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20 Things To Watch For In Week 24 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Sep 12, 2021

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1. Cody Bellinger‘s playing time
The former National League MVP didn’t play on Friday night against the Padres, which led Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to note that Bellinger will be given a few days off to “work through some things.” The lefty-swinging slugger has been miserable in 2021, hitting .158 with a .524 OPS in 83 games. We’re well past labeling him as a bust this season. It always feels odd dropping a preseason top-24 player, but it’s time to move on if you haven’t already.

2. Clayton Kershaw‘s usability
Sticking with the Dodgers, their three-time Cy Young award winner threw a bullpen session on Friday and is now in line to start on Monday against the Diamondbacks. Other injured aces such as Shane Bieber and Jacob deGrom haven’t returned from the IL just yet, but LA needs Kershaw down the stretch. He was limited to just 49 pitches in his most recent outing, so workload expectations should be kept in check, but he’s still a recommended start in Week 24.

3. Gerrit Cole‘s hamstring
Tracking injuries in September can be tough. Not only do we need to keep up with the news, but we also need to factor in the motivations of teams. Some organizations have huge divisional leads and can waltz into the postseason. Others are out of the race and might start shutting players down. Lastly, there are teams like the Yankees, who need Cole at his best in order to clinch a playoff birth. The AL Cy Young contender exited his last start with a minor hamstring injury. Luckily, he avoided the IL and is in line to start on Tuesday against Baltimore. Just double check recent updates before finalizing Week 24 lineups.

4. Joe Ryan‘s encore
Acquired in the Nelson Cruz trade this summer, Ryan has registered a 2.25 ERA with a 9:1 K:BB through 12 innings through two starts. The 25-year-old was known for his plus fastball prior to being called up, and thus far that pitch has lived up to the hype. The most encouraging part of his brief tenure, however, has been the success of his other offerings. The below image is from Ryan’s Wednesday start against Cleveland (via Baseball Savant). He draws the Indians again in Week 24 and might even be in line for two starts.

5 – 8. Recommended two-start pitchers

Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS)
It’s been a frustrating season for fantasy managers who have employed E-Rod. The actual results (5.15 ERA) haven’t aligned with the underlying numbers (3.47 xFIP, 3.66 xERA). We typically expect the surface level stats to regress to the advanced metrics over time, but it’s now mid-September and that hasn’t happened. Still, Rodriguez is lined up to face the Mariners and Orioles in Week 24. Those matchups, combined with the strong xFIP and xERA, give me confidence. I’ll likely be in on E-Rod entering 2022 as well.

Rich Hill (SP – NYM)
The 41-year-old has flirted with fantasy relevance throughout the season, and he’s now strung together several good starts entering Week 24. Hill hasn’t allowed a free pass in four of his past five starts, and he’s allowed more than two earned runs just once during that span. He gets home matchups against the Cardinals and Phillies.

Jake Odorizzi (SP – HOU)
Similar to Hill, Odorizzi isn’t typically someone I’d be interested in. I’m not positive the skills are that good. But he’s on a roll right now. In mid-September that matters more than usual. Over his past four starts (20 2/3 innings), Odorizzi has allowed just six runs while putting together a 23:6 K:BB ratio. It’s worth noting that three of the four outings came against the Mariners, and he didn’t reach six innings in any of them, but still. Week 24 matchups against the Rangers and D’Backs means I’m starting him.

Nestor Cortes (SP – NYY)
“Nasty Nestor” was once again fantastic this week, tossing six innings of two-run ball while striking out five and walking none. The crafty 26-year-old has been on a roll lately, and the matchups next week are quite promising versus Baltimore and Cleveland. Cortes’ swinging strike rate has been improving over his past five appearances.

9. Prospects!
Unfortunately, the prospect report (in article form) won’t return until the offseason. For now, I’ve been publishing the “Fantasy Baseball Prospects And More” podcast once per week. The latest episode featured Matt Weyrich of NBC Sports Washington, and we discussed the big four Nationals prospects.

