Batter’s Box: Cozart Söze & The Unusual Suspects
Major League Baseball’s first full weekend of game action is gloriously under our belt, and it was a sumptuous feast. Sweeps and slams have happened, a no-hit bid and a no-look tag raised our eyebrows; tightness, strains, and blisters are suddenly becoming unexpectedly pesky injuries. It can be fun to toy with astronomical stats as an entertaining season gets underway, before everything stabilizes around historical averages. There were a few guys who used their at-bats to get people paying closer attention to their production, and their names might not all be ones you’d expect to be next to soaring numbers. Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart is a member of this group, going 4-10, RBI, 2 BB, 2 K, SB: that line includes two triples and a double, and the Reds SS finds himself enjoying a gaudy .450 batting average a week in (take note, points league aficionados). Cozart will need to start scoring runs for 5×5 legitimacy, but the fact that he’s hit safely in every game is impressive. Joining him in this feat are Odubel Herrera, Andrelton Simmons, Avisail Garcia, Chris Davis and your league leader in BA, slugging percentage and OPS, J.T. Realmuto.
With that working out as a perfect segue, let’s recap what else happened around the league these past few days:
Odubel Herrera – 4-12, 5 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2K, CS. Philadelphia’s lineup definitely beat up on Washington’s Jeremy Guthrie on Saturday to the tune of a 12-run first inning, and Herrera wasn’t even the most prolific hitter in that game. The guy is hitting .364 currently, but an admitted concern is that he’s relying too heavily on the groundball and medium contact to start the year. He’s getting on base though, a huge box that’s being tentatively checked off by his bat’s excellent Z-contact and a succulent 2.5 BB/K ratio.
Andrelton Simmons – 4-10, R, HR, RBI, BB, SB. The two-time Gold Glover is racking up the hits, too. He started off in the 7-spot but moved up two notches to occupy the heart of the Angels order for both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games against Seattle. The 3-4-5 punch of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Simmons could really drive some fear into the hearts of opposing pitching staffs if the 27-year-old SS can keep his bat hot. He’s shaping up to be a streamable, perhaps-not-so-fringe backup at the position for fantasy purposes.
Avisail Garcia – 5-10, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB, K, CS. The White Sox’s everyday RF is off to a searingly torrid start. With a .474 average and Geovany Soto apparently making power moves late in the lineup after him, the runs could start accumulating. Garcia is fifth league-wide in OBP at the moment.
J.T. Realmuto – 4-10, R, 2 RBI, K, CS. Miami’s most creative hitter this past week was its catcher. Saturday’s outing against the Mets saw Muto get a triple, and reliever Addison Reed is the only pitcher to have struck the man out thus far during the regular season. No, that was not an embellishment or a typo. Realmuto has 11 hits—four of them being XBH, including two homers—on 22 AB with a singular strikeout. The fact that he received an IBB on Thursday could be a good sign. He’s currently spreading the ball around the field gorgeously, and with just 14.3% soft contact at that. Already a versatile player in the past, Muto is trending drastically upward right now as a fantasy asset; time and more gameplay will tell whether or not this is to be a trusted notion in the medium and long terms.
Chris Davis – 4-10, R, 2 BB, 3 K. Crush also has hit safely in every game the Orioles have played thus far, although with a surprising combination of high average and low power generation. The universe will soon right itself, I’m sure.
Khris Davis – 4-13, 3 R, HR, RBI, 5 K. Doing things better than his similarly named Eastern Time counterpart, Khris had a double on Saturday and has posted a BA of .360.
Miguel Sano – 3-11, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, 6 K. The strikeouts are a concern usually, but not when he’s hitting .350 so far. Sano is second only to Realmuto across MLB in both slugging and OPS.
George Springer – 2-12, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB, 4 K. While Friday and Saturday weren’t good showings for Springer, the fact that he is tied for the lead in homers across MLB with four is extremely encouraging. Also worth noting power-wise is that his Thursday jack boasted a top-10 exit velocity on contacted balls so far this season, measuring at 114.2 mph. Astros fans have to be loving Springer’s offensive spark, particularly at a time when Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve have been struggling at the plate. Boosting the .250 BA he currently owns would help reinforce the love Springer’s getting from his fantasy owners.
Salvador Perez – 4-14, 4 R, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 4K. The guy keeping pace with Springer in the HR category was his enemy this weekend during the series pitting Houston against Perez’s Kansas City Royals. It was a homer-heavy game all around on Sunday, and Perez managed to blast his fourth four-bagger out of the park in as many games. To say it was a productive series for Sal is an understatement. He’s got a .292 BA and four total RBI right now.
Freddie Freeman – 6-13, 4 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB, 4 K, SB. GOOD LORD, that is a weekend box score that would probably illicitly excite even the most chaste of nuns. Freeman’s been laying down the law with a supernaturally fortunate BABIP for years now, so I feel like we should just accept that he’s blessed and enjoy the ride. Already rocking 35% hard contact and obscene HR/FB numbers through the first week of games, he is a bona fide fantasy treasure worthy of the top-25 pick that was likely used to get him.
