Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Joe Musgrove, Corey Kluber, Andrew Vaughn
Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers article for Week 2 (4/5-4/11). I will be covering some of the hottest and coldest players in baseball over the last week. This weekly column aims to provide some insight into the success and/or struggles of the players mentioned below. We’ll discover if their recent performances have any staying power or if it was just a flash in the pan. It’s still very early in the season, but we’ll soon have to start making difficult roster decisions in our season-long leagues. This upcoming week is huge for some of the fallers mentioned below, and it should also shed light on the sustainability of some of the risers. With that said, let’s get into it.
Joe Musgrove (SP – SD)
How can you not put the guy who threw a no-hitter for his hometown team, the first-ever in Padres history, as your top riser? Musgrove was brilliant in his April 9 no-hitter vs. the Texas Rangers. His only mistake was hitting Joey Gallo with a pitch in the fourth inning. If he doesn’t do that, then it’s a perfect game. He could not have asked for a better start to his Padres career with a 0.00 ERA, 0.20 WHIP, and sparkling 18:0 K/BB ratio through 15 innings. He’s faced two weaker opponents in the Diamondbacks and the Rangers, but as you’ll find out in the “Fallers” below, a certain teammate of his has struggled against those same opponents. Musgrove gets his former team, another subpar offense, the Pittsburgh Pirates, in his next turn. He should be locked and loaded.
Tyler Naquin (OF – CIN)
Before J.D. Martinez’s three-homer game on Sunday, Naquin was the major league leader in home runs with five and was tied with Texas’ Nate Lowe for the MLD lead in RBI (14). He did most of his damage in a two-home run, seven-RBI game vs. Trevor Cahill and the Pirates back on April 6. Clearly, his current run is in no way sustainable. Still, he ranks in the 95th percentile or above in the following statistics: Max Exit Velocity (113.5 mph), Hard Hit Percentage (76.2%), Barrel Percentage (23.8%), xBA (.403), and xSLG (.958). The pace is crazy, and he’s not going to finish the year with 90 home runs, but he’s always struck the ball hard and had power. Finding consistent playing time and staying healthy have been Naquin’s biggest issues in the past. He’s scheduled to face five right-handers this upcoming week. Two of said righties are Kevin Gausman and Logan Allen, who rely heavily on their four-seam fastball, the same pitch that Naquin has been feasting on in the early going. If you picked him up last week, good for you. He’s worth sticking with for now. Strike while the iron is hot.
Ryan McMahon (2B – COL)
McMahon got his week started with a three homer game at home in a loss to the Diamondbacks and continued his stellar play throughout. No player on the Rockies has benefitted more from Brendan Rodgers’ unfortunate hamstring injury than McMahon, who’s started every game this season apart from Opening Day. He has a .324/.342/.764 batting line with five home runs and nine RBI across 37 at-bats and ranks in the top 10% in xBA (.337), xSLG (.771), wOBA (.501), and xwOBA (.442). He’s also struck out just six times, good for a 14.7% K rate. It’s too early to call it, but this could be the season that it all comes together for McMahon, who’s always had the power potential but carried playing time and major strikeout concerns. He still has a lot of swing and miss in his game, but if he can keep that strikeout rate below 20%, then he could be in for a huge year.
Eduardo Escobar (3B – ARI)
If this article were published a week earlier, Escobar would have found himself at the very top of the fallers list. He started the year extremely cold, going 1-for-21 through the D-Backs first five games. That’s the main reason why his current slash line still looks bad (.216/.256/.595) despite his recent streak. He’s been the hottest hitter in baseball over the last four games, going deep in all four contests while picking up eight RBI over that span. Escobar, a switch hitter, has hit all four home runs against right-handers and is slated to face four RHP this upcoming week. The 32-year-old is still trying to live up to his 35 home run, 118 RBI campaign back 2019, but that will go down as a banner year. He’s never gotten on base at a steady clip throughout his career and is coming off a disappointing 2020 when he put up a .212/.270/.335 batting line with a 62 OPS+. If you’re rostering him, then you’re definitely thanking him because he probably helped you win your week. But just know he’ll come crashing back down to earth. On the plus side, he’s been getting some starts at 2B and should gain eligibility there within the next week or so.
