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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Week 25 Championship Hitting Planner

The last dance. It’s been a long ride—one that I’ve enjoyed working on every weekend. It’s been a process of growth for all readers, but especially myself as fantasy baseball players have used this column to adjust their offensive lineups weekly. The art of matchup-hunting is easier said than done and each weekend, we’ve made it a reality by finding the best value hitters each week and fading the ones that need a nod to the bench due to their situations.

It’s now coming to an end as we have run into the final week of the 2021 MLB regular season and many of you are eyeing better ranks in your fantasy baseball league, some of you vying for that championship spot on your league’s podium.

For one last time in 2021 — welcome back to the Hitting Planner, a matchup-focused look into the hitters and lineups you can Pick (start and trust given their schedule for the upcoming week) or Fade (consider sitting, avoiding on the waiver wire due to a rough upcoming week of matchups). All players mentioned will generally be around the threshold of either ownership or starting/sitting for your fantasy team.

As usual, I’ll point out the teams and corresponding players with noticeably poor matchups (the Fades) and noticeably great matchups (the Picks). Let’s get started with the final piece of the series: Week 25 (Monday, September 27 — Sunday, October 3). For each team we evaluate, we will note their opponents for the week in italics, including the number of times they play. For this week, stats mentioned from the season until now will be up-to-date as of the end of Friday night games.

With baseball season finishing up are you ready to jump into fantasy hoops? From joining a public league with our Fantasy Basketball Commissioner to trying one of our Classic Draft Contests, there are plenty of ways to play Fantasy Basketball on Fantrax!

Championship Week Hitting Planner

Fades: Stay Away

Baltimore Orioles

Opponents: BOS (3), TOR (3)

This week, Cedric Mullins became the first ever Baltimore Oriole to join the 30/30 club. While the Orioles have had an otherwise excruciating season, their offensive lineup has certainly remained fantasy-relevant, centered around Mullins, Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Mountcastle, and the epic story of Trey Mancini. They’ve also continued to get fantasy-relevant contributions from guys like Austin Hays and Anthony Santander but none of these middle-of-the-pack bats should be considered safe starts for the final week of the fantasy season.

September 2021 ERA xFIP SIERA K-BB%
Boston Red Sox 3.94 (#9) 3.85 (#5) 3.80 (#7) 17.1% (#8)
Toronto Blue Jays 4.32 (#16) 4.05 (#10) 3.89 (#8) 17.1% (#7)

Table. September statistics for the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays pitching staffs, with MLB ranks.

In September, both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays have been some of the better pitching staffs in baseball. This comes as no surprise given the starting pitchers both teams can stack in a September playoff race. The Orioles will face the Red Sox’s best, starting with Chris Sale (2.57 ERA, 10.03 K/9 this season) and Nathan Eovaldi (2.84 FIP, 9.60 K/9 this season). On Friday, the Orioles will face Toronto’s rising star Alek Manoah and will do so on the road. In September, the Orioles rank as a bottom 10 road offense in MLB per both OPS and wRC+.

Start Mullins for the offensive talent he has against any matchup; but stay away from all other Baltimore bats this week. 

Philadelphia Phillies

Opponents: ATL (3), MIA (3)

The Phillies are in the meat of a playoff hunt and in great part due to their NL MVP front-runner Bryce Harper. Apart from the generational talent of Harper that will likely produce offense in any circumstance, no Philadelphia hitter is a strong play in any fantasy format for the upcoming week. In September, both the Braves and Marlins rank in the top 10 among MLB pitching staffs in ERA. The Braves, in particular, will send out their three best starters, Ian Anderson, Charlie Morton, and Max Fried, to the mound in the series against the Phillies.

Furthermore, all six games this week will be outside the Phillies’ home at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies’ .709 OPS and 90 wRC+ on the road in September both rank among MLB’s bottom 10. Pass on those volatile Phillies bats with these matchups.

New York Mets

Opponents: MIA (4), ATL (3)

The Phillies won’t be the only team in the NL East facing tough divisional matchups in the batter’s box. The Mets have a nearly-identical outlook for the week, facing those two hot pitching staffs in Miami and Atlanta. In fact, in the series against the Marlins, the Mets have it even tougher than the Phillies do against that team.

Unlike Philadelphia, the Mets offense will not be able to avoid the Marlins’ very best in the starting rotation as both Trevor Rogers (2.67 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 10.62 K/9 this season) and Sandy Alcántara (1.84 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 9.51 K/9 in September) will see the mound in the series. 

Start any Mets hitters that are too heavy in draft capital to be replaceable on your roster but avoid the fringe bats and stay away from any last-minute offensive pickups for the gory matchups this week. 

Cincinnati Reds

Opponents: CHW (2), PIT (3)

I know—you did a double-take on this. An offense is facing the Pirates… but I’m fading them? That’s because this week is far from a lob despite the weaker pitcher matchups towards the end of the week.

In weekly formats with counting statistics of high relevance, you don’t want to spend roster spots on players that play at most five games. With two days off, the Reds are an unattractive team to snag hitters from in points formats, for example. The first two games will also be against the White Sox and one of those interleague games will be started by Carlos Rodón (2.47 ERA, 3.04 xFIP, 2.89 SIERA, 12.76 K/9 this season). In 2021, the White Sox have the best bullpen in MLB by xFIP and SIERA, meaning it’s tough going in the batter’s box even when the White Sox are playing.

