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Fantasy Baseball Category Analysis: Justin Upton, Yusei Kikuchi, Didi Gregorius

Jun 11, 2021
Justin Upton fantasy baseball

Justin Upton has lost his mind since moving into the leadoff spot.

Here we are. Week 11. As the season continues to fly by at a blistering pace so do the quality free agents available on the waiver wire. Many of the players rostered in just 12 percent of leagues a week or two ago are now up over 60 percent. And if you missed out on those hot bats or filthy arms highlighted in weeks’ past, there’s luckily a new batch ready for the taking to fill those abating roster needs.

Just for the sake of accountability – last week I had some standouts that really made me look good while a few others decided to backtrack and not have a great showing.

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The Good

Ryan Mountcastle (RBI) had had at least one RBI in every game since I highlighted him for RBIs. He has had 12 over his last eight games.

Jonathan Schoop (Home Runs) hit three homers, drove in eight, and produced ten hits over the last six games.

Tarik Skubal (Strike Outs) was sensational again striking out 11 in five-one run innings and earned the victory.

The Bad

Kolten Wong (Batting Average) got hurt the day the article was posted.

Adbert Alzolay (WHIP) had his worst game in two years but like Wong, an injury was to blame and now he too is on the IL.

Marco Gonzalez (Wins) did not earn a victory, rather he gave up four runs on the road in Detroit and took the loss.

Mind you these player additions are meant to help you in the long term or at the very least should be held onto for a few weeks while they are hot. Still, it’s nice when you add a guy and they hit the ground running.

That’s exactly what we’re hoping for with these next twelve studs who are currently rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. Most of them will help in more than one category, but their main attributes will be in the category under which they are listed. Don’t sleep on these highlighted few or you’re sure to miss out!

Home Runs

Max Stassi (C – LAA): 10%
Stassi has been a fine sleeper over the past two seasons. It’s a short sample size, but since taking over as the starter for the Angels last season, Stassi has hit for a .300 average, with 25 runs scored, 11 home runs, 28 RBIs, and 16 walks over just 142 at-bats. He has hit three homers in his last four games and could be a fine replacement for those in dire need of an upgrade at catcher.

Omar Narvaez (C – MIL): 44%
While we’re on the subject of catchers, I’m blown away to see Omar Narvaez still only rostered in 44 percent of leagues. He has been the Brewers’ most consistent hitter this season, teeing off on righties at the excellent clip of .333/.409/.550. Narvaez should be starting in all leagues.

Batting Average

J.P. Crawford (SS – SEA): 13%
Before Wednesday’s game, where Crawford hit a few unlucky at-em balls, the Mariners’ shortstop had hit in six straight, compiling a total of 12 hits during that stretch. Six of those hits went for doubles and he even launched a deep ball into the seats. Crawford’s batting average for June is .467 and that’s including yesterday’s 0-for-five.

Once a top prospect in the Phillies organization, Crawford has had his ups and downs throughout his career, but as of late his quality of contact has improved. He’ll continue to play every day as he had been productive against both RHP and LHP (better average vs. lefties, more power vs. righties).

Crawford will do a little bit of everything and while he won’t blow you away in any category, he shouldn’t hurt you in any either. He has been consistently hitting leadoff for the M’s, so add him now while he’s hot to help boost your middle infield and batting average.

RBI

Hunter Dozier (1B/3B/OF – KC): 19%
I still haven’t given up on Dozier. The Royals have recently moved their homegrown slugger up in the order, batting him either fourth, fifth, or sixth in five of their last six games. While his average has remained tragically low, when he does put the ball in play, it tends to be hit hard and often results in extra bases.

Over the last eight games, Dozier has hit three doubles and two home runs, resulting in five RBIs and six runs scored. Those aren’t overly exciting stats by any means, but they are a sign of Dozier turning things around after a slow start. His xwOBA is 71 points higher than his actual numbers so he is also getting a bit unlucky.

I believe once Adalberto Mondesi gets back on board (he took BP and did some fielding work on Tuesday) and with a healthy Whit Merrifield and company, Dozier will eventually turn back into the RBI machine he was in 2019. Add him now while he is still available in deeper leagues and some shallow ones, too.

Didi Gregorius (SS – PHI): 48%
Gregorius is starting his rehab assignment this weekend and will be a prime candidate to help your RBI totals as well once he returns. It’s wise to add him now if you haven’t already.

Runs

Justin Upton (OF – LAA): 48%
Justin Upton has lost his mind since moving into the leadoff spot. The youthful resurgence has come at an opportune time for the Angels and fantasy players with injuries continuing to mount at a record-setting pace. Over the last nine games, Upton has hit four homers, driven in eight runs, and scored 11 times! He also has 11 hits and eight walks in that span for a ridiculous .514 on-base percentage. Upton will eventually cool down, but the pace at which he’s getting on-base with Ohtani and Anthony Rendon batting behind him, will assure him a massive amount of runs. Upton’s rostership has shot up nearly 40 percent over the last few days, so add him now before he’s taken in your league as well.

