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10 Burning Questions: Clayton Kershaw, Kevin Gausman, Royce Lewis (Fantasy Baseball)

10 Burning Questions: Clayton Kershaw, Kevin Gausman, Royce Lewis (Fantasy Baseball)

Consider these numbers for your fantasy baseball teams: 118 runs, 40 home runs, 109 RBI, 22 stolen bases and a .318 batting average. Not too shabby, huh? Those are the numbers that Willie Mays averaged between his two MVP seasons. His MVPs were in 1954 and 1965, showing just how dominant he was for over a decade. Sadly, we lost him this week. While no fantasy-relevant questions are related to Mays’ passing, his legacy must be mentioned.

The fantasy baseball questions start below. There are young players on incredible hot streaks. As usual, there are injury updates, but some are positive this week. Check out those injury updates and more in this week’s edition of “10 Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions.”

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10 Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions

What Is a Realistic Return Date for Clayton Kershaw?

We haven’t seen Clayton Kershaw pitch yet this season with the Dodgers. He is in the process of recovering from the shoulder surgery he had last fall. However, there is progress to report on the road to recovery.

Kershaw made his first rehab start last Wednesday with the Dodgers Single-A affiliate team. He pitched three innings, allowing one earned run and striking out five. The future Hall of Famer threw 37 pitches and indicated that it went as well as it could have, at least initially.

After a few days of recovering, another update mentioned some soreness, which may delay his next rehab appearance. Even with the rotation injuries, the Dodgers will exercise caution in Kershaw’s rehab. Expecting him back after the All-Star festivities is realistic.

Why Is Kevin Gausman Struggling This Season?

After the 2023 fantasy baseball season, Kevin Gausman was a top-10 fantasy baseball pitcher. Then, he missed a large portion of Spring Training with shoulder issues and was drafted later in fantasy drafts. Perhaps it is the shoulder, but he is not pitching like the ace we’ve come to expect.

Gausman has an ERA of 4.24 and a WHIP of 1.29. You read those numbers, and it seems like regression can kick in, and he can still be the low-to-mid three ERA pitcher we’ve come to expect. However, he has been lucky to post those numbers, with an expected ERA over 5.0. His biggest issue this season has been a diminished strikeout rate. He is striking out under a batter per inning for the first time since 2018. Giving up hard contact has always been his struggle, and without the corresponding strikeouts, his numbers are dipping, too.

Can Anyone Stop Royce Lewis?

It seems that the only person who can stop Royce Lewis is Royce Lewis. Hamstring, quadriceps, obliques and ACL injuries have plagued him his whole career. When he’s healthy, he plays like a first-round fantasy baseball selection.

The totals don’t read like a first-round player, with 17 runs scored, 10 home runs and 14 RBI. When you consider that he has done that in only 17 games with a .371 batting average, you start to be intrigued. What has to be considered is his 37% home run-to-flyball ratio. That number will drop. For perspective, the league leader last season was Shohei Ohtani at 31%. It’s possible Lewis can maintain a ratio above 25%, but that would still mean a substantial decrease in his home run rate.

Can Jeimer Candelario Set Another Career High in Home Runs?

When Jeimer Candelario came to the Cincinnati Reds this offseason, expectations were higher than ever. He was coming off a career-high in home runs and RBI and he’d be playing in the best park in baseball for home runs. Then, his April depressed many expectations with only three home runs, nine RBI and an abysmal .189 batting average.

Recently, he has gotten his home run stroke back. He has eight home runs in his last 20 games and is batting .333. Suddenly, his season-long stat line of 14 home runs and 38 RBI is pacing closer to what we expected. His expected statistics are nearly identical to last season. In 2023, he had an expected batting average of .236 and an expected slugging percentage of .407. These numbers are one point higher this season at .237 and .4o8. Maintaining the pace in a better hitter’s park should lead to another new career-high in the power categories.

Can Jackson Merrill Sustain His Power Barrage?

