Welcome back! We are now about a quarter of the way through the 2021 MLB season. Four teams have officially reached that point entering play on Sunday with several others set to cross that threshold this afternoon and evening. With 20 weeks to go, we have reached that quarter-point in our fantasy seasons as well. It was the case all along, but as the season is progressing waiver wire availability is even more league dependent – not just in terms of league size and format, but based on team needs, injuries, depth at positions and categories, and individual opinions and preferences. So as Adam Howe (@EightyGrade) continuously points out on our weekly On the Wire podcast (@OnTheWirePod), take a good look at who has been dropped in your leagues and don’t assume a player is rostered.
Jarred Kelenic is an extreme example. Yes, he is universally rostered in TGFBI. Yes, he is rostered in 81% of Yahoo leagues and closer to 100% of those leagues that are being played out. Yes, he is most likely rostered in your league, but it only takes a couple of seconds to verify that’s the case. He did not disappoint Mariner fans or fantasy players on Friday evening, going 3 for 4 with a home run and a couple of doubles while in the leadoff spot in just his second MLB game. He’ll take some lumps from MLB pitching as we saw the following night with his three strikeouts in an 0 for 5 performance, but he is just one of the many exciting young players we’ve already seen this season and will be watching for years to come.
Let’s get to a few guys that may help us out this coming week and beyond!
We don’t typically think of a catching carousel when playing fantasy baseball, but with a rash of injuries over the past few weeks we have seen just that. As several of the banged-up backstops have returned or are close to returning, and others are receiving more playing time than they had been, potential upgrades at the position are available in many leagues.
Mike Zunino (83% TGFBI, 16% Yahoo) – We all know what we’re getting into with Zunino as far as batting average is concerned, but we also know the power potential he brings to the plate as the Rays continue to give him a majority of the starts in Tampa. He’s had at least one HR in all but one scoring period this season, his eight total are second at the position, and his .207 current BA isn’t the detriment to our teams some may think as he’s only 21st in PA amongst catchers. Tampa gets three games in the homer-friendly Camden Yards to start the week before heading to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays and their rotation full of lefties over the weekend.
William Contreras (81% TGFBI, 12% Yahoo) – With Travis d’Arnaud out for a majority of the season, Contreras has answered the call in Atlanta. He’s hitting .265 entering today with 3 HR, 8 RBI, and 7 R in his first 39 PA of his 2021 season. The Braves have a seven-game week ahead, all at home.
Brandon Belt (100% TGFBI, 44% Yahoo) – Belt is universally rostered in TGFBI, but he’s available in over half of Yahoo leagues for a shallower league reference. He’s homered at least once in six consecutive weeks with eight total for the season, a .233 BA, 21 RBI, 17 R, and 2 SB. He’s missed a couple of games with “side tightness” but it doesn’t sound like it is expected to be a major issue. He was a late scratch Sunday, so it is something to monitor, but the Giants have a seven-game week with the first four at Great American Smallpark if he’s ready to go on Monday.
Ji-Man Choi (0% TGFBI, 1% Yahoo) – At a point in the season when some player pools are looking pretty slim, first base may be the slimmest. Choi is in the Rays’ lineup for the first time this season Sunday and potentially could be most days going forward. It’s difficult to know what the Rays will do on a day-to-day basis, but with Yoshi Tsutsugo gone and Mike Brosseau in the midst of a 5 for 52 stretch, Choi and his 39 career HR in 849 AB and 12.8% career BB% looks to be their best option.
Nicky Lopez (12% TGFBI, 2% Yahoo) – The Royals only have a five-game week for the upcoming scoring period, but Lopez has been swinging a hot bat and his defense keeps him in the lineup on a daily basis. In spite of his 7 for 19 week only raising his BA to .234 on the season, his low K% and nice 12.5% BB% have gotten him on base a third of the time leading to 4 SB and 19 R thus far. He won’t contribute much (if any) power, but with a couple of games vs the Brewers and three vs the Tigers, both mid-pack in SB allowed, he does have the potential to contribute a SB or two and a handful of runs for the team with the second-most SB/G in the league.
Enrique Hernández (83% TGFBI, 22% Yahoo) – Hernández began what is planned to be a short rehab assignment on Saturday and is set to return to the potent Red Sox lineup as early as Tuesday. He was dropped in a few places due to the injury but looks to resume his spot atop that Boston lineup most days accumulating a nice amount of runs and pacing for double-digit HR the rest of the way.
Jonathan Villar (90% TGFBI, 30% Yahoo) – Villar has made his way into the Mets’ lineup most days for the past two weeks hitting two HR with 6 RBI, 5 R, and three of the SB he’s known for. His Statcast page is downright ugly, especially the HH% the past two seasons, but he’s always a threat to contribute to our counting stat categories with a league average BA when he plays. He’s more valuable in OBP leagues having drawn nine free passes those past couple of weeks.
