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Look Who’s Streaking: The Cleveland Guardians are on Fire!

We’re 10 days into the 2022 season, which means we’ve switched from offseason draft prep to in-season player analysis.  Woo-hoo!  In this season-long series, I’ll be taking a look at players who are streaking – both hot and cold.  The idea is fairly simple – I’ll highlight players who are playing well and not-so-well.  I’ll also dig deeper into their performance, with the ultimate goal of helping you with lineup and waiver wire decisions.

For this initial write-up, keep in mind that it’s early in the season and we’re still in information-gathering mode. While it’s still worth noting player performances, it’s also important to trust your draft process and not overreact to information at this point in the season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some players who are streaking!

Running Hot

Steven Kwan (OF – CLE)

Steven Kwan is amazing and you cannot convince me otherwise. In 32 plate appearances, he struck out twice and has an incredible 98.1% contact rate and 100% Z-Contact rate. He’s also sporting a minuscule 0.6% SwStr%. Of course, none of this is sustainable throughout the entire season.  But the takeaway is that Kwan has elite plate and contact skills – skills that he’s carried with him at each level of the minors.

Putting my Kwan fandom aside, it’s important to understand what he brings to the fantasy table – and if he makes sense for your team. Kwan will likely be an on-base machine and should be able to maintain a high batting average. Additionally, he’s hitting out of the two-hole so he should be a strong source of runs. The question with Kwan is how much power and speed he’ll bring. Steamer600 projected a 17/7/.277 season for him. The power is probably too generous (Kwan never hit more than seven home runs in a season in the minors), but I’m on board with the rest. Add to that a healthy dose of runs scored, and Kwan could be a good fit for your team.

Owen Miller (1B/2B – CLE)

Sticking with the Guardians, Owen Miller is also on a tear to start the season. Since taking over first base duties from Bobby Bradley, Miller is stuffing the stat sheet. In 25 plate appearances, he has two home runs, eight runs, and seven RBI to go along with a .522/.520/1.043 slash line. He’s also leading the league with six doubles. Miller is a bit of a free swinger, but he’s also making a ton of contact, posting a 91.9% contact rate.

Miller is worth keeping an eye on, in both 12 and 15-team leagues. He’s primarily batting 6th in the order, so if he can keep his hitting streak going, he should be a solid RBI source. In fact, if you’re in need of a first baseman, Fantrax’s Eric Cross listed Miller as a waiver wire target for this week.

Ji-Man Choi (1B – TBR)

Ji-Man Choi is starting the season on fire. He has 10 hits in six games started and is hitting .556/.667/1.056 with a .500 ISO across 24 plate appearances. Choi is walking more than he’s striking out, and his elite 13.8% O-Swing rate is in the 100th percentile. Choi is also hitting the ball hard, posting a 21.4% barrel rate and 64.3% hard-hit rate. It’s a small sample size, but the strong plate discipline and quality of contact is encouraging to see. Choi could lose at-bats to lefties (career .195 BA against), but he’s definitely worth a look, especially in deeper leagues. Ride Choi’s hot streak!

Eric Hosmer (1B – SD)

Eric Hosmer has been tearing the cover off the ball. He has 12 hits in 30 plate appearances and is hitting .400/.438/.567. However, unlike the players listed above, this is a hot streak I’d tend to ignore, or at least be extremely cautious about chasing. While Hosmer has a healthy 52.2% hard-hit rate, he also has a 0% barrel rate – indicating those hard hit balls are likely not going over the fence.  Proceed with caution.

Running Cold

Daulton Varsho (C/OF – ARI)

Daulton Varsho is having a rough start to the season, hitting .150/.320/.300 with three hits across 25 plate appearances. But the positive takeaway is that one of his hits is a home run, he’s drawn five walks (20% BB%) and he isn’t chasing pitches outside of the zone (22.2% O-Swing%). While those rates will regress, it’s nice to see the plus plate approach.

Varsho should bat leadoff in the majority of at-bats (he’s been batting 6th against lefties), with those extra plate appearances being a boon at the catcher position. Varsho was a top-five catcher off many draft boards this season due to his OF eligibility and ability to steal bases. If you drafted Varsho, trust your draft process and hold.

Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)

Dansby Swanson is stumbling out of the 2022 gate. In 35 plate appearances, he’s hitting .129/.229/.194 with four hits and 15 strikeouts. His 11.4% walk rate is solid, but his 42.9% strikeout rate (3rd percentile) is not something you want to see. Swanson’s not chasing a ton of pitches outside of the strike zone, but he’s making below-average contact across the board.

Swanson is seeing everyday playing time and should continue to do so. However, he’s bouncing around the bottom-third of the batting order, which is less than ideal. It’s too early to tell if Swanson will stay at the back end of the lineup; but if he does, his stolen base and RBI opportunities could be limited. Just something to monitor.

Akil Baddoo (OF – DET)

Baddoo is having a rocky start to his sophomore season. He’s 2-for-23 and slashing .091/.130/.273 with a 30.4% strikeout rate. Oof. One of his hits is a home run, but that doesn’t really move the needle. Similar to the other cold streakers listed, it’s too soon to write Baddoo off. However, it’s concerning that he hasn’t hit higher than 6th in the order (he led off for the majority of his 2021 at-bats). The lower batting order will limit his plate appearances, as well as his ability to score runs and steal bases – the latter being a significant part of his fantasy value. Hopefully Baddoo can snap this cold streak and work his way back up the lineup.

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