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The Cut List - Time to Let Go? Week 9

nestor cortes jr. fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers pitchers waiver wire pickups

Welcome back to The Cut List. This is our weekly article looking at players who 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.

The season continues to rattle on and it's quite apparent that there's no shortage of players that fantasy managers are concerned about. And there's also been no shortage of exciting young players called up to the Majors making the decision to drop a struggling player all the more difficult. But finding that balance of picking up a top rookie and not dropping the wrong player is key to fantasy success.

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 year continues to progress, there will be different reasons and stronger cases to drop underperforming players. All stats and rostered rates (taken from Yahoo!) reflect when this piece was written.


Worth Dropping and Replacing?

Mitch Haniger - San Francisco Giants - 43% rostered

To say Haniger's first year in San Francisco has been a disaster would be an understatement. The Giants would have been hoping to get something resembling the 2021 version when Haniger hit 39 homers in 157 games. Instead, they've got a worse version of last year when Haniger only played 57 games.

Haniger started the season on the IL due to an oblique strain and didn't make his season debut until April 24th. So far, he's hit .194/.213/.319 with two homers, ten RBI, eight runs and no steals (20 games). In that time, Haniger also has a career-high 30.7% K% and career-low 2.7% BB%.

How bad has Haniger really been in fantasy? Well, according to Yahoo!, he's the 160th-ranked outfielder over the last 14 days. Not players. Not hitters. OUTFIELDERS. I'm not sure I can name 160 outfield-eligible players which should tell you how rough it's been.

Now, I am prepared to say he's not this bad of a hitter and I'm more than happy to give someone more time after they start the season late due to an injury (like I did with Seiya Suzuki in last week's Cut List). But at least Suzuki was performing at a reasonable level, just lacking some power. Haniger has just been bad.

I know I've already mentioned this but it's worth repeating; we are dealing with an even smaller sample than most other players due to Haniger's late start to the season. But it's still worth noting Haniger's splits so far as he could well be hitting himself into a platoon if he's not careful.

Vs. LHP 24 .273 .333 .318 25.0% 8.3% .322 103
Vs. RHP 51 .160 .157 .320 33.3% 0.0% .173 3

It's early enough for Haniger to turn that around and it's not like he's always had significant splits. He's got a career 131 wRC+ against LHP and 115 wRC+ against RHP. But it's not like the Giants have a shortage of left-handed bats, especially when Joc Pederson returns from the IL.

It remains to be seen how this plays out and Haniger could simply turn things around with more games under his belt. That's assuming he stays off the IL long enough to stay as an everyday player.  But he could just as easily find himself on the weak side of a soft platoon or missing more time given his recent injury issues.

Verdict: Haniger can still hit the ball hard, as evidenced by his 55.6% HardHit%. But there are too many negatives in his numbers right now and little to suggest he'll get close to repeating his 2021 season. At a position where there are usually solid options on waivers in shallower leagues, it's more than likely you can find someone better for your teams.

Andrew Benintendi - OF, Chicago White Sox - 42% rostered

If I'm being honest, I didn't really want to include Benintendi this week and nearly didn't. But, he was one of the most dropped players last week after hitting .238/.304/.333 across six games. And there's a reason for including Benintendi this week that'll become more commonly mentioned as the season progresses.

Benintendi is a very good MLB player. He's also a very boring fantasy player. After 43 games, he's hitting .279/.343/.352 with no homers, 10 RBI, 24 runs and five stolen bases. This is what Benintendi is. He'll hit for an average, won't strike out much but offers little power so his value is dependant on the runs and RBI he tallies.

His Statcast profile this year is one of the better illustrations of a hitter's actual performance.

And given Benintendi has hit first or second in the lineup in 29 of his 43 appearances, he'll score more runs than he'll drive in. So if that remains the case, Benintendi is a batting average boost who scores a good amount of runs. The five steals are nice but with stolen bases up across the league, we're going to want at least 20 from him.

