20 Things to Watch For in Week 4 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
We started “20 Things to Watch For” last week and I’m still finalizing exactly what the article is going to look like on a weekly basis. The idea is to take all of the biggest fantasy baseball storylines entering the following week and put them into one place — this includes two-start pitchers, streamers, hitter matchups, injury returns, and deep dives on trending players. Today’s piece is closer to what I envision these looking like for the rest of the season. Moving forward, you can expect to read these every Saturday.
As always, the content of this article got away from me a bit, which left little time for an intro. Let’s dive right in!
Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma
1. Will the Yankee bats finally wake up in good ballparks against bad pitching?
The Yankees haven’t exactly been the Bronx Bombers so far this season. According to OPS+, just three of their regular hitters have been above league average — Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, and DJ LeMahieu. This has led many fantasy managers to panic, especially those who roster Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres. As for actionable advice on this situation, it just doesn’t make sense to sell low on any struggling Yankees right now. It’s worth pointing out that a majority of their games have been played in chilly, Northeast conditions. In Week 4 they have seven games, four against Baltimore and three against Detroit. Better weather and better matchups should hopefully do the trick here.
2. Corbin Burnes‘ historic pace draws a two-start week
The 26-year-old is off to a fantastic start to the season, totaling a 40:0 (!!) K:BB ratio through his first 24 1/3 innings. The success has mostly been due to Burnes embracing his cutter as his primary offering, up to 50.4% of the time entering Week 4. Not only has Burnes been able to increase the velocity of that pitch compared to 2020, but the tweaks he’s making have also solved his former control issues. I’m betting that Burnes finally walks a batter in one of his two starts this week (vs MIA, vs LAD), but he’s easily a top-10 starter the rest of the way. Heck, he could be top-5 this time next week.
3. Jazz Chisholm leading off
Entering Saturday, Chisholm has spent the past three games atop the Marlins’ batting order. The promotion is well deserved as the 23-year-old rookie is off to a blistering start. Chisholm is currently hitting .315 with four homers, four steals, and a 1.045 OPS. His power/speed combo has become what I wanted Andres Gimenez or Taylor Trammell to be back in March. Jazz has been better than I could’ve imagined either of those two becoming, though. The hard-hit data is there for Chisholm. The only concern is a strikeout rate hovering around 30%. Expect the batting average to drop, but the homers and stolen bases should be here to stay. Continuing to lead off will only help his fantasy value moving forward.
MORE FRIDAY NIGHT JAZZ HOMERS >>> 🎉 pic.twitter.com/cEE4WiNltM
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 24, 2021
4. Braves bats in a big spot
A lot of teams are only playing five or six games in Week 4, but the Braves have seven contests, which means that we want to get their bats in our lineups. Of course, most of their regulars are every-week fantasy starters regardless of how many games they have, but let this be your reminder not to bench Ozzie Albies or anything like that. I’d still be starting Dansby Swanson too. If you’re looking for a sleeper hitter in deeper leagues, then consider Austin Riley. He’s off to a slow start but he’s keeping his strikeout rate down just like in 2020. Atlanta draws the Cubs for four games at home before visiting the Blue Jays in Dunedin for three.
5. Alex Kirilloff‘s playing time
I went as long as I could without mentioning my first prospect. I was getting the sense that a Friday promotion was imminent for Kirilloff, thanks to reading the tea leaves of the Twins’ COVID situation plus a prominent beat writer speculating on a possible call-up as well. Now that he’s here, what can fantasy managers expect? I think a rock-solid, four-category contributor would be a good outcome here. We can never truly expect elite production from prospects, but high-end rookies always have league-winning upside in their range of outcomes. Just look at Cody Bellinger, Yordan Alvarez, and Juan Soto for recent examples. First, I’d just like to see Kirilloff getting into the lineup most every day. Minnesota faces three right-handers this weekend, so hopefully the lefty swinging Kirilloff can get into a rhythm right away.
I have a hunch we could see Alex Kirilloff tomorrow
This is pure speculation / reading the tea leaves
Just a hunch…#MNTwins
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 22, 2021
6. Are there any good pitcher streamers to target in Week 4?
You can read my full Week 4 streaming article by clicking here, but I would say that there are certainly some serviceable options for any fantasy player looking to go this route. I’ll also add in that it’s never my preference to stream. You shouldn’t do it just to do it, and I outlined in my 2021 Draft Cheat Sheet that acquiring high-end starters in drafts was a priority for me. Still, some options for next week include Anthony DeSclafani (vs COL), Aaron Sanchez (vs COL), and Adam Wainwright (@PIT), among others. It’s always a good idea to attack the Rockies on the road, especially coming off a long home stand.
