One down, five to go! Months that is. We have been treated to some extraordinary baseball over the first month of the 2021 MLB season! From Dodgers/Padres to Shohei Ohtani to Akil Baddoo and Yermín Mercedes to Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Trout to the first-place Red Sox, Giants, and Royals – April delivered must-watch baseball to die-hard and casual baseball fans alike. Here’s to the remainder of the season being as exciting as the opening month!
For our fantasy teams, the excitement has brought its ups and downs; and while we were at the halfway point after a month last season, we’re only a sixth of the way into the 2021 schedule (barely an eighth for the Mets). It’s time to settle in for the grind. If our teams are performing well, awesome! If our teams have disappointed, we have time! In either event and everywhere in between, a full 162-game MLB season looks to be a reality, a reality that we haven’t experienced for a couple of years now.
I’m changing up the format of our weekly insights a bit this week. Over the first few weeks, we were looking at injuries, call-ups, and other reasons players may have been getting opportunities that could have made them viable additions to our fantasy rosters. While the reasons for those opportunities may be relevant to how long or how secure playing time may be, and they will still be brought up in those cases, they really don’t matter to our fantasy rosters. If we believe a player’s future performance will benefit our fantasy rosters, we should be interested.
So, for the next few weeks, I’m going to take a look at some intriguing players by position. As we make our way into the middle third of the season and approach the halfway point, I’ll shift again to examining players based on category. Yes, category production matters as much now as it does in July and September. Yes, if we’re lagging by a substantial amount in a particular category we may be inclined to address that “need” for our roster. But in general, at this point in the season, I’m looking at the overall production of my teams by position.
Kyle Higashioka (NYY) – Yankee manager Aaron Boone stated this week that Higashioka will see more playing time going forward as Gary Sánchez’s struggles at the plate have continued. He’s in this afternoon’s lineup for his fourth start in seven Yankee games this week. After not drawing a walk in 105 PA over the past two seasons, Higashioka has six in his first 37 PA to go along with his .258 BA, 4 HR, 6 RBI, and 6 R. His RBI and R totals should get a boost as the Yankee lineup is sure to come around, and he is only rostered in 29% of TGFBI leagues (13% Yahoo).
Alejandro Kirk (TOR) – Kirk is universally rostered in TGFBI, but is available in 90% of Yahoo leagues. He only has 46 PAs on the season (Danny Jansen has 50), but if his playing time gets the bump his bat is deserving of, he will soon be a viable option in 12-team and even single-catcher leagues. Jansen is off to a horrendous 2-for-45 start at the plate while Kirk has 3 HR, 8 RBI, and 7 R in five less AB. His .225 BA is sure to be on the rise as well as his .194 BABIP normalizes. I don’t typically advocate for rostering an extra catcher, but in shallower leagues, it may be advantageous to add Kirk prior to his playing time increasing if you have an extra roster spot.
Albert Pujols (LAA) – Pujols (10%TGFBI, 5% Yahoo) has started 16 of 25 Angel games at 1B and eight of the last nine. As long as he can remain healthy, that is sure to continue with the move of Jared Walsh to RF. He is a bit of a drain on our BA these days, but with 5 HR, 12 RBI, and 9 R in the first month he can be a nice boost in the power department for those in need.
Asdrúbal Cabrera (ARI) – The Diamondbacks have been a surprise offensively, leading all of MLB with 142 runs scored, and Cabrera’s (56% TGFBI, 13% Yahoo) 12 RBI and 14 R are a huge boost to fantasy rosters. He’ll put up double-digit home runs with a .250ish or higher BA as well. We often get caught up in HR and SB numbers as fantasy players, and that’s understandable, but the R and RBI categories often get overlooked; Cabrera can be a very nice contributor in those categories while providing a decent amount of HR and better than average BA.
Josh Rojas (ARI) – Another member of the surprising Diamondback offense, who qualifies at 2B, SS, and OF and was a hot add earlier in the season, has quietly come around after being dropped in several leagues (46 % TGFBI, 9% Yahoo). A .234 BA with 4 HR, 9 RBI, 12 R, and 1 SB doesn’t look too shabby on the season, but it’s taken a home run in each of the past three games while going 6 for 12 to get him to those numbers. I’m willing to snatch him up where available hoping that this nice short stretch puts his slow start to the season behind him. His chase rate and BB% are encouraging signs as well.
Mauricio Dubón (SFG) – Dubón is not a .192 hitter. It’s only been 56 PA and he’s 6 for his last 18 as he has started nine of the Giants’ past 10 games. He has OF eligibility, double-digit HR power, and the ability to steal more than a handful of bases. He’s available in half of TGFBI leagues (4% rostered Yahoo) and hitting in the middle third of the Giants’ order. With steady playing time, Dubón is a potential five-category contributor rarely available at this point in the season. I’m attempting to add him everywhere he’s available before the PA and BA increases that are sure to come draw more attention.
