Batter’s Box: Acuña Matata (It Means No Worries)

With the recent flood of rookies making their big league debut, it’s worth looking back at 2018’s most successful hyped and successful rookie, Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves). He had a nice day at the plate on Monday, going 3-4 with two runs, two HR, a double, two RBI and a BB, displaying the kind of bat skills that made him so enticing prior to his debut in the majors. In 111 games last season, he slashed .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs and 16 stolen bases and got better and better as the season went on. The former number two prospect is the face of the franchise in Atlanta and likely will be for the next decade.

There was one downside to his immediate and prolific success last year, though—it made some folks thing that the answer to all of their roster problems could be found in the next big rookie. This simply isn’t the case. While Acuña and Vladmir Guerrero Jr. have been worthy of significant fantasy attention, the crop of young men who recently made their way to the show are unlikely to make this kind of impact. They have talent, certainly, but lack the locked-in playing time and opportunity to figure things out at the big league level. Brendan Rogers has to contend with the Rockies’ unpredictable management. Keston Hiura has little room for error due to his low walk rate and a rehabbing Travis Shaw waiting in the wings. Austin Riley could get sent down as soon as Ender Inciarte returns (the injury has also forced Acuña to center field, which is not the best place for him defensively). There’s a lot of risk there, and for those of you in 10- to 12- teamers, there are likely better options on your waiver wire.

Hanser Alberto (2B, Baltimore Orioles)—4-5, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. He doesn’t hit the ball very hard (80.2 career exit velocity), but he could hit for a decent average if given the opportunity due to his low strikeout rate. That said, I don’t think he’s worth rostering in anything but deep 15-team formats.

Tim Beckham (3B, Seattle Mariners)—3-4, R, HR, 5 RBI, BB. After a hot start, there have been few signs of life from the aggressive third baseman, which somewhat resembles how things have gone for the Mariners as a whole. I’m not sure I’m rostering him in 12-teamers, but in deeper formats, he might be worth streaming if he catches a hot streak.

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI. It is still amazing to me that Bogy is just 26-years-old. He broke out a bit last season, hitting .288/.360/.522 in 2018 and is hitting just as well in 2019 while also taking a step forward in his walk rate (which was already pretty good). He’s a very good fantasy shortstop in all formats.

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, SB. Everything is looking up for the young third basemen in Bean Town. He’s walking more, striking out considerably less, and stealing more bases (Monday’s theft was his 6th on the season—a career high). While more dingers would be nice, he should end the year with about 20 to 25 home runs, 10 to 13 steals, and a high batting average. It certainly appears that he’s put it all together.

Mitch Moreland (1B, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, 3 R, 2 2B. He has an incredible .483 wOBA since May 5th and regularly finds himself hitting fourth in the potent Red Sox lineup when facing righties. He’s not a great player overall, but he can be a useful fantasy asset in 12-team leagues if you’re willing to platoon him.

Asdrubal Cabrera (3B/2B/SS, Texas Rangers)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. The batting average and OBP have been a pretty big disappointment so far, but the power has been steady. Keep your eye on him and the other folks in Texas—the weather is going to heat up and the ball is going to start flying in Arlington.

Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics)—2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. Early in the season, I made a claim that Chapman would struggle to reach 25 home runs. I was wrong. Dead wrong. He’s improved in nearly every facet of his game and looks like a perennial all-star at third base. He’ll likely get beyond 30 home runs, at this pace.

Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH), Seattle Mariners)—2-4, 3 R, 2 2B, RBI, BB. He’s still a good hitter, but the worst thing for him on Monday was having to do all of that running. I have always assumed that he liked hitting home runs just so he could just jog around the bases.

Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)—1-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. I’ve been a wet blanket about Sano in the past, and that won’t be changing today. I think he has too many issue with contact, strikeouts and durability to be a difference maker for fantasy teams, even if he does have legit power.

(Photo by John Adams/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.

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Comments


theKraken

I think Sano should always be rostered if healthy. He has legit 80 power if that is something that can help your squad. I think a bonus with Sano is that he runs hot and cold. Its pretty easy to bench him when he is going terrible and the hot streaks are easy to see too. When he is hot, he is as productive as anyone. As a self-proclaimed Sano expert, I think he is in better shape this year. This could be a decent year for him… or he could be terrible, but he has the upside that we like to pretend a lot of other players possess. I can’t say that he looks like he is in mid-season form or that I am immediately hopeful, but I like him for his price.

lol Devers stealing bases. That is crazy – good for him though.

Scott Chu

“Good for him” is exactly what I said in my head about Devers’ speed, Kraken. Not sure if there’s any other way to evaluate it.

Adam

Wil Myers was let go in our 10-team OBP H2H categories league. Dual eligibility (3b/of), power/speed combo….sure, he’s off to a slow start with the highest K% of his career (and the Statcast numbers suggest it is well earned), and he has the injury-prone label (fairly or not), but is there any reason I shouldn’t be jumping at this FAAB opportunity? No drop needed right now, but when IL guys return I could drop Mallex to hang on to Myers.

Scott Chu

Meditation and prayer, Orange.

But seriously, you don’t. Do you know the statistical difference in a hot streak and a skill change? Trick question—there isn’t one. A .600 expected slugging could be because a guy has adjusted his swing and it’s causing changes in his power, or maybe he adjusted his swing a bit and happened to find some pitches to hit (that won’t be there in a few weeks). You can try to use history, scouting, and your guts to find out, but they all have flaws. That’s what makes this game so maddening.

