Back on Aug. 3, Willson Contreras pulled up lame after lining out late in the game. He was removed and subsequently placed on the IL with a hamstring injury. This was a big hit for the Cubs, as they have been fighting for the NL Central and a wild card spot. With two months remaining, having one of your better hitters drop is a tough pill to swallow. The same goes for the fantasy team fighting for that last playoff spot. You’ve been relying on the steady production from the catcher spot all year. That is hard to replace. The Cubs swooped in to grab Jonathan Lucroy, but they’ve also had Victor Caratini coming off the bench throughout the year. Before Contreras went down, Caratini had been holding his own off the bench, slashing .267/.358/.457. It seemed clear that he would fill in for the primary catcher duties.
Caratini has supplied his weight in gold for the Cubs since the replacement. His slash has been .288/.373/.525 since Contreras went down. Most recently, he’s turned it up another notch with nine hits over his past five games including three home runs. Last night’s line against Jacob deGrom was something to behold: 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. His plate discipline has been solid as well, keeping his swinging-strike rate below 10%. He does hit the ball on the ground at a rate above 50% but is still keeping his line-drive rate above 20%. He won’t give you too much power but will still work the count and get a chance to put the ball in the play. With this solid playing time, he has delivered. Sadly, his time may soon be up as Contreras is starting his rehab assignment today. If the injury lingers for him, Caratini may be a worthy add, but now, it looks like the time has passed.
There were plenty of record-setting home runs yesterday. Let’s look around the league at the handful that happened and the more that will be coming.
Seth Brown (1B/OF, Oakland Athletics)—4-5, 3 R, 2B, 2 RBI. This 27-year-old rookie was just called up to replace Stephen Piscotty in the A’s outfield. So what’s the big deal? In 112 Triple-A games this year, Brown whacked 37 home runs. As Piscotty may be out for the remainder of the season, expect Brown to be in the starting role as long as he keeps hitting. Some extra power come playoff time is always nice.
Jurickson Profar (1B/2B/3B/SS, Oakland Athletics)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. One of Scott Chu’s greatest puns may have intimidated Profar a bit too much as he went hitless in his next two outings. However, yesterday he added a handful of hits, including a 411-foot home run. Hop back into Chu’s article I linked to get a deeper dive into Profar’s season.
Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)—1-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Home run records are falling left and right this year. Last night’s 112 mph laser was his 37th of the year, putting him only one behind the club record of 38 set by Mike Moustakas all the way back in 2017. He has a few games left to knock two more over the wall, so he has a substantial chance of being the second player this year to set a new club single-season home run record.
Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Meadows’ August has had its ups and downs. He’ll go on streaks of hitting a bunch of home runs and then not register a hit in four straight games and then repeat. He had a nice week followed by two hitless games, and one included the golden sombrero. But last night, he turned it around again with a double and a home run. If his recent patterns remain, he’ll have a nice little stretch here to solidify your playoff chances.
Travis d’Arnaud (C, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-5, R, HR, 4 RBI. Oh look another Mets player who left and started to get hot with a new team. Just what the doctor ordered for the 2019 Mets. However, d’Arnaud has cooled off in August. His August slash is .239/.309/.310 which are classic d’Arnaud numbers. His hard-hit and barrel rates have plummeted in August. It was fun while it lasted, but it is time to grab the newest catcher hotness.
Jake Cave (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Cave contributed another double set of home runs, helping the Twins reach another home run record. This time it’s the MLB club record for home runs on the road. Not important for Cave’s analysis but interesting. Here’s the thing about Cave: I like him. He has a cool name. But how much more will he play? Right now, he’s just starting when Eddie Rosario or Max Kepler are hurt. However, neither of those two are hitting the IL, so it is hard to put an exact timeline on Cave’s play.
C.J. Cron (1B, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Cron missed a big chunk of July with a thumb injury and returned at the beginning of August. This past month, he’s only put up four home runs and a 98 wRC+, so there may still be some lingering issues that are affecting his performance. However, his hard-hit rate is up significantly in August, suggesting there should not be anything to worry about. If you are thinking of dropping him or staying away, I would reconsider.
Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox)—4-5, R, 2 2B, RBI. August has been Abreu’s best month by far this year. He’s slashing .360/.407/.613 while cutting his strikeout rate down to 17%. He’s been hitting a bunch more line drives and fewer fly balls, most likely leading to his spike in doubles this month. Additionally, he’s clubbed a bunch more home runs despite a drop in fly-ball rate. With this HR/FB spike and a generous BABIP near .400, he won’t be displaying these numbers in September, but his plate discipline and line drive rates are both good signs moving forward.
Aristides Aquino (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. Hey look! Another home run record. This time it was the NL rookie home run record for a month. He now has swatted 14 home runs since Aug. 3, and he still has two more days to go.
Kevin Newman (2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates)—4-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Newman has turned it on this past week, putting nearly every ball in play and extending his hit streak to six games. Over these six, he has two home runs and steals, nine runs, and eight RBI. He is also hitting north of .500 and has not struck out. This also all has been in the leadoff spot for the Pirates. Lately, he’s been alternating between leadoff and the seventh spot but has solidified the leadoff spot for a few games in a row now.
Wilmer Flores (1B/2B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks)—3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 3 RBI. Flores is just popping into a game here and there, so his fantasy value is contingent on getting a starting role. This is an important preface because after returning from the IL with a broken foot, he’s been raking. From July 19 onward, he is slashing .400/.440/.643 while striking out 9.3% of the time. Arizona needs to find a regular spot for this guy because he cannot stop hitting.
(Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire)