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Strike Zone

Notes: Witt, Rutschman, Meyer and More

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: April 28, 2022, 11:07 am ET

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The May player rankings are coming next week. First, here’s your usual helping of notes.

American League notes

- Returning from a triceps strain, Orioles prospect Adley Rutschman made his season debut Tuesday, finishing with a double and a walk in three plate appearances for high-A Aberdeen. Orioles GM Mike Elias told the media earlier this month that Rutschman likely would have been on the Opening Day roster if not for the injury, and while I still don’t believe that for a second, it does suggest that Rutschman will get a chance in a few weeks if he finds his swing quickly. My guess is that Rutschman won’t be very useful in one-catcher mixed leagues this year; his fantasy upside took a significant hit with the changes made at Camden Yards. Still, he’ll make the Orioles a lot more interesting the moment he arrives.


- I’ve been lower than most on Cristian Javier since he debuted... extreme flyball pitchers with control issues aren’t my thing. However, this is 2022 and giving up an abundance of flyballs isn’t a bad strategy in these conditions. Plus, Javier is throwing a few more strikes in the early going, though it’s hard to say if that will hold up. He should be worth using in mixed leagues for however long the Astros keep him in the rotation.


- While it’s hard to entirely trust Tony La Russa here, Andrew Vaughn should be a solid mixed-league outfielder while Eloy Jimenez (hamstring) misses at least the next 6-8 weeks. Maybe he’ll even remain one afterwards. Gavin Sheets should also prove worth playing in 12-team and deeper leagues. He’ll still sit against lefties, but he certainly belongs in the lineup regularly against righties.


- I don’t know that there’s anything to be done about Randy Arozarena yet, but an AL-high 68% groundball rate, no homers and one walk in 68 plate appearances make for an awfully discouraging start. He averaged a barrel every 20 plate appearances last season. This year, he has none. I imagine he’ll begin to get it back together, and even if he doesn’t resume hitting quite as well as he did last year, the steals should give him a fair amount of fantasy value. I’d be open to selling a little low on him, though.


- Bobby Witt Jr. is another guy without a barrel this season, which I find awfully surprising. Strikeouts were going to be a concern for Witt, but his power wasn’t in much doubt after he hit 33 homers between Double- and Triple-A last year. In the majors, though, Witt hasn’t been turning on pitches. His peak flyball distance this year is 359 feet. His 28% pull rate is 13th lowest among the 200 players with 50 plate appearances thus far, and everyone below him on that list is hitting fewer flyballs than him. I don’t think he’s overmatched, and I’m not alarmed at this point. I expected better, though.


- If Adalberto Mondesi’s sore knee puts him on the IL, Edward Olivares could have some short-term value in mixed leagues. The Royals presumably would need to replace Mondesi with an infielder, rather than Kyle Isbel, so Olivares would seem to be in position for considerable time in the outfield as Whit Merrifield returns to second base.


- Drew Steckenrider opened up as the favorite for saves in the Seattle pen, but he hasn’t impressed in amassing a 4/3 K/BB ratio in his 6 2/3 innings. In fact, Statcast thinks he’s been one of the game’s worst pitchers to date, giving him a 10.50 xERA. I wouldn’t make much of a bet on any Mariners reliever at this point. Diego Castillo is probably the current favorite for saves, but Andres Munoz might already be the team’s best reliever and Ken Giles and Paul Sewald could turn into factors later. There’s also Erik Swanson, who has long been a favorite of mine. His velocity is down nearly 2 mph, making him seem like a worse bet, but he has pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings with a 12/0 K/BB ratio. Still, he’s probably not a big threat for saves.


- The more Matt Barnes pitches, the less it looks like he’s going to recapture his old form. Even when he tries to reach back for more velocity, it’s just not there right now, and he’s also not showing much consistency with his curve. I’m not writing him off entirely, but those who have him stashed shouldn’t be too afraid of moving on. Hansel Robles is the best option in the Boston pen at the moment.


- I’m prepared for this one to potentially look foolish in a few weeks, but keep an eye on Griffin Jax in the battle for saves in Minnesota. Typically a starter until this year, Jax has struck out nine over six innings in four appearances since joining the Twins bullpen. In Tuesday’s game against the Tigers, he eschewed his subpar fastball entirely, throwing eight sliders and two changeups. He wound up getting five swings and misses and striking out two in a perfect inning for a win. He still might be treated as more of a middle man than a late-inning guy in the short term, but he’s suddenly worth watching.

