Batter’s Box: A Pete of Strength

Everything Chu thinks you need to know about Tuesday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

Congratulations Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets) for becoming the all-time single-season Mets home run king with his solo shot on Tuesday night! He already has 42 home runs and 101 RBI, far exceeding the expectations any reasonable person had back in March, and now the race is on to see if he can get to 50 before the season ends. At this point, it kind of feels like he should.

I’m very interested to see how the rise of Alonso affects not only his own fantasy value heading into 2020 but also that of other up-and-coming sluggers such as Alec Bohm, Oniel Cruz and Seth Beer. Alonso is exactly the type of player who will be a bit polarizing in 2020 drafts in a very archetypal way, with one group talking about how successful he was and how he can still grow while the other group takes a conservative approach and looks for more “proven” assets at first base. His ADP and consensus rankings will likely be somewhere at or near the top five at first base and between the 50th and 75th player taken overall, with some likely reaching higher. His quality of contact metrics indicate that he isn’t succeeding by luck or accident, as his 16.4% barrel rate is in the top 2% in the league. That said, growth isn’t linear, and many will point to the sophomore slumps of guys such as Cody Bellinger and preach caution, giving a more conservative rank and letting others “reach” for the second-year player. I haven’t dug deeply enough into what the first base ranks for 2020 ought to look like, but based on the current top five on the ESPN Player Rater, I can see a clear tier break after Freddie Freeman and Cody Bellinger. Guys such as Josh Bell and Anthony Rizzo will likely be in the next tier, and I can see an argument to put Alonso ahead of both of those guys (in standard leagues, he’s been better than both in 2019). I can also sort of see a strategy in skipping that tier and instead waiting on Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin EncarnacionTrey ManciniMax Muncy or Jose Abreu. In either case, the important thing to do is determine what your strategy at the position ought to be and avoiding the tired arguments you’ll see for and against Alonso himself.

As for the up-and-coming rookies, my advice would be to avoid any and all comparison to Alonso. What Alonso has done in 2019 is special, and just because a player is sort of like him in minor league statistics and scouting grades doesn’t mean he’ll be able to make the mental and physical changes needed at the major league level to succeed like Alonso has. Any or all of the prospects I listed earlier may very well be as good or better than Alonso, but I would still urge you to resist the story line of “who will be this year’s Pete Alonso.” It’s a fun speculation when trying to think of something to write about, but it’s also a dangerous game to play if you’re trying to win a fantasy league.

Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)—3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI. This was his third multi-home run outing this month, and he’s locked in the heart of the Astros order. His 15.7% walk rate and 18.6% strikeout rate in August indicate how much potential this kid has, and his 190 wRC+ since joining the Astros on June 9 is second in all of baseball behind teammate Yuli Gurriel.

Yadier Molina (C, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. Yesterday, I said we haven’t seen the power after his return from the IL. I am here to inform you that we can now see the power. The awful season he’s had so far is problematic for a player of his age, but he’s surging and has a long track record of success. If you’ve been looking for a new catcher, I don’t see any harm in giving Yadi a go.

Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-3, R, HR, RBI. I will continue to point out that I was as wrong as I possibly could have been about Marte early in the season when I called him an average player who was overperforming. He’s clearly found a new element to his game and is a high-level fantasy asset. Unfortunately, he appeared to injure his hamstring while running the bases after that home run and might be out for some time. Pay close attention to the updates. If Marte does miss time, I’d expect Tim Locastro to become a full-time player. He’s an absolute burner on the base paths but is not a strong hitter. He does make more contact than Billy Hamilton, though, and would be useful for owners looking for a major steals boost.

Franmil Reyes (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB. With four home runs in his past three games, its safe to say that Franmil is on a hot streak. He has run painfully hot and cold all year long, but assuming this is the hot version, he should be a major power asset for at least a little while. His free-swinging approach will probably always lend itself to peaks and valleys, and the next stage of his growth will likely be determined by how well he learns to manage the lows without losing the highs.

Nick Senzel (2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB. He now has back-to-back two-hit appearances and four stolen bases in his past five starts. He’s a potential 20/20 candidate for 2020, and despite being a top-10 prospect coming into the season, he might be a little under the radar because of the insane number of rookies making big splashes.

Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. I don’t have anything new to say, just felt like this performance was worthy of a mention, as was the fact that he has three straight outings with a home run. This article from Fangraphs contributor Tony Wolfe is a nice take on his ups and downs this season.

Matt Beaty (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-4, 2 R, RBI, SB. The .299/.345/.513 line in 200 plate appearances is pretty neat, as is his low 12.4% strikeout rate, but he’s a part-time player who just doesn’t get enough starts to warrant consideration outside of NL-only leagues. On another team, he might have a better shot at winning at least the strong side of a platoon, but the Dodgers have a ton of lefties and don’t really need Beaty more than two or three times a week.

