20 Things to Watch for in Week 3 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
So, the plan was to write out a big intro detailing why we’re backing away from the weekly “Cheat Sheet” and going with the “20 Things to Watch” articles moving forward. Basically, the cheat sheets were too similar to our weekly planners. I was going to compare the change in Friday topics to how we sometimes need to adjust our approach in fantasy baseball leagues, but then I started writing the content of this post and couldn’t stop. Therefore, that story will have to wait for another time. Let’s get into it!
Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma
1. Ronald Acuna (OF – ATL)
So MLB.com published a phenomenal story on Atlanta’s superstar outfielder, which I highly recommend reading. Basically, Acuna is still getting better — a lot better. Not only does he rank within the 95th percentile or higher in nearly every relevant hitting metric on Baseball Savant, but the loudest change he has made so far has to do with his plate discipline.
Acuna’s walk rate last summer was more than double what it was in his 2018 rookie campaign (9.2% to 18.8%). However, it’s unfair to expect such a significant jump to carry over from a small sample last year. And so far, his walk rate is at 10.2% in 2021. That’s still an above average walk rate, but the genius of Acuna’s ’21 so far has been how little he’s chasing pitches outside the strike zone:
You might think this means that Acuna is just swinging less, but that isn’t the case. His in-zone swing rate is virtually identical to what it has been throughout his career. What this means is that the early MVP front runner is pulling a Mike Trout. He’s still swinging at good pitches and he’s swinging far less than ever at bad pitches. It’s scary to think what his true upside could be if these gains stick around all season long.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B – TOR)
It’s no secret that I was touting Vladito entering the year, so I’ve been very pleased with his early-season success. Admittedly, this was a gut call by yours truly. There wasn’t exactly a stat-based argument to make for buying into Guerrero this season. Dating back to November, I was a believer that his newfound training regimen would be a big help throughout ’21.
Two weeks into the season and we’ve seen Vlad Jr. increase his average launch angle from 4.6 degrees in 2020 to 11.6 degrees thus far. Additionally, the ground ball rate has dropped about 10% from his career mark — down to 41.7% so far. Similar to Acuna, Guerrero is also chasing less than ever while remaining a standout in terms of batted-ball data. I’m very excited to see if these improvements stick in the months ahead.
3. Struggling Stars
One of the easiest way to identify “buy low” candidates early on is to see who’s under performing their xwOBA on Baseball Savant. The below tweet has some names fit this profile. This means fantasy managers should buy low on these players OR remain patient if you already roster them.
Good hitters who have been unlucky so far
(AKA under performing their xwOBA)
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 15, 2021
4. Tyler Glasnow (SP – TB)
We’re only three starts into 2021 and I’m already taking an early “L” on fading Glasnow in spring drafts. One of the offseason narratives for buying into him this year was that he was working on a third pitch. We get this storyline a lot, and it rarely comes to fruition. However, Glasnow’s new slider has been downright amazing so far. It’s clear that something special is going on with him and I’ve therefore put him inside my top-10 starter for rest-of-season.
5. Carlos Rodon (SP – CWS)
The former top prospect has reinvented himself with the help of the same pitching coach who was vital in Lucas Giolito‘s career turnaround. Rodon obviously threw a no-hitter in his most recent start, so the Statcast data is very strong. I’m buying into him as a legitimate mixed league starter not because of the no-no, but due to his fastball velocity increasing from 92.8 mph in 2020 to 95.2 mph through two starts this year. Rodon was a sleeper throughout spring training and is worth using for a two-start week in Week 3.
6. Freddy Peralta (SP – MIL)
Corbin Burnes is stealing the headlines in Milwaukee, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what Peralta has been doing. The former reliever has whopping 24 strikeouts through 13 innings this season, though he’s also allowed nine walks. Peralta upped his slider usage from 4.8% last year to 38.8% so far in 2021. He’s also getting a lot more horizontal movement on it, which is leading to a strong number of whiffs. Let’s keep monitoring the walks because if he gets those under control then there’s top-20 SP upside in this profile.
7. Trevor Rogers (SP – MIA)
The lefty passed his test this week, limiting the Atlanta offense to two runs over five innings pitched (while fanning seven). Rogers now has 23 punch outs through 15 innings after surviving his toughest test to date. Fantasy managers can now feel confident starting him in Week 3. The profile isn’t perfect — there’s a lot of hard contact given up — but Rogers was a blossoming prospect in 2019 who’s throwing harder through three starts this year.
8. Patrick Corbin (SP – WAS)
Next, let’s move to some discouraging profiles. Corbin was absolutely lit up for 10 runs (nine earned) on Tuesday against the D’Backs, and he’s now droppable in 12-team redraft leagues. Corbin initially reinvented himself by ditching his fastball in exchange for a ton of sliders. The velocity on his slider has been down for the past two years now and he isn’t throwing as many so far in ’21. It’s time to move on.
