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Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: German Marquez, Ozzie Albies, Gerrit Cole

by Jon Mathisen | @eazymath | Featured Writer
Jul 6, 2021
German Marquez

German Marquez had an all-time week.

Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers article for Week 13 (6/28-7/4). 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.

We’re getting into the dog days of baseball in both real life and fantasy. We’re less than a week away from the All-Star break, if you can believe that. This is when the casual fantasy baseball player starts to check out and turn their attention towards football, but the competitive managers know that this time is crucial. It’s important to pay attention to which players are “rising” and which ones are “falling” so we know who to target and who to avoid in any potential trades this summer. This upcoming week should prove significant for some of the fallers mentioned below, and it should also shed light on the sustainability of some of the risers.

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., Shohei Ohtani, and Fernando Tatis Jr. They’re all amazing players. As much as I’d like to write about them every week, 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.

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Risers

German Marquez (SP – COL)
Mr. Marquez had an all-time week. He dominated on the mound, going 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, and 16:2 K/BB ratio in two starts (15 innings) against the Pirates and the Cardinals. He took a no-hit bid into the ninth inning against the Pirates before Ka’ai Tom picked up a base knock to open the frame. It was still an impressive start from the 26-year-old. He also found out on Sunday that he would be making his first All-Star game. He’ll be the hometown Rockies’ only representative in the Midsummer Classic. Marquez has been on a roll over the last month and a half, notching eight quality starts in his last nine appearances (60 innings). He’s gone 5-2 with a 2.10 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 57:14 K/BB ratio in that time frame, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that he surrendered eight earned runs in a loss to the Reds during this streak.

Overall, he’s got a 7-6 record, 3.59 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, and 105:41 K/BB ratio over 105 1/3 innings (18 starts). He’s been a workhorse for the Rockies, leading all of baseball with three complete games and ranks in the top 10 in innings pitched. Surprisingly, he’s been more effective at home (3.61 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) than he has on the road (4.70 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). He’ll get one more test before the All-Star break when he faces the Padres in San Diego.

James Kaprielian (SP – OAK)
The unheralded Oakland rookie put up some stellar numbers last week despite going 0-2 over his two starts. He put up a 2.77 ERA and 1.070 WHIP with 16 strikeouts and one walk over 13 innings against the Rangers and the Red Sox. He struck out a career-high 10 batters in his tough-luck loss to the BoSox (Oakland lost 1-0). Kaprielian owns a 2.84 ERA, 1.070 WHIP, and 62:20 K/BB ratio over 57 innings (10 starts) on the season and has posted a quality start in 4-of-5 turns.

The 27-year-old has been a reliable arm for the A’s, posting a 3.83 xERA, 3.96 FIP, 27% Strikeout Rate, and 31.2% CSW Rate. Kaprielian dealt with multiple elbow injuries earlier in his career, which required Tommy John surgery back in 2017. He’s also never pitched more than 68 innings in a season during his professional career, so he’ll likely have his workload monitored in the second half of the year. He may not be a starter for the rest of his career, but it’s been a fun and reliable ride thus far for fantasy managers that scooped him up off the waiver wire.

Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)
Albies won a lot of head-to-head managers their matchups last week. He went beast mode at the dish, going 10-for-25 (.400/.407/.760) with three home runs, 13 RBI, six runs scored, and three stolen bases in six games. The 24-year-old is slashing .265/.329/.514 with 23 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, 59 RBI, 50 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases over 313 at-bats. He’s on pace to set new career-highs in doubles (43 in 2019), triples (eight in 2019), home runs (24 in 2018/19), RBI (86 in 2019), and stolen bases (15 in 2019). His stellar first half earned him a much-deserved trip to the All-Star game as well.

Albies is sporting career-bests in Hard Hit Rate (36.9%), Barrel Rate (10.6%), and Average Launch Angle (22 degrees). As impressive as he’s been, he could be hitting even better per his expected stats. He’s got a .278 xBA, .361 xwOBA, and .511 xSLG. We have a whole other half of baseball to be played, but Albies is rewarding every fantasy manager that decided to target their second baseman early in drafts this spring.

