The 2021 Fantasy baseball season has been unlike any other in a long time. From the complete lack of consistent hitting, to the increased strikeout rates and now all of the focus shifting to pitchers getting an advantage by using foreign sticky substances to increase their spin rate. Those spin rates have dropped now that the MLB is cracking down on the usage of said substances, and we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of these changes.
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. This week, Chris is on a well earned vacation so it's just Scott and Frank. 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.
Let's dive into the questions now:
- Which prospect already called up will have the biggest impact rest of season?
- Scott: Does it still count if he's already been sent back to the minors? That's right: I'm sticking with Jarred Kelenic as my answer to this one. Yes, Alek Manoah has looked pretty good, and Logan Gilbert seems to be coming around. Pitchers to me are disqualified, though, because efforts will need to be made to curtail their innings down the stretch, particularly after last season was wiped out at the minor-league level. Kelenic actually looked great in his first couple weeks on the job, making high-quality contact and plenty of it, but the lack of results caused him to press, which led to a spike in strikeouts. I think he goes down to Triple-A for a couple weeks to reset and regain his confidence, and then once he's back, he's off and running.
- Frank: I'll give you one hitter and one pitcher. Alex Kirilloff has been quite pedestrian to this point, batting .254 with four home runs. Based on his quality of contact, however, Statcast says that Kirilloff deserves a .315 batting average with a .601 SLG! Those numbers are massive. I would try and trade for him on the cheap in re-draft leagues if you could. I know Alek Manoah has been better than Logan Gilbert thus far, but I really like what we've seen from Gilbert over his last two starts. He's had at least 18 swinging strikes in each of those starts. Gilbert is coming around and needs to be added everywhere.
- We break down rough starts from Shane Bieber, Corbin Burnes and Trevor Bauer, falling spin rates, Logan Gilbert, the latest on Jacob deGrom and more 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.
2. Which batter has fallen the furthest down your preseason rankings (*not due to injury)?
- Scott: Keston Hiura is too easy, so I'm going to say Matt Chapman, who's actually coming off a huge weekend performance that for all I know represents the start of a turnaround. But so as not to give in to recency bias, I'll hold to my belief that we didn't downgrade him enough for the surgery he had to repair a torn labrum in his hip last September. It was no small procedure, and the combination of a bloated strikeout rate and a crippled hard-hit rate has me thinking he's actually still playing through his recovery.
- Frank: It has to be DJ LeMahieu. He was being drafted inside the first three rounds of drafts because he was expected to provide elite batting average and runs scored, something he's done consistently since joining the Yankees in 2019. The runs are decent with 34 but he's batting just .261. There isn't much that says he's going to get better, either, outside of track record. He hit a three-run homer over the weekend, so maybe that sparks him, but with the strikeouts up and the quality of contact down, LeMahieu is quite worrisome.
3. Which batter has risen the most from your preseason rankings?
- Scott: Not sure how technical we're being, but from the perspective of "I didn't believe and now look like a fool," Marcus Semien is probably the guy. His near-MVP turn in 2019 came out of nowhere, and he seemed to regress back to career norms during the shortened 2020. It seemed like a textbook case of a one-hit wonder, and judging by his career home/away splits, a change of scenery didn't look like any sort of remedy. But now, he's the No. 1 second baseman in Fantasy and on pace for career highs in home runs and stolen bases.
- Frank: Jesse Winker was the 69th outfielder being drafted around pick 230 based on preseason average draft position. He is currently the third highest scorer hitter in Fantasy Baseball. Winker is now ranked inside my top-15 outfielders rest of season and I can argue he should be even higher. He's always been an above average hitter, he's just taken it to another level this season. If Winker stays healthy, he will prove to be one of the biggest steals this season.
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4. Which pitcher has fallen the furthest down your preseason rankings?
- Scott: It has to be Dylan Bundy, not that Kenta Maeda doesn't also have a case. It's just that Bundy is the one that I've gone so far as to drop in basically all the leagues where I drafted him, which were plenty. I hadn't planned to draft him so much until I saw that so few were giving him credit for his 2020 breakout -- one which I predicted due to his change in venue and consistently high whiff rates. His 2021 started out well enough with five quality starts in his first six, but things turned so bad so fast that the outlier 2020 season wasn't enough reason to hang on.
- Frank: It has to be Luis Castillo, who I had ranked inside my top 10 starting pitchers throughout draft season. He's currently down at SP36 thanks to a 6.47 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. Now Castillo has been better over his last two starts, but we need to see more. The swinging strikes are way down this season and, as a result, he's getting hit really hard. Castillo is allowing 10.4 hits-per-nine where his career mark is 7.66. He won't come anywhere close to his preseason ADP, but if he gets back to the pitcher he's been the past few seasons, we can likely get him back inside our top 25 starting pitchers.
5. Which pitcher has risen the most from your preseason rankings?
- Scott: Carlos Rodon. He entered my periphery with a big spring training, and I heard he was making some changes under a new pitching coach that were supposed to unlock more of his long forgotten potential. But his 2020 showed he was still finding himself after Tommy John surgery, and his track record was lackluster even before the procedure. It was asking a lot to go right just to draft him in standard mixed leagues. I never would have imagined he'd be in my top 20 starting pitchers.
- Frank: Carlos Rodon picked up some steam during spring training but nobody saw this coming. HIs overall ADP was 449.7. Rodon currently has a 1.89 ERA with 97 strikeouts over 66.2 innings pitched. He's clicking on all cylinders. The fastball velocity is a career-high, he's healthy, repeating his delivery, limiting walks, and going deep into starts. Rodon is currently ranked inside my top 20 starting pitchers. Like I said with Winker earlier, Rodon just needs to stay healthy. If he does, he might wind up being the most valuable player in Fantasy Baseball this season based on where he was drafted.