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Fantasy baseball waiver wire: Should you buy hot starts from Mitch Keller, J.D. Davis?

Henry Palattella looks at some unexpected hot starts around MLB and whether their fantasy baseball impact is a flash in the pan or here to stay.

Mitch Keller of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch in the first inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on April 11, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The first month of the MLB season is always an interesting time in fantasy. For every established starter who struggles out of the gate, there’s one or two unheralded players who get off to a strong start — which always creates a multitude of questions, ranging from whether or not you should pick them up to how much of a leash to give them once they start to struggle.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to play Fade or Follow with five under-the-radar players off to a strong start in fantasy.

Buy or sell: Hot starts for fantasy baseball

Brian Anderson, 3B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers (No. 7-ranked third baseman)

Roster percentage: 55.5%

After only tallying 28 RBI in 98 games last season with the Marlins, Anderson has 15 RBI through 17 games this season. After tallying nine RBI in a 48-hour stretch against the Mets at the beginning of April, Anderson’s begun to heat up again and has recorded RBI in four straight games. While he still strikes out a decent amount (23.9% strikeout rate), it’s down nearly three percentage points from last year, while his walk rate is up to 11.9%. Anderson’s also been a victim to bad luck as well, as he boasts an expected batting average (.289) and expected slugging (.529) that are higher than his actual numbers.

Fade or follow: Follow

At first, Anderson’s strong numbers looked like a bit of fool’s gold, as he followed up that nine RBI period by going 3-for-24 over his next eight games. But Anderson’s recent play has proved he can be a consistent hitter, as he’s tallied hits in three of his last four games along with recording an RBI in every game. Entering this season, Anderson was a boom-or-bust fantasy player who was a fringe value at best. Now he’s morphed into a lineup staple who should provide production for the rest of the year.

Myles Straw, OF, Cleveland Guardians (No. 12-ranked outfielder)

Roster percentage: 26.1%

Straw had an up and down 2022, as he had three months where he hit over .270, but three months where he hit under .180 — with the worst of it coming in August where he hit a measly .093 in 23 games. Straw’s always been a tantalizing fantasy prospect, as he has elite speed (six seasons in the top 50 overall in sprint speed) and plate discipline (career 10.1% walk rate), but has never been able to get on base at a steady enough clip to make it worthwhile in fantasy. Now Straw is off to a hot start to 2023, batting .310 through 17 games and while sitting among the league leaders in stolen bases.

Fade or follow: Fade

Straw’s strong start has been a boon for the bottom of the Guardians lineup, but we’ve seen this movie before, as he hit .291 last April before following that up with a .178 average in May. Straw’s hot streak makes him a must-start right now, but I’d make sure you have a good backup plan in case he bottoms out again.

Mitch Keller, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 31 ranked starting pitcher)

Roster percentage: 24.2%

Much like Straw, Keller always had the potential — it was more a matter of him putting it all together. Keller looks to be doing that this season, as he’s gone 6+ innings in three of his four starts along with tallying 7+ strikeouts in three of his four starts. After only tallying 13 quality starts last season, Keller’s put together a quality start in all four of his outings this year, and has emerged as the leader of the Pirates’ surprisingly competent pitching staff.

Fade or follow: Follow

Even if Keller can’t keep up his strikeout rate, he’s proven that he’s able to mitigate damage, as he ground out six innings against the Cardinals his last time out despite not having his best stuff. Keller currently ranks in the 80th percentile in average exit velocity and the 93rd percentile in hard-hit rate, and is quickly morphing into the kind of stable, consistent pitcher that is the backbone of every winning fantasy team.

J.D. Davis, 3B/DH, San Francisco Giants (No. 13 ranked third baseman)

Roster percentage: 8.9%

After only tallying 14 RBI in 49 games with the Giants after a mid-season trade last season, Davis has already tallied 13 RBI this year in just 15 games. After having a breakout season with the Mets in 2019 (.307, 22 home runs in 140 games), Davis put together three inconsistent seasons, as he only hit six home runs during the truncated 2020 season, only played in 73 games in 2021 due to a hand sprain and hit .248 last season between the Mets and Giants. Davis currently ranks in the 97th percentile in expected batting average and he 88th percentile in expected slugging.

Fade or follow: Follow

Davis has been a godsend for the Giants, as he’s producing at a strong clip while also playing above-average defense at third base. Davis has always hit the ball hard (he finished in the 95th percentile in exit velocity and hard-hit rate last season), but this year he’s turned that power into production. While Davis doesn’t walk as much as you’d like (5.6% walk rate), he’s already tallied six multi-hit games this year, and should be an excellent mid-tier fantasy third baseman for the rest of the year.

David Roberston, RP, Mets (No. 2-ranked reliever)

Roster percentage: 73.7%

Robertson has stepped up in Edwin Diaz’s absence, and has only allowed four hits in 8 1/3 innings this year and has yet to allow an earned run this year. He currently ranks in the 96th percentile or better in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, fastball spin and expected ERA.

Fade or follow: Fade

I know it’s weird to say fade on a guy who’s been one of the best closers in baseball so far, but there’s still a lot of season left. Last year, Robertson yo-yoed between productive and nonproductive months, as he didn’t allow a run in April before tallying a 3.72 ERA, a trend that went out throughout the season. Robertson’s been a shutdown reliever so far this season, but I wouldn’t bet on him being this lights out as the season goes on, especially since the Mets bullpen has Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith, two relievers who also boast closer-quality stuff.