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Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Jacob deGrom, Tarik Skubal, Jarred Kelenic

by Jon Mathisen | @eazymath | Featured Writer
Jun 7, 2021

Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers article for Week 9 (5/31-6/6). I will cover some of the hottest and coldest players in baseball over the last week. This weekly column aims to provide insight into the featured players’ success and/or struggles. We’ll discover if their recent performances have any staying power or if it was just a flash in the pan.

If you can believe it, we’re a third of the way through the season. We’ve just about reached the point where you need to decide whether to hold, sell high, buy low, or simply cut bait on some of these names. As always, this upcoming week will prove significant for some of the fallers mentioned below. It should also shed light on the sustainability of some of the risers. With that said, let’s get into it.

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Risers

Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM)
We’re running out of superlatives to describe Jacob deGrom. He earned a pair of wins in two starts against the Diamondbacks and the Padres last week while compiling a 0.00 ERA, 0.46 WHIP, and 19:1 K/BB ratio over 13 scoreless innings. The superb efforts lowered his already microscopic ERA to 0.62! He pairs that with a 0.569 WHIP and 93:8 K/BB ratio across 58 innings pitched (nine starts).

He has allowed just four earned runs all season, which is hard to wrap your head around. He ranks in the 98th percentile or better in virtually every pitching category: Fastball Velocity (99.2 mph), Strikeout Rate (45.4%), Whiff Rate (40.3%), Chase Rate (39.4%), xERA (1.40), xBA allowed (.143), xwOBA allowed (.187), and xSLG allowed (.241). Oh, and his 3.9% Walk rate falls in the 97th percentile as well.

deGrom has been so incredible that he has the rest of the league transfixed whenever he takes the mound. You’re truly a man amongst boys if your peers think this highly of you. Conventional wisdom says he won’t keep this up over the course of a full season, but if anyone could accomplish such a feat, it would be him. The Padres have the pleasure of facing deGrom again this coming Saturday in Queens.

Tarik Skubal (SP – DET)
What’s gotten into Tarik Skubal? After having some nominal preseason hype heading into the year, he fell flat during the first month. He put up an awful 0-6 record to go along with a 5.73 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, and 31:17 K/BB ratio over 33 innings (eight games, six starts). But he has looked like a completely different pitcher over his last four appearances, compiling a 3-1 record with a 2.14 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 37:9 K/BB ratio across 21 innings. He allowed just one run on four hits with three walks and a career-high 11 strikeouts in the Tigers’ 4-3 win over the White Sox on Saturday. He’s still walking a fair amount of batters with a 10.8% BB rate on the season, but he has notched a 42% Strikeout rate over his last four starts.

He joined some very elite company, which the Tigers PR Twitter pointed out on Saturday. Five rookies have posted four consecutive games with eight or more strikeouts since 2010: Noah Syndergaard, Jose Fernandez, Yu Darvish, Stephen Strasburg, and Tarik Skubal. He’ll have a rematch with the White Sox this week and will look to notch eight or more strikeouts once again.

Kevin Gausman (SP – SF)
Gausman probably should have made this list much earlier, considering how good he has been this season. He is giving the otherworldly Jacob deGrom a run for his money when it comes to the NL Cy Young award. In his lone start this week, he earned his seventh victory of the year. He allowed two unearned runs with 10 strikeouts over seven innings against the Cubs. Overall, he owns a perfect 7-0 record, 1.27 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 93:16 K/BB ratio over 77 2/3 innings (12 starts).

Gausman has notched seven or more strikeouts in 8-of-12 starts and is posting a career-best 32.7% CSW rate and 5.5% BB rate. Gausman always had potential but struggled for a myriad of reasons over the first seven years of his career. He seems to have found the perfect home in San Francisco and must be happy with his decision to accept the Giants’ $18.9 million qualifying offer this offseason. The reigning NL pitcher of the month will square off against the Nationals in his next turn.

Jesse Winker (OF – CIN)
Winker was a one-man band on Sunday for the Reds, swatting three home runs and driving in six as Cincinnati beat the Cardinals 8-7. He swatted a two-run shot in the first inning, a three-run dinger in the second inning, and a solo shot, which proved to be the game-winner, in the top of the ninth. Remarkably, this was Winker’s second three-homer game of the year. He is now tied with Ronald Acuña and Fernando Tatis Jr. for second place in MLB with 17 long balls. He had a great week overall, slashing .357/.455/.786 with four home runs, eight RBI, and a 4:5 K/BB ratio across 28 at-bats.

On the season, the 27-year-old is rocking an impressive .350/.412/.665 batting line with 17 homers, 37 RBI, and 44 runs scored across 200 at-bats. His expected stats are lower than his actual numbers, but those are still very impressive. His .314 xBA, .400 xwOBA, and .568 xSLG all rank in the 94th percentile in the league. He is also posting a career-best in Hard Hit rate at 53.2%. He is on pace to smash his career-high in RBI (43), and he already set a high watermark in homers with his 17 bombs. The breakout is fully upon us.

Eric Haase (C – DET)
Have yourself a week, Eric Haase! He swatted five homers and drove in seven runs over 24 at-bats (five games). He had two multi-homer performances while slashing .333/.407/1.083. The highlight of the week was when he jacked two long balls off of Chicago White Sox ace Lucas Giolito in Detroit’s 4-3 win on Saturday (6/5). The 28-year-old backstop is making quite a name for himself since being called up back in May. He has been more than a serviceable replacement for the injured Wilson Ramos behind the plate. He’s made a few starts in the outfield as well, which means the Tigers will likely keep him up whenever Ramos returns from a lumbar spine sprain.

