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Fantasy Baseball Category Analysis: Week 2 (2021)

Apr 9, 2021

If you’re looking for strikeouts, consider adding Yusei Kikuchi.

We’re already one week into the season, and while some players came out of the gates on fire, others couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Or even worse, some, including a few early picks, already went down with injury!

No need to panic, though — it’s obviously still very early in the season. For those in need, I have scoured the waiver wire to help you find ample replacements. I’ve targeted undervalued players — ones who are tragically owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues — who help out in any of the main 10 categories.

With more than a handful of players who can ultimately fit into these parameters (especially at the beginning of the season), the selections will be open to debate. However, my main focus will be on players whose rostership will likely shoot up over the next few days and probably won’t be available by week’s end.

I put out a similar piece every week, so follow me as we venture through the season. Make sure to check back often if you need to improve in one or two statistical categories.

If you’re one of the lucky ones whose players started off right, congratulations on the hot start! For the others, look to these guys who are still very much available in too many leagues.  Don’t go dropping anyone of value to pick them up just yet. But if you have the room and are seriously lacking in a category or two, these productive players should help in their perspectives categories.

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Batting Average

Ty France (2B/3B – SEA): 45%
I’ve been high on France since his ridiculous season in Triple-A two seasons ago. Yes, that was the juiced ball year in the PCL, but a .399 average with a 1.246 OPS is still quite the eye-opener. After his call-up in 2020, he hit .309 in San Diego and then .302 for Seattle. Through the first six games of this season, France is sitting pretty with a .318 BA, hitting in the two-hole for the scrappy Mariners lineup. He should continue to garner everyday at-bats leading to quality stats across the board. I was planning to reach for him early in my drafts, and I still missed out! It’s too bad I’m not in one of the 55 percent of leagues where he’s still available.

Runs

Luis Arraez (2B/3B/OF – MIN): 32%
Arraez has a great chance at winning the AL-batting title this year, and he leads off for the loaded Twins lineup. What else do you need to know? Does he get on via the walk as well? Yup, how does a .400 career on-base percentage sound? Anyone who can get on base 40 percent of the time and bats in front of Nelson Cruz is going to score plenty of runs. Pick him up now and enjoy the high batting average to go along with a hefty dose of runs scored.

RBI

Akil Baddoo (OF – DET): 43%
You knew I had to include Baddoo somewhere. The third pick in the Rule-5 draft has slugged his way into a starting role (against righties) after a record-breaking start. Over his first 11 MLB at-bats, Baddoo has five hits, including a triple and two homers, to go along with a whopping seven RBIs. He had similar production through spring, so this hot start isn’t a complete surprise. The electric rookie hit seventh in the lineup yesterday, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue to climb in the order. Baddoo will likely sit versus lefties, and he’s bound to slow down, but grab him for now and ride the thrilling hot streak.

Home Runs

Randal Grichuk (OF – TOR): 45%
A few weeks ago, Grichuk was a man without a starting job. After many fantasy managers passed on him because of it, a late injury to teammate George Springer created an opportunity for Grichuk once again. The slugging veteran has made the most of the opportunity. Over 20 at-bats to start the season, Grichuk already has eight hits with a 1.078 OPS. While Rowdy Tellez, on the other hand (the team’s original DH, partially blocking Grichuk from getting regular playing time), is 0 for 16 with no walks.

When George Springer returns from the IL, Grichuk should stick in the lineup most of the time. He has already hit one home run, and if he’s playing regularly, you can expect a whole lot more. Last year Grichuk hit 12 bombs in the shortened season, 31 the year prior, and 25 the season before that in only 124 games. In Toronto’s talented lineup, look for a return to 25-plus homers and 80-plus RBI. Add him now before it’s too late.

Stolen Bases

Manuel Margot (OF – TB): 23%
Margot got hot in the playoffs last year, and his confidence seems to have carried over to this season. In spring, Margot hit .378 with a 1.034 OPS. Also, in 20 regular-season at-bats, he has continued to swing a hot bat — he boasts a .300 BA with a solid .883 OPS. The Rays have him batting anywhere from second to seventh, but more importantly, he’s been in the starting lineup every game other than Opening Day. With Kevin Kiermaier out at least a few weeks, look for Margot to continue manning center field.