9. Chris Paddack (SP – SD)
Paddack’s fastball is still broken. It’s still getting crushed. This just isn’t the same pitcher we saw in 2019. The young right-hander was barely able to handle the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday afternoon, which means that he’s basically impossible to trust right now. I’ll give him a slightly longer leash than Corbin if I had to choose between the two, but this has been a discouraging start to the season.
10. Michael Kopech (RP – CWS)
The 24-year-old is currently operating in a multi-inning relief role for Chicago. He has a win and a hold through four appearances, but it’s the ratios that make me interested in his profile. Kopech currently owns a 13:3 K:BB ratio spanning 7 2/3 frames. The White Sox reportedly still view him as a starter long term, but the plan is to keep utilizing him this way for the rest of 2021. He’s a priority add in leagues that utilize saves and holds, but I’d even want to employ him in H2H categories leagues where holds aren’t a stat.
11. Toronto Blue Jays
We’re going to zip through as many of these bullpen situations as I can. Both Julian Merryweather and Jordan Romano are currently on the injured list, which means we’re looking to add Rafael Dolis wherever possible. He totaled five saves last year, and while walks are a bit of an issue, the Baseball Savant numbers are mostly encouraging.
12. Seattle Mariners
Whereas Dolis might only occupy the role for a couple of weeks, I’m beginning to wonder if Kendall Graveman could be a season-long option in Seattle. He’s throwing harder following his move to the bullpen. And he’s seemingly discovered a new slider that pairs well with his power sinker. Graveman got the save in the first game of Thursday’s doublehader. Rafael Montero was used before him in that one, so I’m looking to make some sneaky Graveman adds this weekend.
13. Oakland Athletics
Lou Trivino got the most recent save for the A’s. Similar to the Graveman situation, he could be “the guy” the rest of the way. This makes him a priority add over Dolis. Jake Diekman is still lingering, though.
14. Cleveland Indians
I’m comfortable saying this is Emmanuel Clase‘s job. We’ve had a few instances where manager Terry Franco has used Nick Wittgren in the seventh, James Karinchak in the eighth, and then Clase in the ninth. This seems to be the preferred deployment of his top three relievers. It’s a brutal blow for everyone who was touting “Special K” throughout the offseason (raises hand), but hopefully folks were able to quickly pivot to Clase.
Cleveland bullpen update:
Nick Wittgren just pitched the 7th
James Karinchak is warming for the 8th
Seemingly puts Emmanuel Clase in position for another save chance, if everything holds
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 11, 2021
15. Coors Field
The Rockies only play five games next week but they’re all in Coors. It’s part of an eight-game home stand for them that begins on Friday. Now is the time to snag those “fringe” Rockies off waivers and get them into your lineups. Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon, in particular, are musts.
16. Andrew Vaughn (1B/OF – CWS)
The playing time has been beyond frustrating and sporadic, but Vaughn isn’t exactly giving Tony La Russa reasons to keep his bat in the lineup. Entering Friday the rookie is 3-for-22 without a homer. The former No. 3 overall pick has started each of the past two games and La Russa acknowledged that he’ll play a good amount on the upcoming road trip. We’ll see. Regardless, it’s getting tougher and tougher to justify holding on in 12-team redraft leagues. I’d still do what I could to keep him rostered, but I also acknowledge that rosters spots are invaluable in early-April. You have my permission to move on if need be.
17. Jazz Chisholm (2B/SS – MIA)
The electrifying 23-year-old was the cover boy of my Week 3 Prospect Report earlier this week. He has made me look good since then, totaling three extra base hits and a stolen base over his past three games. There’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his profile, but Chisholm possesses a truly special combination of power and speed. There’s a real chance we get 15 homers and 30 stolen bases out of him. Chisholm is the top prospect that the Marlins received in exchange for Zac Gallen back in 2019. It remains to be seen if that was a wise “real life” move by Miami, but the time for fantasy managers to buy in has nearly run dry.
Straightaway CF Jazz homers >>> ????pic.twitter.com/afaEYhFl3O
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 15, 2021
We’ll close by highlighting three top prospects who could receive a call to the majors early on next week. Saturday, April 16th is expected to be the magical date where service time concerns no longer apply. In the past we’ve seen top prospects get called up the next day. However, with several grievances filed in recent seasons regarding service time manipulation, I’m expecting most teams to give it at least a few days before making their move.
Nonetheless, the three names above are the ones who needs to be rostered in redraft leagues entering the weekend. This is due to how quickly I expect them to be called up and how meaningful of a fantasy contribution they’re likely to make. It’s also the order in which I would prioritize them — Kelenic, Franco, Kirilloff.
Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to a more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.