Sunday Bloody Sunday

Scott Chu covers over 20 of Sunday's best hitting performances.

Normally, we start these articles off with an extended writeup of a hitter, but with so many hitters having strong Sundays, I think I’d be better off just diving in and covering a few extra players. It was an absolute hit parade almost across the board (except for my Tigers…yuck). Apologies if you were looking for a longer write-up, but I just wanted to get to as many players as I could (and honestly, I could have included 10 more)!

Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday:

Austin Hays (BAL): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB.

That’s two home runs in three games for Hays, who appears locked into the second spot in the lineup. His current line of .250/.300/.500 looks a lot like what I thought his upside might be, so it’s great to see him off to a strong start. The outfield shuffle could get a little messier when Anthony Santander returns from the IL, but my guess is that DJ Stewart is the one who moves into a backup role. In 12-team and deeper leagues that use five outfielders, Hays is definitely worthy of consideration for his power and decent batting average.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (TEX): 2-3, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB.

He now has a hit in 12 of his last 13 games and also stole his fifth bag of the season. He’s actually been perfect on the base paths this season, having been caught zero times in his five attempts. I’m slowly warming up to the idea of him as a long term asset in 12-team and deeper leagues where he can’t be slotted in at catcher (especially those with an MI or CI spot to fill), and he’s easy to plug in while he’s hot in all formats.

Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 0-3, 2 SB.

According to Fangraphs’ Auction Calculator, Ohtani has been fantasy’s fourth-best hitter on the season thanks to his eight home runs, six stolen bases, and strong ratios. I don’t have a lot of analysis on the amazing two-way player today, I just wanted to gush over how amazing he is.

Matt Olson (OAK): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

After a slow first two weeks of the season, Olson has come alive at the plate, hitting .364/.407/.782 over his last 14 games with six home runs and a strong 13.6% strikeout rate and a 6.8% walk rate. There’s enough power here for Olson to threaten 40 home runs on the season, and even if he only gets to 35, he should still be a very solid fantasy first baseman. The walk rate looks a little low right now, but that’s likely just a result of him hitting so well—who needs to walk when you’re smoking home runs and doubles everywhere?

Ramón Laureano (OAK): 2-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

The .233 batting average isn’t great, but the power and speed look as good as ever. Assuming he can stay relatively healthy (which is a fairly significant assumption), Laureano could push towards a 25 home run, 20 stolen base campaign in 2021. It might start to be time to accept that a sub-.250 batting average is just who Laureano is, but I’ll take that all day if it comes with this kind of pop and speed. It’s worth noting, though, that those eight steals all came in his first nine games, and since then he’s 0-2 on the base paths, but even with a slowed pace he should swipe plenty of bags.

Amed Rosario (CLE): 3-4, 1 3B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB.

This was Rosario’s first stolen base since the 2019 season despite being a nearly everyday starter since the start of 2020, and the former Met might finally be hitting his stride with his new team. He’s been bumped to sixth in the order and has a three-game hitting streak brewing after an abysmal start to the season. If he can continue to click at the plate, there’s a 15 home run, 15 stolen base player who qualifies at both shortstop and outfield in fantasy.

Jacob Nottingham (MIL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Not a bad way to make your season debut, eh? Nottingham isn’t stellar behind the dish, but he’s got plenty of raw power, evidenced by the seven home runs and .513 slugging in his first 39 major league games. His time as a regular will be short, as Manny Piña is likely due to return on Friday and Omar Narváez should be back about a week after that, but if you need a second catcher for a couple of days, Nottingham should be able to smack another home run or two before he heads back down.

Cesar Hernandez (CLE): 2-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI.

There’s never going to be much power here, but I have to think that at some point Hernandez turns it on and gets back to his .275 batting average and .350 OBP ways like he’s done for the last six seasons. Despite his struggles, he’s actually moved up in the batting order from second to first, but of course, those in 10- and 12-team leagues can and should move on (and really should have done so quite a while ago).

Jeff McNeil (NYM): 4-6, 1 2B, 2 R.

The player affectionately known as Squirrel finally logged his first multiple-hit game of the season on Sunday night, raising his batting average by almost fifty points in the process. The plate discipline is still pretty strong and he’s hit either first or third in each of the last three games after spending some time in the bottom third of the lineup. Fantasy managers are almost certainly frustrated with the infielder, but it’s probably still just a bit too soon to cut ties with him in 12-team and deeper leagues. Those in very shallow leagues, though, probably don’t need to be quite so patient.

Daulton Varsho (ARI): 2-4, 1 2B, 2 R, 1 RBI.

Varsho already has four hits, three doubles, and four runs scored in his first nine plate appearances on the season, which looks like it’s just enough really muddy the waters even more when it comes to playing time in the desert. Varsho, Pavin Smith, Josh Rojas, and Josh VanMeter are all battling for left-handed at-bats in Arizona while Ketel Marte and Tim Locastro remain sidelined. The extended absence of Kole Calhoun makes things a tad bit more open, but at least two or three of these southpaws are going to be disappointed in the next few weeks, and with all of them being fairly young with multiple options remaining, it’s hard to truly project the ones who will be sent down to triple-A.

