Batter’s Box: All That Glitters is Goldschmidt

In his final Batter's Box of the 2019 season, Scott Chu shares three interesting story lines from 2019 as well as news and notes about the best hitters of the final games of the regular season.

And that’s a wrap, folks. The 2019 season is in the books, and six long months of joy, agony, amazement and despair have come to a close. I hope you all had success and/or fun in your leagues, and I want to thank you for letting me jump in here four times a week to barrage you with blurbs. It has been the best writing experience of my career thus far, and I am so humbled and happy that I got to share it with you. Pitcher List is an amazing place, and it’s only going to get better, including an offseason that will be the most robust we’ve had since our formation.

For my final write-up of the season, I’m going to share a handful of the story lines I was most intrigued by in 2019 as well as a few that I think will be fun to watch in the winter:

  1. The rise of the slappy. I like to refer to slap-hitters with limited power and speed as “slappies,” and this season saw several such players rise to fantasy prominence. Jeff McNeil was probably the most heralded if you don’t count the breakouts of Ketel Marte and DJ LeMahieu (who previously had this profile), but others such as Bryan ReynoldsLuis ArraezKevin Newman, and David Fletcher also provided key contributions for fantasy players throughout the season. In 2000, the league as a whole hit .270. In 2019, the league hit .252. From 2000-2009, the league never hit below .262. Since 2010, the league has never hit better than .257. Batting average is harder to find than ever, and guys who can provide it are extremely valuable.
  2. The fall of the rabbit. At the end of 2018, a popular story line was the drop in stolen bases. This coming offseason, expect the story to be bigger and bolder, as the league’s base totals dropped to 2281—193 fewer than the historically low totals from 2018. Expect speed to go earlier and more often in drafts, but don’t panic and overpay for a guy such as Mallex Smith or Delino DeShields.
  3. Youthful exuberance. The youth movement is baseball is well underway, and it covers all segments of the fantasy game. Pete AlonsoFernando Tatis Jr., and Yordan Alvarez stole the show with their incredible skills, but many less heralded guys such as Tommy EdmanChristian WalkerMike Yastrzemski, and even Jon Berti delivered the fantasy goods when called upon. The fantasy community already had a painful weakness to young players, and I only expect it to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective) in 2020.

Once again, thank you all for your readership, feedback, banter and time in 2019. We at Pitcher List look forward to providing even more content this offseason and beyond.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re at all interested in filling your off season with some fantasy curling action, follow me on Twitter (@ifthechufits) for updates and announcements. It’s going to be great.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB. This was not the season fantasy players expected when they drafted Goldschmidt. While he did hit 34 home runs, this was only his third stolen base of the season, and his 116 wRC+ was the worst his career. He finished as fantasy’s 13th-best first baseman despite a strong September, and it’s time to start wondering whether he really can be a top-50 player in 2020.

George Springer (OF, Houston Astros)—4-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. His 39 home runs are a career high, and he did it in just 122 games. While injuries have been a concern in the past, Springer played at least 140 games each season from 2016-2018 and should be counted on for at least that many next year. There’s no reason he can’t eclipse 40 home runs in a full season, and the fact that it can come with an excellent batting average and OBP makes him more than worthy of a top-50 pick in next spring’s drafts.

Brad Miller (1B/2B/3B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—4-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. The power isn’t really a question—he actually hit 30 home runs back in 2016 when he was with the Rays. He slugged .565 in half a season this year and can be a useful fill-in in deep leagues when he faces right-handed pitching; however, he’s unlikely to fill a full-time role any time soon which makes him suitable only in NL-only formats or DFS.

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, R, 2B. A .311 batting average, 32 home runs, and 244 combined runs and RBI constitute a breakout, right? He was absolutely fantastic all season long and will be an early-round pick in 2020. Again, the stolen bases are pretty fluky, and anything more than five is unlikely, but even without them he’s an elite fantasy asset.

Adeiny Hechavarria (2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Well, that’s pretty neat. Hechavarria isn’t really fantasy-relevant (the nicest thing I can say about him is that he has a 93 wRC+ against lefties), but he did hit two home runs, so I am somewhat obligated to include him here.

Matt Thaiss (1B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI. He has power and is willing to take a walk, but that’s about it right now. He’ll need to work on making contact over the winter to gain any fantasy (or real-life) impact, but he showed the ability to hit for average and limit strikeouts in the minor leagues. Hopefully more exposure to big league pitching will allow him to make adjustments.

Elvis Andrus (SS, Texas Rangers)—2-4, R, 2 SB. Andrus’ 30th and 31st stolen bases on the season likely shook up more than a few final standings in the 11th hour. He’s been an amazingly consistent fantasy asset for his speed, and 2020 should be no different, especially now that he’s added a just a little bit of  pop to his game.

