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Fantasy Baseball Risers & Fallers: Dansby Swanson, Rafael Ortega, Adam Frazier, Carlos Carrasco

by Jon Mathisen | @eazymath | Featured Writer
Aug 16, 2021

Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers article for Week 20 (8/9 – 8/15). I will be covering some of the hottest and coldest players in baseball over the last seven days. This column aims to provide insight into the featured players’ success and/or struggles. We’ll try and discover if their recent performances have any staying power or if it was just a flash in the pan. The fantasy baseball trade deadline has come and gone in most leagues, and the race to the playoffs is on the home stretch. Division races are getting tighter in Major League Baseball as well, with a month and a half of the regular season remaining.

It’s still important to pay attention to the happenings all around MLB even though the end is in sight and your fantasy baseball roster is pretty much finalized. The NFL preseason is well underway, which is always an exciting time, but it also makes it easier to lose track of fantasy baseball. Casual managers have mostly checked out by now, but if you can’t get enough of this stuff, then you’re probably reading this article. Experienced and competitive managers (like you) know that this is the time to hunker down and focus with the playoffs just a few weeks away. This is where we separate the serious from the casual. While most of us may have a set it and forget it lineup by now, there are some lesser-known players that are mentioned below that could be worth adding to your rosters.

It’s important to pay attention to which players are “rising” and which ones are “falling.” 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. and Fernando Tatis Jr., for example. They’re obviously both 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

Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)
Have yourself a week, Mr. Swanson. Dansby went 10-for-23 (.435/.462/.957) with four home runs, 11 RBI, a stolen base, and six runs scored, while Atlanta went 5-1 over six games last week. He homered in three straight contests during the Braves’ sweep of the Nationals over the weekend. He swatted two homers and drove in six runs in Saturday’s 12-2 blowout. The former first overall pick has been crushing it since the All-Star break, slashing .325/.360/.624 with eight doubles, nine homers, 30 RBI, and three stolen bases over 29 games. He’s arguably been the best shortstop in the game over that span and is rocking a .265/.317/.498 batting line with 24 home runs, 70 RBI, and nine stolen bases over 446 at-bats this season. The 24 long balls and 70 RBI are both career-highs, and he’s just one stolen base away from tying another career mark (10 SB in 2018/2019).

It’s been quite the transformation for Swanson, who’s hit another gear ever since the calendar flipped to July. He had a .231 batting average and .720 OPS with 17 extra-base hits, 13 home runs, and four stolen bases while getting caught three times from April-June. But from July 1-August 15, he’s batting .327 with a .991 OPS, 13 extra-base hits, 11 home runs, and is a perfect 5-for-5 on thefts. He’s posting career highs in Barrel Rate (12.6%), Hard Hit Rate (46.2%), Average Exit Velocity (90.4 mph), and Max Exit Velocity (109.6 mph). He’s still just 27-years-old and looks to be getting into the prime of his career. Depending on how he finishes this season, Swanson could be drafted as a top-five shortstop next year.

Bobby Dalbec (1B – BOS)
Bobby Dalbec had himself a week despite playing in just four games for the Red Sox. He went 7-for-15 (.467/.556/1.889) with two doubles, one triple, three home runs, 11 RBI, and seven runs scored. He drove in five runs in Boston’s 20-8 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Rays on August 11 and swatted three home runs in two games against the O’s over the weekend. He’s been playing extremely well over the last 14 contests, slashing .368/.455/.816 with four home runs and 16 RBI across 44 plate appearances. Overall, the 26-year-old rookie owns a .230/.268/.437 batting line with 14 home runs, 52 RBI, one stolen base, and a whopping 121:17 K/BB ratio over 309 at-bats. Dalbec burst onto the scene in 2020, smashing nine home runs in 23 games, but he also struck out 39 times over that span, which had many fantasy analysts concerned heading into this season.

He’s struggled for the majority of this season, and the strikeouts are still an issue. He’s lowered his Strikeout Rate from 42.4% in 2020 to 36.4% this year, which still ranks dead last (1st percentile) in MLB. His 5.2% Walk Rate is in the 8th percentile as well, so Dalbec has a lot of work to do in that department. His power is prodigious, however, with a 42.8% Hard Hit Rate, 17.1% Barrel Rate (96th percentile), and Max Exit Velocity of 115.6 mph (96th percentile). He’s basically a two-outcome player with his low Walk Rate and propensity to strike out in over a third of his at-bats. He’s still young and has plenty of time to cut down on the swings and misses over the next few years. The season-long struggles shouldn’t take away from the stellar week he just had.

Rafael Ortega (OF – CHC)
Ortega has been on a tear since the All-Star break, going 36-for-87 (.414/.469/.644) with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 13 RBI, and five stolen bases across 29 games. He slashed .500/.556/.563 with a pair of RBI, two walks, and a stolen base over the first six games of last week. He went 0-for-5 in Sunday’s loss to the Marlins but had a seven-game hitting streak prior to that. The 30-year-old outfielder has now collected a hit in 24-of-30 games since July 16 and is rocking a .327/.382/.506 batting line with six home runs, 18 RBI, and seven stolen bases over 156 games this year. He has been the lone bright spot in what has been an emotional month for Cubs fans after the team traded away their three former stars in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez.

