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20 Things to Watch For in Week 11 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

Jun 12, 2021
Byron Buxton fantasy baseball

All indications are that Byron Buxton has fully recovered from his hip injury.

The 2021 season has now officially passed 2020 in terms of length, and we have another 100 or so games ahead of us for our fantasy seasons and the league to sort itself out.

With the chapter turn pushing us into areas of the schedule not seen since 2019, we also have a temporary swap for this column. I’m filling in for your regular author, Brendan Tuma, and I find this change noteworthy because of the nature of the article itself. These are 20 things to watch in Week 11, and every fantasy analyst has a slightly different approach or spin when digging through numbers. The good news is that Brendan and I are generally aligned — as you will see throughout this column –, but I find that writing from a fresh perspective will give you, the reader, another voice to consider when following the upcoming week of games.

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1. Byron Buxton’s Potential Return
How fitting of Brendan to leave me the keys to this vehicle the same week that we might see the return of Byron Buxton. After all, I simply can’t quit Buxton, even though he broke my heart yet again.

Here I am, waiting with open arms.

Buxton finally started a rehab assignment, and all indications are that he has fully recovered from his hip injury. It’s time to prepare our rosters for his return, where any further delay would be devastating now that we are midway through June.

2. MLB’s Stance on Foreign Substances
Say what you will about how serious a matter this is, but Major League Baseball is now placing a high priority on preventing pitchers from using sticky substances. The consensus is that stricter rules will — or possibly already have — result in spin rates decreasing. If that happens, shouldn’t offensive outputs increase? That’s the theory, anyway, but it’s absolutely something to watch as we continually gather more data on the new hot button issue around the league.

3. Willy Adames’ Surge
Willy Adames has been outstanding since being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers from the Tampa Bay Rays, but we obviously have to question how long this can last. Perhaps it ends soon, but there’s reason to believe a change of scenery has unlocked something. Adames is currently batting over .300 with Milwaukee, compared to under .200 with the Rays. Don’t forget that Adames was once a top prospect, so he’s worth a flier in most leagues until we can determine how real this sudden breakout is.

4. Brendan Rodgers’ Revival
If we combine the aforementioned Byron Buxton with Willy Adames, we would have Brendan Rodgers. Also a former top prospect and also eternally battling injuries, Rodgers is finally on the field and actually performing. His season-long numbers are still not to the point where we would like, but that’s because he had a freezing start to the year. Now that he is heating up, the buying window is about to close. He’s approaching a .300 batting average with more playing time likely in the future, so act swiftly and add Rodgers where possible.

5. Walker Buehler’s Fastball Velocity

Walker Buehler’s ADP was one of the hotly contested topics during Draft Season, but those arguing against him may have been right in one specific area. That is his workload. Perhaps it’s not directly tied to 2020’s short season — and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ playoff run in which Buehler started five games — but his fastball velocity is currently down compared to last year. As shown in the table above, it’s actually in the top ten for the largest velocity drop in the league.

I’m not one to panic — and I did buy into Buehler entering 2021 — but the next image is more concerning.

His last 50 xWOBA is dropping. Hard. If his fastball velocity isn’t going to turn back up, then it’s likely his underlying numbers fail to do the same. At that point, it’s fair to show some extreme caution.

6. The Mets’ 8-Game Schedule
We had to know all of the early-season postponements were going to start to compile, and the New York Mets are arguably the team most affected by the rain. We’re now in the middle of June, and New York is the only team with eight games scheduled for Week 11. Granted, at least one is likely to involve Max Scherzer on the opposing mound, but streaming hitters from New York, where possible, will be aided greatly by the sheer volume for the team.

7. The Rangers’ 5-Game Schedule
The schedule-makers giveth, and the schedule-makers taketh away. Where New York gets eight games, the Texas Rangers only have five lineups for Week 11. This wouldn’t be too critical of a situation if the rest of the league were also to have a light week. That isn’t the case, though. Every team besides the Rangers and Mets will play either six or seven games, where a large portion of the league is on the seven-game side. Keep this in mind when setting your weekly lineup, as you likely can’t afford to have two empty days from a player compared to a full workload from your opponent’s.

8. Seven Games in Colorado
Buckle up. The Colorado Rockies are hosting seven games in Week 11. Three for the Padres and four for the Brewers. This may have more of an impact on MLB DFS than season-long teams but pay attention. Milwaukee’s pitching staff has been unhittable, but it will play in a brutal ballpark. Conversely, we could see an explosive fantasy week by hitters from all three teams.

9. Casey Mize’s Two-Start Week
The typical writer of this column has not been shy about his love of Casey Mize, but the reality is that I’m right there with him. Mize is a former top prospect who is coming off a shortened rookie campaign. Simply put, it’s way too early to judge where his career is heading. Quite frankly, it’s currently heading in the right direction over his last few starts. As of now, he’s potentially slotted in for two games in Week 11. He will get scooped up in most leagues because of the schedule alone, so be aggressive now before the opportunity is missed.

10. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Pitching Rotation
Jack Flaherty is the key name that recently landed on the Injured List, but the story is more about the players still healthy than those injured. As of this writing, Adam Wainwright is scheduled for two starts in Week 11, while St. Louis hasn’t even named a fifth starter. There were some rumors that Matthew Liberatore would make his Major League debut to fill one of the spots, but such a move does not appear imminent. As I wrote about Tucker Davidson earlier in this column, a pitcher can certainly slide into the rotation as a temporary fix and grab hold of a permanent spot, so we’ll have to monitor this situation closely.

