One of the biggest surprises of this short season is unequivocally the Detroit Tigers. I expected them to be near the bottom of the standings and leader boards this season but not too long ago they looked to be in the playoff chase. Their offense as a whole has a 97 wRC+, just below average. They did not seem to be an average offense coming into the year. A lot of this averageness can be attributed to the excellent performance of Jeimer Candelario (1B, Detroit Tigers) who has put much of that burden on his back. He came out of nowhere from a pretty poor 2019 season to be slashing .333/.389/.590, a huge boost from his .203 average and 72 wRC+ from last year.
Candelario added to his 2020 success with an incredible double header. He strung together five hits, including a double and two dingers, adding five RBIs. He’s been chasing the ball out of the zone less and swinging at pitches in the zone more. His hard hit rate has sky rocketed 12 percentage points and has nearly doubled his barrel rate. James Schiano just wrote about his successes yesterday and you should give it a read. He goes into much more detail but the take away is what I mentioned earlier; his aggressiveness on pitches in the zone. Candelario is taking those fastballs in the zone and crushing them. He still needs to work on handling breaking stuff but the major step forward has been hitting the fastball.
Another consideration for Candelario is his home/away splits. Tigers can have a tough time in their home stadium as is noted by Nick Castellanos. The splits are noticeable but he’s still be extremely strong at home. To put it simply, he’s sporting a 142 wRC+ at home in 74 PAs and a 181 wRC+ in 83 PAs away. Would I rather see him play in away games for the remainder of the year? Sure. But he’s handling playing at home just fine. He’s just been a fantastic hitter all around this season.
Let’s look around the league to see how some other hitters performed on Thursday:
Rangel Ravelo (1B, St. Louis Cardinals) – 2-2, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. Ravelo popped in for one game back at the end of July and has been out until the last few days. Yesterday was his third game back and he’s done well since returning. He spent a handful of years in AAA and didn’t make his break until last season. His AAA stats are alright and show that he has decent skill with his bat. He’ll still need to prove it in the MLB before making any fantasy moves.
Tyler O’Neill (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – 2-6, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB, SB. In the double header yesterday, O’Neill had one great game and one O-fer. He double dipped in the first game nabbing a stolen base and crushing a 427 foot homer. His season has been a disappointment with batting under .200 and not showing much power. His eye has improved with a better walk rate and lower K rate vastly improving his contact rates and when he swings. He still needs to work on the quality of contact though.
Jared Walsh (1B, Los Angeles Angels) – 2-4, 3B, HR, R, 3 RBI. Walsh has cranked it up to 11 this past week hitting three homers in five games and a 224 wRC+ in his last seven. There is not much else to say other than he’s been quite hot and heading into Coors for a three game series this weekend. It may be worth a shot if you need a bat to stream.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS, Kansas City Royals) – 1-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, SB. We still dream of Mondesi putting together a full season where he’ll steal 60+ bases and his ADP will finally be worth it. This season his other stats have knocked him back quite a bit. He’s slashing .204/.232/.290 with a wRC+ of 36. The only upside is still those steals where he has 13 in 44 games which comes to about 47 for a full season. But this past week, ‘BAM!’, he’s turned it up a notch. A hit in each of his last seven games, with eight RBIs, and five steals. If he’s dangling on the waiver wire he can pull some needed steals.
Maikel Franco (3B, Kansas City Royals) – 3-5, 2B, HR, R, 5 RBI. Franco has been a pleasant surprise for the Royals this year. He his another homer going 420 feet and adding five RBIs. He’s leading the way with his fantastic K rate around 15%. Some of this year’s success looks to be from how he is handling breaking balls. Pitchers have increased their breaking ball usage against him this season as it is usually a weak spot but he’s handling the change well.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves) – 1-3, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB. The Braves offense continues to be strong, led by one of the most dynamic players in the game who crushes homers and steals bases. Notably, he walked twice in this game, bringing his walk rate up to an astonishing 20.2%, double his career walk rate. Interestingly, not much has changed in his plate discipline numbers. They all look relatively consistent to last season. I can guess that pitchers may be pitching him more cautiously but regardless he’s still raking.
Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves) – 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. Freeman also helped continue the Braves’ offensive onslaught with two dingers of his own. One traveled 443 feet while the other went just 412 feet. He is fighting for a possible NL MVP selection with his best season yet. He is slashing .333/.450/.635 with a 179 wRC+. He has cut his K rate way down to the point where he now walks more than he strikes out (16.4% over 13.8%). That is a remarkable feat and one that he had not come close to in the past. An elite hitter has taken it to another level in this short season.
Adam Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals) – 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Did you know that Eaton is almost 32 years old? That seems wild to me. He’s still that young prospect trade piece in my eyes that will break out any year now. He struggled to stay healthy while on the Nats and finally put together a full season for them last year to win the championship. But this season he is putting together his worst year to date. He is walking less and striking out more while also getting BABIPed pretty hard. The .257 BABIP this year is well below his career .332. Interestingly he is hitting the ball harder but more on the ground potentially leading to easier defensive plays. Additionally, one of his bigger issues is swinging on pitches out of the zone. His O-swing has jumped nearly 10 percentage points to a career high 36.1%.
Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox) – 3-4, HR, R, 3 RBI. Devers had quite a rocky start but has settled back in to Devers of last year over the last month. Since August 11th, he is slashing .327/.373/.627 with a 163 wRC+. He is still striking out more than last season but he’s strung together a handful of multi-hit games with eight homers and seven doubles over that span. His exit velocity and barrel rate is still where it was last season so the only worry is his strikeouts and whiff rate on the fastball.
Starling Marte (OF, Miami Marlins) – 3-5, 2 2B, 4 RBI. Marte has been putting together another solid unspectacular season, but his power numbers seem to be a bit lower than the previous two seasons. Additionally, he made the surprise shift to Miami where he’s been slotted immediately in the two hole. He is topping the ball more often and his hard hit rate has dropped ten percentage points to 28.8%. He’ll still put the ball in play with his elite contact and always challenge the defense with his speed. A drop in power will definitely affect future value.
Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs) – 4-4, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB. Contreras is having an incredible season behind the plate for fantasy. At 43 games and 166 PAs, this short season has made it easier for catchers to play complete season, removing one of the major downsides for catchers in fantasy. In 2018, he put up nearly a full season but it came out as one of his weaker offensive years. But this year he’s hitting as well as last season with slightly less power. His counting stats are on pace for his best season yet.
Nico Hoerner (2B, Chicago Cubs) – 2-4, 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB. Hoerner has been getting some appearances in the nine spot here and there. He has not done anything too notable at the plate but yesterday he put together a solid appearance. A double with a handful of RBIs and a stolen base is nice to see from this young prospect. He is hitting most of his balls on the ground so there is not much power there. However, his hard hit rate has shot up to nearly 40% this season. Additionally, he is a contact guy with incredible speed so if anything he’ll be a solid AVG bat with some steals in the future.
(Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire)