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NFBC Hitting Guide for Week 8: Adley Rutschman, Nolan Gorman, Alek Thomas (2022)

by Heath Capps | Featured Writer
May 22, 2022
Adley Rutschman

It makes sense that any sort of fantasy baseball ‘movers’ or ‘risers’ article would at times be prospect-heavy; which is a bit disconcerting because prospects aren’t my forte. That said, my general focus is volume. That is, who is getting at-bats, or slated to begin to get more at-bats? Increased roles based on promotions, injuries, and recent successes happen all the time. If you aren’t careful, you might miss a strong week from a guy you thought was just a depth piece. So if you’re into these sorts of plays for deep leagues–think 15-teamers–then you’re in the right place.

Some of these names may not be new to the die-hard fantasy baseballer, but they may be newly useful. Plan to at least consider the following guys in your deep league lineups as you have a need. And if you aren’t NFBC-heavy or your league isn’t a 15-teamer, the players listed here could be relevant in the right situation, or at least added to your watch list in shallow formats.

Catcher

Adley Rutschman (C – BAL)

The definition of a highly-anticipated debut. We’ve been waiting for the Orioles to make this call since Rutschman was drafted first overall in 2019. I chose Adley for the leadoff position because he is exactly the sort of player that should be added everywhere, even in shallow formats. Have you seen the state of the position lately? Salvador Perez is shelved for around two weeks, making the position even more shallow. And even then, there aren’t many starting-quality options. For example, Sean Murphy is the eighth-best catcher in 5×5 formats, and his .191 batting average is torpedoing the modest amount of help he’s giving you in the power and counting stat categories.

As for Adley, he debuted on Saturday, going 1-for-3 with a triple. He’s known as an impressive defender, and he’s hit at every level, including strong performances despite missing a year due to the 2020 Covid shutdown. A switch-hitter and a premium prospect, Rutschman could easily hit .240+ with power at Camden Yards. That would make him a top-10 backstop the rest of the way, if not more. Insert him into those NFBC lineups and add him anywhere your catcher isn’t one of the five or so top catching options.

MJ Melendez (C – KC)

It really writes itself, doesn’t it? Some weeks it’s tough to find two worthy catchers, but this week the two rising options are staring us in the face. Melendez has at least one full week to assert himself given that Salvador Perez hit the 10-day IL this past Tuesday with a left thumb sprain. Over the last week of action, Melendez has popped a pair of home runs and is batting .280 (7-for-25). Also, after homering in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday, Melendez was promoted to the No. 5 spot in the Kansas City lineup. He’s an elite power bat, especially as a catcher. He swatted 41 homers last season between Double-A and Triple-A. He can run a little bit, too, as evidenced by the 67th-percentile sprint speed and the chip-in speed he’s shown in the minors. He doesn’t have the long-term safety of Rutschman given Perez’s expected return, but he could be a safer power bet in the short term. There’s also a scenario where he and Perez occupy the catcher and DH slots with regularity, if Melendez hits enough to remain in the lineup. Either way, Melendez is looking great for Week 8 as a lefty bat projected to face six right-handers between matchups with Arizona and Minnesota.

Corner Infield

Christian Walker (1B – ARI)

Walker was on my draft radar all offseason, so I feel compelled to give him some love now. Despite first base and corner infield being relatively easy slots to fill in most of my 15-teamers, Walker has begun to crack my weekly lineups. Last year, he battled an oblique injury, and his hard-hit rate suffered (just 41.1%). This year, now healthy, Walker has rebounded to previous quality of contact levels. His hard-hit rate of 47.7% is in line with his 2019 breakout season (48.8%) and every other batted ball quality metric has Walker outperforming his 29-homer campaign of 2019. Compared to 2019, his strikeout rate is down 5% and he’s inside the top 5% of the league in xSLG, xwOBA, and XWOBACON. The scary piece — for the opposition — is the .193 BA against right-handed pitchers. That comes with a whopping eight homers in the split, but with a .178 BABIP. Walker’s .209 batting average is well off from his expected mark of .283, and the expected mark is more in line with his 2019 (.262 xBA) and 2020 (.266 xBA) performances. Add in that he’s blistering the ball, and I’m expecting .250+ before season’s end — and perhaps cresting the 30-homer plateau.