Kevin Pillar (NYM): 3-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.

Pillar continues to get sporadic starts for the Mets, and while this performance was by far his best of the season, it’s hard to imagine him carving out a whole lot more time in the crowded Mets outfield, especially while Dominic Smith continues to hit the ball hard and Brandon Nimmo continues to get on base.

Raimel Tapia (COL): 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB.

The once-heralded prospect for the Rockies now has back-to-back games with at least three hits, and while it’s hard to get too excited about Tapia with the way the Rockies have managed their young players, fantasy managers in need of a streamer should note that the Rockies are headed home for a six-game homestand, so Tapia is a solid add for those in need of a fourth or fifth outfielder for this next week.

Marcus Semien (TOR): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 4 RBI.

Since being knocked out of the leadoff spot on April 21, Semien has actually begun to turn his fortunes around, notching a hit in eight of his last nine starts with two home runs, three steals, and a .344/.417/.563 batting line. While leading off has its advantages from a fantasy perspective, simply hitting is much more important, and if batting behind the big boppers in this lineup is what it takes for Semien to succeed, then so be it.

Isan Díaz (MIA): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.

Before the Jazz Chisholm trade, Díaz was the prized middle infielder in the Marlins’ system. While he’s nothing like Jazz, he does have a decent hit tool and power combination that is somewhat intriguing in very deep formats. It’s been ugly in the Majors so far, as he has a .561 OPS in 60 games, but dynasty managers in deeper leagues might still want to pay attention to him, especially if he can show a little more power.

Hunter Dozier (KC): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI.

Since the start of 2020, Dozier is hitting a putrid .202/.303/.369. While the power has been passable (he has nine home runs in his last 66 games), everything else has been so weak that I can’t really recommend him outside of 15-team leagues that use five outfielders.

Josh Donaldson (MIN): 2-5, 2 2B, 2 R, 1 RBI.

The plate discipline has been fantastic and while the counting stats have been a little light due to him missing half the season, he’s walking more than he strikes out and is hitting .286, so I suppose we can’t complain too much. Health is the key for Donaldson, and if you can squeeze 120 games from him, he should reward you with 25 home runs.

Eugenio Suárez (CIN): 3-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI.

Honestly, I’m not worried about the power. He’s hitting the ball pretty hard. The problem is the strikeouts, and it’s a problem that has been brewing for a while now.

As you can see, Eugenio continues to climb in his rolling strikeout rate, reaching new heights now in 2021. While I mentioned this in my preseason write up of him, I not-so-secretly hoped he’d turn it around, but he hasn’t. I’m not sure there’s enough to cut him in any format quite yet, but it’s certainly troubling.

Andrelton Simmons (MIN): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Simmons is very good at two things—making contact and playing shortstop. In fact, of all the infielders on this roster, he is probably one with the most straightforward role, as he’ll be the starting shortstop every day that he can put on his glove and make it to the ballpark. Even if he can’t keep hitting .288 like he has so far, he’s going to be out there every single day due to his defensive wizardry, which makes him a fairly useful piece in AL-only formats.

Matt Beaty (LAD): 4-6, 1 HR, 3 R, 7 RBI.

If this were any other team, I’d say he earned himself a week’s worth of starts. It’s the Dodgers, though, so he’ll still have to battle for playing time with AJ Pollock (who also had a monster game) and Edwin Ríos. Beaty is fairly similar to Ríos in that he’s a lefty who can play the corners, though he trades a lot of Ríos’s power for a solid hit tool, which caps his fantasy upside but improves his chances at playing time in the real world. He probably shouldn’t be considered outside of NL-only leagues.

AJ Pollock (LAD): 3-6, 1 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 8 RBI.

In just one afternoon, Pollock doubled his home run and RBI totals and added over 100 points to his OPS in the Dodgers 16-4 rout of the Brewers. With Cody Bellinger and Zach McKinstry still on the IL, Pollock’s playing time should be relatively safe and he’s worth a flyer in most five outfield formats.

Chris Taylor (LAD): 3-3, 5 R, 1 BB.

Taylor continues to be a better fantasy contributor than you’d think, as he now has four home runs, three steals, and a whopping 24 runs scored in 25 games. His playing time might take a step back when Bellinger and McKinstry return from the IL, but until then, he’s a solid play as a middle infielder or back-end outfielder in most formats.

Luis Arraez (MIN): 3-4, 1 3B, 3 R, 1 RBI.

There’s definitely more power in his bat than we’ve seen so far, evidenced by the 106-point gap between his actual and his expected slugging. While that power isn’t really going to look like a bunch of home runs, it should mean that more of these singles turn to doubles and triples, making him a very smooth piece in points league formats. Playing time could get messy when Sanó returns, but I have faith that the versatile Arraez will play at least five times a week.

Yordan Alvarez (HOU): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI.

The health is still a concern, but while he’s on the field, he’s going to produce. He has a .313/.360/.550 line so far on the young season, suggesting that he’s mostly picked up right where he left off in 2019. The walk rate is considerably lower right now, but I imagine it will pick up as the season progresses. Also, it hasn’t led to more strikeouts, so I’m not terribly concerned.