Margot stole eight bags in under 50 games last season, and he swiped 19 of them the year before. If Margot can continue to get on base and hit both righties and lefties, he could continue to start the majority of games even after Kiermaier returns (likely moving to left with Austin Meadows moving to DH). Either way, the Rays will find a way to utilize his speed, offering fantasy managers a decent amount of steals.

*Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF – COL) is also a solid pickup for stolen bases, but his rostership shot up to 53% after last night’s three stolen bags performance. He has three steals and is batting .300 over 20 at-bats so far.

Saves

Cesar Valdez (RP – BAL): 49%
Jake Diekman is the obvious choice here, with Trevor Rosenthal possibly needing thoracic outlet surgery. But since his rostership will likely be above 50 percent by the time you read this, I’ll go with Valdez. I was highly skeptical of a closer whose fastball barely reaches 85 — until I watched him mow down Yankee hitters with some of the dirtiest off-speed pitches I’ve ever seen. Baltimore is content to use him for multiple innings, so he may wear down eventually, but for now, he’s their man to close out games. After hitters have seen him a few times, they may learn to lay off those diving pitches. However, until then, Valdez should rack up a solid save total for the 4-2 Orioles.

Strikeouts

Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA): 49%
After averaging a strikeout per inning last year, Kikuchi opened the season with a 10-strikeout performance over six innings. While many fantasy managers are still hesitant to start the Japanese star, his previous analytics point to solid production. Kikuchi’s inflated ERA last season was largely due in part to bad luck and a few calls just off the plate that didn’t go his way. His FIP was a sterling 3.30, and he only gave up three home runs all season. He may have the occasional clunker, but if you’re willing to play the matchups, Kikuchi should offer a steady dose of strikeouts throughout the season.

WHIP

Drew Smyly (SP – ATL): 43%
I went with Smyly last week for the strikeouts category, and I’ll sing his praises again for WHIP. Smyly started the season on a high note by tossing six innings while allowing only five base runners (0.83 WHIP) and two earned runs (he also finished with eight strikeouts). Last season, over seven games (five starts) in San Francisco, Smyly produced a 1.10 WHIP and a 37.8 K%. He has had his ups and downs throughout his career, but most of the lows have come on the heels or beginnings of an injury. When Smyly is on, he is extremely tough to hit. With a decent walk rate (career 2.84 BB/9), expect his WHIP to stay below 1.200.

Wins

Jordan Montgomery (SP – NYY): 50%
Montgomery showed us just what he could do in his first start of the season. Facing the Orioles, who were just coming off an 11-3 victory and a three-game sweep of the Red Sox, Montgomery silenced their bats with six shutout innings. He allowed four hits, no walks, and struck out seven. With a solid bullpen and the beneficiary of plenty of run support, the fully healthy Montgomery should be able to win a decent amount of games. Most pitchers below 50% rostership are usually best left for matchup plays and can often be interchangeable off the waiver wire, but I feel Montgomery has moved beyond the occasional start and should be owned in the majority of leagues.

ERA

Dane Dunning (SP – TEX): 12%
You can usually boost your ERA by streaming pitchers based on matchups. That said, a player like Dane Dunning deserves your attention. My deepest sleeper of the group, Dunning may pitch for the lowly Rangers, but don’t let his lack of buzz fool you. He was a highly-prized prospect coming up through the White Sox farm system and did nothing but produce after he was called up. He was the lead player included in the Lance Lynn deal, and his first start for the Rangers couldn’t have gone much better.

He went five innings gave up three hits, one run, and earned the win. He did much of the same throughout his minor league career and last year in Chicago. He isn’t exactly a power arm, so he doesn’t get the hype that others do, but you can’t ignore the steady production. Add Dunning now and look like the savvy manager that you are.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.