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20 Things to Watch For in Week 10 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Jun 5, 2021

Compared to fantasy football, season-long fantasy baseball is truly a game of endurance. It’s easy to stay plugged in during April and May, but the dog days of summer is when leagues are won or lost. Therefore, it’s critical to stay invested despite everything else we might have going on throughout the summer. Let’s hone in on Week 10.

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1. Alek Manoah‘s fastball
The 23-year-old’s second big league start wasn’t nearly as fun as his first. Manoah surrendered four earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings pitched, but the most notable development was the decline in his fastball velocity. Manoah’s four-seamer averaged 94.8 mph his first time out, but that fell to 93.2 mph this past Wednesday. Combined with a drop in spin rate, Manoah just didn’t have the same electric repertoire for this one. Perhaps this was due to the weather conditions in Buffalo. Or maybe the comebacker Manoah took off his leg affected this. The good news is that his slider was still exceptional. It’s also important to remember that this most recent outing was just his 11th as a professional. Still, the fastball is what to monitor for Manoah in Week 10 against the White Sox.

2. Casey Mize‘s golden matchup
The 2018 No. 1 pick is a great example of how progress isn’t always linear, especially for pitching prospects. Mize was bad in his debut season last summer, putting up a 6.99 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP in 28 1/3 innings. There was a lot of talk over the winter about Mize working on the “verticality” of his pitches, but April didn’t go as planned. Since the end of April, though, the young right-hander has been on a roll. In his past seven starts Mize has totaled six quality starts with a 2.45 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 44 innings. This past week he generated a career-high 17 swinging strikes in Thursday’s outing against the White Sox. He still isn’t a finished project but it’s finally coming together for him. Start Mize with confidence against the Mariners in Week 10.

3. DJ LeMahieu‘s battled ball data
Maybe it was always wrong to invest such a high draft pick in a player coming off a career year, but LeMahieu was also elite in 2019 so this was a bit tough to see coming. Nonetheless, we’re now in June and DJL is batting just .255 entering Friday. He isn’t striking out a lot compared to the rest of the league, but his 17.3 K% so far this year is nearly double what it was in 2020 (9.7%). Additionally, could the regression in his batted ball data be attributed to the new ball MLB is using this year? That’s my working theory as this was always the type of hitter who seemingly got the most out the juiced ball. 2019 was the most extreme year of the Juiced Ball Era and then he just downright over performed in 2020. Things should improve as the weather warms up, but fantasy managers shouldn’t expect a return on their third-round investment from March.

DJ LeMahieu xBA xwOBA
2019 .309 .370
2020 .308 .361
2021 .273 .332

4. Gerrit Cole‘s spin rate
At the time of this writing (Friday evening) I’m still not sure what to make of this “sticky substance” news. MLB is reportedly “cracking down” on pitchers using foreign substances to gain an edge. We heard that this would be the case over the offseason, but now it’s apparently actually happening. This was reported Thursday morning, and by that afternoon Baseball Twitter was in a frenzy. This is because Cole’s average spin rate in his start against the Rays was 2,436, which is way down from the 2,561 figure he was previously averaging. It remains to be seen what will come off this entire situation, not just for Cole but for pitchers as a whole. We’ll need to monitor this moving forward.

5. Teams playing seven games
Only three teams have a full slate of games in Week 10 — the Royals, Red Sox, and Marlins. This makes hitters from these teams potentially worth streaming for counting stats. Names that come to mind are Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Renfroe, Enrique Hernandez, Danny Santana, Garrett Cooper and Jesus Aguilar.

6. Framber Valdez‘s two-start week
There was a brief period in March where it sounded as if Valdez would miss the entire 2021 season. Even though that always felt a bit far-fetched, it was entirely up in the air how much production fantasy managers could expect this year. But things are off to a good start. Through two appearances Valdez has yet to allow a fly ball. In 11 innings he has 14 strikeouts and has given up just two earned runs. Seemingly improving on last year’s breakout, Valdez has two starts in Week 10 against the Red Sox and Twins.

7. A lack of other two-start options
There are only three games on Monday in Week 10, so there aren’t many two-start options. In addition to Valdez, the below names are the only other ones that I’d consider using:

So yeah, it’s brutal out there.

8. Zero games in Coors Field
The Rockies have six road games in Week 10, which means we don’t want to stream any of their fringey bats. This is also why Lopez and Gray are such strong two-start pitchers.

9. Tampa Bay’s Super Two strategy
Entering Friday Taylor Walls is batting .190/.342/.258 while playing good defense. He has shown the ability to draw a good amount of walks, but obviously the batted ball data hasn’t been encouraging. I’m not picking on Walls, who is a fine prospect and projects as a super utility player for the Rays down the road. But his struggles, combined with the upcoming Super Two deadline, could mean one or both of Vidal Brujan and Wander Franco get promoted soon. We never know the exact Super Two date ahead of time, but it’s usually safe to assume it has passed around early-to-mid June. Brujan is already on the 40-man roster so I expect him to be called up first, but Franco shouldn’t be far behind. Maybe they’ll both be called up together. If somehow one of them is still available in your league, go add them.