Darin Ruf (1B, OF – SF)

Ruf is heating up, and the Giants have given the 35-year-old four straight starts. He’s got three multi-hit games over his last five appearances, including a two-homer game on Friday. He’s a noted lefty basher, with a career .289/.382/.557 slash against southpaws and a career 154 wRC+ in the split. Against right-handers, he is below average, slashing .225/.311/.380 with a 93 wRC+. The current season is following the same trend, with a .282 BA and three homers against lefties, compared to a .235 BA and zero homers against righties. Still, baseball is a game of streaks, and Brandon Belt was scratched with right knee discomfort on Saturday. There’s a chance you get a week of usefulness from Ruf during Week 8. Be sure to check the status of Brandon Belt ahead of Monday’s games if you’re locking Ruf into weekly lineups, though. The Giants draw the Mets and Reds, and I see nary a left-handed starter in either team’s rotation at the moment. But if Belt is out and you’re in a dire situation, I think you can roll with Ruf and see if he stays hot.

Middle Infield

Josh Rojas (2B, 3B, SS, OF – ARI)

Holy eligibility, Batman! First off, don’t get too accustomed to three-homer games. The wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field that day, and there were double-digit homers launched in that game, which is beyond silly. Moving forward, Rojas is a better bet for batting average, runs scored, and chip-in speed (not power barrages). So far in 2022, he’s beefed up his walk rate (10.5% to 14.8%) and trimmed his strikeout rate (24.9% to 16.7%), something we like to see from a guy who gives us some steals. And despite the 42nd-percentile sprint speed, Rojas has managed a steals success rate of 70.8% for his MLB career, so he’s at least decent at picking his spots. He’s a Swiss Army knife with the ability to operate at a double-digit HR and SB rate so long as he’s healthy, so he should most likely find his way into your middle infield slot in deep leagues.

Nolan Gorman (2B – STL)

Gorman could have 2B or 3B eligibility depending on where your league is housed, but at the NFBC, he is a second baseman. What you need to know is that there’s plus-plus power here, but that’s tempered a bit by all the strikeouts. Gorman had a 13.8% swinging strike rate and 19.2% strikeout rate at Triple-A in 2021, alongside a 6.1% walk rate, .191 ISO, and .274 batting average. This year, he set Triple-A on fire with a whopping 15 homers over just 34 games, but his strikeout rate ballooned to 34%, which was supported by a 15.7% swinging strike rate. For reference, there are 173 qualified big leaguers so far in 2022, and just 12 of them have a swinging strike rate worse than 15.7%. Of course, we’re hoping Gorman is more like Brandon Lowe or Bryce Harper than he is like Joey Gallo…right?

Gorman did increase his walk rate to 8.2% at Triple-A this year, so hopefully he’s finding ways to contribute even if the hits aren’t always falling. He’s very much boom-or-bust due to all the strikeouts, but if he hits enough to stick around, you’ll have a valuable power commodity at middle infield. Anecdotally, I’ll say that much has not gone as planned in St. Louis, with guys like Albert Pujols, Edmundo Sosa, and Tyler O’Neill all underperforming for one reason or another. The everyday lineup already features Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez, so Gorman should have an opportunity to show his worth. If he even approximates his ceiling this year, you’re looking at a guy who could have the sort of power output at second base as Ryan McMahon did last year (23 HR, .254 BA). And that could be more on the ‘floor’ side of things.

