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The Cut List - Time to Let Go? Week 12

Oneil Cruz - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Prospects

Welcome back to The Cut List for Week 12 of the 2024 fantasy baseball season -- June 10 through June 16. This is our weekly article looking at players whom fantasy managers might be considering cutting from their teams and struggling players who need a closer look. We'll look at players who are worthy of a drop, players who are worth monitoring for replacing, and someone on the hot seat who is worth holding on to... for now.

Those of you experienced Cut List readers will know I'm a strong advocate for not making knee-jerk reactions. A bad week or two shouldn't be a reason to push the panic button and dump someone. As the season rolls on, there will be stronger cases to drop underperforming players.

If there's ever someone you want me to take a look at, drop their name on Reddit, the RotoBaller Discord (which you can join by clicking here), or reach out to me on X (@Baseball_Jimbo), and maybe you'll see them included next week. All stats and rostered rates (taken from Yahoo!) reflect when this piece was written.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Worth Dropping and Replacing?

Jorge Soler - OF, San Francisco Giants - 52% rostered

Soler has popped up in the requests frequently throughout the season. That's largely down to a lack of power from the slugger. Soler hit 76 homers in 358 games over the previous three seasons (162-game average of 34 home runs). After 53 games this year, Soler has seven homers, 18 RBI, 24 runs, and no stolen bases with a .210/.281/.364 slash line. It doesn't look like the expected 30+ homers will materialize in 2024.

That's left Soler ranked as the 113th outfielder on Yahoo! and one of the most dropped players of the year. The move to San Francisco wasn't going to help Soler, given that Oracle Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks around. There was some conjecture about the shoulder issue that saw Soler hit the IL in May still being a problem. But he was hitting .202/.294/.361 before the injury and .224/.259/.368 since.

If we look at Soler's Statcast profile this year, there has been a significant drop-off in his quality of contact this season. There's not much difference in his HardHit% and average exit velocity pre and post-IL stint. And Soler's bat speed has remained elite so it doesn't appear his struggles are related to any shoulder ailment.

Verdict: Soler has shown small signs of life this past week. He's gone 7-for-27 since last Sunday with two extra-base hits and two multi-hit games. Despite that, he's still only the 47th-ranked outfielder on Yahoo! over the last seven days. If you've held Soler this long and want to see if he can maintain his little productive spell, by all means, do so. But don't think twice about dropping him if there's someone on waivers you want to add.

Luis Campusano - C, San Diego Padres - 39% rostered

The catcher position seemed deeper and more productive this year than it had done for a long time. The fact that seven of the first 10 catchers taken in drafts rank in the top 10 at the position so far suggests that the position is not as volatile as it has been previously. Campusano was not one of the catchers drafted inside the first 10 at the position. He had an ADP ranging between 14 and 17, depending on league format.

So far this year, Campusano ranks as the 17th catcher on Yahoo! and in that regard, he hasn't disappointed. But there was plenty of expectation that he could take a step forward and be one of the top options at the position. After 57 games, Campusano is hitting .234/.284/.359 with four homers, 27 RBI, 23 runs, and no stolen bases. He has not taken that step forward.

Campusano went 3-for-4 on Friday. A massive improvement on recent performances given he had two hits in his previous 40 plate appearances. Campusano's defense has been below average too. All of this is leading to him ceding more starts to Kyle Higashioka. He's slipped down the Padres lineup from seventh to ninth. Campusano does have a .253 xBA (expected batting average) so even that isn't too dissimilar to his actual batting average.

Verdict: Friday's double was Campusano's first extra-base hit since May 20. He's displayed little power as evidenced by his .125 ISO. That ranks 23rd among the 37 catchers with at least 100 plate appearances. While Campusano's batting average will likely pick up, there's not much else offered from his bat. Especially while he's hitting ninth in the lineup. Streaming a catcher would be a fine option instead of holding Campusano.

 

Hold For Now

Bailey Ober - SP, Minnesota Twins - 83% rostered

Ober came into the season with a lot of hype and was tagged as a "sleeper" by many. Things have not gone according to plan. After 12 starts, he has a 5-4 W-L record, 4.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 60 Ks (62.0 IP). After putting up a 3.43 ERA over 144.1 IP last year, it's certainly been a disappointing start to the season. As you may have guessed from where Ober features in the article, I'm expecting improvement.

The main reason is Ober's 4.19 xFIP and 3.92 SIERA. If we look at Ober's numbers last year and this year, it looks like Ober's a victim of baseball karma. All the good fortune he experienced last year has done a 180 and he's been unfortunate so far in 2024.

Year IP ERA xFIP SIERA K% BB% LOB% xBA
2023 144.1 3.43 4.20 3.87 25.3% 5.0% 79.1% .226
2024 62.0 4.94 4.19 3.92 23.6% 6.3% 67.7% .240

Some minor improvements in his numbers (and luck) should see Ober reinstate himself as a lock for fantasy relevancy. We're only looking at decent numbers and I'm not anointing Ober as a possible Cy Young award winner. But if he can average a strikeout every inning with a ~4.00 ERA, Ober will be a useful fantasy starter. If we reach the end of this month and his ERA is still hovering around 5.00, then that philosophy changes.

Brandon Nimmo - OF, New York Mets - 78% rostered

Nimmo's numbers don't look particularly impressive. After 60 games, he's hitting .222/.348/.380 with seven homers, 31 RBI, 31 runs, and five stolen bases. The main reason fantasy managers haven't been enamored with Nimmo is the batting average. After putting up a .278/.373/.447 slash line across the three prior seasons, a .222 batting average is disappointing.

It may come as a bit of a surprise when I say Nimmo is the 46th-ranked outfielder on Yahoo! and it will come as an even bigger surprise when I say Nimmo has been one of the best hitters in baseball this year. He's just been very unlucky. If we look at his Statcast profile, we can see how good his quality of contact has been. And how much better Nimmo's slash line and counting stats could be.

We'll be looking at an even unluckier hitter shortly. But of the 242 hitters with at least 150 plate appearances, the -0.054 difference between Nimmo's wOBA and xWOBA is the seventh largest. He's fifth unluckiest with his SLG and xSLG (-0.104) and fourth unluckiest with his BA and xBA (-0.056). It's difficult to see how the numbers don't turn around at some point. Nimmo is more of a "buy-low" candidate than he is someone I'd drop right now.

 

On the Hot Seat

Oneil Cruz - SS, Pittsburgh Pirates - 93% rostered

Very few people possess the power and speed combination that Cruz has. He ranks in the 99th percentile for average exit velocity (95.3 mph) and 85th percentile for sprint speed (28.6 ft/sec). The power is generated from Cruz's bat speed which is the second fastest in baseball (77.9 mph). That power was on full display on Thursday when Cruz sent one out of the stadium.

Cruz followed that homer with another on Friday. It also snapped a 15-game homerless streak. That's left Cruz with nine home runs, 24 RBI, 28 runs, five stolen bases and a .243/.301/.436 slash line (58 games). It may come as a surprise to see Cruz featured here. Homering in back-to-back games will help ease you off the Hot Seat but there have been issues with Cruz this season.

He's still only ranked 21st among shortstops on Yahoo! but part of the reason is the Pirates offense being below average. The 264 runs they've scored this year are tied for 19th most. Another reason is Cruz doesn't play every day as he sits against left-handed pitchers (LHP) more than he plays. Cruz has only had 61 plate appearances against LHP this year (28 since May 1). With a .103/.148/.207 slash line a -2 wRC+ against lefties, that is unlikely to change.

At this stage, it's probably better if Cruz only plays against RHP. He's hitting .294/.354/.519 with a 147 wRC+ against them. That will of course limit Cruz's ability to score and drive in runs. He will continue to strike out a lot. His 33.9% K% ranks in the third percentile. But as long as he's hitting RHP, Cruz will retain fantasy relevancy. His batting average won't harm you and he should provide enough counting stats to be a valuable shortstop.

 

Reader Requests

As in previous years, we're keen to hear who you want us to analyze. If there is anyone who you want to include here on next week's Cut List, drop their names on the Reddit thread. Alternatively, you can reach out to me on X and we'll endeavor to cover as many requests as we can each week.

Austin Riley - 3B, Atlanta Braves - 99% rostered

If we thought Soler was experiencing a power outage, Riley is experiencing a complete nationwide blackout. After 49 games, Riley has three homers, 20 RBI, 28 runs, and no stolen bases with a .234/.303/.354 slash line. Despite avoiding the IL, Riley did miss two weeks in May with left intercostal inflammation. Even with that missed time, fantasy managers would have expected Riley to rank higher than 35th among third basemen.

He's not come close to justifying a second-round draft pick (ADP ~19). After averaging 36 home runs across the last three seasons, Riley isn't going to come close to that number without a record-breaking hot streak. But that doesn't mean he should just be dropped. If he is getting over the intercostal issue, the signs are slightly promising. Riley is hitting .280/.357/.360 in June, albeit over just seven games.

If we compare some of Riley's hit metrics this year to the previous three seasons, we can see that there isn't much of a difference.

Year PA HR HardHit% Exit velo. Barrel% FB% HR/FB%
2021 662 33 45.6% 91.1 MPH 13.3% 36.7% 20.9%
2022 693 38 50.8% 92.5MPH 15.7% 38.6% 21.8%
2023 715 37 49.2% 92.3 MPH 13.9% 40.2% 19.4%
2024 211 3 48.2% 91.1 MPH 10.6% 39.6% 5.5%

The drop in barrels is noticeable, although Riley's still ranks in the 74th percentile. What jumps out is the drop in HR/FB%. Riley's 5.5% HR/FB% is the 13th lowest among the 151 qualified hitters. It's tough to envisage that remaining as it is over the rest of 2024. Riley can still hit 20 homers this year and even without Ronald Acuna, the Braves should put up plenty of runs. Riley is someone to hold in fantasy.

Yandy Diaz - 1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays - 88% rostered

Every year fantasy managers draft Diaz in the hope he can elevate the ball more. His hard-hit metrics look great, he just hits far too many ground balls. This year, Diaz is hitting more ground balls than ever. His 56.5% GB% is not only the highest Diaz has had since 2020, but it's also the highest among the 151 qualified hitters.

Fantasy managers will remember that magical two-month period to start the 2023 season in which Diaz hit 12 homers in 47 games. During that span, Diaz had a 45.5% GB%. From June 1 onwards, Diaz had a 55.2% GB%. He hit 10 home runs in those 90 games. Despite hitting more ground ball from June last year, Diaz still had a .339 batting average after May. He can still hit for an excellent average while hitting too many grounders.

Diaz's .264 xBA doesn't offer hope that his slash line will improve by much this year. Diaz's walks (9.0% BB% which ranks in the 60th percentile) and lack of strikeouts (13.4% K% which ranks in the 94th percentile) have kept him atop the Rays batting lineup. However, he's not produced enough to warrant a guaranteed roster spot in fantasy. He is someone I would consider dropping if a hitter with appeal appears on waivers in shallower leagues.

Christopher Morel - 2B/3B/OF, Chicago Cubs - 87% rostered

Morel has been one of the best fantasy options this year. After 63 games, he's hitting .202/.313/.390 with 12 homers, 39 RBI, 30 runs, and six stolen bases, enough to rank 68th among all hitters on Yahoo! Given that, people may wonder why Morel has been requested as a possible drop candidate. Simply put, it's down to his batting average.

Morel's batting average ranked 143rd among the 151 qualified hitters. It's harming fantasy teams' ratios. However, the counting stats are offsetting it. Morel is one of only five players with at least 12 homers and six steals. He's also one of only 23 players with at least 39 RBI and 30 runs. As the cleanup hitter for the Cubs, Morel should have no problem adding to those numbers. There's also good news in regards to his batting average.

As we can see from his Statcast profile, Morel's slash line should be better than it is. The -0.064 difference between Morel's wOBA and xwOBA is the second largest of the 242 hitters with at least 150 plate appearances. Rather than dropping him, I'd suggest checking your waivers to see if you're in one of the leagues where Morel is available.



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