Batter’s Box: All Hail Mr. Mancini, Masher of Taters
Baltimore’s jack of all trades, the versatile 1B/OF/DH Trey Mancini, logged his fourth dual-homer game of the season and did his part to will the Orioles to a 7-2 win over Oakland and their beleaguered RHP Chris Smith. Mancini posted a 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, K line Thursday, and while he tends to slot in as the DH for most of his starts, he did indeed man first in this game. The last time he batted fifth as the starting 1B was July 25, and what do you know, he went 2-3 and homered in that contest as well. Mancini has been a highly productive rookie asset for the Os all year long, and when Buck Showalter started to lean on him a little more heavily during the injury-mandated absence of Chris Davis, he responded well and came through for both his team and the teams of his fantasy owners. With an average of .296 on the year (although it’s inched up as high as .323 back in late June), he’s a consistent hitter who also now has 20 dingers so far. He’s positioned in the heart of the order, which means Mancini is always going to be a little more likely to get you RBI rather than runs: he’s plated 60 and scored 46 of his own, which are perfectly respectable numbers. He doesn’t really steal at all, with just one swipe in 2017. His hard-hit rate of 34.7% is just where you want a guy operating, especially when that pairs up with a juicy 25.0% HR/FB ratio. Soft contact of 17.6% could come down a hair, but that’s truly nitpicking. As far as his discipline at the dish, Mancini does swing an awful lot—approximately half the time—and he could certainly improve both his zone contact (79.3% when you’d ideally like high 80s, low 90s) and his swinging strike percentage (14.3 when you want single digits). For a 25-year-old rookie, he’s doing just fine and I’m confident his mechanics will evolve even further. He did admittedly go just 3-23 in the five games previous to Thursday’s outburst, but he’s ultimately safe to trust for run creation, power and average in roto formats: you can feel good about leaving him parked at the UTIL position, assuming you have an elite 1B and three studs at OF. If you feel inclined to research repertoires to stream Mancini with BVP matchups in mind, know that Mancini does very poorly against curveballs.
Let’s take a look at what some other hitters of note around the league made happen Thursday:
Scooter Gennett (2B/3B/OF, CIN) – 2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI, K. Gennett hit his second grand slam of the year to take the lead away from San Diego B7 off the arm of RP Brad Hand, and Cincy subsequently cruised to a 10-3 victory. He’s got a .294 BA, 19 homers, 64 RBI, 49 RBI and two SB for the season. He did need this big game, though, because he had just one RBI and one run in the month of August before Thursday. Gennett almost always bats fifth for the Reds, and he’s best utilized as a backup 2B, at the corner infielder 2B/SS spot if your league has one, or as a UTIL. He’s an entire .100 in average better against RHP (.315 versus .215), and he’s been especially rough (.167) against southpaws away from Great American so I’d advise doing a little matchup research to have him benched on the right occasions.
Zack Cozart (SS, CIN) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. This was a dumb oversight on my part, but I had Cozart benched yesterday by accident for a 12:35 game following his healthy scratch from Wednesday’s lineup. He of course then sent the third homer in his last six games into the stands. He’s turned on the power nicely in the second half despite some brief time on the DL with his quad issue. If he can stay healthy and not re-aggravate the issue, he’s an excellent mid-tier option at SS. His average sits at .315 and he now has 14 jacks to complement 53 runs and 43 RBI from the 2-spot.
Neil Walker (2B, NYM) – 4-5, 3 R, HR, RBI. Walker has had a lackluster go of it since returning from the DL on July 28, following a six-week layoff. Between then and yesterday, Walker had mustered exactly zero XBH, zero runs and one RBI while posting just a .247 average and no steals. He’d been essentially fantasy irrelevant until yesterday’s four-hit extravaganza. Walker’s season average is .261, but that’s obviously bolstered deceivingly by what he was doing pre-injury, like hitting .310 during the first two weeks of June as an example. Until he establishes any form of counting stat consistency, I’d stay away from Walker. His medium-term box scores would suggest he’s just going to take up space on your roster.
Wilmer Flores (1B/2B/3B, NYM) – 2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, K. Since the departure of Lucas Duda for Tampa Bay, coupled with the elbow injury to fellow utility infielder T.J. Rivera, Flores has seen a clear path to a good bit of playing time. Jose Reyes is close to getting 2B eligibility in ESPN leagues with spot starts there, while Asdrubal Cabrera has done some hot corner work to make room for the brand-new Amed Rosario at short. The aforementioned Walker has started at 1B and 3B recently, too, but Flores has been a fixture as well with his positional versatility. Anyway, he got his counting stats up to 37 RBI, 36 runs and 14 jacks last night. He sports a .287 average through 265 at-bats, which is perfectly serviceable for a streamer INF. Bear in mind that hot 1B prospect Dominic Smith is getting the call-up today, so that could affect what Flores gets as far as starts but he’s probably a good bet to pinch-hit for New York even when he isn’t in the starting lineup.
Yoan Moncada (2B/3B, CHW) – 2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K. With just his second big-league homer, Moncada’s production is starting to heat up. He’s hit safely in his last six—along with three multi-hit outings—to hilariously and dramatically boost his batting average from .100 on August 3 to the .213 it is now, which makes sense when you realize he’s only had 61 MLB at-bats. Several RBI, a couple of runs, a double on Wednesday and five walks over the past three days collectively say he’s starting to slowly find his groove. He’s more of a dynasty add right now, but keep a watchlist eye on what he’s able to do down the stretch just for fun.
Dexter Fowler (OF, STL) – 2-5, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI, BB, K. Fowler stole a base Wednesday to boot, for five overall on the year. Since returning from a stint on the DL with a forearm issue, Fowler has gone 6-13 and was positively on fire yesterday with a grand slam and an RBI double for St. Louis. He’s got a .251 average now, and the homer was his 15th. The 50 runs he has scored were a little higher than I would have guessed before looking it up, and he’s scored 10 of those just since the break (keeping in mind the two weeks laid up with injury). His total of 42 RBI isn’t too shabby either. Fowler’s a sneaky good streamer in the outfield (i.e. fourth OF) if you can afford him a spot on your roster.
Lorenzo Cain (OF, KCR) – 4-5, R, CS. I love this guy. He’s hit safely in seven of nine August contests…with six multi-hit outings! To inflate your batting average from .272 to .293 as a go-to guy with what’s now upwards of 400 AB is super impressive. Cain is slugging .595 this month and now has 12 homers, which means he can gun for tying or surpassing his career-high of 16 bombs that he set in 2015. Don’t let the CS bum you out, as he has 21 steals and this was only the second time he got nabbed on the basepath. He’s a run-scorer in its purest form with 68, as contrasted with just 36 RBI. He’s become a legitimate everyday fantasy starter in my eyes.
Jose Bautista (OF, TOR) – 1-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB, K, SB. Joey Bats has underwhelmed all year long with his now-.216 average. July was unkind to him (.162 on the month), but he’s picked up the pace recently by hitting three homers in his last four games for 19 overall, which is not terrible at all. The thing is 19 is a far cry from the 35 and 40 of 2014 and 2015, respectively, so we’re being punished by our high expectations. He has scored 69 runs, which I obviously dig, and the 51 RBI could be better for 425 AB worth of work but we shouldn’t be too picky. Bautista was supposed to be elite, now he’s solidified his identity as a flawed but still solid fantasy OF. The options at OF who are averaging better than Bautista while not compromising their counting stats are out there, but he definitely still has value in deep leagues, at worst. Six steals don’t hurt either.