There are dozens of stories from any slate in fantasy baseball. Here are a few things that caught my eye from Thursday.
Kyle Tucker, first-round star
I don’t think Kyle Tucker was ever a gettable buy-low in any league with a pulse, but even in the less-sophisticated pools, that opportunity has dried up. Tucker’s two-game haul from Thursday — adding the continuation game — was a fantasy delight: A homer, a steal, three hits, three walks. He scored two runs, knocked in two. There’s nothing Tucker can’t do on a baseball field.
If only the Astros didn’t insist on slotting him sixth (at least it’s a deep lineup).
Tucker got off to a slow start last year — hampered by bad luck — and that’s the story this year. His .255 average is 50 points lower than his expected average, and his .445 slugging percentage is 140 points lower than what the Statcast data suggests. Positive regression is coming. Now that he’s shown the willingness to run aggressively — a trend that showed in the playoffs — Tucker belongs parked in the first round of fantasy talent. If I were redrafting right now, he’s an easy top-10 pick.
Dylan Cease, better than you might think
Even when Dylan Cease isn’t on top of his game, he still does something useful. Sure, it hurts when he allows six runs, though the Yankees lineup can do it to almost anyone. But at least Cease got 11 strikeouts for his four innings of work. He’s now whiffed eight or more batters in six of his seven starts, and his strikeout percentage is a juicy 36.9 percent.
Cease hasn’t had his best curve this year, but it hardly matters. He dominates with his fastball and slider, and he’s throwing one of those two pitches almost 80 percent of the time. His strike-zone mastery is also moving in the right direction; he’s never thrown as many strikes as he has in 2022, and his chase rate has bumped appreciably.
It’s unlikely anyone can acquire Cease on a discount, but last night’s misstep pushed his ERA up to 3.55, a misleading number. His expected ERA stands at 1.98. He’s allowing fewer hard hits than ever before, and his walk rate is static year-over-year. This is what a career season looks like. Cease figures to be in the Cy Young chase all year.
I didn’t dislike Cease before the season, but it pains me that he’s not on any of my 2022 rosters. So it goes, you can’t draft everybody. Your opponents get to make picks, too.
Many Yankees delivering fantasy profit
The Yankees finished with 15 runs on 15 hits in the win over Chicago, and several of New York’s hitters look like glorious fantasy profits. Look at some of the OPS+ stats in this lineup, an indexed stat where 100 is average: Aaron Judge is at 193, Anthony Rizzo (long live that short porch) stands at 164, Giancarlo Stanton reads 148 and DJ LeMahieu slots at 144. All four of them are likely to smash their affordable ADPs from the spring.
Stanton isn’t walking much and his OBP has dipped, but so long as he’s healthy and swinging for the fences, his managers are generally happy. LeMahieu was part of a crowded infield to open the year, which depressed his initial cost, but he’s fourth on the team in plate appearances, only missing four starts. He’s batted leadoff in 14 of the last 18 games, and he covers all the bases (first, second, third) for Yahoo managers. Not bad for Yahoo ADP 105.6.
Jorge Mateo's sneaky value
I keep wondering why Jorge Mateo’s roster tag remains low. He’s batting .243 — that will actually help you a little in most deeper mixed pools — with two homers and nine steals. He qualifies at second, short and the outfield. Baltimore’s run production is modest, and Mateo doesn’t have good lineup real estate yet, but he does a little of everything.
If you rank Mateo with all the second-base eligibles in Yahoo 5x5 value, he slots 11th. Do the same exercise at shortstop, and he’s your No. 10 guy. Versatile players often tend to be underrated, especially if they toil for non-contending teams. This is one of those cases.