The Scorecard: Is there any stopping Elly De La Cruz in fantasy this season?

Few fantasy analysts can stand the heat — and deliver it — like Dalton Del Don. He’ll bring his blazing fantasy baseball takes here every week, to help you keep the fire burning in your leagues. And speaking of fire …

Elly De La Cruz has been the No. 2 fantasy player behind only Mookie Betts, as concerns about him being at risk of demotion look comical now. After posting a 45.9 K% and an 8.1 BB% over the first nine games this season, he’s recorded 18.8% and 18.8% marks since April 7. He’s on pace to hit 44 homers and steal 81 bases with 147 runs scored and 111 RBI despite hitting toward the bottom of the lineup. De La Cruz hit sixth all season before finally moving to No. 2 during the Reds’ last game versus a right-handed starter, which could become permanent.

He’s hitting more grounders than ever (58.7 GB%), and his HR/FB rate (42.9%) and batting average will regress, but the growth in plate discipline is huge. Great American Ballpark has boosted home runs an MLB-high 27% over the last three seasons, so a 30/60 season looks within reach should health cooperate. An eventual slump is coming, but De La Cruz should clearly be viewed as a top-five fantasy player.

Marcell Ozuna has been the fantasy MVP so far given his affordable ADP. Despite slugging 40 homers with 100 RBI last season and being slated to hit toward the middle of a loaded Atlanta lineup, Ozuna went after 130 picks in Yahoo drafts. His ADP in NFBC Main Events was 168.3.

Ozuna is batting .325 this season thanks in part to lowering his K% to a career-low 15.1, and his 194 wRC+ ranks top-five in MLB. He’s been fortunate while leading the league in two-out RBI by a wide margin, but he’ll continue to see a bunch of opportunities batting behind four terrific hitters.

Ozuna won’t continue to be quite this good, but he’ll go down as one of the biggest draft-day steals while recording 125+ RBI.

• Few if any pitchers have been as dominant to start the season as Jared Jones, who finally picked up his first win in April on Monday. He entered the outing leading all starters in SIERA (1.96), K-BB% (34.1) and K% (74.8) while also ranking top-five in WHIP (0.78), CSW (34.8%) and pitches per plate appearance (3.6). Jones has induced the most swings and misses over his first five career starts in the pitch-tracking era. He threw 126.1 innings across the minors last season, so a major cap shouldn’t be in store. No pitcher can keep up this pace, and Jones’ .238 BABIP will regress, but the rookie looks like the real deal to be sure.

Congratulations if Jones is on your fantasy team.

Bryce Harper has been a fantasy disappointment to open the season, as the top-20 pick has provided 11th-round value thus far. While his power was expected to recover further removed from elbow surgery, Harper is slugging just .443 while grounding into the most double plays in the league. His max exit velocity is easily a career low, but his average exit velocity is normal, and his Hard Hit% is well above his career mark. Oddly, just 54% of Harper’s at-bats have come against righties this season, and his 98 wRC+ against them screams fluke — Harper has a career 150 wRC+ vs. right-handed pitchers.

Try to trade for Harper if possible before he goes on a tear.

Brice Turang went undrafted in most leagues but has been a top-30 fantasy player thanks to 10 steals. He’s yet to record a hit (over six ABs) against a left-hander this season, although the platooning protects his batting average. Turang possesses “70” grade speed, but the early SB outburst is a little surprising given he never recorded a 35-steal season throughout the minors. His .345 BABIP will regress, but Turang has lowered his K-rate down to 14.3%, and his Whiff rate is in the top 2% of the league. He’s yet to be caught stealing and should continue to rack up stolen bases on a Milwaukee team running wild. Turang is a plus defender, 2B/SS eligible and a former first-round pick who should remain plenty valuable in fantasy leagues throughout the year.

Miguel Sanó leads all batters in average exit velocity and has hit cleanup in seven of the last eight games. After sitting out of major league baseball in 2023, Sanó lost nearly 60 pounds before signing with the Angels in spring training. Sanó remains a real batting average risk, but he’s averaged 35 homers per 600 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers despite a high K-rate throughout his career. Angel Stadium has increased HR for RHB by 12% over the last three seasons, and Sanó is locked into LA’s lineup as one of the team’s better bats. He could eventually gain third-base eligibility with Anthony Rendon on the IL yet again, and Sanó is available in more than 95% of Yahoo leagues.

Tanner Houck is another player who reportedly put in extra work during the offseason and is seeing big dividends early in the year. He has video-game-like numbers: 1.35 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and a 28:2 K:BB ratio over 26.2 innings. Houck benefitted from a highly favorable schedule over his first three starts, but he fired a shutout against a Guardians offense with the fifth-best wRC+ during his last outing. He’s obviously going to regress moving forward, but this is a former first-round pick who experienced success in the minors, so his hot start should be taken seriously. Houck ranks top-five in SIERA (2.60) and CSW (32.6%) among 68 qualified starters this season. He pitches in a hitter’s park (and faces the same Guardians on the road during his next outing), but Houck has been a revelation with legit peripherals during a season that’s featured starting pitching chaos.

Jack Flaherty has yet to record a victory despite delivering three quality starts during three Detroit wins over four starts this season. His 4.44 ERA comes with a 2.77 SIERA that ranks top-10 among starters, and Flaherty also sports a 1.11 WHIP, a 30:4 K:BB ratio and a K-BB% (25.2) that ranks sixth. Flaherty not only leads all starters in CSW, but his 36.0% mark is higher than any season-ending leader in the category ever (the stat goes back to 2002). It’s still a small sample, and all four of Flaherty’s starts have come against offenses that rank bottom-six in wRC+, but his eye-opening peripherals (after a dominant spring) suggest a much better ERA is to come. Flaherty is still just 28 years old and is available in 55% of Yahoo leagues.

Luis García Jr. looks like a much cheaper version of Luis Arráez, who’s yet to record a HR or SB this season. García Jr. has bumped up his batting average despite a slight increase in K% thanks to a much higher Hard Hit%. His strong plate discipline should continue to lead to a plus BA, and five steals suggest he may run more than expected; he’s surprisingly top-10 in stolen bases per start this season. García Jr. has limited upside, but he’s capable of batting .300 while going 10/25. He was also moved to the cleanup spot during Washington’s last game, so he’s worth adding with 2B so weak in fantasy.

García Jr. is available in 90% of Yahoo leagues.

Craig Kimbrel owns a 3.62 BB/9 rate during his 15-year career, but he hadn’t walked a batter all season until finally doing so Monday night. He recorded his sixth save anyway, and Kimbrel has three wins already as well. He’s actually averaged the lowest velocity and has the worst SwStr% of his career, but so far, that’s hardly mattered; Kimbrel has allowed just one run and sports a 0.50 WHIP with 16 strikeouts over 10.0 innings. His role as closer appears as secure as any reliever in the league for a team with the best winning percentage in the AL, so Kimbrel looks like one of the shrewdest RP picks (ADP 135.2) in fantasy drafts.

Jason Adam is available in more than 60% of Yahoo leagues and needs to be added by those searching for saves. Pete Fairbanks was placed on the IL with another nerve issue, and Adam saw the vast majority of save opportunities when Fairbanks was sidelined last season. Adam’s K-rate has been down to open the year, but his SwStr% ranks top-10 among relievers.

Fairbanks hasn’t looked right all season, so Adam could be a significant waiver wire add.

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