Yeah, we’re quoting John Locke up in here. This is a high-brow column.
First and foremost, I was wrong about Gleyber Torres (2B/SS, New York Yankees). Monday’s doubleheader performance (4-8, 3 HR, 4 R, 7 RBI, BB) is more than enough to make me eat my own words. You see, in the preseason, I noticed that his projections were very similar to Ryan Braun’s, and with the depth I saw at shortstop, I made a few claims that Braun would be as valuable or more valuable than Torres.
It’s a painfully common sin in preseason evaluations – you take a player you don’t like who is highly ranked, a player you do like who isn’t highly ranked, and say “they’re the same!” In some sense, there was some truth there in that both players can provide 20+ home runs and 10+ stolen bases with solid ratios. When you combine that with the under-performance (based on advanced metrics) in 2018 by Braun and over-performance by Torres, you can really trick yourself into thinking a lot of fairly dumb things.
That lesson, while important, isn’t as fun as the real thing I wanted to point out, though. As you might have heard, Torres loves playing the Orioles. These three home runs were the 11th, 12th and 13th he’s hit against the O’s this season, which is exactly half of his season total. This isn’t a new trend, either. In his 112 career plate appearances against Baltimore, he has a .918 slugging percentage. Put another way, it’s basically what Nelson Cruz was doing in the 96 plate appearances prior to hitting the IL.
Sure, the friendly dimensions of Camden Yards plays a role, as does the woeful state of Baltimore’s pitching staff, but you HAVE to think there’s something else. Did someone from Baltimore disrespect Gleyber? Did a restaurant screw up his food order? Do the colors orange and black anger him in some way? I know several Orioles’ fans thanks to being on this site’s writing staff, and I can almost feel them averting their eyes the moment this guy steps into the box because they just know he’s going to do something terrible to the baseball being thrown to him.
Bo Bichette (SS, Toronto Blue Jays)—4-6, 2 2B, 3 R, RBI, SB. After getting caught stealing three times in six games, it’s nice to see the electrifying rookie successfully swipe a bag. He has amazingly racked up multiple hits in 10 of his first 15 career games in the big leagues and should be locked in as the Blue Jays leadoff man for the foreseeable future.
Raimel Tapia (OF, Colorado Rockies)—3-5, R, 2 RBI. Tapia has put together a seven-game hitting streak and should be the primary playing time beneficiary of the unfortunate David Dahl injury. He was once a highly-regarded prospect and should put together decent batting average, power, and speed numbers for those in need of an OF replacement.
Giovanny Urshela (3B, New York Yankees)—6-9, 2B, HR, 4 R, 2 RBI. The seemingly endless waves of injuries combined with his surprising performance on the season continues to give Urshela playing time. Over his last 10 games, he has found himself hitting somewhere between the second and fifth spots in the order and the premium lineup position has done wonders for his batting line. In those 10 games he is slashing a monstrous .487/.535/.1.128 with 15 runs and 14 RBI, with four three-hit games in that stretch. He’s worth a look in all formats while he’s hot and batting in the heart of the Yankees’ order, though don’t expect much in the way of walks (career 5.6% walk rate) or stolen bases (he has one career steal in 266 games).
Jacob Stallings (C, Pittsburgh Pirates)—2-3, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI. He has taken over as the primary catcher for the Pirates over the last few weeks and has put together a solid .284/.348/.441 line with a handful of home runs. He has been largely unimpressive in his minor league career, but those searching for a second catcher in those brutal two-catcher formats could find some value in the playing time.
Matt Duffy (3B, Tampa Bay Rays)—4-4, 3 RBI, BB. After missing the first half of the season with an injury, Duffy has finally returned and is the mostly everyday third baseman for the Rays with Yandy Diaz likely out for the remainder of the season after an injury setback. Once upon a time (also known as 2015), Duffy had a 12-home run, 12-stolen base season with .295 batting average, but that feels like a lifetime ago. At this point, Duffy can provide some mostly empty batting average and maybe two or three home runs and steals for the remainder of the season. Unless you’re desperate for batting average in a 15-team format with an open corner infield spot, Duffy should stay on your wire.
Carlos Santana (1B, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, HR, 3 R, RBI, BB. He should eclipse the 30-home run mark for the second time in his career and approach 100 runs and 100 RBI (though I think he’ll fall a bit short of the latter). More impressively, he’s walking more than he’s struck out for the second consecutive season and his .286 batting average and .408 OBP are a pleasant surprise after last season’s batting average struggles. Truth be told, he was fairly unlucky last season and has been fairly fortunate this season, and the real Santana is probably a .250-.260 hitter with a .360-.370 OBP. He’s a really nice asset in OBP and points leagues.
Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-9 (doubleheader), 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB. He’s just one away from 30 home runs on the season and perhaps more importantly has recovered from 2018’s .242 batting average and .299 OBP with a .279/.343/.542 line. As long as he maintains the higher batting average and his shiny new 8.3% walk rate, he should be able to avoid being lumped in with the rest of the blob power-hitting outfielders.
Justin Smoak (1B, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-5, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. I really wish I could be more excited by his very much improved plate discipline. He has an impressive 16.5% walk rate with just a 20.5% strikeout rate. Statcast indicates that his quality of contact should be resulting in a batting average closer to .250, which would be much more palatable, and his .211 BABIP also shows that he’s probably the victim of some bad luck. If he keeps these plate discipline gains for the rest of the season, he could be a nice little bounce-back candidate for 2020.
Hanser Alberto (2B/3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles)—5-9, 3B, HR, 5 R, 3 RBI. He has very limited power and speed, but he makes a ton of contact (just a 2.8% walk rate and 9.6% strikeout rate) and can be fairly useful in points leagues due to his multi-positional eligibility.
Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-5, 2B, 2 R, SB. He has already tied his career high in home runs with 20, making that two consecutive 20-home run seasons. The stolen bases slowed down a little this year, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is age and how much of that is hitting right in front of Josh Bell, who has this habit of knocking the ball out of the park this year. Even with the slight downturn, he should get to roughly 25 steals on the season. He’s also surprisingly the 11th-best hitter on ESPN’s Player Rater so far, so it’s clear that his increased production with the bat is offsetting the slightly decreased production with his legs.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)—0-5, 3 K. Two straight games without a hit? I thought this kid was supposed to be good. Call me when he has 22 home runs, 16 stolen bases, and a .149 wRC+. in barely over half a season. THAT would be impressive.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)