20 Things to Watch For in Week 6 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
All things considered the 2021 Major League Baseball season has felt relatively normal. At the very least, it has been far more familiar than what went down last summer. And this past week we continued to creep closer back to that feeling of “normalcy” as the minor leagues resumed following a 588 day hiatus.
My own personal adoration of the minors aside, it’s an objectively good thing for baseball to have top prospects playing in games that matter again. It’s also great for fans, team evaluators, and the thousands who are employed by minor league organizations. A lot of things were taken away in 2020 that we previously took for granted. Slowly but surely we’re starting to get some of them back. The Minor Leagues are here, the weather is warming up, summer is right around the corner, and it’s Week 6 in Fantasy Baseball Land. There’s a lot to be excited about right now. Make sure to not take any of it for granted. Now let’s dive in.
Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma
1. Andrew Benintendi‘s favorable schedule
As a Red Sox fan I’ve had an up-close view at Benintendi’s entire career. There have been some disturbing trends in recent years. Following a slow start to 2021 I admittedly gave up on him. Yet since April 21st he has raised his batting average from .180 to .276. He’s up to 18 runs in an underrated Kansas City lineup. He even has five stolen bases. While he isn’t as fast as his top prospect days, we know the Royals will keep letting him run. This is all to say that Benintendi is very much back in play as a meaningful roto contributor. He can help in batting average and stolen bases, which are the two toughest categories to replace via the waiver wire. Additionally, KC faces six right-handers in Week 6. Fire up your Benintendi shares and acquire him while his value might still be ambiguous.
2. Francisco Lindor‘s struggles
The Mets’ shortstop was a second-round pick in most fantasy drafts and is hitting .175/.302/.247 entering Saturday. That isn’t what folks signed up for. My colleague and good friend Mike Maher discussed Lindor in his recent Statcast Review piece (which is excellent) and his findings aren’t overly optimistic. While there are encouraging reasons to view Kyle Tucker as a savvy buy-low due to his strong expected stats, the same can’t be said for Lindor. It also doesn’t help that Lindor wasn’t his usual self in 2020 either. The highest paid shortstop in baseball is making contact at his normal rate. He just isn’t barreling balls up at all. As for actionable advice nobody should be selling low on him. The track record is still too strong. I’d want a Xander Bogaerts type — or even Tucker — if trading Lindor away. Note that Friday’s epic homer was certainly an encouraging sign.
3. Jarred Kelenic‘s potential debut
Speaking of the Mets, let’s talk about Kelenic (sorry, Dan Harris). Seattle’s 21-year-old outfielder is universally considered a top-five prospect in baseball. We’ve been ready for his arrival for a while now. However, the Mariners have said to hell with what fantasy players want, sending Kelenic to Triple-A Tacoma to begin the minor league season. Well it’s safe to say he’s off to a good start after homering twice in his debut on Thursday, including one versus a lefty. Taylor Trammell just isn’t cutting it in left field for Seattle. Kelenic is coming very, very soon. Continuing to start hot should only help expedite his path to big league (and fantasy baseball!) stardom.
Jarred Kelenic was FIRED UP after his first Triple-A blast. pic.twitter.com/hsn3X3OuFc
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 7, 2021
4. Cubs, Mets, Dodgers playing only five games
Paying attention to how many games your players have scheduled is a way to game the system in weekly lineup leagues. We shouldn’t overrate this. After all, is seven games versus five really going to make all that big of a difference? I think it does if you’re consistently taking advantage of streaming hitters by maximizing games played. Of course, we should never bench an objectively superior hitter in favor of one who has more games, but it’s a good tiebreaker. This is a long way of me saying that anyone struggling on these teams can be sat in favor of a hot bat with seven games. Dom Smith and Michael Conforto come to mind right away, for example.
5. Coors Check-In
As always, we need to know what’s happening at Coors Field before setting our weekly lineups. I mentioned in this piece last Saturday that I expect Coors craziness to trend upwards as the summer begins heating up. We saw some signs of that in this week’s Giants-Rockies series when San Francisco dropped 10 runs in the first inning of Tuesday’s matinee. Now we have a full-seven game set in Colorado for Week 6, with both the Padres (3) and Reds (4) receiving a boost to their fringe fantasy assets. As for Colorado — C.J. Cron, Raimel Tapia, Garrett Hampson, and Dom Nunez are all very much in play as streaming options.
