20 Things to Watch For in Week 5 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
In some ways it feels as if a lot has already happened in the 2021 MLB season. Perhaps I still have last year’s shortened campaign on my mind, but I wanted to offer up a reminder of how early it still is. Whether your league uses rotisserie scoring or H2H with playoff matchups, we still have 4-5 months to get through.
So while I typically advocate for fantasy managers to be reactionary on specific things early in the season (such as Emmanuel Clase becoming Cleveland’s closer, Jazz Chisholm‘s breakout, etc), we don’t want to overreact when it comes to veterans with long track records.
Fantasy baseball leagues aren’t won or lost in April. The winning takes place in the dog days of summer. Let’s look ahead to Week 5.
Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma
1. The start of the 2021 Minor League season
Listen, this is a Brendan Tuma article, which means I’m always going to mix in some prospect talk. Beginning next week (May 4th to be exact) we’ll have minor league baseball for the first time since September of 2019. That alone is reason enough to celebrate, but this also means we’ll finally start accruing stats for notable top prospects, which will have major fantasy takeaways for both redraft and dynasty league managers. Not only will we be able to start tracking the stats of our favorite minor leaguers, but teams should begin to feel more comfortable promoting their top youngsters. Wander Franco and Jarred Kelenic remain the only two prospects I’m currently stashing in redraft leagues, but there will be plenty more names to consider as the summer moves along.
2. Kyle Tucker‘s buy-low window
As I wrote in this week’s FeaturedPros article, Tucker stands out to me as the easiest buy low in fantasy baseball right now. Entering Friday the 24-year-old is hitting just .185/.220/.380. Five homers and two stolen bases have helped roto league managers, but it’s been a disappointing start nonetheless. The good news is that Tucker is sporting a wildly unlucky .169 BABIP. Additionally, his underlying skills are just as strong as they were in his breakout 2020. In fact, Tucker’s xwOBA, xSLG, and xBA are all higher than they were last summer. I’m expecting the hits to come flooding in sooner rather than later. Now is the time to get your trade offers in.
3. The Reds and White Sox limited to five-game schedules
These are the only two teams playing five games in Week 5, so fringe fantasy options from these squads should be benched in weekly lineup leagues. This includes Eugenio Suarez, Tyler Naquin, Jonathan India, Andrew Vaughn, and Nick Madrigal. Also note that the White Sox play two games in Cincinnati, which means they lose the DH. Therefore, it’s probably a good week to bench Yermin Mercedes as well.
4. Tampa Bay’s rotation plans
The collective fantasy baseball industry assumed the Rays would once again be messing around with their bullpen, using a variety of arms in the ninth inning to the dismay of fantasy managers everywhere. In reality, the team has more or less committed to Diego Castillo, but the rotation plans are becoming a source of frustration. This is especially the case recently, ever since both Luis Patiño and Shane McClanahan have made their Tampa debuts. Both are top-100 prospects who need to be rostered in dynasty formats, but they could be redraft assets as well depending on their usage moving forward.
Patiño made a start last Sunday in which he went 2 2/3 innings. The club was quiet on their plans for him moving forward, and he came out of the bullpen for two innings on Thursday. The pitcher he relieved was McClanahan, who absolutely dazzled in his first ever regular season appearance (he technically debuting in the playoffs last year). Both of these young arms would be fantasy relevant if used as traditional starters, but the lack of information makes them format-specific for now. In leagues that reward “RP ratios”, usually H2H categories, the duo are worth adding. In traditional roto formats I’m only interested in McClanahan if I have a roster spot to burn. Patiño is less likely to be roto relevant. Regardless, continue to monitor how the Rays approach these two.
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 29, 2021
5. Randy Arozarena‘s “sell high” window
We aren’t sell that high on the 26-year-old right now, but I have concerns that his value is only going to go in the wrong direction over the next couple of months. The surface level stats are fine, but underneath the hood are where my worries lie. Arozarena has a bottom 7th percentile strikeout rate to go along with a 4th percentile whiff rate. Worse, he’s hitting grounders at a 66.1% clip. The exit velocities and hard-hit rate are still strong, but it doesn’t do much good if he’s either whiffing or connecting on grounders. Perhaps someone in your league still believes in the upside he showed during the 2020 postseason, but his current profile suggests we shouldn’t expect that.
6. Alex Kirilloff‘s breakout party
It has been a slow start for Minnesota’s top prospect. Regardless, I was still fully set to recommend him for Week 5 lineups due to the fact that the Twins are facing nothing but right-handers. Kirilloff beat me to the punch, though, and went on to homer twice on Friday night. This should give fantasy managers full confidence in using him with all the righties coming up on his schedule.
Alex Kirilloff X2 tonight
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) May 1, 2021
7. Keston Hiura‘s playing time
The third-year second baseman entered Friday night’s game on the bench for a third straight contest. There doesn’t seem to be anything going on medically, which means that the Brewers are sitting him for performance reasons. And despite Hiura’s prospect pedigree, it’s tough to argue with Milwaukee’s decision. The 24-year-old is batting .167 with a .560 OPS and 29 strikeouts in 72 at-bats. There’s a chance he could get sent down to Triple-A when minor league games begin next week. He needs to be sat in fantasy until otherwise noticed. Hiura’s teammate Kolten Wong is a worthwhile pickup in the interim.
