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10 Burning Questions: Francisco Lindor, Jordan Hicks, Hunter Brown (Fantasy Baseball)

10 Burning Questions: Francisco Lindor, Jordan Hicks, Hunter Brown (Fantasy Baseball)

Baseball season is in full swing. While we keep losing players to injury each week, we are also starting to get reinforcements from players who had a late start to their season. Nick Lodolo, Edward Cabrera and Orion Kerkering made impressive season debuts.

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On the other hand, Blake Snell‘s Giants debut was considerably less impressive. Read this week’s 10 burning questions for information on a couple of those debuts and much more.

10 Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions

What is wrong with Hunter Brown?

Hunter Brown had one of the worst stat lines you’ll ever see last week in his start against the Kansas City Royals. He only recorded two outs while allowing 12 baserunners and nine earned runs. His season ERA now sits at 16.43.

Many of his pitch characteristics look quite similar to last season but he has not gotten whiffs on them. One of the reasons he was a popular breakout candidate was that last season each of his primary three pitches (fastball, curveball, cutter) had whiff percentages over 20%. At this point, two of those pitches have whiff percentages under 10%. Until he corrects that, he has to be on fantasy team benches.

Is Jordan Hicks a must-start now?

2022 was the last season Jordan Hicks was asked to start a game with the St. Louis Cardinals. In total, he started eight games with the Cardinals over five seasons. That’s why it was surprising when he signed with the San Francisco Giants as a starting pitcher. So far, it appears to be a wise decision by the Giants.

Through three starts, Hicks is 2-0 with 13 strikeouts to only two walks. It’s a remarkable start over his first 18 innings pitched. At some point, the innings pitched will be a concern. He has been a professional baseball player since 2018 and has never pitched 80 innings in a season. For now, you can start Hicks with confidence.

Is there a reason to be concerned with Francisco Lindor?

There are slow starts throughout baseball. The most concerning one belongs to Francisco Lindor. Last season, he was one of four 30-home run/30-stolen base players. He has yet to steal a base this season and has only one home run. Even more concerning is his .129 batting average.

On April 15 last season, Gunnar Henderson had one home run and one stolen base and was hitting .150. He finished with 28 home runs, 10 stolen bases and hit .255. That demonstrates Lindor can — and will likely — turn this around. He hasn’t hit the ball particularly hard but he has a career-low K%. You wouldn’t know that, though, because he has a .098 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). As that normalizes, so will Lindor’s season.

Does Colton Cowser need to be added to our rosters?

Colton Cowser was a player who could be selected as a late-round lottery ticket in fantasy drafts. His late-round value made sense as there was a legitimate chance he would begin the season in the minors. He was too good in spring training, though, and broke camp with the team. It seemed a bench spot was likely, but that has also changed quickly.

Austin Hays is currently 3-for-35 with a .086 batting average. Meanwhile, Cowser is 15-for-34 with a .441 average. Cowser also has four home runs and two stolen bases, which all came in the last week. For him to be fantasy relevant the most important factor is playing time. He has started the last six games while Hays has only started two during that time. Add Cowser to your team as this could be the breakout we expected last season.

What is Nick Lodolo‘s value now that he is healthy?

It had been almost a full year since we saw Nick Lodolo on a big league mound. You wouldn’t have known that from the way he pitched in his return from a fractured tibia. Lodolo only allowed one hit and that wasn’t until the sixth inning. He finished with 10 strikeouts.

Lodolo may end up as one of the better values of the fantasy draft season. He consistently fell in fantasy drafts due to the injury designation. However, we’ve seen other pitchers succumb to injuries as predicting injuries is a fool’s errand. If Lodolo can stay healthy, he has the stuff to finish as a top-30 starting pitcher this season.

Does someone benefit from Carlos Correa‘s injury?

Carlos Correa was off to a fast start hitting .306 with a home run through only 36 at-bats. Unfortunately, he was placed on the injured list (IL) with a right intercostal strain. He suffered the injury while batting.

He’s the second infield starter to hit the injured list for the Twins after Royce Lewis. Utility player Willi Castro will likely be in the lineup every day at some position. He can be helpful if you are looking for help in the stolen base category. Another option is third basemen Jose Miranda. He was a popular sleeper going into 2023 thanks to his 15 home runs and .268 average as a rookie in 2022. While he will get an extended look, keep him on your watchlist for now.

Where do the Dodgers turn to replace Bobby Miller?

After a dominant first start, Bobby Miller struggled in his last two starts. It appears there may be an explanation for the issues, though. Over the weekend, Miller was placed on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. The Dodgers are going to need another starting pitcher.

One option could be Walker Buehler, who has made three rehab starts for the Dodgers’ Triple-A team. It should be noted he was removed early from his last start after being hit by a comebacker to his pitching hand. Another option could be re-calling Kyle Hurt. He was with the team earlier in the season making relief appearances but was moved to Triple-A to start games. There is strikeout upside with him if he is in the rotation.

What has happened to Blake Snell to start the season?

Blake Snell had a late start to his season after signing just before Opening Day. Through his first couple of outings, he looks like someone who missed out on spring training. He currently has a 12.86 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP, but there are encouraging signs.

In his magical 2023 Cy Young season, Snell couldn’t have been much more lucky. He finished in the top three with the lowest BABIPs against (.256) and had the best strand rate (86.7%). So far this season, they’ve regressed to a point where he has to be luckier. He currently has a .368 BABIP against and a 29% strand rate. As those correct to the mean, so will his surface numbers. Keep starting Snell with confidence.

Are we seeing a new level from Jose Berrios?

Jose Berrios is a mid-round pitcher whom you can typically set your watch to with his reliability. Going back to 2017, his ERA was between 3.5 and 4.0 every season but one. He has seemingly found a new level early this season, though.

Through four starts, Berrios looked like an ace. Fantasy owners have already banked four quality starts with a 1.05 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 25 innings. Nevertheless, there are signs he is likely to regress to his career norms. He currently has a ??? strand percentage. For perspective, there were only three qualified starters last season with strand percentages over 80%. As that regresses, his ERA will rise, but he will continue to be usable in fantasy leagues.

Can we expect this from Michael Busch all season?

The short answer to that question is no. After his hot streak of the last week, Michael Busch is currently on pace for just under 60 home runs. That seems unlikely. However, a 30-home run season with a good batting average? He’s done that in the last two seasons already.

If you include his minor league numbers, he had 27 home runs last season and 32 the season before that. He did that with .323 and .274 batting averages, respectively. His start makes a similar season at the big league level seem possible. He is still available in nearly half of all fantasy leagues on Yahoo. That number needs to rise substantially.

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