10. Francisco Lindor‘s buy low window
Sure, it’s fair to say that Lindor’s buy low window has been open for multiple months now, but there are some recent signs that he’s beginning to turn things around. I want to preface this by saying that despite some encouraging results as of late, the expected stats on Baseball Savant still haven’t turned around, even during this hot streak. Still, stringing together a seven game hitting streak is never a bad thing. Over his past 28 plate appearances Lindor is hitting .407/.429/.630. It has mostly been singles, but at this point fantasy managers will take what they can get. With a player like Lindor, the buy low window could shut quickly. Unfortunately the Mets only play five games in Week 10.

11. Luis Castillo‘s matchup against Milwaukee
Oof. The preseason second-round fantasy selection was good enough on Friday night that we need to consider starting him in Week 10. Against the Cardinals Castillo completed six innings for just the second time this season, registering both a quality start and a win. He generated 16 swinging strikes and posted a 5:1 K:BB ratio. This is good news! But it presents a dilemma for fantasy players who likely sat him last night. Do we start him in Week 10 moving against the Brewers? Of course, it depends on both the format you play and what other options you have. Ultimately, I think I’d lean towards starting him given the matchup and the strong underlying numbers from his most recent outing. Of course, it’s easy for me to say this since I recently dropped my only share.

12. Tony Gonsolin‘s return
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts officially announced that Gonsolin would return to the team’s rotation in Week 10 for a matchup with the Pirates. We don’t normally want to use starters in their first turn back from an injury, but the matchup here might make this an exception. Gonsolin has always been good — in 86 2/3 career major league innings he has a 2.60 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. The issue with his fantasy value has always been about the fact that the Dodgers wouldn’t commit to him as a starting pitcher. Due to their recent injuries, however, they currently don’t have a choice. I’d ultimately prefer to take a wait-and-see approach to start, but Gonsolin should be rostered almost everywhere heading into Week 10.

13. The Reds’ bullpen
It’s unclear who Cincinnati’s actual closer is, but Lucas Sims has the most recent save. It was a unique opportunity since he pitched two innings to earn in. This came after Tejay Antone pitched two innings himself. And yes, it was Antone who got the team’s last save chance before this one. It seems as if we can narrow things down to these two for now, and I think the Reds prefer to have the flexibility of using Antone earlier in the game. I’d therefore bet on Sims for Week 10 if you need saves, but this isn’t a closed case just yet.

14. Blake Snell‘s home/road splits
Aside from Rockies players it usually isn’t ever as simple as using home/road splits to make lineup decisions in fantasy baseball. Snell’s 2021 has certainly been unique, though. After dominating on Friday night against the Mets, Snell now has a 1.65 ERA with a 3.85 K/BB in six home starts. But in six starts on the road he has a 9.70 ERA with a 1.58 K/BB rate. As of now the former Cy Young winner is lined up to face the Cubs on Wednesday…at home.

15. Miguel Andujar?
I just need to point out the fact that Andujar has three homers this week and might be worth adding in deeper mixed leagues. His hard-hit rate also sits at an impressive 47.4% entering the weekend. Hilariously, Andujar hasn’t walked in 77 plate appearances to this point. Again, this is only a recommendation for anyone playing in 14-15 team leagues. Like many teams New York has just five games in Week 10.

16. Streaming Austin Gomber
“Gombered” has been the fantasy industry’s recent buzz word, but managers should take a look at his recent game logs before laughing this off. Over his past five starts Colorado’s southpaw has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of them. In Week 10 he’s scheduled to face the Marlins on the road. He’s a worthwhile option in leagues where a lot of SPs are already rostered.

17. Alex Kirilloff‘s wrist
By no means has Kirilloff been a disaster since returning from his wrist injury. However, in 59 plate appearances he has yet to homer and is slugging just .309, which is good for a 75 wRC+. Perhaps he’s just shaking off the rust, but this isn’t ideal considering he has a history of wrist issues dating back to his time in the minors (and the fact that at one point we thought this most recent injury would require surgery).

18. Trevor Story‘s return
The star shortstop was placed on the 10-day IL with elbow inflammation but it was always expected to be a minor issue. The good news is that Story is on track to return on Tuesday in Miami, which is the first day that he’s eligible for activation. It has been a slow start to the season for Story and trade rumors are beginning to pick up. Fantasy managers should at least consider selling if he gets off to a hot start once he’s back.

19. Rolling windows
This week’s Statcast check-in features the five players who have seen their xwOBA rise the most over their past 50 plate appearances (entering Saturday):

20. Ke’Bryan Hayes being awesome
The Pirates play six games in Week 10 I had to include Hayes somehow.

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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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