The fantasy baseball season is rolling right along. Check the league statistics for hitters over the last three seasons (as of 5/18/2021):
2019: .252/.323/.435, 8.5% walk rate, 23.0% K-rate, .183 ISO, 97 wRC+
2020: .245/.322/.418, 9.2% walk rate, 23.4% K-rate, .173 ISO, 100 wRC+
2021: .236/.313/.393, 9.0% walk rate, 24.0% K-rate, .157 ISO, 97 wRC+
Honestly I’m unsure why I wanted to begin this way. There’s an obvious trend downward here, though 2020 was admittedly a sprint and 2021 is still young. I do enjoy viewing baselines, though. It gives me a sense of how a hitter stacks up to his peers. That can’t hurt us in the fake game. Here’s to hoping that warmer weather improves that 2021 slash line a bit...
Yan Gomes, Washington Nationals (30% rostered)
You can’t afford NOT to add Yan Gomes. The catcher position is currently decimated by injuries and ineptitude. Meanwhile, Gomes’ hot hitting means he’s inched up in the order for Washington. He has recently batted in the fifth, sixth, or seventh spots depending on the day. He’s 24-for-88 (.273 BA) with four homers already, and his league average BABIPs the last two years are starting to show up in his batting average. Here are his BABIPs and batting averages since 2018: .336 (.266), .265 (.223), .314 (.284), .290 (.273). One of those is not like the others.
Gomes’ 16.3% strikeout rate is a career best, and is backed by a career-best 8.3% swinging strike rate. He’s also setting career marks in contact, zone contact, and contact outside of the zone—all while lowering his swing rate to an average level (46.8%) and setting a career mark with his 33.3% chase rate. It’s early, but under the proverbial hood with Gomes looks pretty darn good right now. He’s also lowered his launch angle and is hitting more barrels. If this is the maturation of a hitter, we may really like what we see out of Gomes for the foreseeable future out of a crummy catcher spot. I’m taking a shot in formats where I need two backstops.
Honorable mention: Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers (42% rostered)
Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox (38% rostered)
The top prospect has handled left-handers well so far, batting .320 with a homer, five doubles, and seven walks against only eight strikeouts. Against right-handers it’s been a struggle (.214 BA, 1 HR, 3 2B, 6 BB, 22 SO), but he’s striking out less overall (30.9% in Mar/Apr, 22.8% in May) and hitting for more power so far this month (0 HR in Mar/Apr, 2 HR in May). He’s got a .257 BABIP through his 14 games in May, but he’s putting the ball on the ground less, making less soft contact, and using more of an all fields approach. He’s also inside the top 10% of the league in hard hit rate (53.1%) and average exit velocity (92.8 MPH)...so yeah, I expect him to not have any trouble with his BABIP moving forward.
We are dealing in small samples here, but it’s possible Vaughn is settling in now. He’s been forced into outfield duty for the Sox, and has been competent in that role. But if the new role has slowed down for him and we’ll start to see him settle in even more at the plate, he’s going to be a money add on your fake teams. He even moved up to the five-hole yesterday. And it wouldn’t be insane to me if he garnered two-hole duties at some point this year. I expect his bat to continue making noise now that he’s had time to adjust in the outfield and has seen a bit more big league pitching.
Honorable mention: Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles (44% rostered)
Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers (47% rostered)
I still believe? It seems like ages ago that I drafted Lux as a starting MI option on my TGFBI squad (two years ago, not this year). Anyway, Lux will man shortstop for the Dodgers while Corey Seager (fractured hand) is on the shelf, which means he should have at least a month’s worth of leash to establish his bat at the big league level. To do so, he’ll need to improve against left-handed pitchers, against whom he is slashing .154/.207/.192 thus far. That comes with a .211 BABIP, though. As is, Lux is still young (23) and not far removed from beating up on lefties in the minors in 2019 (.299 BA, 4 HR in 97 AB). He’s worth taking a shot on given the team context and the month’s worth of opportunity. He is hitting for more power and striking out far less during the month of May, so there’s some hope there.
Honorable mention: Niko Goodrum, Detroit Tigers (39% rostered)
Kyle Schwarber, Washington Nationals (47% owned)
Schwarber hit another homer yesterday, so he’s up to six on the season and slashing .226/.315/.435. The batting average is unsightly, but a .206/.254/.365 slash line over 67 Mar/Apr appearances is dragging the overall total down. In the month of May, Schwarber is slashing .250/.381/.519. He has a double-digit walk rate (12.7%) and has trimmed his K-rate to a tolerable 25.4% rate. Those rates more closely match what we’ve come to expect from him, and his 11.5% swinging strike rate is as well. Schwarber is one of those passive hitters, only swinging 41.4% of the time this year (again, pretty in line with his career 43.0% rate). That said, his recognition has been far better. His chase rate is a well above average 22.7% rate, and his zone swing rate has bumped up from 62.6% in 2020 to a 69.8% mark this year. Essentially, he ranks inside the top 15% of the league in chase rate, while also ranking in the 99th percentile for max exit velocity and in the 83rd percentile for hard hit rate. He’s a solid source of power, generally batting in the heart of the Washington lineup. I’m sold on him for power numbers.
Honorable mention: Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals (33% rostered)
Josh Fuentes (23% rostered) qualifies at both corners and plays half his games at Coors Field. He’s been on a torrid streak recently, ranking as the 28th-best player in the fake game over the last two weeks (.350 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI). In addition, he’s playing quality defense for the Rockies and has beefed up his walk rate to a robust 2.4%. Sounds silly I know, but his three walks over 39 games this year matches his three walks from the two years prior (54 games). Maybe not in your leagues that use OBP, but in batting average leagues I’d take a chance on him as a corner outfield given the flexibility.
That’s about it for me today, folks! Who are YOU adding off your waiver wires? Who are you holding onto, and hoping? What questions do you have? Put them to me in the comments and I (or the Fake Teams, err team) would be happy to help out!