(*) PT TOMORROW: AL Central—Chapman looking more like old self again

Kansas City Royals

Back in late March we touched on the strong spring Aroldis Chapman (LHP, KC) was having, and the possibility he could work his way into the saves mix. So far this season he has whiffed 47% of batters with a SwK of 18.8%, while averaging 100 mph on his fastball. Chapman has allowed three runs (two earned) in his last two appearances after starting the year with eight shutout innings, and after struggling mightily with his control the past two seasons, has issued 3 BB in 9.1 IP so far.

Scott Barlow (RHP, KC) has recorded three saves to Chapman's one but his skills aren't nearly as impressive. His average fastball velocity was 95.4 mph in 2021 then dropped to 93.7 in 2022, and is down to 92.1 this season. Barlow sports a mediocre 10.7% SwK and a whopping 7 BB through 9.1 IP, along with 12 K.

Chapman's lone save to date was on April 8, after Barlow had pitched the previous two days. Barlow seems to have the upper hand for now, but Chapman has clearly shown the superior skills, and has 316 career saves to his name. If both pitchers keep pitching like they have been, Manager Matt Quatraro could soon turn to Chapman to handle the majority of 9th-inning duties.


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Chicago White Sox

Despite plenty of name value, the team has gotten very little production out of their outfield, which collectively ranks 26th in wRC+ on the young season. Oscar Colás (OF, CHW) is one of the primary drivers of the low mark, as he has cooled off considerably after a respectable start, with just three hits in his last 28 AB. He was out of the lineup for the fourth time in five games on Wednesday, two of which have come against right-handed starters, and it's not out of the question that his spot on the roster could soon be at risk.

Gavin Sheets (OF, CHW) only has 44 PA on the year but has been in the lineup in two of the last three games against righties. He has put up a solid .289/.386/.447 line with a 133 xPX and 84% ct% and could see more regular time in the lineup going forward. Romy González (2B, CHW) got his third start in the outfield on Wednesday, in addition to his two starts at second base. He has collected just three hits and no walks in 29 PA to date and isn't looking like a viable option for the Sox.

Down on the farm, there are a few players at Triple-A Charlotte with major league experience who could be stopgap options, but none of them would have a lot to offer from a fantasy perspective. Jake Marisnick (OF, CHW) has put up a lackluster .661 OPS in each of the past two seasons but boasts an .860 OPS and 6 SB in 74 PA.

Victor Reyes (OF, CHW) has accumulated more than 200 PA in the majors in each of the last five seasons, where he has posted a pedestrian .264/.294/.379 line. He has totaled 16 HR and 33 SB in 1,280 PA but swiped just two bags in 336 PA in 2023. Reyes is currently hitting .308/.365/.474 at Triple-A and would be on the short list of potential options there, but one offering very little upside.

Adam Haseley (OF, CHW), Stephen Piscotty (OF, CHW), and Billy Hamilton (OF, CHW) are all currently playing for Charlotte as well. None have been relevant in recent years, though, as 2019 was the last time Haseley had a HR or SB, Piscotty posted a .700 OPS, and Hamilton had more than 10 SB. Colas should get a long look before anyone from this trio gets a shot and even if they do, none are unlikely to be worth adding. 

 

Cleveland Guardians

Tyler Freeman (2B, CLE) was called up in mid-April when Amed Rosario (SS, CLE) was dealing with a minor injury. But while he was with the team Freeman missed a few games with an injury of his own, then was sent back to Triple-A when Rosario returned to action. 

Freeman is having a stellar season in Columbus, where he is hitting .356/.486/.576 through 74 PA. He has struck out just 11 times on the season and has registered 2 HR and 7 SB. This equals his stolen base total from 2022, which consisted of 429 combined PA between Triple-A and the majors. Though Freeman didn't steal any bases in the majors in his 86 PA there in 2022, he did post a 70th percentile sprint speed.

Freeman got some work in the outfield this spring in an effort to add some versatility to his resume since the infield in Cleveland is crowded. So far in the regular season he has just made starts at second base and shortstop in the minors and made a start at third base during his brief time in the majors. Freeman, who ranked No. 4 in our 2022 Cleveland Organizational Report, would be an attractive option in deeper leagues if he gets an extended look, as he projects to hit for a high average in addition to the potential for a decent SB total.

 

Detroit Tigers

The power has been lacking in the early going for Eric Haase (C, DET), who has no homers through his first 55 PA. The sample is still small but his GB% has shot up to 51% after being under 40% each of the past two seasons, and he's sitting on an ugly 49/62 PX/xPX combo. A 36% h% has helped keep the BA afloat at .255 but he's sporting an ISO of .055 with just three extra base hits, all of which were doubles.

Jake Rogers (C, DET) has gotten four of the last six starts behind the plate and has had a better offensive season to this point. The 28-year-old boasts a 62% ct% that makes him a potential BA drain, but he has shown some impressive power in the 42 PA sample. Rogers has hit a couple of homers already and is sporting a 167 PX, 140 xPX, 14.3% Brl%, and 57.1% HardHit% that reveal he's making hard contact when he does put the ball in play.

Haase did get a start in left field on Tuesday, his fourth of the season there, but his first since April 14. He has yet to get a start at DH and isn't likely to earn much time there unless he starts producing at a higher level. It's far too early to draw any definitive conclusions but Haase may not provide the type of power or volume expected from him this season. Meanwhile, Rogers' outlook is trending in the right direction, and he may even be worth rostering in deeper mixed leagues. 

 

Minnesota Twins

Bailey Ober (RHP, MIN) tossed 89 pitches and allowed just 1 ER across 5.2 IP in his first start of the season, though it did come with a shaky 4/3 K/BB. He recorded 22 K in four starts at Triple-A, but threw a total of just 17.2 IP in those outings.

Despite the successful start and the promising skills he possesses, Ober was sent back down following the spot start, as he had just been called upon to give each of the starters an extra day of rest. With a scheduled off day in each of the next four weeks it didn't look like his services would be needed for a while but the injury to Kenta Maeda (RHP, MIN) probably opens the door for Ober to get a start with the Twins sometime next week and perhaps stick around for a bit.

Louie Varland (RHP, MIN) had a successful start himself back on April 14 when he allowed 3 ER (all on solo HR) with 8 K in 6 IP vs the Yankees. That start was sandwiched between two starts with Triple-A St. Paul in which he surrendered 6 ER in 9.2 IP, but with an outstanding 17/2 K/BB. Ober seems the most likely to get the next opportunity, but Varland may warrant consideration and would pretty clearly be the next best option should another spot open up.

Former big-leaguers Aaron Sanchez (RHP, MIN) and Randy Dobnak (RHP, MIN) are on the staff at St. Paul as well, but neither are looking worthy of a call-up any time soon. Sanchez has issued 17 BB in 22.1 IP, while Dobnak has walked 12 in just 16.2 IP. Both are safe to ignore for now.

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