Livescore Sunday, May 19
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Few fantasy analysts can stand the heat — and deliver it — like Dalton Del Don. He’ll bring his blazing fantasy baseball takes here every week, to help you keep the fire burning in your leagues.

• Anthony Volpe hit just .209 as a 22-year-old rookie, but he also went 20/20. He’s off to an incredible start to 2024, posting a 198 wRC+ while racking up runs, homers and steals. While Volpe’s .426 BABIP is sure to regress, his much-improved plate discipline suggests he’s going to quickly develop into a fantasy star this season. Volpe has the third-best improvement in K% so far this year, a stat that stabilizes quickly. He ranks top-10 in Contact% and sports a 1:5 K:BB ratio with three steals over five games since moving to the leadoff spot. Volpe has the green light to run, plays in one of the most HR-friendly parks in baseball and can rake, so he should be considered a borderline top-five fantasy SS moving forward.

• Julio Rodríguez has yet to homer and is off to a dreadful start at the plate (42 wRC+) over the first 10% of the season. It’s hardly ideal for a player who went top-five in fantasy drafts, and Rodríguez’s Hard Hit, K and BB rates are all easily career worsts. However, it’s still a tiny sample (that would otherwise go unnoticed mid-summer), and he’s played 65% of his games at home — the league’s most extreme pitcher’s park and where Rodríguez saw his OPS drop 64 points last year. Moreover, Rodríguez was hitting .204 with a .656 OPS over his first 200 plate appearances last season before hitting .302 with 25 homers and 29 steals after May 21. He posted a .544 OPS in April during his rookie season, so it’s increasingly possible Rodríguez is just a slow starter. His max exit velocity remains in the top 2% of the league, and this is a player who just recorded a 156 wRC+ after the All-Star break last season as a 22-year-old. Rodríguez should still be treated as a top-five fantasy player.

• Ronald Acuña Jr. has seven steals, but his start at the plate is mildly concerning. He’s recorded just one barrel this season after suffering a knee injury in spring that required an MRI (he led the league in barrels last year). Of course, the knee hasn’t prevented him from stealing, and this is a small sample that includes playing in cold weather. Acuña will start hitting soon and will almost certainly remain a top fantasy player, but it’s possible he regresses a bit more than expected in 2024 and doesn’t finish atop the ranks again. Last season’s 11.4 K% looks increasingly like an outlier given it’s been 23+% during the other six seasons in his career, and pitchers have adjusted throwing to him in 2024. Acuña already had concerning trends regarding his swing path, so a jump in K% matters. In fact, Acuña has changed his average swing path angles more than any hitter in baseball this season (aside from Michael A. Taylor), which could help explain his slow start at the plate.

• The A’s have quickly abandoned any plans to ease Mason Miller into the closer’s role, and he’s become must-see when on the mound. He’s averaged an MLB-high 100.6 mph with his fastball while hitting 103.7, resulting in a silly 45.5 K%. Miller ranks top-five among relievers in CSW, has yet to allow a barrel and owns a 1.15 expected ERA in the top 2% of the league. Health could remain a hurdle, but it’s nice to see Oakland give him the closer’s role right away (he would have another save if the rules weren’t so ridiculous). Miller should be considered an elite fantasy reliever.

• It may have taken multiple injuries, but Esteury Ruiz is back with the Athletics. He was batting .326/.423/.581 with three homers and seven steals over 11 games in Triple-A after posting a 221 wRC+ in Oakland before curiously being sent down. Ruiz isn’t a great defender, but he deserves playing time in an outfield hitting a collective .216/.289/.339 without him. Ruiz swiped 67 bases in fewer than 450 at bats last season and can approach 10 homers, so he’s a must-add in all fantasy formats; he’s available in 50% of Yahoo leagues.

• Speaking of speed on the waiver wire, Jonatan Clase is another option who’s available in 80% of Yahoo leagues. The rookie was called up Monday thanks to injuries, and Clase will get a chance to remain in Seattle’s lineup while Dominic Canzone is out. Clase hit 20 home runs and stole 79 bases in fewer than 130 games across the minors last season, and he had a 144 wRC+ (with five homers/steals and improved contact rates) in Triple-A this year. Clase sports “80” grade speed and is a strong add for those searching for immediate help in stolen bases.

• Edward Cabrera was showing improved control before suffering a shoulder injury during spring, and it continued during his return Monday night. Cabrera posted a 10:1 K:BB ratio with a 42% CSW, throwing 68% of his four above-average pitches for strikes (59% last season). Cabrera’s 27.2 K% last season would’ve ranked 10th among starters if he qualified, just ahead of Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler, so he could develop into an ace if the improved control is for real. Max Meyer didn’t deserve to be sent to the minors, but Cabrera has massive potential if health cooperates. He won’t be so widely available in Yahoo leagues for much longer.

• Tommy Pham combined for 38 homers/steals last season in fewer than 130 games, including most of them in an extreme pitcher’s park (Citi Field). He owns a career 116 wRC+ and now gets to play in hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field after reportedly signing with the White Sox, so he can be added in deeper fantasy leagues. Chicago recently welcomed Eloy Jiménez back to its lineup, but there remains plenty of at-bats (and playing time) available for Pham; the White Sox are fielding an ugly lineup and became the first team to be shut out six times over their first 16 games since 1907.

• Teoscar Hernández is on pace to finish the season with 145 RBI and 230 strikeouts (223 is the MLB record). He’s clubbed all five HRs at home, and it looks like his complaint about not being able to see the baseball in Seattle last season was real, although the K rate remains scary. Hernández will continue to be a top fantasy outfielder while benefitting from hitting in L.A.’s lineup and in Dodger Stadium, which has quietly increased home runs for righties an MLB-high 27% over the last three seasons.

• Michael Busch homered for the fifth straight game Monday, tying the Cubs’ franchise record. Although he struggled in Los Angeles, Busch is a first-round pick who produced strong numbers throughout the minors, including a 150 wRC+ with 27 homers in 390 ABs in Triple-A last season. His K rate suggests a slump will eventually come, and he’s yet to record a hit against a left-handed pitcher this year, but his hot start should help keep him in Chicago’s lineup regularly. The power is real, third base has only become thinner and Busch is hitting in the middle of the Cubs’ order, so he looks like a huge win for fantasy managers.

BONUS — TV Talk: “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” final season wasn’t its best, but it wrapped up perfectly and ends as my favorite comedy of all time … “Shōgun” is legit. I highly recommend it if you aren’t watching … “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Griselda” are two shows if you’re looking for entertainment, while “Ripley” and “Expats” are superior slower burns … “True Detective: Night Country” did a great job of holding my interest for such a shaky show … Finally finished “The Dynasty: New England Patriots,” which comically slighted Bill Belichick … Looking forward to “The Jinx Part Two” and “Hacks” coming back soon, but obviously the biggest news in television is the return of “Melrose Place.”



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