Batter’s Box: A Ride on the Beltway
Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire
Sometimes you go through life thinking you really know a person. “So and so is a real jerk when he gets hangry,” you may say about your friend Sam. “You know…now that I think about it, she’s always had straw-like wispy hair and a winning personality,” you’ve probably thought about your pal, Lisa. Or maybe it’s “Brandon Belt will never be more than a high OBP guy who hits around 15-18 HR a year.” But, it’s 2018, and what we thought was up is down. Things are different now, and anything is possible. So while you’ve been debating whether it’s Yanny or Laurel, Brandon Belt has been crushing.
Last night’s 2-5, R, HR, RBI effort brought Belt’s triple slash up to a remarkable .301/.405/.562 that has even standard categories cats being like, “Woah.” All the OBP dudes and ladies are like, “yeah we know,” as he’s now put together a line of 24 R/9 HR/23 RBI/2 SB. Sure, he’s got that signature plate discipline with a walk rate around 13%, but check out that hard contact rate of 48%. The opposite field power of 32%, which is up from 22%, ain’t bad at all either and supports the power uptick. Though xStats says he’s been a tad on the lucky side, you can’t deny that beyond elite 14% VH rate thus far. He’s on pace to finish with 77 R/24 HR/76 RBI, and that would set a career-high in HR and tie his best mark for runs scored. You think you know a person, but you have no idea.
Let’s take a look at some of the other performances from Wednesday:
Starlin Castro (2B, MIA) – 4-5, R, 2B, RBI. Yesterday’s 4-hit game brought his average to a cool .300, and that’s a thing of beauty! He’s hitting for a high average and scoring a lot of runs (25) so far, but the HR and RBI are lacking. In that lineup, I’m not confident that changes moving forward. Still, he’s hitting well and getting on base more thanks to an improved walk rate of 7.6% thus far. He’s available in 49% of leagues, and I’d give him a look if I needed a boost in average.
Michael Brantley (LF, CLE) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. The great seasons for a healthy (knock on wood) Brantley as this night brings his triple slash to .338/.376/.569 on the season. He’s hit .387 over the last week, and he still rocks a miniscule 7% strikeout rate over the season as well. I, for one, am still baffled by the 97% contact rate when swinging at pitches inside the zone. It’s like he has one of those fat, plastic bats in wiffle ball. It was hard to miss the pitch…and yet somehow I still did.
Kris Bryant (3B, CHC) – 3-4, 2B, RBI. He is officially “raking” this year as I’ve been told the kids are saying these days. His triple slash is now up to .301/.429/.596, and most of that is thanks to an improved approach at the plate this year. That’s evidenced by more contact on swings inside the zone, a lowered swinging strike rate, and a lower strikeout rate in general. Plate discipline! Get into it. Also, the little dip he saw in power is SO 2017 as he’s back to making 40% hard contact again. It’s like it’s 2016 all over again. Wait…it’s 2016?! How ’bout this Prince Fielder guy, huh?! Dude is gonna be good for a long time. Too soon?
Matt Carpenter (3B, STL) – 3-5, 2 2B, RBI. It’s been a very disappointing year so far for the wily veteran as he’s slashed just .160/.297/.303 and currently has a career-worst strikeout rate of 28.6%. He also had just 3 hits over his last 13 games coming into this one, but I’m telling you now is the time to buy. That’s right…grab and stash here, folks. xStats says he’s been very unlucky so far, and what’s more is he’s got a VH rate of 12% so far. The entire xSlash says better days should be ahead in a hurry.
Evan Longoria (3B, SF) – 3-4. Longo crushed 3 no-frills singles last night, and these guys just don’t get enough love here at The Batter’s Box. Well, here you go, singles lovers! He’s starting to heat up a bit slashing .290/.313/.419 over the last week, but I can’t help but be bothered by that near career-high strikeout rate and career-low walk rate. Declining plate discipline is never something you want to be a part of. Still, Longo is on pace to finish with a line of 73 R/25 HR/84 RBI, and that means he should probably not be available in 31% of leagues right now. Let’s assume they’re all 10-teamers and move on.
Eddie Rosario (LF, MIN) – 3-4, R, BB. Love players like this who contribute in plenty of categories and just get the job done. So, maybe last night wasn’t hte best example, but the point still holds. He now possesses a solid line of 27 R/9 HR/27 RBI/4 SB on the season, and he’s hitting .296 on the year to boot. His flyball percentage has jumped from 37% to 46%, and his hard contact has seen growth as well. That’s a recipe for jackin’ more dongs!
Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL) – 2-4, R, RBI. He’s 20, but he’s playing like a 25-year-old who’s been around for a minute. His triple slash is up to .275/.348/.500 on the season, he’s got a near 40% hard contact rate, and he’s almost up to a double-digit walk rate as well. Sure, the strikeout rate is a bit high right now, but when I was 20, I was still learning the finer points of literally just competently cooking edible food for myself. The two have absolutely no relation, and I’m not sure why I tried to make a connection there, but he’s very good at baseball.
Ozzie Albies (2B, ATL) – 2-4, 2 R, 3B, 2B. Time for some #OzzieFacts! 1. He leads the NL with 15 doubles. 2. He also leads the NL in runs scored with 40. 3. He’s tied with Bryce Harper for the most HR in the NL with 13. 4. His 31 RBI are tied for 5th most in the NL. 5. His 6 SB tie him for 12th in the NL. This has been another edition of #OzzieFacts!
Andrew Benintendi (LF, BOS) – 2-4, R. Does anyone else call him “Benny Baseball?” People were calling him that back at Arkansas, and I don’t think it stuck when he came to the majors. I could be wrong, but if it has gone away, that’s truly a shame because it’s a great name. Anyways, he’s putting up solid counting stats so far with a line of 29 R/3 HR/22 RBI/7 SB so far, and those 29 runs scored puts him in the top 10 for the AL. He’s been on fire the last week slashing .375/.412/.563, and I’m very confident he will finish as a top 25 OF this year.
C. J. Cron (1B, TB) – 2-4, 3 R, HR, RBI. He’s now posted a line of 24 R/10 HR/26 RBI on the year, which is great and all, but the fact that he’s doing that and still available in 60% of leagues tells me you people aren’t buying it. Smart because xStats says you shouldn’t be. The xSlash hints at quite a bit of luck coming his way so far, and the fact that he has a VH rate of just 5.9% so far backs this up even further. Still, he’s been quite good over the last week hitting 3 HR with 6 RBI and batting .400. Juice that orange while you can.
Adam Duvall (LF, CIN) – 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Dude, you are KILLING people’s averages so far. Do you care nothing about your noble fantasy owners?! Guess not. Anyways, at his current pace, Duvall will fail to cross the 30 HR threshold for the first time in 3 years, and he’s projected to hit just .217. I don’t think you’re going to fool anyone by trying to sell when he gets hot at some point this year, so you may as well try to enjoy the sporadic power and low average if you’ve got him.
Dexter Fowler (CF, STL) – 2-3, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB. He’s got a terrible slash of .158/.274/.293 on the year, and I think that’s just FOWL. Leave me alone. I’m writing this before the sun has come up. The sacrifices I make for you people! Anyways, the .149 BABIP tells me brighter days are ahead. Kind of like how I feel when I look at the dark sky outside right now. Oh wait, it’s supposed to rain all day today.
Scooter Gennett (2B, CIN) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. Since our own Jonathan Metzelaar talked about Scooter honking anytime he entered a room, I literally cannot get the image out of my head when I think about him. That being said, Scoots has now honked his way to a triple slash of .327/.363/.528 on the year, and he’s making last year look like no fluke. He’s had an insane week going 15-31 while crushing 4 HR with 9 RBI. He’s also been slashing .484/.484/.935 over that time frame as well. I’d sell high here if I had some depth at middle infield.
Yasmani Grandal (C, LAD) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. After two down years, the OBP king has returned to take his rightful throne back. He currently has an OBP of .383 on the year, and all hail the 12.8% walk rate, peasants! I was the idiot who used his Bold Predicitions article this preseason to say Austin Barnes would steal playing time from him.
Curtis Granderson (LF, TOR) – 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, BB. He’s not giving you much in terms of counting stats this year, but you gotta peep that 19% walk rate! If he qualified, which he doesn’t have enough at-bats to do so, he would be 3rd in OBP in the AL behind such luminaries as Mike Trout and Aaron Judge with that .432 mark. Regardless, he’s a fine option in OBP leagues as long as you’ve got someone to platoon him with.
Cesar Hernandez (2B, PHI) – 2-5, 2 R, HR, 3B, RBI. And speaking of OBP leagues, here’s a guy who just keeps on trucking in that format. He’s also scoring a bit of runs as he’s now got 29 on the year. That’s tied for 8th in the NL, but don’t be fooled as he’s just 2 away from 2nd place right now. He’s available in 33% of leagues at the moment, and if your OBP league is one of those, then I don’t know how to help you.
Teoscar Hernandez (CF, TOR) – 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. He’s now put ogether a line of 20 R/7 HR/18 RBI/3 SB/.272 on the year, and I’m constantly kicking myself for not picking him up earlier this year. He’s got a 44% hard contact mark right now, and he’s been red hot over the last week slashing .357/.400/.679. We’re going to blink, get to the end of the season and Hernandez will be sitting there as a Top 25 OF. Mark my words.
Jose Martinez (LF, STL) – 2-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB. He isn’t producing an obscene amount of counting stats in a just-ok to mediocre Cardinals lineup right now, but he’s produced a very usable slash of .292/.370/.451, which is nice. He’s really been hitting well over the last week slashing .292/.370/.451, and I’m most impressed with his improved plate discipline this season. His strikeout rate has gone from nearly 20% last year to a cool 11% this season, and that pairs with his 10% walk rate like a nice Riesling pairs with spicy Sichuan cuisine.
Logan Morrison (1B, MIN) – 2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Obviously, there’s not a chance he comes anywhere close to his 38 HR from a year ago, but I don’t think that was anyone’s expectation, so let’s just stop talking about it. Anyways, this was just his 5th HR of the year, and he’s now projected to his 23 by season’s end. That number is not 38. I SAID LET’S DROP IT, OK?!
Matt Olson (RF, OAK) – 2-4, R, HR, RBI. I don’t think he likes being referred to as “The Other Matt,” but I can’t be sure. Someone tweet at him and ask him? Maybe? Ok, so he’s struggling to match that .259 average from last year, and he’s starting to make me think he’s a .235, 30 HR type guy. What is it with these high power, low average guys named Matt? Matt Davidson, Matt Adams, Matt Olson…WEIRD.
Tommy Pham (CF, STL) – 2-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. He’s having another fine year with a line of 30 R/8 HR/18 RBI/7 SB/.312, and give it up for those multi-stat contributors! He’s coming off a rather slow week where he went hitless in 5 of his last 7 games, but this may be the kick in the baseball pants he needed. Despite the recent dip, he’s still giving you great OBP numbers with that 15% walk rate stacking against a 22% strikeout rate.
Marcus Semien (SS, OAK) – 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Please stay healthy and give us the year’s worth of production that we crave! Did you know that Semien is currently on pace to finish with 90 R/19 HR/70 RBI/11 SB with a .259 average? Did you?! He’s available in 47% of leagues at the moment probably due to that injury track record, but I’m rostering him as long as he’s standing upright and producing.
Travis Shaw (3B, MIL) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. His triple slash is definitely down from last year at .248/.326/.516 at the moment, but he’s really been heating up over the last 7 days going .370/.414/.815 with 3 dongs. The xSlash is pretty close to what he’s doing and things like xBABIP and xBACON say he’s earned what he’s got as well. Maybe last year was peak Shaw, and he finishes somewhere between his old tricks and 2017.
Justin Smoak (1B, TOR) – 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. He’s been replicating or has come pretty close to his metrics from last year, and he’s currently on pace to hit 27 HR total by season’s end. While it’s true his hard contact is a little down so far, his overall contact rate has been improved and his swinging strike rate has gone down. Hooray for improved plate discipline!
Justin Turner (3B, LAD) – 2-5. It was just his second game of the season, but I include him here because I haven’t gotten a chance to mention him all year. This isn’t coming a moment too soon for the underachieving Dodgers this year who find themselves in last place in the NL West so far. Welcome back, bearded ginger man.