Patience or Panic: Nolan Arenado, Gunnar Henderson, Dylan Cease

What should we do with these struggling stars in Week 5?

There is nothing more frustrating than a player on your fantasy team who constantly seems to be a problem. Whether it’s a hitter who can’t hit or a pitcher who gets hit too much, our patience starts to wear thin over a month into the season. It’s exceptionally worse when that player is somebody we drafted high and were relying on to help carry the team.

But know this: you are not alone.

Sometimes we get so hyper-focused on our own fantasy teams that we overlook just how much other managers in the league are struggling too. Baseball is a hard game and even the best players struggle at times. Almost every manager is trying to figure out how to handle a slumping star.

So, what should we do with these four players this week?


Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals


Arenado probably has earned the benefit of the doubt. At least, that’s my initial reaction when we’re dealing with a talented veteran struggling early in the season. For some players, it simply can take longer to get locked in at the plate. Arenado finished third last year in MVP voting and is a seven-time All-Star. Should we even be concerned?

Through Wednesday’s games, Arenado is hitting .233/.280/.310 with just two home runs, 14 RBI, and 11 runs scored. Over the past two weeks, he’s 7-for-44 with 3 runs and 1 RBI.

His vision at the plate has been uncommonly poor. His strikeout rate is by far the worst of his career at 21.6%. That’s after being among the best in the league last season at 11.6%. He’s swinging at fewer pitches in the zone (66%) and chasing more outside (39.3%) than ever before. Even when he does make contact, his barrel rate is just 3.3%, which is far below the league average and even further below his own career mark.

It might be hard to believe, but two home runs might even be considered a success for Arenado this season. His launch angle has tumbled from 21.7 degrees last year to 14.5 this season. And Arenado has never hit the ball hard. His career average exit velocity is 89.3 mph, but it’s down to 86.1 so far this season.

Verdict: Caution. Based on his track record alone it’s difficult to say panic, but there does seem reason to worry. Some players are notoriously slow starters, but that has never really been an issue for Arenado. Last year in April, he hit .375/.444/.681 with five home runs and 17 RBI. While he’s not immune to bad stretches, these first five weeks are among his worst. His K:BB ratio is 28:9. Last year, it was June before he reached 28 total strikeouts. He’s struggled to catch up with fastballs. He’s hitting just .167 against the juice after hitting .335 on fastballs last year. Arenado has looked like a completely different player at the plate, which is not an encouraging sign for an athlete digging deeper into his 30s.


Gunnar Henderson, SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles


Henderson came into the season as the consensus top prospect and a favorite target of fantasy managers. Last season in the minors, he hit .297/.416/.531 with 19 home runs and 22 stolen bases between stops at Double-A and Triple-A. He played in the majors, too, ending with a respectable .259/.349/.440 line through his first 34 games.

There were a lot of encouraging factors in Henderson’s major league debut last year. He displayed strong vision (9.8% barrel rate), power (92.4 mph average EV), and speed (91st percentile sprint speed). The areas where Henderson needed to improve were obvious. He hit just .130/.231/.217 against left-handed pitching and hit the ball on the ground 57.3% of the time (the league average is about 45%) with a launch angle of just 2 degrees.

Henderson’s sophomore season has not quite started how anybody expected. Through the first five weeks, he’s hitting .182/.357/.299 with just two home runs and four RBI. Lefties remain a big problem for Henderson. He has just two hits against lefties – both singles – for a .091/.333/.091 slash line.

He has improved in a lot of other areas, however. He has become extremely selective with his pitches. With a 20.4% walk rate, Henderson is in the very top percentile among all players this season. While his patience has done little to help his strikeout rate (30.6%), it has improved the quality of contact. His launch angle is up to 13.8 degrees and his groundball rate has leveled off to a far more reasonable 42.6%. Power still is not an issue. His average exit velocity (91.5 mph) and max exit velocity (109.4 mph) remain elite.

Verdict: Patience. Despite how it might feel to Henderson’s fantasy managers, he actually has shown improvements this season that should help him in the long run. Without sacrificing power, Henderson has started to consistently elevate the ball, which should lead to better results sooner rather than later. That fact has been a little clouded by a .267 BABIP, which suggests that Henderson has actually been a little unlucky this season.

