Deep League Risers and Fallers Week 3

Brown trends down and MLB is a Busch League now.

Welcome back deep leaguers. Hard to believe it’s only week 3. We’ve seen enough injuries already that it feels like the All-Star break should be coming up soon. It’s been alarming, to say the least, but you know what they say: heaters wax and wane, sliders bend and break, but TJ… TJ never changes. So we roll the dice on guys like Spencer Arrighetti, or Simeon Woods Richardson. The former blew up your ratios on Monday, the latter might have saved your week on Sunday. Such is life in deep leagues during the great flexor tendon plague of 2024.




Hunter Brown, Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros54% Rostered


Before you scroll far enough to see Brown’s numbers on the year, it might be wise to make sure no children or Astros fans can see your screen. These are scary, ugly numbers that may induce headaches, visions of nine-run innings and mass drop events. Over three starts that encompass just 7.2 innings, Brown has amassed a 16.43 ERA, and a 3.91 WHIP. Opponents are batting .500 against the 6’2″ righty.

It didn’t start this way either. Brown’s first outing of the season was a four-inning shutout performance vs the Yankees (currently MLB’s top team). Since then he’s allowed 14 earned runs on 19 hits and five walks over 3.2 innings. Nine of those runs came against KC in his most recent start where he retired only two batters. (This article was written before Brown pitched vs ATL on 4/16)

Brown currently ranks in the bottom 5% of MLB pitchers in: chase rate, whiff rate, hard-hit rate, exit velocity, xBA, and xERA. His fastball is averaging 95 MPH, down two MPH from his peak in 2022. Brown’s next start lines up against the Cubs. I want absolutely no part of that and need to see him string together a few quality outings before I’d feel comfortable starting him against all but the league’s weakest lineups.


Byron Buxton, Outfielder, Minnesota Twins51% Rostered


By all accounts, including his own, Buxton is healthier than he has been in years. He’s even reacquired OF eligibility with 12 starts in center already this year after being limited to strictly DH duties last season. Sadly, that good health has not translated to production in the batter’s box. Lord Byron has slashed just .200/.241/.280 with no homers or steals through his first 54 plate appearances. He has drawn just one walk while striking out 19 times.

His underlying rates don’t paint a rosier picture either. While Buxton is producing better than league-average exit velocities, he ranks in the bottom tenth of MLB hitters in chase rate, whiff rate, walk rate, and strikeout rate. In layman’s terms, he’s swinging at everything and making very little contact.

I have already moved on from Buxton in 12 teamers, but have been reluctant to make the cut in deeper leagues. He is only 30, and that’s not old enough to worry about a cliff year even with his lengthy injury history. He also managed 17 homers and nine steals last season in just 85 games. That being said, I’m already eyeing up Mitch Haniger, Jurickson Profar, and Jake Fraley as potential replacements. One more week of a .200 batting average with no category juice, and I’m making a switch.


Louie Varland, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins26% Rostered


Sorry Twins fans. At least the new uniforms look great. Varland won the Twin’s fifth starter spot in spring training mostly by default. He recorded a 6.30 ERA over 20 spring innings (with a nice 16/4 K/BB rate), but his primary competition, Anthony DeScaflani wound up on the 60-day IL. No offense to Tony Disco, but Varland making the rotation was pretty exciting for fantasy managers speculating on young talent.

Varland pitched 68 MLB innings in 2023, (17 appearances, 10 starts) and compiled a totally decent 4.63 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He struck out 71 batters while walking just 17. He didn’t excel at anything other than limiting free passes, but he gets very good extension, which is all the rage lately, and managers had at least some reason to be hopeful he could take a step forward this year. Varland did post a tidy 3.06 ERA with 146 strikeouts and 42 walks over 126 minor league innings in 2022 after all.

That hasn’t happened, as Varland has recorded an 8.36 ERA and 2.07 WHIP over his first 14 innings (3 starts). He does have a nice K/BB ratio of 16/5 but has allowed five long balls already. He’s getting hit hard, with a 91.9 MPH average exit velocity against, and holds a pedestrian 27.5 CSW%.

In his defense, Varland has faced the Brewers, Dodgers, and Orioles thus far. At the time of this writing, all three of those teams rank in the top 8 MLB offenses both by runs scored and OPS. That is an absolute gauntlet to start the year. Varland’s next start is scheduled vs the Tigers at home, and I’m holding for that one, or scooping him up if he’s available.




Mitch Haniger, Outfielder, Seattle Mariners21% Rostered


Mitch Haniger played just 118 games betwixt the 2022 and 2023 seasons due to a litany of injuries. When last healthy in 2021 he produced a very serviceable .253/.318/.485 triple slash with a whopping 39 homers, 100 RBI, and 110 runs scored. He’s off to a scorching start this season with a .286/.375/.500 line with 3 dingers. He also has the best walk rate of his career, but it’s still a bit early to know if that will hold.

He has not hit the ball especially hard so far, with just an 85.9 MPH average exit velocity, but Mitch has been above league average across the board with his other underlying rates.  He ranks in the top third of batters in chase rate, whiff rate, hard-hit rate, and walk rate to name a few. Mitch used to be good. He still is, but he used to too.


Jake Fraley, Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds26% Rostered


Rakes Daley turned some heads, and maybe flipped some scores this past weekend, swiping three bases on Sunday. Stolen bases became a big part of Fraley’s profile during his mini breakout last season. Fraley slashed a solid .256/.339/.443 over 380 plate appearances in 2023 and provided plenty of category juice with 15 homers and 21 steals in just 111 games.  You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to understand that projects to a 20/30 campaign with a full season of at-bats.

The power hasn’t been on display much yet as Fraley has just one homer and a weak 84.5 MPH exit velocity in the young season. But his four steals, .432 batting average and 12 runs scored already make me wonder why he’s un-rostered in 75% of leagues.

Fraley does usually sit vs left-handed starters, but with his career .167 batting average against southpaws, that’s for the best. If you are looking for a replacement for Seiya Suzuki, Byron Buxton or just need some speed, grab Fraley before it’s too late.


Michael Busch, First Base and Third Base, Chicago Cubs75% Rostered


Yeah I know he’s probably gone by now.  I pick the player for the featured image on Sunday morning. Busch was rostered in fewer than half of fantasy leagues at the time, but when you homer in five consecutive games, people notice. I also want to include Busch and his ever-increasing roster rate since he already appeared in this space as a Faller in my first DLR&F column of the season.

This is not really a redemption arc though. I recommended patience with the lefty slugger, despite his .154 average at the time, because his K/BB rate was very strong and he was crushing the ball with a 93.4 MPH exit velocity.

In fact I wrote:

“I like the early underlying numbers, and his minor league performance enough that I would consider trying to buy low, or otherwise add him to my roster in any league with more than 12 teams right now.”

Since that date, Busch has torched opposing pitchers going 15/39 with six dingers and a 1.368 OPS. He ranks right at the top of the league in exit velocity and barrel rate and is just outside the top 10% in hard-hit rate. He also draws walks at a near-elite pace. He has, indeed, added first-base eligibility as well. I think this is a legitimate breakout we are witnessing. Congratulations if you have him.

Thanks for reading. Nate Kosher will be back next week for more Deep League Risers and Fallers.  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.

One response to “Deep League Risers and Fallers Week 3”

  1. Sweet Chin Music says:

    Appreciate the Mitch Hedberg reference

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