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10 Burning Questions: Jordan Montgomery, Matt McLain, Jared Jones (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

10 Burning Questions: Jordan Montgomery, Matt McLain, Jared Jones (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

The long wait is finally over. The MLB regular season is upon us. We can now sit back and enjoy baseball nearly every day for the next six months.

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It’s been less than a week but we have new data and information on players. No matter how poor anyone has looked it isn’t enough to make any real large adjustments in your initial valuations. We are looking for new developments early in the season. For a pitcher, that may be adding a new pitch or finding additional velocity. For a hitter, perhaps it’s additional loft in the swing or a new position in the lineup that could add (or subtract) from their playing time projections.

Read on for 10 burning questions that have already developed in the limited regular season action we have seen.

10 Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions

When can we expect to see Jordan Montgomery?

Two days before their opening series against the Colorado Rockies, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery to fortify their rotation. He finished the offseason with a FantasyPros average draft position (ADP) of 165, showing drafters never wavered off of his signing.

Now we just wait to see when he will join the Diamondbacks’ rotation. Indications from Montgomery’s camp are that he has been throwing batting practice sessions. That doesn’t mean he will be ready the first week. In his initial press conference, Montgomery told us his target date is April 19th. The Diamondbacks have options in-house in Ryne Nelson and Tommy Henry, who can fill in for now.

What to do with Matt McLain?

Last week we received an update on Matt McLain’s shoulder injury. It wasn’t what fantasy managers were hoping for but it was an update. McLain had surgery on his damaged left shoulder labrum. The statement released by the Reds’ president of baseball operations Nick Krall included this quote: “We hope to have Matt back this season.”

In any fantasy baseball league where you don’t have injured list (IL) spots, McLain can be dropped. If there is a chance he won’t play all season, you can’t have him clogging up a bench spot. This is the time when new developments make waiver wire options more appealing. If you have IL spots, placing McLain in one is fine. As the grind happens throughout the season and those IL slots start filling, McLain is a drop unless we receive new information.

Who is the closer in Detroit?

Alex Lange‘s surface-level stats from last season portrayed a solid closer with a 3.68 ERA and 26 saves. The underlying numbers were concerning, though. He walked over six batters per nine innings, which was a big reason his FIP was 4.36.

Therefore, it was noteworthy that the Tigers asked Jason Foley to get the final two outs on Opening Day. He struck out both batters he faced on just 11 pitches. He would add another save over the weekend. Foley had better numbers last season than Lange with a 2.61 ERA, which his 2.73 FIP fully supported. He also came out throwing harder than last season with a max pitch velocity of over 101 miles per hour (MPH). The current save situations in Detroit trend towards Foley. Lange was brought in for the seventh inning in his single appearance so far where he struggled with command. If you roster Lange, move forward with Foley instead.

Royce Lewis was injured again?

Opening Day was the full Royce Lewis experience. The good news was that he had two hits off of Cole Ragans, including a 423-foot home run. The bad news was that he left the game early with an injury with a quad injury. He has been placed on the injured list and won’t be reevaluated for another month.

In his absence, the team will likely turn to utility man Willi Castro to fill in. Castro quietly hit nine home runs and stole 33 bases last season in only 124 games. He should be rostered in all category leagues for his speed contribution. A name to remember is top prospect Brooks Lee. He performed admirably in spring training (seven extra-base hits and a .333 average) but was sent down with the full infield. The team recalled Austin Martin but he can be left on waivers.

Who is left in the Cubs’ rotation?

Starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Justin Steele are on the injured list already. Taillon had a back injury before the season even started. Steele made it 4.2 innings before he injured his left hamstring fielding a groundball. He will miss at least the rest of April. It leaves the Cubs with question marks in their rotation.

The Cubs’ current rotation includes Shota Imanaga, Kyle Hendricks, Jordan Wicks, Javier Assad and Ben Brown. Of the options in their current rotation, Imanaga is the only pitcher who needs to be rostered in most formats. He made quite an impression in his major league debut on Monday. Imanaga took a perfect game into the sixth inning. When he was done, he had pitched six innings with nine strikeouts to zero walks. He allowed only two hits. For fantasy baseball, he was drafted considerably later than fellow Asian rookie Yoshinobu Yamamoto. His first starts show they could finish with much closer values.

Is this the new Garrett Crochet?

In spring training, we learned that after pitching 12 total innings between 2022 and 2023, the White Sox were going to try Garrett Crochet out as a starter. He performed so well in spring training that he earned the Opening Day start for the club. His dominance continued in his start against the Detroit Tigers. He pitched six innings with eight strikeouts, zero walks and only one earned run allowed.

Crochet should be added in all leagues that have at least 12 teams. There is too much breakout potential to leave on waiver wires. Just be aware there are also some issues here. He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher. That can work, however, it makes the margin of error thinner. Keep in mind that his next start is against the Atlanta Braves. You need to see more before you can start him in that matchup. In case he pitches well in that start, having him on your bench already is advised.

Who is Jared Jones?

Much like Garret Crochet, Jared Jones is another starting pitcher who needs to be rostered in all formats. Jones made his major league debut against the Marlins on Saturday. While he allowed three earned runs, he flashed incredible strikeout upside in his 5.2 innings.

Another primarily fastball-slider pitcher, Jones displayed dominating velocity. His fastball averaged 97 MPH and maxed out just shy of 100 MPH. He threw an extremely tight slider which generated 10 whiffs. Overall, he accumulated 22 whiffs on just 89 pitches — a fantastic 46% rate. If prioritizing the starting pitcher additions, Jones is the top choice because of the potential for a truly elite outcome.

Did Driveline fix Shane Bieber?

Shane Bieber was a popular bust selection among fantasy analysts early in the offseason. His decreased velocity last season led to an xERA of 4.83 and a career-low 7.5 strikeouts per nine. Then, there were reports of visits to Driveline baseball to increase velocity.

That was on display in his first start against the Oakland Athletics. His average fastball velocity was 91.6 MPH. Far from overpowering but up over two MPH from last season. The results were encouraging — 11 strikeouts over six innings without an earned run allowed. His last game with that many strikeouts was in September of 2022. Monitor the velocity, but he looks back as a frontline option.

Should I keep A.J. Puk if I drafted him?

A lot of pitchers that performed well in spring training carried it over into the regular season debuts. A.J. Puk was not one of them. In spring training, he struck out 23 and only walked four batters. It was enough to earn him a spot in the starting rotation.

He looked like a completely different pitcher in his first regular-season start. The walks were the issue. He allowed three hits but more worrisome was that he issued six walks in only two innings. With all the intriguing starting pitchers that have emerged on the waiver wire (Jordan Hicks, Jack Flaherty, etc) it’s possible to consider dropping Puk. There was enough upside shown in his spring training starts to give him another opportunity before moving on.

Was that the same Brady Singer?

Last season, Brady Singer pitched 159 innings with a 5.52 ERA. A high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and low strand rate didn’t help his cause. His FIP was over a run lower at 4.29. Even with some positive regression expected, no one could have been prepared for what he showed on Sunday against the Twins.

Singer threw 98 pitches, producing an impressive 19 whiffs on those pitches and 10 strikeouts over seven innings. It should be noted he faced a Twins team that just last season set the record for most strikeouts as a team in a single season. Singer is going to have to continue to avoid giving up hard contact. He was the worst in all of baseball last season in that regard. It wasn’t a problem in this start but more starts are needed from Singer to fully buy-in.

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