As a cherry on top, all five games this week for the Reds will be outside of Great American Ballpark, where the Reds have noticeable splits. Cincinnati’s offense has posted a .621 OPS and 65 wRC+ on the road in September, both of which rank dead last in MLB. 

While Nick Castellanos is still a fairly safe superstar bat in all formats, a possibly-injured Joey Votto and a still-injured Jesse Winker could spell free fall for the remainder of the Reds’ lineup in the last week of the regular season.

San Diego Padres

Opponents: LAD (3), SFG (3)

The Padres are arguably the disappointment of the league. With big championship aspirations, not much has gone in their favor late in the season and the fact that they are ending their season with two divisional matchups that have humbled them throughout 2021 is just fitting. 

September 2021 ERA xFIP SIERA K-BB%
Los Angeles Dodgers 2.73 (#1) 3.76 (#4) 3.61 (#1) 19.5% (#2)
San Francisco Giants 3.38 (#2) 3.89 (#7) 3.91 (#9) 16.1% (#9)

Table. September statistics for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants pitching staffs, with MLB ranks.

These two NL West competitors are not just some of the best pitching teams in the league but also some of the hottest in September. This week, the Padres face the full kitchen sink as both the Dodgers and the Giants will compete fiercely for rights to the division. In sequence, San Diego’s offense will face Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, Tony Gonsolin, Anthony DeSclafani, Kevin Gausman, and Logan Webb. It doesn’t get much more daunting in a span of one week than this and the Padres lineup has a floor that could waste you roster spots in a championship week.

Other than the elite talent of the duo Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado who you likely sunk heavy draft capital on, every Padres hitter should be avoided in all formats with the possibility of run production being slim. 

Picks: Buy In

Boston Red Sox

Opponents: BAL (3), WSH (3)

Speaking of feisty playoff battles, these are the kinds of narratives you want to keep an eye on as your players’ availability becomes a league-changing aspect of a fantasy matchup. The Red Sox will have no excuses to not play their best for the final days of the 2021 regular season as they seek a spot in the Wild Card Game and will likely need till the final days to attempt to grab home field advantage in the one-game playoff.

In their favor—the matchups in the batter’s box. For the full week, nearly every single matchup between a Boston hitter and an opposing pitcher should be in favor of the hitter. Both the Baltimore and Washington pitching staffs have been absolutely gross for a full season and in September, the Orioles in fact dead last in the American League in ERA, xFIP, and SIERA. 

Furthermore, four of the six starting pitchers the Boston offense faces this week will be left-handed. In September, the Red Sox have hit at a .788 OPS and 111 wRC+ against southpaws, both good for top 10 in MLB in that span. It’s time to rake for Red Sox hitters on this roadtrip. 

No shocker, you will be starting superstar hitters like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez. But take it a step further with everybody who could get full playing time—breakout power-hitter Hunter Renfroe, leadoff staple Enrique Hernández, trade deadline acquisition Kyle Schwarber, red-hot lefty-owner Bobby Dalbec, and in deeper leagues, the talented contact hitter Alex Verdugo and the veteran infielder José Iglesias

Cleveland Indians

Opponents: KCR (4), TEX (3)

The textbook schedule to buy into for a hitting planner—this is how you win leagues. Snag the dudes that get to play every day and get to show off against weak ballplayers. That’s exactly what the Indians hitters get to do, even with nothing to play for in terms of playoff aspirations. 

Both the Royals and the Rangers rank among MLB’s bottom 10 pitching staffs in September by xFIP and SIERA. Cleveland’s offense, although somewhat inconsistent, get the perfect opportunity to end the season on a solid note by playing every day and hitting the ball around the park.

With most of the lineup healthy, José Ramírez is an auto-start that could be a league-winner. But make sure you fire up Franmil Reyes, Myles Straw, and Amed Rosario. In deeper leagues, take a flyer on a pickup of Harold Ramírez, Bobby Bradley, Bradley Zimmer, or even the utility man Yu Chang if you need positional versatility.

San Francisco Giants

Opponents: ARI (3), SDP (3)

Speaking of the NL West, it is only right that our final Hitting Planner pick of the year is the offense in San Francisco that has stunned fans and analysts around the globe in 2021. The Giants get a perfect opportunity to snag the NL West and do so on the backs of their offense that could pop off in six straight games against two pitching staffs that just do not have it figured out near the end of the finish line. 

September 2021 ERA xFIP SIERA K-BB%
Arizona Diamondbacks 5.42 (#25) 5.16 (#29) 4.76 (#28) 10.7% (#23)
San Diego Padres 5.60 (#28) 4.77 (#22) 4.33 (#16) 13.5% (#17)

Table. September statistics for the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres pitching staffs, with MLB ranks.

Don’t give up on the 100-win Giants and their offense now when it means the most for your fantasy team. Ride with the underdog stories, die on their hill because they’ve put on a show for the doubters all season long. Veteran Brandon Crawford, perennial All-Star Kris Bryant, pedigree slugger Mike Yastrzemski if healthy, future Hall-of-Famer Buster Posey at the premium spot of catcher, gold ol’ barrel boy Brandon Belt, and the depth options of Wilmer Flores and LaMonte Wade Jr. Start them all to help you win your league.

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