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National League notes


- I guess it’s kind of impressive that Eddie Rosario had three hits and only 10 strikeouts in 44 at-bats this season, given that he had blurred vision and swelling in his right eye. Unfortunately, he’s going to miss 2-3 months after surgery. It means the Braves won’t have any tough playing time calls to make after Ronald Acuña Jr. (knee) comes off the IL. Alex Dickerson might have been jettisoned at that point if Rosario were still around. He’s not playing much lately, since he’s off to a 2-for-28 start. I think it’s probably worth it for the Braves to roll with him against righties, but since the team doesn’t much like either him or Marcell Ozuna in left field, Dickerson figures to go eventually.


- I don’t know if Robinson Cano is truly done, but he’s certainly looked it in his 40 plate appearances to date. Meanwhile, J.D. Davis is pulverizing the ball and struggling to get into the lineup because of the Mets’ commitment to an oft-suspended 39-year-old. Davis has an average exit velocity of 94 mph on his 15 batted-ball events this year and Statcast gives him an xwOBA of .457, which is fifth best in the majors for qualified hitters. If the Mets cut Cano -- and they probably should -- Davis will make for a fine pickup in mixed leagues.


- Max Meyer has been dominant at Triple-A Jacksonville, posting a 1.83 ERA with no homers allowed and a 27/5 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings through four starts. The Marlins have never been shy when it comes to promoting pitchers, and while they don’t have a need right now, it’s possible that they’ll move on from Elieser Hernandez eventually or that Hernandez or someone else will get hurt. Meyer might be the best pitching prospect stash right now, if only because the Orioles figure to be quite a bit more passive with Grayson Rodriguez.


- I used to be very high on Brendan Rodgers for the long haul, but he wasn’t as impressive as hoped after finally getting healthy and establishing himself in the Rockies lineup last year. He wound up with a solid .284/.328/.470 line, but his exit velocity numbers were uninspiring and too much of his hard contact came on the ground. Those issues have gotten worse this year, and he’s also not making as much contact as usual. The result has been a 4-for-51 start. I imagine Rogers will eventually get back to hitting for a solid average, but I’m not sure where the power is going to come from. Like Ryan McMahon before him, he just doesn’t pull the ball often enough. He’s quickly become droppable in mixed leagues.


- 22-year-old Cardinals prospect Nolan Gorman is crushing it in Triple-A right now, having hit eight homers in 15 games. That comes with a less encouraging 20/4 K/BB ratio and zero doubles and triples in 62 plate appearances, but no one is perfect. Gorman, a natural third baseman, has played second base exclusively this year. He’s not going to match Tommy Edman there, but if he keeps hitting, the Cardinals will eventually have to give him a try. He can DH sometimes, and Edman could play a fair amount of outfield. Dylan Carlson might need to be sent down anyway if he doesn’t show something these next two weeks.


- Nick Madrigal is a singles hitter who just isn’t hitting any singles yet. Still, I’d suggest sticking with him, at least unless he starts losing too much playing time. Madrigal actually has a 42% hard-hit rate, which is about double his rate from his 83 games for the White Sox the previous two years. The hits should start falling for him, and I think his batting average might be extra valuable for teams this year, what with so many power hitters seeing more of their well-hit balls being turned into outs.


- Former Blue Jays prospect Josh Palacios is 8-for-21 with two homers and a 3/7 K/BB ratio for Triple-A Rochester since the Nationals picked him up on waivers earlier this month. Victor Robles has an option left, so the team should consider sending him down and turning to a Palacios/Lane Thomas platoon in center, with Palacios, a left-handed hitter, playing against righties, and Thomas also seeing some time in left. It’d be a defensive downgrade, but at this point, it’s probably worth it. If it happens, Palacios could have some value in deeper leagues. He’s 4-for-5 stealing bases in 13 Triple-A games this year.


- Alec Bohm is still available in over half of Yahoo leagues, which really shouldn’t be the case. He’s playing regularly, hitting the ball hard and rarely striking out. The power numbers will come.


- The Diamondbacks need to give Cooper Hummel a real look in the outfield, probably at the expense of Christian Walker (Pavin Smith and Seth Beer can both play first base). Hummel, a switch-hitter, is just 5-for-33 so far, but it comes with a 52% hard-hit rate and nine walks in 42 plate appearances. Last year, he hit .311/.432/.546 in Triple-A. I doubt Hummel would produce a lot of fantasy value as a regular -- he’s not going to hit for a strong average or steal bases -- but he’d likely make the Diamondbacks better, if that’s something they’re interested in.


- Even though Lucas Sims struggled in his season debut after missing the first two weeks with a sore elbow, the Reds put him back on the mound the next night for a save chance, which he converted. Sims looked like the clear favorite for saves in Cincinnati prior to his spring injury, and it’s probably his job to lose at this point. Of course, opportunities could be few and far between.