Big Kid Adds (5/23/22)

While the NFBC Main Event garners most of the attention, there are a handful of leagues with even a larger entry fee ($2.5K to $15K). They get originally named “High Stakes Leagues” and this year there are nine of them. With so much money on the line, these fantasy managers are going to try to gain any advantage. Most of the time, these managers will be a week or two ahead of everyone else on their adds. Here are the players and some information on the ones added in five or more of these leagues.

Nolan Gorman (9): Gorman’s talent has been covered by every possible outlet and managers rostering him should not be a surprise. The one item I’m watching is how pitchers attack him. With the 34% K% in AAA, he had to have some huge holes in his swing. He’s only seen 44 pitches so far, a quarter of them have been changeups (18% SwStr% on changeups; 9% overall). One possible explanation is that he can’t hit lefties. He sat against one on Saturday. In AAA, he had a .655 OPS vs lefties and a 1.254 OPS versus righties. It worked out to a 41% K% against the lefties and 31% against righties. The strikeout danger zone is about 30%, though, so even his mark against righties isn’t exactly good. Also note that minor leaguers can’t be picked up in the NFBC until they appear in the majors unless they were drafted and subsequently cut so even these high stakes leagues go through the standard rookie frenzy we see in the Main Event when someone big is called up.

Johnny Cueto (8): In 12 IP so far this season, Cueto has not allowed a run while striking out 12. As for changes, he’s added 0.4 mph to his average fastball velocity. Also, he’s throwing his slider (career 10% SwStr%) more and changeup (career 18% SwStr%) less.

Tucker Davidson (8): The 26-year-old lefty is scheduled to face the Phillies (Wheeler) and Marlins (Alcantara) this week. He’s been decent in AAA (4.44 ERA, 11.6 K/9, 1.14 WHIP), and in his last MLB start didn’t allow an earned run over five innings. There is a lot going on under the hood with him. He’s only had two MLB appearances and his fastball averaged 95.1 mph in the first and 93.8 mph in the second (93.0 mph in 2021). He’s backed off throwing that fastball as much (career 7% SwStr%) and is throwing his slider (career 17% SwStr%) more. Finally, he’s continuing to walk batters (5 BB in 7.2 MLB IP). Gamble.

Matthew Liberatore (7): The 22-year-old prospect was called up to make one start and was then immediately demoted. It wasn’t a great start for him (4.2 IP, 3 K, 2 BB, 4 ER). I’m not sure he’s worth rostering if he’s not in the majors and contributing. [Note: He’s now back in the major with Steven Matz headed to the IL.]

Kyle Freeland (7): Freeland has two road starts this week against Pittsburgh (Conteras) and Washington (Gray). While his 4.85 ERA and 1.57 WHIP are less than desirable, it has been a home (6.25 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) and away (0.82 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) split. He’s leaning into his cutter (18% SwStr%) this year making it his most thrown pitch.

Dylan Bundy (6): I didn’t see this one coming. Bundy has one start this week against Detroit (Wentz) and possibly two the next week against Detroit and Toronto. While some season-long numbers look decent (3.69 xFIP and 8.0 K/9), he’s struggled over his last three starts (<5 IP per start, 6.0 BB/9, 2.8 HR/9, 10.66 ERA). During those starts, he focused on sinker (7% SwStr%, just a 50% GB%) and threw his slider (22% SwStr%) fewer times. I guess maybe some team should be rostering him in these deeper leagues.

Jake McCarthy (6): For fantasy managers in need of some stolen bases, McCarthy could be your guy. So far this season in AAA, he has seven bags and over three minor league levels in 2021, he stole 32. Earlier in the season, he started just 6 times in 16 games but has started in three straight (2 vs LHP). McCarthy’s Steamer600 projection has him with 16 HR, 24 SB, and a .225 AVG. One item to track is that only three of his nine starts have come against a righty and Arizona only faces one lefty this upcoming week.

Kyle Isbel (6): He (.278 AVG, 0 HR, 2 SB) only starts against righties (career .768 OPS vs RHP, .527 OPS vs LHP), and all six of the Royals scheduled starters this week are righties. He might just be a one-week streaming option.

