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Spring Training Risers & Fallers (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Travis Cain
Mar 16, 2021

 
Spring Training can tend to come with a lot of overreaction from fans and media alike. That being said, there can be good trends to analyze from both hitters and pitchers. On the other side, bad trends can turn into rough regular seasons.

Let’s take a look at some risers and fallers from the 2021 MLB Spring Training so far with Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) from FantasyPros.

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Risers

Lucas Giolito (SP – CWS): ECR 25
The White Sox’s ace was spectacular last season. Giolito had one of the most remarkable no-hitters in recent memory. The combination of his fastball and arguably league-best changeup leaves hitters constantly off-balance. So far, in Spring Training, Giolito has built off his success from last year. In three starts, Giolito has struck out 11 batters, given up only three hits, and one earned run. Giolito is coming off the board in the 1st/2nd round, but he is worth selecting, and fantasy baseball managers will be happy they selected him again this season.

Kenta Maeda (SP/RP – MIN): ECR 54
Maeda, the former Dodger, has always seemed to be slept on throughout his career. But Maeda just produces wherever he goes. He was a sleeper in most drafts last year and brought back tremendous value, finishing with a career-best 3.00 FIP en route to a second-place finish for the Cy Young Award. Maeda has started Spring Training off strong. He has given up only one hit in five innings, has yet to walk a batter, and has struck out seven hitters. The Twins’ ace will be another fantastic selection in upcoming fantasy baseball drafts.

Joey Gallo (OF – TEX): ECR 135
The knock-on Gallo will forever be his strikeouts and low batting average. Gallo is coming off an abysmal 2020 campaign but could be in line for a strong 2021 season if his Spring Training is any indicator. Gallo has homered five times in eight games, posting a 1.849 OPS. The gold glover has made some tweaks to his swings, and I think we’ll see the 2019 version of Gallo rather than the rough 2020 he had.

Joc Pederson (1B/OF – CHC): ECR 285
Joc is a name I continue to target in all of my drafts. I love the idea of him playing every day and finding himself in a new environment in Chicago. So far, Joc has been destroying the ball in Spring Training. Joc has 12 hits in 22 at-bats, seven of them being for extra bases, and he has only struck out four times. Although it’s early, Joc is making the most of his opportunity, and I think he will outperform his current ECR and ADP. Make sure to come away with the powerful hitting lefty in your drafts.

Ty France (2B/3B/DH – SEA): ECR 323
Much like the aforementioned Joc Pederson, Ty France is a name I continue to discuss this preseason. France should be allowed to finally be a full-time player for the Seattle Mariners. In 21 plate appearances this Spring Training, France has slashed a ridiculous .500/.571/1.111, good enough for a 1.683 OPS. He should find himself in a middle-of-the-order role and be a great RBIs source to go along with 15-20 HRs this season.

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Fallers

Jack Flaherty (SP – STL): ECR 35
After finishing fourth in the Cy Young Award race in 2019, Flaherty is coming off an abysmal 2020 season. Expectations were high for Flaherty, and rightfully so. Now, in two Spring Training games, Flaherty has continued to struggle. Although in a minimal sample size, Flaherty has a 2.00 WHIP and five earned runs in five innings pitched. I wouldn’t shy away from drafting him but temper your expectations.

Randy Arozarena (OF – TB): ECR 55
Last postseason, Arozarena became a star before our very own eyes. The success of Arozarena is reflected in his current ADP and ECR. That being said, Arozarena has severely struggled so far in Spring Training. The Tampa Bay Rays’ outfielder is slashing .176/.222/.176 and seems to be a bit lost at the plate early on. Arozarena has a tremendous swing, but his ADP is much too high for my liking. Let someone else take him.

Dominic Smith (1B/OF – NYM): ECR 123
I am all in on the Mets offensive firepower this season, but Smith, who should be a focal point, has drastically struggled in Spring Training so far. Smith has struck out eight times in 17 at-bats to go with a .412 OPS. He brings next to nothing defensively, so if he’s not hitting, he could find himself sitting a few extra games here and there. His current ADP and ECR, along with his Spring Training struggles, make him a risky pick for now.

Craig Kimbrel (RP – CHC): ECR 173
The Craig Kimbrel experiment has been nothing short of a disaster in Chicago. In 41 career games for the Cubs, Kimbrel has yet to look anything like himself. His struggles have continued so far this Spring Training as he’s given up nine earned runs in just 2.2 innings pitched. Baseball is better when Kimbrel is at his best, but he has simply not shown any signs of his former self. I would target other relief pitchers in his range, such as Devin Williams or Trevor Rosenthal.

Kyle Schwarber (OF – WSH): ECR 174
Schwarber is someone I believe could bounce back in the Nation’s capital this season. However, he’s gotten off to a rocky start in Spring Training so far. In 23 plate appearances, Schwarber has only three hits to go along with a .681 OPS. I do believe a 30 HR, .800 OPS season is not out of Schwarber’s range of outcomes, but the struggles in 2020 and now in Spring Training make me hesitant on him. Make sure to keep an eye on the new Nationals’ outfielder if he slips in drafts, but don’t go reaching a few rounds for him.

All statistics were taken from FanGraphs, MLB.com, and Baseball-Reference.

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