|Name||Position||Team||ESPN Own %|
|Brandon Crawford||SS||San Francisco Giants||52.8|
|C.J. Cron||1B||Colorado Rockies||53.8|
|Ian Happ||OF||Chicago Cubs||48.4|
|Miguel Sano||1B||Minnesota Twins||50.1|
|Nico Hoerner||2B, SS||Chicago Cubs||33.4|
1. Brandon Crawford | SS | San Francisco Giants
First it was Longoria, Posey, and Belt finding a way to reverse time and rediscover their glory days. Now, it’s a teammate of theirs, Brandon Crawford. It’s a bit out of nowhere, as the longtime Giant does not have the career numbers to suggest that he’ll keep this up at age 34. Nonetheless, Crawford is slashing .248/.328/.540 with 10 home runs, 23 RBIs, 22 runs, three stolen bases and a 29-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As I type this up, he’s 3-for-5 with a home run, three runs, and six RBIs batting third in the Giants’ routing of the Reds today. That puts him at 11 home runs, 25 runs, and 29 RBIs. There are a few metrics that indicate he might be able to keep up his above average production for this season at least, making him well worth an add. For starters, his Barrel %, Average Exit Velocity, and Average Launch Angle are all at or near career highs. In Addition, his HardHit% is as high as it has ever been, and so is his BB% (while his K% remains below his career average). I’m not here to tell you to blow your FAAB on Crawford, or to drop anyone significant for him, but he should be an obvious add for somebody who hasn’t been getting production out of their shortstop position (Dansby Swanson, Niko Goodrum, David Fletcher, Freddy Galvis, Willy Adames, Gleyber Torres).
2. C.J. Cron | 1B | Colorado Rockies
Much like Crawford at shortstop, a lot of us are hanging on to an unproductive first baseman based off the name alone, reluctant to pick up and play somebody that is playing better. A great example of this is C.J. Cron. In 116 plate appearances, Cron has five home runs, 15 RBIs, 18 runs, and a 29-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a .300/.397/.500 slash line. While it’s not world-beating numbers, they look glorious to those that drafted and were relying on the likes of Ryan Mountcastle, Hunter Dozier, Josh Bell, or Dominic Smith. Cron isn’t making as much consistent hard contact as you’d like to see, and he’s swinging and missing a little too much, but he still has tremendous expected statistics. His Expected wOBA, Expected Batting Average, and Expected Slugging are all in the 87th-percentile or higher. In addition, over his last 50 plate appearances, his numbers seem to be climbing. He returned from the injured list, was slotted fourth in the Rockies lineup, and went 3-for-4 in his first game back. Cron’s ceiling is likely not very high, but I think it’s time we start appreciating the fact that his floor is probably a little higher than we thought it was.
3. Ian Happ | OF | Chicago Cubs
Happ has never quite materialized into what everyone has expected him to be. Nonetheless, his .810 career OPS in 1384 plate appearances suggest he’s a quality major league hitter. So far in 2021, Happ is slashing .194/.314/.340 with four home runs, eight RBIs, 12 runs, one stolen base, and a 40-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While these numbers are certainly not worthy of being on a fantasy roster, they might be a bit deceiving. His slash line is almost a lock to go up, as he’s got enough career plate appearances to suggest he’s a better hitter than that. Also, I swear I’m not just looking at who is homering today and throwing them on this list, but he’s cranked two today himself (take that, Brandon Crawford). Today alone has brought his average up to .208 and his OPS up to .728. His high strikeout rate has always limited his ceiling, and it’s high again in 2021, but you should still expect solid numbers for Happ going forward.
4. Miguel Sano | 1B | Minnesota Twins
Not many everyday players with career above-average power numbers got off to as bad a start in 2021 as Miguel Sano did. Through his first 82 plate appearances, Sano was slashing .119/.280/.209 with two home runs, five RBIs, and a 32-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. 32 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances, which is just shy of 40%. That’s about as bad as it gets, especially after leading the majors in strikeouts in 2020. While that K% may always be high, he’s always been able to couple it with remarkable power numbers. Lately, he seems to have possibly found that power stroke that has made him a valuable fantasy player in the past. While it’s a very small sample, Sano has shown major signs of life in the last week. He’s 6-for-18 at the plate with four home runs, seven RBIs, five strikeouts, and one walk. He hit a heroic, go-ahead home run against Oakland and then cranked three against the White Sox on Tuesday. He’s got a double today as well against the Angels. Don’t get me wrong, the strikeout numbers are alarming. However, the uptick in hard hit balls is very promising, and he may be worth an add considering the upside with his ability to carry a fantasy roster for months at a time. EDIT: He hit a grand slam in the second game of the Angels double header. That’s five home runs in the last week’s worth of games!
5. Nico Hoerner | 2B | Chicago Cubs
I included Hoerner in my list a handful of weeks back and then he promptly got hurt and hit the shelf, which dropped his ownership percentage back down. Well, he’s back, and he likely won’t be widely available for long. So far in just 64 plate appearances in 2021, Hoerner has a .345/.426/.448 slash line with six doubles, nine RBIs, and a 10-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He hasn’t homered yet, and he’s only homered three times in 272 career plate appearances, so don’t expect too many going forward. However, he is also a career .270 hitter and has three steals so far in 2021. With a sprint speed in the 91st-percentile, and three stolen bases already, it would be nice to see him add that element to his game, as he hasn’t racked up a ton of stolen bases so far in his professional career. Either way, if you are missing consistent production from the second base or shortstop slot, consider rostering Hoerner and see where he takes this hot start. Keep in mind, he’s just 24 years old and has been a well-regarded young asset in the Cubs organization for a few years now. A breakout above expectations is not out of the picture.