Matt Barnes (6): He had a clean one inning Save on Saturday with Hansel Robles blowing a Save on Sunday. The Red Sox have stated they want a single closer so Barnes might be that guy… again.

Willi Castro (6): In these deeper formats, I completely understand the reason for rostering Castro. He’s playing every day (nine of last ten), batting second (five straight), qualified at three positions (OF, 2B, SS), and has been productive (.284 AVG, 1 HR, 1 SB). He’s not a game-changer, but a decent bench bat to fill in for short weeks or injured players.

Christopher Morel (6): The 22-year-old started four of the last five games at three different positions (OF, 2B, 3B). His Steamer600 projection (.222 AVG, 19 HR, 11 SB) is similar to McCarthy’s listed above (i.e. some power and speed, low batting average). He’s living up to the projection with 2 HR and 1 SB in the majors. So far, he’s even hitting for average (.333 in the majors, .306 in AAA). How much he plays this next week will determine if he’s added everywhere or a quick drop.

Justin Steele (5): In April, Steele showed some strikeout potential (8.0 K/9) but the walks were out of hand (5.5 BB/9). In May, he’s found the zone, pushing his strikeouts up to 13.2 K/9 and his walks down to 3.6 BB/9. The biggest change has been moving away from his four-seamer (7% SwStr%) and throwing the sinker (10% SwStr%) and slider (16% SwStr%) more. Additionally, his StatCast Zone% increased from 48% to 53%.

Kole Calhoun (5): He’s started 11 straight games (four vs LHP) while hitting .385/.444/.872 with 4 HR during that time. An obvious add based on the playing time even knowing the current production level can’t continue.

Emmanuel Rivera (5): Rivera has started six straight at third base for the Royals. The 26-year-old has hit .240/.296/.540 on the season with three homers with Michael A. Taylor on the IL. The question remains if Rivera will continue to play once Taylor allows Merrifield to transition back to the infield.

Michael Chavis (5): The 26-year-old Chavis continues to hit (4 HR, .301 AVG) while being qualified at first and second (eight games at third). Also, he had started six straight with Vogelbach on the IL. For teams needing infield power, he’s a decent addition but monitor his playing time.

Tyrone Taylor (5): He has started seven of the last eight games while hitting .255/.309/.451 with 3 HR and 1 SB so far in May. If this playing time continues, he’s a must-add. The issue is that McCutchen just returned from the IL and could start some in the outfield. This week will determine a lot when it comes to how Taylor will play going forward. Ed. note: Cutch’s return hasn’t hurt Taylor yet, starting 3 of 4 with Cutch starting all four and Lorenzo Cain starting just 1. Taylor’s 91 wRC+ isn’t great, but it is markedly better than Cain’s 37 thus far.

Cole Sulser (5): It seems like these managers think Sulser will take over the closer duties. He’s been decent this year with a 9.0 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 2.81 ERA but hasn’t had a Save in May. With so many reliever options, Sulser doesn’t seem like one of the best to take a chance on.

Edwin Ríos (5): Whoever is adding Rios must be hoping some Dodgers hitter will head to the IL. While he’s hitting fine (.267/.313/.622 with 5 HR) there just isn’t the playing time.

Brian Serven (5): The Rockies backup catcher was called up last Wednesday and has started in three games with two home runs coming in his last game. In AAA he was hitting .273/.406/.506 with 5 HR. Projections aren’t high on this batting average (~.200) but he lowered his AAA strikeout rate from 22% to 17% so they might be slow to notice the change.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Crazyhurdlersmember
2 months ago

Someone suggested Justin Steele was just taking advantage of the Diamondbacks who are weak vs. LHP. What do you make of that?

Dale Smithmember
2 months ago
Reply to  Crazyhurdlers

The Diamondbacks lineup had a lot of lefties in it and looking at the ump scorecard it seemed like the zone favored him. I was at the game and had a pretty good view, it did seem like he was getting some favorable calls but was overall pretty sharp. I honestly was kinda mad they didn’t let him roll one more inning. I know the dude is fairly young (26) and he hasn’t pitched that many innings (the most is 98.2, 2017 in high A, yikes!) but considering what the Diamondbacks did to the Cubs bullpen (which included lefties) after he left, he certainly had SOMETHING going.