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Reviewing Reader Requests

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

So, in lieu of actually being about to come up with anything to write about today, I opened the floor to my twitter followers last might, asking them who they wanted me to comment on. Here is how that turned out.

June rankings next week.

Reader Requests

Matt Olson (1B Braves): Olson hit second in each of the Braves’ first 41 games before suddenly being dropped to the fifth spot in the lineup on Monday. It was as much a response to the team’s struggles as Olson’s own, and it seemed badly misguided, given that Olson still had a .361 OBP when the move came. Still, sometimes a little shakeup is for the best, and it’s not like Olson has to continue to bat fifth for any length of time. I’m just not at all worried about Olson. He’s still hitting the ball hard, but he’s hitting hit on the ground more than usual, which has been his main problem. He’s also had some bad luck, given that he’s amassed 13 barrels but just five homers this year. He’s striking out more than he did last year, but he’s still under his career mark. He’s dug himself a hole, but I still think he’ll finish with 30 homers and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets hot enough to end up leading the NL in that category.

Alex Cobb (SP Giants): One of my very favorite picks this year, Cobb has already been hurt once (as expected) and has a 6.25 ERA through seven starts (not so expected). But I have to say, he’s still one of my favorites. Cobb has a 39/9 K/BB ratio and has allowed just three homers in 31 2/3 innings. His FIP stands at 2.73. He’s been undone by a ridiculous .411 BABIP, suggesting that he’s been hit very hard when he’s allowed contact. That’s not true at all, though. His average exit velocity against of 85.8 mph is among the better marks in the majors. He’s allowed just one barrel, and his 28% hard-hit rate is also very good. He even has the best groundball rate of his career. It just seems like a monstrous fluke that he’s struggled thus far, and he should obviously be grabbed in any leagues in which he was dropped.

Jake Cronenworth (2B Padres): Cronenworth has hit just .205/.261/.301 this month, leaving him at .210/.303/.333 for the year to date. He definitely seems to have the wrong approach this year, as his flyball rate is all of the way up to 48% from 29% as a rookie and 36% last year. That’d be fine if he had elite power, but he’s rather average in that regard and the deader ball is taking its heaviest toll on flyball hitters with middling power. I would think Cronenworth will figure this out and hopefully resume hitting more like he did last year. Aided by his lofty position (mostly leadoff of late) in a quality lineup, I’d expect him to go back to being helpful in shallow leagues.

Robbie Ray (SP Mariners): I was low on Ray this year because of the chances that his control would regress, but while he is walking a few more batters, he’s keeping it together there. The big issue initially was that his velocity was down 2-3 mph from last year, but he’s built back up there now, averaging 94 mph with his fastball in each of his last two starts (he was at 94.8 mph last year and around 92 in his early outings this year). I dropped him a bunch in the May rankings because of the velocity drop, but I’ll bring him up some next week. As one of the league’s biggest flyball pitchers, the current baseball suits him very well. At this point, I’d put him back into the 20-30 range among SPs the rest of the way, which is where I had him initially.

Trevor Rogers (SP Marlins): Rogers had a sub-2.00 ERA for much of the first half of last year on his way to finishing second in NL ROY balloting. Right now, he’s 2-5 with a 5.20 ERA through eight starts. His velocity has held steady, but his fastball and changeup have both been considerably less effective. In fact, the swinging-strike rate on his change has dropped all of the way from 19% to 9%. He also has one truly bizarre split, in that the league has a 1.037 OPS against him the first time through the order and then a .589 OPS the second time through. 16 of the 21 earned runs he’s given up have come in the first two innings of games. I don’t think that’s especially relevant, though. I figured Rogers would drop off some this year -- his stuff always seemed more good than great, in my eyes -- but I don’t see why this should last. The movement is still there on his plus changeup, and I expect he’ll return to being useful in mixed leagues. I had him 49th among SPs in the May rankings, and I’ll put him in similar territory next week.

Roansy Contreras (SP Pirates): Making his first MLB start of the year Tuesday, Contreras shut out the Rockies for five innings, striking out five in the process. The 22-year-old has plenty on his fastball and two legitimate breaking balls at his disposal. He’s also been pretty stingy with the walks in the past, though that hasn’t been the case this year (11 in 20 1/3 IP in Triple-A, 5 in 12 2/3 IP in MLB). His changeup is a problem, and pitching for a bad team will hold him back in the short term, so I don’t think mixed-league value is in store for this year. He can be an effective five-inning starter right now, though.

Paul Blackburn (SP Athletics): A very pleasant surprise, Blackburn has gained a little velocity, refined his old slider into a cutter and gone 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA in eight starts. He’s still getting groundballs with his sinker, but his swinging-strike rate is about 35% better than his career mark. Of course, the dead ball has also helped some. He’s given up six barrels, but surrendered just one homer in 42 innings. Last year, he gave up eight homers in 38 innings. Someone asked if a trade to a contender later this season could help his value, and while I do expect that he’ll end up on a better team in a month or two, exiting one of the game’s best ballparks as far as home run prevention will likely counter that some. I still don’t really trust Blackburn as a mixed-league guy. The strong WHIP will hang around, but he’ll probably start giving up some more homers even before departing Oakland.

Yasmani Grandal (C White Sox): I’ve prematurely anticipated Grandal’s decline before, but the traditional stats suggest it’s happening now, as he’s batting just .174/.272/.235 with two homers and nine RBI in 151 plate appearances. Still, his Statcast numbers aren’t bad. They pale in comparison to last year, when he put up a stunning .939 OPS, but they’re pretty much in line with what he had done previously. Statcast has him as one of the game’s 15 unluckiest hitters to date, giving him an expected slugging percentage of .397. He’s even striking out less than usual. I had Grandal ranked eighth among catchers at the start of the year and again last month. I’ll probably have him right around there in June. I assume the White Sox offense as a whole is going to have to start clicking better eventually.

Grayson Rodriguez (SP Orioles): Rodriguez should be next in line after the Orioles made the move to promote Adley Rutschman over the weekend. The 22-year-old has a 1.25 ERA and a 33/9 K/BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings over his last four starts for Triple-A Norfolk, leaving him 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA overall. There just isn’t much left for him to prove in the minors. The one real issue for this year is that he’s already nearly halfway to his career high of 103 innings pitched from last season. The Orioles will let him go up some from there, but 130 or so figures to be his limit. So, that’s a concern for September. Still, I imagine we will see him soon, and with Orioles Park playing like an entirely different stadium, he should be worth using in mixed leagues, even if he’ll rarely complete six innings.