Hitters To Reach For (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
It was admittedly tough to narrow down the below list. My entire 2021 draft strategy for roto leagues is about all the value when it comes to mid-to-late round hitters. Alternatively, there aren’t many potential aces available after the first 4-5 rounds. That’s why I’m implementing my SPSB strategy this season, which involves drafting aces and steals early on before taking advantage of all the hitters who have slipped down the draft board for various reasons. So yeah, it’s safe to say there are a lot of bats I’m comfortable reaching for.
The ADP referenced below is courtesy of FantasyPros consensus average draft position data
Anthony Rendon (3B – LAA) ADP: 31
He’s almost going too early to include on a list like this, but I had to. When it comes to Rendon this year, we don’t need to reference Baseball Savant data or any notable changes he made this offseason. Rendon is simply undervalued right now and there isn’t a great reason as to why.
Rendon being available in the third round of 12-team leagues is exactly why I’m willing to be aggressive on starters early. This is a Round 1 or 2 bat that is slipping because he isn’t as “exciting” as the names going around him. Rendon doesn’t steal bases, but both is wOBA and xwOBA remained in the 92nd percentile or better in 2020. Forget about the lack of stolen bases. Take the elite four-category production and let’s keep it moving.
Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN) ADP: 83
Alright, now we can dive into the advanced stats when it comes to reaching for Castellanos. The 29-year-old got off to a torrid start last summer before the entire Cincinnati offense forgot how to hit. His underlying numbers show a lot of reasons for optimism, however.
Let’s start by looking at Castellanos’ BABIP by season:
What number is the outlier here? The 2020 Reds were one of the worst BABIP teams ever, and Castellanos’ skills didn’t decline to the point where he should’ve suffered like this. In fact, he posted a career-high ISO and all of his expected stats remained elite. We’re fully buying back in here.
Yoan Moncada (3B – CWS) ADP: 86
Moncada has made it known that he never felt like himself last season. We have seen other athletes experience side effects from COVID-19, so it’s an entirely acceptable “excuse” for his failure to live up to expectations in 2020.
In 2018 Moncada took 10.8% of two-strike pitches for a called third strike, which was the highest rate in MLB. He’s so elite at not chasing bad pitches, but the key to his 2019 breakout was actually swinging more often. Curiously, the passivity returned last summer. It’s unclear if COVID played a part in this. Assuming he’s back to full health now, Moncada needs to be more aggressive to reach his ’19 levels of production.
A better sign of his COVID-induced struggles was the fact he didn’t attempt a single stolen base in 2020. The White Sox never ran much under Rick Renteria, but he totaled 25 attempts over the previous two years. Therefore, it was important to see him swipe a base in Cactus League play before February came to a close. All in all, I’m throwing away his 2020 stats and chalking it up to a summer in which he never felt right. Therefore, I’m buying this dip in ADP entering ’21!
Giancarlo Stanton (UTIL – NYY) ADP: 110
I’m well aware that Stanton doesn’t have a recent track record of staying healthy. The 31-year-old was limited to 23-of-60 games last season before appearing in just 18 contests in 2019. This has caused his ADP to drop from around 65 last summer to outside the top-100 entering 2021. From my perspective, the time to buy Stanton isn’t when he has an early ADP. The time to buy is when he’s going so late that if he stays healthy there’s no way he won’t provide a massive return-on-investment.
That’s because, when healthy, Stanton is still a monster. The Statcast numbers are still extremely encouraging. He led MLB with five batted balls of 115 mph or more despite playing in just 23 games during the 2020 regular season. Including playoffs, Stanton totaled 30 games last season. He hit 10 home runs.
At his best Stanton is a top-30 type player. If he was going that early I’d be nervous about injuries. But at this price? The opportunity cost to acquire him just isn’t that high. Even playing in 120-30 games would yield a massive profit for fantasy managers who took on the risk.
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) March 11, 2021
Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B – PIT) ADP: 137
Is Hayes going to anywhere near the .376 mark he put up over his first 24 games last season? Of course not, but we need to acknowledge that he’s a different hitter than most of the minor league reports we initially had on him. Hayes’ 92.8 mph average exit velocity and 55.4% hard-hit rate both would’ve ranked within the top-15 of baseball if he played enough to qualify.
Of course, we’re dealing with a small sample, and a 47.7% ground ball remains less than ideal. Still, nobody should be expecting 35 homers from Hayes. The expectation is a .280 average with 15-20 homers, plenty of doubles, and a handful of stolen bases. Talented enough to keep making adjustments, there’s also a chance that Hayes has even more upside as a hitter. Regardless, he’s a value at his ADP.
Andres Gimenez (2B/3B/SS – CLE) ADP: 191
It’s really, really hard to find speed late in a draft. The uncertainty surrounding Gimenez’s playing time for most of the offseason meant that I was initially ignoring him. First, he was on a Mets team with a crowded infield. Then he got traded to the Indians in the Francisco Lindor deal, but Amed Rosario tagged along as well.
However, we’ve since learned that Gimenez is the favorite to open the season as the team’s everyday shortstop. This comes on the heels of Rosario playing more and more outfield in spring training. Suddenly, there’s 30-steal upside available outside the top-175 selections.
As a 22-year-old last summer Gimenez was good-not-great as a hitter. He went 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts, though, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to run with his new club. His ADP could skyrocket over the next couple of weeks, so the time to reach for Gimenez is now.
Feeling great about Andres Gimenez as a late-round MI pick with SB upside
8-for-9 on stolen bases in 2020
Expected to be named Cleveland's starting SS
Latest @FantasyPros consensus ADP: 189
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) March 14, 2021
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