Batter’s Box: Bat Kemp
Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire
In the offseason, the Atlanta Braves traded Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Charlie Culberson. Most people shrugged. It seemed like the baseball equivalent of trading a broken chair for three dead batteries and a piece of chewing gum. You know, as you do.
Well it turns out that broken chair wasn’t broken, it just needed a little tender love and care. Because after last night’s 5-5, 4 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI performance, that chair is now 12th in baseball in wRC+. Boy, this chair analogy has really gotten away from me. Some will point to his .371 BABIP and 19% HR/FB and say that none of this is sustainable. But Kemp has not only nearly doubled his average launch angle this year (from 8.2 to 15.5 degrees), he’s also making more hard contact than he ever has, posting a 44.3% hard contact rate. He’s pairing this with a career-low 35.3% groundball rate, and while he’s no Charlie Culberson, there are legitimate reasons to think Matt Kemp can maintain this production all year.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks): 4-4, RBI – Okay, this is some Final Destination-level stuff that’s happening now. It’s as if fate wouldn’t allow Goldschmidt to have a subpar season, and is correcting hardcore in the other direction due to his slow start. He’s hitting .381 with 12 homers over his last 30 games.
Starlin Castro (2B, Miami Marlins): 4-4, R – Starlin’s hard contact rate is up nearly ten points compared to last year, but he’s still lagging behind his power output from 2017 thanks in part to a paltry 6.5% HR/FB. That can likely be explained by the fact that he now plays half his games in a stadium the size of a small African nation, but at least he’s still a batting average asset, with a .288 average on the year.
Jeimer Candelario (3B, Detroit Tiger): 3-4 – I can’t help but wonder if Candelario will burn out long before his legend ever did. He’s hitting flyballs at a 41% clip while pulling the ball nearly half the time, and it’s been working for the most part, as he does have 12 homers this season. For a guy with about league average contact rates and a fairly high 24.9% strikeout rate though, he’s going to have to focus more on hitting line drives if he wants to give his .242 average a boost.
Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians): 2-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI – Francisco Lindor is already up to 23 home runs on the season. Something must be in the water in Cleveland. It’s probably that ooze they shot into Captain America, if I had to take a guess.
Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves): 2-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – The idea that Ronald Thump was too young to succeed this year is fake news. His 12.9% barrel rate is twice the league average and his 41.9% hard contact rate is one of the highest in the league. I’d like to see him improve on his scary 14% line drive rate, but the man has all the time in the world to make that happen.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers): 3-5, 2 2B, 4 RBI – I just found out that Yasiel is actually the second Puig to play in the MLB; there was also a Rich Puig back in 1974. This has been Facts Nobody Even Wondered About™ with Jonathan Metzelaar. Anyway, more performances like this will make Yasiel a rich Puig if he keeps it up. His groundball rate, which has historically held his power back, is at a career-low 42.6%, and he’s making more hard contact this year than he has since his rookie season, so I think the 12.5% HR/FB will creep up closer to his 15% career average and help him finish the year with close to 25 bombs.
Rajai Davis (OF, Cleveland Indians): 3-3, 3 R, 2B – Ageless wonder Rajai Davis is hitting .261 with nine steals over his last 30 games. He’s only starting about three times a week but if you need speed and have the bench spot, he’s a great guy to plug into your lineup when he does start as he’s still stealing at a great clip and could continue to push for more playing time if he gets hot.
Brad Miller (1B/2B, Milwaukee Brewers): 3-5, 2 R, RBI – Miller’s campaign to have Milwaukee change the name of its stadium to Brad Miller Park continues. He has not only usurped the shortstop job from the recently demoted Orlando Arcia, but he hit leadoff in this game. His 30.8% strikeout rate won’t do his average any favors, but with a 41.7% hard contact rate and 13-degree launch angle this year, 10-15 homers in the second half isn’t impossible.
C.J. Cron (1B, Tampa Bay Rays): 3-4, 2B, RBI – Cron hit ball. Cron happy now. Even after this performance, Cron is batting just .185 over his last 30 games, which we all saw coming even when Cron was on that torrid power streak earlier in the year.
Miguel Rojas (SS, Miami Marlins): 3-4, 2B, RBI – I’ve been keeping an eye on Rojas all year, partially because he already has more homers and steals than he had from 2014-2017 combined, and partially because he makes a ton of contact with just a 12.7% strikeout rate. He has a career-high (but still subpar) 29.6% hard contact rate, and if the power gains are real I think he’s a usefulmiddle-infielder in 16-team leagues.
Gleyber Torres (2B, New York Yankees): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, BB – I got a lot of flack for taking Torres over Altuve on my American League All-Star Game ballot, and while that decision was admittedly super wrong, Torres hitting .370 over the past week makes me a little less wrong, right? Just give me this. Please. I’m big on Torres’ 42% hard contact rate and 25% line drive rate pairing, and while I don’t foresee many stolen bases in his future, the power seems legit.
Scott Schebler (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 2-3, R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB – Schebler is now batting .319 over his last 30 games with six homers. His launch angle was a very concerning 7 degrees earlier in the year, but he’s lifted it up to 9.1 over the past few weeks. He needs to keep elevating his batted balls to truly break out, but there’s 30-homer upside here.
Robbie Grossman (OF, Minnesota Twins): 2-5, R, HR, 4 RBI – Grossman figures to be one of the primary beneficiaries of Byron Buxton’s recent activation-turned-demotion. Him and his 12.5% career walk rate may be useful in deep OBP formats but otherwise he’s just gross, man.