Another week of baseball games are officially in the books, folks. Some players are playing unexpectedly well to start the season, while others who we had high hopes for have been struggling. For fantasy purposes, you may be wondering what to do. But don’t sweat it! This weekly write-up will highlight the week’s risers and fallers in order to help with lineup and waiver wire decisions. Keep in mind it’s early in the season and we’re still in information-gathering mode. For the most part, continue to trust your draft process and don’t overreact to the small sample sizes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some Week 3 risers and fallers for 2023 fantasy baseball!
More great fantasy baseball advice and analysis: Waiver Wire & FAAB Recommendations | Daily MLB Injury Report | MLB DFS Picks | Line-up Analysis | Dynasty Rankings and Strategy | MLB Bullpen Updates | MLB Player Props | Prospect Rankings & Analysis | Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers
Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers
Stats from 4/10 – 4/17
Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA)
Jarred Kelenic was the star of week. He hit a home run in four straight games, including one against a lefty which is something he’s struggled with in the past. Kelenic also added six runs scored, six RBI,s and a stolen base to the week’s total, and recorded a 1.462 OPS.
Overall, Kelenic has had an excellent start to the season. He’s slashing .333/.393/.667 across 56 plate appearances, and his 198 wRC+ ranks fourth-best among hitters. Additionally, his hard-hit rate has jumped from 35% in 2022 to 55.6%. Kelenic is chasing less and his strikeout rate sits at 26.8% – a seven-point improvement from last season. The knock against Kelenic is that he typically sits against lefties, but his hot bat could soon change that. If he can maintain his plate skill improvements and be more successful against southpaws, Kelenic’s value will continue to rise.
Austin Hays (OF – BAL)
It was a sneaky-good week for Austin Hays. He had 14 hits in 30 at-bats (.467), including three doubles and a triple. He also recorded five multi-hit games in seven starts, while hitting two home runs with 11 runs scored and three RBIs. Hays has clobbered fastballs this season to the tune of a .686 SLG (.755 xSLG) and has upped his hard-hit rate by nearly eight points to 45.5%. Additionally, his 22.7% barrel rate ranks in the 95th percentile.
Hays isn’t flashy, but he contributes a little to every category. He makes a strong amount of contact in the zone (career 89%), so his increase in power to start the season is encouraging. The Orioles’ offense is humming and Hays should continue to be a productive middle-of-the-order bat for them.
Cody Bellinger (OF – CHC)
Cody Bellinger is heating up, people! After scuffling during the Opening Day series, he’s now hit safely in his past seven games, including a five-hit game on Monday. Bellinger also stuffed the stat sheet last week with two home runs, eight runs scored, and four RBIs. He even tacked on a couple of stolen bases for good measure. Overall, Bellinger is having a solid start to the season. He has a 3/11/10/3/.310 stat line across 65 plate appearances with a .385 wOBA.
While Bellinger’s hot start is encouraging, it’s also a bit of a mixed bag. His 13.9% strikeout rate and 84% zone contact rate are career bests, but his 34% hard-hit rate and 86.9 mph average exit velocity are career lows. It’s unclear what all of this means moving forward, but Bellinger is currently on pace for a 30/30 season. Roll with it and see what sticks.
Brent Rooker (OF – OAK)
Brent Rooker has been a diamond in the rough for the Athletics. For the week, Rooker slashed .393/.438/.857 with a .527 wOBA. He also popped four home runs with five runs scored and 11 RBIs across 32 plate appearances. Rooker is a power hitter with a little bit of swing-and-miss to his game. In 81 Triple-A games last season, he hit 28 homers with 71 runs scored, 87 RBI, five stolen bases, and a 1.044 OPS.
That power has carried over to the majors as Rooker has a .351 ISO for the season. Additionally, his 94.4 mph average exit velocity ranks 19th among all hitters. Oakland’s offense is bottom-of-the-barrel, but Rooker hits in the heart of the order and should have a long leash. Ride Rooker’s hot bat while you can, especially in deeper formats.
Jose Abreu (1B – HOU)
Following a 10-game hitting streak to start the season, Jose Abreu has fallen into a bit of a slump. He went 4-for-30 over the week with two runs scored, four RBI, and a .133/.161/.200 slash line. Abreu’s production to start the season is also underwhelming. Across 75 plate appearances, he has a total of four runs scored and seven RBI. Abreu has also failed to hit a home run this season, which is not what you want to see from the team’s cleanup hitter.
Abreu’s quality of contact metrics are down to start the season – his 38.5% hard-hit rate and a 3.8% barrel rate are both career-lows. Additionally, he has an elevated 25.3% strikeout rate (career 19.8%) and is only walking 4% of the time. Abreu has a strong track record and should be able to turn things around. But the change of scenery hasn’t worked out so well for the veteran hitter.
MJ Melendez (C/OF – KCR)
MJ Melendez is having a brutal start to the season and the past week was no different. He slashed .167/.286/.250 in six games, with three runs scored and four RBI. That also came with a bloated 32.1% strikeout rate. The strikeouts are uncharacteristic for Melendez (24.5% in 2022), but it’s something he’s been struggling with to start the season (36.4% over 66 PA). Additionally, his zone contact rate has plummeted from 81.3% in 2022 to 68.9%. Yikes. Melendez bats near the top of the order and hits the snot out of the ball when he does make contact. But until he can fix his swing-and-miss tendencies and contact issues, fantasy managers will continue to suffer. Stay tuned.
Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL)
There are a lot of mouths to feed in St. Louis, and Tyler O’Neill could be the odd man out. He’s had an okay-ish start to the season (2/6/4/1/.255 in 53 PA), but he’s sat out in two of the last three games following Lars Nootbaar’s return from the IL. Additionally, Nolan Gorman is out-playing O’Neill for the DH spot. The situation could change, but it appears that O’Neill is looking at a weak side platoon role for the time being. If that sticks, his fantasy value will descend into a free fall. This is definitely a situation to monitor.
Miguel Vargas (1B/2B – LAD)
Miguel Vargas had a lackluster week. Across six starts, he collected four hits for a total of three runs scored. On the season, his overall production hasn’t been much better. While he’s been getting on base at a robust .400 clip, that’s only amounted to a total of seven runs scored and three RBI across 56 plate appearances. Additionally, Vargas has yet to hit a home run or steal a base – not exactly what fantasy managers expected from the young power/speed player.
However, brighter days should be coming as Vargas’ expected stats indicate he’s been significantly underperforming:
Additionally, he’s displayed elite plate skills (23.2% BB% and 17.9% K%) and is hitting the ball hard 40.6% of the time. Vargas was one of my favorite sleepers this offseason, and is a great buy-low candidate.