8. Could Ryan Mountcastle be sent down too?
Another underperforming youngster, Mountcastle just hasn’t been the same in 2021. Despite a five-game hitting streak, Mountcastle is batting just .198 with a .515 OPS entering Saturday. The batted-ball data shows little reason for optimism moving forward — the24-year-old isn’t hitting the ball well, he isn’t walking all that much, and he’s striking out a lot. Statcast showed some concerns with Mountcastle entering the year, but we were able to fall back on the idea that he has always hit well, including in 2019 when he was the International League MVP. The Athletic recently speculated a move could be made soon.
9. Are there any two-start pitchers to stream?
My favorite options, especially for points leagues, is Kyle Gibson of the Rangers. He just handled the Red Sox with ease, and now he gets the Twins and Mariners in Week 5. Minnesota has been good-not-great so far this year, but I continue to gain more confidence in Gibson. A lesser-employed option is Jake Junis of the Royals. He draws the Indians and White Sox for Week 5, and he continues to have some newfound success with his cutter.
10. Adam Wainwright‘s streaming potential
The 39-year-old continues to defy the aging curve. Wainwright is coming off a complete game against the Phillies where he allowed just two earned runs. The veteran righty has now allowed seven earned runs over his past 26 innings. He’s currently on the COVID-19 IL due to a family member testing positive, but the expectation is he’s back for Monday. If everything lines up as scheduled then Wainwright will draw the Rockies at home, which is a matchup we always want to attack. Fantasy managers probably didn’t enter 2021 thinking Wainwright would be a serviceable streamer, but here we are.
11. Coors Field Check-In
I’ll be writing about the Rockies’ schedule every single week that I do this article. Historically, Coors has been that big of a difference-maker in fantasy leagues. While it hasn’t been playing as hitter-friendly as usual so far, it’s important to remember that they’ve had some snowy conditions. I still expect things to get nutty as the weather warms up and the summer carries on. Anyways, Colorado plays six games next week — three at home against the Giants and three in St. Louis. Unfortunately, there isn’t any major takeaways this time around, but I’ll note that streaming options like C.J. Cron and Garrett Hampson are back in play, even with just three home games.
12. Can we trust Alex Wood in Coors?
Sticking with the Colorado section of today’s piece, this bring us to Alex Wood’s start in Coors Field next week. The 30-year-old southpaw has teased us with this kind of stretch in the past, and he now owns a 1.50 ERA with a 0.66 WHIP through three starts in 2021. This has primarily been due to Wood emphasizing his slider more than ever before, up to 40.8% of his pitches this season. Yet I still can’t bring myself to trust him in roto leagues. I’m just too scared of the possible hit to my ratios. Note that Wood is still very much worth rostering as of now. We should just hit him for this tough matchup.
13. Searching for saves
In the never-ending hunt for saves, we once again have some bullpens to monitor entering Week 5. I’m betting that Josh Staumont of the Royals is already rostered in most places, but he’s the best pickup from the past seven days of action. Lucas Sims needs to be employed as well, but he’s been a bit shaky recently. For my under-the-radar add this week I’m going with Sean Doolittle. I wish he got the save that Tejay Antone ultimately received on Thursday (a one-out save, FWIW), but there’s still a lot of opportunity in Cincinnati right now. Following a horrid 2020 Doolittle worked out at Push Performance in Arizona this past offseason, which helped him rediscover the vertical movement on his four-seamer.
14 – 16. Moving Down the Batting Order
In previous weeks I’ve highlighted some hitters who earned promotions in their team lineups, but today we’ll take note of some struggling stars.
First up is Josh Bell, who has been removed from the cleanup spot in each of Washington’s past two games. The Nationals had an incredibly weird start to the season, and fantasy managers managers should be comforted that Bell is under performing his xwOBA by over 100 points. Additionally, his hard-hit rate is a career-high 51.4%. I’m betting the slugging first baseman will be just fine.
Next we have Charlie Blackmon, who has hit fifth or sixth in each of the Rockies’ past five contests. It’s concerning that the veteran outfield is off to such a slow start since Colorado has already had so many home games. However, similar to Bell, all the underlying stats are checking out. I’d consider buying Blackmon before the Rockies have another long home stand.
Lastly we have Eugenio Suarez, who has hit fifth in three of his last four starts. The Baseball Savant numbers on Suarez are worrisome, particularly an outlandish 38.1% strikeout rate. I’d be wanting to sell Suarez if I was able to get close to preseason value for him.
17. Pitchers who have been lucky (over performing xERA)
Aside from Reyes’ shaky control over the Cardinals’ closer role and Duffy’s expected regression, there isn’t a lot to see here.
18. Hitter Injuries
The two most notable names who could return from the IL in Week 5 are Christian Yelich and Mike Yastrzemski. However, it won’t be until late in the week, so fantasy managers should plan to sit them in weekly lineup leagues.
19. Pitcher Injuries
Gamers can plan on having Hyun-Jin Ryu back for Week 5, since his glute injury was always considered minor. The situation is murkier for Corbin Burnes. Hopefully we get an update on him before lineups lock on Monday.
20. Bobby Witt‘s potential meteoric rise
Bringing it full circle, Witt probably has the most value to gain in redraft leagues based on the start he gets off to in the minor leagues. We know that he’ll begin the ’21 campaign in Double-A. Whereas Jarred Kelenic and Wander Franco are en route to the majors no matter what, Witt could expedite his path to the bigs with a huge showing early on. The former No. 2 overall pick hit an excellent .289/.325/.526 with three homers in 40 spring plate appearances. This is notable since he’s never played above rookie ball. Be sure to monitor his numbers down on the farm.
The first thing that comes to mind whenever I hear the name Bobby Witt Jr. is “ridiculously high ceiling” pic.twitter.com/2XZ0ItLlCI
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) March 8, 2021
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