Whit Finally Starting to Hit? – May 15th, 2022
Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF, KC
Merrifield collected a hit in his fifth consecutive game on Saturday night in Colorado. He finished the night 1 for 4 with a single, an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base. This isn’t a fantastic night at the dish, but with how the once fantasy-stalwart started the 2022 campaign, it’s encouraging to see him get a little consistency going. He is 8 for 23 with a homer and five RBI during the modest five-game hitting streak. The 33-year-old’s production has declined the past few seasons, but we’ve seen him fall off a cliff in the first month and a half of this season. Merrifield is slashing an anemic .172/.206/.220 with one home run and five stolen bases. This recent hot streak is much needed for fantasy owners, but the underlying stats are still scary. Merrifield’s 10.5% SwStr%, 35.9% O-Swing%, and 86.0% Z-Contact% are all career-worst percentages and have led to career-worsts in BB% (4.4%) and Soft% (21.3%). This is a guy who has been a can’t miss fantasy player for the past four or five seasons, so you should practice patience here; however, most of his value has been through stolen bases the past few seasons, and he isn’t getting any younger. If he falls into another prolonged slump, fantasy owners will have to start looking for a replacement.
Zac Gallen, SP, ARI
On Saturday evening, Gallen continued his terrific start to the 2022 campaign striking out nine batters and allowing just one run in 6.0 innings of work. The 26-year-old surrendered just two hits and walked one, but the solo shot he yielded to Yan Gomes made his ERA jump to 1.05 (from .95) on the season. Of course, his FIP (2.26) and xFIP (3.41) are a far cry from his ERA, but they are more than respectable numbers. Both his ERA and FIP currently rank 4th amongst starters. Additionally, Gallen totes a solid 9.17 K/9 and a lowly 1.31 BB/9. There isn’t anything overtly obvious in Gallen’s underlying stats that has led to this success. He has just been tough for batters to square up thus far (5.4% Barrel% and 13.5% Hard%), and therefore he has been able to keep the ball inside the park with extreme regularity (.26 HR/9). You can expect some regression as the league’s bats start to thaw out, but even with a fair bit of regression Gallen will be a solid fantasy option.
Taylor Ward, OF, LAA
Ward was a triple shy of the cycle on Saturday night in Oakland. After sitting out the first game of the doubleheader, he went 3 for 5 with a homer, two walks, and five RBI during the night cap. Ward’s season to this point has been nothing short of insane. He is slashing a ridiculous .364/.505/.744 with eight dingers and 22 RBI. What’s more, his .531 wOBA and 264 wRC+ rank first in all of baseball (min 100 PA). I’d say the 28-year-old is cherishing hitting in front of Mike Trout. I envy you fantasy owners who nabbed him in free agency.
Dakota Hudson, SP, STL
Hudson hurled 5.0 innings of shutout ball against the Giants on Saturday afternoon and collected his third win of the season for his efforts. The 27-year-old righty has been consistent to start the 2022 campaign. He hasn’t surrendered more than three earned runs in any of his seven starts but hasn’t eclipsed four Ks thus far. That is typical of Hudson as he relies on keeping the ball on the ground and inducing double-plays. Coming into Saturday’s outing, his 59.8% GB ranked third in the majors (min 30 IP), but his 23.3% O-Swing% and 9.8 Barrel% are well above his career percentages (27.7% and 5.8%). Hudson currently totes a solid 3.06 ERA but (unsurprisingly) his xFIP and FIP are not as pretty at 4.83 and 5.09, respectively. With a bevy of gold glovers behind him, Hudson is worth having in most fantasy formats; just know that there will be days when the cluttered basepaths and his inability to get strikeouts will lead to short, disastrous outings.
Jesse Winker, OF, SEA
On Saturday night, Winker hit his second homer of the season, going 2 for 4 with a walk and three RBI in the contest. The 28-year-old’s start to life in Seattle has been rough. However, he is riding a six-game hitting streak and has collected a hit in nine of his last ten starts. He is batting .318 during the streak; although, Saturday’s round-tripper is the only extra-base hit during that stretch. With career-worsts in Hard% (28.3% in ’22, 39.5% career) and HardHit% (31.3% in ’22, 41.9% career), Winker has struggled to square the ball up so far this season. Many hitters of note have experienced a similar start to the season; hopefully, this recent hot stretch is an indication that Winker is starting to find his groove.
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