6. Two-start pitchers
It’s once again not a bad week for two-start options! Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, and Brady Singer are all solid options to pick up and start in Week 6. For the record, Kyle Gibson is also a two-start pitcher, but he has graduated from streaming status. As for matchups — MadBum gets the Marlins and Nationals, Ray gets the Braves and Phillies, and Singer gets the Tigers and White Sox. This is also the order I’d rank them in for anyone trying to pick up a two-start option.
7. Dylan Cease‘s pitch mix and SP2 upside
The 25-year-old former top prospect is also a two-start pitcher, but he’s a strong enough option that he deserves his own writeup. Cease’s past two starts have been phenomenal — 13 scoreless frames with a 20:3 K:BB ratio. So what changed? The most noticeable improvements have been an increase in the spin rate of his pitches, primarily his slider. He also began mixing in his curve and changeup more, which gives him a true four-pitch mix. There were reasons to be excited about Cease entering the year, but some rough outings early on caused many fantasy analysts to look away. He’s definitely on our radar again, and he needs to be rostered (and started) in every league entering Week 6.
8. John Means‘ encore
We’ve known that John Means Business since last September, but his ascention reached new heights in Wednesday’s no-hitter. The 28-year-old totaled 12 strikeouts en route to the masterpiece. The only blemish was a batter reaching first base on a dropped third strike. This has led to a discussion on whether or not fantasy gamers should sell high on Baltimore’s ace. High-end pitching can be so tough to come by that it’s alright to simply sit back and collect the profit Means is providing. If you do seek to trade him then make sure you’re focusing on the “high” aspect of “sell high.” My recommendation, if you can afford to part with him, is to find a team in your league in dire need of starting pitcher help.
JOHN MEANS BUSINESS pic.twitter.com/0UsL2LvWBR
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) May 5, 2021
9. Alex Reyes‘ grip on the closer role
Reyes was one the best pitching prospect in baseball, but for years his career didn’t go as planned. Injuries and ineffectiveness piled up year after year. Finally in 2021 he has found his calling as the Cardinals’ closer. Now 26 years old, Reyes has been a blessing for fantasy players who punted saves on draft day. Entering Saturday he has nine saves and still hasn’t given up a run. That’s fantastic, but it’s concerning how hard he gets hit as well as his 16:12 K:BB ratio. Reyes is good, and Jordan Hicks‘ latest injury should only lengthen his leash on the job, but I’d probably look to swap him for another top-10 closer if I could.
10. James Karinchak closing time?
Emmanuel Clase imploded on Friday night against the Reds, allowing three runs (two earned) without recording an out. The timing is unfortunate as James “Special K” Karinchak recorded a save earlier in the week. He has been downright special this season, registering a 0.60 ERA with an unholy 30:3 K:BB rate through 15 innings. He also has three saves and four holds, which makes him an elite reliever in SV+HLDs formats. We don’t yet have reason to suspect that the Tribe will turn away from Clase in the ninth, but it’s something to monitor. Special K makes sense as a “buy” if anyone is selling.
11. Gary Sanchez‘s playing time
Sanchez hit his third homer of the season on Friday night. He’s now hitting .182 with a .674 OPS. Things haven’t gone as planned for those who bought into his draft-day discount. Worsening the situation is newfound concerns over playing time. Including Friday, Sanchez has started just 4 of New York’s past 10 games. Kyle Higashioka is basically operating as the starting catcher right now, which makes Sanchez droppable in most formats.
12. Willie Calhoun‘s hot bat
Could it finally be happening for the ever-lovable Willie Calhoun? The 26-year-old has long been a favorite of fantasy writers, but injuries have always slowed him down. Since debuting midway through April this year, Calhoun is batting .338 with three homers and an .895 OPS. He has recorded multi-hit performances in 6-of-16 starts. He has reached base safely in all but one of those. The hit tool was always there. It’s what led him to being the prospect Texas received from the Dodgers in exchange for Yu Darvish. And Calhoun’s Statcast numbers are saying this is mostly legit. Rejoice, Willie Calhoun fans!
13. Is Trevor Larnach the next Alex Kirilloff?
The timing of the Kirilloff injury was devastating. He was truly set to experience a full breakout with six extra-base hits in his four games prior to injuring his wrist. Alas, combined with the Byron Buxton injury, this has opened the door for another lefty-swinging outfielder in Minnesota — Trevor Larnach. He isn’t quite the level of prospect the Kirilloff is, but Larnach is still a former first-round pick with a strong hit tool and 25+ homer power over a full season. The 24-year-old has always gotten on base at a good clip and should see semi-regular playing time for as long as Buxton/Kirilloff are sidelined. Unlike some other top prospect who receive a big league promotion, Larnach isn’t must-add right away unless you need outfield help.