Myles Straw (HOU): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI.

Straw was a trendy preseason sleeper when it looked like he might win the leadoff job for the Astros, but sadly, it was not to be. He’s mostly hit in the eighth and ninth spots this season with a few leadoff games sprinkled in, but he’s still managed to steal five bases. The ratios have been ugly, though, and while he is hitting a more palatable .265 in his last ten games, there’s just no power to be found here. He remains worth holding in NFBC-style formats due to the speed alone, but in 12-team leagues, it’s time to move on.

Nick Castellanos (CIN): 5-6, 2 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI.

Folks, this might finally be it. It might finally be the year he cracks 30 home runs. He has a whopping 25 in his last 85 games, and he’s brought the strikeouts back under control after a bit of a spike in 2020. He’s been a top-five hitter in fantasy so far this season, and while I don’t expect him to be quite this good the entire way, if I were to re-rank the outfield for the rest of the season, I’d be moving Castellanos up from 19th to somewhere between 10th and 13th.

Kris Bryant (CHC): 3-5, 1 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

He’s already more than doubled his home run total from 2020, and his 1.114 OPS is tied for fifth in baseball with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. At this time, all suggestions of Bryant being washed up look not very smart. I ranked him 15th at third base in the preseason, and at this point, he’d probably be moved up about three to five spots at least.

Ian Happ (CHC): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.

It was finally Happ’s first multi-hit game of the season after recording his first stolen base the game before, and it’s even better news that his head was feeling better after the game after a nasty collision. He’s been one of the toughest holds so far due to the utter lack of production, and this little outburst is probably just enough to keep us suffering for another week or so in five outfield formats.

 

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Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

  • Avatar Mike Honcho says:

    Happ, Hicks, Avisail, Hays, and Eaton. How would your rank these in a 12-teamer in a 5 OF format?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      OBP is a big difference maker for this group to be sure, but maybe Hays, Happ, Hicks, Garcia, Eaton? Happ and Hicks and Garcia are a bit interchangeable depending on your risk tolerance. I worry about Avi’s playing time with Cain and Yelich returning, otherwise he might be ahead of Hicks/Happ.

      In OBP, it’s more like Hicks, Happ, Hays, Garcia, Eaton? A pretty tight bunch right now, to be sure.

  • Avatar larry womack says:

    Hi Scott-Glad to see it’s you doing the batty call.

    Tauchman for 3 games in Coors against all righties.

    Will need to drop Berti but can probably pick him back up since he not hitting yet or someone else to fill my bench role.

    Good move or hold?

    Thank you

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Thanks Larry – Always enjoy writing this piece, even after writing over 100 of them the last two seasons!

      I’m fine with that move as long as you don’t want the steals. It’s a stream for sure, but a fairly crafty one.

  • Avatar Steve says:

    re: Kris Bryant – 3 to 5 spots….in the 3B rankings? It sure looks like Bryant is back in MVP form. He was fantastic in 2019, which everyone seems to be ignoring. 2020 is over. Kris Bryant is a stud again and 3B isn’t as deep as it once was.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I mean, it’s pretty deep. I had J-Ram, Arenado, Machado, Bregman, Rendon, LeMahieu, Devers, Moncada (who is hitting .366/.469/.561 in his last 10 games) ahead of him before the season started, and I’m not sure how ready I am to give up on on Chapman, Suarez, Biggio, or Muncy yet. He’d be ahead of some of those guys, and if you really wanted to haggle and say he’s #8 or 9, I guess that’s fine. I probably wouldn’t go much higher. It’s also worth noting that Bryant finished 2019 as the #10 3B per the FG Auction Calculator. Fantastic he was, but the position is deep.

      One or two bad weeks and this is a very different conversation, you know? Sunday was game #26 for Bryant. He’s likely to play 150+.

      • Avatar Scott Chu says:

        I like him a lot and am pleased with what we’re seeing, so I’ve got no issue with ranking him 8th at 3B ROS or whatever.

      • Avatar Steve says:

        If someone offers their Bryant for your Chapman, Biggio, Muncy I’d have to think you snap accept. Of the first group, I concede JoRam, Machado, Devers, Bregman, Rendon. I think Arenado is close. I’ll take KB over LeMahieu who’s an AVG dependent player, not hitting for AVG. I guess my point is more than people don’t realize he’s not that far removed from being really good and is suffering from some recency bias. Every full season he’s played he’s put up really good to great numbers. I have a sneaking suspicion (assuming health), Bryant finishes near the top of the position.

  • Avatar Ron Hodges says:

    Wilson Ramos down to .218 after his hot start…
    Would you dump him to add Higashioka?

  • Avatar Murph says:

    How would you rank these gents, ROS?
    Adolis Garcia, Willie Calhoun, AJ Pollock, Y. Gurriel
    thanks!

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hm, that’s a tough one. I’ll go with: Pollock, Gurriel, Garcia, Calhoun.

      I’d be OK with flipping Garcia and Gurriel if you’re super risk tolerant and don’t mind the batting average getting tanked.

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