Yasmany Tomas – 5-8, 3 R, 3 RBI. He started 2-12, and now Tomas is 7-20 after hitting safely in the series finale against San Francisco and then also doing so in two of the three games Arizona won during its home sweep of Cleveland. An individual .350 BA with four XBH already looks solid, but the run production coming from the Diamondbacks lineup around Tomas at the 5-spot was truly impressive on a larger scale. Brandon Drury went 5-9, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB, K, including a triple to help Tomas score. Jake Lamb at cleanup is only batting .250 currently, but he’s making the hits count and has baserunning guru Paul Goldschmidt helping his cause.
Chris Owings – 4-9, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, K, 2 SB. Owings is part of why that Diamondbacks conversation needs to continue, since he co-leads the league with fellow NL West speedster Eduardo Nunez in steals with four. Hitting .360 for average and going yard too, Owings was doing it all over the weekend. With potentially intimidating BVP matchups coming soon against the Dodgers, avoid rashly scuttling your existing starters for Owings, Drury or Tomas. But keep a keen eye on what they can bring to the fantasy table because they could eventually be gold mines if this production is sustainable. (Note: Tomas is owned in just 66.8% of ESPN leagues, Drury in 55.2% and Owings in 23.3%. The ownership numbers are 81%, 64% and 29%, respectively for Yahoo leagues. Procurable for sure.)
Manuel Margot – 5-13, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB, 2K. The Padres had fun at home the past several days with their claiming of a closely contested series versus San Francisco by the end of Saturday. Margot was a big part of their success in so doing: the rookie hit homers in his first two ABs on Friday and he hit two doubles in the series’ second game, one of which scored Allen Cordoba to give San Diego extend a lead it would not relinquish. Margot’s already impressing in real life, and his fantasy stock is rapidly rising. He’s another hot commodity that is sure to get scooped up before too long in the majority of leagues, if he isn’t already owned by some savvy coworker you hate.
Brandon Belt – 3-11, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K. He certainly lived up to his name by belting a career-first grand slam T6 and a solo jack T8 out of Petco Park during the same game Friday. San Diego would prove resilient and come back to take the lead in the seventh, though, so Belt’s excellent work couldn’t secure a San Francisco win. He’s hitting .250, though, which is something to monitor cautiously. The reasoning here is he plays half his games at power-stingy AT&T Park, and as a career Giant, Belt’s HR splits confirm that he enjoys more longball success on the road by a factor of greater than 2:1 (57 away, 26 home). The takeaway? He needs to start hitting for average to keep his fantasy value competitive because he’s never hit more than 20 homers in a season. He’s unquestionably a top-20 1B, but truncated power numbers and lack of SB could hold him back in roto formats, thus holding you back if your opponents have better fellows at the position.
Gary Sanchez – 2-6, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, K. It was great to see Sanchez launch his first bleacher bomb of the year Friday, and it was then terrible to see a strained right biceps sideline him Saturday. He’s on the 10-day DL, and while Sanchez is going to be a monster when 100%, that is obviously not the case for your fantasy deployability right now. There should be no perception that his durability is suddenly becoming questionable: the Yankees are doing the right thing to take care of their franchise catcher’s health. Stash him on the DL, and roll with high-OBP Jason Castro, a surging Sandy Leon, a perplexing but creative Geovany Soto or a serviceable James McCann in the meantime if you didn’t draft a more competitive backup at the position.
Cesar Hernandez – 5-13, 5 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K. Another Philadelphia bat that’s doing quite well of late, Hernandez offers a .269 BA for your consideration right now. Two doubles and a triple to his credit over the weekend, Hernandez won the game Sunday against the Nats with a walk-off RBI single that plated Daniel Nava. No SB yet for the leadoff man, but they’ll come eventually. He’s not widely owned and is producing, at least for now, better than many of the 2B-eligible players taken during drafts.
Howie Kendrick – 6-13, 2 R, 5 4BI, BB, 4K, SB. He’s trying to outdo his teammate Hernandez with a .429 BA and the unique claim of having notched an XBH against both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg this weekend. Watch out, Jacob deGrom? Howie “Hansel” Hendrick is so hot right now, and cheap too, just like a delicious falafel from that food truck around the corner. I literally do have him in one ESPN league, and the 2B/OF eligibility makes it easier to slot in during maintenance days for your elite starters.
Aledmys Diaz – 4-13, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K. It bears mentioning that the bulk of Diaz’s ample weekend résumé came against a beleaguered Bronson Arroyo in what was the RHP’s first appearance in the majors since 2014. Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter, however, are right there with Diaz at the top of St. Louis’ lineup, and they squandered their opportunities to engage in stat-padding against Arroyo so don’t take too much away from the Cards’ SS. He’s got a .296 average and two SB already as well. When Carpenter gets his act together, this is going to be a fun tandem to watch. I considered him a top-10 fantasy shortstop before the season began, and I continue to believe that is the case after Week 1 is in the rear view mirror.