Back to the reason that will become more common as the season progresses. In roto leagues especially, it's critical that you focus on the individual categories; where your team is strong and where you need help. Hitters like Benintendi who help in a couple of categories but hurt in others is where you need to focus your attention.

So if your team is looking like it's set for runs but you need a boost in the power department, Benintendi is someone that becomes expendable. It's still early so things can change in that regard but it's certainly something you need to pay attention to and plan for.

Verdict: Benintendi is fine in the fact he's basically doing what we expected he would. He's a solid outfield option in deeper leagues and in shallow leagues, it's category dependent but unless you're starved of runs and need the boost to your batting average, Benintendi can be considered expendable.

Jean Segura - 2B/3B, Miami Marlins - 25% rostered

I don't know about you, but my social media has been awash with "Jean Segura is finally getting going" posts all week. Some in jest I'm sure as the reality is, what's he really getting going to? There are a lot of things to cover for Segura so I'll go through them individually to paint a better picture.

Before we begin, let's look at his numbers so far. In 40 games, Segura is hitting .204/.268/.241 with no homers, five RBI, 11 runs and three stolen bases. That's a 162-game pace of no homers, 20 RBI, 45 runs and 12 stolen bases. Yuck. Now for the fun stuff.

His expected numbers are considerably better than his actual numbers, but still poor. He makes weak contact. He isn't particularly fast. His batted-ball profile is worse than ever. And he's not exactly in a fantasy-friendly environment. I don't hate Segura. Far from it. He's been a fantasy staple of mine for a while. But........

Let's begin with the expected stats and the below table should document them clearly for you. The rankings are out of the 259 hitters with the minimum number of Batted Ball Events (BBE) to qualify according to Statcast.

Actual .204 (T-239th) .241 (255th) .232 (256th)
Expected .255 (T-118th) .343 (217th) .293 (T-211th)
Difference -0.051 (10th) -0.102(T-5th) -0.061 (2nd)

So yes, Segura has been unlucky and his numbers should be better than they are. But outside of having a better-than-average batting average, everything else is still bad. Now the quality of contact.

Segura is currently sporting a 38.1% HardHit% which ranks in the 38th percentile. His Barrel% is 2.7% (tenth percentile) and his lowest since 2015, while his 87.9 MPH Average Exit Velocity is in the 34th percentile. Everything is well below average. Now the speed.

Segura's average sprint speed (27.2 ft/sec) is only slightly down on recent years but still, the slowest it's been since 2017. There's more to stealing bases than speed but Segura's three stolen bases have come from five attempts and going back to the beginning of last season, Segura is 16-for-24 in stolen base attempts. A two-thirds success rate isn't ideal.

What about his batted ball profile? Well, Segura has a 62.8% GB%, which is up from 56.2% last year and is a career-high. According to Statcast, of the 170 qualified hitters, Segura's ground ball rate is the highest in MLB. Last but not least, his hitting environment.

After ranking 28th in runs scored last year, the Marlins rebuilt their offense this offseason and this year ranks... tied-28th in runs scored (159). As a team, the Marlins rank 25th in wRC+ (90), 27th in wOBA (.302) and 25th in ISO (.138). And he also hits in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.

Verdict: All joking aside, there are little to no positives about Segura in fantasy. There is a case that in deeper leagues, being able to plug him into the middle or corner infield spot and knowing he's going to play almost every day has its worth. But he's offering nothing to your teams and even if he has turned a corner and is on his way back, there should be plenty of better options on waivers in shallower leagues.


Hold For Now

Hunter Greene - SP, Cincinnati Reds - 89% rostered

If you're going to succeed as a starting pitcher with three pitches, at least two of them have to be excellent. Spencer Strider has found success with an elite fastball, excellent slider and good changeup. Greene's fastball isn't quite in Strider's league but it's still excellent, his slider is also superb while his changeup is almost an afterthought.

I try to avoid comparing two pitchers but in the case of Greene and Strider, the fact they both survive on the same three-pitch arsenal and have had success (albeit, more so in Strider's case) makes it a worthwhile comparison. The below table looks at some numbers for each player's pitches.





