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10 Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Jared Jones, Jackson Merrill, Matt McLain, Jarred Kelenic (2024)

10 Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Jared Jones, Jackson Merrill, Matt McLain, Jarred Kelenic (2024)

We have made it to the start of the MLB season and there were some awe-inspiring performances. As usual, there were some great and rough performances to dig into. This weekly column will help highlight some hot and cold players, risers and fallers for fantasy purposes.

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Some players are already rostered in many places so trades may be in order. Other players may be widely available, making a potential waiver wire claim in the cards. So, this week, I will highlight some known and lesser-known players for fantasy baseball Week 1 (3/25-3/31).

Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers: Week 1

Risers

Gavin Stone (SP – LAD) 

Gavin Stone was the highly touted prospect everyone was excited to see last season. Stone did not live up to expectations, though, with poor performances in the minors and his short stint in the majors. This spring has showcased some of that talent many knew Stone had in him. In 9.2 IPs, a small sample, he had a 0.93 ERA and nine strikeouts. Stone has earned the fifth starter’s spot for the Dodgers. Stone is only 25 years old, so there’s a great chance we will see some development this season.

Jared Jones (SP – PIT) 

The 22-year-old Jared Jones took the baseball world by storm this spring. He threw 16.1 innings for the Pirates, allowing zero earned runs and striking out 15. Jones was so good he earned a spot on the Pirates’ Opening Day roster, while Paul Skenes was sent back to Triple-A. The Pirates have not officially said Jones is in the rotation but they would be crazy to keep him up and not make him a starter. Between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Jones threw 126.1 innings, so he should be good for 150 innings if nothing goes wrong.

Michael Kopech (RP – CWS)

Last year was a horrible season for Michael Kopech, who once again battled injury, had control issues and allowed home run after home run. Kopech has always had some filthy stuff but has yet to take full advantage of his potential. I have been saying for a year now that Kopech should move to the pen and use his nastiness over one inning. Well, the White Sox moved Kopech to the bullpen, which is intriguing as it’s a White Sox bullpen in need of a closer. With Prelander Berroa injured, Kopech has the best closing stuff in the bullpen. He just has to prove he can do it for the White Sox. Kopech could be a sneaky saves source this season.

Jackson Merrill (SS – SD) 

Jackson Merrill had a nice season in the minors last season, hitting 15 home runs and stealing 15 bases between High-A and Double-A. That performance earned Merrill an invite to spring training and he ran away with a starting outfield job for the Padres. The 21-year-old hit .351 this spring with two home runs and two stolen bases. Merrill already played two games in Korea, picking up a hit and scoring two runs. Merrill should be here to stay, barring a significant slump. He should be able to provide some power, speed and a decent batting average.

Aaron Hicks (OF – LAA) 

Aaron Hicks is a sneaky, deep-league riser that may find some 12-team viability at some point. Hicks was horrible with the Yankees last year but found some success with the Orioles. He joined the Angels this offseason and has been quite productive this spring. Hicks hit .375 with two home runs and three stolen bases this spring over 50 plate appearances. That’s a solid spring. What makes Hicks enticing, though, is the fact the Angels look to have Hicks lead off, making him enticing in the runs scored department. Hicks still has power and speed that could bring a nice, surprising return this season.

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Fallers

Matt McLain (2B, SS – CIN) 

Matt McLain came into the season with high expectations of continuing a solid rookie season with the Reds. He dealt with an injury off and on to start the spring and then a major shoulder injury hit him in the final weeks of spring. He will be out for some time and may even require surgery. We are all awaiting the results of McLain’s second opinion. Regardless, he will not be fantasy-viable for a while and is one of the bigger fallers this draft season.

Devin Williams (RP – MIL)

Devin Williams finished the 2023 season as the best relief pitcher, according to the Razzball Player Rater. He was outstanding and one of the top closers drafted to start the draft season. That came to a screeching halt when we found out Williams had a fracture in his back — he will miss at least three months. The bad news makes it nearly impossible to draft Williams, which has dropped him way down draft boards.

Mark Vientos (UTIL – NYM) 

There was a lot of excitement surrounding Mark Vientos, who was playing some third base in a platoon with Brett Baty or some DH at-bats. Vientos is known to have some crazy power and a giant hole in his swing sometimes. When the Mets signed JD Martinez, it signaled a likely end to Vientos’ fun to begin 2024. Which happened over the weekend. The Mets sent Vientos back to Triple-A to start the season.

Jarred Kelenic (OF – ATL)

Jarred Kelenic was ok last season in Seattle but was losing a lot of fantasy excitement. That changed when Kelenic was traded to the Braves early this spring. Early discussions said Kelenic would not platoon and have a full round of a corner outfield spot in one of the best lineups in baseball. That has changed now, as Kelenic had a horrible spring and the Braves signed Adam Duvall to platoon with Kelenic. The production and the transaction hinder Kelenic’s fantasy production.

Gavin Lux (2B, OF – LAD) 

After missing 2023 with an ACL injury, Gavin Lux entered spring as the expected starting shortstop for the Dodgers. Many in the fantasy world were excited about Lux entering the season but that has quickly ended. Lux struggled tremendously with defense at shortstop and had a poor offensive showing. Lux was moved to second base and will likely platoon as we enter the 2024 season. The excitement has certainly dwindled when it comes to Lux.

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