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The Cut List - Time to Let Go? Week 21

Welcome back to The Cut List. This is our weekly article looking at players who fantasy managers might be considering cutting from their teams and struggling players who need a closer look. We'll look at players who are worthy of a drop, players who are worth monitoring for replacing, and someone on the hot seat who is worth holding on to... for now.

Next week, all teams will have completed 75% of their regular-season games and while for many, playoff places are still up for grabs, some teams are playing for nothing more than professional pride. In fantasy, most leagues will have seen their trade deadline pass so it's more important than ever to utilize your waiver wires and FAB to find someone who can make a difference in the final weeks to help your playoff or championship push. The key is not to drop someone after a bad few games, only to regret it at the end of the season.

I'm a strong advocate for not making knee-jerk reactions. A bad week or two shouldn't be a reason to push the panic button and dump someone for a random player who is on the only hot streak he'll ever have in his career. We're rounding the final corners into the home stretch on the 2021 season so we have more than enough of a sample size on most players to base our decisions on. All stats and rostered rates (taken from Yahoo!) are reflective of when this piece was written.

Be sure to check all of our preseason fantasy baseball rankings for Roto, Points, H2H, dynasty, best ball, prospects and more:


Worth Dropping and Replacing

Jacob deGrom - SP, New York Mets - 98% rostered

Telling you it's fine to drop the best pitcher in baseball might seem a bit counterproductive to anyone trying to win their fantasy leagues, yet here I am doing that very thing. I don't need to tell you about his 1.08 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 92.0 IP being historic and how he was a lock to win his third NL Cy Young Award in four years as this is purely about his injury.

After experiencing right forearm tightness in early July, deGrom hit the IL and we received news on Friday that although he's "slightly improving", he still won't throw for another two weeks. Now assuming the best-case scenario where deGrom can start throwing in two weeks, he will still need to build up to pitching considering his last start came on July 07th. Then he'd likely need some sort of rehab assignment which may be a problem with Minor League seasons ending in early September. He may be limited to some bullpen work and simulated games before he rejoins the Mets.

The Mets could choose for deGrom to rejoin the team after a couple of weeks of pitching which would mean mid-September but he'd need to gradually build up to a starter's workload which likely takes us to the end of the regular season. Or if they do build deGrom back up before he rejoins the team, we're now looking at late September so maybe they get two starts out of him. Either way, the best-case scenario for deGrom in fantasy is likely 10-12 innings. One small setback will likely mean zero innings.

Verdict - If you have space on your IL, then you might as well use it in case you can get deGrom back (assuming your league's play the final week of the season). If you need the roster spot for someone else who can provide value this year, then deGrom can be sacrificed to the waiver wire.


James Karinchak - RP, Cleveland Indians - 86% rostered

On Friday night, Karinchak came in to pitch the ninth inning with the Indians up by five runs. He did seal the victory but gave up two earned runs (on one hit and one walk) in the process. That also marked his seventh appearance over the last fortnight in which he has a 13.50 ERA and struck out just four of the 29 batters he faced (5.1 IP). Karinchak's last save came on July 21st and he's compiled a 10.80 ERA since then (8.1 IP).

You can argue that as long as he's getting save opportunities, then it doesn't matter too much in fantasy if he's giving up runs. That is partly true, but since Karinchak's last save, Emmanuel Clase is 5-for-5 in save opportunities and hasn't allowed a run (8.1 IP). It's quite clear who is the closer in Cleveland and it certainly isn't a committee anymore. Clase has a 1.71 ERA on the season while Karinchak's ERA has ballooned to 3.91 following his recent struggles.

Karinchak's K% is also dropping month by month. After putting up a 59.5% K% in April, it dropped to 37.5% in May, 20.8% in June, 20.0% in July and is 20.0% so far in August. His 50.1 IP this year is already a career-high with the previous most being 48.2 IP across the Minor League levels in 2018. He then had 35.1 IP in 2019 across four levels and 27.0 IP in last year's shortened season (his first full year in the Majors). It's quite possible Karinchak is struggling to maintain his early-season standards as he's in new territory right now, which begs the question; can he even get back to his best this year?

