After early-season injuries to both Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins, both returned to the lineups for their respective teams this past week and demonstrated why they are elite players. I’m going to stay positive and believe both players will come close to playing 140 games this season. If that happens, there’s no doubt many championship rosters will have Trout or Buxton on their team.

Three Up:

1. Los Angeles Dodgers Outfielder Cody Bellinger — The 26-year-old was mentioned as a bounce-back candidate in March, but after a disastrous spring training and a slow first week, I had my doubts that we were going to see the 2019 version of Bellinger. However, the former MVP has turned it around and is playing well as we enter the last week of April. Bellinger finished this past week hitting three home runs while driving in seven runs. Bellinger is still striking out way too much as he has 20 already, but he’s hitting .273 with four home runs and eight RBIs for the season. This is encouraging after brutal 2020 and 2021 seasons. There’s hope Bellinger could come close to 30 home runs in 2022.

2. Seattle Mariners Infielder Ty France — The Mariners sit atop the American League West, and France is a big reason why. The 27-year-old has 24 hits, five home runs and 19 RBIs already. This is not a fluke, as France did hit .291 in 2021. France also brings great value in on-base percentage leagues, as he is constantly being hit by pitches. France was hit by a pitch 27 times in 2021 and already has three in 2022. France has been batting second in the Mariners’ lineup, which puts him in prime position to rack up runs and RBIs.

3. Tampa Bay Rays Starting Pitcher Shane McClanahan — One of our breakout candidates is off to a monster start this season, as he has a 2.45 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and an eye-popping 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings. My only hesitation with McClanahan surrounded his innings, as I thought the Rays would restrict their prized left-hander. However, after failing to pitch five innings in each of his first two starts, McClanahan completed six in his third start and seven in his fourth start. It appears the Rays are going to let McClanahan pitch deeper in games, which is great news for fantasy owners. The value is not as great as it was in the preseason, but McClanahan is currently +1500 to win the American League Cy Young Award on FanDuel Sportsbook. If the Rays are taking the training wheels off the 24-year-old then he will be in prime position to win this award.

Three Down:

1. Seattle Mariners Outfielder Jarred Kelenic — Bellinger and McClanahan are making our preseason predictions look good, but Kelenic is currently not. The 22-year-old is looking more like the player who struggled last year and not the prized prospect who showed flashes in the month of September. Kelenic is currently batting .154 with 22 strikeouts in 52 at-bats. The strikeouts are a clear indication that he is overmatched. As previously mentioned, the Mariners are in first place, so it’s a legit question on how long they will let Kelenic struggle. We were banking on the talent and a strong September to catapult the outfielder to a really good season in 2022. We’re not yet at the point that we’re dropping the outfielder, but we’re approaching that date very quickly.

2. Kansas City Royals Infielder Adalberto Mondesi — Our list is littered with our preseason players this week and Mondesi is next to be spotlighted. The speedster was an overvalued candidate, as his ability to steal bases pushed him to the sixth round in fantasy baseball drafts despite Mondesi having never played more than 102 games in his career. He is off to a dreadful start this year, as he is batting .125 with no home runs, three runs scored and two RBIs. Mondesi has an on-base percentage of just .176, so he’s not even on base enough to help fantasy owners in the one category they were hoping for and that’s stolen bases. The infielder does have five steals, but he’s performing so poorly in every category it’s basically pointless. Mondesi has had many injuries in his career and is now struggling. This is a bad combination for fantasy owners.

3. Boston Red Sox Third Baseman Rafael Devers — If there’s one hitter I’m not worried about, it’s Devers. The third baseman had a rough week, as he only collected four hits while striking out seven times. The positive is one of those hits were a home run, but only finishing with one RBI is not something fantasy owners are used to seeing from Devers. Overall, the third baseman is batting .265 with three home runs and eight RBIs. We’re used to seeing three home runs and eight RBIs in a week from Devers throughout the season. He can catch fire at any point and it will not be a shock to see him in “Three Up” next week.

Phil Backert

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