14. Top prospects playing in the minors
Look, you clicked on a Brendan Tuma article. You should know that means there will be some prospect coverage mixed in. Seriously, though, it has been such a joy to be getting minor league box scores again. For those of us playing in dynasty leagues this provides us with better information when tracking prospects. For example, Alek Manoah, Toronto’s first-round pick from 2019, exploded onto the dynasty scene with his Triple-A debut on Thursday night. I instantly added him in a dynasty league where free agents are first come/first serve. Make sure to stay plugged into the FantasyPros MLB News Desk as I’ll be mixing in some minor league game recaps on the biggest names to know.
Will be mixing in Minor League game recaps for top prospects on the @FantasyPros MLB News Desk this year, such as this Robert Hassell one below
Nothing crazy, but just keeping readers up to date on some of the bigger names to know pic.twitter.com/FKFD1sTgc5
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) May 7, 2021
15. Charlie Blackmon‘s last dance?
The grizzly, 34-year-old outfielder has been a fantasy presence for a while now, but there were some concerns entering ’21 that the end was near. A slow start didn’t help matters, but Blackmon is slowly starting to string together some positive performances. Also, the expected stats are finally showing some reasons for optimism. Blackmon has a .289 wOBA with a .360 xwOBA. He has a .206 BA with a .288 xBA. As mentioned above the Rockies play seven home games next week. Blackmon is a buy-low entering the week. We’ll soon learn just how much he has left in the tank.
16. Sixto Sanchez updates
I’ve held onto Sanchez in a 12-team roto league and it has been brutal. Since Miami optioned him to the minors before he suffered his injury, he isn’t eligible for the IL in fantasy baseball. This has meant that we’ve basically had to treat him as a prospect who could be up midseason. We know Sanchez is ultra-talented, and that he can help us in our fantasy leagues, which makes him a bit different than MacKenzie Gore / Bobby Witt types. This is why I’ve held onto him all this time. The 22-year-old is currently aiming for a June return. Now is the time to start keeping an eye out for positive updates if he was dropped in your league. Don’t add him just yet, but monitor the situation closely.
17. Over performing hitters
For this week’s Statcast spotlight we’ll take another look at hitters who are over performing their xwOBA. This doesn’t necessarily make these players instant sells. It’s just something to always be taking note of.
- Buster Posey
- Francisco Mejia
- Randy Arozarena
- Kris Bryant
- Mike Trout
- Jared Walsh
- Jesse Winker
- Yuli Gurriel
- Yermin Mercedes
18. Dinelson Lamet‘s velocity
I can’t think of a riskier fantasy option than starting Lamet in Coors Field on Monday, so obviously fantasy managers should sit him in Week 6. What I’ll be interested in monitoring is his velocity, which was noticeably down in his most recent two-inning outing. This makes two strikes for Lamet. He left his first start with a forearm issue and then had the velocity issues last time out. Monday isn’t about the results as much as it is about him escaping healthy.
19. Juan Soto‘s usage
The Nationals activated the superstar outfielder from the injured list earlier this week. However, his shoulder is still bothering him to the point where he isn’t playing the field. Soto is serving as Washington’s DH this weekend in Yankee Stadium, but it remains to be seen how the Nats will employ him when they return to National League ballparks next week. Check our News Desk for recent reports before setting your weekly lineups.
20. Brendan and Mike’s Sunday Night FAAB/Waivers Clubhouse Room
Every Sunday night this season Mike Maher and I have been hopping on Clubhouse at 8 PM EST to talk through that week’s FAAB/waivers run. For those unfamiliar with Clubhouse it’s basically an app that lets you set up an audio conference call. Mike and I are the hosts, but listeners can “raise their hand” to come “on stage” to ask a question and interact. If you need an invite to Clubhouse and our Fantasy Baseball Group, just shoot one of us a DM on Twitter!
Players I’m adding in my #FantasyBaseball leagues
Going live with @mikeMaher in 5 minutes to discuss on Clubhouse
Swing by and ask questions! https://t.co/tf4mqa9W7N
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) April 18, 2021
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.