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10 Burning Questions: Alek Manoah, Mitch Keller, Alex Kirilloff (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

10 Burning Questions: Alek Manoah, Mitch Keller, Alex Kirilloff (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means.

Each and every Wednesday, I’ll address 10 burning questions that I’m looking either for answers for during the week or questions that may help fantasy managers navigate the week-to-week grind of their team.

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Fantasy Baseball Burning Questions

Here are this week’s burning fantasy baseball questions.

What’s up with Alek Manoah?

So, if I had this exact answer, this would be my final article with FantasyPros, as I’d probably be hired away by a team for cracking the case.

But man, it’s been so frustrating now only as a Manoah fantasy manager – though I had him lower than his ADP this year – but also as a Jays fan.

There was reason to be pessimistic about him entering the season, as his underlying numbers didn’t quite align as a front-line pitcher who can generate the whiffs needed to be a top-tier ace.

The comp I always threw around was Lance Lynn, but he was bed, bath, and beyond that in his first couple of seasons.

Last year, Manoah was one of the slower-working pitchers, as in taking more time between pitches. So, while it’s the easy – and lazy – way to automatically look at it, I have to wonder about the difference that the pitch clock is taking on Manoah. From the mechanics, to the timing, to the comfort, to the overall baked-in regression.

Is he toast? Hardly, c’mon, now. But in redraft leagues, he’s someone you’re benching until further notice. I do, though, think that it presents an interesting buying opportunity in dynasty leagues.

Mitch Keller … ace?

There are a couple of ways to look at this, I guess. At the rate that pitchers are falling, Keller could become an ace, just because no one else is around to move into that tier.

But what we have seen so far from Keller is nothing short of an amazing transformation. He’s upped his K% to 30.1 this season – up from 20.1 last year. The walk rate has dipped, he’s suppressing hard contact, and his cutter – formerly his slider last year – gives him a fourth pitcher with a sub-.250 xBA on it.

While I was skeptical of the Pirates’ early-season run, given the lack of quality competition aside from the Dodgers that they beat, I don’t have the same pause with Keller. He’s handled the Orioles, Rays, Dodgers, Astros, and Red Sox in convincing fashion, with the only game he’s allowed more than three earned runs in coming on Opening Day against the Reds.

Given his track record, he’s a top-25 pitcher who you can probably get closer at a top-40 value and is someone I would be more than happy to buy high on.

Is it Alex Kirilloff season?

Oh baby, is it ever. Now, it could be the year 2045 and I’d still be waiting for the Kirilloff breakout to happen. But yeah, as long as he’s healthy – always the concern with him – then it’s going to happen.

We’ll get to the hitting, but it’s worth noting that his plate approach has changed, too, as he’s being more selective (more on that below).

He’s only had 35 plate appearances, so it’s hard to have any big takeaways so far, but he does have two home runs already, and he’s Barreling up the ball more than he has in the past with an elevated launch angle.

Seeing the quality of contact continue, given the continued wrist issues that he’s had, is the biggest obstacle for Kirilloff to overcome. He had the best pure hit tool in his draft class, and there was a reason the Christian Yelich comps were flying around.

Even if that’s not on the table, a .300 hitter with 20 home runs is still. If the change in his approach (36.4 LD% so far with a lower chase rate), then look out.

Which of the Reds’ big four would you want in dynasty?

The big four, of course, aren’t Nick Lodolo, Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, or Spencer Steer. They are the prospects, because who are we as fantasy managers if we don’t fall in love with prospects, right?

The Reds have a dynamic foursome in the minors, just biding their time until they get called up. We saw the first make his way up Monday in Matt McLain, and he recorded his first base hit with a double showing off his speed in Coors Field.

The other three – Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte – should arrive by July (Marte probably a cup of coffee in September), ushering in the next era in Cinci.

But for dynasty managers, how should you rank them?

I think there are a couple of ways to look at it, and it’s by ceiling vs floor.