Stat Usage Stuff+ xSLG Whiff% Usage Stuff+ xSLG Whiff% Usage Stuff+ xSLG Whiff%
Greene 55.1% 128 .533 25.9% 39.9% 128 .231 41.7% 5.0% 70 .323 36.8%
Strider 61.3% 149 .381 31.7% 33.3% 102 .228 54.7% 5.4% 96 .000 63.2%

I'm not doing this to suggest Greene will be the second-coming of Strider, but more to highlight that although Greene hasn't had the best season so far, he can still succeed with his arsenal. After nine starts, Greene has an 0-3 W-L record, 4.60 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 59 Ks (43.0 IP). And he has a 7.80 ERA over his last three starts.

But, do not give up on Greene. In fact, I'd be looking to buy low on the Reds flamethrower. We've established he's got the stuff to excel yet the results haven't been there. But he's been very unlucky. Greene's .398 BABIP is the highest among all pitchers with at least 40.0 IP and he's also sporting a 3.87 xFIP and 3.63 SIERA.

Obviously pitching for the Reds isn't an ideal situation and his home ballpark is pretty dreadful to pitch in but Greene can't do anything about that. When you have a pitcher with a fastball that ranks third in Stuff+ and a slider that ranks eighth (among pitchers with 40.0+ IP), there's still enough to get excited about.

Jake Cronenworth - 1B/2B/SS, San Diego Padres - 79% rostered

Cronenworth's season has been pretty indicative of the Padres in that they've been a letdown and you know they can do so much better. After 45 games, Cronenworth is hitting .217/.332/.382 with four homers, 16 RBI, 18 runs and two stolen bases. That's a 162-game pace of 14 homers, 58 RBI, 65 runs and seven stolen bases.

After his emergence in the shortened 2020 season, Cronenworth has been a steady contributor without having any single main strength. But hitting in the Padres lineup has resulted in someone that tallies a solid amount of runs and RBI. Between 2020 and 2022, Cronenworth ranked tied-48th in RBI and 20th in runs scored (208) across MLB.

Throw in his multi-positional eligibility every year, and Cronenworth has emerged as a solid utility player in fantasy who you can chuck into any gaps you have and not think anymore about it. But this year that hasn't been the case. His own struggles haven't helped but the Padres ranking 27th in runs scored (175) has been a huge factor.

A lot has been made of how bad the Padres have been with runners in scoring position (RISP) so to highlight that the below table shows their numbers with RISP.

Number 436 25.9% .191 .325 .271 71
Rank T-21st 28th 30th 30th 30th T-29th

For context, with the bases empty, the Padres rank no worse than 15th in any of those categories.

Cronenworth has been part of that problem, slashing .162/.313/.216 with RISP with a .248 wOBA and 55 wRC+. But given the talent the Padres have in their lineup, it's hard to believe this will continue and just a slight uptick by Cronenworth and the rest of the lineup should at least solve part of the problem.

Cronenworth's expected stats are similar enough to his actual numbers that bad luck can't be factored into his struggles. And interestingly, Cronenworth's 37.4% HardHit% is higher than the previous two seasons. And, he's hitting a career-high number of line drives (30.4%) and career-low ground balls (32.2%).

Cronenworth is doing most things right, but he's not barrelling the ball as evidenced by his 4.3% Barrel% (19th percentile) and even with an increased HardHit%, it still only ranks in the 33rd percentile. But, I'm still prepared to give him more time.

You have to believe the Padres improve and that will be down to their hitters improving, with Cronenworth being no exception. And it wouldn't take much improvement for Cronenworth to repeat last year's numbers; 17 homers, 88 RBI, 88 runs and three steals while hitting .239/.332/.390.

In shallow leagues, I can make a case for dropping Cronenworth but in standard and deeper leagues, I'm still holding and hoping that the upturn in performance and production from the Padres and Cronenworth comes sooner rather than later.