Elvis Andrus (OAK) – It has been a long 209 PA over 2020 and 2021 for Andrus. Having hit .275 with 12 HR and 31 SB just two seasons ago, his .176 BA and just 6 SB in those 209 PA leave a lot to be desired. He’s just not hitting, but was picked up last week in many leagues he had been dropped in after stealing three bases in a couple of days. He’s still 73% rostered in TGFBI (7% Yahoo), but if you are falling way behind in SB and he’s available in your league, most projections systems have him approaching double-digit HR and mid-teens SB with a .240 or so BA the rest of the season.
Amed Rosario (CLE) – Rosario (93% TGFBI, 6% Yahoo) is back in the six-spot and starting in CF for Cleveland today. He had started six of seven games before sitting Saturday, and it really appears Cleveland is going to see if he can play through his slow start. He did have a double and a home run two starts ago, so it may be working. Keep an eye on today’s game and consider him this evening if he has another good day. We are only the COVID-shortened season removed from a .287 BA, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 75 R, and 19 SB, and he’s still just 25 years old.
Brad Miller (PHI) – The Phillies have another seven-game week ahead and 18 of Miller’s (0% TGFBI, 3% Yahoo) 40 PA on the season came this past week when they also had seven games. He’s hitting .316 with a couple of HR on the season and while the BA will most assuredly come down, Miller is a 20+ HR bat when he is in the lineup on a regular basis.
Josh Harrison (WAS) – While most available players, especially in 15-team leagues and deeper, are a drain on batting average, Harrison (61% TGFBI, 6% Yahoo) has been cruising since entering the lineup on April 12, hitting .356 with 2 HR, 9 RBI, and 8 R in 67 PA. He’s a career .274 hitter and posted a .278 BA last season, so while the BA will come down it’s not destined to plummet. He also qualifies at 2B and is set to be in the lineup every day for the Nationals.
Tyler O’Neill (STL) – The question of how long can the Cardinals keep rolling Matt Carpenter out there was answered when O’Neill (81% TGFBI, 22% Yahoo) returned from the IL last weekend, and he is running with the opportunity we’ve been waiting three seasons for him to get. Since his return on April 24, he’s hit 4 HR with 7 RBI, 8 R, and 2 SB while four multi-hit games have brought his BA up to .254. The K% will always be an issue, but his power and speed have led to a high BABIP throughout his professional career.
Joc Pederson (CHC) – Pederson (83% TGFBI, 22% Yahoo) has been on the IL since April 20 with tendinitis in his wrist, but was reported to be taking live batting practice today. In leagues where he’s available, I’ll place small bids this evening hoping the wrist issue was the cause of his 7 for 51 start. Remember, he had 36 HR in just 514 PA in 2019 and the Cubs’ plan coming into the season was for him to receive everyday AB.
Shane McClanahan (TB) – McClanahan (0% TGFBI, 15% Yahoo) will probably be one of the most added and most expensive players added this evening after his debut performance this week. It’s not just the 4 IP and 5 K, but how nasty his slider looked that he threw over 40% of his 59 pitches to go along with his 98 mph fastball. Tampa usage is always a concern, and this will probably be one of those situations where I will bid for him in every league available but not expect him to end up on many of my rosters, but if you’re hurting for starting pitching he may be worth the higher bids that will be necessary. I foresee triple-digit bids in most $1,000 FAAB leagues.
J.A. Happ (MIN) – Yes, three of Happ’s (98% TGFBI, 21% Yahoo) starts have been against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit, but he gets the Tigers again this week in Detroit and the Rangers in Minnesota – the two most strikeout-prone lineups in MLB. Match-ups don’t get much better.
Carlos Martínez (STL) – Martínez (54% TGFBI, 13% Yahoo) is cruising against the Pirates this afternoon after 13 1/3 combined IP with 2 ER vs the Nationals and Phillies in his past two starts. The strikeouts haven’t been there thus far for him, but the three consecutive nice outings after 13 ER in 15 IP in his first three starts are encouraging. He should line up vs the always-enticing Rockies not-in-Coors lineup next weekend.
As usual, I’m staying conservative with my bids this week in terms of dollar amounts while aggressively dropping players I don’t see contributing to my starting lineups anytime soon – the exceptions being superstars who are injured, but not out for the season. Including tonight, we have 22 FAAB periods to go. I didn’t include FAAB dollar amounts or percentages this week intentionally. In general, I’m not looking to spend more than 4% to 5% of my season’s budget. The exception this week may be McClanahan in leagues where I’m really hurting for starting pitching, and that’s only if I haven’t overspent in a previous week. The weeks to make bigger bids are yet to come.
As always, good luck tonight, and most importantly enjoy the games!
Photo from Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)