Stolen Bases

Derek Hill (OF – DET): 0%
Here’s a name for you, Derek Hill. No one’s currently rostering Hill, but since his call-up, the 25-year-old has stolen three bases on four attempts in just four games. After JaCoby Jones was DFA’d, Hill was given the chance to start in center field and has kept that role ever since.

Hill was a first-round draft pick back in 2014 and while he was a slow-developing prospect in the minors, He seems to have hit his stride this season. Hill hit .355 in Triple-A this year over 87 plate appearances, good for a 156 wRC+. He won’t be a great fit for all leagues, but if you’re desperate for steals he is someone to definitely keep an eye on.

With four stolen base attempts over his first four games and with the Tigers having nothing to lose by letting him run wild, I’m going to stop writing this article for a minute and create a waiver claim for Hill in my 15-team league.

*Update: Hill crashed into the center-field wall last night, hurting his shoulder, and subsequently ended up on the injured list. So much for my zero-percent-owned sleeper. In that case, my new add for steals is:

Jake Fraley (OF – SEA): 4%
Fraley has stolen three bags over the last seven days and has a solid five-game hitting streak going. Since the beginning of June, he has scored seven runs and driven in nine. He even hit a couple of home runs. Fraley showed plenty of promise and speed in the minor leagues and is one of the rare players who walks more than he strikes out. As long as he continues to get on base, expect the base swipes to continue.

Saves

Paul Fry (RP – BAL): 20%
Did you guys all go out running to add Paul Fry after he earned the O’s latest save? It’s too bad the club won’t win many games, but Fry has looked downright nasty this season. Through 22.2 innings the four-year veteran has produced a shiny 1.99 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 35 strikeouts. It is still likely a committee situation in Baltimore, but as of right now, Fry is the pitcher to roster.

WHIP

Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA): 49%
Kikuchi broke his streak of six consecutive quality starts last week, but still only allowed six batters to reach base and struck out eight hitters. Since the end of April, the Mariners’ ace has surrendered only 39 hits or walks over 43 innings pitched, good for a 0.90 WHIP. For the season Kikuchi has compiled a sterling 1.07 WHIP to go along with better than a strikeout per inning, and an ERA just above four. The Japanese lefty was a popular sleeper to begin the season due to his excellent metrics from 2020 and should continue to put up well above-average numbers across the board.

ERA

Logan Gilbert (SP – SEA): 24%
Gilbert makes my fourth Mariner to make the list and for good reason. After a couple of disastrous opening starts, Gilbert settled down, firing three consecutive well-pitched games. Seattle’s third-ranked prospect and MLB’s 35th overall according to Fangraphs, shut down the slugging A’s offense twice. Then on Monday, over five innings, he surrendered just two hits and one run and struck out seven against the Angels.

Gilbert is more of an upside pick based on his pedigree and ability to miss bats in the minor leagues. He is one of the top pitching prospects in the game and if he flops in his next start or two, it’s fine to release him. If he continues to build upon what he has already accomplished, however, he could be pitching like a solid number two by summer’s end.

Strikeouts

Caleb Smith (SP/RP – ARZ): 12%
Smith was somewhat surprisingly placed in the bullpen to begin the season but after half the staff went down with an injury, Smith was given his starting opportunity. In his last six games, including three starts, the Texan native has pitched against some tough lineups including the Dodgers twice, the Rockies in Colorado, the Cardinals, Brewers, and Mets. Although he only threw 18.1 innings in those outings, Smith impressively allowed only four runs and 13 hits, while striking out 21 batters.

The last time we saw Smith fully healthy and thriving was the first half of 2019, where he was one of the lone bright spots for the Marlins. That season (pre-All-Star game), Smith threw 72 innings and produced a 3.50 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP with 88 strikeouts. In his last two games this year, he has lasted 10 innings (five in each) and has given up just three runs, nine base runners, and struck out ten. Smith’s slider looks as devastating as it did two years ago and while he may not win many games pitching for Arizona, the strikeouts should come in bunches.

Wins

Tucker Davidson (SP – ATL): 17%
Davidson has been a nice surprise for Atlanta. While he may be getting a bit lucky (.188 BABIP, 89.7 LOB%), he produced nearly identical numbers down in Triple-A to start the year. His heavy-diving slider thrown nearly as much as his fastball has shown the ability to induce a ton of ground balls. So far the lefty has given up a total of two singles off of the 100 sliders he has thrown.

Davidson also throws a curveball and when combined with his top offering, the two breaking pitches create a fantastic 36 percent whiff rate – and when the batter does make contact, it’s rarely hit hard. He also has the ability to pitch deep into games by keeping his pitch count down. With the Braves’ quality pen and backed by an offense that can run up the score, look for Davidson to start earning those tough to come by wins in the near future.

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