Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: C.J. Cron, Eloy Jimenez, Jazz Chisholm
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.
C.J. Cron (1B – COL)
It’s only apt to start this article off with the National League Player of The Week. The 31-year-old slugger played in just five games last week, but he made a huge impact for the Rockies. He swatted four home runs and drove in 16 runs while slashing .556/.636/1.278 as Colorado went 4-1 against the Cubs and the Marlins. He saved his best for last as he smashed a grand slam and swatted another three-run homer in Sunday’s series finale win over Miami. Cron has been known to go on these scorching hot hitting streaks, especially this season. In 14 games from late April to mid-May, he hit five home runs with 12 RBI while putting up a 1.179 OPS. He went on another heater in mid-June, swatting six home runs while collecting 13 RBI to go along with a .988 OPS over 14 games. He’s in the midst of another hot streak now and is rostered in just 42% of Yahoo! leagues.
Overall, Cron is slashing .257/.366/.493 with 18 home runs, 59 RBI, and 48 runs scored over 296 at-bats. He’s by no means having a bad season, but he’ll most likely fall short of the 30-plus home runs that a lot of projections gave him. Per Baseball Savant, his expected home run total is 23.6, with 15 of his 18 homers being classified as “no doubters.” While Cron may have had some bad luck when it comes to power, his batting line is right where it should be with a .257 xBA, .373 xwOBA, and .478 xSLG. He’s also sporting a 12% Walk Rate, the second-best mark of his career, and a 21.4% Strikeout Rate, which is his lowest number in five seasons.
A grand slam from C.J. Cron gives him 7 RBI already today… It only took him 4 innings to do it 😳
– FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 8, 2021
Eloy Jimenez (OF – CWS)
Eloy Jimenez is making up for lost time after missing the first four months of the year while recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. He’s gotten off to a great start since his activation on July 26 and has been on fire over the last seven games, slashing .346/.393/.962 with four home runs and 11 RBI. He swatted two homers and drove in five runs in back-to-back games on August 8th and 9th. Overall, the 24-year-old slugger is slashing .297/.333/.811 with four doubles, five home runs, and 14 RBI across 37 at-bats. We don’t have a lot of data to go off as Jimenez has played in just 10 games, but he appears to be up to his old tricks. He’s struck out 10 times in 37 at-bats (27% K Rate) and has five barrels in 24 batted ball events (20.8% Barrel Rate).
You’ll take the high strikeout rate as long as it comes with prodigious power, which Jimenez most definitely has. He was worth stashing all season if you had the roster space and he’s already proven, granted over a small sample size, that he can be a difference-maker over the final month of the fantasy baseball season. He’s got the potential to be a league winner with his home run prowess and should help the White Sox extend their 10.5 game lead in the AL Central.
– MLB Stats (@MLBStats) August 10, 2021
George Springer (OF – TOR)
Springer was named the American League Player of The Week for the second consecutive week, and for a good reason. He went 12-for-33 (.364/.389/.788) at the plate with three doubles, three home runs, and 11 RBI as the Blue Jays went 6-2 over an eight-game span. Since the All-Star break, the 31-year-old has been on fire, batting .360/.420/.798 with 10 doubles, nine home runs, 22 RBI, and a stolen base over 89 at-bats. After battling injuries and inconsistency over the first half of the season, Springer has been looking exactly like the player the Jays thought they signed in the offseason. Overall, he’s slashing a healthy .286/.370/.627 with 14 homers, 33 RBI, 35 runs scored, and two stolen bases over 161 at-bats.
He’s posting career highs in Barrel Rate (17.2%), Average Launch Angle (18.8 degrees), Average Exit Velocity (90.3 mph), and Max Exit Velocity (116.4 mph). He’s overachieved with his rate stats per his .244 xBA and .527 xSLG, but his .370 xwOBA is spot on. His 11.4% Walk Rate is a tick above his career average of 11.1%, but his 24.9% Strikeout Rate is the highest mark he’s ever had. Springer is capable of filling the box score up on a nightly basis, so we can deal with a little swing and miss in his game. Now that he’s finally healthy, he should continue to be a force for fantasy teams and the surging Blue Jays, who find themselves just three games out of a Wild Card spot in the American League.
– MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) August 9, 2021
Just like Eloy Jimenez and George Springer mentioned above, Belt has dealt with injuries this season. He missed five weeks with structural damage in his right knee before being activated on August 5. He’s looked no worse for the wear since his return, going 5-for-13 (.385/.467/1.744) with four home runs and seven RBI. He was instrumental in helping the NL West-leading Giants take 2-of-3 games from the Milwaukee Brewers on the road. Overall, he’s slashing .262/.370/.568 with 15 home runs, 35 RBI, and three stolen bases over 183 at-bats. Though only playing in 59 games this season, Belt is on pace to set a new career-high in home runs. He hit 18 in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and is only three long balls away from tying that mark this year.
