The Scorecard: MLB's most surprising players (5 good and 1 bad) this fantasy baseball season

Bo Bichette was a premium fantasy baseball draft pick this season, but has struggled to deliver on expectations. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

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 ...

Jeremy Peña has been one of this year’s best fantasy picks, as he’s returned third-round value at a 220 ADP. A re-worked stance/swing during the offseason led to him ending a 77-game homerless drought early in the season, as his slugging percentage and launch angle are both way up. Peña’s K% (14.1) is simultaneously way down, leading to an expected batting average (.312) in the top 4% of the league. He also possesses Sprint Speed in the 97th percentile, so Peña is capable of stealing 25+ bases if he wanted. He’s hitting fifth in Houston’s lineup, behind Yordan Álvarez (who’s about to erupt) and Alex Bregman, who should start getting on base far more often moving forward.

Especially given the league batting average is one of the five lowest in MLB history this season, Peña should be considered a top-12 fantasy SS moving forward.

On the other hand, Bo Bichette has been one of fantasy’s biggest busts, ranking outside the top-400 with a top-35 ADP. Bichette’s .243 batting average will rise, but he doesn’t scream buy low in fantasy. He’s hitting .314 with runners in scoring position, and his batted ball profile is scary. Bichette entered Thursday with a 84 wRC+ that ranked 133 out of 159 qualified hitters.

Bichette posted a .733 OPS with just five homers and two steals after July 8 last season (203 plate appearances), so his struggles have lasted 100 games now. He continues to bat cleanup but has attempted just one steal over the last month-plus. Bichette hasn’t homered away from Toronto yet this season, and Rogers Centre continues to suppress power for righties since changing its dimensions last season. Bichette will be better, but it’s likely projection systems didn’t properly factor in him benefitting from 2019’s happy fun ball and then getting to hit in minor league parks over 2020-2021 (Bichette slugged .573 at TD Ballpark).

Peña over Bichette rest of season.

Jurickson Profar is clearly playing over his head and unlikely to remain this good moving forward, but there’s a whole lot to like about his 2024. His plate discipline is elite, and Profar’s average exit velocity went from previously toward the bottom of the league to the top 30% this year. He ranks top-five in Statcast’s Swing/Take leaderboard, sandwiched between Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto. Profar is batting third in San Diego’s lineup, and ZiPS projects a 121 wRC+ rest of season. He’s been a fantasy steal and arguably this year’s biggest surprise.

Profar was drafted in just 2% of Yahoo leagues, but he entered Friday as the No. 22 fantasy player.

Brady Singer was my most rostered player last season (when his 5.52 ERA was the third-highest among pitchers with at least 150 innings), so it’s been fun watching him deal this year on none of my fantasy teams. Singer’s peripherals look nearly identical to his 2022 season, with the huge culprit in last year’s ERA seemingly caused by a random drop in called strikes that was a career outlier. Swinging strike rate is a good stat to evaluate pitchers, but there’s more than one way to fan batters. Singer ranks just 41st among 77 qualified starters in SwStr% (10.2), but he’s 11th in CSW (30.3), ahead of Dylan Cease, Cole Ragans and Tyler Glasnow. Singer would’ve ranked top-10 in CSW in 2022 among starters if he qualified (had he thrown 8.2 more innings), so getting called strikes is a skill he clearly possesses.

Kauffman Stadium remains a hurdle, and Singer’s fastball is hardly overwhelming, so his ERA (2.70) is due to climb along with his BABIP (.277). But Kansas City’s strong defense will continue to help, as will pitching in the AL Central.

Singer was drafted in just 5% of Yahoo leagues, but he’s been a top-25 fantasy starter this season.

Nick Lodolo was pitching like one of baseball’s best starters despite coming off an injury that caused him to miss spring training before hitting the IL yet again. His SIERA (2.88) and K-BB% (24.3) would rank top-10 among qualified starters, while Lodolo’s CSW (33.2) would rank top-three. His Whiff% is in the top 7% of the league. Lodolo has the second-most strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher over his first 30 appearances in MLB history. The former top-10 pick has stuff good enough to overcome pitching in an extreme hitter’s park, and the NL Central will help (Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates rank bottom-10 in wRC+).

The injury-prone Lodolo is my most rostered player this year after endorsing him during draft season, and at least his latest ailment was a minor groin tweak. Lodolo’s injuries haven’t been arm related, and he’s aiming to return Monday. As for the fantasy trade market, my buddy Eno Sarris recently ranked Lodolo as his No. 59 SP rest of season, but he has the upside to be a top-10 fantasy starter if he somehow stays healthy.

Lodolo’s ADP was outside 200, but he’s a true ace who’s been a top-35 fantasy SP despite making just six starts this season.

Luis Gil has emerged to help lead a Yankees starting rotation record the third-best ERA (2.91) in baseball despite missing Gerrit Cole. Gil has shown improved control after a shaky start to the season, resulting in a 1.80 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP with a 42:13 K:BB ratio over his last six starts (35.0 innings). He’ll start surrendering more homers (6.5 HR/FB%), especially pitching half his games in Yankee Stadium, but Gil’s K% (31.2) would tie him with Tarik Skubal for sixth highest among qualified starters. Gil’s expected slugging percentage is in the top 6% of the league. He’s legit.

Gil was drafted in only 3% of Yahoo leagues, but he’s been a top-15 fantasy starter this year.

BONUS — TV/Movie Talk: I really enjoyed “Fallout,” and I’ve never played the video game nor is it typically my genre … “Sugar” won’t be for everyone, but I liked the big twist that’s been debated. It doesn’t come out of nowhere if you’re paying attention … “Tokyo Vice” is a fun show I’m still catching up on. Season 1 would’ve made my 2023 Best Of list“Shōgun” has been my favorite show of the year, but I question whether Seasons 2 and 3 are a good idea given that wasn’t the original plan, and there’s no more source material … The “Road House” remake wasn’t an abomination, but it was predictably no match compared to the original that featured the GOAT Dalton … “Unfrosted” was pretty terrible. After also seeing Jerry Seinfeld live recently (Daniel Tosh was infinitely better), it’s become increasingly clear Larry David was the brains behind “Seinfeld.”