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Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Logan Gilbert, David Fletcher, Franmil Reyes, Michael Conforto

by Jon Mathisen | @eazymath | Featured Writer
Jul 12, 2021
David Fletcher

David Fletcher took his game to another level last week.

Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers article for Week 14 (7/5-7/11). 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.

Well, we made it to the All-Star break! Players, coaches, and die-hard fantasy baseball managers such as yourself have earned a few days off. But if you can’t get enough of this stuff, like yours truly, then you’re in the right place. This is the time when the casual fantasy baseball player starts to check out and turn their attention towards football, but the competitive manager (like you!) knows that this is crunch time. 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 before the upcoming deadline.

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

Logan Gilbert (SP – SEA)
Gilbert received a ton of hype leading up to his call-up with the Mariners back in mid-May, but that quickly fizzled out after his underwhelming debut. But despite his perceived struggles, he’s never given up more than four earned runs in a start and has surrendered just 12 earned runs over the last eight (42 innings). We sometimes forget that younger players, especially pitchers, can take some time to develop once they get to the majors. Gilbert just 24-years-old and still has a lot to work on, but the upside is very real.

Gilbert flashed his brilliance last week and reminded everyone why he was the Mariners’ number four prospect. He threw a 103-pitch masterpiece on July 8 against the Yankees at home, surrendering just one hit with eight strikeouts and no walks across seven innings. He mixed and matched his four-seam fastball and slider perfectly, keeping the Yankees hitters off balance all game. Speaking of his slider, he’s generating a 37.1% Whiff Rate, and batters have a .120 xBA and .177xwOba off of that pitch. What’s even more impressive is that he’s producing an absurd 73.9% Whiff Rate, .099 xBA, and .105 xSLG off his changeup. He’s only throwing that pitch 6.9% of the time, but once he learns to control that offering and mix it in with his fastball and slider, watch out.
After his sterling effort against the Bronx Bombers, his season ERA sits at 3.51 to go along with a 0.966 WHIP and 53:10 K/BB ratio over 48 2/3 innings (10 starts). He’s only rostered in 50% of Yahoo! leagues at the time of this writing and should be prioritized if he’s available in yours. He’s just scratching the surface of his potential, and you can still get in on the ground floor in your redraft league.

 

Logan Gilbert is the first @Mariners starter to go 7+ IP allowing 1 H or fewer and 0 BB since King Felix’s perfect game in 2012. pic.twitter.com/dFg34K2k2R

– MLB Stats (@MLBStats) July 8, 2021

Jameson Taillon (SP – NYY)
Taillon has largely been an afterthought in fantasy baseball due to his inconsistency. He had shown some positive signs here and there but could rarely string together 2-3 good outings in a row. Well, he may be on the right track after his tw0-start performance last week. In two turns against the Mariners (7/6) and the Astros (7/11), Taillon produced a 2.08 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 13:3 K/BB ratio over 13 innings. He punched out nine in his win against Seattle and has produced three quality starts over his last four games. Even though it was just two starts, it’s starting to feel like he’s finally turned a corner.

Overall, he has a lackluster 4-4 record, 4.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 86:24 K/BB ratio across 82 2/3 innings (17 starts). This is actually the first time his ERA has been under 5.00 since his first start of the year. In spite of his struggles to prevent runs, he’s posting 9.4 K/9 with a 24.9% Strikeout Rate and 26.4% Whiff Rate, which are all career bests. His 82 2/3 innings are the most he’s thrown since 2018, so his stamina could be something to monitor moving forward, but if you’re in need of starting pitching help and who isn’t, he’s rostered in just 36% of Yahoo! leagues.

Franmil Reyes (OF – CLE)
Over the first 40 games of the season, Reyes swatted nine doubles, two triples, and 11 home runs while slugging .576. But he hit the injured list back on May 23 with an oblique injury that ended up keeping him sidelined for nearly six weeks. He was activated from the IL back on July 2 and has been crushing the ball ever since. Over his last seven games, he’s slashing .345/.387/.690 with three home runs and nine RBI. He homered in three straight games, which included a walk-off three-run shot against the Kansas City Royals on July 8 that measured 435 feet. I think it’s safe to say that the oblique issue is behind him.

Overall, the 26-year-old slugger is slashing .272/.328/.595 with 14 home runs, 38 RBI, and two stolen bases across 173 at-bats. He’s posting career-highs in Barrel Rate (20.5%), Hard Hit Rate (52.1%), xSLG (.565), and Max Exit Velocity (114.9 mph). His Barrel Rate also ranks in the 99th percentile in all of baseball. He’s in line for a monster second half now that he’s healthy. Enjoy the show.

Franmil Reyes walk-off home run! pic.twitter.com/TIARw2RtBN

– Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) July 9, 2021

David Fletcher (2B – LAA)
Saying a guy who has a 24-game hitting streak is “locked-in” at the plate sounds a little obvious, but Fletcher took his game to another level last week. Not only did he keep his hitting streak intact, but he notched five multi-hit performances in six contests, including two four-hit games. He collected 16 hits in 27 at-bats last week with two home runs and seven RBI. The long balls both came in Seattle on Friday and Sunday, respectively, and were Fletcher’s first long balls of the season. He’s hitting a ridiculous .439/.455/.592 over his hitting streak and has his season batting line up to .309/.336/.381 with two home runs, 32 RBI, four stolen bases, and 52 runs scored.

