It’s hard to believe, but a month of baseball games is in the books. While some players are playing unexpectedly well to start the season, 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 hot and cold performances in order to help with lineup and waiver wire decisions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some Week 5 risers and fallers for 2023 fantasy baseball!
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Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers
Week 5 Stats from 4/24 – 4/30
Brent Rooker (OF – OAK)
We should all be paying more attention to Brent Rooker. The slugger went 10-for-24 (.417) last week, clubbing five home runs with eight runs scored and 11 RBI. Rooker is no stranger to power. 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.
Rooker has successfully carried that power over to the majors. Across 86 plate appearances, he has a 24.1% barrel rate and .426 ISO to go along with a .353/.465/.779 slash line. He also has nine home runs, 14 runs scored, and 22 RBI in that span. An improved plate approach has helped fuel Rooker’s strong start – he’s walking at a 16.3% clip and has cut his strikeout rate from 30.6% to 18.6%. If Rooker can keep his strikeouts under control, he should be able to continue his breakout campaign.
Byron Buxton (OF – MIN)
Byron Buxton’s bat has caught fire. He had seven hits last week, including three doubles and four home runs. He also had six runs scored and 10 RBI across those 25 plate appearances, as well as a 55.6% hard-hit rate.
Buxton is having himself a solid season. He’s slashing .258/.324/.557 with seven homers, 19 runs scored, and 17 RBI across 108 plate appearances. He’s also sporting a .299 ISO and 141 wRC+. Buxton’s 31.5% strikeout rate is less than ideal, but his quality of contact metrics are strong (14.1% barrel rate and 46.9% hard-hit rate). Health has always been the issue for Buxton. But if he can stay on the field, he has immense power upside.
Edward Olivares (OF – KCR)
Edward Olivares has been making some noise of late. He hit safely in all six of his games last week, including five doubles and a triple. Olivares finished the week with one home run, seven runs scored, three RBI, and two stolen bases. He also posted a shiny 1.333 OPS.
For the season, Olivares is hitting .289/.344/.482 with a couple of home runs, 12 runs scored, eight RBI, and three stolen bases across 90 plate appearances. He strikes out at a sub-20% clip, makes a ton of contact in the zone (93.4%), and has nearly doubled his launch angle to 12.9 degrees so far this season. Olivares has both pop and speed with 20/15 upside, but has yet to see consistent playing time. However, his hot-swinging bat could change that. Arrows are up for this across-the-board contributor.
Josiah Gray (SP – WAS)
Josiah Gray had a fantastic two-start week. He combined for one earned run across 12 innings pitched, with 15 strikeouts and four walks. Gray has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last five starts, and has a 2.67 ERA and 1.28 WHIP through 33.2 innings pitched.
Gray was plagued by the long ball last season, but he’s been able to limit dingers in favor of ground balls to start the season. He’s also giving up less hard contact. His 4.72 xFIP and 88.8% strand rate indicate some regression is coming. But given the headache that pitching is in 2023, I’m cautiously optimistic about his upcoming start against the Diamondbacks.
Nolan Arenado (3B – STL)
Nolan Arenado has had a chilly start to the season, and this past week was no different. He only collected two hits in 25 plate appearances, with a total of one run scored. He also struck out at a 24% clip. While that doesn’t seem terrible at first glance, it’s a little uglier given his career strikeout rate sits at 14.8%
In fact, part of Arenado’s struggles this season stem from his swing-and-miss tendencies. He’s slashing .239/.281/.319 across 121 plate appearances, with only two home runs on the season. He’s also striking out at a career-high 21.5% rate and chasing over 40% of the time. Arenado’s quality of contact metrics have also taken a dive – both his 3.4% barrel rate and 30.7% hard-hit rate are career lows. Arenado is one of the most consistent and durable players in the league, so it’s tough to put a ton of stock into his slow start. But he could lose his cleanup spot in the order if he can’t turn things around soon.
Daulton Varsho (C/OF – TOR)
Daulton Varsho had a brutal week. He finished with two singles, one run scored, an RBI, and a steal. He also had zero barrels to go along with a lowly 26.3% hard-hit rate. Varsho hasn’t exactly had a strong start to the season. He’s slashing .186/.288/.284 with two home runs, five steals, and a .098 ISO across 118 plate appearances.
While Varsho is making a strong amount of contact in the zone (88.3%), he’s not making quality contact. His barrel rate has dropped from 10.2% last season to 5.4%, and his 84.7 mph average exit velocity is in the first percentile. Yeesh. Varsho is coming off a 27/16/.235 season with a .207 ISO. If he can’t turn things around in the power department, his fantasy value will continue to drop.
Jorge Soler (OF – MIA)
Jorge Soler is one of the streakier players in the league, and he was swinging a cold bat last week. He only managed two hits in 24 at-bats while striking out at a 30.8% clip. For the season, Soler’s .221/.308/.463 slash line across 107 plate appearances doesn’t stand out. But digging a little deeper, there’s some optimism surrounding the power hitter this season.
Soler’s 23.4% strikeout rate is a six-point improvement from 2022. He’s also upped both his barrel and hard-hit rate by five points to 17.1% and 48.6%, respectively. Assuming Soler can maintain his early-season gains, he could be a nice buy-low option in deeper leagues. Just make sure you can stomach his streakiness.
Brady Singer (SP – KCR)
Brady Singer is coming off a terrible performance against the Twins where he coughed up eight earned runs and three walks while lasting just 2.2 innings. He did get five strikeouts in the limited outing, but that doesn’t really compare to the brutal 27.00 ERA he also put up.
Singer hasn’t been able to build off his strong 2022 season. Part of the reason is that he’s giving up hard contact at a frightening 59.6% clip. However, Singer has pitched better than his 8.49 ERA and 1.52 WHIP indicates. Through 29.2 innings pitched this season, Singer also has a 3.95 xFIP and an unlucky 47.9% strand rate. Positive regression should be coming and his upcoming matchup against the Athletics should help right the ship. However, if Singer can’t curb the hard contact, he’ll continue to be a tough start.