Pure ceiling, I would rank them De La Cruz, Marte, McLain, Strand. Elly has some of – if not the – most impressive tools in all of baseball. But with that also comes an elevated risk given his swing-and-miss profile.

Now, if you’re more risk-averse, I’d rank them McLain, De La Cruz, Marte, Strand.

If I’m rebuilding, I’m looking at the Reds to try to help me along. If De La Cruz can keep the strikeout rate even in the 20s, he’s going to be a fantasy star.

Who are some players rostered in 50 percent of leagues or fewer I should target?

Here are 10 hitters and pitchers who you should add to your watchlist who are available in 21-50 percent of leagues (using Yahoo rostership numbers).



What about 20 percent?

Like above, here are 10 hitters and pitchers rostered in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues or fewer who should be on your deep-league radar.



Who are you encouraged by?

Quite a few players, actually. I’m looking forward to the point in the season where we can stop saying “it’s early,” because it feels like too much of a cop-out. But there are some encouraging signs that we can look at and apply early on.

Here are some players I’m encouraged by.

  • Louie Varland (SP – MIN) – Of all of the rookie pitchers to come up, I didn’t have Varland on my card as being one of the best ones so far. He should remain in the rotation at least until Kenta Maeda returns.
  • Dominic Fletcher (OF – ARI) – What would Jake McCarthy look like if Jake McCarthy could hit? Well, it might just be Fletcher.
  • Casey Schmitt (3B/SS – SFG) – He was kind of on some radars before the season, but not for redraft purposes. He’ll stay in the lineup until his bat cools.
  • Bryce Miller (SP – SEA) – He’s just quietly dominating, despite a weird arsenal of pitches. Get your popcorn ready for the Miller vs Spencer Strider showdown this week.

Who has you concerned?

  • Alek Manoah – Welcome to the party, pal.
  • Carlos Correa – I’m trying to practice patiences, but the slash line is absolutely terrible.
  • Gunnar Henderson – Not every elite prospect performs out of the gate. Some have a 29.9K% with a .180 average.

Any random findings?

A few, actually. Thanks for asking, Michael.

  • From 2019 to 2022, Mitch Keller had five career 8-strikeout games. Keller has five alone in 2023.
  • Alex Kirilloff has already surpassed his 2022 total for walks (six to five)
  • We all expected Freddie Freeman to have more stolen bases at this point in the season than Trea Turner, right?
  • There are only two qualified hitters with a BB% of 10 percent or higher to have the same exact BB% and K% – Masataka Yoshida (10%) and LaMonte Wade, Jr. (18.6%).

Which player is most likely to be a secret Taylor Swift fan?

So, with having the biggest FOMO that exists by not being able to go to the Taylor Swift Eras Tour, I decided to try to tie this into fantasy baseball somehow.

I put out the question on Twitter, asking who would be a secret Taylor Swift fan? Now, in what was supposed to be a joke, it turns out there are real answers out there.

Our own Justin Mason informed me that Anthony Rizzo doesn’t just like attacking the short porch in Yankee Stadium, but he also enjoys himself some T-Swift, too.

Welcome to New York, indeed.

But he’s not alone, apparently.

The big basher in Oakland, Brent Rooker, is apparently a big Taylor Swift fan, too. Not only does he enjoy hitting bombs in Oakland, but he enjoys putting on his Cardigan after the games with some T-Swift.

I can’t verify this, but I’ll take his word for it.

But the true winner is Clayton Kershaw. Oh yeah, the future Hall-of-Famer doesn’t just Shake It Off with his catchers, but he also is an unabashed T-Swift fan.

And he knows you – YES, YOU – are, too. If you say you aren’t, you are lying, and you and Kershaw – and me – have Bad Blood (hey!).

Just ignore my typo in my reply to her reply.

Fantasy Baseball In-Season Waiver Wire & Trade Advice

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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