20 Things To Watch For In Week 18 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Okay, so that was a wild trade deadline. Honestly, it’s one the best in recent memory. In case you missed it I joined Joe Pisapia to recap Thursday’s transactions, including the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner blockbuster, on Leading Off Friday morning. You can watch the YouTube video or listen to the podcast by clicking here.
There are a lot of fantasy takeaways from all the trades we’ve seen lately, so naturally this week’s “20 Things” is going to focus on just that. Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma.
1. The Dodgers
Scherzer is Scherzer. He’s a future Hall of Fame pitcher who’s going to have another chance at a ring this season, and I think that’s great for baseball. His value doesn’t change all that much. However, incredibly, Trea Turner is somehow a more valuable fantasy asset come week’s end. Not only is he going to be hitting high in the order for the Dodgers, but the expectation is that he’ll play second base while Corey Seager sticks at shortstop. What we have here is one of the best players in fantasy baseball gaining positional eligibility at one of the weakest positions. Additionally, he’ll likely carry the 2B/SS eligibility heading into 2022, which could make him a top-three selection in drafts next year.
2. Keibert Ruiz‘s sneaky redraft value
For obvious reasons the 23-year-old backstop has only been an option for dynasty managers this season. Blocked by Will Smith on the Dodgers combined with some pedestrian minor league numbers entering the year, it was fair to wonder if Ruiz was overvalued as a top 100 prospect. That’s no longer the case. Ruiz has always possessed strong bat-to-ball skills, and he adjusted his batting stance at the alternate training site last summer, becoming more upright in order to hit for more power. The results have been strong — a .310/.379/.624 triple slash line with 16 homers and a 27:23 K:BB. If/when he gets called up to the Nationals (presumably to be their everyday starter), he’ll be worth adding for managers seeking catcher help.
Sent to the Nats as part of Scherzer/Trea haul, Ruiz now has a much clearer path to an everyday job in the majors
Recently skyrocketed to No. 16 in Baseball America's midseason update
Must-roster in dynasty and could be a redraft streaming option down the stretch#Natitude
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) July 30, 2021
3. Josiah Gray‘s swinging strike rate
The other top prospect Washington received in exchange for Scherzer/Turner, Gray has already been on fantasy players’ minds as of late. The 23-year-old has given up six earned runs in eight innings at the major league level in ’21, though he has totaled 13 strikeouts with a 20.8% swinging strike rate. Allowing four homers in two outings isn’t ideal, but that SwStr% is eye popping. Only Jacob deGrom is above 20% this year (minimum 60 IP). I suspect Gray will be given an earlier opportunity to develop as a traditional starter with the Nationals, as opposed to the Dodgers.
4. Anthony Rizzo‘s power
Having Joey Gallo in Yankee Stadium might be more “fun” given the towering moonshots we expect him to hit, but I think Rizzo is going to benefit more from his new home park. Gallo’s homers would theoretically leave any ballpark due to how far he hits them. Having the short porch in right field only helps, but the numbers suggest Rizzo is the one who should move up our rankings the most. That’s because in Statcast’s “expected home runs by ballpark” metric, Rizzo would have 24 homers if he played all of his games in Yankee Stadium, which is substantially more than the 15 he has entering Saturday.
5. Jesus Luzardo‘s dynasty value
Two-month rentals were being acquired for bigger prospect returns than we’ve seen in years, and one of the most notable deals to get done was the Marlins receiving the 23-year-old lefty in exchange for Starling Marte. At this time last year Luzardo was arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball, but inconsistency combined with a disastrous ’21 campaign suddenly caused Oakland to move on. Luzardo has a 6.87 ERA in the majors this year, and his 6.52 mark since being optioned to Triple-A hasn’t been much better. If any organization can get him back on track it might be the Marlins, who are developing a lengthy track record of success with young starters. Luzardo isn’t a redraft option this season but don’t give up on him in dynasty just yet.
6. Jose Berrios‘ ratios
The 27-year-old is a former top prospect who has been really good in his six years as a major league pitcher, but he has never been elite. In fact, his 3.48 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 2021 are both career highs. He’s also sporting a career-best 25.7% strikeout rate. These should all be considered good signs, but a pessimist would note that the best version of him still isn’t a fantasy ace, and now he’s moving to a far worse ballpark and division. The AL East is the most homer-happy division in baseball. Berrios’ durability and ability to pitch deep into games will always make him fantasy relevant, but he doesn’t have a lot of room for error when it comes to his ratios — at least if we want to keep valuing him as a high-end option.
7. Minnesota’s prospect return
The Twins receiving both SS/OF Austin Martin and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson in exchange for Berrios is quite the feat. Martin was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft, though he was widely considered the second best hitter in the class. I’ve been high on him since he was drafted given his strong hit tool and knowledge of the strike zone, but I’ve soured on his floor as of late. Through 55 games at Double-A Martin has just two homers and a .383 slugging percentage. When I watch him play his stance and swing doesn’t look geared for power either. I dropped him to No. 17 in my midseason top 100 update. Baseball America moved him down to 21st overall. These are notable changes given how many prospect promotions have taken place this year.
As for Woods-Richardson, he’s a name to remember, but he’s also struggled at Double-A in ’21. All that criticism being said, getting two potential top-100 prospects is an unreal return for 1.5 years of Berrios.
8. The White Sox bullpen
Kopech. Hendriks. Kimbrel. That’s an unholy trio of relievers that opposing teams will have to contend with come October. Acquiring Craig Kimbrel, a future Hall of Fame RP, was massive for the White Sox — they had to ship away Nick Madrigal and his five years of service time to get it done. However, fantasy players are far more concerned with how Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks will be used in the regular season, since both of them have performed as top-three closers this year. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the plan is for the duo to split ninth-inning opportunities, which means that each of them lose a bit of their fantasy value. Still, Chicago should win plenty of games down the stretch, and both relievers provide fantastic ratios. Their value decreases a bit, but we certainly aren’t dropping either one.
9 – 13. More bullpen notes
After Kendall Graveman was traded to the Astros it appeared as if Paul Sewald was primed for ninth-inning duties in Seattle. Not so fast. The Mariners quickly acquired Diego Castillo from the Rays (we’ll get to them in a sec), and GM Jerry Dipoto notes that he’ll be the primary closer. It sounds as if he’s simply replacing Graveman’s role, which means he’ll get the majority of save chances, but not every one. Sewald is now only worth rostering in leagues that count holds too.
Jerry Dipoto said it's likely that Diego Castillo will slot into the Mariners' closer role, but they will continue to consider leverage based on lineup order and matchups rather than specific inning — basically what they did with Kendall Graveman.
— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) July 29, 2021
Andrew Kittredge? Nick Anderson once he’s back? Who knows, honestly. It’s the Rays. There isn’t much action that can be taken here unless we wait to see who gets the first chance. If you want to purely speculate ahead of time then you can roll the dice on Kittredge.
A 29-year-old who you probably haven’t heard of before, Kyle Finnegan has two saves in two days entering the weekend. The righty owns a 3.21 ERA and an ugly 1.45 WHIP for the year. The expected stats aren’t good, yet he’s the clear ninth-inning option for the Nationals following their fire sale. He’s probably the best add for saves-only leagues post-deadline.
The only person who can rival Finnegan in saves-only leagues right now is Pittsburgh reliever David Bednar, who will presumably take over the closer’s role following Richard Rodriguez‘s departure. Bednar has a 2.70 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 40 innings on the year. The Pirates won’t win many games but he has little competition for the job.
Twins, Marlins, Rangers, Cubs, Diamondbacks
Here are four more relievers who could theoretically see saves now that their teams have traded away fellow members of their bullpen. A wait-and-see approach might be best with these situations, unless you’re desperate and/or want to speculate:
14. Kyle Schwarber‘s rehab (and eventual first base eligibility)
The biggest move my Red Sox made was trading for the slugging lefty Schwarber, who gives the team a much-needed option at first base. First base, you say? Yes, it seems as if the plan is for Schwarber to learn the position on the fly and give Boston a massive upgrade here (sorry Bobby Dalbec stans). Schwarber is still on the injured list with his hamstring strain, but he was on an all-time homer streak before going down. Adding first base eligibility would only increase his fantasy value, both this year and for 2022.
16 HOMERS IN 18 GAMES WHAT THE FUCK KYLE SCHWARBER pic.twitter.com/1HOdXvV1iT
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) June 29, 2021
15. The Braves outfield
Atlanta has remade their entire outfield this month. Following the season-ending injury to Ronald Acuña, Atlanta has since acquired Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, and Jorge Soler. None of these guys profile as a traditional center fielder, so Guillermo Heredia will likely still see playing time. Rosario (abdominal) is currently banged up and Pederson will likely only play against righties, perhaps forming a platoon with Duvall. Soler is the most interesting option here. He’s been hot as of late and has cut his strikeout rate as the season has gone on. It’s worth remembering he belted 48 homers just two years ago.
16. Kris Bryant‘s power
Another Cub who was dealt, Bryant doesn’t have the same fortune as his ex-teammate Rizzo in regards to moving to a better ballpark for power. Bryant has 18 home runs entering the weekend, but Statcast’s metrics say he would only have 15 if he played all of his home games at Oracle Park. Apparently Wrigley Field was actually the best place for his right-handed swing. It isn’t as if the drop from 18 to 15 is that big, and there are far worse options for righty power, but we should tick his homer projections down a tad for the final two months of play.
17. Cesar Hernandez: streaming hitter
The White Sox acquired the lefty-swinging second baseman from Cleveland this week. Hernandez already has a career-high 18 long balls on the year, and he’s worth firing up as a streaming option given the strong matchups this week (three games against the Royals and three against the Cubs).
18. Reid Detmers‘ possible encore
The Angels’ first-round pick from 2020, Detmers is scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics. The college lefty has had a fantastic debut season, totaling a 3.15 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in 13 starts (60 innings) between Double-A and Triple-A. Yet the most exciting stat is the 106 strikeout he compiled during this span. The 22-year-old is worth adding as a streamer on Sunday, and if the Halos keep him around then he’s a good option for pitching-needing team the rest of the way.
19. Joey Votto‘s Hall of Fame run
Look, you’re starting Votto in every league already, but how could I not mention him now that he has homered in seven straight games entering Saturday. I loved Votto as a waiver wire pickup once he returned from the IL back in early June, but obviously I never saw anything lie this coming. The 37-year-old remade his swing midway through the 2020 campaign, becoming more upright in an attempt to sell out for more power. It only took him until July, 2021 to perfect this new approach. Votto could be a legitimate league-winner down the stretch.
20. Jarred Kelenic‘s slump
The super phenom is currently sitting on the waiver wire in my competitve 12-team H2H categories redraft league. He homered on Friday night. I still haven’t picked him up. Gotta keep expectations in check. Fantasy aside, he needed this. Here’s to hoping a hot streak is coming.
Happy for Jarred Kelenic pic.twitter.com/oUKGZhvF9o
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) July 31, 2021
Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to a more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.