MLB Opening Day 2022 Risers And Fallers: Marsh’s March

That concludes the shortest Spring Training we have on record! Some teams played as few as 13 games in this truncated version of the pre-season, while a normal spring typically consists of 25-30. That means our small, irrelevant spring samples of yesteryear are even smaller and irrelevant-er, or something. But we must glean something as we come upon Opening Day and our first official FAAB run or waiver process in many leagues. Who are the MLB risers and fallers as we officially launch the 2022 season?

This bi-weekly column will focus mainly on players that should be rostered in 12-team rotisserie formats. Many of these Risers will already be rostered in 15-teamers. And the players who are the Fallers are players that are approaching or are at the cutline on our rosters based on performance. We will dive into the data of the past couple weeks and look at what is signal and what is noise as we make tough roster choices this year.

Risers

Brandon Marsh

When Justin Upton was dumped unceremoniously after a two-homer, six-RBI game on March 31, managers of Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh must have been doing a happy dance. All of a sudden, the young outfield duo have unimpeded playing time over the next six months. Marsh will serve as the strong-side of a left-field platoon and likely bat sixth.

Marsh has a career .288/.371/.440 slash line in four minor-league seasons, including 25 homers and 45 stolen bases in 1,331 plate appearances. He has held his own in his 260 MLB plate appearances, with a .254 average plus two homers and six steals. But he really has taken it to another level this spring. He has a .548 slugging percentage in more than 40 plate appearances. His combined seven home runs + steals trail only Bryce Harper (eight homers and no steals) among all batters this spring training.

The 24-year-old has 15-15 upside right now and is well worth an OF4 or OF5 slot on your roster before the season begins.

Nick Senzel

Here’s your regular update on post-post-post-hype sleeper Senzel. He seemingly has all of the talent in the world except when it comes to staying healthy. Well, he is healthy now and has a guaranteed position almost every day. The question is what will he do with the full-time role? If Spring Training is any indication, he looks to emphatically shut up all those who doubted him.

His triple slash in 12 spring games is a robust .382/.447/.647 had he has 13 hits in just 34 at-bats. But most importantly, his strikeout rate of 13.2% this spring mirrors the 12.9% from 2021. When he entered the majors in 2019, his strikeout rate was 24.4% and he has cut it every year since. Like Marsh, Senzel also has double-digit upside in both homers and steals, even if he bats in the lower third in Cincinnati’s order. With eligibility as both a 2B and an OF, Senzel is worth a late stash in roto drafts.

Mitch Keller

Much has been made this spring about the increased velocity Keller displayed throughout camp. It is true that Keller’s fastball averaged 96.7 mph this spring when it sat at 93.8 mph in both 2021 and 2020. That massive increase could lead to more swing and miss stuff, especially when you consider his slider (86.1 mph in 2021) also is up to 87.6 mph in the preseason.

Keller’s ADP is currently 488.6 in NFC leagues and sits at 373 on Fantrax. For prices like that, Keller is certainly worth a flyer in hopes that the 26-year-old is in the early stages of a breakout. After two consecutive seasons of a SIERA over 5.00 and an ERA of 6.17 in 2021, Keller has plenty of room for potential in 2022.

Fallers

Avisail Garcia

The Miami Marlins’ shiny new cleanup hitter has endured a very rocky start to his 2022 season. He struck out almost 42% of the time this spring and has one extra base hit in 31 plate appearances. The four walks give us some hope that he is seeing the ball well, but a .586 OPS is discouraging as he moves his bats to LoanDepot Park.

Garcia should have plenty of RBI chances in the heart of an improved Marlins’ lineup, but the move from Milwaukee to Miami should not go overlooked. American Family Field is the sixth-best park for right handlers to hit home runs over the last three years while Miami’s stadium ranks just 22nd. That field suppresses power by 14% over league average and is only approaching league average in other offensive categories.

I’m not close to cutting Garcia by any means, but a slow spring plus an awful hitters’ ballpark give me reason to temper expectations.

Cody Bellinger

It’s a safe bet that no veteran player has more digital ink spilled on them this spring than Bellinger. The former MVP, who seemingly is working on a new swing every day, endured a massive slump at the plate this month. His 48.6% strikeout rate was far and away from the worst among all players and he had zero extra base hits in 37 plate appearances.

If they choose to play him every day, the Dodgers will have no choice but to relegate him to the seventh or eighth slot in the lineup to start the year until he can fix whatever is going on mechanically or mentally. This is far from just a Spring Training problem. In the second half last season, Bellinger stuck out 26.3% of the time. He walked only 5% of the time. His .507 OPS for the second half of last season was 120 points lower than just his slugging percentage from his 2019 MVP season.

I am giving Bellinger a very short leash in my shallower leagues this season. It eventually comes down to, have you seen enough to cut bait. A few more weeks of these kinds of struggles and I will be there.

Tanner Huck

A Spring Training WHIP of 1.47 across 69 batters faced? Oh oh. Houck has a rotation spot in the top three locked down with the Chris Sale injury. So Boston was sure hoping he could carry over the gains made with a 11.35 K/9, a 1.13 WHIP, and a miniscule 2.74 BB/9 in 2021. Plenty of time left to right the ship, of course, but nine walks and seven earned runs over 15 innings is not how Boston drew it up.

After just 90 total innings last season, Houck was already in danger of having his workload managed this year. With injuries popping up on the staff already, any signs of fatigue or wear and Houck will see the bench much earlier than we want most games. Houck’s xFIP (3.20) matched what he gave us in ERA last season (3.52). But Houck was very lucky in the home run department (7.4% HR/FB) so that’s something to monitor.

Houck only costs you a pick around number 190 right now, but has intriguing candidates behind him. If you passed on Houck for Ranger Suarez or Tristan McKenzie in the same range, I wouldn’t fault you.

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