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20 Things To Watch For In Week 16 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Jul 16, 2021

Look, I think we’re technically entering Week 15, but my overlords at FantasyPros have decided it’s Week 16. Alas, the All-Star break is now behind us so let’s dive into some developments that can help our fantasy teams as the season’s second half gets underway.

Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma.

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1. Jarren Duran’s arrival
Finally! Longtime readers know I’ve been banging the drum on Duran for a while now, and he’s expected to join the Red Sox for Thursday’s second-half opener against the Yankees. The 24-year-old had an impressive showing in Triple-A this season, batting .270 with a .926 OPS, 15 homers, and 12 stolen bases. He isn’t as high-end of a prospect as Jarred Kelenic or Wander Franco, but his power/speed skillset means he could make a splash upon arrival. We’ve already seen several top prospects “flop” in 2021, which means we should keep our expectations in check when it comes to Duran’s immediate impact. Still, he’s worth rostering in every fantasy league on the chance he provides an outlier performance at a highly reduced acquisition cost.

2. Vidal Brujan’s playing time
Another top prospect who is off to a “slow” start, Brujan is just 1-for-9 with a stolen base to begin his big league career. He has even more speed than Duran, which makes him worth rostering in every roto league, but I’m extremely curious to monitor his playing time coming out of the gate. Brujan played in both games in Wednesday’s doubleheader last week. The Rays were off on Thursday, and then he sat out both Friday and Saturday before playing again on Sunday. We need him to be playing regularly if we’re going to gamble on his talent in fantasy land. It’s something to watch for now.

3. The Yankees’ Bullpen
Lots of moving parts here. Aroldis Chapman has been terrible since the crackdown on sticky stuff. Chad Green was trending towards being next in line before Sunday’s meltdown against the Astros. Jonathan Loaisiga is on the COVID-19 IL. Zack Britton is expected back on Thursday evening. Oy. I think the most likely outcome is that Chapman receives the next save opportunity. If he’s fine moving forward, then he’ll continue serving as New York’s closer. But if he struggles? I still think Green will be next in line, but Britton has premium closing experience. I’d speculate on both if you need saves.

4 – 6. More bullpen monitoring

LHP Ranger Suarez was electric in Sunday’s first-half finale against the Red Sox, striking out four while firing 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his second save of the season. That type of outing will certainly build trust for manager Joe Girardi, who has recently been cycling through ninth-inning options such as Hector Neris and Jose Alvarado. Suarez might be an even better spec add than Green to begin the second half.

Heath Hembree has five saves in July. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. The 32-year-old doesn’t possess strong surface-level numbers (mainly four losses and a 4.80 ERA), but his Baseball Savant page shows some reasons for optimism. Hembree ranks in the 92nd percentile or better in xwOBA, xERA, xBA, and K%. He also has a 1st percentile barrel rate. He isn’t perfect, but he’s running away with Cincinnati’s closer job, and it doesn’t look like his recent success was a total fluke.

Emmanuel Clase’s Statcast page is still blood red, but I’m losing confidence in him, and I worry that Cleveland is too. The season-long numbers are still strong, but he doesn’t have a save since June 16th, and the very recent performance has been bad. By no means has James Karinchak run away with the job, but he’s the one I’d rather roster entering the second half. “Special K” is actually a solid trade target as fantasy managers might be frustrated with his first-half usage.

7 – 8. Return of the White Sox
24-year-old Eloy Jimenez is currently in Triple-A on a rehab assignment. Through four games, he’s 4-for-13 with a homer and two walks. I don’t expect him to return to the majors in Week 16, but he’s trending in the right direction, which is huge for a player who, at one point, we thought could miss the entire season. He needs to be rostered everywhere.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Luis Robert continues to make progress in his return from a Grade 3 strain of his right hip flexor. He’s farther away from a return than Jimenez since he hasn’t begun a minor league rehab assignment yet, but he’s another player worthy of an IL stash who could make a huge impact down the stretch.

9. Brandon Lowe’s hot streak
Typically when it comes to fantasy baseball analysis, we’re able to pick up on underlying trends, predictive stats, etc., to determine when the right time to buy and sell is. Of course, sometimes things slip by us. Then there’s Brandon Lowe, who seemingly has no rhyme or reason to when he goes on his wild streaks. The 27-year-old was awful to begin the season, but he has been on a heater since the start of June, which means he needs to be started everywhere for however long this lasts.

10. Aaron Nola’s COVID situation
The Phillies’ ace right-hander has been a tough one to figure out this season. Unfortunately, things are even trickier to begin the second half. Nola was recently placed on the COVID-19 injured list. It’s unclear if he tested positive himself, but as of this writing (Thursday afternoon), he isn’t listed as one of the four Phillies starters to pitch against the Marlins this weekend. That isn’t a great sign for his Week 16 viability.

11. A potential Kyle Tucker second-half surge
The 24-year-old was the most obvious “buy low” candidate after an April that saw him wildly underperform his expected stats. Tucker wound up bouncing back, but those xstats still suggest some room for improvement. Tucker’s xwOBA (.404) is still well above his actual wOBA (.351). Additionally, his xBA and xSLG are both much higher than his first-half results. He’s been hitting the ball well all season long. It shouldn’t be a surprise if he produces like a top-24 fantasy player moving forward.

12 – 14. Eight-game schedules

My college Mike Maher (tweet below), outlined this very well on Twitter, but there are some significant scheduling quirks to begin the second half. When making tough start-sit decisions, keep an eye on the following teams. Of course, the Red Sox, Twins, and Marlins should all receive a bump in weekly projections.

Colorado has five home games and three road games, but having a lack of total games makes them an interesting team to figure out for Week 16. Brendan Rodgers is someone I’d try and get into lineups. He’s been slowly heating up since the beginning of June. Charlie Blackmon, C.J. Cron, and Raimel Tapia are all pretty fringy, given the eight-game week.

This isn’t the week to stream your KC bats. Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez, and Carlos Santana are the only hitters I’d want to start from the Royals.

Willy Adames and Luis Urias have been hitting well enough to warrant starter consideration. Keston Hiura hasn’t. More on their former MVP in a minute…

*NOTE* Thursday’s game between the Red Sox and Yankees has been postponed due to the Yankees’ COVID-19 issues. Be sure to check to see if they wind up playing Friday or if something more serious is going on.

15. Christian Yelich’s declining value
As promised, the former MVP is an interesting player to examine these days. Since returning from the IL on May 18th, Yelich is batting .216/.386/.366 with five homers and four steals. That has added up to a 111 wRC+ (above league average), but he hasn’t been a difference-maker in fantasy this season. Furthermore, Yelich is posting a strikeout rate north of 27% for the second straight year, and the batted-ball data is the worst of his career. Add in my personal concerns with the health of his back, and Yelich is someone I’m looking to trade ASAP.

16. Jarred Kelenic: Round Two
He’s back! After a disastrous first go-round at the big league level (.096 BA with a .378 OPS), Kelenic is set to return to Seattle in Friday’s second-half opener. The 22-year-old hit much better after being sent down to Triple-A, which should give fantasy managers confidence in his second trial with the Mariners. I’m not the only one who subscribes to this theory, but it seems clear that Kelenic began pressing after being “unlucky” on some batted balls early on. This caused the strikeout rate to plummet and for frustration to take over. He has since talked openly about focusing on the things he can control, which is exactly what we want to hear. Just like Duran, Kelenic needs to be rostered in every 12-team league.

17 – 18. Trade Rumors
Be sure to pay attention to the rumor mill in the coming weeks. The July 30th trade deadline is fast approaching. Several bullpens will likely be affected, and being ahead of evolving situations is key. Spencer Patton of the Rangers is someone who could take over save opportunities if Ian Kennedy is dealt.

In the meantime, Trevor Story is likely the biggest name available this season. He’s a strong bounce-back candidate in general, but his rest-of-season projection would be far better should the Rockies hold onto him. Fantasy managers could play it safe by dealing him before the Rockies do, but it’s a risk since it sounds as if they might just keep him.

19. Yu Darvish’s hip
The 34-year-old Cy Young contender was placed on the 10-day IL before the first half came to a close. The good news is that the move was made retroactive to July 9th, so there’s a chance that Darvish returns to the rotation shortly after the break. Fantasy managers should be on the lookout for San Diego rotation plans heading into lineup lock.

20. Surging bats
For this week’s Statcast check-in, we’ll look at players who have the biggest increase in rolling xwOBA over their past 50 plate appearances. Some notable names include:

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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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