Jackson Merrill has 10 home runs this season. He has hit seven of them in the past 11 games. Considering that the most he has hit in a full season in the Minor Leagues are 15, what is a realistic expectation for where his power will settle?

Knowing where his power settles is difficult. His data points to an above-average power hitter with a max exit velocity of over 111 miles per hour and an 8% barrel rate. He also has a .296 expected batting average, which is typical of a line-drive hitter. Merrill hits line drives at 24%. Yet, he hits fly balls at a higher rate of 29%. It can confidently be said that if Merrill stays healthy, he will exceed his previous career-high of 15 home runs.

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What Can We Make of Andrew Abbott‘s Start?

One of the more confusing starts to this season has been Andrew Abbott. He keeps stringing together effective starts, even while all the peripheral data says he shouldn’t be. On Friday, he had one of his best starts yet, with 10 strikeouts over 5.2 innings against the Boston Red Sox.

Abbott has already allowed 15 home runs which is the most in the National League. It makes sense, as he gives up hard hits 31.6% of the time. He also has a near 50% flyball rate, the highest among all qualified pitchers. It’s a big reason his FIP and xFIP are each over 4.50. The good news is that if you prefer xERA, his xERA is only 3.17. Abbott’s next start is at Pittsburgh. Seeing as the Pirates are 24th in home runs, that’s a good opportunity to continue starting Abbott.

How Do the Marlins Replace Jesus Luzardo & Braxton Garrett?

Jesus Luzardo was scratched from his Saturday start with what we later learned was a back injury. The Miami Marlins decided that placing him on the 15-day Injured List (IL) would be the best course of action. They also had to scratch their Sunday starter, Braxton Garrett, with elbow discomfort. He also was later placed on the IL. They’ll need to find a way to replace their innings.

Over the weekend, the team turned to Shaun Anderson and Kyle Tyler as fill-ins. They performed admirably, but more options should be available shortly. Edward Cabrera made his first rehab start. Ryan Weathers may begin throwing already this week. Max Meyer continues to pitch in the Minor Leagues, although he has not pitched as well since being demoted. My guess is that the first pitcher back is Cabrera in the next week or so.

How Do the Blue Jays Replace Bo Bichette?

Bo Bichette hasn’t performed to the levels that we are accustomed to. The counting statistics are down with 22 runs, four home runs, 28 RBI and four stolen bases. Even more surprising has been the depressed average, which sits at .237. Now, he is on the IL with a calf injury.

In his absence, the team recalled one of their top prospects, Orelvis Martinez. He has since been suspended for 80 games for PED usage. The good news is that Bichette’s absence should not be much longer. His IL stint was retroactive to June 15, making him eligible to be brought back tomorrow. He has already begun the buildup process and should be back when first eligible.

Does J.D. Davis Find At-Bats With the Yankees?

The Oakland Athletics designated J.D. Davis for assignment last week. The New York Yankees later acquired him in a trade for Minor Leaguer Jordan Groshans. It seemed like an odd fit for the Yankees until you consider the injury to Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton has a history of injuries. The latest is a hamstring strain that will keep him out of action for roughly one month. Davis can fill it at both corner infield and corner outfield positions. Even with his positional versatility, he is unlikely to find regular playing time. The fill-in will likely be using Aaron Judge in Stanton’s designated hitter role. That should help Judge to stay healthy. His replacement in center field will be Trent Grisham. Considering he is batting 138, he can be left on waivers.

Is Tobias Myers‘ Fantasy Viable?

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Tobias Myers has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball during June. He has made four starts this month, covering 25.1 innings. He has only allowed two earned runs during those starts, yet he has remained relatively off fantasy radars.

There are a few reasons for his relative anonymity. One would be that while his season-long numbers have improved, they are still not overly impressive, with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He is also not a prolific strikeout pitcher. As good as his 25 June innings have been, he has only struck out 18 batters. Ride him while he’s hot, but every indicator points to an ERA over four when correction occurs.

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