Fantasy Baseball Week 9 Preview: Top 10 sleeper hitters feature Christian Walker, Tommy La Stella, Willie Calhoun

If Week 8 was all about adding the latest prospect call-ups, Week 9 (May 20-26) will be all about starting them.

It just so happens Austin Riley, Brendan Rodgers and Willie Calhoun have favorable matchups. Keston Hiura not so much, but it may be more a matter of need with him given his second base eligibility.

For all the hype they've gotten over the past few days, they're still owned in less than 80 percent of CBS Sports leagues. So you get to hear about them at least one more time. If Week 9 goes as well for them as I think it could, they'll get scooped up beyond the point of qualifying for this list anymore. 

Christian Walker had crossed the 80 percent threshold at one point before a recent skid dropped him back below it, but he still has the highest hard-hit rate in all of baseball, according to FanGraphs, just ahead of Joey Gallo. He may not have had the greatest couple weeks, but there's nothing quiet about his bat. Good chance he bounces back facing nothing but Padres and Giants pitchers this week.

Speaking of hitting the ball hard, Franmil Reyes' own batted-ball tendencies are finally delivering the desired result. At least that's how it looks based on his recent power binge, but his xwOBA still suggests there's more ground to make up. Nothing exceptional about his matchups, but he's an exceptional hitter with an exceptional ownership rate.

Austin Riley was on such a power tear prior to his call-up, homering 13 times in 18 games, that, along with his greatly improved strikeout rate, I don't think we can overestimate his potential to impact Fantasy lineups. He has made a strong first impression, obviously, and has a chance to continue it with a seven-game week that includes four games against a banged-up Giants rotation.

For all the talk of Tommy La Stella's out-of-nowhere power binge — which is of course what has earned him his place in the Angels lineup and on Fantasy rosters — it's amazing his batting average isn't higher given how little he strikes out. We've seen some BABIP correction with a string of multi-hit games recently, and now that he's getting more consistent playing time, you can ride it out in the hope of more.

Typically when a player returns from a broken hamate bone, his power is stifled for the first few weeks. Olson already seems to have the power stroke going, though, having homered three times in his first 11 games back. He has 40-homer upside, so if there are no concerns about him tapping into it, it won't be long before we view him as must-start again, particularly with favorable matchups like those for Week 9.

Byron Buxton's strikeout rate is way down and his fly-ball rate way up this season, which would suggest a higher ceiling for both batting average and home runs. The latter had been conspicuously absent before he popped three to end Week 8, and there may be even more ground to make up against the Angels and White Sox pitching staffs in Week 9.

Willie Calhoun LF •

Willie Calhoun's playing time is less than assured since his left-handed bat makes him an easy platoon candidate for what's already a full outfield with the re-emergence of Hunter Pence. He has made a quick impression so far, though, after what was his finest minor-league showing to date, which earns him the benefit of the doubt for now. 

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C.J. Cron MIN • 1B • 24

C.J. Cron doesn't bring much to the table other than power, but the power stroke has been working in May, leading to seven home runs in a little more than half a month's time. He has a chance to tack on a few more against pitchers like Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Reynaldo Lopez and Manny Banuelos this week.

The Yankees have the most favorable matchups of any team this week, facing a string of Orioles and Royals hurlers in which their toughest draw is Danny Duffy. Clint Frazier hasn't offered much since returning from a sprained ankle two weeks ago, but now seems like a good time for his power bat to wake up.

Rodgers is kind of a risky pick here given that we don't yet know how much he'll play. But between Trevor Story's bruised knee, Daniel Murphy's sore finger and Ryan McMahon's continued struggles, the opportunity should be there. He'll face the Orioles staff at Coors Field in his first full week.

Best hitter matchups for Week 9

1. Yankees @BAL4, @KC3
2. Twins @LAA3, CHW3
3. Diamondbacks @SD3, @SF3
4. Mariners @TEX3, @OAK3
5. Orioles NYY4, @COL3

Worst hitter matchups for Week 9

1. Rays LAD2, @CLE4
2. Pirates COL3, LAD3
3. Reds @MIL2, @CHC3
4. Brewers CIN2, PHI3
5. Tigers MIA3, @NYM3

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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