The Scorecard: Christopher Morel proving to be one of fantasy baseball's biggest draft bargains

Christopher Morel delivered category juice for fantasy baseball managers who landed him late in drafts. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Christopher Morel has delivered category juice for fantasy baseball managers who landed him late in drafts. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Christopher Morel’s .228 batting average comes with a .283 expected batting average. He’s cut his K% (21.8) way down while showing improved contact metrics. After a disappointing April (.608 OPS), Morel has five homers and two steals over 11 games in May, posting one of the highest xwOBAs in the league over the last two weeks. Morel ranks sixth in Statcast’s newly released “average bat speed,” sandwiched between Ronald Acuña Jr. and Aaron Judge.

Someone can still be successful hitting the ball softly, but bat speed matters.

Morel’s .235 BABIP is sure to regress, especially given his impressive batted-ball profile. He’s eligible at 2B/3B/OF in Yahoo leagues and hitting cleanup behind Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger. Morel is on pace to finish with 36 homers, 16 steals, 87 runs scored and 107 RBI despite having one of the biggest differences in wOBA and xwOBA in the league.

Morel finishes as a top-25 fantasy hitter this year — despite going off the board in Round 18 of 10-team drafts — if health permits.

Jo Adell is a former top prospect who’s seemingly finally putting it all together. After sitting back-to-back games in late April, Adell has six homers and two steals (with three CS) over 65 at-bats (19 games). His expected batting average and expected slugging percentage are both in the top 7% of the league this season. Adell’s new swing has produced impressive results, including ranking top-10 in xwOBA. Adell also ranks top-10 in “average bat speed,” sandwiched between Aaron Judge, Julio Rodríguez and Juan Soto.

Adell has crucially dropped his K% (24.8) dramatically (he entered the season with a career 35.4 K%), which should stabilize at this point. Adell should have no problem moving higher up in LA’s depleted lineup, and his 12 SB attempts over just 94 ABs suggest there’s real stolen base upside. Somehow, he remains available in 50% of Yahoo leagues.

Adell goes 30/20 this season despite not becoming a full-time player until late April.

Vinnie Pasquantino had a .322 OPS 10 games into the season, but he’s hit .300/.370/.570 with five home runs and 25 RBI over 100 at-bats since. Pasquantino has recorded more walks than strikeouts this season, and his .248 batting average is accompanied by a .294 xBA. Pasquantino is hitting just .234 (.226 BABIP!) despite a 13:19 K:BB ratio against right-handed pitchers this season.

Pasquantino has the most barrels in the league over the last 100 swings, and he’s been one of the unluckiest hitters over the last three weeks. The Royals are top-10 in runs scored, and Pasquantino is batting third between Bobby Witt and Salvador Perez. Kauffman Stadium suppresses home runs for left-handed batters, but it’s a highly favorable hitter’s park in every other way (including decreasing Ks).

My Cousin Vinnie hits .300 over the rest of the season.

Brent Rooker remained available in many fantasy leagues up until recently (thanks in part to an IL stint in April), but he belongs locked in fantasy lineups the rest of the way. A slump is sure to come eventually, given Rooker’s K% (32.2), but he’s up to five homers with 14 RBI over 10 games in May. Rooker has now clubbed 40 home runs over the last 569 at-bats since last season. He’s bumped up his walk rate and is accumulating far more counting stats this year while hitting in the middle of an A’s lineup that quietly leads MLB in wRC+ in May. Rooker’s 187 wRC+ would rank third among qualified hitters, and he sports one of the league’s highest xwOBAs over the last two weeks.

Rooker’s batting average (and .368 BABIP) is sure to drop, but 35 homers and 100 RBI are coming.

Paul Skenes lived up to the hype during his MLB debut even if the results didn’t show it. His 6.75 ERA came with a 2.84 SIERA and a 31.0% CSW. His stuff graded as the best of the night among starters, and Skenes has already thrown the third-most 100+ mph pitches (17) among starting pitchers in 2024 after one start. The top pitching prospect put up video-game-like numbers in the minors this year, recording a 0.99 ERA with a 35.2 K-BB% in Triple-A.

Projecting rookies is always tricky, and Pittsburgh’s poor defense won’t help, but Skenes has the skills to be one of fantasy’s very best starters before reaching his innings limit this season.

Oneil Cruz raised his OPS 131 points over Pittsburgh’s eight-game homestand, when he hit .366 with four homers. He also dropped his K% from 36.8 down to 15.6 over that small sample. Lefties remain a big problem — Cruz has a 149 wRC+ vs. RHP but an 18 wRC+ against southpaws — but his K% (34.1) has dramatically improved compared to 2022 (53.2%). Cruz’s .154 BABIP against left-handers will regress, and his slow April can be explained by missing most of 2023 and an exceptionally difficult schedule. Cruz’s collective opposing pitchers ranked among the best in Pitching+ when Eno Sarris looked into it last week, with the vast majority of those hitters (who've faced tough pitching) underperforming their preseason projections. This scheduling quirk figures to even out.

Cruz has the second-fastest bat speed in the league and will be a top-30 pick in 2025 fantasy drafts.

Ryan Jeffers got off to a slow start to the season, but he’s batting .341 with a 1.104 OPS over the last month. Jeffers finished second in OPS among catchers last season, and he’s cut his K% (19.3) way down this year. He’s batting third between two lefties, and the catcher has appeared in 35 of 40 games. Jeffers went undrafted in most one-catcher leagues, yet he’s on pace to hit 37 homers with 85 runs scored and 122 RBI.

Jeffers is a top-five fantasy catcher.

Dairon Blanco is available in 97% of Yahoo leagues but is a sneaky add for those in need of speed. He’s in the top 5% of the league in Sprint Speed and stole 71 bases over just 297 at-bats across Triple-A and the majors last season. He has 10 steals (and a homer) with a 121 wRC+ in a part-time role this season (a 143 SB pace over 600 PAs), and Blanco has started three of the last four games (including versus a righty). Hunter Renfroe (36 wRC+) and Nelson Velázquez (81) have struggled this season, and Blanco’s defense is better.

Blanco is a long shot but could be a real difference maker in steals if he secures close to a full-time role.