We see a player on a hot or cold streak and inevitably ask the question, “Is this real or not?”. The fantasy baseball manager who is able to successfully answer this question could find a player that will carry them through to a championship or tank their season. This is why it is important to do your due diligence and look under the hood whenever a player’s performance seems to be either outperforming or underperforming expectations.
This week we have two “Buys”, one “Sell”, and one “Hold”. Let’s dive in!
Let’s kick things off with a guy who has been my kryptonite for a few years. Figures the one year I get zero shares is the one where he goes bonkers.
Jesse Winker has been one of the more impressive hitters in the league this year. He is hitting for an extremely high average, great power, and spraying the ball to all fields. There have been hints of this breakout coming for awhile and it’s reinforced by a career high hard hit rate of 55.5% and impressive plate discipline.
Now for the cold water… While I think Winker’s performance and his .344/.413/.637 slash line is incredible, I think we can agree that it is difficult to see it sustaining at this level. His BABIP is currently sitting at .365 and additionally he is still league average against lefties batting .245 against them. Winker is a great hitter, but does anyone really think he can keep this up?
If you have Winker. do not sell him just because some regression is coming. He is still going to be an amazing player and an on base machine. I just don’t see him finishing the year with over 4o homers, which would be his pace right now. All that to say, if someone in your league want’s to overpay for what he’s done so far, then I would absolutely sell. His value right now might be at its’ peak.
Verdict: SELL – only if you are getting max value
Bryan Reynolds went from having a strong debut in 2019, to totally crapping the bed in 2020, to looking like a draft day steal in 2021. There’s a lot to like in his profile starting with his improved plate discipline. He’s made minor improvements in the amount of balls he chases outside the zone as well as the quality of contact he makes in the zone. Even better, Reynolds is taking more free passes and striking out less this year than he ever has in his major league career.
There is 25-30 homer pop in the bat and also a good bet for playing time regardless of performance because of how talent deprived the Pirates roster is. This means that even if Reynolds slumps for a couple of weeks, he should still receive consistent at bats. I feel like Reynolds could be had at a discount now due to his team context and lack of star power. He is exactly the type of guy I’d love to get, particularly in OBP leagues or leagues where I have been hit hard with injuries as someone to fill out my starting roster.
Verdict: BUY – glue guy for your roster
I was all over Swanson heading into this season. I felt like after the top tier of SS went off the board that he was extremely undervalued. The hope was that he would continue on the growth path he had shown and be a good source for average, power, and even a little speed. If you’ve been following Swanson you already know, 2021 has not been a good year for him.
The more I dig into Swanson, the more I waffle back and forth between where I think he will head for the remainder of the season. On the positive side, he is showing good power with ten home runs and while his average has tanked to .239, his K% isn’t the main cause. Rather, he is popping the ball up in the infield 6% more than last season and overall the amount of hard contact to medium to soft is out of whack. He is hitting the ball hard this year, but the percentage of balls in play that he is hitting hard is down to 29.9% from 39.9% last season. Swanson is also struggling against righties this season batting .233 against them after looking like he had figured them out last season with a .294 average against righties.
Personally, I have a hard time believing that the upward trend we saw from Swanson could just disappear the way it has. He has gotten unlucky this year and showed with a .290 average in May that what we are seeing isn’t his true form. In dynasty formats, now could be a great time to buy Swanson, but as I detailed there is risk. The Braves aren’t looking like a powerhouse offense (outside of Ronald Acuña) and that will certainly tamp down Swanson’s counting numbers. If the price is right I’d be buying but it’s hard to recommend that outside of a dynasty format, so if you own him hold tight and let’s hope for a turnaround.
Verdict: HOLD – in dynasty/keeper format inquire on his price
Last week Nick saw fit to push Tyler Mahle into the top 30 of his latest edition of his top 100, and Mahle promptly rewarded him by giving up four runs in six innings. The box score makes things look a little worse than they actually were. Yes, Mahle gave up four runs on five hits (one of which was a three-run homer to Ryan McMahon), but if you watched the game he was actually cruising through the first five innings. I tend to be a little more forgiving when it comes to a situation like that, particularly when a pitcher has show to this point that five innings might be his sweet spot. It is entirely possible he just got left in a little too long.
Looking at Mahle’s 2021 as a whole, he has performed well and arguably built on what he accomplished in 2020. The strikeout rate has dropped a tad, but it’s still above a batter an inning at 10.27 K/9. He is getting more whiffs with his nasty splitter and Mahle has improved his walk rate while slightly increasing his average fastball velocity. While he’s not pumping the upper 90’s with that velo, his spin rate and placement are keeping batters guessing in the box. Mahle has also been able to induce more grounders this year, which is a trait I love in a pitcher.
Mahle was not a guy I was in on anywhere this season, and that is starting to look like a large oversight by me. With a 1.11 WHIP and an xERA of 3.12, it really looks like there is actually still some room for growth. I don’t love the ballpark and I do wonder how many innings he is going to throw this year (129.2 IP was his high in 2019), but it’s hard to find reasons to not like this guy and want to buy in. If you are able to get him at a price point as less than a top 30 SP, then I think you’d be getting a deal.
Photo by Mick Haupt/Unsplash | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)