Top Fantasy Baseball Performers – April
One month down, five more to go. It was an extraordinary start to the first month of the 2022 season, as we witnessed historical performances and memorable moments. The major storyline was the cratering of league-wide offensive numbers, but that led to incredible outings on the mound and gutsy appearances at the plate. Here are the top performers from a fantasy perspective from April: 10 each of the hitter and pitcher variety, with an honorable mention for each to boot.
Rankings are based on Razzball standard 12-team rotisserie dollar values (listed in parentheses) from the first month of the season (4/7 – 4/30). The Razzball player rater is rotisserie-based because that is the most universal format, making it easy to compare players across different sites.
1. Manny Machado – 3B, San Diego Padres ($50.8)
April Stats: 95 PA, .386 AVG, 20 R, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 4 SB, 1.067 OPS
The most valuable fantasy player in April was none other than the All-Star third baseman Manny Machado. Known for his potent bat, there was no doubt that he would do his best to carry the Padres’ offense with Fernando Tatis Jr. out for the first half of the season, and so far, he’s been pulling it off with a league-leading number of hits (32), runs, and fWAR (2.0). What we didn’t see coming was his aggressiveness on the basepaths, joining Shohei Ohtani and Jazz Chisholm Jr. as the only three players with at least four homers and four steals in April. This frenetic pace is most likely unsustainable, but he’s showing a willingness to swipe bases that gave him fantasy production unlike any other player in the first month of the season.
2. José Ramírez – 3B, Cleveland Guardians ($49.2)
April Stats: 90 PA, .342 AVG, 12 R, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB, 1.133 OPS
Being left off this MLB graphic really seemed to offend J-Ram and has propelled him to prove everyone wrong. He did just that in the season’s first month, securing American League Player of the Month honors with his efforts at the plate, logging the most RBI in the Majors and the most fWAR (1.7) in the American League. So far, he’s looking like the AL MVP frontrunner, walking (10% BB%) as much as he’s striking out (10% K%) while barreling the ball at a career-high 12.7% rate.
3. Anthony Rizzo – 1B, New York Yankees ($46.9)
April Stats: 92 PA, .273 AVG, 14 R, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 1.066 OPS
It was Rizzo’s performance in the third week of the season (.360 AVG, 4 HR) that launched him to the top of the Major League home run leaderboard. He is taking full advantage of the friendly right field bleachers in Yankee Stadium, pulling the ball (60.9%) more than any other qualified batter, and is on pace to shatter his career-high of 32 homers, a total he’s attained three times (2014, ‘16, & ‘17). It would be a Bonds-esque late-career resurgence if Rizzo were to keep up his league-leading pace in the power department, but I have no doubt that he will eclipse 30 home runs and secure an All-Star selection in his first full season in pinstripes.
4. Ty France – 1B/2B, Seattle Mariners ($36)
April Stats: 95 PA, .337 AVG, 11 R, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 0 SB, .965 OPS
Bonjour Mr. France! The Mariners’ first baseman’s 2021 breakout was just the beginning as he has added the one tool that he lacked; power. With five long balls already, France is more than a quarter of the way to the 18 homers he hit last season, and we’ve only completed one of the six months of the season. While his quality of contract metrics haven’t improved at all, Baseball Savant’s expected stats (.351 xBA, .579 xSLG) suggest that he has actually earned his performance thus far, lending credence to the suggestion that he could continue at this hot pace for more than just April.
5. C.J. Cron – 1B, Colorado Rockies ($34.8)
April Stats: 87 PA, .288 AVG, 12 R, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB, .971 OPS
Exemplifying Coors’ BABIP-boosting effects, Cron posted his highest single-season average (.281) last year thanks to a career-high .316 BABIP, but this year, he’s showing what the mile-high stadium can do to a player’s power output. Cron led the National League in homers and RBI by hitting for power at the best rate of his career (career-best .350 ISO) across the season’s first month and has made it look sustainable with a top-15 barrel rate (16.7%) and the eighth-best max exit velocity (115.5 mph). He looks well on his way to breaking his career-high of 30 homers and could very easily outperform his draft-day ADP (133 on ESPN) even if he cools down in the coming months.
6. Nolan Arenado – 3B, St. Louis Cardinals ($34.4)
April Stats: 81 PA, .375 AVG, 11 R, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 0 SB, 1.125 OPS
One of the best defenders in the game at the hot corner showed off what he could do at the plate with a monster April, proving that he isn’t just a product of Coors. Carrying the St. Louis offense, Arenado led the National League in OPS and secured National League Player of the Month Award honors for his efforts at the dish. He flew as high as a Cardinal could fly in April, and the results can be traced to an increased emphasis on a pull-heavy approach, as he’s pulling the ball (51.7%) even more than the career-high pull-rate he posted in his first year in St. Louis, leading to his exaggerated power numbers.