Verdict - Karinchak doesn't appear to be in the mix for saves and it's not as if Cleveland will provide a load of save opportunities the rest of this season anyway. In leagues only counting saves, he's a safe drop. The fact he's only picked up one hold since his last save on July 21st and has a diminishing strikeout rate makes Karinchak barely rosterable in holds leagues also.


Hold For Now

Alex Wood - SP/RP, San Francisco Giants - 69% rostered

Wood has been a solid starting pitcher in fantasy this year, with a 9-3 record, 4.22 ERA and 1.22 WHIP from 108.2 IP. He's also struck out 115 batters with a 24.8% K%, which is his highest strikeout rate since 2016 (25.9%). The ESPN Player Rater currently ranks Wood as the 60th eligible starting pitcher in fantasy this year. Not bad for someone who had an ADP ~610 this offseason as the 212th pitcher taken on average in NFBC drafts.

Given the lack of love Wood garnished in the preseason, it may come as no surprise that he has struggled lately with a 7.80 ERA from his last three starts with fantasy managers believing the wheels are falling off and that his run of fantasy relevancy in 2021 is over. But if we take a closer look at his numbers, that might not be the case.

Wood has a 4.09 xERA, 3.67 xFIP and 3.78 SIERA this year so you could reasonably expect him to have a sub-4.00 ERA. His last three starts have combined for a 4.22 xFIP and 4.45 SIERA. Not great, but considerably better than the 7.80 ERA they actually accounted for. He's scheduled to face the Rockies at home today before a road start against Oakland next week so providing he rights the ship in those two starts, Wood is still a solid back-end rotation option in fantasy in 10+ team leagues. He's someone I'm definitely rostering in deeper leagues still.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. - 2B/SS, Miami Marlins - 49% rostered

Chisholm Jr. burst onto the scene at the start of the season and after the first four weeks of the season, he had a .290/.375/.551 line with four homers, seven steals, 11 runs and seven RBI. Then came a trip to the IL, something which has become a familiar story for the rookie this year. Friday saw Chisholm Jr. reinstated from the Covid-IL (entering the game as a pinch-hitter), the fourth time he's returned from an injury/illness absence this year. He started last night's game at second base and hitting second in the lineup so still commands a prime spot in the order.

The stop-start nature of this year will no doubt have been a cause of frustration for Chisholm Jr. and will have been in part responsible for his struggles since his hot start. He's currently sitting on a .251/.311/.418 line with 11 homers, 11 stolen bases, 42 runs and 36 RBI from 81 games. Obviously, extrapolated over 162-games, Chisholm Jr. will be in line for a 20-20 season and be a sure-fire hold in fantasy leagues. But those absences have been a cause of frustration for fantasy managers, which is understandable.

My biggest concern for Chisholm Jr. is his inefficiency on the bases since his first IL stint. After being 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts to start the year, he's gone 4-for-11 since and just 1-for-6 in the last eight weeks. He still ranks in the 95th percentile for sprint speed so it appears to be more an issue of timing and reads than anything physical, which is understandable for a rookie who's having such a hard time staying on the field for a prolonged period. Despite that, I'm still holding on to Chisholm Jr. for the remainder of this season in all but the shallowest of leagues as the upside of his power/speed combo can be a huge asset in the middle-infield spot of your team.


On the Hot Seat

DJ LeMahieu - 1B/2B/3B, New York Yankees - 96% rostered

LeMahieu has been a letdown given his preseason ADP (~27). After winning the AL batting title last year and with a .336/.386/.536 line as a Yankee entering this season, you would be expecting better than his .272/.352/.372 current line he's put up this year. That batting average and slugging percentage are set to be his lowest since 2014. Despite those struggles, LeMahieu has still been the Yankees leadoff hitter in 106 of the 108 games he's started this year.

LeMahieu currently has seven homers, four steals, 56 runs and 47 RBI which again, isn't what you would have expected when you drafted him. But when compared to other first, second and third basemen this year, the counting stats aren't dreadful. Below is a table showing where he ranks for each category among the three positions he's eligible for.

