Young pitchers making the leap to consistency (McKenzie, Wright, Skubal) – May 16th, 2022 – Fantasy Baseball 2022

Young pitchers making the leap to consistency (McKenzie, Wright, Skubal) – May 16th, 2022

Tarik Skubal (SP – DET) – Skubal was brilliant on Sunday, shutting out the O’s over 6 innings while allowing just 3 singles and 2 walks with 11 strikeouts. He has now allowed 0 runs in 4 of his 7 starts this season, cutting his walk rate by a huge amount while increasing his GB rate similarly. He’s done this while maintaining his above average K rate, making him a pretty clear top-50 SP at this point. I really like the improvement that we’re seeing from Skubal this year…this improvement seems genuine.

Kyle Wright (SP – ATL) – Wright has 4 QS in his last 5 after a 6 1/3 IP, 9 K gem against the Padres on Sunday, in which he allowed 3 hits and just 1 earned run. I wasn’t all that big on Wright this preseason, as I felt that he fell into that category of pitchers that didn’t have the control necessary for consistent success at the big league level, but he has improved significantly in that area so far in 2022. Not only that, but he’s bumped up his velocity (which has had a direct impact on the swinging strike and K rates), and the GB rate has moved a lot closer to his minor league numbers than what we’d seen previously with the Braves. All in all, he definitely looks the part of a #3/#4 starter right now, and a bit more refinement of that improved control could see him vault into the top 30 SP. There’s still plenty of risk here, most of it from the aforementioned control that is still a bit spotty, but on the whole he looks like a pitcher I’m willing to gamble on.

Triston McKenzie (SP – CLE) – McKenzie tossed his 3rd straight quality start on Sunday, holding the Twins to 3 runs on 3 hits over 7 innings, walking 2 and striking out 4. The low K total belies the quality of his stuff a bit, as he did pick up 16 swinging strikes in just 95 pitches, but the K here is the continued solid control. McKenzie came into the game walking under 3 men per 9, cutting over 1.5 from his 2021 mark. Sure, the HR/FB has been abnormally low (although the 2 solo shots he allowed Sunday will start to bring that back to reality), but the control improvement is a gigantic step toward his mid-rotational ceiling. He is a must-add right now if he’s somehow still available in your league, especially with 5 straight bottom-10 offenses on the horizon for him (including DETx2 and KC to start).

Kolten Wong (2B – MIL) – Wong entered Sunday’s game hitting 306/386/556 with 2 HR and 3 SB in May, and despite an awful April (211/260/310) he ranked 14th among 2B on the year. After a 2-2 performance against the Marlins with 3 BB, a HR, and 2 more SB, it’s safe to say that he’s ranked higher now. Wong is stealing bases at a much higher clip than he ever has before, and he’s also setting career highs in LD rate and FB rate. That’s not to say that there aren’t issues here: the Statcast data isn’t very kind to him, and last year’s power (14 HR in 116 G) looks like a ceiling more than a new level, but no need to be picky at a relatively weak position. Hitting leadoff against RHP, Wong can provide plenty of value for you for a player that is available on many waiver wires, and he’s certainly hot enough right now to justify a pickup. Last year, coincidentally, he ranked 14th among 2B offensively, so he’s a perfectly reasonable MI option in 12-team leagues and deeper even without any improvement.

Gio Urshela (3B – MIN) – Urshela homered for the second straight game on Sunday, which prompted me to take a little closer look at what he’s been up to since leaving the Bronx. What I saw prompted me to snap him right up in one of my deeper leagues: the owner of the 235/289/343 batting line has an xAVG of .272 and a xSLG of .475 on the strength of a 90.1 avg exit velocity and the best contact rate of his career. Despite the EV coming up over 1 mph from last season, the HR/FB rate is down 9% thus far in 2022, something that I have to think will start to increase with the warmer weather. The 30 year old Urshela was very disappointing last season, but he was ranked #8 among 3B in 2020 and #18 in 2019, making him CI-worthy in 12-team mixed leagues in both of those seasons….it isn’t a stretch to see him attaining that level again this year, and I’d certainly at least pick him up in formats deeper than that.

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