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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Week 21 Hitting Planner

Daily decisions, weekly lineup sets, and finding value deep down where some of your competitors aren’t looking—the league-winning strategies of fantasy baseball have never been more crucial as we are headed into the dog days of the 2021 fantasy baseball season. For many of you, it’s either already or nearly playoff time. Let’s get you right for the week with your offense. 

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 Week 21 (Monday, August 30 — Sunday, September 5). 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.

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Week 21 Hitting Planner

Fades: Stay Away

St. Louis Cardinals

Opponents: CIN (3), MIL (3)

The inconsistency of the Cardinals’ offense has been one of the reasons they are closing in on a disappointment of a season. However, over the last one month, they have sneakily been one of the better road offenses in baseball, hitting at a 113 wRC+ (fifth-best in MLB in that span). Indeed, their full slate next week is on the road but that’s still not a good reason to fall prey to these tough matchups in weekly formats. 

Cincinnati Reds 3.46 (#5) 4.04 (#9) 4.12 (#15) 24.1% (#9)
Milwaukee Brewers 3.49 (#7) 3.80 (#3) 3.81 (#6) 26.1% (#6)

As noted above, the Reds and Brewers have been hot on the mound and the Cardinals face the heart of the active starting rotation for each staff. They start the week facing a trio of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and WAR maestro Wade Miley. They finish up with a lethal 1-2 punch of Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.

Naturally, in redraft formats, you are starting Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt due to the steep draft capital you spent on their talent, even when they are at their worst. But all other Cardinals are likely bench-worthy for a majority of the week; yes, even you, Mr. Extension” Yadier Molina

Milwaukee Brewers

Opponents: ​​SFG (4), STL (3)

Speaking of the Brewers, they have gone a tad cold with a 3-game losing streak where they have scored a combined five runs as an offense. Indeed, they were without their offensive MVP Willy Adames in two of those games. Granted, Adames is back and ready to bolster that lineup but there still isn’t game-winning fantasy value in the Milwaukee bats next week with these matchups. 

While a full seven-game slate might attract you to counting stat boosts in weekly formats, be careful about what you’re getting and what it’s costing you. The Brewers start off the week against the Giants, a top 10 pitching staff in the past month per ERA, xFIP, and SIERA, and San Francisco will be sending out their current top two starters in that series in Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb.

To end the week, you might think at first glance that the Cardinals are a much softer opponent. But hold your horses—over the past one month, the Cardinals also rank top 10 in MLB as a pitching staff in ERA. While their peripheral statistics have not been as dominant as the Giants, the Brewers will have to face St. Louis at home, where they are a significantly worse offense than on the road. The Brewers’ .832 OPS and 121 wRC+ at home over the past month are both the second-best in baseball in that span; on the other hand, their .722 OPS and 93 wRC+ on the road in that same span both rank below-median. 

Fade all Brewers bats in weekly/DFS formats and in redraft fantasy baseball leagues, pick and choose your spots with Willy Adames, Avisail Garcia, and Christian Yelich as is necessary for your depth and league situation.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Opponents: ATL (3), SFG (3)

Just a week after drooling over the offensive talent of the championship-favorite Dodgers, they have their MVP-caliber player Mookie Betts back and I am still flipping the table and fading a majority of their lineup for the upcoming six-game week. We’ve already discussed the dangers of facing the Giants’ pitching staff but what about the NL-East-leading Braves on the mound recently? Over the last one month, the Braves’ ERA (3.56), strikeout rate (26.2%) both rank top 10 in MLB as a pitching staff, and their xFIP (3.60) and SIERA (3.61) both rank first (yes, #1). 

As a cherry on top, three of the six starting pitchers the Dodgers will face (Drew Smyly, Max Fried, and Alex Wood) are left-handed. Over the past years of the Dodgers’ dominance, their one weakness has remained prevalent even in 2021—hitting southpaws. Over the past one month, the Dodgers offense has posted a .717 OPS (#21 in MLB) and 96 wRC+ (#20 in MLB) against left-handed pitchers. 

There’s no reason to not start consensus first-round pick, Trea Turner, in redraft leagues. And in most formats, you’re likely still starting MVP finalist candidate Max Muncy. But in all other formats, there’s reason to hesitate on the rest of that star-studded lineup and in weekly fantasy (e.g., DFS), why spend big on high-power names with low ceilings when you can find value like I have below?

Picks: Buy In

New York Yankees

Opponents: LAA (3), BAL (3)

The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball. While they just snapped a 13-game winning streak, their lineup is still one to be feared for obvious reasons. During their long winning streak, their wRC+ as an offense ranked second in baseball in that span and continued to be among the league leaders in hard contact. No surprise there and they finally have started doing it consistently; next week, they have it even easier on them as they face a six-game slate of primarily mediocrity. The Angels and Orioles continue to be a favorite for us to target on the hitting planner as they both consistently rank as two of the worst pitching staffs in baseball.

Granted, one of those opponents on the mound is lined up to be this year’s AL MVP Shohei Ohtani but that shouldn’t be enough to scare off the power-loaded Yankees. Ohtani’s worst start of the season came against the Yankees in June when he walked 4 and gave up 7 runs and exited after recording only 2 outs, so the Bronx Bombers are clearly capable of putting together competitive at-bats against Ohtani as well. 

This week, we buy into all the Aaron Judge stocks as he solidifies his status as a tier-1 player in the sport. Buy into the elite upside of DJ LeMahieu, rely on the muscle of Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo, and take some shots in the dark on Luke Voit, a rebound week from the cold Anthony Rizzo, and some depth at some premium positions in Gary Sánchez and Rougned Odor

Minnesota Twins

Opponents: DET (1), CHC (2), TBR (3)

The Twins are one of the premiere disappointments of 2021 and had to trade off their best bat in Nelson Cruz. Still, with these juicy matchups, there’s value in their remaining offensive players. The Tigers and Cubs are simply awful on the mound, especially recently. As for the last series of the week, the Twins will likely avoid the Rays’ current No. 1, Shane McClanahan, opening up a window of opportunity for a good finish to the week offensively. Over the past month, the Rays are only slightly above average in most statistical categories, and the kicker? All three of their starters due for the series (Michael Wacha, Chris Archer, Luis Patiño) are right-handers. Over the last one month, the Twins’ .808 OPS and 119 wRC+ both rank top 5 in MLB as an offense. 

Start up the 2021 fantasy leader of the current Twins offense, Jorge Polanco. Buy into the bringer of rain, Josh Donaldson. Take a shot with the valuable ceiling of Max Kepler and the power of Miguel Sanó. Want versatility in a deeper league? Start Luis Arráez

Chicago Cubs

Opponents: MIN (2), PIT (4)

Oh and about the Twins, their pitching is still not good, especially after trading away José Berríos and seeing Kenta Maeda head to the injured list with season-ending surgery. The Cubs might be an incompetent baseball team as an overall unit but they do have valuable fantasy assets still available to take advantage of. A four-game series against the Pirates, one of the worst pitching staffs over the entire 2021 season, is just an additional boost to an already elite-potential week for the Cubs offense.

The Patrick Wisdom home run tweets are already scheduled so make sure you cash in on them. The Ian Happ power still exists in flashes, snag that potential while you can. And if Rafael Ortega and Frank Schwindel are still sitting around unclaimed in your slightly deeper league, stop waiting around and go pick them up.

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