in his talent and think he's a "buy" in dynasty.
I know that the Mariners have been concerned about him "spiraling" at various points in each of the past two seasons. Kelenic is a very emotional player and the issue is his game is volatile. He never had Wander Franco's hit tool and in a best-case scenario was always going to be a streaky hitter. Keep in mind he lost some incredibly important developmental time (at the upper minors) due to the pandemic. He just needs more experience right now.
I get why people are developing prospect fatigue with Adell, but even at the peak of his dynasty value we should've viewed him as a work in progress offensively. Adell is extremely athletic, but he's still working on the finer details of hitting. There have been some stance/swing adjustments in recent years and in 2022 he was hitting the ball hard in the majors. I'm not bailing yet.
Of the trio that Wonky Penguin listed, Kirilloff is the one player I'd move on from in dynasty. He's someone that rebuilding teams should target as a "buy low" but ongoing wrist issues have lowered enthusiasm for his potential.
@wfromans -- Jose Abreu; will he heat up as summer wears on or is he droppable? I have him for just this year and Yuli Gurriel is available. What to do..
Abreu looks like a screaming buy-low right now. Offense was down bad in April, but it's making a comeback in May. My stance on slow-starting studs has been to give it until Memorial Day before panicking (looking at you, Marcus Semien). Abreu, though, is someone to get now.
He's chasing and whiffing less than ever before. The hard-hit rate is up. The ground ball rate is up as well, and the barrel rate is low, but since the plate discipline metrics are there I tend to think he just hasn't found himself yet. His process is better at age-35, which is rare. He just hasn't locked in yet.
Statcast likes what he's doing too:
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions!!!