Javier Baez (2B/SS, Chicago Cubs)—3-3, R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB. The loss of his second base eligibility for 2020 is a bummer, but it shouldn’t affect his overall value or draft stock. If anything, his dynasty- and keeper-league owners just need to be aware of it and plan accordingly. If there’s some sucker who still doesn’t believe in him because of his approach or thinks he loses value as just a shortstop, take immediate measures to try and acquire him.

Yasiel Puig (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, R, 2 2B, RBI, BB. He’s going to get close to 30 home runs and 20 steals by season’s end, which would likely make it the best season of the 28-year-old’s career. Durability and makeup concerns are out there, but he’s an excellent fantasy outfielder who will likely land somewhere in the top-20 outfielders in my 2020 ranks.

Billy Hamilton (OF, Atlanta Braves)—2-2, 2 BB, SB. With Ender Inciarte being out for a few more weeks, B-Ham should continue to find a little bit of playing time (mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement) and pile up a couple of stolen bases. It’s been a rough season for him, evidenced by his being DFA’d by the Royals (a true low point in any player’s career), but daily managers in deep leagues might be able to scratch out some stolen base value on the days he gets a start. I’d be hesitant in weekly formats, though, because even though he’ll appear in most of the Braves’ games during the week, he’s not likely to get more than one or two starts.

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. He’s a top-five shortstop. That sounds kind of meh, but keep in mind that Trevor StoryKetel MarteJonathan VillarTrea TurnerJavier BaezFrancisco LindorAlex Bregman, Fernando Tatis Jr., Adalberto Mondesi and Gleyber Torres also qualify at the position. Yeah, that’s 11 guys who could be fantasy stars at one position. It’s LOADED.

Yoan Moncada (2B/3B, Chicago White Sox)—0-4, 3 K. After back-to-back two-hit outings with a home run in his return from the IL, he now has gone three straight games without a hit with seven strikeouts to one walk. I’m still excited about how much he grew from 2018 to 2019, but the kid is still prone to slumps from time to time, as all humans are.

Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)—0-4, 3 K. Stream. Your. Catchers.

And of course, your minor league recap from the amazing Shelly Verougstraete:

 

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    I thought that FG article was uninsightful. It kind of seems like someone who is new to this whole analysis thing is just kind of stumbling around some random observations. Performance v pitches is never steady, EV isn’t terribly insightful and FB rates vary quite a bit year over year. You could make random observations about rates for anyone – I read it every week. He doesn’t fit the predictive models – most of the best hitters don’t because they are good at hitting and there isn’t a metric for that. I think it is funny that the overall tone of that article is disappointment but he is going to hit 40 HR for sure. I find it interesting that the focus of the article wasn’t his inflated K rate which is in all likelihood the real culprit to his lower AVG, which is almost the entirety of his struggles and a tick in BB rate, which gets masked in wRC+. If anything it might be an indictment of wRC+ to call his 2019 significantly worse than 2018 – funny how that conversation never happens.

    Re: Franmil – I wouldn’t bet on growth. Athletes like him usually don’t grow, they usually break down. Think of the hulking sluggers and far they decline by their late 20s in most cases. His lack of mobility will cost him a job real quick if he ever stops hitting. This is probably his peak we are watching. I am not sure what other gear he would find.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I think there’s something there about the increased Ks and decreased batting average that will certainly be discussed in the offseason, and performance against breaking balls may be part of that. It’s not a perfect piece, but it does cover a topic worth noting.

      As for Franmil, I think the growth would come with plate discipline. If he can get a better control of the strike zone without sacrificing much power, we could see a more stable Franmil. The HR numbers may not change, but he’d be a more consistent hitter and that’s key to his overall value. I’d agree, though, that many hitters aren’t able to make this change and flame out to some extent.

    • Avatar rainmaker says:

      There are many metrics for good hitting and statcast’s xwOBA is a good composite of them. It’s not perfect and there are a few outliers but the majority of hitters fit, including the best hitters. And exit velocity is a big part of that. If they add the horizontal axis and speed I bet it would be nearly perfect.

      And Franmil has only played a year of MLB baseball. I would bet on any player to improve from there as it is very rare for a player to peak during their rookie year.

      • Avatar Scott Chu says:

        The only downside to such stats is that they are only historical – their predictive ability is very limited. That said, I’m a big fan of those metrics.

        Feanmil’s growth will be reliant upon improving his discipline. When a guy swings at as much garbage as he does, he’s going to have a limited ceiling.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    Jo Adell (AAA) 3/5, 2B
    Zack Collins (AAA) 3/4, HR
    Wander Franco (A) 2/4, 3B
    Josh Stowers (A) 2/4, 2B, BB
    Justin Williams (AAA) 2/4, HR, BB

    Anthony Kay (AAA) 6.2IP, 5H, 2BB, 5K
    MacKenzie Gore 1.2IP, BB, 5K

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      That’s quite a list of names! Is 5 Ks in 1.2 IP good? It seems like that’s good, but I’m not a pitching guru.

      • Avatar Mike says:

        5 strikeouts in 1.2 innings pitched, which means you pitched 5 outs, means that the 5 outs you pitched were all strikeouts. I would say that’s “good”, to say the least!!!

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