Steven Souza, Jr. – 4-10, 3 R, HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB, K. That’s efficiency, beautifully embodied. Souza Jr. already has three multi-hit games and has hit safely in every Tampa Bay contest since the season opener against the Yankees. With Evan Longoria and Brad Miller languishing in subpar BA, their 5-spot hitter is doing the true cleanup with a .417 to his name. Kevin Kiermaier is trying his damnedest from the second slot to help (.296) but he literally hasn’t hit an RBI yet. The Rays are suddenly 5-2 after taking the four-game series from Toronto quite decisively. Only seven guys in the league have a higher OPS than Souza Jr. right now, and I’d be willing to bet he’s not owned in your league. Pounce on him as a bench stash for streaming against LHP if you can. He’ll obviously cool off from this face-melting tear, but clever deployment could still yield fantasy dividends.
Daniel Murphy – 6-12, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K. Speaking of guys with exceptional OPS, Murph is unsurprisingly one of them. He’s just casually batting .480 with 96.4% Z-contact over here. For criminy’s sake, that’s ridiculous.
Nomar Mazara – 3-12, 3 R, HR, 6 RBI, BB, 4 K. As the ever-so-infectious DJ Khaled line goes, “And another one.” Statistical stud, that is. Even after going 0-7 on Saturday and Sunday combined, Mazara possesses a BA of .417 to match Souza, Jr.’s, while the Rangers youngster is also leading the league with 9 RBI. Grand slams obviously help such a cause, as Oakland fans are no doubt woefully aware.
Starling Marte – 7-12, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB, 2 K, CS. Marte was truly dominant Sunday in particular as the Pirates outlasted the Braves in a 10-inning game that saw 24 hits.
Albert Pujols – 5-13, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI. Pujols had a hell of a weekend, too. Sunday he homered AND tied the game with an RBI single in the same inning. Let that sink in. 3-4 with a double and a run scored Saturday. Ooh, what about that 0-4 performance Friday? Still drove in an RBI when Kyle Seager committed a fielding error while attempting a bases-loaded forceout. He could be doing better in the BA department, however, so beware of that aspect.
Eugenio Suarez – 4-9, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, K. He’s batting .333 and could be worth a back-end look if you’re struggling with 3B depth, say, due the day-to-day situation plaguing Josh Donaldson.
Kole Calhoun – 4-11, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K. Calhoun is the beneficiary of being the bat that Trout follows in the Angels lineup, so the run-scoring could reach ludicrous levels if Calhoun is able to keep his OBP anywhere near the .433 where it’s currently registering.
Marcell Ozuna – 5-11, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K. Enough said. Potentially a tough stretch coming up against Atlanta and the Mets, though.
- I’m excited to see more from Aaron Judge. While the Yankees RF is only hitting .211 right now, he owns the claim to three of the top eight exit velocities clocked by Statcast this past week—the ball left his bat upwards of 114 mph in each of those instances. The raw power is clearly there, but I need more from him to trust his fantasy viability.
- Yoenis Cespedes, Carlos Gomez and Miguel Cabrera have underwhelmed me greatly this week. The Mets DH is only hitting .182 right now and probably has some recipients of a Week 1 H2H defeat scratching their heads in frustration. A singular RBI and a lone HR won’t cut it for six games’ production, given the third- or fourth-round pick you may have spent on him. Gomez is at .136, albeit with two doubles and three runs scored from Friday. Similarly, Miggy is batting a paltry .118 right now, and that’s after going 2-5 Sunday for his first two cracks of the year. I know it’s ungodly early, but let’s see you try to help me believe, gentlemen.
- Kendrys Morales is a grand slam sham right now. His bases-clearing homer from Thursday is keeping the dinghy of his stats afloat and inflated. He’s just 5-for-24 on the year, amounting to a .208 average and two doubles. Granted, his BABIP is a flukishly low .222 right now, so he seems to just be getting unlucky to start 2017. *Researches deeper on Fangraph* 68.4% hard contact?! Holy bajeezus. OK, everything’s going to be fine. I’m sorry for doubting your power, sir.
- Joey Gallo, who are you? Are you the 2-4, R, HR hitter we saw both Sunday in a rout of the Athletics and Tuesday in a loss to Cleveland? Or are you the guy that’s gone 0-12 in your other four games? I need a consistent tendency for you to hit fantasy pay dirt, and Gallo just doesn’t exhibit it just yet despite his homers being solid. You, too, Adam Duvall. I want to believe the 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, CS outing we saw from you Sunday in Cincinnati’s series finale against the Cardinals is the real deal. Batting .348 is nice, but needing .500 games to offset 0-4 showings is a troubling notion for a guy like me who tries to be matchup-savvy.