20 Things To Watch For In Week 21 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
As Dan Harris and I discussed on Friday’s Leading Off, it’s late August and football is starting to dominate the fantasy landscape. This means that it’s more important than ever for fantasy baseball players to keep a close eye on things. It’s an accomplishment to still be competing. Now let’s finish strong and win some leagues. Here’s what I’m watching for in Week 21.
Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma.
1. Evan Longoria‘s playing time
The former Ray was the cover boy for my article last week, but his roster-ship has barely budged in the week since. It’s true that Longoria has started just 3-of-6 games since returning from the injured list, but that isn’t a major concern for me. Yes, the first place Giants have plenty of productive position players to cycle in and out of their lineup on a daily basis. But it always made sense to give Longoria some breathers after such a long absence. His actual stats have been great this year. The expected stats are even better. Go pick him up.
Note: Longoria was sidelined on Friday due to lingering hand soreness. He’s expected to be fine.
2 – 3. More playing time notes
Well, well, well, Luke Voit. That’s one way to make a bid to remain in the lineup. The 30-year-old first baseman had a monstrous game on Friday night, going 4-for-5 with a homer, a double, and four RBI as the Yankees won their eighth in a row. Since Anthony Rizzo returned from the COVID-19 IL each first baseman has sat once in three games. On Thursday, New York jammed everyone into the lineup by playing Aaron Judge in center field and Giancarlo Stanton in right. I’m skeptical that they’ll use that defensive alignment the majority of the time down the stretch, but it at least helps Voit and Rizzo that they’re open to it. It isn’t time to panic yet.
In five games since Fernando Tatis Jr. (shoulder) returned from the injured list he has played right field four times and center field once. Here is the playing time breakdown for San Diego’s other outfielders:
Trent Grisham (4)
Tommy Pham (3)
Wil Myers (3)
The one game that Grisham sat is the one game where the Padres were facing a lefty, so it might be a simple solution there. I do expect Pham and Myers to each lose some playing time against right-handers, though. It’s worth tracking with fantasy playoff matchups right around the corner.
4 -5. Superstars gaining position eligibility
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS/OF – SD)
The National League MVP contender played his fifth game in the outfield on Friday night. Depending on your league setting you might be able to use him there beginning in Week 21. Be sure to check. Selfishly, we want Tatis to keep playing the outfield down the stretch. There’s a good chance he enters next season with dual eligibility.
Trea Turner (2B/SS – LAD)
Meantime, Turner is up to 11 games at second base since joining the Dodgers. This is massive as second base is arguably the thinnest position in fantasy baseball outside of catcher. Similar to Tatis, this will only increase his value in early ’22 drafts.
6. Prospect risers and fallers
Likely the last mainstream prospect event of the 2021 season has come and gone. Earlier this week MLB Pipeline released their first in-season update to their top 100 prospects. The moves were significant and I was lucky enough to have In This League’s Chris Welsh on my new show to discuss it with. If you play in a dynasty league, or you’re just interested in prospect coverage in general, I recommend giving it a listen below.
⚾️ PODCAST ⚾️
Where @IsItTheWelsh and I react to MLB Pipeline’s new top 100 prospect list
Also, who will be the next top prospects to see a big rise?
Humbled to have had Welsh on..
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) August 20, 2021
7. The National League MVP Race
Mixing in a fun one here, but whereas we can already give the American League MVP award to Shohei Ohtani, the senior circuit’s race is pretty exciting. Max Muncy leads the NL in bWAR (5.8), but Tatis (5.3), Juan Soto (5.0), and Jake Cronenworth (5.0) are right behind him. Giants SS Brandon Crawford (4.7) received some MVP buzz this week as well.
Over at Fangraphs we currently have a tie between Muncy and Tatis at 4.9 fWAR. Turner is at 4.6 with Bryan Reynolds right behind him with 4.4 fWAR. Fangraphs also has Bryce Harper (4.0) inside the top 10. Harper was gaining steam while the Phillies were rolling a couple of weeks ago, but they’ve since cooled off in a big way.
Of course, the MVP race isn’t just the WAR award, but it’s a helpful starting point for figuring out who the top contenders might be.
8 – 11. Interesting two-start pitchers
Madison Bumgarner (SP – ARI)
Over his past seven starts the former World Series MVP has registered a 1.93 ERA without allowing more than two earned runs in any single start. His WHIP during this span is under 1, which is quite phenomenal. Unfortunately, aside from trusting MadBum as a wily vet, it’s tough to determine what has led to his success. His fastball velocity as well as all of his spin rates are down. Then there’s the ugly 4.59 xFIP during this time. Regression is likely coming for Bumgarner, but two starts against the Pirates and Phillies in Week 21 will make him worth starting anyways.