He’s sporting a career-worst 4% Walk Rate, but his 10.6% Strikeout Rate ranks in the 98th percentile. He really hasn’t needed to draw walks to get on base with his 92.8% Z-Contact and 83.1% O-Contact rates. It’s a bummer that his hot streak will be interrupted by the Midsummer Classic, but there’s no reason he can’t pick up right where he left off next Friday when the Angels start their series against the Mariners at home.

David Fletcher’s hitting streak: 2⃣4⃣ games pic.twitter.com/mOOMBQzM7n

– MLB (@MLB) July 11, 2021

A.J. Pollock (OF – LAD)
Pollock has been red hot at the dish since the calendar flipped to July, slashing .364/.447/1.000 with three doubles, six home runs, and eight RBI over 10 games. Over the last seven days, he hit .391 with a 1.505 OPS and four solo home runs, three of which came against his former team, the Diamondbacks. He hit two of the Dodgers’ eight dingers in a 22-1 blowout over Arizona on Saturday. He’s now rocking a .271/.332/.518 batting line to go along with 12 home runs, 33 RBI, and two stolen bases over 199 at-bats on the year.

The power surge has been supported by a 48.6% Hard Hit Rate and 11.6% Barrel Rate, which are both career bests. He is posting a 23% Strikeout Rate, which is the worst mark of his career, but his 7.5% Walk Rate is his highest since 2017. He appears to be making a concerted effort to hit for more power, and it seems to have paid off so far as he’s on pace to surpass his career-high of 21 home runs. Durability has always been the concern for Pollock, he missed over half of May with a hamstring strain, but he can be a fantasy asset when he’s healthy and locked into the loaded Dodgers lineup.

Fallers

Caleb Smith (SP – ARI)
Prior to his previous two starts, Smith had been a small bright spot for the struggling D-Backs this season. He posted a solid 3.08 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 75:33 K/BB ratio over his first 64 1/3 innings (25 appearances, seven starts). He had only allowed seven home runs over those 64-plus innings as well. But over his last two starts (seven innings), he surrendered a whopping 14 runs, including five homers. He coughed up five runs over six innings in a loss to the Giants back on July 4, but the real disaster came on Saturday against the Dodgers. Smith allowed nine runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts over one-plus inning while serving up three home runs, including a grand slam to Justin Turner. The D-Backs would go on to lose by a record-breaking score of 22-1.

This was certainly not how Smith wanted his first half of the season to end. His last two outings raised his season ERA to 4.54 to go along with a 1.360 WHIP and 81:37 K/BB ratio over 71 1/3 innings. He can be useful in a streaming capacity in the right matchup, but he doesn’t miss bats like he used to. He’s sporting a career-low 25.7% Whiff Rate, and his 11.7% Walk Rate is the worst it’s ever been. He still could produce some deep-league streaming value in the second half, but it’ll be hard for fantasy managers to forget his last outing. Woof.

Justin Turner – Los Angeles Dodgers (15) pic.twitter.com/1dZ8D5ERnB

– MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) July 11, 2021

Michael Conforto (OF – NYM)
When I started writing this article over the weekend, Conforto was hitting .083 with a .083 slugging percentage over the first six games of last week, yikes. He somewhat salvaged his week with a three-run homer in Sunday’s loss to the Pirates, but he still slashed .188/.381/.375 over 21 plate appearances. Overall, the 28-year-old outfielder is hitting an ugly .202/.345/.301 with three home runs and 16 RBI over 163 at-bats. He missed over a month of action with a hamstring issue earlier this season, and while he was far from elite before the injury (.230/.356/.336, 2 HR, 13 RBI over 113 AB’s), he’s been even worse since being activated (.140/.323/.220, 1 HR, 6 RBI over 50 AB’s).

There is some silver lining in his expected stats with a .244 xBA, .353 xwOBA, and .399 xSLG. He’s also sporting a career-best 14.8% Walk Rate. But even if those expected stats were his actual numbers, they would still be underwhelming for a player that’s posted a .258/.360/.482 average over the last five seasons. Conforto has been a letdown, especially considering he was a consensus top-75 pick in fantasy drafts. He has the second half to turn things around, but it’s been tough to roster, let alone start him, so far this year.

Emmanuel Clase (RP – CLE)
Clase has had a rough go over his last five appearances, allowing seven runs (four earned) over five innings. Last week, he blew two save chances against the Rays and the Royals. Cleveland ended up losing to Tampa Bay on Tuesday but was able to come back and defeat Kansas City on Friday. He hasn’t picked up a save since June 16, much to his fantasy manager’s chagrin, and he hasn’t earned a hold since June 20. Fellow reliever James Karinchak has two holds, two saves, and two wins since June 16, which has made Clase’s recent struggles all the more frustrating.

The 23-year-old flamethrower still owns a sparking 1.72 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 41:14 K/BB ratio over 36 2/3 innings this season. He can run into trouble with walks sometimes, but he has an elite arsenal. His fastball ranks in the 100th percentile in velocity (100.4 mph) and the 96th percentile in spin rate. When his slider is working, it’s practically unhittable with opponents posting a .118 xBA and 41.2% Whiff Rate against that pitch. Ultimately, he should be fine moving forward. Fantasy managers are used to him splitting time in the ninth inning with Karinchak. He’s just going through a tough patch right now, so the All-Star break couldn’t come at a better time.

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