Willy Adames (SS – MIL)
Adames had a huge week for the red-hot Brewers, who have won 13-of-16 games. They’ve now lost two in a row, but they had an 11-game win streak prior to their July 4 loss to Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old shortstop went 9-for-26 (.346/.469/.769) with two doubles, three home runs, eight RBI, a stolen base, and nine runs scored while the Brew Crew went 6-1. For the season, Adames is slashing .247/.320/.462 with 13 home runs, 44 RBI, and three stolen bases over 279 at-bats between Tampa Bay and Milwaukee. He’s been a different player since the Brewers acquired him in a trade with the Rays back in mid-May. He’s played nearly an equal number of games between the two clubs, and the contrast in production is stark. In 41 games with the Rays, he slashed .197/.254/.371 with 16 runs, six doubles, five home runs, 15 RBI, and a rough 51:10 K/BB ratio. In 42 games with the Brewers, he’s posted a .298/.380/.550 batting line to go along with 25 runs, 14 doubles, eight home runs, 29 RBI, and a more respectable 39:20 K/BB ratio.

Just like Albies mentioned above, Adames is posting career-highs in Barrel Rate (12.7%), Hard Hit Rate (47.6%), and Average Launch Angle (18 degrees). Overall, he’s still striking out a lot, as he always has. He’s got a 34.3% Whiff Rate (sixth percentile) and 29.1% Strikeout Rate (11th percentile). Although, he does seem to be showing an improvement with the swings and misses in Milwaukee, per his team stats. He looks more comfortable in his new(ish) home, and he’s certainly endeared himself to his teammates with some clutch hits.

J.P. Crawford (SS – SEA)
Crawford is quietly having a career year for the Mariners, who are surprisingly five games above .500 (45-40) at the midway point. He’s currently slashing .289/.348/.406 with five home runs, 31 RBI, 42 runs scored, and three stolen bases across 308 at-bats. He’s shown solid plate discipline with a 16.5% Strikeout Rate (81st percentile), 21.4% Chase Rate (85th), and 17% Whiff Rate (91st). Most importantly, he’s shown an ability to hit left-handed pitching, something he hasn’t done at a high level in past seasons. He’s slashing .339/.377/.470 in 122 plate appearances against southpaws this year but is batting just .232 with a .626 OPS in his career. This is something manager Scott Servais clearly took note of before moving him up to the leadoff spot back on June 1.

Crawford is batting .352/.403/.520 with 12 doubles, three home runs, 15 RBI, 21 runs scored, and two stolen bases in 139 plate appearances since that point (30 games) while the M’s have gone 17-13. In six games last week, he slashed .370/.433/.481 with three doubles, seven runs, and an RBI, while Seattle went 4-2 in a pair of series against the Blue Jays and the Rangers. And he’s done all of this while playing Gold Glove level defense at the shortstop.

 

Fallers

Gerrit Cole (SP – NYY)
Cole’s struggles since the MLB started checking pitchers for foreign substances back on June 21 are pretty well documented by now. The 30-year-old righty put up a sterling 2.31 ERA, 0.847 WHIP, and 117:12 K/BB ratio over his first 14 starts (89 2/3 innings) this season. In his three starts since June 21, he’s recorded a lackluster 6.46 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, and 18:8 K/BB ratio over 15 1/3 innings. On Sunday, Cole had his shortest outing of the season, needing 80 pitches to get through 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Mets. He surrendered four runs and three walks but managed to strike out six. He was booed by the home crowd as he exited the ball game. His overall numbers still look great on paper with an 8-4 record, 2.91 ERA, 0.962 WHIP, and 135:20 K/BB ratio over 105 innings. The recent trend is troubling, though, as he coughed up nine earned runs over his three starts in June prior to the MLB crackdown.

Many fantasy managers are left wondering if they should leave him on the bench for his upcoming start against his former team, the Houston Astros. It may take a little time for him to figure things out in this current environment, but he should be fine over the long haul. Cole looks like he could use a little break right now, that’s for sure. He did earn his fourth invitation to the All-Star game, but some time away from meaningful baseball should do him some good.

