20 Things To Watch For In Week 25 (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Remember to reach out on Twitter with questions anytime @toomuchtuma.
1. The Orioles’ schedule
It’s been a running joke on “Leading Off,” but attack Baltimore pitchers has mostly been a winning strategy this year. For the most part, we don’t want to become engrossed with matchups over the course of a long season. However, with just two weeks left in the year, they become important. Beginning in Week 25, here is how the remainder of the Orioles’ schedule shakes out
3 @ Philadelphia
4 vs Texas
3 vs Boston
3 @ Toronto
Prioritize hitters on these teams moving forward.
2. Willie Calhoun‘s return
Speaking of targeting Baltimore, one of the Rangers hitters you might want to employ next week is Calhoun. The 26-year-old returned from the 60-day IL on Wednesday and draws favorable matchups in Week 2. In addition to the four games against Baltimore, he plays three in Yankee Stadium. There likely aren’t many other waiver wire hitters with as good of matchups next week.
Again, sticking with the matchups theme here, we need to note that the Rockies play six home games in Week 25. Yes, start Brendan Rodgers and all the other Colorado bats. Additionally, start as many players as you can from the Dodgers and Giants, each of whom play in Coors for three games next week. I’ll also note that in Week 26 the Rockies have three more home games against the Nationals.
4. Brandon Marsh‘s fascinating profile
The rookie outfielder has posted a 92 wRC+ since he debuted earlier this summer. However, Marsh has been a lot better since the arbitrary endpoint of August 12th. Since then, he’s hitting .325/.358/.474 with an absurd 37.2 K% entering Saturday. During this span he has just two homers and two steals, so it’s the batting average that is most impressive. The strikeout rate would lead us to think that it isn’t sustainable, and maybe it isn’t, but digging further under the hood reveals a 34% line drive rate. This leads MLB among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. Line drives lead to hits, so maybe Marsh’s hot streak isn’t just BABIP luck. It’ll be something to consider entering 2022.
5. Teams with only five-game schedules
The Red Sox and Mets are each limited to five games in Week 25. Most of the Boston bats are still worth starting, of course, including the white hot Bobby Dalbec. Still, knowing these teams play a limited number of games should factor into your start/sit decisions. As noted below, there are several teams who play eight – and even NINE – games.
6. Carlos Rodon‘s limited usage
For a while there the 28-year-old southpaw was leading the American League Cy Young race. However, he had pitched a combined 42 1/3 innings over the past two season, so the workload was destined to catch up to him. Rodon enters Week 25 at 124 2/3 innings, but they’ve been a lot more spaced out as of late.
Recently, manager Tony La Russa noted that Rodon will make just two more appearances during the regular season. Chicago is en route to the playoffs, so it makes sense to keep one of their best arms healthy. One of his starts will come early in the week against Detroit. Fantasy managers who have similar options might want to go in another direction.
Carlos Rodon is penciled in for one of the games in Detroit. He won't pitch this weekend in Texas. La Russa sees two more starts in the regular season for Rodon, giving him plenty of rest if they make the playoffs.
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) September 16, 2021
7. Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s downfall
Once again, the veteran lefty was hit hard on Friday night. Ryu surrendered five runs on five hits in just two innings pitched against the Twins. He has now given up 12 earned runs over his past 4 1/3 innings. He has allowed four or more runs in five of his past eight starts, including 7+ runs in three of them. Simply put, he cannot be trusted against the Rays on Wednesday.
8. Teams with eight-game schedules
The Braves, White Sox, and Cardinals each play eight games in Week 25. If you have a tight start/sit decision, let this serve as a tiebreaker, especially if someone you’re considering only plays five games (Red Sox, Mets).
9. Cleveland’s nine-game week
Incredibly, the Indians play nine games next week. Unfortunately, there aren’t many hitters to stream from their offense. Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes are both must-start. Perhaps Amed Rosario and Myles Straw could crack your lineup in deeper leagues. Regardless, just be aware of this (very) unique schedule.
10. Jesus Sanchez‘s home run tear
The 23-year-old was lighting up Triple-A earlier this season. He eventually received a promotion to the big leagues and produced some mixed results in-between a long IL stint. Then, on August 28th, he caught fire. Entering Saturday, he’s up to eight homers over his past 69 plate appearances. For the season he has a 117 wRC+. Sanchez is still a work in progress as a hitter, but hopefully fantasy players have taken advantage of Sanchez’s recent schedule. Miami played Washington and Pittsburgh this past week. Up next the Marlins face the Nationals three more times to begin Week 25.
11. Salvador Perez‘s record chasing moment
Who would’ve thought that Perez would share the single-season record for most home runs in a season by a catcher? He’s always been a great player, yes, but a season like this? It’s downright special. Perez hit No. 45 earlier this season, tying Johnny Bench’s record from 1970. He’ll look to take sole possession of the honor in Week 25. Perez has two weeks to accomplish the feat.
Single season HR records by a catcher
45 – Salvador Perez (2021)
45 – Johnny Bench (1970)
43 – Javy Lopez (2003)
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) September 16, 2021
12. Salvador Perez’s positional advantage
Sticking with Salvy for a minute, can we talk about how much more productive he’s been than every other catcher for fantasy purposes? It isn’t that other backstops have necessarily been bad. It’s more that he just plays so freaking much. Entering Saturday, Perez has appeared in a whopping 146 of 147 games that the Royals have played. That is preposterous.