Before the season, Haase had a .122/.170/.184 batting line with one home run in 53 career plate appearances. He is now slashing .265/.324/.647 with seven home runs and 11 RBI in 68 at-bats with Detroit. We shouldn’t expect many more five-homer weeks from him, but Haase showed some pop at the minor league level and is worth rostering in fantasy leagues due to his catcher eligibility. At the time of this writing, he sits on just 10% of rosters in Yahoo leagues.

Patrick Wisdom (3B – CHC)
Can you guess who led the league in home runs last week? Was it Acuña? Tatis? Guerrero, perhaps? No, none of the above. The correct answer is Patrick Wisdom of the Chicago Cubs. He hit .435/.458/1.261 with six home runs, nine RBI, and one stolen base over 23 at-bats last week. He had a pair of multi-homer games and played a huge role in helping the Cubs sweep the Padres to begin the week and salvage their four-game series against the Giants on Sunday. The 29-year-old journeyman is rocking an absurd .412/.444/1.533 batting line with seven home runs and 10 RBI over 34 at-bats since being called up in late May.

He has been hitting the ball incredibly hard (31.6% Barrel rate, 78.9% Hard Hit rate), but he has also struck out in 36.1% of his at-bats. The music will stop soon enough, and Wisdom’s numbers will regress, but you shouldn’t be discouraged from trying to ride the hot hand here. He is only rostered in 33% of Yahoo leagues at the moment and is worth a dart throw if you have space.

Fallers

Kelenic’s highly anticipated MLB debut has not gone according to plan, to say the least. He is currently mired in an 0-for-37 slump, which has seen his season batting line drop to a brutal .096/.185/.193 with two home runs and six RBI over 83 at-bats. He has just eight hits and has struck out 26 times (36.8% K rate). The Mariners kept him in the leadoff spot most of the time despite his struggles, but they dropped him to fifth, sixth, and then seventh in the batting order late last week. They finally gave him a much-needed day off on Sunday against the Angels.
Expectations were sky-high for the Mariners’ top prospect, and so far, he has come nowhere close to reaching them. And you know what? That’s okay. We’ve been spoiled with special talents like Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña, and Fernando Tatis Jr’s early-career breakouts that we’ve come to expect every top prospect to do the same. It hasn’t gone that way for Kelenic over his first 23 career games, but he’s going to be fine over the long haul. He is too good of a player to continue to struggle, and it’s worth remembering that he’s just 21-years-old. It wouldn’t shock me if he were sent back to the minors, as my colleague Brendan Tuma noted below. The Mariners need to decide if they think he’s capable of breaking out of this slump against major league pitching or if he’d be better served retooling down in Tacoma.

David Peralta (OF – ARI)
You could really put the entire Diamondbacks team on the “Fallers” list, save for Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Pavin Smith. The lowly D-Backs went 1-6 from May 31-June 6 and have now lost 18 of their last 20 games. Peralta went 1-for-18 (.056/.105/.056) with no RBI and a 7:1 K/BB ratio. His struggles really go beyond the last week, though, as he is batting just .194/.250/.315 with one home run over the last 30 games (108 at-bats). His .245 batting average and .711 OPS are both currently below his career averages of .287 and .812, respectively.

His expected stats don’t point to any bad luck. He has a .235 xBA, .279 xwOBA, and .342 xSLG. Fantasy managers that added Peralta after his seven RBI eruption back on April 22 have been disappointed with the lack of subsequent production. He is a better player than his numbers would suggest, and his proven, lengthy track record indicates that. Patience is a virtue, but it’s probably time to hunt for a better outfielder if you’re still holding onto Peralta.

John Gant (SP – STL)
Entering Sunday, Gant had an ERA that belied the rest of both his rate and counting stats. Over his first 10 starts of the season, he registered a 1.60 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and a 39:34 K/BB ratio over 50 2/3 innings. The low strikeout rate (15.2%) coupled with the high walk rate (15.2%) and high WHIP were obvious red flags. Many had been expecting regression for Gant, who had clearly been overperforming through the first third of the season. Well, he came crashing back down to earth on Sunday against the Reds. He allowed seven earned runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts over just four innings in a no-decision. “Riser” Jesse Winker took him deep twice in the contest.

The poor outing raised Gant’s season ERA to a still respectable 2.63. However, he’s got a 5.08 xERA and ranks in the 18th percentile or worse in Fastball Velocity (90.9 mph), xwOBA allowed (.352), xBA allowed (.273), and Chase Rate (20%). Almost every advanced metric and expected statistic indicates that Gant has been outperforming his skill set and gotten lucky so far. He has a chance to get back on track in his next start against the Cubs, but he is still hard to trust for fantasy purposes.

Vince Velasquez (SP/RP – PHI)
Velasquez entered this week on a hot streak. He registered a 2-0 record, 1.47 ERA, 0.927 WHIP, and 22:8 K/BB ratio over his previous 18 1/3 innings (four appearances, three starts). He wasn’t able to keep the good times rolling, though, as he compiled an 11.57 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, and 7:4 K/BB ratio over just seven innings pitched (two starts) last week. He surrendered six earned runs over three innings to the Reds on May 31. He then allowed three runs over four innings on Sunday against the Nationals, but he really struggled with his control. He hit two batters and needed 80 pitches to get through the outing. Overall, the 29-year-old owns a 4.33 ERA (5.01 xERA/5.56 FIP), 1.37 WHIP, and 52:26 K/BB ratio over 43 2/3 innings (12 appearances, eight starts).

Velasquez saw his roster shares increase during a stellar three-week stretch in May, but his results from the last two games will likely give fantasy managers some hesitation if they were thinking about adding him. He is slated to face the Nationals once again in his next start, so it’s best to wait and see how he looks before making any roster move.

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Jon Mathisen is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive and follow him @eazymath.

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