Crossed Up: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Fantasy Baseball (6/5)


It’s hard to believe it’s already June and the MLB season is past the 60-game mark. It’s been one heck of a fantasy baseball season so far, with player values shifting drastically one way or another. That’s what has made writing this article each week so enjoyable. I’ve always loved to look at a profile and try to answer the “why?” question when discussing a player’s performance. Why have they improved? Why are they struggling?

This week, I broke down five more intriguing hitters, three of whom are bursting onto the fantasy scene.

Nolan Gorman, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

The roller coaster named Nolan Gorman has been flying high lately. Over his last 21 games, Gorman has cranked nine home runs with a .309/.413/.750 slash line. In fact, only Aaron Judge has a higher wRC+ over the last 30 days. That all looks pretty good, right? But what if I threw in a 40% strikeout rate and .444 BABIP? Those won’t change what’s already transpired, but all good things must come to an end, especially with those two metrics.

Despite still hitting plenty of home runs, Gorman’s quality of contact metrics have actually taken a step back this season. After posting a 91 mph AVG EV and 48.5% hard-hit rate in 2023, those metrics have slipped to 86.8 mph and 37.8% respectively. However, Gorman’s barrel rate has actually ticked up from 16.5% to 17.9%, which has helped him continue to hit as many home runs as he has.

But we know Gorman has great power potential. We’ve all seen that through his big-league career. But due to his 35.8% strikeout rate, 72.3% zone contact rate, and 61.4% overall contact rate, this just isn’t a profile I’m willing to invest in. There’s a reason why Gorman has never hit higher than .236 or had an OBP above .328. If you can use this hot streak to sell high, I would.

Joey Ortiz, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers

Joey Ortiz has been the quiet assassin this season. Has he been a stud? No. But Ortiz has performed well from the jump and has been a savior to many fantasy teams that have been dealing with injuries or underperforming star players. Maybe you’re someone like me who invested heavily in the trio of Noelvi Marte, Jake Burger and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Whoops. Well, thankfully, I also got some shares of Ortiz as well.

In 178 plate appearances, Ortiz is slashing .289/.390/.497 with five home runs and two steals and has a .301/.392/.542 slash line over the last 30 days with as many walks as strikeouts.

Ortiz isn’t going to be a league winner per say, but many league-winning managers have players like Ortiz on their rosters. And if you look at Ortiz’s savant page, his production right now gets backed up 110%.

To start, Ortiz’ approach metrics are elite with a 13.5% walk rate, 14% strikeout rate and 21% chase rate to add to his also elite 91.3% zone contact and 84.3% overall contact rates. Ortiz also has an 81st percentile sprint speed, 86th percentile bat speed and around league average quality-of-contact metrics. It’s perfectly realistic to project something in the vicinity of 15-20 home runs, 5-10 steals and a good AVG/OBP from him moving forward. I’m definitely a believer.

Yainer Díaz, C, Houston Astros

Entering the 2024 season, Yainer Díaz was a trendy draft target and one of the biggest dynasty targets at the position. He was coming off a 2023 season where he hit 23 home runs in 377 plate appearances with a .282/.308/.538 slash line, solid contact rates and above-average power metrics. So what the heck happened?

Díaz was finally given the chance to start regularly this season and has mustered only four home runs and a .249/.278/.371 slash line in 209 plate appearances. Questions about if he’s for real or not are beginning to set in. My personal answer to that question is yes and I’m definitely looking to buy low right now in all leagues.

While the surface stats have taken a step back, Díaz’ metrics have not. Díaz has a nearly identical AVG EV this season and has increased his hard-hit rate from 43.9% to 49.7%, his zone contact rate from 82.8% to 90.2%, and his overall contact rate from 72.4% to 78.4%. However, the problem is that Díaz’ groundball rate has risen 40.2% from 44.3% to 54.5% and he’s barrel up balls 5% less frequently.

This hasn’t been a case of his aggressive approach getting the best of him. If that was the case, I’d be more concerned. If Díaz can get back to hitting more flyballs and line drives like he did last season, I think we could see his production soar over the final 100 games of the season.

Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates

When Nick Gonzales debuted in 2023, there was some buzz around him as a former top-10 pick (2020) that had solid success in the minor leagues. But after he slashed .209/.268/.348 with just two home runs in 128 plate appearances, the buzz died down considerably. In fact, Gonzales is a player you could’ve gotten for dirt cheap this offseason in dynasty leagues. That’s how low his perceived value was. To take that one step further, Gonzales was only drafted in 22 of 334 NFBC Draft Champion leagues this year where you draft a total of 750 players.

But here we are, in early June, and Gonzales is back up with Pittsburgh and back on the fantasy map. In 90 plate appearances, Gonzales has a trio of taters, pair of steals and a .296/.348/.481 slash line. His quality-of-contact metrics have taken a major step forward in this small sample size, going from a 3.7% barrel rate, 85.5 mph AVG EV, and 26.8% hard-hit rate to 13.6%, 89.6 mph, and 45.8% respectively. On top of that, Gonzales has trimmed his strikeout rate from 28.1% to 24.1% while also seeing his zone and overall contact rates tick up.

This isn’t a player I’d go overboard for when trying to acquire, but given his 20/10 upside, Gonzales definitely has appeal right now and the improvements he’s made this season have been encouraging.

Matt Vierling, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers

As someone who drafted plenty of Matt Vierling shares, I’ve been ecstatic with how he’s performed so far this season. In 192 plate appearances, Vierling is slashing .287/.318/.492 with seven home runs, 28 RBIs and 26 runs scored. As a player eligible at both third base and the outfield in most leagues, he’s been a lifesaver this league, especially at the hot corner where many of my targets didn’t pan out for one reason or another.

Vierling has increased his quality-of-contact metrics across the board from 2023 and his 92 mph AVG EV is in the 88th percentile of hitters this season. Lowering his groundball rate from 49.1% to 34.8% while increasing his flyball and line drive rates 4.3 and 6.6% respectively has also been a crucial improvement and driving factor for Vierling’s success this season.

Moving forward, I’m definitely a Vierling believer. If his power gains stick, Vierling has a chance to flirt with top-125/top-150 value given his above-average contact skills as well. He’ll need to hit for both average and power to reach that level though as Vierling hasn’t stolen a base yet this season. He does have an 88th percentile sprint speed though, so I’m still holing out hope for at least a handful over the remainder of the season.

Previous Fantasy Football Third-Year Breakout Candidates for Dynasty 2024 Next 2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings