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The Cut List - Time to Let Go? Week 4

Hunter Brown - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Welcome back to The Cut List for Week 4 of the 2024 fantasy baseball season - April 15 through April 21. 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, especially this early in the season. As the year progresses, 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 waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

Worth Dropping and Replacing?

Kerry Carpenter - OF, Detroit Tigers - 57% rostered

It's not been a bad start to the year for Carpenter. In 14 games, he has a robust .294/.333/.529 slash line. The problem has been the counting stats. Carpenter has two home runs, four RBI, four runs, and no stolen bases. It's also noticeable that he has only 37 plate appearances in 14 games. That's due to the Tigers' insistence on not letting him face left-handed pitching (LHP). He's only faced a lefty twice this season.

Carpenter is routinely being pinch-hit for. He's had three or more plate appearances in only six games so far. It was a similar story for him last year, with only 78 of his 459 plate appearances coming against LHP. If we look at Carpenter's Major League splits over the previous two seasons, we can see why the Tigers are reluctant to let him face lefties.

Split PA HR AVG OBP SLG K% BB% wRC+
vs LHP 102 3 .231 .314 .330 21.6% 5.9% 84
vs RHP 572 23 .273 .334 .474 25.7% 6.6% 122

There's nothing to suggest this trend won't continue. Carpenter has been a below-average hitter against LHP, albeit in a small sample. If he can make the most of the limited opportunities, that might change. As things currently stand, both seem unlikely. Carpenter has been batting cleanup for the Tigers when he starts. But the moment the opposition goes to the bullpen and brings in a lefty to face Carpenter, he will retreat to the bench.

Verdict: In deeper leagues and those with daily lineup moves, Carpenter is still worth rostering. Just keep in mind that he may only get a couple of plate appearances per game and will seldom start against LHP. That will significantly cap his counting stats so Carpenter isn't really worth rostering in weekly or shallower leagues.

Jose Abreu - 1B, Houston Astros - 46% rostered

After a dreadful start to 2023, Abreu turned things around. His first home run came on May 28 in his 51st game of the season. At that point, Abreu was hitting .214/.272/.265 with a 49 wRC+. Over the remainder of the season, he hit .250/.310/.451 with 17 homers and a 107 wRC+ (90 games), so there is a case to suggest Abreu is just off to another slow start. Even after "heating up" he was still only slightly better than a league-average hitter.

After 13 games, Abreu has hit .122/.196/.146 with no homers, one RBI, six runs and no stolen bases. Abreu had his first two-hit performance and first extra-base hit in yesterday's game. Still, even at this early stage, his numbers are a cause for concern. The biggest issue is that Abreu has begun to lose playing time to Jon Singleton. Since last Sunday, Abreu has started just one of the Astros' last four games against a right-handed starting pitcher.

Verdict: Singleton isn't exactly pulling up trees himself. But he's been better than Abreu so far, and after his down season last year, it's fair to think Abreu is done from a fantasy viewpoint. He's offering next to nothing and might not get enough at-bats to change that if he is in any sort of platoon. Abreu is someone I wouldn't be planning on rostering through the remainder of this season. Looking to replace him now might be a good idea.

 

Hold For Now

Luis Robert Jr. - OF, Chicago White Sox - 98% rostered

Robert Jr. was set to be one of the few bright spots for the White Sox this season. After hitting 38 homers last year with 20 stolen bases, expectations were high. Unfortunately, Robert Jr. managed just seven games before a hip injury sent him to the IL. Initial reports suggested Robert Jr. was set to miss up to four months of the season. That would have left fantasy managers with a decision to make as to whether he was worth holding.

However, White Sox GM Chris Getz told reports on Friday that Robert Jr. could be back much sooner, with six weeks being a possibility, so we may see him again by June. Assuming there are no setbacks, that leaves four months of the season for Robert Jr. to show off his talents. Fantasy managers will just keep their fingers crossed for him to stay healthy. Robert Jr. is certainly worth keeping on your IL (or bench) for an early June return.

Kevin Gausman - SP, Toronto Blue Jays - 98% rostered

After a solid season debut, Gausman's last two outings have been well below what fantasy managers would have expected when drafting him. Through three starts, Gausman has a 0-2 W-L record, 11.57 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, and 10 Ks (9.1 IP). After being shellacked by the Yankees and registering just four outs, the concern was Gausman's fastball velocity being down (91.6 mph). Having had a shoulder issue in spring, fantasy managers were on alert.

The good news is that in Friday's start, Gausman's fastball velocity was back (93.9 mph). It was still down from last year (94.6 mph), but not to the point that we should be worried. The real worry was the Rockies managing to score six earned runs on 10 hits, ending Gausman's night in the fourth inning.

While I was a bit anxious following his start against the Yankees, I'm actually less so now. There are a couple of reasons why. The first is his 3.82 xFIP and 3.99 SIERA in the outing against the Rockies. That tells us he was unlucky. The second is the 18 whiffs (78 pitches) Gausman got. Granted, the Rockies lineup isn't one to fear but that's still an impressive amount of swings and misses.

Gausman is scheduled to face the Yankees again on Wednesday. That is a start I will be watching closely. I'm not looking at dropping Gausman but I'm also not looking at trading for Gausman while his value is lower than a fortnight ago. It's still too early to panic and we need to see at least another two or three starts from Gausman before we consider taking any action.

 

On the Hot Seat

Hunter Brown - SP, Houston Astros - 80% rostered

I will never condone dropping someone based on one game. Especially at this early stage of the season. That remains the case here, even after Brown had one of the worst starts in recent memory. He was tagged for nine earned runs while recording just one out. Hardly what people expected against the Royals. The Astros starter now has a 0-2 W-L record, 16.43 ERA, 3.91 WHIP, and eight Ks from his three starts (7.1 IP).

Thursday's disaster came on the back of a rough second outing of the season. Against the Rangers, Brown got tagged for five earned runs (3.0 IP) on eight hits and four walks. After shutting down the Yankees over 4.0 IP in his season debut, Brown's last two starts have come out of nowhere. Looking at the numbers for each start, there isn't anything noticeable about why he's been shelled twice.

His pitch velocity has been similar between starts. So have his spin rates. Nothing stands out, except the fact he's allowed only one barrel across the three starts. One red flag has been the walks allowed by Brown. After having a mediocre 8.3% BB% last year, he's already given seven free passes this year (13.2% BB%). It's difficult to see that continuing.

I'd be less inclined to factor in Brown's last start if it wasn't for the fact he had a bit of a stinker in his previous outing. There's also a potential start at Coors Field looming in a couple of weeks so we might be in for a rough ride with Brown. I'm still not going to drop Brown based on what we've seen but I'd also consider benching him against the Braves next week. Hopefully, we see signs of a bounce back over the next couple of starts.

 

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 or over on the RotoBaller Discord. Alternatively, you can reach out to me on X and we'll endeavor to cover as many requests as we can each week.

Before we commence with the reader requests, I just wanted to say these are the three most popular names mentioned of those over 40% rostered. Thank you to everyone who submitted names, asked questions, and provided feedback. It's still too early to worry about players based solely on their performance, but covering this trio still felt pertinent.

Sal Frelick is an example of how quickly they can turn things around. Last Sunday, his name was mentioned to me as a drop. At that time, he was hitting .174/.240/.174. Entering today's game, Frelick is hitting .319/.396/.362. Only 10 outfielders have scored more runs than Frelick (11). His batting average ranks 18th at the position (among players with at least 30 at-bats).

In the coming weeks, there will be more players worth looking at due to their numbers. And players requested will generally find their way into the other sections as the season progresses. For now, let's take a quick dive into the three players you seem to be most concerned about.

Nick Castellanos - OF, Philadelphia Phillies - 93% rostered

Through 15 games (61 plate appearances), Castellanos is hitting .182/.262/.182 with no homers, five RBI, two runs and no stolen bases. With some players, you can label them as slow starters. That is not the case with Castellanos. In 2023, he hit .313/.369/.509 in the first month of the season. In 2022, Castellanos hit .300/.374/.475 in April. In 2021, he had a .305/.347/.611 slash line heading into May.

Throughout his career, Castellanos has a 114 wRC+ in April, making it his third most productive month historically. With that being said, I'm still not concerned. Last year, Castellanos didn't hit his first home run until April 22. He still ended the year with 29 homers. Last year, Castellanos had a 21-game spell in which he hit .118/.157/.188. He still ended the year with a .272/.311/.476 slash line.

I'm not going to pretend Castellanos has been unlucky and things will soon turn around. You should take some encouragement from his 41.7% HardHit% (58th percentile) and his 9.8% BB% (66th percentile). Everything else makes for grim reading. But as I keep preaching - it's still too early to panic. Castellanos had a great year last year despite not homering for the first three weeks and having an abject three-week spell at the plate.

James Outman - OF, Los Angeles Dodgers - 72% rostered

Outman hasn't been able to get going this year, with a .184/.286/.327 slash line, two homers, seven RBI, six runs, and one stolen base (15 games). I don't encourage you to look at anyone's Statcast pages or obsess with their numbers in such small samples. But it's noticeable that Outman's Baseball Savant page for this year has many similarities to last year.

Outman was someone I was high on this year and many others were expecting a step forward after an impressive rookie season. There's nothing to be concerned about at this stage. At the risk of sounding repetitive, it's still too early to panic. In his last seven games, Outman has hit .263/.333/.579. His two homers and one steal have come in that period. There's nothing to sway me from still being in on Outman this year.

Daulton Varsho - OF, Toronto Blue Jays - 46% rostered

Varsho has become the early-season poster child for not panicking. He entered this week with a .133/.235/.167 slash line and the only counting stats were four runs. After his grand slam yesterday, Varsho is now hitting .196/.260/.348 with two homers, five RBI, eight runs, and no stolen bases (15 games). The fact that Varsho's five RBI have all come from his two home runs is indicative of the struggles the Blue Jays have had offensively.

Only seven teams have scored fewer runs than Toronto (56), four of which have played fewer games. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is hitting .190/.309/.379. Bo Bichette is hitting .231/.298/.365 and George Springer is hitting .203/.309/.339. They've combined for six homers. All are hitting well below their expected levels.

If you drafted Varsho as your fifth (or sixth) outfielder, then I understand why some managers dropped him. Especially if you've needed to add a pitcher given the bevy of injuries at the position. Varsho's defense will keep him in the lineup regularly and homering in back-to-back games suggests he's just getting started. There's no reason to drop Varsho if you have rostered him to this point.



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