Aroldis Chapman (RP – NYY)
Chapman has followed a similar path to Gerrit Cole, but his decline started a little earlier. Over his first 23 appearances this season, the big left-hander was lights out. He put up an absurd 0.39 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and 43:11 K/BB ratio over 23 innings while going 4-0 and 12-for-13 on save opportunities. He only surrendered one home run over that span. His last nine appearances have been the polar opposite of his hot start. He’s put up a hideous 22.24 ERA, 4.06 WHIP, and 6:9 K/BB ratio while surrendering four home runs over his last 5 2/3 innings. He’s gone 1-3 and blown three saves in that time frame as well. The ugly stretch gives him a 4.71 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 49:20 K/BB ratio over 28 2/3 innings on the year. He was still able to secure a trip to the All-Star game, but all is not well in the Bronx.

The Yankees currently sit at 42-41, fourth in the NL East, and 10.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox. Chapman failed to protect a one-run lead in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets on Sunday when he served up a solo home run to Pete Alonso. Chapman, just like Cole, was booed after he left the game. Manager Aaron Boone was non-commital with reporters following the contest when they asked him if he would remain the Yankees’ closer. It would not be surprising to see him make a change in the ninth inning at this point. Chad Green, who’s been excellent this season with a 2.28 ERA and 0.74 WHIP across 43 1/3 innings, could take over as the closer for now.

Jorge Soler (OF – KC)
This isn’t the first time that Soler has made the “Fallers” list, but it’ll probably be the last because how much worse can it get for him? He’s currently batting a meager .184/.280/.310 with six home runs, 28 RBI, and 24 runs scored with an 84:20 K/BB ratio over 255 at-bats. As if his rate stats weren’t bad enough, the lack of power is also inadequate. He hit just two home runs in April, two in May, and two in June despite putting up a Max Exit Velocity of 115.1 mph (95th percentile), Average Exit Velocity of 92.3 mph (91st percentile), and a Hard Hit Rate of 49.4% (87th percentile) this season. His .244 BABIP is the lowest mark in four years, but he’s also seen a big drop in his Barrel Rate at 11.5%, which is significantly lower than his 2020 (18.9%) and 2019 (16.6%) marks.

There’s also a pretty wide gap between his actual stats and his expected ones with a .219 xBA, .321 xwOBA, and .422 xSLG. Soler is a slow starter, historically. April (.743 OPS), May (.706 OPS), and June (.737 OPS) are when he struggles the most before turning it on in July (.760 OPS), August (.951 OPS), and September/October (.837 OPS). But fantasy managers can’t just hang their hat on that. They’ve become understandably frustrated and impatient with him. Soler was drafted for his power, and he’s just not hitting the ball out of the park. His roster shares in Yahoo! leagues have hit a season-low at 38%. He did miss a handful of games in late May and early June with groin discomfort, so it’s possible that he’s still playing hurt, but that’s pure speculation. He can be safely dropped in fantasy leagues at this point.

Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)
Swanson had a frosty week at the dish, going just 4-for-23 (.174/.269/.261) with an RBI and a stolen base in six games. A streaky hitter like Swanson will do that once in a while, and his fantasy managers are likely used to it by now. For the season, the 27-year-old is sporting a .230/.287/.426 batting line to go along with 13 home runs, 35 RBI, 35 runs scored, and five stolen bases over 305 at-bats. If the season ended today, his batting average and on-base percentage would both be career lows, yet he’s on pace to set career-highs in home runs (17 in 2019) and RBI (65 in 2019). His .284 BABIP is the lowest mark of his career, and his expected stats show some room for improvement with a .249 xBA, .327 xwOBA, and .459 xSLG.

He appears to be selling out for more power with a 28.1% Strikeout Rate (15th percentile) and 6.9% Walk Rate (26th percentile), but his Hard Hit Rate of 47% is a career-high while his Barrel Rate (11.2%) is the second-best mark of his career. There’s nothing concerning in his batted ball profile, and he should snap out of this mini-slump soon enough. Fantasy managers that passed on a high-profile shortstop like Fernando Tatis Jr. or Trea Turner in the early rounds most likely ended up with Swanson. Considering where he was selected in drafts, fantasy managers can’t be too upset with his counting stats thus far.

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