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Fantasy Baseball Category Analysis: C.J. Cron, Jake Odorizzi, J.P. Crawford (2021)

Jun 26, 2021
J.P. Crawford

If you still haven’t jumped on the J.P. Crawford train, now is the time to do so.

Wow. It has been an entertaining week, to say the least. With the league cracking down on sticky substances, we’ve not only witnessed some memorable theatrics but also a rise in offense. It may or may not be a coincidence, but for some of those trusty veterans who have been consistently hitting under .200 for the season, this might be just what the doctor ordered. At least that’s what the league is hoping. Looking to cut down on the three typical outcomes (a walk, strikeout, or home run) with lower spin rates, we should see more action on the base paths and higher scoring games.

So, where does that leave fantasy managers? The obvious takeaway is for those underperforming hitters with successful track records to finally start hitting! As far as pitchers go, sinker-ballers and split-finger types shouldn’t be affected much, if at all, whereas high-spin/velo arms may lose a bit of effectiveness. I wouldn’t go making any rash decisions just yet, however, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

With that in mind, I’ve examined the free-agent market for players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues who can help your team in at least one of the ten major categories. There are more than a few hitters who have shown life as of late who deserve your attention, as well as a few young pitchers who seem to be hitting their stride.

Here are 11 players who are still flying under the radar that can help your team right now.

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Batting Average

J.P. Crawford (SS – SEA): 25%
If you still haven’t jumped on the Crawford train, now is the time to do so. After raising his average from .239 to .274 earlier in the month, Crawford spent the last week continuing to rake, increasing his average to .287. He also recorded six RBIs over that span. The Mariners shortstop is currently riding a 10 game hitting streak and has totaled 31 hits over 21 games this month. The switch-hitter is the everyday leadoff batter for Seattle and deserves a spot in your lineup if you need help in batting average.

Home Runs

C.J. Cron (1B – COL): 44%
I featured Cron last week as well, but I’m left with no choice but to bring him up again. After many fantasy managers were quick to drop the slugging first baseman, Cron went on a tear and slugged three home runs in four games. This past week he had an equally impressive showing where he swatted two more homers and only struck out once. Cron has recorded a hit in eight straight and is now hitting .271 for the season. He also has a summer of at-bats in the thin air of Coors to look forward to. Expect at least another 15 home runs out of the mashing Cron for the second half of the season, if not more. Add him now.

RBI

Abraham Toro (3B – HOU): 11%
Toro hit extremely well in his first week with the Astros this year. Filling in for Alex Bregman, who is expected to miss a significant amount of time, Toro has gone 11 for 36 while driving in nine runs. He crushed in Triple-A this season, where he registered a ridiculous stat line of .352/.485/.593. He is of the rare breed that walks more than he strikes out and is batting 7th regularly behind Kyle Tucker and Carlos Correa.

While Toro may not hit more than a handful of home runs (although he already has two), a line drive, foul-pole-to-foul-pole hitter, batting behind a lineup full of All-Stars, should and will continue to drive in runs. He’s only rostered in a few leagues right now but expect that number to shoot up over the next few days if he continues to hit. Take a flyer on the switch-hitting third baseman and enjoy the upcoming matchups of Detroit and Baltimore.

Runs

Wilmer Flores (1B/2B/3B – SF): 12%
Flores has been scoring runs in bunches. He could potentially qualify for any of the offensive categories (other than steals), but since he scored eight times over his last seven games, I’ll place him here. Not only has the utility veteran been racking up the scores, but Flores has also registered four home runs, seven RBI, and a .476 average over that time period.

He has hit extremely well over the past few campaigns producing a .848 OPS in 2019 and a .830 OPS in the shortened season last year. Flores got off to a bit of a slow start to begin this season, but you knew it was only a matter of time until he started to deliver. The Giants’ infielder has also increased his walk rate this year, helping boost his OBP. Batting somewhere near the middle of the lineup, Flores should continue to produce quality numbers across the board, including a few long balls as the summer weather continues to heat up.

All that said, he may sit against a few tough righties because the Giants love to mix and match, but Flores actually has a higher OPS against right-handed pitching this season, so he should continue to see semi-regular at-bats. His hamstring tightened up on him a bit yesterday, but the fact that he was able to pinch-hit tonight shows he should be good to go in the next day or two.

One final note to consider is that Flores was on fire for the first month of last season and really helped carry the Giants’ offense at that time. He looks to be undergoing a very similar streak at the moment (one strikeout over his last 12 games with a .361 BA), one you don’t want to miss out on. Add Flores now to help you in four of the five categories.