J.D. Davis (3B/OF, New York Mets)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. His .979 OPS over the second half is sure to draw some attention over this offseason thanks to his ability to make consistent quality contact with above-average plate discipline. It’s not hard to imagine him as a 30-home run hitter with a high batting average next season with a full-time role.

Will Smith (C, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-3, R, HR, 3 RBI. It was a solid 54-game debut in Dodger Blue for Will Smith, who hit 15 home runs with a .253/.337/.571 line in 196 plate appearances. His power and patience will make him a promising fantasy catcher in 2020, and his long-term outlook is as rosy as it’s ever been.

Sam Hilliard (OF, Colorado Rockies)—1-5, R, BB, 2 SB. There’s double-digit speed and power in there if he gets regular playing time, but that’s not something I anticipate. The Rockies have jerked a multitude of outfielders over the years, including several much more touted prospects such as Ramiel Tapia and David Dahl.

Michael A. Taylor (OF, Washington Nationals)—2-2, R, 2B, 2 SB. He teased us with a power/speed combo from 2015-2017, but it seems that the Nationals aren’t happy enough with those numbers to overlook his contact woes. He’s a bench guy who is likely to stay on the bench for the foreseeable future. A trade to a new team could make him semi-relevant in deeper leagues, though.

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB. From a fantasy perspective, Teoscar and his teammate Randal Grichuk are virtually indistinguishable. I suppose Teoscar has a better chance at stealing eight bases or so, but that’s it. He has utility as a fifth outfielder in 15-team formats, but his low batting average makes it difficult to use him anywhere else. I am a bit encouraged by his walk-rate gains, though, and if he can take a step in reducing strikeouts, there’s hope for a brighter future.

Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres)—0-4, 3 K. The talented Jai Correa wrote up a very interesting piece on Hosmer’s batted-ball profile that is worth your attention this offseason.

Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF, Colorado Rockies)—0-6, 3 K. He went just 2-16 with no home runs or stolen bases in his final home series, which is a major bummer considering how hot he was for the final month.

(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 kind of like Hilliard as a deep sleeper. Tapia just doesn’t have big league tools, but Hilliard certainly does – he will probably never hit enough to be a real MLB player but he is an interesting athlete at least. As for Dahl, he doesn’t get shafted he just gets hurt. COL isn’t bad at giving guys opportunities IMO – they just have a lot of mediocre talent that people want to play everyday. I don’t actually believe it when I say it, but it reminds me of Charlie Blackmon more than it should as an unheralded college guy with a bunch of tools. Sure there is a 15% K gap between them lol.

    As time goes by I find myself drafting older and older teams as the discount just keeps increasing. IMO fantasy baseball has never been easier if you can keep from chasing rainbows. The minor leagues are much thinner than they have probably ever been in 50 years – yet everyone is going to go looking for the next big thing. The youth revolution is more related to tanking and maximizing revenue than anything related to talent.

    Thanks for the work this year. I enjoyed checking in and reading your takes throughout the year. I agree 100% with your 3 takeaways from the year. Isn’t it funny that the BA is now the glaring thing missing from modern analysis. One thing that baseball progressives don’t understand is the cyclical nature of everything. Its not a straight line from here to there and it doesn’t take long to reach a point of diminishing returns but that is a lesson only learned from experience – which is something that many progressive-minded folks don’t have. xStats are of no use on that front either – its the primary driver in getting to the point we are at IMO. As it has always been, there is more to hitting than hitting the ball hard and LA isn’t particularly repeatable. I hope you enjoyed the ride. I hope to see you back here next year. Enjoy the offseason.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      It’s been a heckuva ride, Kraken! Thanks for being here and following along all season, and I’m glad you enjoyed the content.

      As for Hilliard, you never know! The Rockies have a somewhat weird roster construction so he’d need some things to clear up to find room out there, but weirder things have happened.

      I went with a lot of old guys in TGFBI, like Nelson Cruz and Yuli Gurriel and Charlie Blackmon, and it worked out pretty well (1/15 in my league, 9/315 overall). Not bad! Rookies are always a risk, and the top ones often get overhyped – but there are plenty to slide in under the radar. That’s where the value is.

  • Avatar BB says:

    Not sure I’d really call Walker (28), M-Yaz (29) and Berti (29) “young” (at least compared to the others listed), though the overall point is certainly valid. Anyway, thanks for your efforts this season.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      They’re younger than me, BB! Fair point, though. They’re old for rookies, but they are rookies. I probably should have talked about it as a rookie thing instead of just youth.

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