The biggest concern continues to be his struggles against left-handed pitching. Considering his pedigree, the Orioles will likely give Henderson plenty of opportunities instead of forcing him into a platoon, but the risk of getting demoted increases by the day. Prospect Jordan Westburg is having a phenomenal season for Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .337/.396/.972 with 6 home runs, 27 RBI, 20 runs, and 4 stolen bases. Playing like that, Westburg will force his way into the majors one way or another and Baltimore very well might decide to swap him with Henderson. A least briefly.


Dylan Cease, SP, Chicago White Sox


Cease made a major breakthrough in 2022. The AL Cy Young runner-up finished with a 2.20 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 14 wins. His 11.10 K/9 ranked fourth among all qualified starters and his 30.4 strikeout rate was fifth. The strikeouts were always part of his profile, but the run prevention was not. In his first three seasons, Cease had a 4.39 ERA due largely to a bloated walk rate that even climbed as high as 13.3% in 2020.

In 2022, Cease made some pretty significant changes. Not to his walk rate, of course. Despite all his success last season, Cease still walked nearly four batters per nine innings, which was the worst among all qualified starters. But his elevation to ace status was not a fluke. In his first three seasons, Cease threw his four-seamer nearly 50% of the time. It was his most used pitch despite being his most hittable pitch and the one that generated the fewest whiffs. Cease elevated his slider in 2022, increasing its usage from about 30% to 43% and dropping the four-seamer to 40%. The result was an improvement in both pitches and a season worth celebrating.

This season started out just as strong. He debuted with a gem against the defending World Series champs, allowing just one run on two hits and no walks while striking out 10 over 6 1/3 innings. Through his first four starts, Cease had a 2.01 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.

Three starts later, Cease is sitting on a 4.58 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. In back-to-back starts against Tampa Bay, he allowed a combined 15 hits and nine runs over 8 innings. Then he gave up four earned runs in five innings last night against Minnesota. Is it all coming apart?

Verdict: Patience. No, it’s not falling apart. Normally, I would be concerned by the walks. Cease has given up 19 walks in 35 1/3 innings this season. His 11.6% walk rate is among the worst in the league. But that’s nothing new. That’s just part of who Cease is and will continue to be. More concerning is his 26.2% strikeout rate which is considerably below his 30.4% rate from last season. The problem has not been in just one area. He struggled to get whiffs with his slider early on and lately, both his four-seamer and curve have been subpar. Cease is a tough case because his control leaves very little room for error. If his pitches are not all working together, he’s going to get hit. But we’ve also seen the results Cease can generate when it’s going right. And that’s worth patience… for now.


Anthony Bass, RP, Toronto Blue Jays


Bass has made 11 relief appearances this season and has allowed one or more runs in seven of them. He has a 7.71 ERA, 2.04 WHIP and a .357 batting average against, which are disastrous numbers for a player that many expected to be one of the top bullpen arms in the game this season. Bass relies heavily on his slider and sinker. The slider, despite a slight dip in velocity, continues to be strong with a 40% whiff rate and .190 batting average against. But he seemingly has lost the feel for the sinker. Hitters are teeing off on the pitch, which he throws nearly 30% of the time, with a .600 batting average against and 1.100 slugging.

Verdict: Patience. There’s nothing about Bass’s sinker that looks particularly broken. Its velocity and spin rate are nearly identical to last season. Overall, hitters have a .382 BABIP against Bass despite him allowing just .256 on balls in play last season. That’s not to say it’s not all bad luck. Bass certainly shoulders some of the blame, but better results might be as simple as adjusting his pitch mix and better defense.



Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Ryan Loren

Ryan Loren is a baseball writer for Pitcher List and a Detroit sports fan struggling to remember what it's like to root for winning teams.

One response to “Patience or Panic: Nolan Arenado, Gunnar Henderson, Dylan Cease”

  1. Plz Help ? says:

    Can you do a patience or panic with Teoscar Hernandez? He was still ranked as high as 31 on the most recent version of the Hitter List, but has accumulated a total of 2.5 points in my league over the past 14 days, striking out 24 times in 50 ABs. He feels like he’s approaching drop territory for me, with guys like Mervis, Dansby Swanson and hot streaks like Logan Thomas and Eric Haase available, I’m not sure what to do with Teoscar

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