Lance Lynn - SP, Chicago White Sox - 65% rostered

It may come as a surprise that Lynn is included here and not in the 'Worth Dropping and Replacing' section. And I'm not going to spend too much time arguing the fact as my reasoning comes down to one factor. And that's his underlying numbers suggest Lynn has been unlucky. Very unlucky,

On the year, Lynn has made nine starts with a 2-5 W-L record, 6.66 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 61 Ks (51.1 IP). The ERA seems appropriate. But Lynn has a 3.68 xFIP, 3.76 SIERA and .360 BABIP. No qualified pitcher has a greater discrepancy between their FIP and ERA and none have a higher BABIP.

Lynn's 26.6% K% is in the 70th percentile while his 7.4% BB% is in the 62nd percentile. The problem for Lynn has been his fastball is pretty "meh". It has an 88 Stuff+ rating and the downward trending velocity we saw last year (from 94.0 MPH in 2021 to 92.9 MPH in 2022) has continued with it averaging just 92.0 MPH this year.

There has been some conjecture about larger-bodied pitchers (like Lynn and Manoah) struggling with the pitch clock and Lynn did turn 36 years old last week so isn't exactly at his peak. But that's not something we can quantify or solely base decisions on.

I'm going to stick with Lynn as long as his underlying numbers are positive but he's more of a matchup-dependent option nowadays and far from a must-start. He's due to start against the Royals tonight, then the Tigers but after that comes the Angels and Yankees so if he gets blown up in his next two starts, the decision to drop him will have been made.


On the Hot Seat

Nestor Cortes - SP, New York Yankees - 91% rostered

Cortes' story has been one of the best in baseball over the last couple of years. The journeyman emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball last year despite a fastball that averaged less than 92 MPH. Between his funky delivery, messing with timing and multiple pitches, Cortes became a hitter's nightmare.

But he's failed to replicate last year's success so far in 2023. After nine starts, Cortes has a 4-2 W-L record, 5.21 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 48 Ks (48.1 IP). No one expected a repeat of his 2.44 ERA last year but seeing it above 5.00 is quite shocking. And his underlying numbers suggest it's warranted, as Cortes has a 5.00 xFIP and 4.49 SIERA.

Cortes does also have a .305 BABIP and 3.79 xERA so maybe there is some misfortune in play. Just not enough to write off his numbers as purely bad luck. When you look at Cortes' numbers last year and this year, everything is just a little bit off.

His K% is down 3.0% (from 26.5%), his BB% is up from 6.2% to 6.9%, his HR/FB is up from 8.2% to 10.0% and his LOB% is down from 82.8% to 66.9%. There is one telling issue that has caused Cortes no end of problems and that's going through the opposition lineup for a third time, as you can see below.

Through the order IP K% BB% AVG SLG wOBA ERA
First time 20.2 25.9% 6.2% .189 .284 .247 2.61
Second time 20.0 24.7% 4.9% .240 .333 .276 1.35
Third time 7.2 16.7% 9.5% .432 1.027 .602 22.30

Cortes isn't the only pitcher to have struggled retiring hitters a third time in an outing but these numbers are eye-opening. Especially when we consider he had a 2.40 ERA the third time through the order last year. Cortes' start last weekend against the Rays pretty much encapsulated his season perfectly.

Cortes completed four innings without much trouble, giving up one run on four hits. He struck out Taylor Walls to begin the fifth inning, the ninth consecutive hitter he retired. Then things began to unravel. A walk was followed by a 'sleep-walk' when Cortes had a pitch-clock violation on a full count.

He then gave up a single to load the bases before Yandy Diaz hit a grand slam. That was followed by a Wander Franco double before Cortes was relieved. Franco came around to score leaving Cortes charged with six earned runs in 4.1 IP. If it wasn't for that inning, Cortes would only have one blemish on his ledger this year, against the Rangers.

Unlike some other starting pitchers who are getting hit around in every start, Cortes only has two outings you can consider bad and they came against the top two offenses in baseball this year. So while the numbers haven't been great for Cortes so far, it's still too early to panic and there's not a compelling enough argument to justify dropping him.