First basemen Tied-40th 12th 25th Tied-7th Tied-11th
Second basemen Tied-26th 18th 15th Tied-23rd Tied-16th
Third basemen Tied-26th Tied-12th Tied-15th Tied-12th Tied-12th

* Among batters with at least 200 plate appearances

None of that really stands out but the fact Lemahieu does contribute across all five categories is a benefit and what makes him still rosterable. If we look at the total number of players who currently can match or better LeMahieu's total numbers (seven homers, four steals, 56 runs and 47 RBI), the list only contains 20 other players of which, only 15 are infielders.

So while you will probably have someone at the three positions who provide better numbers in some categories, LeMahieu is still likely to be one of the best cumulative contributors on your roster. He can be plugged in at the middle or corner infield spot and allow you to chase after a specific category for the final few weeks of the season without harming you elsewhere.

LeMahieu has also been having a productive August with a .315/.393/.463 line. He hasn't homered this month (or stolen a base) but has seven extra-base hits, eight runs and eight RBI in 13 games (12 starts). He's also safely reached base in each of his last eleven games and scored five runs in his last five games. If we take a look at his Statcast profile, it doesn't look too bad either. A lack of power is about the only slight you can have on him.

There is one issue that has caused me some concern recently. LeMahieu missed a couple of games due to a triceps problem and he's been unable to play third base as a result, leaving Rougned Odor to cover it in the continued absence of Gio Urshela. He's been hitting better since the issue occurred but if it's significant enough to prevent LeMahieu from playing third base, it does raise a red flag to me that it could flair up and see him miss time.

Unless (or until) that happens, I'm still keeping LeMahieu on my fantasy rosters and there's a very good chance he will be an integral piece to have on your teams as you chase other stats while letting him tally counting stats while boosting your team's collective batting average.


The Reddit Requests

Here are some names from the readers following last weekend's post on Reddit. If there is anyone who you want to include here on next week's Cut List, drop their names on the Reddit thread and there's a good chance they will feature.

Adam Frazier - 2B/OF, San Diego Padres - 82% rostered

Frazier has a .317/.377/.433 line on the year but hasn't quite matched that since moving to the Padres prior to the trade deadline. Since moving to San Diego, Frazier is hitting .274/.308/.339 with one stolen base, no homers, ten runs and two RBI. After a slow start to his San Diego career, Frazier entered last night's contest on a nine-game hitting streak. Remarkably, after spending most of the season with the Pirates, it's only after joining the Padres has he been on a team that's no-hit.

Given Frazier only has four homers and six steals on the year, he's not much help for those needing power and/or speed, but when he's started for the Padres, he's hit exclusively as the leadoff or number two-hitter in the lineup, which has helped him to score ten runs. It's the runs and batting average that will keep Frazier relevant in fantasy and despite spending most of the season with MLB's lowest-scoring team, his 68 runs scored on the year is tied-seventh among second basemen, none of whom can top his .317 average. Frazier should continue to be a good source of runs while hitting for an excellent average the remainder of the season so is rosterable in fantasy. But you'll need to find homers, steals and RBI elsewhere.

Taijuan Walker - SP, New York Mets - 58% rostered

Walker was having a fantastic season and entered July with a 2.38 ERA from 14 starts (79.1 IP) but prior to last night, he'd struggled with a 9.86 ERA from his previous five starts which saw his roster total drop. Walker had a 2.50 ERA prior to his recent bad run but a 3.96 xFIP and 4.12 SIERA, so there was always an expectation that we'd see regression. Unfortunately, it's come rather fast. In fairness to Walker, those five starts were probably an overcorrection as he had a 6.30 xFIP and 5.96 SIERA from the starts. While that's nothing to write home about, both are better than the 9.86 ERA.

