Deep League Risers and Fallers Week 14

We go around the horn with a touch of Gray in week 14 of DL R&F.

Welcome to Week 14 of Deep League Risers and Fallers. June is in the rearview window, the season is half in the can, and our next points of interest are the All-Star Game on July 16th, which often creates an extra-long fantasy scoring period, and then the MLB trade deadline on July 30th, which can have huge fantasy implications.

With all that in mind, let’s get straight to the…




Maikel Garcia, Second Base, Third Base and Shortstop, Kansas City Royals

82% Rostered

I am aware the roster percentage is pretty high for a player appearing in this space, but that under-50% rule is both more lax for Fallers and less useful as the season progresses and fewer managers are paying attention. I am also aware that Garcia is still a top-100 player on the season in standard mixers. However, over the past 30 days (better known as June), Garcia is slashing a pitiful .142/.209/.189 with zero home runs, 14 runs scored, and five driven in. He ranks outside the top 600 players for his June contributions.

He has continued to receive regular playing time as the Royals’ leadoff man and did manage to swipe eight bases on the month, which is more than the five he nabbed in May despite a strong .305/.349/.424 line for that month. So at least he’s still running, even with limited opportunities.

In fact, there is actually a lot to like about Garcia’s underlying numbers. His 91 MPH exit velocity ranks in the top quartile, and his whiff, chase, and strikeout rates rank in the top 10, 15, and 20% of the league respectively. His 7% walk rate is below average, but not bad, and it’s not as if he’s swinging at outside pitches, or striking out a lot. He does hit grounders at a higher-than-average rate, which could help explain why his batting average on balls in play is just .264, 35 points below the MLB average mark.

Garcia is just 24 years old and continues to score runs and steal bases despite his recent struggles to reach base. I would expect some better batted ball luck considering the high quality of contact he makes and his low strikeout rate. I think Garcia is an attractive option for teams competing down the stretch thanks to his positional versatility, and consistent stolen base production. But I also think he would be a fantastic player to acquire for teams that may be out of contention this year, if you can pry him away from a manager spooked by his poor June line.


Ke’Bryan Hayes, Third Base, Pittsburgh Pirates

37% Rostered

Hayes almost made the list of Fallers last week, but I chose Nick Gonzales since he had previously appeared as a Riser, and I did not want to just dump on the poor Pirates. Sadly, Hayes continued his spat of unproductivity, and I get to include him this week. Hayes actually finished the week with back-to-back two-hit games on Friday and Saturday which accounted for all of his hits since his narrow escape from this article just seven days ago.

Hayes slashed .299/.335/.539 with 10 home runs in 204 at-bats over the second half of 2023 and has carried none of that over to 2024. He is slashing just .232/.297/.309 with just three homers over 220 at-bats this season and was even worse in June with a .224/.258/.306 line.

Always an exit velocity darling with a penchant for ground balls, Hayes’ average exit velocity has dropped to just 88.4 MPH this season, after sitting above 90 MPH the last four seasons and peaking at 92.2 MPH last year. He’s also still hitting the ball on the ground too often. He had lowered his ground ball rate to 42% last season—which was better (lower) than league average—and gotten his launch angle above single digits to 13 degrees in 2023. This year, that ground ball rate has ballooned to 51.7% and his launch angle has regressed all the way to 4.4 degrees, his lowest average launch angle since 2021.

Hayes is coming off a month to forget in the midst of a season that would be best not to remember. He hit the IL in May due to a back issue. A back issue also forced him to miss time last year. It is possible that Hayes is not fully healthy and that could be the reason for his poor offensive production. But that does not seem like a problem that is going to be fixed quickly. I’m entirely out on Hayes right now, and I’m not jumping back in unless I see him consistently hit fly balls with authority.


Jon Gray, Starting Pitcher, Texas Rangers

37% Rostered

Gray entered June with a 2.21 ERA and came out the other side with a 3.77 ERA. He really was remarkable in May, covering 24.1 innings in just four starts. He only recorded one win, but struck out 21 batters while only walking six, posting a 1.85 ERA and 1.12 WHIP on the month. He appeared in five games in June (including once in a relief appearance), but pitched just 19.1 innings. Gray managed to keep the walks down, issuing just three passes, but he also struck out just 13 batters.

He also allowed five home runs over those 19.1 June innings after keeping the ball in the yard for the entirety of May. Batters facing Gray managed a .626 OPS through both April and May, but that number jumped to .875 in June. On the season, Gray is allowing pretty hard contact, with a 91.1 MPH exit velocity allowed, and hard hit and barrel rates that rank in the bottom 20% of MLB pitchers. His whiff and strikeout rates are right around league average, but he does a pretty good job limiting free passes with a walk rate in the top quartile.

It is worth noting that the majority of the damage to Gray’s ratios came in two disastrous outings in which he allowed nine runs over three innings to the Mets and eight runs over five innings in Baltimore. I’d expect most savvy managers to have skipped that start in Baltimore. He’s also shifted his pitch mix just a bit this year. He’s always been a fastball/slider guy, but this year Gray is throwing his slider more often than his heater. It’s a good change since his slider has been much more effective than his heater for years. I will, however, point out that he is allowing a higher batting average (.217) on that slider than he did in 2023 (.194) and 2022 (.156).

It’s hard to be excited about Gray and it’s not just because his name is the epitome of boring. He carries a career 4.41 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. He had a very strong first couple of months but saw most of that slip away in just two rough outings. He’s made a slight change to his approach, but he’s still throwing the same two pitches almost 90% of the time, and his “good” pitch is getting hit more than it was the last two seasons. Max Scherzer just came of the IL and the Rangers still have Jacob deGrom, Cody Bradford, and Tyler Mahle possibly returning from injury later this summer. I think I’d look to move Gray while his ERA remains under 4.00, or otherwise ignore him.




Zack Gelof, Second Base, Oakland Athletics

42% Rostered

Gelof burst out of the gate last season, launching 14 dingers and swiping 14 bags for the basement-dwelling Athletics in just 300 at-bats. Dreams of a 20-20 (or maybe even 25-25) season danced around the minds of fantasy managers as they drafted their “Discount Die Hard” and their “Matt McLain on a less exciting team.”

Alas, through the end of May, Gelof had hit just three homers and stolen a paltry five bases. The sub-.200 batting average did little to calm the ire of managers with a black hole of offense at their keystone. They probably read this article looking for answers and grabbed Massey, Gonzales, or Horwitz. We’ve really nailed some nice second basemen this year.

However, any managers that stuck it out with big G through the season’s first couple of months were rewarded with a .247/.281/.529 triple slash in June. Gelof’s June OPS of .810 was more than double his .402 mark in May. More importantly, Gelof delivered some category juice, with six homers and four steals on the month. He’s well behind his rookie-year pace, but with nine each through 236 at-bats, he is still on pace for that 20/20 season.

There is still cause for concern though. Gelof’s strikeout rate is bad, sitting above 35% right now, after clocking in at just over 27% last season. His walk rate has also dropped from 8.7% last year to just 6.7% this season. His exit velocity is just slightly lower than it was last year but has steadily improved as the season has progressed. Overall though, his hard hit rate has dropped from 41% down to just 36%.

I still like him as a solid source of power and speed from a position that can be difficult to fill, but with his current strikeout rate, I can’t see him being any better than neutral in terms of batting average (and only because the MLB average is so low this year) and he won’t likely provide much in terms of runs or RBI playing for Oakland. If you need the category contributions and can absorb the hit to average, he might be a good fit—otherwise, the names listed earlier in this section could provide a safer floor.


Carlos Santana, First Base, Minnesota Twins

40% Rostered

The 38-year-old Twin was a top-10 fantasy first baseman in June. He slashed .344/.398/.578 with four dingers, 14 runs scored, 16 driven in and he even added a couple of stolen bases. He’s not doing anything crazy, with an exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate all right around league average. But he is only striking out 15% of the time and he’s always known how to take a walk.

I went a little long on Gelof so it’s good that I have less to say about Santana. Eventually, Father Time catches up to everyone, but it looks like Carlos Santana has managed to keep him at bay for at least one more season. He’s been a productive hitter in the middle of a top-10 offense and I think he should continue to be a useful fantasy contributor the rest of the way. Just don’t expect too many more stolen bases.


Andrew Vaughn, First Base, Chicago White Sox

43% Rostered

We’re gonna stick at the same position in the same division for the final player in this week’s DL R&F. Vaughn has been even hotter than Santana over the last month, and was the fifth-ranked first basemen in standard formats for June. In fact, Vaughn has been heating up with the weather, with an OPS of .497 through April, .665 in May, and .933 in June. He had no homers through April, yet four in May and Six in June.

He’s always made hard contact, with an exit velocity consistently between 90.5 and 91 MPH through his four MLB seasons. This year he’s doing a much better job of getting the ball into the air. Vaughn had a ground ball rate over 50% in 2022 and just under 50% last season. This year he’s gotten that all the way down to 41.7% and increased his fly ball rate from 31% last season to almost 40% this year, well above the MLB average of 33.9%.

However, his home run/fly ball rate has regressed to 11% after sitting comfortably around 15% for the last three seasons. Conventional wisdom would suggest that maintaining good exit velocity while increasing your fly ball rate (from a ground ball-heavy profile) would lead to an increase in homers, but Vaughn is on pace to match his career-best 21 dingers from last season. His pop-up rate has jumped to 11.7%, which is above the MLB average in a bad way, and could account for his HR/FB rate decline.

Vaughn is still just 26 and clearly trending in the right direction. Since all 10 of his homers have come in his last 194 at-bats (with zero in his first 105 on the year), I think he will eclipse the 21 bombs he hit last season. The White Sox are not a very good offensive team and could get worse if they sell off key assets like Luis Robert Jr. at the deadline, but Vaughn looks like he’s having a real breakout season. I’d be in on him everywhere, especially if I was focused on next season and beyond and thought I could pry him away from a contender.


Thanks for reading, and good luck out there Deep Leaguers!

Sam Lutz

A Pittsburgh native and long suffering Pirate fan, Sam turned to fantasy baseball to give him a reason to follow the sport after July.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login