Ortega missed all of 2020 on account of the minor league season being canceled due to COVID-19, but he’s made up for lost time with his memorable performance over the last month. His .413 BABIP screams unsustainable, but his expected stats tell a different story. He’s got a .301 xBA, .352 xwOBA, and .443 xSLG. He’s also posting career-highs in Hard Hit Rate (41.4%), Barrel Rate (7.1%), and Average Launch Angle (18.5 degrees). He lowered his Ground Ball Rate from 39.4% in 2019 to 32.1% this season, while his Line Drive Rate also sits at 32.1%, up from a 28.8% mark in 2019. Ortega is still rostered in just 51% of Yahoo! leagues and could help any fantasy teams that are scrambling to make a playoff push. His production feels like it could be maintained easier than Bobby Dalbec’s, for example.

Fallers

Carlos Carrasco (SP – NYM)
Carrasco got off to a very late start this season, making his Mets debut on July 30 due to a severe hamstring injury that he suffered during spring training. He looked solid in his first appearance, surrendering one run over four innings in a no-decision against the Reds, but he’s been shaky since then, especially last week. He was tagged for four earned runs in a rain-shortened start against the Nationals on Tuesday, August 10. But he saved his worst for last as he coughed up six runs over two innings in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Dodgers. The veteran hurler now owns a 10.32 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, and 12:3 K/BB ratio over 11 1/3 innings (four starts). He’s allowed five home runs, including three on Sunday, over those four starts.

It’s hard to judge Carrasco considering the sample size and factoring in how much time he missed. Even though he had gone through the standard throwing program, simulated games, and rehab starts prior to rejoining the team, he’s still looked rusty. He hasn’t really had a chance to get stretched out due to his poor performances so far, either. He faces the Dodgers again in his next outing, which will be a tough bounce-back spot. He’s got a little time to turn things around, but he’s not someone fantasy managers should willingly start moving forward. He shouldn’t be dropped after throwing just 11 1/3 innings, but it may be prudent to stash him on the bench for his next turn. He likely won’t go deep enough to earn a quality start, let alone a win, so it shouldn’t hurt your week if he happens to pitch well.

Adam Frazier (2B – SD)
Despite registering a nine-game hitting streak in August, Frazier has been underwhelming since coming over from Pittsburgh prior to the trade deadline. He recorded multiple hits in just two of those nine games and is slashing a quiet .269/.300/.328 with three extra-base hits, two RBI, one stolen base, and a 9:2 K/BB ratio in 17 games with the Padres. He went 6-for-28 across seven games last week with a triple, one RBI, three runs scored, and seven strikeouts. He was having such a great season with Pittsburgh–hence the reason the Padres acquired him–that his overall numbers still look solid. For the year, he’s got a .316/.376/.430 batting line with four home runs, 34 RBI, six stolen bases, 69 runs scored, and a 55:37 K/BB ratio over 453 at-bats between the Pirates and the Padres. His 143 hits still lead the majors at the time of this writing, too.

He hasn’t come close to matching the production he put up with the Pirates. He had a .359 BABIP, which was a career-best in 386 at-bats with Pittsburgh but has just a .310 mark in 67 at-bats with the Friars. Overall, he’s still sporting a rock-solid .297 xBA (97th percentile), .332 xwOBA, .385 xSLG. His 10.7% Strikeout Rate and 12.2% Whiff Rate rank in the 99th and 98th percentiles, respectively. Frazier’s Z-Contact (92.1%) and O-Contact (75.3%) Rates are both career bests as well. He’s likely still just getting settled in with his new team, but fantasy managers that have been rostering him since the early season breakout have to be a little frustrated that he’s started to fade during crunch time.

Nelson Cruz (DH – TB)
Cruz’s numbers last week are emblematic of his short tenure with the Rays. He went 3-for-24 (.125/.192/.292) with a double and a solo home run in six games. The 41-year-old slugger has three doubles, five home runs, 11 RBI, and 11 runs scored in 19 games (83 plate appearances) in Tampa Bay so far but is slashing just .182/.241/.416. This is after he hit .294/.370/.537 with 19 home runs and 50 RBI over the first 85 games of the season with Minnesota. But he’s still having a solid season with his .271/.345/.512 batting line to go along with 24 home runs, 61 RBI, three stolen bases, and 55 runs scored over 373 at-bats between both clubs.

His expected stats back up the production with a stellar .269 xBA, .372 xwOBA, and .511 xSLG. He’s sporting a 52.1% Hard Hit Rate (92nd percentile), which is a career-high to go along with a 13.8 Barrel Rate and a 20% Strikeout Rate (another career-best). He posted a 54% Hard Hit Rate and 18% Strikeout Rate with the Twins before the trade deadline, but those numbers have reversed since heading to Tampa. He’s striking out 29% of the time with the Rays, and his Hard Hit mark dipped to 43%. It’s encouraging that he’s still hitting home runs, but fantasy managers and the Rays alike would like to see his rate stats tick up. Cruz has been defying the odds for years, so there’s no reason to think that this is the start of his decline, even if he is 41-years-old. He can still crush the ball, after all.

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