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Crossed Up: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Fantasy Baseball (5/15)

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May is one of my favorite months every season. Yes, I probably say that in some capacity about every month of the big-league season, but May is the month where a lot of data points and sample sizes become more viable. We’re at the quarter mark of the season, and many players have eclipsed 150 plate appearances by now.

In this week’s Crossed Up, I’m looking at four notable names that are running hot or cold right now. Are their performances legit? Can the struggling bats turn it around? What should we expect moving forward? Let’s dig in.

Who’s Hot

Brent Rooker, Oakland Athletics

I’m not sure what they put in the water out there in Oakland, but the Oakland Athletics have been one of the top offenses in baseball over the last few weeks, and Brent Rooker has been right in the middle of all the action. Over the last 14 days, Rooker is slashing .442/.538/.884 in 52 plate appearances along with 13 runs, five home runs, 14 RBI, and even two steals. On top of that, Rooker has more walks than strikeouts during this span.

Rooker is coming off a 2023 season where he hit .246 with 30 home runs, but is there more upside in the tank. The easy answer with how he’s hit so far this season would be yes. If you look further than just this recent hot streak, you’ll find that Rooker has improved his zone contact rate from 73.4% to 81.8%, his overall contact from 61.8% to 66.1%, and his walk rate from 9.3% to 12%. All of this while also improving his already impressive barrel, AVG EV and hard-hit rates from last season.

Yes, the strikeout rate remains high at 31.2%, and Rooker has been over 30% in four straight seasons now, but maybe he can make it work. Is he going to hit .298 for the entire season? Probably not. But Rooker has shown he’s at least a cheap power (.246/30 in 2023) and has the upside for somewhere in the .270/35 range if the improvements I mentioned above don’t fully regress. He’s basically Rhys Hoskins with the upside for more.

Reese Olson, Detroit Tigers

I’d like to start this section by publically calling out the entire Detroit Tigers offense. Could you guys score some damn runs for Reese Olson? The guy has been shoving for you this season including allowing five earned runs combined in his last six starts, and he’s still waiting for his first win because Detroit has scored a whopping seven runs (1.2 RPG) in those six starts. Okay, rant over.

With eight shutout innings Tuesday against Miami, Olson now has a 2.09 ERA and 0.99 WHIP through eight starts this season. And when you dig into the profile, there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged moving forward.

Even with probably ERA regression back up into the 3.00-3.30 range, I think Olson will be able to maintain top-30 SP value due to an uptick in his strikeout rate. While he’s currently sitting with a pedestrian 21.5% mark, Olson has a 42.3% whiff rate on his slider and 50.7% on his changeup, two offerings he’s combined to throw 49.2% this season. Olson also has a BAA under .160 on those two pitches along with his four-seamer and has yet to allow an extra-base hit on any of the three. All of his extra-base hits allowed (all doubles) have come on his sinker and curveball.

Out of all five pitches, Olson’s sinker is the only one with a BAA above .160, currently sitting at .359. However, that pitch is also helping him post a 53.6% groundball rate.

If you put a poll out there, I’d say more people would say to sell high on Olson than hold, but not me. Sure, he’s not going to maintain a 2.09 ERA, but an ERA around 3.00 with a 25% strikeout rate moving forward is certainly possible.

Who’s Not

Colton Cowser, Baltimore Orioles

Remember when Colton Cowser was Babe Ruth? Those were enjoyable times, especially if you had some Cowser shares. But unfortunately, Cowser has gone from the Great Bambino to the Great Stinkino lately. Over the last two weeks, Cowser is slashing just .125/.237/.188 with zero home runs and zero steals.

The red flags didn’t just magically present themselves during this cold stretch either. Even when Cowser was running hot, his strikeout rate was north of 30% and he has a 72.2% zone contact rate, 65.9% overall contact rate, and a 14% SwStr rate this season. Those were there during his hot streak too. On top of that, Cowser has a whiff rate above 44% on both breaking balls and off-speed pitches this season.

In general, Cowser is a hitter with plenty of upside. We’ve seen that upside from him in the minors and in the first three weeks of the 2024 season. However, we’ve also seen the downside to Cowser both in 2023 and over the last two weeks. Over a full season, the peaks and valleys probably result in a .250/25/10 (or better) player. But given all of the young and talented hitting options Baltimore has at their disposal, how much longer will they continue to give Cowser regular playing time if he continues struggling like this?

For now, Cowser is a hold. It wouldn’t be wise to sell him during a massive cold streak. But if/when that next hot streak comes, I wouldn’t fault you for selling if you don’t want to deal with the inconsistent performance.

Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals

Everyone’s production falls off at some point as they near the end of their career. It’s happening right now with Paul Goldschmidt, who has been more moldy than goldy through the first six weeks of the season. One could say that Goldschmidt has been in a funk lately, but in all reality, he’s been in a funk all season. After slashing .229/.308/.292 in April, Goldschmidt is slashing .130/.200/.196 in 50 May plate appearances with one home run and a 40% strikeout rate.

Has Father Time finally won this chess match with the 36-year-old Goldschmidt? After seeing Goldy’s production fall off nearly across the board in 2023, the warning signs were there in 2024, but many of us probably just hoped that he had one more top-100 season in him. But through 176 plate appearances this season, there’s not a lot in Goldschmidt’s profile to be encouraged by.

Goldschmidt is still running an above-average AVG EV and hard-hit rate at 90.9 mph and 43.3% respectively, but his barrel rate has plummeted to 5.2%, which is easily the worst mark of his career. That’s not even what I’m the most concerned by though. The biggest red flags to me right now are Goldschmidt’s 72.7% zone contact rate, 67.8% overall contact rate, and 31.6% strikeout rate. All three of those are career-worst marks by a considerable margin. Goldy is also struggling mightily against breaking balls and off-speed pitches, hitting .188 and .056 respectively against them with zero extra-base hits.

I’d love to say Goldschmidt will turn his season around, but I’m not so sure that’s going to be the case. He’s not down to Jose Abreu levels yet, so I’d be fine holding him for now, but I’m not sure we see more than low-end value moving forward.

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