Reddit 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 and there's a good chance they will feature. Alternatively, you can reach out to me on Twitter (@Baseball_Jimbo) and we'll endeavor to cover as many requests as we can each week.

Once again, we received nearly 200 comments on the Reddit thread last week so once again, I'm increasing this section from three to five players. And as a bonus special, for the first time this season, we're going to revisit two players we've already included in previous editions of The Cut List, two that you chose on Reddit.

Byron Buxton - OF, Minnesota Twins - 94% rostered

I wasn't going to bother including Buxton but a couple of people requested him and he serves to prove a couple of points. The first is just because a player isn't performing as expected, doesn't make them droppable. And it's still early enough in the season for a big week to make a big difference.

Going into last Sunday, Buxton was hitting .215/.327/.469 with eight homers, 19 RBI, 22 runs and two steals. Over the past seven days, Buxton has hit .348/.444/.565 with a home run, two RBI, eight runs and two steals. His season line now stands at nine homers, 21 RBI, 30 runs and four stolen bases with a .235/.344/.484 slash line.

Buxton's wOBA has fluctuated and highlights the ups and downs he's had in the early goings, which is to be expected within a small sample.

And going back to the first point about underperforming but still being valuable. Buxton had an ADP of ~91 and before this week, ranked just outside the top 180 players on Yahoo!. Now he ranks 85th so obviously not droppable but even if he still ranked ~180, unless you're playing in leagues where less than 100 hitters are rostered, Buxton would still be rosterable.

Fantasy baseball can be emotive but it's important to look at the bigger picture and not just drop someone because they're failing to perform like expected, projected or hoped for. Even if their underlying numbers don't suggest they'll provide value on their ADP, doesn't mean they're not worth rostering.

Speaking of underlying numbers, there is still a slight cause for concern with Buxton. He has a .218 xBA, .419 xSLG and .327 xwOBA (.357 wOBA) so he has been outperforming his expected numbers but not to the point where we should be worried he falls off the metaphorical cliff soon.

Given the big concern surrounding Buxton this preseason (as it is every year) was health and Buxton has played in 40 of the Twins' 44 games so far. He's at least ticked that box. The fact the Twins have used Buxton exclusively as a DH and he's yet to play the field is telling but if it keeps him healthy, it's a great idea.

Unfortunately, Buxton left yesterday's game with tightness in his calf. Obviously, as it's Buxton, people are in a panic. Hopefully, it's just some cramping and he'll be fine but it's definitely something to monitor and fingers crossed, we get some positive news today.

Maybe the MVP hopes for Buxton this year were a little overly optimistic but he's not someone I'd be considering as a drop. In dynasty leagues, I'd be a little concerned about him possibly losing his outfield eligibility next year but that might change as the season progresses.

Alek Manoah - SP, Toronto Blue Jays - 89% rostered

Manoah was featured in The Cut List just four weeks ago and at the time, I did expect an improvement in his performance. Nothing that would resemble last year but still enough to make Manoah a viable fantasy pitcher. So what I'm going to do is look at the problems back then and how things look now.

Firstly was the drop in Manoah's velocity on his fastball and sinker, both of which were down from last year. In 2022, his sinker averaged 93.3 MPH while his fastball averaged 93.9 MPH. From four weeks ago to now, there's been no improvement and his average fastball velocity has actually dropped a further 0.2 MPH.

Manoah had a 6.98 ERA when we first looked into his numbers and since then, he's compiled a 4.02 ERA over his last six starts leaving his season line as 1-4 W-L record, 5.15 ERA, 1.74 WHIP and 40 Ks (50.2 IP).




Period Fastball Sinker Slider Changeup Fastball Sinker Slider Changeup
2022 35.9% 25.8% 27.1% 11.2% 103 95 111 72
Starts 1 – 4 '23 28.6% 29.2% 29.4% 12.7% 98 86 101 80
2023 27.8% 30.4% 28.2% 13.6% 94 94 96 77

While the sinker has improved, it's still been a below-average pitch this year and Manoah's pitch usage hasn't changed enough to really make me believe there's a significant change in his approach to mitigate his struggles.