11. Eugenio Suarez’s Barrels

Eugenio Suarez is currently batting .163. His strikeout rate is astronomical, and he has given up on trying to walk — he’s at his lowest walk rate of the last four seasons. Yet, despite a soul-crushing batting average and a terrifying inability to make contact, Suarez is making the most of his batted-ball events. He is now in the top-25 among qualified hitters for barrels-per-plate appearance.

This isn’t just a matter of solid contact. Suarez is also tied for 20th in the league in home runs. He is the epitome of an “all-or-nothing” approach, but it’s working in at least one category. We should pay close attention in case he starts to improve across the board.

12. Alex Kirilloff’s Health
Alex Kirilloff may end up as one of the more frustrating stories of 2021. He didn’t make the Twins’ Opening Day roster, took a little time to settle at the Major League level, and finally started to get red hot.

Then a wrist injury knocked him out.

Many of us waited patiently for his return, knowing that he might need that same grace period once fully healthy. Sure enough, he needed a little more time to get his swing right.

Then a leg injury knocked him out.

Sense the trend?

The reality is that Kirilloff’s newest injury is not being treated like the last one, but that’s where we need to focus our attention. If he were to have a second stint on the injured list with only one hot stretch on the year, his fantasy baseball value would start to sink.

13. Jacob deGrom’s Health
This one is too easy.

Because Jacob deGrom is too easy.

The Mets’ ace continues to put together one of the greatest seasons by a starting pitcher in decades, but he is also tiptoeing around injury for the second time this year. He left Friday’s start after only 80 pitches and six innings because of discomfort in his arm, but he isn’t expected to miss any time.

At this point, if you’re playing in a weekly league, you probably have to leave deGrom in your lineup with the expectation that he makes his next start. Still, it’s a situation to monitor.

14. The Cincinnati Reds’ Record
The Cincinnati Reds enjoyed their best campaign in nearly a decade when finally finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2013. That 31-29 record from 2020 was in a shortened season, and, one year later, the Reds are hovering right around .500, yet again — in fact, after 60 games, the team was 29-31, a direct swap of last year’s final mark.

The Reds will play all of Week 11 on the road, including a four-game series with the Padres. Don’t forget that Cincinnati started the year as one of the hottest teams in the league with an offense that was putting up laughably good numbers. Even with the head start, the Reds have fallen into a losing record. This week will tell us a lot about how the team handles adversity.

15. The Rolling 100 xWOBA Hitters

Adalberto Mondesi leading the “hot” side of the rolling 100 xWOBA for hitters is not surprising in the least. Mondesi was a top target among fantasy baseball managers during Draft season, and those same managers were devastated when Mondesi suddenly landed on the injured list just before Opening Day. Not only is he fully healthy now, but he’s getting back into his rhythm and starting to rise through the rankings.

The “cold” side of the equation is a little more interesting. Nick Solak was starting to deliver on the promise of last year’s breakout potential but has clearly started regressing toward his mean. Robbie Grossman was an on-base stud before he, too, saw his numbers drift back toward average. Finally, Jazz Chisholm Jr. makes the list despite his last 50 xWOBA pointing up.

Ultimately, we know this list will look different in a week, so I’ll watch for the players in the above chart to either continue along their trend or show another reversal.

16. Tucker Davidson’s Next Start
Tucker Davidson has been a popular name in the Minor League Baseball community for quite a while, but his season debut was overshadowed by players like Alex Manoah and Jared Kelenic. In addition, Davidson’s role in the Atlanta Braves’ pitching rotation was unstable at best. He would be given an opportunity but no guarantees.

Three starts into 2021, Davidson is forcing Atlanta’s hand. He is now pitching to an incredible 1.53 ERA and did not allow a run in either of his last two starts. Instead, he’s struck out nine betters and given up a total of five hits.

There’s also a chance Davidson sneaks in for two starts in Week 11, but even if he doesn’t, he is still worth a speculative add in all formats.

17. Jo Adell and Vidal Brujan
For those of us who buy heavily into prospects as soon as they arrive with their respective Big League clubs — my hand is raised in the air — 2021 has not shown the immediate returns-on-investments that we have seen in the past. That doesn’t mean we will continue to see underwhelming performances with new arrivals, but simply that we have to look elsewhere.

Right now, neither Jo Adell nor Vidal Brujan appears to be on the verge of joining their Major League teams, but both are hitting well and already on the 40-man roster. Another good week from either one might result in a surprise promotion, so keep both on your radar.

18. Lucas Sims
Cincinnati has worked with a closer-by-committee in 2021 but said committee appears to be dissolving for the next week or so. Tejay Antone has landed on the injured list, and Lucas Sims now slides unchallenged into the closer’s role.

The early report for Antone is that he should be back on the mound as soon as his 10-day period on the injured list concludes, but this still gives fantasy managers a clean stretch with Sims.

19. The Race to 20 Home Runs
By the time this article publishes, it’s possible someone has won said race, but the league is now chasing 20 home runs through roughly 60 games. The two young bats of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr. rank first and second, respectively, but a handful of others are within four home runs of the key checkpoint. We likely see a few cross the barrier in Week 11 and should start to question the long-term sustainability of some of these power bats — i.e., will Jesse Winker or Adolis Garcia actually push for 30 home runs?

Indeed, this is not a decision to make right now, but it becomes a topic of conversation as soon as the first big milestone falls.

20. Shohei Ohtani
I’ll end this article with the league’s current must-watch player. In fact, I’m not even sure I need to write anything here. Just “Shohei Ohtani,” and you get it. We all get it. He’s become one of the most electrifying and exciting players in recent memory and, if we’re looking for “what to watch,” then Ohtani is a mainstay on the list.

After all, we play fantasy baseball and watch the games because we enjoy it. It has been thoroughly enjoyable to watch Shohei Ohtani play baseball in 2021.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros and the creator and content editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola.

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