Batter’s Box: Souza Good Boy?
Tampa Bay occupies fourth place in the AL East, but if they’re going to make a strong campaign to rise within the division, OF Steven Souza, Jr. is going to be a big part of that effort. After going 3-5, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, K Thursday, he is clocking in a batting average of .349. Even more impressive than the already robust stat line is that he fell just one measly single short of hitting for the cycle during Thursday’s game. To me, such a performance is both exciting for the XBH excellence and frustrating for how close he was to a huge accomplishment. In any case, he’s been huge for the Rays of late from the leadoff spot, and I continue to campaign for his fantasy ownership to increase. [Edit: Souza, Jr. also bats from the 5-spot at the heart of the order, and the lineup is matchup-dependent on the pitcher.]
Let’s take a look at what else happened hitting-wise around the league:
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B/OF, CLE) – 0-3, R, RBI, 2 BB, K, SB. He finally swiped a bag! Still hitting .345 on the year despite the hitless showing, but he managed to reach and manufacture a run T9 after earning his second walk of the game and stealing to get into scoring position. He’s on a tear that shows no sign of letting up, and you’re probably lamenting his success if your H2H fantasy opponent owns him.
Lonnie Chisenhall (OF, CLE) – 1-4, R, RBI, BB. He started the season on the DL but has returned to the active roster in a move that saw Cleveland option Tyler Naquin down to AAA Columbus, and Chiz hasn’t looked back since. To put his recent success in context, it shines through most convincingly in a side-by-side comparison with Cincinnati OF Scott Schebler. The latter is not doing badly by any stretch of the imagination, going 8-50 with three homers and 7 RBI, but The Lonster has the same number of hits in 26 FEWER at-bats for a .333 average and has gone yard twice with two more RBI than Schebler. That’s efficiency. Digging the 1.00 BB/K ratio too. Keep an eye on this man: seven games is a small sample, but to be this good after being laid up is a great sign.
Kendrys Morales (1B/OF/DH, TOR) – 2-4, R, HR, RBI. The Toronto slugger helped out his average a bit—now .232—with Thursday’s outing, and his third HR of the season was bound to make fantasy owners happy as well. He’s driven nine RBI in as well. The Blue Jays need him to keep generating offense in the 3-spot while Jose Bautista is doing so poorly.
Darwin Barney (2B/3B/SS, TOR) – 0-4, 3 K, SB. Barney is seeing more consistent playing time with the placement of Josh Donaldson on the DL with a calf injury, and he’s attempting to make the most of it with a .318 BA despite this most recent 0-4 performance. The steal was a nice perk, though, and managed to plate two RBI Wednesday for owners who have handcuffed him.
Kevin Kiermaier (OF, TBR) – 2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Kiermaier is making a strong case to remain worthy of his two-spot in the Rays’ lineup after Souza, Jr., as he is batting .292 and finally has his first 2017 HR out of the way. He also managed a sacrifice in this contest.
Brad Miller (1B/2B/SS, TBR) – 1-4. Miller is a frustrating case, as he’s clearly essential to Tampa Bay’s offensive success but is a bit sporadic in the fantasy world. He’s hitting .237 and hit his third double of the year: he isn’t a bad option in 5×5 formats, particularly with the helpful multi-position eligibility, but he’s probably a significantly stronger play in points leagues.
Andrelton Simmons (SS, LAA) – 2-3, BB, K, SB, CS. He’s clearly going to stay aggressive on the base path, which is likely fine by Simmons’ owners in roto leagues where CS are not penalized. He was also picked off by Brian McCann in a separate occurrence. The successful steal, however, was his second of the year. Boasting a .286 BA does not hurt in the slightest.
Joey Votto (1B, CIN) – 1-4, R, HR, RBI. Votto has started relatively slow by his own high standard, but the homer he was able to send into the seats was his fifth of the season. I am not a fan of the current .224 average being posted by such a talented hitter, but patience is recommended for the elite 1B.
Zack Cozart (SS, CIN) – 1-3. It was a double, the third such XBH Cozart has knocked so far this year. It was the only hit for Cincinnati, aside from Votto’s jack, in a low-scoring affair against Baltimore. Cozart’s exceptional .400 BA and proclivity to create some runs warrants ownership in most, if not all, leagues.
Jonathan Schoop (2B, BAL) – 1-4, R, HR, RBI, K. The start of the year was agonizingly unproductive for Schoop, as he managed just two hits in his first 19 at-bats. Since then, though, he’s hit safely in eight straight games and has a .280 average. Home Run No. 3 was a welcome touch against the Reds.
Neil Walker (2B, NYM) – 1-3, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, K. He got the Mets back in the game with his three-run shot B3 off Aaron Nola, but Philadelphia would provide additional run support to render Walker’s efforts moot except for fantasy purposes. He owns a subpar .228 average but getting some power represented on the stat line is encouraging to see. Walker is probably not doing enough overall yet to be your starting 2B, but it is definitely worth staying informed of his progress.