He’s made an effort to sell out for more power, and it shows in his 16.4% Barrel Rate, 48.3% Hard Hit Rate, and Max Exit Velocity of 109.8 mph. Of course, he’s made sacrifices in other parts of his approach to generate that extra power. He’s put up a whopping 31.5% Strikeout Rate, well above his 20.1% mark from last season. He’s also seen a drop in his Z-Contact Rate from 83.3% in 2020 to 71.2% this season. He’s still sporting a healthy 13.9% Walk Rate and has increased his O-Contact Rate from 51.4% last year to 65.6% this season. Belt seems to have his health issues behind him and looks poised to help the Giants put the finishing touches on this surprising season. He’ll have his workload managed down the stretch, which is frustrating from a fantasy perspective but prudent for the Giants. The combination of LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf filled in nicely for Belt during his extended absence, so San Francisco won’t skip a beat regardless of who’s starting at first base.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B – MIA)
Chisholm Jr. went back to the injured list on Monday, August 9, after spending a day on the COVID-19 injured list earlier in the week. He was experiencing some flu-like symptoms before Sunday’s series finale with the Rockies and was scratched from the game. He did not travel with the Marlins to San Diego and was subsequently placed on the IL. It’s unclear what type of illness he’s dealing with, but he could be out for the next week or so. After a hot start to the season, multiple IL stints and struggles at the plate have taken some of the shine off the 23-year-old.
In April, Chisholm burst onto the scene when he slashed .290/.375/.551 with four home runs, seven RBI, and was a perfect 7-for-7 on stolen base attempts over his first 21 games. He then hit the injured list with a hamstring injury in late April and missed three weeks. He was activated on May 16 and has played in 57 games since then, batting a subpar .240/.292/.378 with seven home runs, 29 RBI, and has gone 4-for-11 on stolen base attempts. Overall, he’s got a .252/.313/.418 batting line with 11 home runs, 36 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and 41 runs scored over 294 at-bats. Those aren’t bad numbers on the surface, but he’s posting a .227 xBA, .298 xwOBA, and .380 xSLG, which aren’t great. He’s also got a 29.3% Strikeout Rate and is batting just .198 (.189 xBA) against breaking balls. Chisholm ranks in the 30th percentile or lower in xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, Strikeout Rate, Walk Rate, Whiff Rate, and Chase Rate.
He’s missed 35 games this year, dealing with illness and injuries to his shoulder, hamstring, foot, and ankle. He’s an exciting player when healthy and has a bright future, but the grind of a full season can take its toll. His 78 games played are the most he’s logged in over two years, so fatigue could be playing a factor for the rookie. He’s got a chance to come back and finish this year strong, and a full offseason will give him plenty of time to hone his craft, cut down on his strikeout rate, and take his game to another level in 2022.
Zach Plesac (SP – CLE)
Plesac was roughed up in two starts against the Blue Jays and the Tigers last week. He surrendered six earned runs to the Jays on Tuesday, August 3, and coughed up five runs (four earned) to the Tigers on Sunday, August 8. He only pitched nine innings total between the two starts, which was good for a 10.00 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, and 6:3 K/BB ratio. Overall, the 26-year-old righty owns a 4.84 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 58:19 K/BB ratio across 89 1/3 innings (16 starts). You may recall that Plesac sustained a fracture to his right thumb earlier this season while “aggressively” removing his jersey after a start in late May. He was on the injured list for over six weeks, and while he wasn’t sensational before the injury, he’s looked pretty bad since.
In six starts since his activation, he’s put up a 6.16 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 20:7 K/BB ratio over 30 2/3 innings. He’s also allowed eight home runs over that span. He surrendered just nine home runs over his first 10 starts of the year before the injury and compiled a 4.14 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 38:12 K/BB ratio over 58 2/3 innings. The best aspect of Plesac’s game is his Walk Rate, which checks in a 5.1% and ranks in the 91st percentile. However, his Strikeout Rate, which sits at 15.6%, is in the fifth percentile. He put up an 18.5% K Rate his rookie season back in 2019 and jumped all the way up to 27.7% in the shortened 2020 campaign, so that’s quite a step back. He does provide some value with his low WHIP, but he simply doesn’t generate enough swings and misses (23.4% Whiff Rate), which caps his ceiling.
Garrett Hampson (OF – COL)
Hampson could have made this list a while ago as he’s been struggling for quite some time. Since July 1, he’s been slashing .182/.234/.216 with zero home runs, zero RBI, and is 2-for-4 on stolen base attempts in 94 plate appearances. He’s started two out of six possible games last week and has been ceding playing time to Yonathan Daza, Connor Joe, Brendan Rodgers, and Sam Hilliard over the last two months. The Rockies have historically done a poor job balancing out playing time with their younger players, but Hampson’s struggles at the plate have left them with no choice. He’s batting just .154 with a .420 OPS since the All-Star break and owns a .237/.289/.380 batting line with six home runs, 21 RBI, and 14 stolen bases across 329 at-bats for the season. Hampson is very fast, ranking in the 99th percentile in sprint speed, but he’s only swiped four bags since June 1.
On a positive note, he’s lowered his Strikeout Rate from 32.6% last season to 23.7% this year, but he’s also posted a career-low 6.1% Walk Rate. Hampson’s greatest asset is his speed, but it can’t be put to good use unless he’s getting on base consistently. His .289 wOBA isn’t getting the job done, while his .277 xwOBA ranks in the sixth percentile. He does have a .300 BABIP–the lowest mark of his career–which feels low for a player with his speed. The Rockies have quite the log jam in the outfield, and the emergence of Rodgers has made Hampson the odd man out more often than not, which makes it very difficult for him to get into a rhythm. He’s still just 26-years-old, so there’s always the chance he could figure things out down the line. It’s telling that the Rockies haven’t committed to him, but his OPS has declined every single season since 2018, and he’s showing no signs of being able to turn it around.
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