With less than a week left of action, we’re no longer all that interested in “who is the better player” or player comparisons “in a vacuum.” That kind of stuff is for the offseason. If you’re still managing a fantasy baseball roster, it’s because you’re trying to win a league. With five days to go, we have to entirely shift our focus to one thing: opportunity. Who plays the most games? Who has the softest schedule? Who is performing right now? These are the questions we are asking and need to answer, and thankfully, these are questions we can answer fairly easily. See, predicting the future the difficult, and the further you attempt to forecast, the more difficult it becomes. With such a short time remaining, we can do a reasonably good job putting ourselves in the best possible position to succeed. Some of the “hard” decisions to make are much easier now that we don’t have to worry about it biting us in the long run (since the long run is pretty much over).
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at former Phillies castaway Maikel Franco. He performed admirably last night, going 2-4 with a run, two RBI, and a walk, and actually leads the Royals in RBI with 33 so far in the short season. He’s been a top-15 fantasy performer at the position. It’s not exactly a breakout season for the 28-year-old third baseman, who flashed some big time power potential in his time with the Phillies, but it’s certainly a big step forward from a very disappointing 2019.
Of course, the most important facts about Franco right now are these two: his .315 batting average in September, and his fairly soft remaining schedule for right-handed hitters. He still has six games left to play, and they’re all at home against the Cardinals and Tigers. Neither of those teams will be throwing a right-handed pitcher against him that is terribly intimidating, so with a bunch of games left and no one scary to force him to the bench, Franco is one of the better options available at the hot corner if you need a bat for the final week. If you’ve been relying on guys like David Fletcher, Kyle Seager, or even Justin Turner (all of whom have brutal remaining schedules) and need to make an aggressive move, this might be one to consider.
Let’s see how every other hitter did Monday:
Alejandro Kirk (C, Toronto Blue Jays)—4-4, HR, 2B, 3 R, RBI. The young catcher has quickly risen through the minor league ranks for the Blue Jays after having a few injury setbacks. He’s not the most athletic-looking guy out there (think of a Willians Astudillo type of build), but he’s been strong with the bat and should be on your radar in dynasty formats if you need a catcher in your pipeline.
José Ramírez (3B, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. It’s a short season, but it’s nice to see a bit of a return to form for Ramírez, who has been one of the top-two fantasy third baseman in 2020. He’s on a ridiculous 45-home-run, 30-stolen-base pace, and while I don’t think he’d keep that up for 160 games, I do think that we could see a 30-30 performance in 2021.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-3, 2 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, BB. I love seeing the bigger guys run out triples. I really hoped the hitting streak in late August was a sign that he had turned things around, but his September has been a pretty big bummer based on his monstrous upside. I don’t think I can put him inside my top-10 third baseman for 2021, but I have a bad feeling that’s where he’ll be drafted.
Mike Moustakas (2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds)—2-3, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB. A spike in strikeouts and a rough .218 batting average are well below what we hoped for from the usually reliable Moose when he went over to Cincinnati. He’s not swinging as much as he did in his last three seasons, not is he making the same kind of hard contact. Missing two weeks on the IL doesn’t help much either, but seeing as he’ll be a second baseman for fantasy purposes in 2021, he’ll likely get plenty of attention. Don’t feel compelled to hold on to him for the rest of the season if you have better options.
Eloy Jiménez (OF, Chicago White Sox)—3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the White Sox when it comes to young talent, and Jiménez might be the best of the bunch when it comes to pure hitting. This is a guy who can hit 35 or more home runs with a .280 or better batting average for many years to come. Feel free to be very excited. The schedule isn’t ideal for the White Sox going forward, but with a guy like Eloy, match ups don’t really matter all that much.
Alex Dickerson (OF, San Francisco Giants)—3-4, HR, 2B, R, RBI. Batting at or near the top of the Giants lineup with three more games against the Rockies pitching staff is a really good situation for Dickerson, who has enough power in his bat to help almost any fantasy manager needing an outfielder. I’m not as interested in his weekend match ups with the Padres, though.
Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. The home run ended a 21-game power outage where he had just four extra base hits (and zero home runs). If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Grichuk has been excellent in Buffalo, slashing .291/.347/.500 and will spend the remainder of the season in his “home” ballpark. He’s a decent option in 12-team and deeper leagues if you need a few more home runs, but don’t count on much else.
Jared Walsh (1B, Los Angeles Angels)—1-4, HR, R, 4 RBI. It has been an amazing run for the 27-year-old first baseman, notching a hit in 16 of his 17 September appearances and in each of his last 13. He’s only struck out in 13.5% of his trips to the plate and has an amazing .806 slugging since his call up at the end of August. I’m not suggesting you ought to bench him after he’s been so impressive, but it’s worth noting that the Angels have just five games left, that all those games are on the road, and that they’re all tough pitching match ups (Zach Davies, Mike Clevinger, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May), so you might want to temper your expectations.
Nick Solak (2B/OF, Texas Rangers)—3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, SB. This isn’t quite the season we envisioned for Solak, as he has just two home runs, but the six stolen bases have been a nice surprise. I’m not sure he’ll find much running room against the Diamondbacks or Astros, but the pitching is exploitable enough that deeper league managers can keep him in for what should be at least a few doubles.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/3B/SS, Texas Rangers)—2-4, HR, R, RBI. The good news is that you can keep him locked in as your fantasy catcher for the rest of the week as his schedule isn’t all that scary, and that he’s been a top-four fantasy catcher in 2020. The bad news is that he hasn’t made a single appearance at catcher in 2020, so he’s not going to carry that eligibility into 2021, which severely hampers his future fantasy value.
Derek Dietrich (1B/2B, Texas Rangers)—1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI. That’s three straight starts with a home run for Dietrich, which is about all of the excitement I can muster. A bottom-of-the-order hitter on a bad team just doesn’t inspire enough confidence to consider using him outside of AL-only formats.
Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)—2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB. The power has been there, but the contact has not been. While his hard hit rate is up and his power numbers are otherwise consistent with years past, he’s making less contact and pulling the ball over 50% of the time—leaving him vulnerable to shifts. Prior to 2019, he sprayed the ball consistently enough to be shift-resistant, but since the start of 2019 he’s become an extreme pull hitter. He’s now being shifted 67.3% of the time (compared to just 24.7% of the time in 2018), and that has turned a lot of his grounders and live drives into outs.
Kyle Schwarber (OF, Chicago Cubs)—2-4, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI. A move to the middle of the Cub’s batting order was supposed to make this a new breakout for Schwarber, but instead he has simply hit too many ground balls. The 10 home runs are cool, I guess, but he’ll have to be able to get the ball in the air more in 2021 to get my attention, even with a 93.4 mph exit velocity.
Josh Naylor (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, 2 2B, R. After finally starting to heat up with a hit in four straight starts, Naylor jammed his leg into the base and left the game. It’s unclear if he’ll miss any time, but feel free to replace him if you need to be aggressive in the final week.
Giovanny Urshela (3B, New York Yankees)—2-4, R, 2 RBI. With excellent plate discipline, a strong glove, and a .289/.362/.500 line through 37 games, it looks like Urshela will be the starting third baseman for the Yankees in 2021. There’s enough in his bat to threaten 25 home runs in a full season along with a .280 batting average and a .350 OBP assuming he can hold on to the improved walk and strikeout rates we have seen this season.
Miguel Rojas (SS, Miami Marlins)—1-2, R, 2 BB, 2 SB. Miguel Rojas as a top-15 shortstop at a time when the position has more depth than ever might be a sign of the Apocalypse. He’s excelled against all pitch types and has a stellar .343/.439/.562 line through 123 plate appearances. Statcast has his expected slugging almost 120 points lower than his .562 actual line, and most of his success has been driven by a 33% line drive rate, which is difficult to sustain for even the best hitters. That said, he should get a chance to steal another base or two in his three remaining match ups with the Braves, who have struggled to slow down opposing runners.
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire.