We’ve made it to the final week of the regular MLB season, friends, and somehow I’m both thoroughly relieved, and yet already feeling an intense sense of withdrawal. I don’t have as many leagues going down to the wire as I feel like I usually do, so I’m already doing a lot of reflecting on what went right and wrong for my fantasy teams in 2021. For today, let’s end the season on a positive note by taking a look at a few players that were instrumental to my second-half success in the leagues that went particularly well for me. While guys like Wainwright and Votto were mainstays in even the shallowest leagues by the end of the year, they also have another thing in common:  they were strictly late round or deep-league options (or went undrafted altogether) to open the season.

Adam Wainwright.  Stats since the All Star break: 2.47 ERA, 0.919 WHIP, 71 Ks in 92.1 innings, 9 wins. These numbers make Wainwright the third most valuable pitcher in 5×5 fantasy over the second half, behind only Scherzer and Wheeler.  Dude is 40 years old. I’m sure someone has already written or will write about whether it’s A) surprising,  or B) actually makes perfect sense that so many older veterans had such great/healthy years in the season where we thought everyone would break down completely by July.  For now, though, I have no real explanation for the insane season Wainwright has turned in. I drafted him in the 22nd round of a 15-team mixed league, sandwiched in between the likes of Dane Dunning and Justus Sheffield. Thankfully it was a draft and hold league with no waiver wire or trades, because if I’d had other options I probably would have sold high on him two months into the season figuring he was bound to crash and burn at any moment. Would I draft him next year? I’m gonna say no.  I’m already curious how high he’ll be drafted, but I’m pretty sure his price will be too lofty for me to be interested… he can’t possibly do anything like this again next year, can he?

Ranger Suarez.   Stats since the All Star break: 1.83 ERA, 1.141 WHIP, 63 Ks in 64 innings. I suggested that deep-league folks might want to take a look at Suarez months ago when he was pitching out of the bullpen, and thankfully I grabbed him myself in a couple leagues. I originally added him to an NL-only redraft team in hopes that he might find his way into some saves, and was disappointed when it was announced he’d be stretched out to join the rotation — it seemed like a surprising decision at the time that was destined for failure. Well, evidently the Phillies knew a tad bit more than I did about the situation, for which I’m quite grateful, as Suarez would end up leading the pitching staff on my little fantasy team over the last couple of months. Would I draft him next year? I’m realizing that one other thing all four players on this list have in common is that it’s incredibly hard for me to guess where they’ll be drafted next year, but Suarez will most definitely be on my radar as sometime to have on multiple teams if the 2022 price feels right.  I’m sure many will look at his 2021 as an unsustainable aberration, which I think it is… but he could come down to earth a fair amount and still be a solid (and perhaps still undervalued — we’ll see) piece of a winning fantasy pitching staff next year.

Joey Votto. Stats since the All Star break: 22 24 homers, 43 45 runs scored, average of .280 even higher than .280 (Votto keeps getting hits Monday as I’m typing this), 52 56 RBI. Votto’s NFBC ADP this year was #325 (interestingly enough, just three spots behind the above-mentioned Mr. Wainwright. To give further context in case everyone forgot how badly we underestimated Joey this year, this is also one spot behind Pedro Severino).  I think I was laughed at by a commenter when I mentioned him as a corner infield option this spring, and I didn’t draft him myself in a single league, even the crazy deep ones.  I did, however, spend a decent chunk of FAAB money on him in an NL-only (redraft) league after he was dropped upon hitting the IL with a thumb injury in May.  More things we may have completely forgotten about: Votto broke his thumb this year, and Votto spent a full month on the IL with said broken thumb. Honestly I thought getting much production out of him after that was a pipe dream, and I think I had some serious buyer’s remorse after spending what seemed like way too much for an injured 38-year old, but I was desperate. Good thing, because later in the summer he singlehandedly gained me 6 or 7 much-needed points in the standings just in the HR and RBI categories, and helped vault me from fourth place to a tie for first in about a month. Would I draft him next year? It breaks my heart a little to say that it’s unlikely as I’m just too worried that he’ll be crazy overdrafted next year.  Ah, who am I kidding, I’ll probably end up with him on at least a team or two next year, even if I have to pay a bit more than I want to, just based on the memories of the glorious times we shared together in 2021.

Ian Happ. Stats since the All Star break:  15 homers, 32 runs scored, .270 average,  39 RBI, 5 SB. First of all, I didn’t realize when I started this post that all four of the players I’d talk about would be of the National League variety, but that’s just how it shook out.  Also, this one’s cheating a bit, as I didn’t actually have Happ as a regular on any of my teams in the second half… but I was so surprised to see how solid his numbers were that I thought I had to mention him. Also also, it’s kind of cheating because Happ was drafted way ahead of these other players, with an ADP of #159.  I’m still counting him though, given that he hit .183 before the All Star break and was pretty much left for dead by the fantasy community by that point. Would I draft him next year? Once again, this is where things get tricky, especially since over the last few years I have been one of the few within the Razzball community who has had zero interest in Happ. So, I’m guessing that I won’t end up with him in any Razzball-sanctioned leagues, but I’m starting to think he’ll be on my list of guys to keep an eye on or even target going into next season.  I’m interested and surprised to note that, even during that horrible .183 first half, Happ’s OBP was a solid 113 points higher, at .296.  He’ll only have outfield eligibility in most leagues next year, which may depress his value somewhat, but my gut instinct is that he’ll still end up going at least a little further under the radar than he should. A big spring could send his value soaring, but I’m still thinking that 2022 may be the year where I find myself opening the season with Happ on a couple of my teams.

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Dustin
Dustin
10 months ago

Ranger was my big success for this year from this column. I’m new to an NL only keeper auction league this year & the $3 contract should be a nice piece. I too was puzzled at the switch and glad to be proven wrong, stretched out able starters get really scarce and ever more so with pitchers managed more strictly nowadays.

The 3 leagues I’m in all have pretty thin wires, I am very glad to keep grabbing guys out of these. Thanks for another great season, Laura.

Rick Brown
Rick Brown
10 months ago

Thanks for all the great columns Laura!! I’m in 4 deep leagues and found you a must read as soon as I could.
Continued good luck this year and looking forward to next year.
Thanks,RICK

Stl Squat Cobblers
Stl Squat Cobblers
10 months ago

Good stuff Ms Holt! Congrats on all of your league wins and best of luck in these final days!!

Schmohawks Bob
Schmohawks Bob
10 months ago

I’ve got Happ in an NL only keeper for $10, so I just went ahead and kept him. Happy I did. Will probably pay the $14 for him next year to keep him.

Grey
Admin
10 months ago

I traded Ian Happ around end of July — just absolutely killing it! It being chances to win… Good stuff this year! What happened to your keeper team? You have Cody and Yelich?

Grey
Admin
Reply to  Laura Holt
10 months ago

Yeah, and throw-in it’s NL-Only…there’s about one spot I can churn and even then, it’s hard if I hit on someone who might be a keeper

Grey
Admin
Reply to  Laura Holt
10 months ago

I like when I can ADHD waivers!