Stolen Bases

Myles Straw (SS/OF – HOU): 19%
Straw has really turned it on as of late, collecting hits in 13 of his last 17 games, racking up a total of 23 knocks over 63 at-bats (.365 BA). During that span, he stole four bases, including two in the last six days. Straw is up to 10 swipes on the season, and now that he is finally hitting, he won’t hurt your overall numbers. If you lack in steals, add the speedy center fielder now.

*Quick Note: Chas McCormick has been producing lately as well, but Dusty Baker and company seem to favor Straw’s defense over McCormick’s (and rightfully so). Plus, Straw is more of a true centerfielder. As long as he keeps putting together quality at-bats, expect Straw to stick in the lineup most days, even with Kyle Tucker returning.

WHIP

Jake Odorizzi (SP – HOU): 35%
Vintage Odorizzi looks to be back. After allowing only two singles to the Rangers through four innings, he shut down the Orioles on the road in his latest start, tossing five hitless innings while striking out nine. The veteran right-hander also faced the Red Sox in back-to-back outings earlier this month, and while they knocked him around a bit in his first start, Odorizzi returned six days later to earn the victory and hold them to just four base runners over five innings. He also held the Padres to one run and four base runners in his start before that (5.1 innings).

Odorizzi’s WHIP over his last five games sits at a sterling 0.80. He increased his pitch count to 86 in his most recent outing and should be a fine streamer for his upcoming tilt against Detroit.

ERA

Chris Flexen (SP/RP): 27%
Chris Flexen is another pitcher who doesn’t rely on a high-spin rate to get outs. His fastball is in the lower end of the spectrum with just over 2k of spin resulting in what many refer to as a “heavy” fastball. He also throws his off-speed pitches more than 60 percent of the time, so opposing hitters are constantly thrown off rhythm. Over his last two games, the 2020 KBO star lasted 14.2 innings and allowed just one run. He struck out 14 batters in those two games and looked extremely tough to square up. He’ll take on the Blue Jays on the road in his next outing, but he should be worth starting after that.

Jameson Taillon (SP – NYY): 29%
I also need to mention Jameson Taillon. After looking atrocious for most of the season, Taillon seems to have turned a corner, evident by his latest two outings. He may blow up again but has a solid track record and is worth a spot on your bench if you have the room. His FIP sits at 4.35, so better days could be ahead for the Yankee hurler.

Strikeouts

Ross Stripling (SP/RP – TOR): 28%
Stripling is starting to look like the pitcher the Jays were hoping for. After so much early success in Los Angeles where Stripling regularly struck out more than a batter per inning with ease, it has been a bit of a struggle dating back to the beginning of last season. While Stripling’s fastball was getting hammered last year, this season, it has been his breaking stuff that hasn’t gotten it done.

Over the last month, the 2018 All-Star smartly increased his fastball usage, which resulted in increased effectiveness of his off-speed pitches. Stripling’s fastball has produced 16 strikeouts and a .170 batting average during that time, while his off-speed stuff has improved by a large margin (over 100 points less in opponent batting average). He has given up a total of nine runs over his last six starts and has struck out 22 over his last 18.1 innings. Stripling has totaled more than a strikeout per inning on the year but has been much more efficient lately and is even pitching deep into games.

While he may give up his fair share of long balls, Stripling has shown he is a pitcher of merit lately and deserves to be rostered in deeper leagues.

Wins

Zach Davies (SP – CHC): 33%
What has gotten into Zach Davies? Even though his last seven starts have come against the Dodgers, Padres, Reds, Giants, the Cardinals twice, and the Marlins, Davies has still performed extremely well. During that stretch of offensive juggernauts, he has produced four games where he didn’t give up a run and only surrendered a total of two home runs (both coming against Marlins).

Davies has earned the victory in three of his last four games and has pitched at least six innings in all of them. The soft-tossing righty isn’t one who will have to worry about the crackdown on foreign substances and is a pitcher you’re going to want on your squad for his upcoming matchup against his former team (Milwaukee). Add him now.

Saves

Michael Fulmer (SP/RP – DET): 32%
Fulmer seems to be the favored closer at the moment for the Tigers. And before you go blowing off a potential stopper in Detroit, their plethora of quality young arms (all spotlighted at one point or another in this series) has the Tigers winning half of their games. Many of their wins are closely fought battles that have and will continue to produce save opportunities. While Gregory Soto will steal the occasional save now and then, look for the healthy Fulmer to be the go-to in most situations. He has only blown one save all year and currently boasts an impressive nearly 4/1 strikeout to walk ratio. Grab Fulmer if you need saves.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.

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