Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire
Sequencing is so important in how we perceive players throughout the season. A month-long slump to start the year will likely result in fantasy owners writing a player off for the remainder of the season. But that same month-long slump, if it happens later in the year, usually becomes a bit harder to identify, and is consequently brushed off. This season, painfully slow starts have tanked the value of guys like Kole Calhoun, Kendrys Morales, and Rougned Odor. So much so, in fact, that few have bothered to take notice that all three of these players have rebounded in a very big way and completely turned their years around.
Odor, who went 3-4, R, HR, 3 RBI yesterday, is a particularly good example of this. After hitting .204 with just one home run over his first 31 games of the season, most owners who drafted him threw up their hands and cast him into oblivion. That, it turns out, was a mistake. Since the beginning of July, Odor has swatted 13 home runs and stole seven bases while sporting a .428 wOBA. And there are signs that this is more than just a prolonged hot streak. The knock against Odor has always been his lack of plate discipline, but his walk rate has shot up to 8.4% this season, a marked improvement from his previous high of 4.9%. He’s absolutely crushing the ball, posting a 46.7% hard contact rate, and has brought his whiff rate down to a league-average 10.3% this year. These are all signs of potential skills growth from Odor, especially when paired with the fact that his performance against curveballs and sliders, pitches that have historically eaten him alive, has improved dramatically. Considering how long he’s been around, it’s easy to forget that he’s just 24 years old, and might not have reached his ceiling just yet.
Colin Moran (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates): 4-5, R, 2 2B, RBI – Colin Moran has made me look like a Colin Moron this season. I confidently pumped him up in the preseason, thinking his launch angle and swing change improvements in the minors would carry over to the majors, and now I look like a giant turkey. A 45% groundball rate?! 30.2% hard contact?! Why would you do this to me, Colin? You were supposed to be the chosen one! You were supposed to bring balance to fantasy baseball, not leave it in darkness!
Austin Romine (C, New York Yankees): 3-4, 3 R, HR, RBI – Romine has really made the most of his time filling in for Gary Sanchez, slashing .260/.309/.447 with nine homers over 228 plate appearances. He’s actually posted a higher WAR than Sanchez this year in the same number of games, which is something you can add to the infinitely long list of things you would never have guessed could ever happen ever never ever.
Cedric Mullins III (OF, Baltimore Orioles): 3-9, RBI – That’s right, it’s Cedric Mullins III. This man comes from a long line of Cedric Mullinses, and you better start respecting that fact. It’s only been 55 plate appearances, but the early returns on Mullins are promising. He’s posting an .896 OPS to this point with an impressive 11.1% walk rate and 17.5% strikeout rate. It will be interesting to see how well one of his best tools in the minors–his speed–translates to the majors in the coming weeks. The Orioles are notorious for not attempting many stolen bases, and Mullins hasn’t stolen a base yet, so hopefully he doesn’t find his value capped.
Aaron Hicks (OF, New York Yankees): 5-9, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Hicks tends to run hot and cold, and has hit a bit of a rut over the past few weeks. He broke out in a big way during yesterday’s double-header though, and his peripherals back the big season he’s been having to this point. Between his 15% walk rate, 41% hard contact rate, and improved launch angle, Hicks is dangerous when injuries aren’t keeping him from the field.
Lucas Duda (1B, Kansas City Royals): 3-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, RBI – Lucas has been putting the “dud” in “Duda” this year. One of the things that used to make him an appealing fantasy asset was his ability to pair hard contact with great plate discipline, but his chase rate has shot up to 32.6% this season and his 37.6% hard contact rate isn’t what it used to be.
Kendrys Morales (DH, Toronto Blue Jays): 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI – Morales has now homered in six straight games, tying a Toronto Blue Jays franchise record. He’s been arguably the hottest hitter in baseball over the past week, batting .500 with seven homers and just three strikeouts over that span. His .160 average in April likely dropped him off most owners’ radars, but he’s posted a wOBA above .400 for two straight months now, and is still somehow available in a majority of leagues. Pick him up.
Max Muncy (1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers): 2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB – Muncy’s playing time has dried up a bit since the acquisition of Brian Dozier, but that hasn’t slowed down his home run barrage. Yesterday’s bomb was his second home run in as many days, and 30th of the season. The 15% walk rate makes him a must-own in OBP formats, even if he isn’t playing every day. While the absurd 30.6% HR/FB likely isn’t long for this world, he should still manage a slightly inflated rate as long as he continues making 47% hard contact.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers): 1-4, BB, 2 SB – Though he’s hit just one homer over his last 15 games, Puig has upped his running game lately, with six stolen bases over that span. He’s a hot month of September away from a 20/20 season despite missing time with injuries throughout the year.
Jonathan Lucroy (C, Oakland Athletics): 2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI – Lucroy is a guy I thought would eventually catch fire all season long, but it just has not happened. The peripherals are so juicy: 88.9% contact rate, 4.6% whiff rate, 25.3% line drive rate, 36.9% hard contact. The 3.1% HR/FB and .280 BABIP just don’t make any sense to me, but alas, baseball is not a game of logic.
Miguel Andujar (3B, New York Yankees): 4-9, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI – Andu McClutchin’ (which I still contend is the best possible nickname for Andujar, despite your objections) just keeps on getting better. He’s batting .327 with a .408 wOBA in August and, I would think, has to be the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. His plate discipline could use some refinement, but that’s hardly a problem when you hit a double every time you swing the bat.
Javier Baez (SS/2B, Chicago Cubs): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB – You ever get the feeling that a player was performing well just to spite you? Oh, right, of course not, you’re not a paranoid delusional. I pegged Baez for a poor second half, and he continues to flaunt the fact that he has no intention of slowing down here in the final month of the season, hitting .316 with nine homers in his last 30 games. I know you’re doing this on purpose, Baez. And I know you’ve been stealing money from me while I’m asleep too. I just have to prove it…
Curt Casali (C, Cincinnati Reds): 2-3, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI – Ah yes, another stellar performance from, uh, Curt… Casali. Who plays (googles “Curt Casali”) catcher for the Tampa… um… (googles “Curt Casali” again) Cincinnati Reds. Definitely a name worth remembering going forward.