If you drafted Manoah, you likely have to just persevere with it right now but with a 6.12 xFIP and 6.02 SIERA, there isn't much reason for optimism. His 13.9% BB% ranks in the seventh percentile and it's difficult to see him changing that much as he's lacking control on his pitches.

Yesterday's start was another step in the right direction, with Manoah completing 5.2 IP allowing two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five. Then this happened, denying Manoah a possible quality start.

Like Lynn, there have been questions as to whether or not his size is causing him problems with the pitch clock but all we can do is go by the numbers and the numbers suggest Manoah is not someone you want to have on your rosters. But he'll still have good starts this season, it's a case of how you go about starting and sitting him.

Alternatively, you can just cut your losses and hope he doesn't pick things up which is still possible. We know what Manoah can do so can you accept dropping him and seeing him get hot on another team? Or would you rather hold on to him and watch Manoah slide into irrelevancy?

Patrick Wisdom - 1B/3B/OF, Chicago Cubs - 83% rostered

Seven players. Just seven players have more home runs this season than Wisdom. So why would anyone consider dropping him? Well, it's likely to do with his cold streak coupled with the fact he's not a big name so there's legitimate concern this cold streak is the real Wisdom.

Fantasy managers might not want to hear me say this but, we are witnessing the real Wisdom. I'm not talking about just May, in which he's hitting .182/.321/.364. I'm talking about the entire season. In 40 games, Wisdom has 12 homers, 23 RBI, 25 runs and two stolen bases while hitting .228/.323/.551.

What do I mean when I say the real Wisdom is what we've seen all season? Well, exactly that. Rather than focusing on the last couple of weeks, focus on his season as a whole. The majority of power hitters who strike out a lot will have serious streaky periods and few strike out more or hit the ball harder than Wisdom.

Let's address the strikeout rate first. Wisdom's 37.8% K% is the highest among all qualified hitters. Last year, Wisdom hit 25 homers in 134 games and his 34.3% K% was the highest among qualified hitters. In 2021, Wisdom hit 28 homers in 106 games. His 40.8% K% was the highest among hitters with at least 350 plate appearances.

Wisdom has also shown a greater propensity to take a walk, with a career-high 11.5% BB% which ranks in the 75th percentile. If you're starting to get Joey Gallo vibes from Wisdom, there's a very good reason why. In 2021 when Wisdom hit 28 homers in 106 games, that was a 162-game pace of 43 home runs.

This year, Wisdom has a 162-game pace of 49 homers. In 2021, Wisdom had a 51.9% HardHit% and 16.2% Barrel%. This year, Wisdom has a 57.1% HardHit% and 22.1% Barrel%. And last year, Wisdom's 46.3% HardHit% (82nd percentile) and 14.2% Barrel% (93rd percentile) were hardly bad.

Wisdom has been sitting more regularly than you'd like of late, but as long as he hits when he plays, there's no reason to panic too much. This is a cumulative game so obviously, someone playing four games a week with two homers, four RBI and three runs is better than someone playing six games a week with one homer, three RBI and two runs.

What Wisdom has done so far he will continue to do. You'll have to ride out the bad weeks and cold streaks but the power is legit and he'll continue to hit the ball hard. If he stays healthy, Wisdom should end the season near the top of the home run leader lists.

Jorge Mateo - SS, Baltimore Orioles - 80% rostered

Speaking of streaky hitters, welcome to Mateo. Despite being similarly streaky like Wisdom, that is where the comparison ends. Mateo's fantasy value comes from his legs and only two players have more stolen bases than Mateo. On the year, in 39 games Mateo is hitting .244/.288/.433 with six homers, 22 RBI, 26 runs and 14 stolen bases.

That's enough to be ranked 33rd overall in fantasy on Yahoo!. So why would anyone dream of dropping him? Like Wisdom, he's not a big name and has slumped lately. So far in May, Mateo has hit .109/.138/.127 with no homers, five RBI, five runs and four stolen bases (16 games). At least he's still running.