Jake McGee (RP – SF)
McGee is a perfect 4-for-4 on save opportunities this season and hasn’t even allowed a hit. He has a 0.00 ERA, 0.19 WHIP, and a 7:1 K/BB ratio over 5 1/3 innings. He picked up two of those saves vs. the Padres and the other two against the Rockies, both familiar opponents as McGee has spent the last six seasons in the NL West as a member of the Dodgers and Rockies. The Giants don’t have an explosive offense, but they do have an underrated one, and they should find themselves in a lot of close games throughout the season. Manager Gabe Kapler never settled on a closer last season with San Francisco and was always known for mixing and matching his relievers when he was with the Phillies so it’s a bit surprising that McGee has emerged as the closer. He’s throwing his fastball a whopping 90.3% of the time, and it’s appeared to work thus far. The closer job is his to lose at this point, and if you selected McGee with your last pick in the draft or scooped him up off the waiver wire, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.
Mike Yastrzemski (OF – SF)
One of the 2020 fantasy baseball season darlings has really struggled out of the gate to begin 2021. Yas’ was hit on the hand by a Sean Manaea pitch in the final game of spring training, and from the looks of his early-season numbers, the injury is still bothering him. He’s admirably played through the pain, only being scratched from the starting lineup just once in nine games. Ironically, he smacked a pinch-hit HR, his only long ball of the year, in the one game he didn’t start. He’s rocking a 14:4 K/BB ratio with a 37.5% K rate and has only picked up two extra-base hits all year. He’s slashing just .125/.222/.250 over his first 32 at-bats. It’s a little concerning he’s not drawing more walks as he holds a career .350 OBP. As soon as his hand feels better, his performances should improve, but it could take a few days off for that to happen. It’s hard to stay patient with him right now, especially if you’re in a three outfielder league, but he’s a potential “Riser” when healthy.
Chris Paddack (SP – SD)
Fantasy managers were hoping for a 2019 redux out of Chris Paddack this season. He produced a 3.33 ERA, 3.95 FIP, and 0.98 WHIP as a rookie two years ago. We were willing to throw out his subpar 2020 (4.73 ERA, 5.02 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP), given the season’s irregularities. Paddack was also outspoken about how he decided to embrace analytics this offseason and improve his spin rate, which got us excited. But so far, his new approach hasn’t produced good results. Through two games this season, he’s got a 5.63 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 6:4 K/BB ratio. Both starts came against weaker offenses in the Diamondbacks and Rangers, respectively, and he didn’t make it past the fourth inning in either turn. It’s a little concerning, but it’s way too early to throw in the towel on him. He still has a 3.59 xERA, 3.15 FIP, and opponents have a .320 BABIP against him, which feels like bad luck. The real test will come in his next start when he gets the Pirates on the road. If he passes with flying colors, then we can somewhat write off the lackluster start, but if he struggles, then we’ll have more questions than answers.
Corey Kluber (SP – NYY)
Kluber’s first start of the year vs. the Blue Jays wasn’t great (4.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K), but it was his first legitimate start since 2019 (not counting 2020 when he lasted just one inning in his first and only appearance). Fantasy managers were hoping for signs of improvement in his next turn against the Rays on April 9, but they got the opposite. Kluber lasted just 2 1/3 innings while allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits. He only threw 39 of his 62 pitches for strikes, and his fastball averaged a meager 89.6 mph. He has not looked good thus far, and he has another road date with the Blue Jays in his next start. If he continues to struggle with diminished velocity, then it’s time to hit the panic button.
Andrew Vaughn (1B – CWS)
The Andrew Vaughn hype train was full speed ahead before the regular season began as it was assumed he’d be close to an everyday player after the White Sox purchased his contract. That hasn’t been the case so far. He started 3-of-6 games last week and hitjust .143 with a .214 slugging percentage over 14 at-bats. He does have an impressive 6:5 K/BB ratio, but that’s not going to earn him regular plate appearances. If he’s going to continue to ride the pine in half the games, then the White Sox would be better off getting him every day at-bats down in the minors once that season begins next month. In all likelihood, that’s Chicago’s plan, and at this point, it’s hard to justify rostering a guy who isn’t an everyday player, even if the upside is as high as Vaughn’s.