The 2021 Fantasy baseball season is about to have arguably its biggest prospect call-up all season long. On Tuesday, the Rays are expected to call up shortstop Wander Franco, arguably the best prospect in baseball. If his call up goes anything like other big-name prospects from earlier this season, there's not really all that much to get excited about, but we're optimists here, so get excited! Franco has crushed the baseball at every level and he has sneaky speed.
To kick off each week of the season, I'll be reaching out to Fantasy Baseball Today's Chris Towers, Scott White and Frank Stampfl to ask them a few big questions that can hopefully help lead to actionable advice. If you are reading this and have specific questions you'd love to see Chris, Scott and Frank answer -- please DM me @DanSchneierNFL. And remember that if you don't like any of the answers, I'm just the messenger, and you know what they say about the messenger.
We're rolling with a theme for this week and here it is: Name one player currently rostered in 70% of leagues or fewer who needs to be rostered at each of these positions: CI, MI, OF, SP, RP.
- Scott: It's becoming increasingly clear that Ty France needs to be picked up again. His numbers haven't totally recovered since that two-week period when he attempted to play through a bruised forearm, but he was batting .314 (27 for 86) on the day he suffered the injury and is batting .323 (32 for 99) since returning from the IL -- this after hitting .327 in spring training, .305 last season and .399 in the minors two years ago. He looks like as natural a hitter as they come, and he's not a zero for power either.
- Chris: An early-season slump that saw him go 14 games before his first homer has kept C.J. Cron's numbers down, but since he got that first one over the fences, Cron is hitting .299/.392/.547 with a 34-homer, 93-RBI pace. It's Coors-inflated, but that's what we were hoping to see from him when he signed with the Rockies, and it's what we're getting. It's kind of absurd he's only 43% rostered. Help fix that.
- Frank: Joey Votto hasn't lit the world on fire since returning from the injured list, but he's shown off some pop and his Statcast numbers are encouraging. In 13 games this month, Votto is batting .256 with three home runs. On the season, he has a .267 expected batting average with a .527 expecting slugging percentage. The .527 xSLG is his highest since 2017, Votto's last truly amazing season. He won't get back to that level, but he offers some power and strong OBP.
- We talk Wander Franco and Shane McClanahan plus Scott and Chris help you decide whether to start or sit these injured players on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
- Scott: Jonathan India is another hyped spring standout who we may have dumped too soon. In retrospect, it's likely he fell victim to the disastrous league-wide hitting trends we saw early in the year. From May 13 on, he's batting .292 (33 for 113) with five homers, four steals, an .885 OPS and, most notably, a .416 on-base percentage. That's what he was most known for in the minors, and it's the reason he's now batting leadoff for the Reds. You can see there's enough power and speed to move the needle, too.
- Chris: Kolten Wong doesn't get the respect he deserves. He's not a Fantasy superstar, but you'll be happy you have him around, whether it's as a starting 2B or as a MI. He's got a .285 average backed up by a 76th percentile ranking in expected average, and that lends to a strong on-base percentage at the top of the Brewers lineup. He'll be a solid five-category contributor moving forward in category-based leagues, with a 15-15 pace this season.
- Frank: I want to be the official spokesperson of Amed Rosario. When you see him do something positive, think of my face! Rosario came over in the Francisco Lindor trade and isn't taking his opportunity for granted. In 40 games since the beginning of May, Rosario is batting .321 with two home runs and seven steals. He's made major adjustments, too, swinging at more pitches inside the strike zone, hitting more line drives, and spraying the ball to all fields more. Rosario could provide plus batting average, plus speed, and isn't a zero in the power department.
- Scott: Alex Kirilloff's actual production has been underwhelming so far, but Statcast suggests he deserves better than he's gotten, his .316 xBA and .600 xSLG dwarfing his actual .254 and .428 marks. The strikeout rate is respectable. The hard contact is frequent and often manifests as line drives, which also bodes well for his batting average. Factoring in that data along with his top prospect pedigree, we may see Kirilloff take a star turn sooner than later.
- Chris: Akil Baddoo was one of the more exciting early-season breakouts, but he fell on hard times after a fast start and many seem to have given up on him. However, he has pop and elite speed and has refined his approach of late, with six walks to six strikeouts in 43 plate appearances in the month of June. If he can keep the strikeout rate in the 20% range, Baddoo can still be a must-start Fantasy OF in Roto leagues.
- Frank: I know Jarred Kelenic failed his first go-around in the majors but his roster rate has now dipped below 70%. Given his upside, I don't think that should be the case. He's only batting .220 at Triple-A this month but he's making other things happen with three homers and two steals. The strikeout rate is also manageable at 20% in June. It's only a matter of time until Kelenic is back with the Mariners.
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- Scott: Shane McClanahan finally delivered the start we were all hoping to see Sunday at the Mariners, allowing one run on three hits with eight strikeouts in six innings. It was his first start of that length and his second straight of more than 80 pitches, continuing a gradual buildup that began with his promotion in late April. The Rays are going to need more from him with Tyler Glasnow sidelined for the foreseeable future, and seeing as his 17.8 percent swinging-strike rate would rank second among qualifiers, the results could be significant.
- Chris: Alex Cobb may not be the kind of name you were hoping to see here, what with the 4.41 ERA and track record of mediocrity. But he's been much better than we've seen him in a long time this season, even if the ERA doesn't reflect it. He's getting a ton of strikeouts (28.8%) with good control and a 60.6% groundball rate, which is reflected in his 2.42 FIP and 3.37 xERA. Cobb is going to be a very useful option moving forward, and he's widely available. Go take advantage.
- Frank: I'm going to join my compadres in support of Shane McCalanahan. If you listen to Fantasy Baseball Today, you know that I've been very bullish on McClanahan despite his subpar surface numbers. He had another great start Sunday, allowing just one run with eight strikeouts over six innings pitched. Even more encouraging, this is the second start in a row where he threw over 80 pitches. With Tyler Glasnow hurt, the Rays will need to push the rest of their starting pitchers, starting with McClanahan.
- Scott: Jordan Romano is the Blue Jays closer. Some bad timing has kept his save total stagnant, but he's been used basically like a closer would be for all June. It helps that all other candidates have disqualified themselves for one reason or another while he's boasting a 1.48 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 11.8 K/9. The only reason Tyler Chatwood got the save Sunday is because Romano was needed for two innings in a come-from-behind effort Saturday. Rest assured, though, his opportunities are coming.
- Chris: Shane McClanahan. Is this going against the spirit of the question, because McClanahan is being used as a starter? Maybe, but we can't ignore that the Rays have let him throw 89 and 86 pitches in his last two outings, including his first of at least six innings Sunday. If he's used something like a typical starter moving forward, McClanahan could be a must-start Fantasy option in any league type, let alone in leagues where he's eligible to use as a relief pitcher. There is huge strikeout upside here.
- Frank: After a rocky start to the season for the Reds' entire bullpen, Lucas Sims has emerged as David Bell's favorite in the ninth inning. Sims now has four of the team's past six saves and seems to have taken over the closer's role. He's got the stuff, too. While he has a 4.23 ERA, that comes with a 3.67 xFIP, 13.9 K/9 and a 15% swinging strike rate. As long as Sims performs, he will remain the team's closer.