Now that we have flipped the calendar to June, we are now creeping up to the 60 game mark for some MLB clubs, exactly how many games teams played in last years’ short sprint 2020 season. Stats are finally starting to normalize some given the expanding sample size, so I feel a little more comfortable diving into these players and providing some thoughts. This article is meant to outline some players who I view more positively, how I see them moving forward rest-of-season and what we can do in the future to spot them either on draft day or when they become available via FAAB. Let’s dive in!
C, Buster Posey – After declining in power in each season from 2014-2018, the former superstar in The Bay Area has been absolutely incredible in 2021 at age 34. Posey, who was not necessarily a target for many fantasy drafters, is the 2nd most valuable backstop in the game, behind Sal Perez. Not only is Posey walking at a great clip, but he is barely striking out either, and he has nearly doubled his career mark in barrel rate which has fueled his power resurgence. As long as he’s fully healthy for the rest of season, I think Posey should be viewed as a top 5 rest of season catcher, up there with the likes of JT Realmuto, Will Smith, Sal Perez, and Willson Contreras.
1B, Vlad Guerrero Jr – Tatis, Soto, Acuna, Vlad. That is now the grouping we will think of moving forward as Vlad has made good on the promise of being a superstar and he is not slowing down anytime soon.The Prodigal Son walks just as much as he K’s, and with the tiny K rate, he is not only putting more balls in play but his power is at the absolute upper echelon of the MLB given his .300+ ISO and his turbo-charged exit velocities. His path to superstardom came quickly, and Vlad’s drafters have been rewarded, as he is a top 3-4 overall hitter moving forward.
2B, Ryan McMahon – Every year since McMahon entered into the MLB in 2017, his ISO has risen, proving a very steady and consistent path to development despite inconsistent playing time. McMahon has always been a very good power bat, but now he is making more contact which allows him to have a better BA moving forward. I avoided him based on playing time concerns, but that shouldn’t be a problem rest of season or in future years, I definitely have much more love for McMahon.
SS, Marcus Semien – Much to my regret, I don’t have any Semien because I simply didn’t see this type of performance coming whatsoever. Typically during his career he has been a sub .400 slugging percentage guy in Oakland, posting just one great slugging percentage year which was his career year of 2019 (.522 slug). Fast forward to 2021, and Semien is absolutely crushing, posting 13 HR’s, 8 SB’s, .300 BA and gobs of runs scored hitting high in the order for the Blue Jays. The park shift is helping Semien with this break-out, in addition to less ground balls and he is pulling the ball more. The elevated BABIP shows he will fall back, but this will continue to be a very, very useful player.
3B, Kris Bryant – A full fade for me, Bryant is a guy that I was off of for injury reasons, on top of the fact I didn’t like the fact he wasn’t a base stealer nor was he a great power bat or an elite batting average guy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Bryant is playing really well in 2021, but he’s been really good in every year outside of 2020, posting an average of 137 wRC+ from 2017-2019. Bryant is cranking the ball for power and producing amazing batting average, while swinging less and making more contact. Bryant also has a career best barrel rate so far this year. I suppose the lesson learned is that when a player has shown a skill, they can definitely repeat it given he is still in his prime (age 29). It doesn’t hurt to get a share or two of this player when they have proven elite production in the past and come with a huge discount.
CI, Jared Walsh – Something of a pop-up prospect, Walsh was a guy who truly exploded onto the scene in 2020, going berserk by hitting 9 HR’s in 32 games, he also rarely struck out in 2020, something quite different from his normal skill set. In draft season, some were willing to draft Walsh but quite a few strayed away for fear the Angels would play Albert Pujols instead of Walsh. Turns out that Walsh’s play forced LA’s hand and he became a borderline stud player – hitting for near .300 BA with tons of power and duel position eligibility, carrying a 1B/OF tag. This is another case of betting the perceived talent rather than the uncertain role, especially considering the fact Pujols is 41 years old and hasn’t done much for quite a while.
