We keep our Fantasy Baseball rankings updated regularly here at CBS Fantasy, and you can check them out here to see how we expect each position to shake out over the rest of the season. And I've got my trade values chart updated every week, which can also serve as my overall rest-of-season rankings for the top 250 players or so.
However, because we just have the rankings up on the site without any explanation, you might have some questions about the changes we're making, why they happened, what motivated them, and what we're keeping on eye on moving forward. Knowing all that -- the trends and why they are happening -- is arguably even more important than just knowing where two players rank relative to one another.
Here are five players who were among the biggest movers in my rankings over the last few weeks, along with my reasoning for why they're moving up and why I think they can keep it up.
I was higher than most on Scherzer, and so maybe there's a bit of confirmation bias at play here. He was my No. 4 SP coming into the season and that's where he remains, but I've moved him up in the overall ranks with his hot start to the season. His K%-BB% is 31.5, actually the highest of his career, just ahead of 2019. And, while his overall swinging strike rate is down a bit from his peak -- though still a very healthy 15.7%, mind you -- his contact rate on swings through four starts is just 67.5%, which would be the lowest of his career. I don't think Scherzer is back to being his peak self, or he would be right there with Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber. But I don't see how you could be anything but very impressed with his start to the season. Regression will come, but I feel pretty confident about Scherzer continuing to be an elite strikeout pitcher with an ERA in the low-3.00 range, especially since he hasn't had any recurrences of his back/neck injuries since 2019.
We talk Dinelson Lamet and Kenta Maeda concerns plus players to buy high on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 Podcast. You can follow us to make sure you get the latest episodes when they drop on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Vlad Guerrero Jr.
I don't know if Guerrero has truly made the leap to being one of the best hitters in baseball, but if he had made that leap, this is exactly what it would look like. He continues to make a ton of contact, but he has essentially stopped swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone, displaying the plate discipline mastery that he had in the minors. And, perhaps most importantly, he's hitting the ball in the air significantly more than he did in his first two seasons. He has an average launch angle of 11.9 degrees, which is about average compared to the rest of the league -- last year it was just 4.6 degrees, a very low number. His groundball rate is down to 40.8%, and while it's just 18 games, this is the third-lowest groundball rate he's ever had over an 18-game stretch. Maybe he'll fall back into his old ways if he hits a slump at some point, but right now, Guerrero looks like the fully realized version of himself we've been waiting for since he was destroying balls in the minors.
I'm surprised there hasn't been more buzz around May's start to the season. Maybe that's because the omnipresent concerns about how the Dodgers will limit their pitchers has everyone on guard. But like Guerrero, if May was breaking out, this is exactly what it would look like. May is still going with a sinker-first approach, which makes sense because it's an incredibly hard pitch for opposing batters to square up. However, after failing to get many strikeouts or whiffs last season, he's got his strikeout rate up to 33.8% and his swinging strike rate up to 14.1%, both of which would be elite marks. And he's doing it by trading some of those sinkers for more curveballs and four-seam fastballs, both of which are better swing-and-miss pitches for him, as is his cutter. There have been some tradeoffs -- May is getting hit harder than he was last season -- but those are tradeoffs you're willing to take if they come with this kind of strikeout rate. Especially when he's still generating a ton of ground balls. May has leapt into my top 30 at starting pitcher, and if he keeps this up, there's no reason he can't be a borderline ace.
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I often joke about how we've seen strong stretches from Musgrove that ended up signifying nothing in the past, including his April in 2019, when he had a 1.54 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in six appearances. However, it's worth acknowledging that this time really does look different. He had 31 strikeouts in 35 innings in that April stretch; he has 37 in 26 innings this time around, to name one key difference. Musgrove is throwing his fastball harder to start this season, but the biggest difference might be what's happening when he isn't throwing his fastball. Which is most of the time now. In 2020, he threw his four-seamer or sinker 38.8% of the time, already down from 49.5% in 2019. So far this season, he's thrown those two pitches just 17.8% of the time, instead relying on his cutter as his primary "fastball." Whether that approach will ultimately prove sustainable remains to be seen -- opposing hitters have hit .288 with a .218 ISO against the cutter in his career, so it's possible that usage will catch up to him. However, you can't watch what Musgrove has done so far and not move him up.
In the second half of last season, Votto switched up his approach at the plate, opting to swing more aggressively, seemingly in search of more power. There were signs it worked, which had me intrigued about his potential to bounce back in the spring. And there are even more signs it is working now, even if it might not be reflected in his production yet. Votto is swinging at a whopping 74.4% of pitches in the strike zone, his highest of the Statcast era. He's also swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone, too, but that rate is still just 21.2%, so there really isn't much reason to be worried there. This wouldn't matter if he wasn't making good contact, but he is -- his 47.4% hard-hit rate is his highest ever, and his average exit velocity has also spiked to 92.5 mph. As I said before, the results haven't followed yet, and there are reasons to think that Votto may continue to underperform his expected stats, thanks to his lack of foot speed and the fact that he's left-handed and could be susceptible to the shift. However, I find this start extremely encouraging, and Votto is one of my top buy-low candidates right now.