Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Kyle Schwarber, C.J. Cron, Yermin Mercedes
Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers article for Week 11 (6/14-6/20). I will be covering 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 over a third of the way through the season! The buy low or sell high windows on some of these names are just about shut. This upcoming week will prove significant for some of the fallers mentioned below (looking at you, Yermin Mercedes). It should also shed light on the sustainability of some of the risers like Adam Duvall and Wilmer Flores.
I try my best to focus on some lesser-known players or fringe roster-worthy guys that have been flying under the radar. To avoid redundancy, I won’t always be covering superstars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr., and Fernando Tatis Jr. They’re all amazing players, and as much as I’d like to write about them on a weekly basis, they’re rostered in 100% of leagues, and their awesomeness is well documented across the fantasy baseball landscape. Anyway, with all of that out of the way, let’s get into it.
Kyle Schwarber (OF – WSH)
Schwarber put up some massive numbers last week for the Nats. Across seven games, he smashed six home runs with 11 runs batted in while slashing .285/.414/1.077. He came up clutch multiple times, including a three-homer day in Sunday’s series finale against the Mets, and was a huge reason why the Nationals went 6-1 last week. The former Chicago Cub is now batting .241/.325/.518 with 18 homers and 42 RBI across 224 at-bats on the season. He’s posting career bests in xwOBAcon (.494), Barrel rate (15.7%), and is just a tick off his career-high in Hard hit rate (51%).
Much like Adam Duvall, who’s listed below, Schwarber can’t be counted on for his batting average, but he isn’t as big of a liability when it comes to getting on base. As the Nationals tweet states below, the 28-year-old has been on fire since moving to the leadoff spot back on June 8. He seems to be settling in quite well with his new team and should continue to smash out of the leadoff spot.
We moved Kyle Schwarber to the leadoff spot on June 8.
In 13 games since, he’s hit 7 HRs and 14 RBIs.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 20, 2021
Patrick Corbin (SP – WSH)
Corbin was rock solid for the Nationals in a two-start week, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 14:2 K/BB ratio over 14 1/3 innings vs. the Pirates and the Mets. Corbin has largely been an afterthought this season after his disastrous start to the year. He surrendered a whopping 19 earned runs over his four starts (16 1/3 innings), which was good for a 10.47 ERA. Since then he’s had his ups and downs but has been much improved over his last 10 starts; in 60 1/3 innings, he’s put up a 4.03 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Overall, he’s got a 5-5 record, 5.40 ERA, 1.409 WHIP, and 62:28 K/BB ratio on the season.
He’s looked a little better lately, but there are a lot of issues under the surface with the 31-year-old southpaw. He’s got a 5.66 xERA and 5.10 FIP, which are the lowest marks of his career. His 18.8% Strikeout rate and 8.5% Walk rate are the second-worst of his career. He’s just not missing enough bats with his slider, which has historically been his best pitch. That offering is generating a 36.2% Whiff rate, by far the lowest mark it has ever produced. His MLB Percentile ranks shown below paint a clear picture of his struggles this season. He’s still capable of putting up some good starts in the right matchups, as evidenced by the two games last week, but he probably shouldn’t be counted on as a game-in-game-out starter moving forward.
Mike Yastrzemski (OF – SF)
Yastrzemski got off to a disappointing start to this season, struggling to follow up on his breakout in 2020. He produced a .301/.411/.577 batting line to go along with eight home runs and 28 RBI over his first 156 at-bats of 2020. Contrast that with his .217/.328/.452 triple-slash line, six home runs, and 15 RBI over 157 at-bats in 2021. There was no denying that he was laboring through the first two months of the season and his injuries were the likely culprit. To start things off, he was hit in the hand with a pitch during Cactus League play just three days before the regular season began. He played through the issue but later required a 10-day trip to the injured list for an oblique strain before having another IL stint with a sprained thumb.
He finally seems to have all those injuries behind him and has been raking since Jun 12, especially over the seven-game stretch from June 14-20. Yaz slashed .321/.424/.714 with two doubles, three home runs, 11 RBI, and a 4:4 K/BB ratio across 28 at-bats. For the season, he’s got a .237/.342/495 batting line with 19 doubles, nine home runs, 26 RBI, and a stolen base. There have been little to no changes in his batted ball profile between 2020 and 2021, suggesting that the early struggles could be attributed to the slew of injuries he played through. He should be locked in for the rest of the season, barring health, which is trouble for the rest of the National League.
Wilmer Flores (1B/2B/3B – SF)
Flores has quietly been heating up at the plate ever since he took over for the injured Evan Longoria at third base. Since becoming the regular third baseman back on June 6, Flores is slashing .308/.364/.564 with three home runs and six RBI over 12 games (10 starts). The bulk of that production came last week when he smashed three home runs, drove in five runs, and slashed .539/.526/1.118 in six games while the Giants went 5-1. He now owns a nine-game hitting streak and most recently went 4-for-4 with two solo home runs in an 11-2 drubbing of the Phillies on Sunday.
He’s never had much swing and miss in his approach, and this year is no different with a 12.2% Strikeout rate (97th percentile). He’s also posting a career-best 9.9% Walk rate. The problem throughout Flores’ career has been consistency. But he can provide fantasy value if you catch him during a hot streak. Longoria was expected to be out four to six weeks at the time of his injury, so in all likelihood, he has at least another month on the shelf. Longo was having himself a resurgent season before going down, but due to Flores’ plate production, the first-place Giants have hardly skipped a beat.
Adam Duvall (OF – MIA)
Duvall is making the list in back-to-back weeks, which is well deserved. He hit three homers, drove in eight runs, and swiped two bags in seven games last week (6/7 – 6/13). His encore performance this week was even better, though, going 7-for-18 with four home runs, 11 RBI, and a stolen base in just five games. He struck out three times and walked three times as well, which is solid for a guy who strikes out as much as Duvall. He smacked two home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs in a 10-2 win over the Cubs on Friday. He then swatted two more home runs with four RBI in an 11-1 win over the Cubbies again on Saturday.
On the year, he’s batting just .216/.264/.468 but has 16 home runs, 52 RBI (tied for sixth in MLB), and five stolen bases. He’s yet to have been caught stealing, which is impressive for a 32-year-old power hitter. As mentioned last week, he’s never going to hit for a high average or get on base at a steady clip. He will continue to strike out a ton (31.4% K rate) as well. But he ranks in the 93rd percentile in Barrel rate (15.4%), 85th percentile in Hard Hit rate (49%), and 91st in Max Exit Velocity (113.8 mph). He’s a liability in some statistical categories but a force in others. The pros outweigh the cons for the slugger, whose rostered in just 41% of Yahoo! leagues.
Adam Duvall has now had a 2 HR game in back-to-back days! 🔥🔥
— Stadium (@Stadium) June 19, 2021
C.J. Cron (1B – COL)
Cron had gotten off to a sluggish start this season in his first year with the Rockies. A back issue hampered him in May, which kept him out for 12 days. The back ailment seemed to temporarily sap his power as he didn’t homer between May 4 and June 15. Prior to last week, he was slashing .248/.359/.401 with five home runs and 18 RBI on the season. Well, he made up for lost time last week when he went 10-for-24 (.417/.462/.958) with four home runs, including a grand slam and 10 RBI. The Rockies went 5-2, which included a three-game sweep of the Padres and a series split with the Brewers.
Now the 31-year-old is rocking a .271/.371/.475 batting line to go along with nine home runs and 28 RBI on the year. His expected stats are relatively on par with his actual stats, .269 xBA, .344 xwOBA, .470 xSLG, and he’s posting a solid 11.9% Walk rate. His back issue seems to be well behind him, and he’s currently rostered in just 37% of Yahoo! leagues. He should be a solid source of power moving forward and is a priority add in OBP leagues.
#Rockies C.J. Cron showing signs of life?
Reached base in five-straight
Gone deep in 2-of-3 games after not homering since May 4
Small steps but I think he’s in line for a big second half
— EazyMath (@EazyMath) June 17, 2021
Zach Eflin (SP – PHI)
Eflin had two challenging road starts last week, one against the Dodgers and one against the Giants, which would be difficult matchups for any starting pitcher. He surrendered three runs over five innings in a no-decision against LA, but the Giants walloped him for seven runs (six earned) over five innings. He coughed up nine hits, including four home runs, in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco. The 27-year-old finished the week with an 0-1 record, 8.10 ERA, and 1.60 WHIP to go along with eight strikeouts over 10 innings. On the season, Eflin owns an underwhelming 2-6 record, 4.39 ERA, 1.274 WHIP, and 83:10 K/BB ratio. His WHIP is remarkably high for a pitcher that’s only issued 10 free passes all year, but that’s because he’s allowed 97 hits, the most in all of baseball. He still owns a league-best 1.1 BB/9, and his 8.30 K/BB rate is the best in the National League. His 2.8% Walk rate ranks in the 99th percentile as well.
Opponents have a .344 BABIP against him to go along with a .263 xBA, .305 xwOBA, and .431 xSLG, so it definitely feels like Eflin has been getting unlucky, but that comes with the territory when you pound the strike zone like him. Eflin garnered some preseason hype heading into the season, and, in some regards, he’s lived up to that with eight quality starts in 14 appearances. But in the six games in which he did not throw a QS, he’s posting a 7.29 ERA. The up and down nature of his game has factored into his underwhelming statistics. He’s a quality streamer in the right matchup, though, and he has a shot to bounce back this weekend against the Mets.
Yermin Mercedes (DH – CWS)
Mercedes has been trending in the wrong direction for some time but last week was a doozy for the 28-year-old. He went 0-for-19 in five games last week to go along with nine strikeouts and no walks, yikes. Mercedes’ regression was expected after his scorching hot start to the year, but he’s been terrible over the last month and a half. He hit .415/.455/.659 with five home runs and 16 RBI in April, which was followed by a .221/.292/.326 batting line with two home runs and 14 RBI in May. But it’s all gone downhill in June with a .115/.164/.135 triple-slash line with four RBI in 14 games. He’s only hit two home runs over the last 42 games and hasn’t gone deep since May 27. Overall, he’s got a .266/.321/.402 batting line with seven home runs and 34 RBI across 229 at-bats.
He’s definitely been in a funk since the beginning of May, but he’s a career .302/.366/.491 hitter across eight minor league seasons, and it’s not like he’s been striking out a ton (18.5% Strikeout rate). He’s got a .223 BABIP since May 1, so some poor luck has factored into his lengthy slump. Eloy Jimenez, who’s been out with a torn left pectoral muscle, was recently cleared for baseball activities and could return to the team sometime in August. Mercedes has some time to pick things up at the plate, but Jimenez will return to the starting lineup whenever he makes it back, and the “Yerminator” could head to the bench.
Eric Hosmer (1B – SD)
The San Diego first baseman had a rough week at the dish, going 4-for-24 (.167/.200/.292) with one home run and two RBI. He’s got a .249/.308/.357 batting line to go along with six home runs, 35 RBI, and four stolen bases across 241 at-bats on the season (66 games). His counting stats aren’t terrible but considering that he had nine home runs, 36 RBI, and four stolen bases in just 38 games in 2020, they feel like they’re lacking. Hosmer does have a .282 xBA, .335 xwOBA, and .429 xSLG to go along with a .273 BABIP, which means he’s been getting unlucky. He’s not striking out much either, with a 14.4% Strikeout rate, which ranks in the 90th percentile.
Out of 204 batted balls this season, he’s only barreled up 11, which gives him a Barrel rate of 5.4% (21st percentile). He had a 10.3% Barrel rate (12 in 204 batted balls) in 2020 for context. His .362 xwOBAcon is the lowest mark in three seasons and the second-lowest of his career. His expected stats provide some hope that he could turn things around, but he’s far from a top-tier fantasy option at first base.
Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN)
I tend to reserve the last “Faller” on the list as a player that I expect to bounce back relatively soon. Castellanos, who’s been locked in all year, had the worst week-long stretch of the season. He went 5-for-26 (.192/.192/.192) with one RBI, six strikeouts, no extra-base hits, and no walks. Prior to last week, the longest he’d gone all season without drawing a walk or an extra-base hit was four games. The 29-year-old is putting together an excellent, well-rounded season for the Reds thus far, slashing .344/.395/.591 with 23 doubles, 13 home runs, 37 RBI, two stolen bases, and 46 runs scored. He’s leading all of baseball in batting average, hits, and doubles, while his 153 total bases are tops in the National League.
We should look at Castellanos’ mini-slump as a breather more than anything else. He’s putting up career numbers across the board so far in xBA (.320), wOBA (.420), xwOBA (.396), Hard Hit rate (48.3%), and Strikeout rate (19.9%). He should get back into the swing of things quickly, with the Reds starting the week off with a two-game set against the Twins.
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