We’re just over a month into the 2023 MLB season. You probably already know who's hot — Matt Chapman might hit .400, Max Muncy's on pace for 60 homers, and Sonny Gray is essentially untouchable. But some players haven’t been quite as lucky.
Here are four buy-low candidates to target with your MLB prop bets, in your fantasy leagues and for your daily MLB picks moving forward:
1B/DH Josh Naylor, Guardians
Josh Naylor's doing everything right. He's walking, hitting the ball hard, and whiffing less than ever before. From 2022 to 2023, his hard-hit rate, barrel rate, whiff rate, walk rate and average exit velocity have all improved. The result? A .212 batting average, .612 OPS, and a -0.5 WAR. Yuck.
I'm sure the Cleveland slugger is frustrated with the start to his season, but he's been about as unlucky as they come. Naylor has the ninth-lowest BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and the fourth-biggest difference between his expected and actual wOBA, so far this season.
Both metrics are flashing red lights that signal Naylor's due for some bounces to go his way. Buy low before those bounces start coming in bunches.
|Type||Batting Average||Slugging Percentage||wOBA|
SP Ryne Nelson, Diamondbacks
At first glance, things haven’t gone well for Diamondbacks second-year starter Ryne Nelson. Through six starts he’s rocking a 6.39 ERA, 5.13 FIP and not striking many batters out (5.5 K/9).
But, when we look under the hood, there are some promising signs. According to Pitching+, Eno Sarris’ new metric combining the stuff and location of pitches, Nelson is one of the top 30 pitchers in baseball this year. That’s carried by a 105 Location+ rating, better than Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, and Corbin Burnes.
He’s got the makings of a high-command, soft contact king, but Nelson’s just gotta find the pitch mix that works. One pitch that will certainly be a big part of his game moving forward is the changeup. He upped the usage on the delivery to 20 percent in his last outing with opponents are hitting an expected .123 batting average off the change this year.
The tinkering will continue into the next few starts, for sure, but I’ll bet on a rebound once Nelson finds what works.
SP Carlos Rodon, Yankees
Alright, this one's a different style of buy-low. Carlos Rodon's basically been the best pitcher in baseball over the past two seasons, leading MLB in FIP since 2021 (2.42).
But, after earning the bag this offseason, he's missed the entire start to the season with a scary forearm injury and some nagging back stuff. For a guy that's suffered arm injuries in the past, this might be a red flag for most.
However, his stock is so low right now that I’m buying it all up. While he hasn’t started a rehab assignment, there’s been some positive news in recent days as Rodon threw a 22-pitch bullpen session last Friday and is expected to build up in bulk and intensity over the next few weeks.
We're probably looking at a June return for the lefty, but the time to trade for him in your fantasy leagues is now. Once he comes back, hammer the Yankees moneyline with Rodon on the mound, until the books catch up.
3B Ryan McMahon, Rockies
Ryan McMahon is mashing... except for when he isn't. The Rockies third baseman has the 10th-highest hard-hit rate in baseball right now, blasting 50.8% of his hits over 95 MPH. That's a higher rate than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Mike Trout, and Matt Olson. But, McMahon is somehow hitting just .230 with a 12% below average OPS.
Ryan McMahon with a 443 foot BOMB! pic.twitter.com/mO6SSbjXlP— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) April 8, 2023
The 28-year-old's woes come mainly from the strikeouts. His 34.8% strikeout rate would be the highest of his career and six points above his career average. But Ks have plagued him his entire career, so why would I expect anything different in 2023?
Despite the rising strikeout rate, McMahon's actually showing signs of an improved approach this year. His chase rate (27.0%) is the lowest of his career and he's overall swinging less than ever before. If McMahon can parlay that improved approach into fewer strikeouts, his hard-hit balls should carry him back to success.