Five Players on the Hot Seat a Month into the Season

Which players are feeling the heat after slow starts?

We’re only a month into the season, but some players are already feeling the heat. Whether they are starters who may be sent to the pen, young players fearing demotion, or veterans worried about getting DFA’d, the temperature is rising for many players across MLB. The Diamondbacks pulled the plug on Madison Bumgarner last week despite still owing him $34m, so it’s not too soon for teams to start making moves. The five players below need to turn things around quickly to maintain their position on the roster.


Ken Waldichuk

Waldichuk was one of the key pieces coming back to Oakland from the Yankees in the Frankie Montas trade last summer. The lefty made seven starts down the stretch last season with mixed results but showed promise. Through five starts this season, however, things have not gone well for Waldichuk for the most part, as evidenced by his season-to-date stats:

Waldichuk’s advanced stats don’t look much better, as he’s generated a 5.82 xERA, 8.11 FIP, and 5.74 xFIP. He’s already given up nine home runs, which leads the league, and his 1.64 K/BB is among the worst in baseball among starters. The rookie’s PLV of 4.92 paints a slightly better picture, but only his slider grades out as a quality pitch:

The A’s aren’t going anywhere and can afford to be patient. But they may send Waldichuk down to Triple-A to get back on track when Drew Rucinski or Paul Blackburn is ready to rejoin the rotation.


Spencer Torkelson

After a stellar college career, the Tigers selected Torkelson with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. He debuted on Opening Day last year with much fanfare but was back in Triple-A midseason after struggling to hit above the Mendoza Line. He returned to the majors in September and was more productive, but he’s not off to a great start in 2023 (through April 25):

Torkelson’s strikeout rate is not too bad at 19.8%, and his Statcast xAVG/xSLG/xwOBA of .260/.437/.307 are better than his actuals. Torkelson is hitting the ball hard, with a 34.1% HC%, yet his 8.3% HR/FB% is very low for a power hitter. Thus far, PLV paints the picture of a pretty average major-league hitter:

Torkelson has three hits this week, so perhaps he is pulling out of his early-season funk. He is fortunate to play for the Tigers in some ways, as they can afford to be patient with him. However, if his struggles continue, he may find himself back down in Triple-A, trying to figure things out.


Noah Syndergaard

The Dodgers added Noah Syndergaard to their roster in the offseason, hoping he could improve upon his 2022 season another year removed from TJ surgery. Syndergaard was an underwhelming but solid back-of-the-rotation starter last year for the Angels and Phillies and felt like a good candidate to rebound. Thus far, however, things have not gone well for Thor, as evidenced by his frightening stats:

Breaking it down further, Syndergaard has been solid in three of his five starts, but the other two were disasters. He’s been hurt by a high BABIP, a low LOB%, and the long ball, surrendering five homers already. His xERA, FIP, and xFIP are better than his ERA but still not good at 5.00/5.01/4.58, respectively. Thor’s velocity is down, and he’s paying for his mistakes, especially with his four-seamer and cutter, which the opposition is hitting .444 and .500 against. Here’s a breakdown of his repertoire in terms of PLV:

PLV mirrors the struggles with his four-seamer but is more forgiving of his cutter. None of Syndergaard’s pitches grade out very well thus far, so he’ll have to make some adjustments to see improvement. The Dodgers are contenders and won’t give Thor too long a leash, given their depth in the minors. It’s doubtful they’ll DFA him anytime soon, but a move to middle relief could occur if he doesn’t turn things around.


Gunnar Henderson

The 21-year-old Henderson is one of MLB’s top prospects but has looked a bit overwhelmed to start the season (through Tuesday):

The good news is the rookie knows how to take a walk, which he’s doing a whopping 18.8% of the time. The bad news is his K% is 32.5%, and his HC% is 21.3%. Thus, Henderson is striking out or walking in half of his PAs and isn’t hitting the ball hard often when he makes contact. His Statcast results paint a similar picture with a .209 xAVG, .381 xSLG, and .342 xwOBA. What about PLV, you ask?

At least he’s improving. Indeed, Henderson hit his second HR of the season on Tuesday and has raised his average by over thirty points in the last week. Perhaps the youngster is getting comfortable and will go on a run soon. If not, the surprising Orioles may decide he needs a bit more seasoning at Triple-A.


Lance Lynn

It’s been a rough start for Lynn, whose numbers are unsightly after five April starts:

The veteran’s ERA and WHIP are in the 16th percentile, and though his K% is good, his BB% is way above his career norm. A .380 BABIP indicates some bad luck, but that can’t explain all his troubles, and his Statcast numbers indicate he’s mostly deserved what he’s gotten, led by his xERA of 6.08. PLV is a little kinder, ranking Lynn as an extremely average pitcher thus far in 2023:

The White Sox would surely settle for average results from Lynn right now, and perhaps he’ll turn things around. He also started slowly coming off knee surgery last year but turned it around down the stretch. Chicago has a club option on Lynn for next season, and the team is off to a terrible start. If he doesn’t start improving, the club could decide to go with a youth movement and send Lynn to the waiver wire.


Adapted by: Chris Corr (@Chris_Studios on Twitter)

Scott Youngson

Scott is a SoCal native who, after two decades of fighting L.A. traffic, decided to turn his passion for fantasy sports into a blog - the now-defunct Fantasy Mutant. He currently writes for FantasyPros and Pitcher List and will vehemently defend the validity of the Dodgers' 60-game season championship.

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