|Name||Position||Team||ESPN Own %|
|Tyler O'Neil||OF||St. Louis Cardinals||39.8|
|Willie Calhoun||OF||Texas Rangers||7.3|
|Mitch Garver||C||Minnesota Twins||40.9|
|Brandon Belt||1B||San Francisco Giants||9.2|
|Josh Rojas||SS, 2B, OF||Arizona Diamondbacks||31.9|
1. Tyler O’Neil | OF | St. Louis Cardinals
I’m wildly upset that I dropped Tyler O’Neil in my main league earlier this year. I bought into him early, and in a roster pinch, I had to let him go. He got snatched up shortly after, and as I feared, he’s starting to heat up. The 25-year-old Cardinals outfielder set lofty expectations for himself after an impressive 130 at bats as a rookie in 2018, and hasn’t quite lived up to the hype since. Things are starting to look promising though, as his season slash line is up to .250/.289/.500 with five home runs and eleven runs batted in after an abysmal start. The plate discipline is an issue, however, as his 12th-percentile strikeout percentage and second-percentile walk percentage might indicate. On the season, he has 24 strikeouts to just 2 walks over 76 plate appearances. When he makes contact though, he’s electric. His Average Exit Velocity,, xwOBA, xSLG, and Barrel% are all in the 84th-percentile or higher. His discipline at the plate might make him a streaky hitter, but he should finish the season with solid numbers batting near the middle of St. Louis’ lineup.
2. Willie Calhoun | OF, DH | Texas Rangers
Is this finally the year that we see Willie Calhoun elevate himself to a fantasy roster staple? He’s only 26, but we’ve been playing this game for a handful of years already. Keep in mind, Calhoun slugged 21 homers and OPSed .848 in 337 plate appearances in 2019. The excitement over his 2020 campaign was brought to a halt after getting hit in the face by a pitch and breaking his jaw in spring training prior to the shutdown. Calhoun appears to have fully recovered from this, along with a few other injuries he was dealing with, and is now back in the Rangers’ lineup on a regular basis. So far in just 63 plate appearances, Calhoun has a .316/.381/.491 slash line with three home runs and six runs batted in. In addition, he’s walked five times to just nine strikeouts, a promising sign for a young hitter. Over his last 508 major league plate appearances, Calhoun has 25 home runs, a .775 OPS, and a respectable 79-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This is all with an injury-riddled 2020 season. If this is the baseline for a 26-year-old hitter that by all accounts, might hit better than this, then it won’t be long before he becomes a staple on somebody’s fantasy team in every league.
3. Mitch Garver | C | Minnesota Twins
Lest we forget, Mitch Garver was a 2019 American League Silver Slugger Award recipient. In that remarkable season, Garver belted 31 home runs, had 67 runs batted in, finished with a 87-to-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and an absurd slash line of .273/.365/.630. While he may never be able to repeat such gaudy numbers for a catcher, Garver certainly proved that he provides value as a fantasy option at catcher. While an oblique injury derailed his 2020 season, and he got off to a slow start this year, he seems to have found his power stroke as of late. He’s hit four home runs over his last five games, bringing his season total up to 6. He’s also still posting a HardHit% in the 90th-percentile. Be wary, however, as his plate discipline numbers are still a bit alarming (29 strikeouts to just four walks). Regardless, productive catchers can be hard to come by and you could do worse than a recent Silver Slugger winner that has shown some major pop over the last week or so.
4. Brandon Belt | 1B | San Francisco Giants
I know what you’re thinking…Brandon Belt? At this point though it is becoming difficult to ignore what he is doing thus far in 2021. As a matter of fact, it’s difficult to ignore what he’s done over his last 280 plate appearances dating back to 2020. He’s notched a .279/.396/.549 slash line to go along with his 15 home runs, 48 runs batted in, and 69-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s 33 year old, so we’re not seeing a breakout star in our midst. However, we might be seeing an already solid hitter maturing at the plate as his experience brings wisdom. While the Giants, despite their impressive record, may not be putting up a ton of runs, the middle of their order seems to have taken a sip from the fountain of youth. Belt, along with Buster Posey and Evan Longoria, are all hitting well to start the season. I don’t anticipate Belt being a player that will remain locked and loaded in your lineup until September, but he might be worth rostering until he cools off.
5. Josh Rojas | 2B, SS, OF | Arizona Diamondbacks
I’m not here to claim that Josh Rojas is your 2021 League Winner Award recipient, but my goodness, how do you ignore his recent production with his position flexibility? In ESPN leagues, Rojas is available at 2B, SS, and OF. In addition to this flexibility, Rojas has belted five homers and knocked in 11 runs en route to a .239/.333/.493 slash line over his first 81 plate appearances. Even more promising for the 27-year-old hitter is he continues to show a good enough discipline at the plate to indicate that he can handle major league pitching (10 walks and a Chase Rate in the 90th-percentile). He’s a prime candidate to get dropped after a few weeks when the power disappears, but for now, ride the hot hand and see if this really is breakout performance or not.