Brian Anderson (95% TGFBI, 18% Yahoo) – Since returning to the Marlins’ lineup on May 4, Anderson has a hit in eight of 11 games. The problem is only one of those hits is a home run and he hasn’t had more than one hit in any game since that return. It appears an increase in his chase rate has led to his K% being eight percentage points above and his BB% being over three percentage points below his career averages. If he makes that adjustment we should see a BA closer to his career .261, double-digit HR, and a handful of SB the rest of the way.
Brandon Crawford (73% TGFBI, 27% Yahoo) – “We have to be careful here. Crawford had a huge week, but we don’t get credit for his 5 for 10 with 3 HR, 7 RBI, 5 R, 1 SB, and 6 BB after-the-fact. However, he’s another boring old veteran that will play most days, and remember, after six games this week, the Giants kick off their seven games next week with four of them in Cincinnati.” I just copied and pasted that from last week’s article. For this week it should read 5 for 16 with 2 HR, 3 RBI, and 4 R. How about .245, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 19 R, and 3 SB for the season? Remember, the Giants begin the week with four games in Cincinnati. Crawford should be rostered in all formats.
Niko Goodrum (81% TGFBI, 40% Yahoo) – Granted, two of his six SB of the season have come this week, but with four over the previous three weeks it’s a bit surprising that Goodrum is available in 19% of TGFBI leagues. With a .239 BA, 4 HR, and 18 R on the season, he’s not an empty speed play, although his 10 RBI leave quite a bit to be desired. All four HR and nine of the 10 RBI have come since April 15, so he has been more productive recently. Detroit plays three of their six games this week vs the Mariners who have allowed the third most SB per game this season.
Zach McKinstry (54% TGFBI, 17% Yahoo) – The Dodgers continue to patch their lineup together as the injuries mount so far this season. McKinstry, who was hitting .296 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in just 54 AB prior to suffering an oblique injury of his own leading to his availability, is set to begin a rehab assignment and may be back with LA sometime this week. Obliques can be tricky, but if healthy, his versatility should have him back in the lineup on a regular basis.
Hunter Renfroe (90% TGFBI, 9% Yahoo) – As suggested by a comment to last week’s article’s Twitter post, Renfroe is an option in any league size and format. No longer a platoon bat in Boston, he’s hit .292 the past couple of weeks with three of his five HR of the season, and 8 R and RBI in 48 AB. He’s cemented himself in the middle of the Boston lineup, and while his .233 BA on the season may be more likely the rest of the way, his final 2019 counting stats of 33 HR, 64 RBI, 64 R, and 5 SB are a real possibility.
This morning’s special guest on On the Wire, Rob DiPietro (@deadpullhitter), made a great point of why he is comfortable taking risks when streaming pitchers in favorable match-ups – he has a nice foundation and isn’t too worried about the ratio damage that may occur from time to time when the match-up may not turn out to be as favorable as we thought. I couldn’t agree more. He followed that up with the strategy of using his bench spots to hold on to some of the streaming types as they may become more expensive as the season progresses. My Wade Miley love may have been discussed at that point.
Jon Lester (0% TGFBI, 7% Yahoo) – Am I pushing my luck with Lester this week? Maybe. But I love him potentially (he’s not listed as Monday’s starter for Washington on all sites) returning to Wrigley on Monday on a cool day with the wind forecasted to be blowing in. He’s posted three starts since joining the Nationals’ rotation on April 30 totaling 16 IP with 10 K and 4 ER allowed, most recently a 6 IP outing vs Philadelphia with 4 K allowing just 1 ER. He would then line up to get a second start back home in Washington vs the Orioles next weekend.
Zach Davies (59% TGFBI, 24% Yahoo) – Davies had a lot of hype during draft season as a week contact, low strikeout pitcher who would provide valuable innings and accumulate nice ratios and wins over the course of the season. After giving up 18 ER in 13 1/3 IP over a four-start stretch in April, he’s rebounded with 16 1/3 IP in his three May starts allowing only 2 ER while striking out eight. He lines up Tuesday at Wrigley vs the Nationals and travels to St Louis for his second start of the week on Sunday.
Looking ahead, as the schedules look at the moment, Rich Hill (76% TGFBI, 14% Yahoo) will get the Bleu Jays and Phillies the week of May 24 after visiting Baltimore this week. He gave up 4 ER in each of his first four starts, but has 27 K and gave up just 2 ER total in his last four, three of which he’s gone at least six innings. David Peterson (93% TGFBI, 10% Yahoo) had his most promising start of the season at Tampa this week, going 7 1/3 with 9K and 2 ER. He visits Atlanta this week, then will have the Braves again and the ever-enticing road version of the Rockies in a possible two-step the next.
As usual, I’m bidding conservatively as far as FAAB dollars go this week. And I’m standing pat for now as far as speculative saves go. I don’t see any point in spending any of my FAAB budget on different “closers in waiting” than the ones I already have rostered when we really are just guessing when it comes to what teams and managers will do with their bullpens. I do like Michael Fulmer (34% TGFBI, 8% Yahoo) in his relief role in Detroit, but I’m not going overboard with my bids as save opportunities are not guaranteed, maybe not even likely.
Good luck tonight and enjoy the games!
Photo from Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)