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20 Things To Watch For In Week 23 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Sep 4, 2021

Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone! I’m going to keep the intro short this week so that we can get to the good stuff. I tried my best to avoid talking about star players, since at this point in the year you know to play your studs. It’s the fringe hitters and potential streamers fantasy managers need to know about right now. Let’s go win some championships.

Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma.

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1. Triston McKenzie‘s league-winning week
It seemed at one point as if McKenzie was lost for the season, but it turns out his recent IL stint was only due to a minor shoulder ailment. Furthermore, any concerns over that injury, for a pitcher with as slender of a frame as McKenzie, have already been put to rest. The 24-year-old was once again dazzling on Thursday against the Royals, spinning six innings of one-run ball while striking out six.

The issue for McKenzie earlier this season was control. He was all over the place. We know that he’s tough to hit (.205 xBA), but when the lanky righty can command the strike zone, well, it’s game over. McKenzie has allowed one free pass or less in eight of his last nine outings. He has a 1.85 ERA since August. He draws the Twins and Brewers in Week 23. Here we go.

2. The only two-start streamer
There aren’t many two-start options for Week 23. The only widely available one from what I can tell is Bailey Ober of the Twins. Haven’t heard of him? Welcome to fantasy baseball in September, ladies and gentlemen! The 26-year-old simply doesn’t walk many batter (88th percentile BB%) and has been missing more bats as of late. He has a 2.45 ERA over his past seven starts and draws the Indians and Royals next week.

3-4. Rookie streamers
25-year-old Joe Ryan was the center piece of the Nelson Cruz trade earlier this summer, and he flashed some intriguing potential in his MLB debut earlier this week. Ryan, known for his heavy fastball usage, lived up to the scouting reports in that regard, using the pitch over 70% of the time and generating nine whiffs. However, he also compiled five whiffs on his other pitches, which is pretty encouraging for a starter who we thought might be “fastball only.” Ryan’s final line – three runs in five innings – was so-so, but he was really only done in by one mistake, a three-run homer. Meantime, the underlying numbers (swinging strikes) paint a pretty picture moving forward. He faces Cleveland in Week 23.

Then there’s Jackson Kowar, who was absolutely shelled in his first cup of coffee back in June, surrendering 10 runs in five innings over three starts. The 24-year-old was back this past week, though, and he spun six strong innings, allowing just two unearned runs while striking out six. Kowar also induced 13 whiffs in the performance. It’s risky, sure, but waiver wire arms are really thin right now.

5. Five-game schedules
The Padres and Diamondbacks are the two teams who play just five games this week. It’s a tough draw for managers who typically rely on hitters from these offenses. Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, and Ketel Marte are the only four bats I’d start in weekly lineup leagues from these two squads.

Note that two of San Diego’s five games come against Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler. Sheesh.

6. The Padres’ outfield
Speaking of San Diego, the outfield alignments have been interesting since Fernando Tatis Jr. made his latest return from the injured list. In 15 games during this time we’ve seen Tatis make 15 starts, Trent Grisham makes 12, Wil Myers make nine, and Tommy Pham make six. This is another reason why we don’t want to start Padres hitters in Week 23 (aside from the aforementioned trio).

7. Prospects!
This Thursday featured the final prospect report of the season. I’m biased, but it’s a good one. I especially enjoyed writing the intro. The actual piece includes notes on Robert Hassell, Vidal Brujan, Nate Pearson, Marcelo Mayer, and more.

8. Eight-game schedules
The Orioles and Blue Jays both play eight contests in Week 23, so jam their bats into weekly lineups as much as possible.

9. The Red Sox farm system
For those seeking additional prospect content…

10. Adalberto Mondesi‘s insane upside
The speedster finally returned from the injured list on Wednesday and promptly collected two hits, a homer, and a stolen base. He’s must-start in category leagues rest-of-season.

11. Aaron Civale‘s comeback
The 26-year-old put up an impressive 3.32 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 15 starts before suffering a shoulder ailment. He has now appeared in three rehab games and seems close to rejoining Cleveland’s rotation. There was a good chance he was dropped in many leagues. Add him for the stretch run. As I already said, pitching is thin these days.

12. Wander Franco‘s on-base streak
The generational talent got off to a slow start as a rookie, but he’s been on a tear as of late. The 20-year-old has reached base safely in 33 straight games entering Friday night. Only Frank Robinson (43) and Mickey Mantle (36) have compiled longer streaks for players aged 20 or younger. I think Franco will be a 3rd/4th round pick in 2022.

13. Coors Field
The Rockies finish the season with nine of their final 12 games being played at home. The one road matchup comes in Arizona. Those are some exciting environmental factors for their hitters. C.J. Cron, Connor Joe, Brendan Rodgers, and company are exciting hitters to roster for potential championship-week matchups.

14. Blake Snell‘s ridiculous finish
Since the Calendar flipped to August, the uber-talented southpaw has been pitching as well as he was during his 2018 Cy Young award winning campaign. Over his past six starts, Snell has registered a 1.72 ERA (backed up by a 2.93 xFIP) with an eye-popping 54 strikeouts in 36 2/3 frames. The trick has been completely ditching the changeup, which he used to throw close to 15% of the time. Lately Snell has been relying on his fastball-slider combo roughly 90% of the time. It’s working. He draws the Angels in Week 23.

15. Jameson Taillon‘s swinging strike rate
Taillon hasn’t been all that good this season – a 4.44 ERA and a 4.58 xFIP. However, he has at least been generating more whiffs lately. Since the beginning of August he has an interesting 14.4% swinging strike rate. It’s at least something to monitor.

16. Bobby Dalbec‘s K%
As for a hitter reducing his swinging strike rate, let’s talk about Dalbec. The 26-year-old is fresh off winning American League Rookie of the Month in August, and the heater has continued into September. Over his past 66 PAs, Dalbec is batting .386 with a 1.1330 OPS and seven homers. Additionally, the strikeout rate is below league average for the first time in his big league career. Dalbec is certainly worth adding right now.

17. Frank Schwindel‘s league-altering play
You know it’s fantasy baseball in August/September when we’re talking about the Frank Schwindels of the world swinging leagues. The Athletic-turned-Cub has homered four times in his past five games (entering Saturday) while posting a very reasonable strikeout rate during this recent run. This is why I’m more into Schwindel than Patrick Wisdom, whose K% is approaching 40 percent.

18. Aaron Nola‘s peculiar campaign
I already know that I’ll be in on Nola in 2022. The formula makes too much sense – a highly drafted player who disappointed fantasy gamers with his actual results, but whose underlying numbers tell a different story. This will turn people away from Nola next season. While his 4.54 ERA is quote gross, the 3.43 xFIP and 3.59 xERA are much more pleasant on the eyes. Nola draws two starts in Week 23, against the Brewers and Rockies. I’d start him with confidence.

19. Freshly updated rest-of-season rankings
You can view my September fantasy baseball rankings by clicking here. These were just updated on Friday, September 3rd.

20. The National League RBI leaders
This is just a fun one.

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Brendan Tuma is a featured writer at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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