We love the game of baseball, and with so many players, it’s easy to think of 10 things every week. Here are our thoughts for week 25.
1) Ranger Suarez has been exceptional, and he should be regarded as a top 50 fantasy starter going into next year.
I wrote a bit about Suarez when he was first making the transition from bullpen weapon to rotation stalwart, and while I was impressed, I wasn’t convinced. I’m convinced now that Suarez has posted a cumulative 1.50 ERA and 1.04 WHIP as we near the end of the season. Suarez misses barrels better than just about any other starter — that’s his backbone — the man just has a special ability to limit hard contact. He primarily does it by utilizing a sinker and changeup that tunnel as well as any pair of pitches in the league, but he also spots a mediocre four-seam fastball (movement and velocity-wise) beautifully at times while occasionally breaking out a slider (44.6% whiff rate) to get a chase. Suarez is in command of his arsenal and he utilizes his pitches with a purpose. After all, you don’t end up in the 98th percentile in barrel rate allowed, the 92nd percentile in average exit velocity allowed, and the 95th percentile in xERA by accident. And, as a bonus, Suarez also punches out more than a hitter per inning — he’s the real deal.
2) LaMonte Wade Jr. is worth a stretch-run pickup.
Wade finally got a chance to play a significant amount this year with the San Francisco Giants, and he hasn’t let them down, particularly against right-handed pitching. Wade is slashing .280/.359/.561 against righties in 2021, and he has a healthy dose of them coming his way this week. If you need more reason to trust Wade at this crucial juncture look no further than his Statcast page — the man can crush. Wade is better than average in every single major batted ball Statcast metric, including an 81st percentile xSLG.
3) Alex Cobb is back and still pitching great.
Cobb has been one of 2021’s most underrated pitchers. Amidst multiple injuries and stretches of terrible luck, Cobb has posted a 3.59 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, but his 2.60 FIP and 3.16 xFIP are especially impressive. Naturally, after missing some time, Cobb tossed five scoreless innings in his return last Thursday with five strikeouts to boot… and he’s available in most places. I can’t think of a better available arm to help you get across the finish line.
4) Joe Ryan is walking a tightrope.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how Ryan’s famed riding fastball from his days in the minors wasn’t actually riding at all according to Statcast data from his first two MLB starts. That’s held true, as his four-seamer has a -0.6 inches less ride than the average MLB heater. Interestingly, Ryan has continued to follow the blueprint of throwing it up in the zone, and he’s getting away with it as he did in the minors. I figured that Ryan had to have been using foreign substances in the minors and that was why his fastball no longer had ride in the Majors, but maybe there’s something unquantifiable about Ryan’s fastball that makes it hard to hit up in the zone. Maybe it was never riding, even if scouts thought it was. I say that because the young right-hander is pitching up in the zone and allowing an extreme amount of fly balls (50 percent) but not a lot of home runs (1.1 HR/9). Either, there is something special about the heater, or Ryan has just been extremely lucky so far. It’s too early to tell, but I’m interested to see how things play out next season.
5) What happened to Dansby Swanson?
Here are some of Swanson’s numbers in September — .120/.220/.200 slash line, 18:6 K/BB, 87 MPH average exit velocity, 36.1% whiff rate, 5.9% barrel rate. Simply put, he’s fallen off a cliff. It’s possible that Swanson’s head isn’t in it with his team being eliminated from the playoffs, but I found another possible cause. The shortstop has seen 35.8% four-seamers and 34.1% sliders this month after seeing around 25 percent of each the rest of the year — and he’s batting exactly .083 against each of them in that time. Swanson better be prepared to face a heavy dose of four-seamers and sliders next year, because they are going to come early and often.
6) Jose Siri is a fun player to root for.
If you’re not familiar with Siri, he’s a scout’s dream in many senses. Siri is equipped with an incredible set of raw tools, including double-plus raw power, plus speed, and a rocket arm in the outfield. Despite the elite tools, Siri frustrated scouts throughout his time in the minor leagues, never making enough contact to actualize them. Eventually, the Cincinnati Reds gave up on him and the Astros took a flier. To say it’s worked out so far would be an understatement, as Siri is hitting .400 with four home runs and three stolen bases in his first 25 MLB at-bats. Siri isn’t a full-time player yet, but he’s worth an add in daily lineups leagues. Siri has a 26.7% barrel rate thus far. Joey Gallo leads qualified MLB hitters in that category with an 18.7% barrel rate. I’m rooting for Siri to finally break through because he’s an outlier in that his tools enable him to do things others simply can’t, and it’s fun to watch.
7) Be especially picky about matchups down the stretch.
It takes a little extra time, but looking into the most recent team trends can win you your league when the margins are so thin down the stretch. For instance, I benched Marcus Stroman and Tylor Megill this week when I’d normally start them because the Boston Red Sox have been destroying right-handed pitching as of late… it’s the little things. My recommendation is to look at matchup splits over the last 30 days, or even just in September when considering who to start any given day/week.
8) Lewin Diaz won’t be a forgotten prospect for long.
Diaz had some buzz in the dynasty community in 2020, as he performed like a future plus hitter in the minors and scouts projected him as one of the safer bets to hit .260+ with 25-30 HRs in the Major Leagues before long. Then Jesus Aguilar got in the way, and Diaz spent most of 2020 and 2021 in the minors, where he hit for power despite having his batting average dragged down by poor BABIP luck. As of a few weeks ago, Diaz had lost the buzz because he was almost 25 and lacked any MLB production on his resume. Diaz is finally getting his chance in September however, and the rookie has six homers in just 78 ABs for the season. A .205 average isn’t great, but a horribly unlucky .192 BABIP can do that. Instead, we should focus on the power-hitting foundation Diaz has laid down. The young slugger has an 89.9 MPH average exit velocity, a 10.3% barrel rate, a 21.4-degree launch angle, and a 43.1% pull rate, all of which are conducive to hitting for power. Additionally, Diaz’s 24.4% K rate is already manageable, even if it’s not ideal, so whiff issues shouldn’t get in the way of power production as we see so often with prospects when they debut. A look under the hood tells you that this is a 30+ HR hitter waiting to be unleashed, and he should get a real chance in 2021.
9) Kole Calhoun is back… again.
Calhoun has missed most of the year with various injuries, briefly coming back only to get injured again on multiple occasions, but he’s still a dependable OBP/power bat when healthy. Calhoun is once again healthy, and I just scooped him up in a H2H points league and intend to strategically deploy him in my semi-final matchup. Even in roto leagues, Calhoun’s power and run-scoring ability are useful if there’s a need in your outfield.
10) Unheralded Colorado Rockies hitters should be picked up at this juncture.
The Rockies have a home-field-heavy schedule the rest of the way and some low-rostered hitters that can take advantage of it. I’m talking about Elias Diaz, Dom Nunez, Raimel Tapia, Yonathan Daza, and Sam Hilliard. The playing time for these guys in Colorado is a bit unpredictable, but in daily moves leagues I love the idea of starting these guys at Coors Field when they’re in the lineup, and I think you will as well if you give their home splits a look.