Michael Conforto (OF, NYM) – 2-4. Conforto is a tricky case, since he doesn’t always start for New York but he has seen action in every game so far this year, coming in as a pinch hitter every now and again. The upshot of this is to not be thrown off by the fact that he only has 25 AB: if you’re smart enough to know when to stream Conforto in a pinch, his .320 average, two homers and six RBI could be treating you nicely.
Maikel Franco (3B, PHI) – 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, K. Signs of life? Even though Thursday’s outing was absolutely sterling, with a double and solo shot to show for his efforts, the .172 BA still needs a lot of work. The expectations were sky-high for Franco at the cleanup spot, and they have flagged substantially after his pedestrian start to 2017. If he corrects course in a return to fantasy success, this game could be looked back upon as the one where he found the switch that needed to be turned on.
Matt Kemp (OF, ATL) – 0-4, 3 K. He’s not being featured here for the purposes of lambasting a terrible hitting performance, because Stephen Strasburg did pitch quite well for Washington and largely frustrated other Braves bats besides Kemp’s. I just wanted to mention that he’s mercifully back from the DL and still has a .400 BA after this stat line into which you shouldn’t read too much.
Ryan Zimmerman (1B, WSH) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, K. The Nationals’ cleanup man had some strong work versus Atlanta, claiming his fifth homer and sixth double of the season. Don’t look now, but his .389 average also has the advantage of very probably advancing the white-hot Bryce Harper around the bases for some RBI as well.
Jedd Gyorko (2B/3B/SS, STL) – 3-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. A monumentally dynamic night for Gyorko’s slugging percentage of .647, Thursday saw him hit two doubles and a homer from the sixth spot in the Cardinals order. I’ve said before that St. Louis will find a way to get his bat incorporated into the lineup at whatever position they can use him, and that will continue if he’s able to sustain an average anywhere close to the .294 it’s registering at right now.
Matt Carpenter (1B/2B/3B, STL) – 2-5, R, HR, RBI, 3 K, CS. Another multi-position stud for St. Louis, he will be sure to improve his average and contribute power with more nights like this. After a recent day-to-day injury scare looked like it might threaten a trip to the DL, Carp is back to being a mainstay in the Cards’ offense so fire him up in all formats.
Eric Thames – (1B/OF, MIL) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, K. He is running rampant and putting on a hitting clinic. Hop on the Thames Train to fantasy heaven if you can manage to be one of the early adopters that picks him up before he truly becomes a household name to the casual fan. Eight HRs on the season, and his average has surged to .415. His routine at the plate is a joy to watch, and Milwaukee is happy to have him producing there.
Travis Shaw (1B/3B, MIL) – 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Shaw is the top beneficiary of Thames’ .500 OBP, following him in the lineup for Milwaukee at the 3-spot. The homer was his fifth, and when two are on, that especially does wonders for fantasy box scores and the Brewers’ ability to win games.
Jett Bandy (C, MIL) – 1-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, K. Some of the purported best fantasy catchers in the league aren’t doing what we had thought they might thus far this year. Meanwhile, a rather unheralded backstop in Bandy is batting .314 with four HRs for Milwaukee. I’m not saying you should give up on the Yasmani Grandals and Cameron Rupps of the world, but if you legitimately need some emergency assistance at the position I would recommend adding and streaming Bandy.
Chris Iannetta (C, ARI) – 2-4, R. In similar but less impactful fashion as Bandy, Iannetta is quietly doing nice work as Arizona’s catcher. He owns a .280 BA and managed a double Thursday.
Nick Ahmed (SS, ARI) – 1-4, RBI, 2 K, SB. I was admittedly surprised to see a new name—i.e., NOT Paul Goldschmidt or A.J. Pollock—pop up in the baserunning portion of the Diamondbacks’ box score. Ahmed is hitting .269 at present.
Wil Myers (1B, SDP) – 2-3, R, HR, RBI, K, CS. He and Manuel Margot are basically the primary structural supports for any chance San Diego has of posting some offense in trying to win a game on any given day. Myers sent his fourth homer of 2017 skyward and is batting .373.
Austin Hedges (C, SDP) – 2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI. Don’t get too excited with this one stat line: Hedges is only batting .170 on the year with three homers and that lowly rate of production isn’t worth your time.
Taylor Motter (SS, SEA) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. Doing a fine job in the place of Jean Segura during the latter’s stint on the DL, Motter has a .282 average and is making me wonder how Seattle is going to handle him upon Segura returning to full health after a rehab assignment. Thursday saw Motter hit a double and a homer—his fifth and third of 2017, respectively—and he’s proving to be a solid handcuff for the moment.
Ryon Healy (1B/3B, OAK) – 3-3, R, 2 RBI, BB. Healy hit a double off James Paxton and the welcome outing for his fantasy owners inflated his BA to .268.
Khris Davis (OF, OAK) – 0-2, R, 2 BB, 2 K, SB. Even the nights when he’s a little off in terms of hitting mojo, he still manages to do something productive for your fantasy team and the As. The steal was just his first of the year, and he has an extremely appealing .310 average in spite of the hitless evening.