10. Jo Adell‘s strikeout rate
In 73 games at Triple-A this year, Adell hit 23 homers with 69 RBI. Unfortunately, those numbers came with a strikeout rate north of 29%, which led many to wonder whether or not he could succeed against tougher competition at the major league level. 35 games into his second big league stint, and Adell is striking out just 22.9% of the time entering Sunday. The results, overall, aren’t eye-popping (Adell has a 92 wRC+). Yet the 22-year-old is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak with three homers during this time. LA faces the White Sox and A’s next week, so the matchups aren’t great, but this is certainly a development worth monitoring.

11 – 14. Closer situations

Cardinals
Giovanny Gallegos secured his seventh save of the season on Saturday. The 30-year-old now has five saves since August 30th and appears to be the man in St. Louis down the stretch. The Cardinals recently said that Alex Reyes would transition to a multi-inning relief role.

Rays
Tampa Bay hasn’t recorded an actual save in a while now, but Andrew Kittredge was trending towards becoming the option. It now sounds as if Nick Anderson could return from the IL very soon, and Pete Fairbanks is back as well. Kittredge is my preferred play from this group, but we know how the Rays operate at this point.

A’s
Another team that frequently mixes it up, it might seem as if Andrew Chafin is the current closer in Oakland? Lou Trivino has struggled mightily and should be dropped everywhere. Sergio Romo is another possible option, but Chafin has the most recent save and nobody else has secured one within the past week.

Pirates
At the beginning of the week, it seemed as if David Bednar would be the guy. Then Chris Stratton got the next two chances. Bednar wasn’t even used on Saturday, which makes me think Stratton is the preferred play moving forward. I’ll note that this situation makes me think we might be chasing our own tail a bit.

15. Bobby Dalbec‘s must-start status
Entering August 6th, Dalbec’s K% was north of 34 percent. Since then? It’s down to 23.5%. During this stretch, Dalbec has posted a 222 wRC+ while hitting .349 with 10 homers. We’ll have the entire offseason to try and figured out how “real” this is. For now, just start him.

16. Jonathan Villar‘s spot atop the order
The speedster is having a productive season, but the stats are particularly impressive as of late. Villar is still moving around a bit defensively, but he’s basically become the Mets’ everyday third baseman (and leadoff hitter) at this point. He has a standout grade in Mike Maher’s “Quick Grades” and is thus worth starting.

17. Jesus Luzardo‘s pitch mix
The results have been better recently as Luzardo has put up a 2.60 ERA with 19 strikeouts over his past 17 1/3 innings (three starts). Unfortunately, he has also walked seven and the xFIP checks in at 4.38. The good news is during this stretch Luzardo is cleary de-emphasizing his fastball in favor of more off-speed pitches. Miami has arguably become the best organization at developing pitching. I’m encouraged for Luzardo’s future, but I’m not yet ready to use him against the Nationals next week.

18. Sandy Alcantara‘s ace-like rise
There’s no better example of the Marlins’ organizational success when it comes to pitching than Alcantara. Fresh off a nine-inning, 14 strikeout performance against the Mets, the 26-year-old has two starts against the Nationals and Pirates in Week 24. He got blown up for 10 earned runs in Colorado in early August, but since then he has put up a 1.83 ERA (2.32 xFIP) with 57 strikeouts in 44 1/3 frames. The stars are aligning for fantasy managers who believed in him all season long.

19. Wander Franco‘s on-base streak
The 20-year-old is currently on the IL due to a hamstring injury suffered on Friday night. He had only one plate appearance in the contest, but luckily he reached base, extending his historic streak to 39 games. Only Frank Robinson (43) has ever put together a long streak for a player aged 20 or younger. The Rays probably won’t rush Franco back, but this type of run is too special not to mention it. I still think Franco will be roughly a third-round pick entering 2022.

20. Vlad Jr’s historic season

I’m just so happy that he fully broke out this year. At the end of the season I’m going to look back at my 2021 and review what I got right, what I got wrong, which processes worked, which need tweaking, etc. Vlad is certainly one to feel good about for anyone who drafted him. Fantasy baseball is supposed to be fun, remember. Good luck to all in your playoff matchups this week.

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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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