The first month of the Fantasy Baseball season is now in the books and it has been filled with twists and turns. Tonight, we're going to break down several of the hottest hitters in the MLB so far to try and figure out if they're set to keep that momentum rolling or if you should be looking to trade them at their peaks.
To kick off each week of the season, I'll be reaching out to Fantasy Baseball Today's Scott White and Frank Stampfl to ask them a few big questions that can hopefully help lead to actionable advice. In this Q&A, we're looking back at the first month and playing buy or sell on a slew of the best hitters in Fantasy.
1. Buy or sell: Ronald Acuna is the clear-cut No. 1 asset in Fantasy Baseball?
- Scott: Sell. Strictly among hitters, it's a buy. Fernando Tatis has us holding our breath on every follow-through. Juan Soto is banged up. Mike Trout has stopped running completely. Acuna is the only one of the early first-round bats delivering on everything and then some. I just think you could make a case for Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber ahead of him, particularly in a points league.
- Chris: Sell. He might be No. 1, but it's certainly not clear cut. Fernando Tatis is still making a solid case, but the real threat is Jacob deGrom, who seems to have once again reached a new level. If I had deGrom and someone offered me Acuña, I wouldn't hit accept; I also can't say I would accept the other way around.
- Frank: Sell. I believe Jacob deGrom is the best asset in Fantasy Baseball, regardless of format. DeGrom is just such a clear step ahead of every other pitcher in Fantasy. I would blame the Mets for not scoring for deGrom, but they aren't scoring for any of their starting pitchers. If we're just talking hitters, though, Acuña is the best in the game right now.
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2. Shohei Ohtani will finish as a top-20 hitter overall?
- Scott: Sell, just by virtue of it being such a high bar. The fact Ohtani has started all but one game as a hitter, including two of the ones he's pitched, makes it at least feasible, and stealing bases in addition to the power gives him a nice leg up. But over the course of six months, the two-way play could wear on him. Maybe he ends up needing more off days than it appears right now, or at the very least, he's more exposed to injury. It just doesn't seem like an outcome to bet on.
- Chris: I don't think I would rank it that way, because he's still a very volatile player — injury risk from him pitching remains high, and his struggles in 2020 still loom large. But he's in that discussion now.
- Frank: I'll sell this just because of his injury history. Normally I wouldn't want to hold that against somebody, but the fact that he also pitches gives him another avenue for something to go wrong. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Ohtani is that good on a per-game basis, especially in a categories leagues because of his steals.
3. Ryan McMahon will finish as the 2021 breakout late-round hitter?
- Scott: I don't know if calling him "the" breakout hitter is fair given the many other candidates, some of whom haven't even announced themselves yet, but if the gist is that he has broken out, I think I'm a buy. It's not just the surface-level production that's different. He has seemingly corrected his two biggest flaws, putting the bat on the ball and the ball in the air often enough to make the most of Coors Field. His strikeout rate and average launch angle are both far and away his best.
- Chris: I'm pretty much bought in, though depending on when you drafted, Ohtani himself might qualify. But Mitch Haniger and Jesse Winker went a round before McMahon on average, while Kolten Wong and Ty France went a little after that. That's been a pretty valuable range so far.
- Frank: I'll buy, even though I think Jesse Winker is in this conversation as well. McMahon has made tangible changes as he's striking out less and hitting the ball in the air more than ever before. That is particularly helpful when you call Coors Field home. As long as he keeps those things up, we could be looking at 30+ home runs with a strong batting average from McMahon.
4. Kris Bryant is back and should be a roster hold in all leagues?
- Scott: Buy. Like so many other analysts, I was fading Bryant in drafts, concerned that his declining quality-of-contact numbers combined with the recent spate of nagging injuries had put him in premature decline. But he's already done enough to allay those fears, and frankly, they seem a little silly now given that he hit .282 with 31 homers and a .903 OPS just two years ago.
- Chris: Strong buy. I was highest on him of our group coming into the season, and this start is no surprise to me. Bryant had a bad 34 games last season, and he'll probably have a 34-game stretch this season that will be comparable to that. But he had a .900 OPS the year before, and I didn't think there was any reason to think the most recent 34 games matter more. One key for me: Many cited his poor Statcast metrics as reason to believe his regression was for real, but Bryant had been a must-start guy with mediocre Statcast data before. Now he's got plus Statcast metrics. Why wouldn't I believe?
- Frank: Buy, unless somebody throws the house at you. We know what Kris Bryant's upside is when healthy, a four-category MVP candidate. He certainly looks like that right now and, admittedly, this has been one of my worst calls of the season. I was worried about his injuries, but you know what they say -- scared money don't make money.
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5. Jared Walsh will finish as a top-10 1B?
- Scott: You know what? I'll buy. I know my rest-of-season rankings don't have him in the top 10, but I'm going heart over head here. By now, it's clear to me that he's a much better contact hitter than he showed in the minors, and the power was never really a concern. Freddie Freeman, Vladimir Guerrero, Cody Bellinger, DJ LeMahieu and Jose Abreu I think are givens to finish ahead of him, and just on pure power production, Pete Alonso and Matt Olson probably do, too. It's Walsh competing with about six others for those final three top-10 spots. Certainly doable.
- Chris: Sell, but he may not be far off. I'm considering moving him into my top-30 outfielders, too. Even counting his very poor 2019 audition, Walsh is sporting an .893 OPS in the majors, and I think you can reasonably expect him to keep something around .850 up moving forward. He's been a terrific value so far.
- Frank: Sell, though I think it might wind up being close. Walsh had a hot September last season backed by making more contact and hitting home runs. Well, he's picked up right where he left off. I just have to assume he's going to slow down a bit at some point while Jose Abreu, Paul Goldschmidt, and Anthony Rizzo get back on track.