Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Tyler O’Neill, Jesus Aguilar, Francisco Lindor
Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers article for Week 5 (4/26-5/2). I will be covering some of the hottest and coldest players in baseball over the last week. This weekly column aims to provide some insight into the players’ success and/or struggles mentioned below. We’ll discover if their recent performances have any staying power or if it was just a flash in the pan. It’s still early in the season, but we’re getting to the point where you need to decide to sell high, buy low, or cut bait on some of these risers and fallers. This upcoming week, as always, is big for some of the fallers mentioned below, and it should also shed light on the sustainability of some of the risers. With that said, let’s get into it.
Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL)
O’Neill has been on fire since he returned from the injured list back on April 23. He blasted two home runs last Sunday (April 25) but still had a poor .158/.200/.421 batting line with three home runs and five RBI at the time. Following the Cardinals’ 3-0 win over the Pirates on May 2, rocked a .270/.292/.540 batting line to go along with five home runs and 10 RBI on the season. He also racked up four multi-hit games last week, and he hit two home runs, drove in five RBI, stole two bases, and scored six runs.
We’ve been waiting a long time for O’Neill to finally break out, so it’s nice to see him get hot this early in the season. It’s rare to find a player who ranks in the 99th percentile in sprint speed and in the 94th percentile in both xSLG (.651) and Barrel rate (18.9%). He also has a Max Exit Velocity of 112.6 mph. He still strikes out way too much, with a 36.1% K rate, and he doesn’t walk nearly enough (1.6% BB rate), but his power/speed combination is tantalizing. He is worth rostering if still available in your league. Strike while the iron is hot.
Madison Bumgarner (SP – ARI)
Mad Bum is the first player this season to make both the “Fallers” and “Risers” list. Technically, his seven-inning no-hitter came in Week 4, but it was on a Sunday, so I will factor it into this week. After a disastrous start to the regular season in which he allowed 17 runs over his first three starts — good for an 11.20 ERA, 2.20 WHIP, and 15:8 K/BB ratio — Bumgarner has picked it up over his last three outings. He has allowed just two runs over the last 17 innings, including the seven-inning no-hitter he tossed against the Braves back on April 25.
He now owns a more respectable 5.58 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 33:10 K/BB ratio over 30 2/3 innings. He has shown a small uptick in velocity in both his four-seam fastball (92.7 mph) and his cutter (87.4 mph) over the last few starts, too. He has only pitched past the fifth inning once this season, and he does have a lot of work to do to lower his ERA moving forward, but it’s been a promising three-start run for the southpaw, who hasn’t looked all that great since signing with Arizona before last season.
Anthony DeSclafani (SP – SF)
DeSclafani’s debut season with the Giants has gotten off to an excellent start. He really could have made the “Risers” list at any point this year, but he most definitely deserved it after his two starts last week. He threw a complete-game shutout with nine strikeouts against the Rockies on April 27, and he followed that up with a quality start against the Padres on May 1. He may have taken the loss against San Diego, but holding down the mighty Padres offense is no easy task.
The 31-year-old holds an impressive 2.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 33:9 K/BB ratio over 36 innings (six starts) this season. His 3.09 FIP and 3.17 xERA are very solid, too. Those numbers show us that his performance hasn’t been a fluke. Opponents are hitting just .179 off his slider and .083 off his sinkerball, two pitches that he throws 30.7% and 23.1% of the time, respectively. He has a rematch with the Padres on the docket later this week, and if he can quiet those bats again, he should be added wherever available.
Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIA)
Aguilar’s numbers over the last eight games look like an entire season’s worth of production for some players. He slashed .321/.429/.964 with six home runs and 12 RBI over 35 plate appearances, with two of those long balls coming against his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers, at American Family Field. Aguilar was actually having a solid season before discovering his power stroke — he just wasn’t hitting home runs. He’s registered a career-high 12.6% K rate and 15.5% Walk rate up to this point and is third in all of MLB with 23 ribbies.
After the scorching hot week, he’s rocking an impressive .298/.398/.560 batting line with six home runs, 23 RBI, and a 13:16 K/BB ratio. He’s locked in at the dish right now, and the plate discipline has been there all season. He could be in for a massive year if he can continue to get on base at a steady clip and mash the ball as he did last week. Seeing him crush the ball in the Milwaukee series reminded us of his 35 home run and 108 RBI campaign with the Brewers back in 2018. He may not repeat those numbers this year, but we can dream.