7. What about two-start pitchers streamers?
Yes! You can get my full thoughts on two-start pitchers for Week 4 by clicking here. The best streaming options are DeSclafani, Michael Fulmer, and Michael Wacha. Hopefully your staff isn’t in a position where you have to use those guys, though. Remember, we wanted to draft as many aces as possible back in March! If you read the full article I also highlight some two-start options to avoid, such as Corey Kluber.
8. Road Rockies
The aforementioned DeSclafani and Sanchez are “meh” pitchers who suddenly become fantasy options when facing the Rockies away from Coors. Even better, they’re facing the Rockies on the road immediately after a long home stand. Well, if we’re going to be high on streaming pitchers against Colorado in Week 4, then we should be low on some of their hitters, correct? Yes. I believe in the Coors Hangover Effect, or the idea that Rockies hitters struggle more than other players on the road, especially right after leaving the high altitude of Colorado. Ryan McMahon has hit well enough that he’s probably still worth starting, as are Trevor Story (obviously) and Charlie Blackmon. I think that’s it, though.
9. Injury returns
From what I can tell, we have three star hitters ready to return from the IL in Week 4. However, Anthony Rendon is the only one who has a shot at playing the full week. Juan Soto and George Springer probably won’t be back until the second half of the week, which means that fantasy managers in shallow leagues should probably play it safe with another option.
10. Kendall Graveman‘s closer chances
My colleague Mike Maher and I do a weekly Sunday night FAAB/waivers discussion on Clubhouse. The idea is to talk through which players we are most interested in picking up during our Sunday evening free agent bidding. Additionally, listeners can chime in with questions about anything regarding their teams. (If you need a Clubhouse app invite, just shoot me a DM on Twitter). Anyways, last week we identified Kendall Graveman of the Mariners as a reliever to begin stashing. Graveman is a failed starter whose velocity is playing up out of the bullpen. In addition to his power sinker, Graveman has seemingly developed a slider since last season. Through 8 2/3 scoreless innings he has two saves, two holds, and a 10:2 K:BB ratio. He’s just better than Rafael Montero, and it’s only a matter of time until he’s getting the majority of their saves.
11. Will the Dodgers do anything funky with Julio Urias?
I admittedly wasn’t very invested in Urias during draft season. I just didn’t trust the Dodgers to use him as a traditional starting pitcher all summer long. So far, though, I’ve been wrong. Urias has totaled at least six innings in three of his four starts thus far. The other one? He went 5 2/3. Urias has mostly been able to accomplish this by being extremely efficient with his pitch count, so I don’t think the reigns have been loosened entirely just yet. The most encouraging aspect of this situation is that the Dodgers haven’t skipped any of his starts or anything like that. If this trend continues then Urias could produce SP2 numbers in 2021. He’s currently lined up for a two-start week against the Reds and Brewers.
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 20, 2021
12. Javier Baez‘s roto value versus points league value
Entering Saturday, Baez has struck out 35 times in 78 plate appearances. He’s hitting just .233 with a .780 OPS. If you roster him in points leagues, this has been disastrous. However, for managers who employ him in roto, Baez has made up for those lackluster rate stats by totaling six homers and five stolen bases. This begs the question — is he a buy or sell right now? Baez has topped 12 stolen bases just once in his career, so I’m not overly confident that he’s going to keep running at this pace. Therefore, I lean towards selling, especially where he still has some value in roto/categories leagues. The Cubs have a seven-game schedule in Week 4, so hopefully the hits start falling in at a higher rate.
13. Is Ryan Weathers worth adding for Week 4?
The Padres haven’t officially announced their upcoming rotation plans just yet, which is why Weathers didn’t make it onto my streaming article linked above. However, he was mighty impressive on Thursday night against the Dodgers — registering six strikeouts over 5 2/3 scoreless innings en route to a no-decision. A first-round pick from 2018, Weathers is currently a borderline top-100 prospect who is still being stretched out as a starter. Dinelson Lamet‘s latest injury could keep Weathers in the rotation, which makes him fantasy relevant for Week 4. He’ll either draw the Diamondbacks on the road or the Giants at home, depending on how San Diego aligns their starters. Both matchups are neutral/plus for the 21-year-old rookie.
