Fantasy Baseball Week 21 Preview: Top 10 sleeper hitters include Gio Urshela, J.D. Davis
An eight-game week for the injury-plagued Yankees makes for a lineup full of sleepers, none greater than Gio Urshela. Scott White looks at the best the waiver wire has to offer for Week 21.
Some weeks, the teams with the best matchups don't offer the type of hitters that could reasonably be called sleepers.
Week 21 (Aug. 12-18) is not one of the weeks.
What we find instead is the perfect intersection of matchups and personnel for one team in particular: the New York Yankees. Though devastated by injuries, they've nonetheless managed to cobble together a productive lineup of misfits and castoffs, several of which stand to benefit from their eight-game slate (yes, they have a doubleheader this week) against the Orioles and Indians. (They'll miss Shane Bieber in that Indians series, by the way.)
Chief among them is the man garnering all the headlines right now, Gio Urshela, who is, like all the other players on this list, owned in less than 80 percent of CBS Sports leagues.
Gio Urshela 3B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #29 • Age: 27
Urshela hasn't always had free rein against right-handed pitchers, however the fact he has superior splits against them and the fact he has carried the Yankee over the past week, homering six times in his past five games, should keep him in the lineup for the majority of the eight-game week. Few players profile for batting average better than he does, and this year has made clear that the power isn't in short supply either.
Kole Calhoun RF
LAA L.A. Angels • #56 • Age: 31
Granted, he only barely makes the ownership cutoff for this list, but it's still a wonder Kole Cahoun is as available as he is given that he's the No. 27 outfielder in Head-to-Head points per game, having emerged as a consistent source of power this year. You can trust him to take advantage of the fifth-best matchups this week: a seven-game slate against the Pirates and White Sox.
TEX Texas • #5 • Age: 24
The other Calhoun, Willie Calhoun, is looking like a consistent source of power himself, having homered four times in 11 games since returning to the Rangers lineup — 10 of which he started, by the way. Neither the playing time nor the production is susceptible to the handedness of the opposing pitcher, so the three lefties on tap are less of a detriment than the matchups against Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, Devin Smeltzer and Martin Perez are a benefit.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #39 • Age: 28
Another clutch pickup for the Yankees, Mike Tauchman has basically rendered longtime prospect Clint Frazier an afterthought even with Giancarlo Stanton missing virtually the whole season. His peripherals don't back up his production as well as Urshela's do, but you ride the hot hand when there's eight games on tap.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #11 • Age: 36
Sure, let's throw Brett Gardner in there, too. I'm telling you, this favorable schedule for the Yankees couldn't come at a more magical time seeing as all of their fringies (in terms of ownership, that is) are sizzling hot right now. Gardner doesn't have the allure of the unknown like Urshela and Tauchman, but since returning from an IL stint for a sore knee, he's batting .400 (12 for 30) with two homers and a steal. Seven of the eight pitchers on tap are righties, too, which actually makes a difference for him.
J.D. Davis LF
NYM N.Y. Mets • #28 • Age: 26
The Mets' matchups aren't especially good or bad, so J.D. Davis' spot here is more a matter of him being too good to be forgotten. Injuries have made him the Mets' regular left fielder over the past two weeks, during which he has hit .404 (19 for 47) with five homers and a 1.325 OPS. And lest you think his .308 batting average and .899 OPS for the season are too good to be true, the xBA and xwOBA tell a different story.
Ryan McMahon 2B
COL Colorado • #24 • Age: 24
It's become one of the basic rules for setting a Fantasy lineup in 2019: start Ryan McMahon at home. The perennial tease has been as good as advertised there, batting .302 with an .869 OPS, compared to something less than ordinary on the road. Not only are the Rockies at home all week but they're also facing mashable pitchers like Merrill Kelly, Sandy Alcantara, Hector Noesi and Jordan Yamamoto.
PIT Pittsburgh • #10 • Age: 24
Sort of like J.D. Davis, Bryan Reynolds' matchups are nothing special, but it's not like some of the more worrisome arms he's facing this week — guys like Jon Lester and Jose Quintana — are anywhere on the spectrum of unhittable. I don't see how you sit a guy who's hitting the ball as well as he is — not just in terms of batting average but also the four home runs in his past 12 games — especially now that the playing time concern is out the window with the departure of Corey Dickerson.
ARI Arizona • #53 • Age: 28
One of the visiting teams that gets to take advantage of the Rockies' full week of home games is the Diamondbacks, which makes it a fine time to use Christian Walker. He still has a top-five hard-hit rate, according to FanGraphs, and has remained the team's primary first baseman even with Jake Lamb in the picture. His other four games, by the way, are against some of the Giants' awful pitchers (i.e., not Madison Bumgarner).
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #38 • Age: 32
Can we fit one more Yankee in there? Why, yes we can. By some crazy turn of events, Cameron Maybin has become a regular in their outfield and has done quite well for himself in the role, piling up multi-hit games while delivering a higher fly-ball rate than ever. His mediocre track record (not to mention his bloated BABIP) suggest it won't last, which might make him unworthy of a roster spot even in the short-term, but there's a good bet he continues it into Week 21.
Best hitter matchups for Week 21
1. Yankees BAL4, CLE4
2. Diamondbacks @COL3, SF4
3. Astros @CHW3, @OAK4
4. Rockies ARI3, MIA3
5. Angels PIT3, CHW4
Worst hitter matchups for Week 21
1. Royals STL2, NYM3
2. Athletics @SF2, HOU4
3. Braves NYM3, LAD3
4. Brewers MIN2, @WAS3
5. Phillies CHC3, SD3
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