7. George Springer – OF, Toronto Blue Jays ($34.1)
April Stats: 89 PA, .300 AVG, 15 R, 6 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, .948 OPS
Springer’s first year in Toronto was beset by persistent injuries, limiting him to just 78 games, but he’s doing his best to make up for his disappointing debut by springing his bat into action in 2022. The outfielder has always performed at an elite rate when he’s on the field, averaging 5.3 fWAR per 162 games entering this season, but hasn’t had a fully healthy season in almost half of a decade. There’s no doubt about Springer’s ability, it’s always been about staying on the field, and so far, he’s been able to do that, leading outfielders in fantasy value and driving the Blue Jays’ offense from the top of the lineup.
8. Taylor Ward – OF, Los Angeles Angels ($33.9)
April Stats: 62 PA, .392 AVG, 14 R, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB, 1.284 OPS
Easily the most unknown offensive player on this list, Ward has had a breakout first month of the season since coming off the IL in mid-April. The 28-year-old former catcher has taken full advantage of the everyday playing time afforded to him through manager Joe Maddon’s confidence in him in the outfield, leading all batters with a minimum of 60 plate appearances in OPS by more than 100 points. The craziest part is that he posted the 11th-best barrel rate (17.9% min. 60 PA) in April while walking (17.7%) nearly as much as he struck out (19.4%), making him look like one of the most legit offensive breakouts this season.
9. Wander Franco – SS, Tampa Bay Rays ($32.7)
April Stats: 87 PA, .313 AVG, 14 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB, .911 OPS
Looking to top an impressive rookie year campaign, Franco is taking his offensive contributions to another level. Still just 21 years old, the sky is the limit for the switch-hitting shortstop, and this season he’s showing that he can soar higher than any other player his age, posting improved marks in almost every Statcast-measured category. Many fantasy managers doubted his fantasy impact due to his lack of stolen bases and home runs, but he has proven them wrong by putting himself on pace for a 20+ home run season and 15+ stolen bases while continuing to exhibit one of the most spectacular hit tools in the Major Leagues.
10. Aaron Judge – OF, New York Yankees ($31)
April Stats: 83 PA, .293 AVG, 14 R, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB, .961 OPS
In his walk year prior to free agency, Judge is doing his best to stay on the field and display his game-changing power in the Bronx. While he didn’t lead in any counting stat categories, his 27.8% barrel rate was far and away the best in all of baseball, and his 63% hard-hit rate ranked second behind Yordan Alvarez. Judge has always been a Statcast darling, but as long as he avoids injury, he will continue to murder baseballs and should climb the home run leaderboards faster than anyone else in the league, setting himself up for a massive payday this offseason.
Honorable Mention: Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Chisholm’s ($28.7) first full season in the Majors was fun to watch, but he’s putting the league on notice in 2022 by displaying his power-speed skillset to its fullest while being one of the most exciting players in the game with his outgoing personality. One of just three players to combine four homers with four steals in April, Chisholm has shown more patience at the plate than he did in 2021 and is quickly becoming one of the brightest stars in baseball and one of the most impactful fantasy players, posting a 1.011 OPS across the season’s opening month.
Extra shoutout to Mike Trout ($25), as he led all qualifiers in OPS and is looking like his old self once again, reminding people who may have forgotten that he is one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
1. Carlos Rodón – SP, San Francisco Giants ($30)
April Stats: 3 W, 23 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 8 BB, 38 K, 1.17 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
Performing as the most impactful offseason acquisition, Rodón has taken his 2021 breakout to another level in 2022, looking like the best pitcher in baseball with a National League-leading amount of strikeouts and fWAR (1.2). I had my doubts about him after he slowed at the end of last year and had never had back-to-back healthy seasons, but as soon as he signed with my hometown team, I knew he would excel because of the Giants’ new ability to get the most out of every player on their roster. Rodón turned in electric performance after electric performance in April, riding a career-high 96.3 mph average fastball velocity and increased slider and curveball usage to great heights.
2. Pablo López – SP, Miami Marlins ($29.5)
April Stats: 3 W, 23.1 IP, 13 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 23 K, 0.39 ERA, 0.73 WHIP
I wrote in January that López “could have a massive breakout with better health on the back of his deceptive ability to get swings out of the zone,” and he’s done exactly that in the first month of the season, staying healthy and improving his chase rate, leading to a huge breakout and National League Pitcher of the Month honors. Those improvements led him to a Major League-best 0.39 ERA, limiting batters to a .130 batting average thanks to his devastating changeup and solid, 93 mph fastball. The 26-year-old right-hander could still afford to develop a reliable third pitch, but as long as his change is garnering misses on 46.9% of swings, he can ride it as long as he remains successful.
3. Kyle Wright – SP, Atlanta Braves ($28.8)
April Stats: 3 W, 24 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 34 K, 1.13 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
If Taylor Ward is the most legit offensive breakout from April, Wright might be the most convincing pitching breakout from the season’s first month. The fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, he failed to stick in the rotation in any of his previous Major League stints, but this season has been different, as he is turning to his elite curveball more often, helping his 95 mph fastball play up and leading him to four impressive April starts and tied for the third-most strikeouts in the big leagues. Finally capitalizing on the promise he displayed at Vanderbilt, this could be Wright’s big breakout season at the age of 26, and he’s only just getting started.
