We're now midway through the first month of the 2021 season and the Fantasy Baseball season is starting to shape up. To kick off each week of the season, it will normally be Chris Towers reaching out to Scott White and myself to ask them a few big questions, but with Chris still on a mini-vacation, it's just Scott and myself today! In this Q&A, we're looking back at the third weekend of the season to see which sleeper prospects (not the big names) we should be stashing now, key mid-April takeaways, and more.
1. Which player is still owned in far too few leagues right now?
- Scott: Joey Votto's big week in which he hit three homers and three doubles may be the start of something bigger. Even before that stretch, his expected stats on Statcast were MVP-caliber, buoyed by a big increase in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, and he's said he's more focused on power this year after selling out for contact the past couple.
- Frank: Jazz Chisholm is one of the most added players but still sits at 64%. Chisholm already has three homers and three steals and, while his strikeouts might limit him in points leagues, he already has nine walks. Chisholm has legit 20-20 upside and should be added regardless of your league's format.
2. Which upcoming prospect call-up is a sleeper to make an immediate impact?
- Scott: Well, the obvious two are Jarred Kelenic and Wander Franco, but they're so obvious that I'm not sure the term "sleeper" qualifies. Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran is flying under the radar, though. The batting average and stolen bases have stood out most in the minors, but his power played up this spring, resulting in 10 extra-base hits, including three homers. And seeing as he's already 24, he'll likely be up sooner than later.
- Frank: We all know Jarred Kelenic and Wander Franco but if you want a sleeper, I think Daulton Jefferies could make an immediate impact. The former 37th overall pick in 2016 has a 3.17 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP across 99.1 innings in the minors. Making half of his starts in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum won't hurt, either.
3. What is your biggest takeaway from the first half of April?
- Scott: Probably that the league-wide batting average was only .236 entering Sunday. Maybe it's just early-season rust, but with strikeouts making another leap amid talk of changes to the baseball seam height, is it possible pitchers have gained a competitive advantage? It's worth noting that hard-hit and barrel rates are both up, also possible effects of a ball, and yet it's not translating to more hits.
- Frank: Strikeouts are up so far this season. The league is striking out 24.5% of the time, more than ever before in the history of baseball. As a result, the league batting average also sits at just .236. I assume things will get better but if they don't, those high volume batting average contributors become even more valuable.
4. What is the most common trend from your best rosters right now?
- Scott: It's the teams with the most home runs, because that's the only way offense is being generated in a year when the league-wide batting average is only .236. Note that I'm not saying it's the teams with the most home run hitters, because not all of them have come around yet. But it is the teams that have happened to hit the most home runs, if only by happenstance.
- Frank: No surprise here but they are the teams with the best pitching. I have a 15-team Roto league with Trevor Bauer, Jack Flaherty, Aaron Civale, Carlos Rodon and others that is dominating the pitching side of things. One of my H2H points keeper leagues is 2-0 thanks to having four of my top-12 ranked starting pitchers (Shane Bieber, Yu Darvish, Jack Flaherty, Corbin Burnes).
5. What player were you highest on that you're now most worried about?
- Scott: He's not especially high-end, but I'm worried about what's happening with Clint Frazier, whose breakthrough last year I bought into even though his expected stats were largely unchanged from 2019. And even him I wouldn't worry about so much if Aaron Boone hadn't taken to sitting him for Brett Gardner half the time. It makes me wonder if Frazier will have an honest chance to climb out of it.
- Frank: I think I've given his name out three weeks in a row here but I'm sticking with Chris Paddack. I really bought in on the Padres helping Paddack get his fastball back on track. That hasn't been the case thus far. He barely made it through five innings against the Pirates last week. I'm not dropping him but he isn't a must-start anymore, even with two starts this week.