Josiah Gray (SP – WAS)
Full disclosure – it’s currently unclear if Gray actually has two starts lined up, but if he does then they will come against the Marlins and Mets. Juicy! Even if he only ends up starting once, Gray is an ideal streaming candidate given the matchup in addition to his own talent. The 23-year-old has a 17.2% swinging strike rate in the majors this year. That’s special. It’s a number tied with Tyler Glasnow and one that only trails Jacob deGrom among pitchers with at least 80 innings. Of course, Gray hasn’t reached 80 innings this year, so he doesn’t qualify. But it’s a promising sign for his future. 11 homers in 30 innings hasn’t been ideal, but it isn’t enough of a concern for me to fade him. The other worry is how deep he’ll pitch into games, but Gray has completed six full innings in each of his past two starts.
Tylor Megill (SP – NYM)
There were a couple of speed bumps in early August, but the 26-year-old is back on track following six innings of one-run ball against the Giants in his most recent outing. The highlight was 16 swinging strikes. Megill faces them again in Week 21, in addition to another start against the Nationals. He might not be the most exciting pickup, but he’s getting the job done right now.
Daniel Lynch (SP – KC)
Many fantasy players probably wrote the rookie southpaw off after a disastrous first stint in the majors earlier this season. Lynch was eventually optioned back to Triple-A, though he’s been much better since returning. In five starts since July 25th, Lynch has a 2.35 ERA. A 4.69 xFIP and a 7.04 K/9 aren’t as encouraging, but at least the development is headed in the right direction. Lynch is widely available and draws the Astros and Mariners in Week 21. Note that Houston hasn’t been as tough of a matchup over the past two weeks.
12. Road Rockies
Colorado is leaving a long home stand for six road games in Week 21. If you were on the fence about using their hitters in Week 21, I’d shy away.
13 – 15. Unique scheduling
It’s an interesting schedule next week. Five teams are limited to five games. 20 teams play six games. And five teams play seven games. The ones with just five are the Braves, Tigers, Angels, Padres, and Rays.
The teams with seven games are the D’Backs, White Sox, Pirates, Blue Jays, and Royals. Use these differences to help make your tough start/sit decisions.
16. Michael Conforto‘s positive regression
The Mets’ outfielder sported a wildly unsustainable .412 BABIP in 2020. That was always destined for negative regression. Now, though? Conforto’s underlying stats hint at positive regression. Not only is he hitting .306/.400/.503 since August 1st, but the expected stats suggest he’s been unlucky all season long. It seems as if things are starting to turn around for him. This might be your last chance to add/acquire him.
This is your sign to stick with and/or acquire Michael Conforto down the stretch
Past 60 PAs: .315/.383/.519
Season-long Statcast numbers:
.220 BA vs .256 xBA
.365 SLG vs .436 xSLG
.314 wOBA vs .358 xwOBA
Regression is coming! (the good kind)#LGM
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) August 20, 2021
17. Alex Bregman‘s return
The star third baseman finally resumed his minor league rehab assignment on Friday night, and he homered! It has been a long absence for the 27-year-old, and the situation has undoubtedly frustrated fantasy managers. Check the news on him before setting Week 21 lineups. I’m not positive he’ll be ready by Monday, but he’s heading in the right direction. Finally.
18. Josh Rojas‘ must-roster status
In 40 plate appearances since returning from the IL, Rojas is batting a preposterous .459/.500/.703. A .640 BABIP will help with that. Rojas is obviously going to cool down soon, but he offers multi-position eligibility and is worth starting until that happens.
19. Tyler O’Neill‘s breakout
I typically don’t go for sluggers who make hard contact and strike out a lot. I never like rostering Joey Gallo or Miguel Sano. I’m too impatient during the “down” periods. Therefore, I’m late to the game on O’Neill’s breakout party. I must admit, however, that he’s been great. The batted-ball data is simply fantastic and suggests that he has under performed. Fresh off a three-homer week, O’Neill’s stock is trending up yet again.
20. Kyle Finnegan‘s emergence
“Sure, add Finnegan if you need saves” was the fantasy takeaway following Washington’s fire sale at this year’s trade deadline. However, the 29-year-old has been rock-solid and earned his fifth save on Friday night. The ERA is down to 2.90 and he’s clearly the guy for the Nationals down the stretch.
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.