14. Are we trusting Tyler Mahle against the Dodgers?
The Reds are doing some interesting things with their pitchers — a heavy emphasis on spin rate has led many to dub them “Spincinnati“, myself included. While they aren’t as much of a pitching factory as the Indians or Dodgers just yet, they still have some intriguing arms who are still developing. This includes Mahle, whose fastball is up over two mph from where it was in 2018 (92.4 mph to 94.7 mph). It also has a much higher spin rate, checking in within the 88th percentile of MLB. The results through four starts have been spectacular, a 1.74 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. This is still a fly ball pitcher, however, which means the ERA could rise in a hurry. Mahle draws two starts in Week 4. The second is against the Cubs, which is fine. The first comes in Dodger Stadium, however. LA is slumping at the moment, which means I definitely want to use Mahle in points leagues. I think I’d use him in roto as well, but this is a big test.
15. Jarred Kelenic and Wander Franco potential debuts
I’ve talked about this on Twitter, but it’s really hard to guess when prospects are going to be promoted with the lack of minor league information we’re currently getting these days. The Kirilloff situation was unique in that the writing was on the wall for a variety of reasons. I’ve always viewed Kelenic as next in line, but Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto recently said “I don’t expect it to be in a matter of days” in regards to a Kelenic call-up. Dipoto went on to add that, injury aside, Kelenic is going to be in the big leagues in the “not too distant future.” A potential five-category stud, Kelenic needs to be rostered in every standard 12-team league right now. I don’t expect a promotion this weekend, but sometime around May 1st feels right. As for Franco, we’ve gotten even less information about him, and who knows how the Rays are going to play the service time game with him. Therefore, Kelenic is the priority of the two when it comes to redraft leagues.
16. Amir Garrett‘s role in the Reds bullpen
The Amir Garrett experience hasn’t been fun thus far. The southpaw was dominant in spring training and talked openly about how he wanted the closer job all offseason. He’s been downright bad thus far, allowing runs in 4-of-7 appearances, which includes two meltdown outings. Lucas Sims was looking like he was next in line until he had his own meltdown appearance on Thursday. Tejay Antone is clearly the Reds’ best reliever, but the team seemingly wants to keep him in a multi-inning role for now. I’d rather start Graveman or either of the Oakland arms (Jake Diekman, Lou Trivino) over Garrett and Sims right now. I wouldn’t drop the Cincinnati guys just yet, but you can sit them until we get more clarity.
17. Michael Kopech and Garrett Whitlock providing strong ratios out of the ‘pen
Speaking of multi-inning relief arms such as Antone, there are two other pitchers to target who can provide similarly strong ratios for your fantasy teams at the moment. The value of these guys is league-specific, but they can wind up functioning as cheap sources of ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, and sometimes even wins/holds. Kopech is the poster boy for this right now, posting a 17:4 K:BB ratio through 10 2/3 innings. Meantime, Whitlock has a 14:1 K:BB ratio through 11 1/3 scoreless frames. Consider both of them if your league rewards these types of pitchers.
18. Adolis Garcia‘s hot streak
The 28-year-old homered four times this week, including two on Friday night. It has been a sudden rise to fantasy relevance for Garcia, who has been getting an extended opportunity with the Rangers after spending years in the Cardinals’ farm system. A classic slugger who strikes out a lot with a poor walk rate, I’m not optimistic about Garcia’s sustainability. At this point, though, he’s worth a pickup in deeper mixed leagues. Texas plays seven games in Week 4.
19. The Dodgers’ offense current slump
Entering Saturday, over their last six games, the Dodgers have totaled just 11 runs on 23 hits. That isn’t what we were expecting from this unit in 2021. Cody Bellinger is hurt while Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, and AJ Pollock have all missed a bit of time due to minor injuries. The only real actionable advice would be to buy low on any Dodgers star if your league mates are selling. The track record of their prominent bats is simply too good for this to last much longer. LA plays seven games in Week 4.
20. Hitters who have been unlucky
We’ll close by looking at some bats who have underperformed their xwOBA thus far. In other words, these are hitters who have been “unlucky” (depending on how you view batted-ball data like this). I didn’t include the full list, just players I thought were notable for one reason or another. The data suggests that brighter days are ahead for the following bats, ranked in order of the biggest xwOBA – wOBA difference:
- Juan Soto
- Rafael Devers
- Tommy Pham
- Freddie Freeman
- Jorge Polanco
- Ozzie Albies
- Nick Senzel
- Joey Votto
- Bobby Dalbec
- Ian Happ
- Bryce Harper
- Jeff McNeil
- Aaron Judge
- Jose Ramirez
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.