Jesus is King pic.twitter.com/liZWqsxNZM
– Miami Marlins (@Marlins) April 28, 2021
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B/3B – TOR)
Vladdy Jr. put up an entire week’s worth of production in one game this week when he swatted three home runs and drove in seven in a win over the Nationals on April 27. The highlight of his three-run home run game, the first of his career, was when he blasted a grand slam off Max Scherzer. The calendar just turned to May, but it looks like the Vladito breakout has arrived.
– SportsGridRadio (@SportsGridRadio) April 28, 2021
He ranks in the 91st percentile or better in Average Exit Velocity, Max Exit Velocity, Hard Hit Rate, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, and Walk rate. He owns a .337/.486/.628 batting line with seven home runs and 20 RBI over 86 at-bats while upping his average launch angle to 10.2 degrees (4.6 last season). It’s easy to forget that he’s still just 22 years old. While it may be too early for the fantasy managers that never wavered to take a victory lap, we can still get excited about the sky-high ceiling this kid possesses. This is only the beginning.
Francisco Lindor (SS – NYM)
Lindor was off to a dreadful start this season, and last week was no better. In fact, it was worse. He went 1-for-20 (.050/.174/.050) with a single in 23 plate appearances over five games. Woof.
We can’t speculate too much, but it seems like the pressure of playing for a new team and receiving a massive contract extension has played a factor in the early season struggles. He went 0-for-5 with a walk in the Mets win over the Phillies on Sunday. He saw just five pitches in three of his six at-bats. He’s pressing at the plate as he tries to break out of this slump, and the Mets continue to underwhelm as a team.
There’s no doubt that the four-time All-Star will turn it around — he’s too good of a player to continue this cold streak. Fantasy managers are clearly frustrated with a .171/.289/.220 batting line to go along with one home run, three RBI, and zero stolen bases. He does have a stellar 12:12 K/BB ratio, and his expected stats (.247 xBA, .325 xwOBA, and .374 xSLG) are somewhat respectable, even if they’re off his career averages. Stay the course with Lindor because he will improve.
Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)
Swanson may be a “Faller” for now, but I don’t expect him to stay on this list for that long. He actually had a somewhat decent week with a .276/.323/.379 batting line to go along with one home run and two RBI over 29 at-bats, but that barely raised his horrible .202/.272/.317 season slash line. On the bright side, his expected stats show some light at the end of the tunnel. A .260 xBA, .339 xwOBA, and .460 xSLG are all respectable and his 47.8% Hard Hit rate ranks in the 77th percentile.
However, his 30% K rate and 6.4% Walk rate are troubling, as both are career worsts. Swanson smacked 10 home runs and swiped five bases in 60 games last season, but he is well off that pace now with just two home runs and one steal through 28 games this year. He should pick it up at the dish soon, and we can anticipate his real stats to approach the expected numbers, but he probably won’t match the career-high 17 home runs he hit back in 2019.
Daniel Bard (RP – COL)
Bard allowed five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings last week, blowing a save in one game and taking the loss in another. His implosion in Sunday’s loss to the Diamondbacks was tough to watch. He entered the game with the score knotted up at 4-4 before walking the first batter he faced. He then surrendered a single, a triple, and two doubles before getting yanked. The Rockies went on to lose, and Bard’s season ERA ballooned to an ugly 9.00 with a 2.33 WHIP over nine innings pitched. He’s 1-2 and has gone 2-for-4 on save opportunities.
Colorado doesn’t create many save chances, and Bard hasn’t fared well in his limited appearances. If he hasn’t already lost the closer’s role, then his leash has to be incredibly short at this point. He was a nice story last year, but the production simply isn’t there this season. It’s time to look elsewhere if you still have him rostered in your league.
Eugenio Suarez (SS/3B – CIN)
Suarez is coming off a two-homer week, but there’s still a lot to be concerned with. His Statcast percentile rankings are a sea of blue, as he sits in the 10th percentile or worse in Average Exit Velocity, Hard Hit rate, xwOBA, xBA, Strikeout rate, and Whiff rate. After 101 at-bats to date, he’s slashing .149/.237/.337. He hasn’t been a complete zero, as he does have five home runs and 12 RBI, but his 44:10 K/BB ratio with a 39.4% K rate is flat-out ugly.
Even his expected stats are a letdown, with a .161 xBA, .271 xwOBA, and .377 xSLG. Typically, you would expect a wider delta between real and expected stats, especially from a player like Suarez, who may be getting unlucky and has a solid career track record behind him. However, his .189 BABIP is a career-low, so perhaps poor luck is playing a factor. But things haven’t been pretty so far, and based on the data we have, it doesn’t look like it’ll get better anytime soon.
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