MI, Chris Taylor – Playing time was a concern with Chris Taylor heading into draft season, as he was on a great team flushed with depth across the roster, but Taylor has forced the Dodgers hand with his performance and injury issues have also made him a no-brainer must start player. Taylor’s power-speed capabilities help boost him up boards even further as he is continuing to provide 5 category production across the board, in addition to a tremendous 14% walk rate. His runs scored totals have been incredible as well, ranked inside the top 5 in the MLB. Not bad for a guy who some thought would have trouble finding playing time. I did thankfully draft him on some of my most key teams such as TGFBI, as it seems the Dodgers do always find him some playing time, despite crowded depth charts.
OF, Adolis Garcia – Absolutely no one saw this incredible performance from Garcia coming, as Garcia was freely available for other MLB teams to pick up and they passed on him this winter. Looking at the results for Adolis Garcia, he has been absolutely ludicrous, posting 16 HR’s and 7 SB’s through 50 games. Judging by his 4.9% BB rate and his 28% K rate and his lack of a track record, not sure he can sustain this type of performance, but he appears to be must start for the foreseeable future unless something drastically changes.
OF, Jesse Winker – One of the few guys in this article who was a true target for me, Winker is a guy I have long been a fan of, even recommended him for dynasty leagues last year in this article:
Fast forward to 2021 and Winker is becoming one of the best hitters in baseball (top 3 in wRC+ thus far), thanks to a reduced K rate, hitting the ball much harder and for more barrels and he’s running absolutely pure on the batting average side with a .344 BA. Winker is one of those really good talents who was well regarded as a prospect, produced good numbers in the past but some had concerns he’d be a platoon bat so he was discounted. It’s looking like he is the real deal.
OF, Mitch Haniger – This was a very simple case, I faded Haniger for a myriad of injury concerns, some of which were quite severe. What I missed was a talented bat who was hitting in a perfect lineup spot that was available much later than he should have been. Haniger has been absolutely tremendous in 2021, providing plenty of power, piling up counting stats and sustaining a decent BA. I faded for injury concerns, but the skills were firm with Haniger (129 wRC+ since 2017) and I missed that.
OF, Trey Mancini – Every baseball fan has been rooting for Trey Mancini, a hero who came back to be an impact baseball player after battling cancer and missing the entire 2020 season – he already won the ultimate battle. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure how he’d come back or how he’d hold up. Well, I was wrong – as Mancini has been absolutely tremendous upon return to the MLB. His only down year of his career was in 2018 where he struggled some, but outside of that he has always posted a 116 wRC+ or better. Mancini is striking out less than usual, barreling everything in sight (13% barrel rate) and is generally a problem for pitchers. Hopefully we don’t see any more cases like Mancini with his cancer diagnosis but this guy is back and he’s spectacular.
OF, Mark Canha – Old, boring and steady is usually the calling card for Canha, but you could argue he is having a studly season given his incredible OBP that he has shown he can do (2019 OBP was .396, 2020 OBP was .390, this year he is flirting with a .400 OBP again.) Canha is showing better barrel rates than before and he is leading the MLB in runs scored, a very rare thing to see out of a non-top 2-3 round player. I liked Canha this year, but I just wasn’t targeting him as highly as I should have considering he had his backers targeting him. I usually factor in OBP greatly in my player analysis so I shouldn’t have let Canha slip, I will take an L on this one.
Util, Shohei Ohtani – The most unique fantasy baseball case study of all-time, Shoehei Ohtani was a flatout miss for me this year. I avoided Ohtani as I thought he would be a big headache, and wasn’t sure when to start him as a pitcher or even as a hitter with more days off than most bats. Well, it turned out in addition to being a fantastic pitcher, he is also an MVP calibre hitter and he rarely takes days off despite having to do a pitchers’ routine and perform as one of the linchpins of the Angels’ offense. I will take my lumps this year knowing each of Ohtani’s big games helps someone besides me in all of my leagues.