And Mateo's 29.8 ft/s average sprint speed is the eighth fastest in baseball so there's no reason for him to stop, especially as he's 14-for-16 in stolen base attempts. And while his attempts might diminish if he's getting on base less, his glove will keep him in the lineup.

Defensively, Mateo is in the 80th percentile for Outs Above Average and tied fourth for Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) among shortstops. He hit just .221/.267/.379 last year but still played 150 games due to his defense and he stole 35 bases. The Orioles are better this year than in 2022 so a sub-standard performing player might have a shorter leash this year.

My one big worry about Mateo is the recent leg soreness that has seen him miss some games. That's the sort of thing that won't go away without some kind of rest but could hamper him while he plays through it and will likely be managed with some 'maintenance'. How much that impacts him remains to be seen.

We saw ice-cold stretches from Mateo last year, with him hitting .080 over nine games to start June and multiple weeks of hitting under .200. But he still ended the year ranked 119th overall in Yahoo! predominantly due to his speed. As long as that holds up, I'd still look to ride Mateo and tally as many stolen bases from him as possible.

Josh Bell - 1B, Cleveland Guardians - 44% rostered

Another repeat offender with his second Cut List appearance of the year. Bell appeared back in week four and back then, I wasn't averse to him being dropped in shallow leagues if there was a solid option to replace him with but I expected him to improve after starting the season hitting .167/.292/.296 with one homer, six RBI, four runs, no steals (14 games).

Now, Bell is hitting .229/.343/.353 with three homers, 21 RBI, seven runs and no steals (43 games). So I was right in that he has improved. But I must admit, I expected more improvement than he's shown and he's currently ranked 636th overall in fantasy (according to Yahoo!) and 53rd among first-base-eligible players.

I will say that Bell has a bit more value in OBP leagues or points leagues due to his excellent 14.9% BB% (93rd percentile) and decent 19.3% K% (64th percentile). Although it is worth pointing out that his K% is the highest he's had in any year (apart from the 2020 season) but his BB% is a career-high.

The one thing I am quite optimistic about moving forward with Bell is his expected numbers. Bell has a .263 xBA, .414 xSLG and .350 xwOBA (.313 wOBA). While not great, those expected numbers all rank in the 50th percentile or better. In batting average alone, only 23 of the 259 qualified hitters have a greater disparity, according to Statcast.

A look at Bell's career numbers by month offers up an interesting perspective.

Mar/Apr 584 0.248 0.333 0.428 0.328 106
May 630 0.279 0.349 0.489 0.354 122
Jun 505 0.269 0.362 0.514 0.367 131
Jul 520 0.271 0.344 0.488 0.352 120
Aug 661 0.250 0.353 0.440 0.341 113
Sept/Oct 687 0.248 0.360 0.384 0.326 103

The reason it is of interest is in the early goings, we're seeing the same trend from Bell. A slowish start before signs of improvement in the Summer months before he falls away at the end of the year. That final part has yet to play out of course but below are Bell's numbers by month to start 2023.

Mar/Apr 118 .206 .305 .382 .300 88
May 63 .273 .413 .294 .336 113

Bell's 162-game pace of 26 runs is historically bad and is largely down to the Guardians ranking tied-28th in runs scored (159). Despite reaching base in 14 of the 16 games he's played in May, Bell hasn't scored a run this month and while I don't believe the Guardians offense remains this bad all season, I still don't see it being potent.

If Bell's numbers continue to trend upwards in the next couple of months (as I suspect they will), Bell should make a solid corner infielder in fantasy. But the lack of runs and below-average power is a problem, especially when he offers no speed so in reality, Bell is a limited contributor making him more of a deeper league option only.

There is still a case for rostering Bell in shallower leagues as you may not have any better option, especially if you just lost C.J. Cron for example. And Bell's numbers do suggest he could be a capable stand-in and might even be a decent trade option when Cron returns so he's not a flat-out drop in any league just yet.

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