Scott Chu

It depends on if you have 5 OF and a CI spot, but it’s probably worth keeping folks honest on a player with Myers’ potential if you can spare the bench spot. 2016 and 2017 weren’t THAT long ago, after all.

Sam

I’m curious about what seems to be an industry-wide tepid response to Moreland. His xstats are all off the charts and his average exit velocity is over 93 mph! His BB rate is 12.3%, which is excellent, and his K rate is 20%. His BABIP is .215. So what am I missing? Hitting the crap out of the ball, walking, not striking out much, hitting in the heart of Boston’s order. I could see 40 HR this year and a ton of runs and RBIs. Is it just that he’s “Mitch Moreland”?

Scott Chu

There’s a few things, Sam. First, he’s a platoon player who’s extensive track record against lefties indicates they won’t be inclined to give him at bats against them. Second, expected stats can’t tell you whether a player will have future success—they can only tell you how much luck was involved with their past success. Moreland has hit the ball hard, sure, but his history suggests that he’s not really capable of sustaining this kind of success. It’s not luck, it’s just a hot streak. No individual stat can tell you the difference, but history can help. Players can overcome their history, of course, but a streaky 33-year-old platoon bat will have to do more than just get hot for a month to get me to notice.

25 home runs is a more reasonable number, which would still be a career high for the 10-year veteran.

Scott Chu

Only the Gods know, Robert. He is one of six guys who can play the outfield on the active roster and one of four lefties (Santana is a switch hitter, but performs poorly against lefties so you COULD say they have five lefties). While good performance could help get him playing time, the other guys on the team are also hitting well. It’s a crap shoot.

He’s worth holding for now, probably, but it depends on your format. In the Y! standard where you only start 3 OF, he’s probably OK to drop. In the others that require 5, I’d be more likely to hold.

Danny

I’m curious as to why you say that Center is not the best spot for Acuña defensively? He seems to have the most experience playing center and certainly will not provide negative value there

Scott Chu

He’s actually played more in left, and I’d argue he’s a lesser defender in center than Ender is. He was a plus left fielder last season by UZR. Riley has very little experience in the OF and while I’m sure he’ll be fine there, asking your two young players to play off of their natural positions isn’t how most teams operate for very long, especially when those two players will be playing right next to each other. They’re a better team defensively with Ender in center and Acuna in left, and I think they’ll go back to that when Ender is healthy. If anything, he MIGHT be able to carve out more of a classic R/L platoon with Ender.

Lion

Who knows, a hot bat makes managers do crazy things. Is Riley’s hot bat / out of position def > Enciarte defense / terrible bat

Hot bats are sexier even if not smarter. My money is in Riley staying in the OF even when Ender is healthy, at least until Riley struggles.

Danny

Combined with the minors Acuña has 183 games in Center field versus 179 games in Left field. Center is Acuña’s natural position. Left is most definitely not and is evident by the routes he takes defensively in left that are often questionable. Until call up last year he had a total of 40 games in left field. So this is a shift back to his natural position. While Ender has previously shown a gold glove ability by most defensive metrics this season he has taken a step back (0 DRS, negative UZR and UZR/150). Along with being bottom 1% of the league in a lot of statcast metrics. I would seriously doubt if Ender sees time as more than a 4th outfielder until the trade deadline.

Scott Chu

I suppose my take comes from their decision to keep him in the corner last season in addition to having the more natural Cristian Pache in the minors (who should be up next season). I don’t think Acuna is more than an average CF right now, but he could be an elite corner OF.

I’d love for what you’re saying to be true, as Riley is more interesting than Inciarte or Camargo or Markakis, but history tells us that they use one of Riley’s remaining options when Inciarte is healthy.

Dan Venables

Yeah we know Acuna’s awesome, someone has him for $6 (promoted last year) in our keeper league so don’t rub it in too much yeah? He has Soto for $0 too, total prospect hound he knows about them before anyone else…very jealous haha…

What you make of Ketel Marte this year? Still badly searching for a 2B option, would you be willing to pay up for him say a closer like Iglesias? It’s OBP league but .320 isn’t terrible if he goes 20/10 with good counting stats this year.

Scott Chu

I suggested that as Ketel’s final line and readers wanted me drawn and quartered. I think he’s useful as a MI in most 10- to 12- teamers. Just don’t expect a to of power. I like him more in points leagues.

Diamond Cutter

3 Red Sox mentioned yet no sign of Gleybers 2 HR or Gary’s game winning 3 run shot for the first place Yankees? I hope this isn’t a sign of some ESPN-level homeritis.

Scott Chu

I’ve no love for the Yankees (my bio will tell you where I’m from and who I root for). I found those three players interesting to write about and I had nothing to say about the other two. That’s really the extent of it. I write these pieces 4 days a week, and these just happen to be the guys I wanted to write about today. I assure you that’s the extent of it (unless the BoSox would like to pay me to write about their players more than the Yankees or vice versa – I’d take that deal and wouldn’t think twice).

micah

austin riley has 17 hr’s in his last 26 games, and makes an already dangerous lineup even scarier. i’d be more concerned with inciarte’s status going forward than rileys – especially because the braves need relievers immediately and inciarte provides a chip with at least some value. soroka is also absolutely beasting as a rookie right now and gets kinda lost in the shuffle a bit. 2.0 WAR in 7 starts, 1.01 ERA. One more good quality start and he should jump onto the leaderboards as best ERA in MLB.

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