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The Spin: Fantasy baseball’s top developments (good and bad) from MLB season’s first month

Written by on April 29, 2024

The April schedule is almost complete, so it’s a good time to take stock of the fantasy baseball landscape. I think it’s also a good time to start auditing your standings. There’s still plenty of time to fix a mediocre team, or mess up a great one. But if you’re sitting on a contender for 2024, you probably know it.

Let’s run through the movers and shakers of the opening month.

The Spin check-in coming off the weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)The Spin check-in coming off the weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

The Spin check-in coming off the weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

All those spring fears with De La Cruz, they seem so trivial now. Low batting slot? He’s been promoted to the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Demotion risk? There’s no chance of that after a .281/.395/.573 push, with seven homers and 18 steals. To be fair, Elly’s production is still heavily slanted to home games (1.257 OPS) and right-handed pitching (1.105 OPS); he’s batting .229 against lefties, and .178 on the road. But it’s a right-handed world and the home-road splits could easily be a fluke, anyway.

We’re doing a start-fresh Yahoo Friends & Family League on Monday night, and I fully expect De La Cruz to land in the first round, perhaps in the top half of the round.

With all due respect to the glitzy and fun Dodgers out west, the Braves always had the deepest lineup on paper entering the season. And through a month of play, the story checks out. Atlanta ranks first in batting average, second in OBP, second in slugging and first in runs per game. It’s been mostly about stringing hits together, as the Braves are merely 14th in both homers and stolen bases. But those ranks will surely rise quickly.

Atlanta’s juicy team stats have come despite ordinary production from the primary stars. The three lowest OPS+ numbers in the everyday lineup belong to Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson and Austin Riley. When those guys get in gear, the Atlanta carnival will really get started.

Braves DH Marcell Ozuna had an ADP well outside 100 for some reason, but he’s been one of the steals of the season (.340/.416/.670, nine homers, 31 RBI). Over the last calendar year, Ozuna’s at .305 with 47 homers and 129 RBI. Travis D’Arnaud stepped up nicely after Sean Murphy got hurt, and Ozzie Albies (despite a brief injury) and Michael Harris II have justified their lofty draft slots.

Keep your opposing pitchers out of Atlanta, man.

In a year defined largely by pitchers and their fragile elbows, it’s ironic that oft-injured Glasnow is healthy and prospering. Glasnow’s first seven turns have been terrific (five wins, 2.72 ERA, 12 walks, 53 strikeouts), slotting him as the SP3 in banked value and far and away the most profitable pick of the high-end pitchers.

As you’ve surely heard at one point or another, Glasnow has never traveled past 120 innings in any MLB season. And the Dodgers are likely to run away and hide in the NL West, which will make it easy to utilize load management on their primary starters. Nonetheless, anyone who paid the full freight on Glasnow in draft season surely feels validated now.

He’s cooled a little after a blistering start, but Volpe’s first month nonetheless goes down as a definitive win. He’s batting .282 with three homers and seven steals, and he’s quickly jumped to the front of the New York lineup after batting in the bottom third for about a week. Volpe’s average might be a touch fortunate against his hard-hit profile, but his solid pitch-recognition skills suggest a player who should always hit for a reasonable average. And we always knew the category juice was in his bag; he showed it last year. Throw in outstanding defense and the Yankees are looking at their newest star.

There are four current pitchers with five victories on the year, and two of them are relievers — Atlanta’s A.J. Minter (not that surprising) and Mets retread Reed Garrett (completely out of nowhere). There’s surely some noise and randomness to relief wins, but Minter and Garrett are also working regularly in high-leverage situations, and it’s a time in baseball when more wins are being distributed to the bullpens.

There have been a handful of 10-12 relief-win seasons in the 2000s; I suspect this year someone might push past that mark. And here’s one more regular reminder that perusing the waiver wire for K/BB wipeout relievers is a great way to smooth some ratios.

Who’s the biggest scapegoat for Houston’s sloppy 9-19 start? Throw a dart and pick out a name.

Brand-name closer Josh Hader has been a mess, with a piddly two saves and a 7.59 ERA. Alex Bregman is batting .216 without a homer. José Abreu is in a miserable 7-for-71 slump and doesn’t have a single barrel all season. His career is likely over at age 37; intriguing farmhand Joey Loperfido is on the way. Chas McCormick (.236, no homers) doesn’t resemble the fun breakout player we enjoyed last year.

At least the three core players in Houston’s offense — Kyle Tucker, Yordan Álvarez, and José Altuve — are all off to strong starts. But the lineup is lacking depth and the pitching staff is probably average at best. I’ll be surprised if the Astros can cobble together a playoff berth from this roster.

It’s a good thing Carroll has eight steals, because the rest of his fantasy profile is a mess. He’s slashing .189/.295/.236, he has just one homer, and his Baseball Savant page is a factory of sadness.

Is Carroll putting himself in bad counts with a too-passive approach? Is an undisclosed injury at blame here? He’s battled shoulder problems in the past. Given the frozen-rope machine he was in 2023, I suspect there’s a physical problem at play. I’ll steer clear of Carroll, even at a discount, when we convene for Monday night’s draft.

Every team in the NL has over 100 runs scored, but it’s not as rosy in the AL. The Athletics are slashing .203/.275/.348 en route to a paltry 84 runs, and the White Sox are even worse (.207/.274/.313, 77 runs). Chicago has already been shut out eight times.

Oakland’s top 5×5 hitter is the ordinary Brent Rooker, who has five homers and a .213 average. Zack Gelof struggled out of the gate (.196) then hit the IL with an oblique injury. Oakland closer Mason Miller has been electric (25 strikeouts in 12.1 innings, seven saves, wipeout ratios) and Paul Blackburn a surprisingly effective starter (3.34/1.09), but there’s not much else to see here. It’s a depressing year in a city that deserves better.

Luis Robert and Yoán Moncada quickly hit the IL for the White Sox, not that anything can save this team. Gavin Sheets (.269, three homers) is the only Chicago batter inside the top 300 for current banked value. The team has split its four saves among three pitchers, so even presumed closer Michael Kopech is dealing with a capped ceiling.

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