10 Burning Questions: Yusei Kikuchi, Taylor Ward, Jazz Chisholm (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Every week, I’ll address 10 burning questions that I’m looking either for answers to during the week or questions that may help fantasy managers navigate the week-to-week grind of their team.

Here are the latest fantasy baseball burning questions.

What Should I Know About Yusei Kikuchi?

There was always hope for Yusei Kikuchi to take the next step forward. We saw glimpses of it in Seattle, but we are finally seeing it come to fruition in Toronto. The reason?

Peter Walker.

Kikuchi said as much as he saw Walker’s success with Robbie Ray last year, specifically with his cutter.

“Just creating that similar shape as Robbie Ray was the goal,” Kikuchi told the media after his latest dazzling start.

The thing is, Kikuchi hasn’t thrown a cutter since April 24. Since then, he’s primarily thrown 4-seam and slider, mixing in his changeup.

It’s worked, as he has a 1.56 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 over his last three starts.

Who is the New Top Prospect in Dynasty Leagues?

As we go on, we remember. All the times we had together.

Happy graduation day, Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt Jr. They are officially no longer prospects as they’ve exceeded their eligibility.

That raises the question of who the top prospect is now in fantasy leagues?

We can go many ways here, as George Kirby, Daniel Espino, and Grayson Rodriguez all have a case as being the top spec as an arm. But all three should exceed their eligibility this season. Plus, we know the risks of hitting prospects.

Anthony Volpe could be considered, but he’s off to a slower-than-expected start this season after rising rapidly on lists last year.

Let’s go to Arizona instead, as Corbin Carroll has everything you could want in a prospect from a fantasy perspective.

He hits (.322/.460/.695), he swipes (11 steals), and he hits for power (11 home runs) with a respectable strikeout rate (25.3 percent) and elite walk rate (17.3 percent).

Good luck acquiring him, as you’ll need to overpay for him vastly. But sometimes buying high is the move.

What Are Some Fun Numbers You’ve Noticed?

Here are a few fun with numbers. Let’s call it a “did you know?”

Did you know that the Pirates have gone 32 straight innings without recording an RBI going into Wednesday’s game? What’s more, they won one of those games while being no-hit.

Did you know that the player with the most significant differential from 2021 to 2022 in his Hard-Hit rate is Jean Segura? This year, Segura has a 53.2 mark after posting a 37.4 mark last season. Gleyber Torres is third at 13.8 percent.

Did you know that Tyler O’Neill has lost more Hard-Hit percentage points from last year to this year than Marcus Semien has? O’Neill is down to 35 percent, which is his lowest mark of his career.

Did you know that Christian Walker’s OSwing is down 7.7 percent from last year, helping him in his breakout season? What’s more, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s OSwing is up 9.6 percent from a year ago, and his average launch angle is down 5.2 degrees.

Is Taylor Ward for Real?

I don’t know. That’s the easy answer.

Joe Maddon is an overrated manager, but maybe we were too tough on him when he announced his plans to make Ward an everyday player when he returned to action.

And right now, Ward leads all big leaguers in average, slugging, wOBA, wRC+, and is fourth in xwOBA and WAR. That’s in 28 games for the 28-year-old.

Sure, he has the pedigree, but we must be careful with these older breakout players. But there’s nothing that screams fluke with Ward right now.

You can’t trade for him because the price tag will be too high, and you can’t trade him away because he’s leading off for one of the best lineups in baseball. He’s real in the sense that he will be a 12-team viable player all season and settle in as an OF3.

Who are Some Players Rostered in 50 Percent of Leagues or Fewer I Should Target?

Here are 10 hitters and pitchers you should add to your watchlist available in 21-50 percent of leagues (using Yahoo rostership numbers).

Hitters:

Pitchers:

What About 20 Percent?

Like above, here are 10 hitters and pitchers rostered in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues or fewer who should be on your deep-league radar.

Hitters:

Pitchers:

Who Are Risers and Fallers for You?

I’m now at the point where I feel that we have enough data to look at what players are doing and have tangible takeaways.

A riser for me is someone I was out on heading into the season and through the first month, and that’s Jazz Chisholm. I had concerns about the high strikeout rate, and he seemed destined to either be a fantasy star or in Triple-A.

Stardom is the path he’s taking, as he’s cut down the strikeout rate to 16.9 percent in May thus far, which would be a game-changer for him as a player in real life and for fantasy purposes.

As far as a faller, you have to be concerned with what we see with Robbie Ray. His walk rate is up, and his velocity and strikeout rates are down. He’s throwing the slider more, which is usually good, but he’s been essentially a two-pitch pitcher this season.

The Whiff rate is down slightly, but the CSW% is down substantially. Ray misses Pete Walker as much as Kikuchi has found appreciation in him.

Who Should I Stream Against?

The teams I’m streaming against right now the most are:

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates: We talked about how long they’ve gone without an RBI. Until Bryan Reynolds comes around, this offense remains anemic.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona is bottom nine in baseball in wOBA and has the third-most strikeouts in baseball. That’s a recipe for success.
  • The Oakland A’s: The A’s have 334 strikeouts – sixth-most in baseball – have a 35.9 Hard-Hit rate, and have a league-worst .264 wOBA.
  • The Detroit Tigers: The Tigers have the second-fewest Barrels in baseball (56) and the fewest home runs in baseball at 19.

Who Has You Concerned?

It’s now a point in the season where I’m starting to get concerned about some players. Here are a few of them:

  • Bryan Renolds (OF – PIT): He seems to be pressing a bit as his OSwing is up from last year. His batted ball metrics from him are generally bad, and he’s a floor-type player who is n’t giving any production right now.
  • Dylan Carlson (OF – STL): It’s dangerous to look at Statcast pages for players and take it as gospel. For Carlson, though, it is. He’s been dreadful in every single way.
  • Jose Berrios (SP – TOR): Now, I’m not exactly worried about Berrios, but I’m concerned about people’s misperceptions about him when they drafted him. He’s consistently inconsistent, and while he can show flashes of being a whiff-inducing machine, he’s essentially an SP3 year in and year out.

Who Are Some Standout Rookies To Watch?

Here are some of the standout rookies from the last week:

  • Joey Wiemer (OF–MIL)
    • .417/.500/1,083, 5 HRs, 2 SBs, 8 RBIs
  • Luis Campusano (C–SDP)
    • .444/.546/.889, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 7 R
  • Michael Busch (2B–LAD)
    • .450/.577/.900, 2 HRs, 4 RBs, 9 Rs
  • JP Sears (SP/RP – NYY)
    • 9.1 IP, 0 ER, 2 GS, 14 K, 1 BB, 0.54 WHIP
  • Bryce Miller (SP–SEA)
    • 11.1 IP, 0 ER, 2 GS, 17 K, 0 BB, 0.44 WHIP

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at Fantasy Pros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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