Isaac Paredes (2B, 3B – TB)

Do you feel lucky? Do ya? If so, a versatile infielder for the Rays is your guy, since they grow these guys on trees — and always seem to platoon just to drive fantasy baseballers crazy. That said, the downward trends for Taylor Walls and Vidal Brujan have given Paredes a chance to establish himself in the Tampa Bay infield. There’s a gaping chasm at the keystone due to Brandon Lowe being shelved until at least mid-June with a lower back injury, and maybe the time frame is longer than that. In Paredes, you get a guy who can hit and get on base, but one who isn’t quick at all. He may not be of much use in the fake game if he isn’t playing every day, but there’s obviously a pathway to at-bats in Tampa Bay as things currently stand. The Rays have six home games against the Marlins and Yankees for Week 8, with Paredes’ best matchups coming in the early part of the week against the two projected left-handers (Trevor Rogers and Nestor Cortes). Against lefties for his brief MLB career, Paredes has a .296 batting average and a .361 on-base percentage. He has six walks against only eight strikeouts, good for a minuscule 13.1% strikeout rate. His power (so far) has come against right-handers, but in both instances, we are still dealing with small samples. Point is, there’s risk here given Tampa’s tendency to platoon, but there’s also some hope. Paredes swatted a pair of home runs on Wednesday. He was also on the bench for Saturday’s game, even with Wander Franco seeing the bench — the light-hitting Walls and Brujan were covering the middle infield slots for Tampa. However, Paredes entered the game in the bottom of the sixth inning following an awkward slide by Yandy Diaz into home plate. Again, that versatility is the key. I’m into Paredes for this upcoming week if I’m desperate. The Rays should prioritize his bat over Walls or Brujan. Add in Franco and Diaz being banged up and it’s possible that Paredes has big opportunities ahead for Week 8.

Outfield

Kole Calhoun (OF – TEX)

Baseball is a game of streaks, and Calhoun is on a flipping heater. His banner 2019 (33 homers) was probably aided by a bouncier ball, but even ignoring that year, we still see a pretty decent MLB regular. Also, Calhoun’s batted ball metrics are shiny so far in 2022, with a career-best 46.8% hard-hit rate, a 15.2% barrel rate (top 8%), and a .560 xSLG (top 9%). Throw in the .269 xBA and I’m sold on Calhoun’s recent adherence to the “grip it and rip it” philosophy. He’s currently swinging (and chasing) more than ever, but until MLB pitchers adjust, I’ll be just fine rolling out Calhoun into my five-man outfields where I need some pop. The only negative for Week 8 is that two of the projected starters are lefties, which is not Calhoun’s preferred split. But a return to his old stomping grounds against the Halos is a fun storyline, and he still hasn’t been benched since way back on May 11. Since that day, he has at least one hit in nine of 10 games, with a whopping five homers over the same stretch. If you drafted him in a 50-round NFBC format, I think you’re finding a way to get him into your lineups.

Alek Thomas (OF – ARI)

Thomas wasn’t on my draft day radar due to me not being a prospect aficionado. But I know now that while Nolan Gorman is the plus-plus power play of the week, Thomas’ upside as a pure hitter with speed to burn makes him a far more enticing add. So far, he’s batting in one of the bottom three spots in the Arizona lineup, but that won’t last long if he continues batting over .300 as he is now. The Snakes (21-21) are surprisingly not awful, and quietly rank sixth in the majors with 49 homers as a unit. With the aforementioned Christian Walker rebounding and Ketel Marte heating up after a cold start, the Arizona offense could be an underrated unit moving forward. You’ve got to get Thomas into your lineups and enjoy the boost he’ll offer in a tough-to-manage BA category. The speed should eventually come, too.

Eli White (OF – TEX)

Speaking of speed, Eli White has been scorching on the basepaths this year. He’s 8-for-8 so far, and he’s seen a lot of time in the leadoff spot for Texas of late. Of course, he was also benched on Saturday following three straight games without a hit, but we are digging deep so what did you expect? White is swinging less this year and about 7% less than the MLB average overall, so I think the double-digit walk rate is one you can continue to trust. However, he’s making less contact than he has historically, so that 30+% strikeout rate isn’t all smoke and mirrors. The good news is the two lefties on tap for next week, since in that split he has an actual slash line worth noting (.233/.343/.400) and five of his eight steals. He’s been decidedly above average against southpaws, with a .335 wOBA and a 125 wRC+. Maybe there’s one more week of usefulness here, if you’re digging this deep.

So who did I miss, gamers? Are there any bench bats you’re looking to insert for Week 8 that I neglected?


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Heath Capps is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Heath, check out his archive.

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