Walker then had his best start in two months against the Dodgers on Saturday night. He got through 6.2 IP allowing just one run (a solo homer) on two hits and three walks while striking out eight. The big problem Walker has experienced recently is giving up homers. After allowing just six home runs in his first 17 starts (90.1 IP), he's now allowed 11 in his last five starts (27.1 IP). Considering injuries have limited Walker to just 67.1 IP over the three years prior to this season, it might not be a surprise he's starting to fade as the season progresses. But last night's start should provide hope that he can still be a fantasy asset for the remainder of this season, just not as prolific as he was during the first three months of the year.

Tony Gonsolin - SP/RP, Los Angeles Dodgers - 34% rostered

Gonsolin has had an injury disrupted season, starting the season on the IL due to right shoulder inflammation. He made his season debut on June 19th and managed to get through 35.2 IP before the same injury sent him back to the IL on July 31st. Despite the injuries, Gonsolin has been productive when on the field with a 2.78 ERA and 42 strikeouts but has only completed five innings twice in ten appearances. He's begun throwing again and is scheduled for a bullpen session this weekend.

If all goes well, Gonsolin could head out on a rehab assignment late next week and assuming he has two rehab outings, could return to the Dodgers in early September. The question is, will he be a starter when he returns or find himself in the bullpen. Given his injury issues this year, the latter seems more likely although the Dodgers are getting desperate for healthy starting pitchers. Even if Gonsolin does start games on his return, it's unlikely he'll go deep enough to provide much fantasy value. Given he had a 5.15 xFIP and 5.07 SIERA this year before hitting the IL again, I'm not sure he'll offer any fantasy value when he returns. I'd only recommend him as a viable stash in the deepest leagues or NL-only.

Danny Duffy - SP, Los Angeles Dodgers - 26% rostered

Duffy is currently keeping Gonsolin company on the IL, where he's been since the Royals traded him to the Dodgers just prior to the deadline. In what seemed an odd trade at the time, it looks even stranger now with Duffy being moved to the 60-day IL earlier this week. That means the earlier he can return is mid-September. Duffy had been on the IL earlier this season with the same flexor strain he's out with now and has been limited to just 61.0 IP this year. He has been very good this year when healthy, sporting a 2.51 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with 65 strikeouts.

It remains to be seen if Duffy does return when first eligible, but even if he does, that will only leave two weeks and at very best, three starts. Considering how depleted the Dodgers pitching staff has been this year, if they are looking to make another deep postseason run, they'll want to ensure Duffy is part of that, whether starting games or in a relief role. That could mean playing things very carefully and limiting him on his return. Like Gonsolin, Duffy is only worth stashing on the IL if you have a spot and are in a very deep or NL-only league.

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2024 Dynasty Rookie Mock Draft: Fantasy Football Studs, Sleepers, and Values

Football never sleeps at RotoBaller! With the Scouting Combine underway and the NFL Draft season heating up, the countdown is on for 2024 fantasy football. We're taking a first look at how things might shape up in Dynasty fantasy drafts with our first Rookie Mock Draft of 2024. RotoBaller analysts Brandon Murchison and LaQuan Jones... Read More

Dak Prescott - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Biggest Quarterback Surprises - Fantasy Football Year In Review

The 2023 fantasy football season is in the rearview mirror. While the upcoming fantasy season is still months away, it’s never too early to start preparing. One of the more critical things fantasy players can do to prepare is look back at the previous season and look at trends and surprises. Let’s look at the... Read More

Tyjae Spears - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Early 2024 Running Back Sleepers And Draft Targets For Fantasy Football

Running backs have always dominated the first round of fantasy drafts, but that has changed in recent years. Taking a wide receiver in the first round has become a more likely strategy by fantasy managers. In 2024 drafts, more wideouts should be going in the first round than running backs. However, that doesn't mean running... Read More

Latest Updates on Injured NFL Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Anthony Richardson, Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson, and Daniel Jones

The 2024 offseason is still in the early stages, but it's time to check on six franchise quarterbacks who suffered major injuries during the 2023 campaign. A franchise missing its quarterback to begin a season can mightily derail its chances to win, creating a massive hole to climb out of. We have the latest injury... Read More