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10 Burning Questions: Jackson Holliday, Michael King, Justin Verlander (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

10 Burning Questions: Jackson Holliday, Michael King, Justin Verlander (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

Can you believe it’s only been three weeks of baseball this season? All that offseason research conducted and yet there have been so many unforeseen developments. The overarching question all fantasy managers are asking themselves regarding early developments is “flash in the pan or something more?” Read below to see the answers for a few of those players and more in this week’s installment of 10 Burning Questions.

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10 Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions

Is Jackson Holliday being sent back down to the minor leagues?

It certainly appears Jackson Holliday has been overwhelmed in his first few weeks at the major league level. In his first 15 career games, he is just 1-for-30 with two walks and 16 strikeouts. With so many sluggers off to hot starts at Triple-A Norfolk, could we see Holliday be replaced by one of them on the roster?

We saw how the Orioles treated a top prospect who got off to a slow start just last season. It’s hard to remember considering how he finished, but there were questions last season about Gunnar Henderson being sent down. Through his first 15 games last season, he had one home run, two RBI and was batting only .167. That start is substantially better than the one Holliday is off to, but it was still not expected of a top prospect. The Orioles exercised patience and were rewarded with a Rookie of the Year campaign. While that may not be the eventual outcome for Holliday, they are likely to exercise patience again.

How confident can we be in Carlos Estevez as the closer for the Angels?

The Angels signed relief pitcher Robert Stephenson to a substantial free agent contract late in the offseason. Many assumed he would be the eventual closer. Last week we learned that he will miss this entire season with an elbow injury.

Carlos Estevez had 31 saves last season. They came with walk concerns, though. He walked 4.5 batters per nine innings, which was part of the reason for his 1.49 WHIP. It was also the reason he was on shaky ground as far as a closer. However, he has come out throwing strikes this season. At this point, he has pitched six innings and has yet to issue a walk. A new level of control, along with the Stephenson injury, seems to have solidified Estevez as the closing option in Los Angeles.

What do we make of Michael King‘s start?

We saw the best start of Michael King’s season last Wednesday against the Brewers. Even though he ultimately took the loss, he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. He also struck out 10.

Importantly, he only walked two in that start. Walks have been an issue early in the season for King. He is averaging five walks per nine innings, close to double what he did last season. He also has already allowed six home runs this season in 27 innings. He only allowed 10 home runs all season over 104 innings. He has had two sensational and three subpar starts showing inconsistencies early in the season. As he continues to acclimate to starting pitching, hopefully, the consistency will come.

How do we value Justin Verlander now that he is back from injury?

Justin Verlander had a delayed start to his season with shoulder inflammation. He returned Friday night and looked much like the pitcher we are used to seeing.

Verlander returned and immediately earned the quality start allowing only two earned runs. He only struck out four in six innings but he didn’t issue any walks. While he may be 41, there are no real innings-pitched concerns. He has been a workhorse throughout his career. He has always been a solid contributor in the ratio categories. From this point to the end of the season, he should be considered a top-40 starting pitcher.

Are we seeing a new level of power from CJ Abrams?

Considering this is already his third major league season, it’s hard to believe CJ Abrams will play this entire season as a 23-year-old. At such a young age, it’s easy to envision him adding new skills.

Abrams finished last season on a high note. He hit 11 home runs in the second half and stole 33 bases. It helped him to easily set a new career high in home runs with 18. Early this season, it appears as though he may be setting another new high. He already has six home runs (also four doubles and three triples) and is impacting the ball harder. He also has seemingly optimized his launch angle for a bit more power. It has helped his barrel percentage to nearly double. If he stays healthy, at least 25 home runs seems likely this season.

Do you remember Maikel Garcia‘s hot start?

Only a few weeks ago, excitement was exploding throughout the fantasy baseball community for Maikel Garcia. He hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season. After his first week of games, he already had three home runs and a stolen base. At that point, he was hitting .267.

Since then, it’s been a rough ride. He has accumulated counting stats with three home runs and four stolen bases. Batting average has been a struggle, however. He is currently hitting just .174 with a .223 on-base percentage. Part of his struggle can be explained by his .188 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). That will correct with time. His current expected batting average is .257 based on his Statcast data. While you may want to sit him for now, this is not a skill set to give up on early.

What is the saves pecking order in the Cubs’ bullpen?

Adbert Alzolay finished last season with 22 saves. He also had a 2.67 ERA and 3.02 FIP. He also only blew three saves, the same number we’ve seen this season. Reminder, we’re not even 25 games in.

The biggest issues for Alzolay early in the season have been increased walks and home runs. Last season, he issued 1.83 walks per nine innings. Early this season, that number is 3.12, which also happens to be the number of home runs he is allowing per nine innings. That number needs to drop for him to be an effective closer. Manager Craig Counsell indicated he has been moved into a lower-leverage role to regain his confidence. If you want to speculate on saves in the short term, the replacement options are Hector Neris or Mark Leiter Jr.

Where is Julio Rodriguez‘s power?

In his first two seasons, Julio Rodriguez hit 28 and 32 home runs. It is still very early but we are still waiting for his first home run of 2024. It could be just a 20-game hiccup. Or could it be something more?

First, it should be noted Rodriguez appears to be a slow starter every season. His career OPS in March/April is .652. His next worst month is June, but that is still .767, which is .120 points higher than March/April. That being said, there are some concerning signs. He is striking out 31.5% of the time, higher than we’ve seen from him before. He also just isn’t impacting the ball as hard. His hard-hit percentage is down nearly 10% from last season. It’s still early and all of this could change quickly, but it’s something to monitor.

What has happened to the Red Sox’s pitching?

During the offseason, the Red Sox hired Andrew Bailey as their new pitching coach. So far it couldn’t have gone much better. The Red Sox rotation currently leads all of baseball in ERA and is second in WHIP.

Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford, Nick Pivetta and Garrett Whitlock all have current ERAs under 2.00. Brayan Bello is ‘lagging’ with an ERA of 3.04. Pivetta and Whitlock have each hit the injured list (IL) already, but it sounds like Pivetta will be back in the next month. Houck and Crawford have been especially impressive in the early going. The two pitchers have pitched 48 combined innings and allowed only five earned runs while striking out 52 opponents. Those levels are unsustainable, but at this point, any of the pitchers listed should be treated as a must-start option.

Is Rafael Devers going to play this week?

Rafael Devers has been a constant in the Red Sox lineup since his debut in 2017. Other than the COVID-19-shortened season, he has played at least 141 games every season since 2019. That’s why it has been such a strange start early in the season.

The Red Sox have played 23 games this season. Devers has only been able to appear in 13 games. He didn’t finish two of those games due to injuries. It hasn’t been one major injury but rather a nagging shoulder and a balky knee. The good news is the Red Sox are optimistic the worst is behind him. Manager Alex Cora indicated he should be back in the lineup Tuesday. Put him in your lineup for the week and hope his health holds up.

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