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League Winners or Hot Starts? Four Fantasy Baseball Hitters Who Are Raking

Anthony Volpe - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Prospects

April baseball is kind of strange. The best hitters on the planet look lost at the plate, the standings are wonky, and quite frankly, nothing makes sense. It takes a bit for teams to shed their spring training skins and adapt to the regular season.

Not many fans like it simply because it feels uncompetitive. It's difficult to tell who's a contender and who's a pretender, which can cause headaches for fantasy baseball managers.

This has been the case for various hitters through the season's first few weeks, and four names immediately come to mind: Spencer Steer, Tyler O'Neill, Marcell Ozuna, and Anthony Volpe. Each has been scorching at the plate to begin the year and has been a spark plug for their offenses. But can they keep it up? We'll attempt to answer that below.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

Spencer Steer, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds

Acquired at the 2022 trade deadline for Tyler Mahle, Spencer Steer has since proved to be an absolute steal for Cincinnati. A former third-round pick, Steer became a regular for the Reds in 2023, and his 23-homer, 86-RBI campaign saw him finish sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Steer has gotten off to an even hotter start in 2024 in his second full season with the Reds, ranking among the top fantasy players.

Not only does he have eligibility at four positions, but he's currently tied for the MLB lead in RBI with 15, has three home runs, a .372 average, and a 1.192 OPS. While this torrid pace isn't exactly sustainable, Steer is the real deal. The 26-year-old has vastly improved his underlying numbers from last year, placing in the 90th percentile in xSLG, 91st in xBA, and 92nd in xwOBA. He's also hitting the ball harder and driving it to all parts of the field.

Of course, it's still incredibly early in the season, and there's only a small sample size to go on. But Steer is a large part of the Reds' young core, including Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Matt McLain (who's on the 60-day injured list). If he continues to find his power and keeps his strikeouts hovering around the league average, he figures to be a big piece of Cincinnati's future.

Verdict: League Winner

 

Tyler O'Neill, OF, Boston Red Sox

Perhaps a change of scenery was all Tyler O'Neill needed to revive his 2021 form, in which he mashed 34 homers and notched 80 RBI in 138 games. The 28-year-old didn't need much time to acclimate to his new digs in Boston, as he's quickly launched six long balls -- tied for the MLB lead -- and sports a 1.229 OPS, which is second in the majors. O'Neill has also walked eight times and is tied for the American League lead with 13 runs scored.

O'Neill is precisely the type of power bat the Red Sox needed, but unlike Steer, his hot streak is a bit more dubious. Many of the league's top hitters have yet to get it going offensively, and O'Neill has capitalized on that. It's an encouraging start, but his pace is unsustainable, and he's likely to cool off. Plus, the Canadian outfielder is prone to injuries, so fantasy managers should be wary of that.

Luckily for O'Neill, he still benefits from playing in slugger-friendly Fenway Park. On Tuesday, he launched a ball out of the stadium off Orioles ace Corbin Burnes. After a lengthy West Coast road trip to open the regular season, the Red Sox will be home until April 18, giving the righty bat plenty of time to hit more homers over the Green Monster. It would be wise to take advantage of O'Neill's tear while you can.

Verdict: Hot Start

 

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

Seeing Marcell Ozuna's name on this list might seem strange, but after setting a career-high in home runs in 2023 with 40 bombs, many wondered if it was a fluke. Before then, the last time the 33-year-old hit over 30 home runs was in 2017 while still with the Marlins. But Ozuna continues to prove he still possesses immense power.

The Braves designated hitter is tied for third place in MLB with five home runs and leads Atlanta in RBI (13), slugging percentage (.696), and OPS (1.063). He frequently strikes out and doesn't walk often, but he makes up for it with his bat -- ranking in the 84th percentile or better in average exit velocity, barrel and hard-hit percentage, xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG.

In other words, Ozuna isn't just getting lucky. He's connecting on pitches and making solid contact. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as he is an established veteran. By now, it's well-known what type of hitter he is. Plus, he never has to be the star in a lineup as talented as the Braves. You'll be in good shape with him on your roster.

Verdict: League Winner

 

Anthony Volpe, SS, New York Yankees

Sophomore slump? This is not the case for Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe, who's in his second full year in the Bronx and starting to resemble the form that made him a premier prospect. Maybe New York did award him the everyday job too early because the soon-to-be 23-year-old looks like a completely different hitter from last year.

Despite struggling in 2023, Volpe turned in a 20-homer, 20-stolen base season, becoming the first Yankees rookie to do so. However, he struck out 167 times in 601 plate appearances, and his OPS did not eclipse .700. His offensive performance was so concerning that many fans questioned whether Volpe was a bust. Truthfully, though, New York's offensive severely underperformed as a whole last year.

Volpe's 11 runs, a .372 batting average, and a .460 OBP all rank within the top 10 in MLB. He's got his speed, too, nabbing three stolen bases thus far. Volpe's plate discipline is also slightly improved, placing in the 96th percentile in whiff percentage early on. After all, he was a former top-five prospect in MLB and is showing why this year by helping the Yanks to a 10-3 start in 2024.

Verdict: League Winner



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