Is It Legit? 4/9/24: Luis Campusano, Michael Conforto, Alex Kirilloff

Is it just a hot start or can these players keep it up all year long?

We’re just over one full week into the new baseball season and with around 10 games or so under your belt, you’re itching to make moves and find those early-season breakouts. A word of caution: If you were excited about drafting a player and they’ve struggled so far, stay patient. A bad week goes unnoticed in June. That same bad week is all you have to look at when it happens in April. It’s hard to stomach, but your stars will likely be fine.

On the other hand, when it comes to your end-of-the-bench types, that’s who you should be freely cycling through to pick up a hot bat or good streaming pitcher. That fun late-round pick who’s hitting .150 with no homers or steals? Feel free to drop him and take a shot with someone else. Roster churn is an important part of building a great roster.

Today we’re taking a look at three hitters off to blistering starts that you may be thinking about targeting in trades or on the waiver wire. Let’s dive in and see if we can determine if what they’re doing is legit or if the small sample size we’re working with is the reason they’ve had early success.


Luis Campusano, C, San Diego Padres

There are a ton of young, interesting catchers in fantasy this season, and Campusano has emerged as one of the more intriguing options in the early going. Through 37 plate appearances, the Padres’ backstop is slashing .351/.351/.514 with a home run, five runs, and seven RBI.

The high batting average is one of the highlights of Campusano’s game, and although it won’t stay in the .350 range, he should be one of the best-producing catchers in that department. Before the season, the ATC projection system tabbed Campusano to finish with the eighth-best batting average among catchers, and early returns point to major upside in that area. Campusano is one of the biggest year-to-year gainers in max exit velocity. He’s already hit a ball 110+ mph this season after having never reached even 109 mph in his previous 266 plate appearances. Harder-hit baseballs mean better batting averages and power production, so you love to see that from the 25-year-old Padre.

You can’t touch on Campusano without mentioning his incredible contact ability. He swings often and hardly ever misses. His 55.3% swing rate is 83rd percentile, and his 80.3% contact rate is 78th percentile. That’s not a new skill either. Check out his PLV-powered contact ability from last year:

That’s a lot of contact! Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily come with many walks. Campusano has yet to earn a base on balls this year after having just a 4% walk rate in 2023.

So Campusano puts the bat on the ball a lot, but is he getting solid results? It’s a mixed bag early on. His line drive rate is up, but his barrel rate is down. He’s spraying the ball all over the field more often, but it’s also been on the ground more frequently. This is where those early season numbers really get wonky. It’s hard to have too much of a read on a sample of just 35 batted balls.

Verdict: Legit. Campusano hits the ball often, doesn’t strike out, and has already shown that his power ceiling is higher than it’s ever been with a legitimate max exit velocity jump. You’d like to see that carry over into a higher barrel rate to feel really good, but in such a small sample we can forgive the mixed bag that is his batted ball results. If you need catcher help, you can feel good in trading for or picking up Campusano. He’s started nine of the Padres’ 12 games, so he should be seeing solid playing time for a catcher as well.


Michael Conforto, OF, San Francisco Giants

It’s been quite a long time since Conforto was a fantasy asset – the shortened 2020 season to be exact. Since then he had a lackluster 2021, missed all of 2022 recovering from a shoulder injury, and then struggled in his comeback 2023 campaign earning just 0.8 fWAR in 125 games.

After all that time, Conforto is looking like the best version of himself once again. In 41 plate appearances to begin the season, the former All-Star is slashing .351/.415/.703 with three home runs, eight runs, and 10 RBI. A quick glance at his stats shows a couple of eye-popping and unsustainable underlying numbers: a .400 BABIP and 24% barrel rate. For reference, Conforto’s career numbers in those categories are .299 and 9.9%.

The Statcast expected numbers are loving what Conforto’s been doing here, and that’s largely a result of that sky-high barrel rate. He has a .321 xBA, .709 xSLG, .453 xWOBA, and .586 xwOBACON – each of those last three numbers is in the top 10% of all hitters.

Back in Conforto’s heyday, he murdered fastballs, so it’s a good sign that he’s back at it again after a two-year dip in production.

Conforto’s strong play has forced new Giants’ manager Bob Melvin to move him up in the order. He started the season hitting seventh, and he’s been in the clean-up spot the past four days. Hitting in the middle of the order is a great sign, but he’ll still have to overcome the massive hurdle of playing half of his games in Oracle Park if he hopes to get back to his peak value.

Verdict: Interested, but not totally convinced. There’s hardly a single negative thing you can say about Conforto’s start to the season. If you really want to nitpick, you could point out that his 9.8% walk rate is a couple of points below where it’s been in the past. If that’s the biggest flaw, things are going remarkably well. I just don’t know if we’re really going to see a renaissance season for Conforto at 31 years old and in a park that seriously hurts left-handed hitters. If you have any room to pick him up, do it, but I’d be prepared to drop him if that slash line looks dramatically different in a couple of weeks.


Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins

It turns out that being healthy goes a long way to performing well on the baseball diamond, and now that Kirilloff is finally feeling good, his performance has been sublime. Through seven games, the Twins’ former top prospect is slashing .385/.433/.692 which comes out to a .470 wOBA and 219 wRC+.

The impressive numbers don’t stop there, though. In the early going, he’s made monumental strides in his strikeout rate, cutting it from 25.1% all the way down to 10%. Yes, that’s not a typo. He’s significantly cut his strikeout rate, although, with most of his swing, chase, and zone rates all about the same as last year, some of that improvement is likely early-season noise.

Another change we’re seeing in Kirilloff is in his batted ball metrics. His barrel rate is up over five points to 12.5% and he’s spraying the ball all around the field more often. I like this approach change from Kirilloff quite a bit. He’s never been someone with elite power numbers, so shooting the ball all over the field likely leads to a higher batting average at the cost of just a few homers. That’s a change I’ll absolutely take.

It feels like Kirilloff’s been in the bigs forever, but injuries have hampered him so significantly that he’s still under 750 total plate appearances. At just 26 years old, there’s still plenty of room for growth in Kirilloff’s profile, and I think we may finally be seeing that in his fourth year facing MLB pitching.

Verdict: Legit. I don’t have to tell you that Kirilloff’s gaudy slash line will come down to Earth a bit – his .417 BABIP makes that abundantly clear – but we’re seeing what seems like actual growth from the young lefty. It seems like he’s truly becoming more comfortable at the dish, and I’m buying into him finally reaching some of that top-prospect potential as long as he stays healthy. Unfortunately, that’s a big gamble given Kirilloff’s health history, but I’d be making a move to grab Kirilloff if you need an upgrade at outfield or first base.

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Mark Steubinger

Mark loves everything talking and writing about baseball - from every fantasy league format you can imagine to the unending greatness of Mike Trout. Mark has a degree in Sports Communication from Bradley University and works in radio production. He lives in central Illinois where his TV is permanently tuned to Chicago Cubs games.

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