We live in a time where some of the best and brightest stars in games are hitting more than 180 times in a single season. Damn it, Shohei Ohtani struck 189 times en route to his 2021 AL MVP award.
MLB’s average strikeout rate rose to 24 percent in 2021, with 37 qualified players having strikeout rates above the league average.
Because of this, people tend to pay attention when a player is doing the complete opposite of the norm – especially a beginner.
In addition to reaching base 15 times in his first four games, an MLB record, Guardians rookie Steven Kwan also saw 116 pitches before his first swing and miss. He reached base in 19 of his first 29 plate appearances with eight walks and one – yes, one! – crossed out.
It had only been six games, but Kwan came on Friday with five RBIs, seven carries, 1,392 OPS and a 98 percent contact rate with a .526 hit.
Though the league’s lead in week one carries only slightly more significance than spring training stats on Friday, Kwan stepped out first in baseline percentage (.655), contact rate and average, second in walk rate (27 .6 percent) and fifth in runs and OPS and eighth in slugging percentage (.737). He also had the lowest strike rate (3.4 percent) in the majors.
Kwan, a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft, was the most added fantasy player in ESPN leagues this week (76.4 percent owned), drawing the attention of fantasy executives to his incredible skills. The real question: Can he continue to be successful in the majors beyond the unsustainable numbers he produced in his first week?
Kwan obviously won’t get to .500 (or better). Despite hitting 12 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year, he doesn’t seem like a massive power threat (not with his exit speed of 81.3 mph, which ranks in the bottom 5 percent of the league according to Statcast. It’s also unlikely that he’s hitting double-digit stolen bases despite having some speed (he stole 22 bases in three seasons at Oregon State University and 20 in 217 games in the minors).
That might not sound like ringing confirmation, but there’s a lot that makes Roto Rage think he can be a viable fantasy option, starting with his ability to socialize a lot and get down to base – and that is a trait we can trace back to college.
In three years at Oregon State University, the 24-year-old hit .329 with 96 carries and .849 OPS while walking 82 times and picking up just 38 times in 156 games. In three seasons in the Minors, Kwan hit .301 with 142 carries and an .818 OPS while walking 100 times and batting 87 times in 217 games.
The other big positive in favor of Kwan: Opportunity. Not only did he seemingly come out of nowhere to become an everyday player, he’s now the No. 2 in the Guardians. That means he’s one spot ahead of Jose Ramirez, one of the game’s best players.
Some might draw comparisons to Akil Baddoo or Yermin Mercedes, rookies who got off to a hot start in 2021, and that’s understandable. But Kwan seems to be a different, more consistent animal. His on-base skills seem elite, and those are the numbers that cannot be ignored given the ability to average, get on base, make runs and avoid outs in every single fantasy format is valuable.
Kwan may not be the flashiest player, but if he can keep up even half of what he did in his first week in the bigs, he will continue to be a fantasy asset.
Another player off to a hot start who remains available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues despite being the fourth most added player this week (and qualified for multiple positions) is Colorado’s Connor Joe. He hit .333 with two homers, three RBIs, seven carries and 1.073 OPS in his first six games, and that has nothing to do with Coors Field. Though he hits .313 with a homer, two RBIs, a stolen base and a .889 OPS in four home games, he hits .375 with one homer, one RBI, four runs, three walks, three strikeouts and a 1.421 OPS along the way. Roto Rage thinks it’s approaching must-add territory.
Tylor Megill SP, Mets
He didn’t allow a earned run over his first two starts (both wins), knocked out 11, walked none and limited opponents to batting .177s against him. He was the most added pitcher in the ESPN leagues this week.
Nolan Arenado 3B, Cardinals
He entered Friday with a hit in each of his first five games and went 8-for-20 (.400) with three homers, nine RBIs, five carries and 1,429 OPS.
Sean Manaea SP, Padres
Ranked third in the majors on opponents’ average (.095), while maintaining a 1.38 ERA, 13-3 strikeout walk rate, and .538 WHIP in his first two starts.
Myles Straw OF, Warden
After six games, he not only led the league in runs (nine) and stolen bases (four), but also clocked in a .360 walk rate of 19.4 percent.
Robbie Ray SP, seafarers
After allowing just one three-hit run over seven innings on his first start, he allowed six 10-hit runs (including three home runs) on his second start. He bats 6.1 per nine innings and walks 4.1 per nine.
Dansby Swanson SS, Braves
In his first eight games, he hit 14 league-high times while going 4-to-28 (.143) with two RBIs, two runs made and a .440 OPS.
Kyle Schwarber 1B/OF, Phillies
Goed 2-for-4 on opening day but was 1-for-23 (.044) with an RBI, 10 strikeouts, three walks and a .241 OPS in his next six games.
Max Fried SP, Braves
The left-hander allowed seven earned runs over his first 11 innings (5.73 ERA) and went 0-2 with a 1.455 WHIP.
- Miami’s Jesus Lazardo, which owns just 31.6 percent of ESPN leagues, made a brief but impactful season debut. Over five innings against the Angels, he allowed a run for two hits while walking one and hitting 12 outs. Keep an eye on him.
- Shane BieberHis speed is down about 2-3 mph, but he has a 2.70 ERA (2.12 FIP, which is a sign of a bit of bad luck), a 5.4 percent walk rate, and has his opponents at limited his first two starts to a .118 average.
- So, Clayton Kershaw was dragged seven innings into a perfect game and only threw 80 pitches. He had a 23.8 percent swinging strike rate and beat 61.9 percent of the batters he faced. He hit 13, including 11 at an insane batting rate of 41.5 percent with his slider. It was a real tour de force for the three-time Cy Young winner. Now all he has to do is stay healthy.
Team Name of the Week
https://nypost.com/2022/04/16/fantasy-baseball-steven-kwans-hot-start-should-be-believed/ Fantasy Baseball” Steven Kwan’s hot start is to be believed