Additionally, he has 14 more homers than the next highest total by a catcher. He also has 14 more runs scored than the No. 2 catcher behind him. To top it off, he has over 40 more RBI (!!) then the No. 2 catcher behind him. Perez has given fantasy managers a major positional advantage this year. Regardless of what my colleague Dan Harris says, he’ll be the top-ranked backstop entering ’22.
13. Frank Schwindel‘s (still rising) batting average
The 29-year-old just doesn’t stop. Schwindel has raised his batting average up to .343 entering Saturday. Three straight multi-hit performances will do that. I’ve said before that I bought into Schwindel during his breakout since the K% was manageable (as opposed to what Patrick Wisdom was doing). The more I’ve looked into him, the better I feel about his production lasting, at least for the next two weeks. Schwindel is out performing his expected numbers on Baseball Savant, but the contact rate is high and he crushes fastballs. Of course, the league will eventually adjust by throwing more off-speed pitches. From there, Schwindel’s big league career will hinge on how well he adjusts. For the remainder of 2021, though, don’t overthink it. Start Schwindel.
14 – 16. Two-start recommendations
Ranger Suarez (SP – PHI)
Things couldn’t be lining up any better for Suarez, who had a brief run as the Phillies’ closer earlier this summer. He has since pitched extremely well as a starter, thanks to the delightful combination of inducing grounders (60.1 GB%) and striking batters out (25.4 K%). In Week 25 he draws the Orioles and Pirates. Start this man with confidence.
Carlos Hernandez (SP – KC)
The 24-year-old righty is part of a young-and-interesting Kansas City rotation. He’s probably the least heralded prospect of the current group, but right now he’s pitching the best. Hernandez has recently had more success by emphasizing more sliders and sinkers, though he surrendered seven runs in four innings against Oakland earlier this week. Still, he had allowed two runs or fewer in seven of eight appearances leading up to that one. In Week 25 he gets the Indians and Tigers.
Nestor Cortes (SP – NYY)
“Nasty Nestor” was a recommended option in this article last week, and he came through by striking out 11 over 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Orioles. The performance dropped his ERA to 2.60 for the season. Cortes has been a savior for the Yankees lately. Perhaps he’ll be one for your fantasy team as well. The 26-year-old faces the Rangers in a very appealing matchup before also facing the Red Sox later in the week. It isn’t ideal, but we’ll take it.
17- 18. MVP races
So uhh, there’s a very real chance that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. winds up leading the AL in both homers and batting average. Unfortunately, he’s third in RBI (104 compared to 112 for Jose Abreu and 111 for Salvador Perez). This likely means he won’t win the Triple Crown, but he’s coming very close. It’s been a historic season for Vlad. His 46 homers leave him just one short of the single-season record for a player aged 22 or younger.
And yet, there’s virtually zero chance he wins MVP. That’s because what Shohei Ohtani did the season hasn’t occurred in Major League Baseball since Babe Ruth was playing. Ohtani’s bat has admittedly cooled down the stretch, while Vlad has helped fuel Toronto’s playoff push, but this is still Ohtani’s award with two weeks remaining.
The MVP debate is far more interesting in the senior circuit, where Bryce Harper‘s torrid second half has made things quite compelling. The 28-year-old is hitting a thrilling .313 with 33 homers, 13 stolen bases, and a 1.053 OPS. Similar to Vlad, he has been playing his best when it matters most. His 174 wRC+ leads all of baseball.
Second in wRC+ in the NL? That would be one Fernando Tatis Jr., who isn’t a lock to play in October either. What Tatis has done has been special because it has occurred in just 116 games. 39 homers and 25 stolen bases while landing on the injured list multiple times? Impressive, to say the least. This race is far from over, and the debate could very well linger into the offseason and beyond.
19. Shane Baz‘s potential callup
This is more of a “fun” storyline rather than a fantasy-specific one, but Baz could flirt with streaming value if the Rays let him start down the stretch. It seemed as if the 22-year-old was set to make his big league debut when he was scratched from Thursday’s start for Triple-A Durham and the Rays had yet to announce a Friday starter. However, it turned out to be back spasms. I still wonder if Tampa Bay will use him for their playoff run. David Price, Matt Moore, and Shane McClanahan were all promoted very late in the year during their debut campaigns. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Rays have an elite offense and an elite bullpen, but a surprisingly shaky rotation.
EDIT: Baz is reportedly being called up to make his MLB debut on Monday versus the Blue Jays. Given the (brutal) matchup, I’m not considering him a must-add in redraft formats.
20. Jarred Kelenic‘s strong finish
The 22-year-old popped two homers during Friday’s game, and in doing so he became the youngest Mariner since A-Rod in ’96 to accomplish the feat. Kelenic still isn’t a must-start option in redraft leagues, but he’s sporting a 132 wRC+ in September. It’s an encouraging finish for a wildly talented player who struggled badly at baseball’s highest level for much of the summer.
Really happy to see Jarred Kelenic having some success this month
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) September 18, 2021
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