4. Joe Ryan – SP, Minnesota Twins ($27.6)
April Stats: 3 W, 23 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 25 K, 1.17 ERA, 0.70 WHIP
In his 2021 rookie season, Ryan relied on his fastball and his deceptive delivery to pretty effective results. To stave off the regression of relying on a singular pitch and an unquantifiable trait, Ryan has turned to his slider more often and it has paid off big time. The sweeper forced swings on 44.2% of pitches out of the zone, helping his fastball play up even more, leading to the second-best April ERA and WHIP in the American League, and even more impressively, the lowest batting average allowed (.132) in the Junior Circuit.
5. Alek Manoah – SP, Toronto Blue Jays ($27.5)
April Stats: 4 W, 25 IP, 15 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 25 K, 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
The hulking 6’6” Manoah intimidated batters across four starts, garnering four wins in the process, tying for the Major League lead in that category. His four-seamer and slider were his main weapons of attack in April, as they both held batters to sub-.240 xwOBAs. Developing his changeup will be a key component of maintaining his pace going forward, but his presence on the mind and whiffable slider will be more than enough to make him one of the game’s premier young aces.
6. Max Scherzer – SP, New York Mets ($27.4)
April Stats: 3 W, 25 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 8 BB, 33 K, 1.80 ERA, 0.76 WHIP
There’s no slowing down Mad Max. The ineffable veteran continued his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career with another incredible month on the bump, holding batters to a Major League-low .129 batting average in his first season in Queens. With intensity on the mound and finesse on his pitches, there isn’t much analysis that would change people’s opinions of the man with two different eye colors. At 37-years old, the right-hander may just be willing himself to valuable performances at this point, but he hasn’t lost much on his fastball and continues to get tons of whiffs (43.6%) on his slider, so the Mets are getting their money’s worth ($43.3M).
7. Tylor Megill – SP, New York Mets ($27.1)
April Stats: 4 W, 28 IP, 18 H, 6 ER, 6 BB, 27 K, 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
There was a lot said about Megill being the Opening Day starter for a team with so many highly-paid aces, but he has proven that he belongs with an amazing first month of 2022 that featured increased fastball velocity and the most wins in the National League. He stole everybody’s hearts with his first couple of outings, pitching back-to-back scoreless starts to begin the season, and then ended the month on a high note, pitching the first five innings of the second no-hitter in Mets franchise history. It was an eventful April for the second-year starter, so there’s no telling what’s in store for the next five months for the man they call Cylord Megill.
8. Logan Gilbert – SP, Seattle Mariners ($26.3)
April Stats: 3 W, 22.1 IP, 15 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 22 K, 0.40 ERA, 0.85 WHIP
An up and down rookie campaign displayed Gilbert’s perseverance and ability to make adjustments. Those adjustments have paid off, leading him to post the lowest ERA in the American League and garnering American League Pitcher of the Month honors even without the feel for his wipeout slider and changeup. The tall (6’6”), lanky righty reaps most of his success from his 95 mph four-seamer, but he squeezes the most out of his pitches by displaying unmatched 7+ feet of extension towards the plate on his arsenal, allowing his pitches to reach the plate quicker and leaving less time for batters to react.
9. Dillon Peters – RP, Pittsburgh Pirates ($23.5)
April Stats: 3 W, 13.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 9 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.45 WHIP
By far the most surprising name amongst the top performers from April, Peters pitched mostly out of the bullpen in his second season in Pittsburgh. Permitting just one hit, Peters was used in a multi-inning role and had about as much success as a bulk reliever could have. It would be incredibly surprising to see Peters make this list again at any other point this season after struggling in the Angels’ rotation for the last couple of years, but he had his moment in the sun for the Pirates by going 13.1 scoreless innings thanks to adding two extra ticks to his fastball.
10. Justin Verlander – SP, Houston Astros ($22.7)
April Stats: 2 W, 26 IP, 14 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 28 K, 1.73 ERA, 0.69 WHIP
In his return from Tommy John surgery, Verlander has looked like his former Cy Young self, recording the lowest WHIP in the Majors while throwing with the same velocity he displayed prior to the injury. I think it’s time that we announce Verlander as being completely returned to form and should expect him to pitch like one of the premier aces in the game for the rest of the season. Anyone that doubted him, including myself, will be kicking themselves for fading him in drafts if he can remain effective all season, as the sticky ban has not had any adverse effects on the 39-year-old veteran.
Honorable Mention: Joe Musgrove
After a year in which he threw the first no-hitter in the history of his hometown franchise, it was going to be hard for Musgrove ($20.5) to top his performance. He’s made his best effort so far, securing three wins across 25 innings with a 2.16 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and a masterful 25/2 K/BB ratio, as he’s looking like one of the most consistent aces in the Majors right now.
There were so many players to choose from for this section. Josh Hader and Jordan Romano led their respective leagues with 10 saves apiece. Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a perfect game in his season debut. Corbin Burnes proved his 2021 NL Cy Young season was not a fluke. Kevin Gausman led the Majors in fWAR (2.0). Eric Lauer struck out 13 batters in a start. Shane McClanahan led the Majors in strikeouts (42). While so many other pitchers had incredible Aprils, capitalizing on the league-wide drop in offensive production.
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