Batter’s Box: Are You Suzukidding Me?
It’s hard to believe, since the conventional wisdom that Tyler Flowers was the catcher to own in Atlanta has long lingered in my consciousness, but Kurt Suzuki has actually been one of the more effective second-half catchers in the entire league. Upon some deeper delving, I know I was surprised to discover that among catchers with 100 minimum AB since the break, Suzuki’s wOBA of .391 is tied for third-best in MLB. Only Willson Contreras and Welington Castillo have outdone him in this metric. His line this weekend was a tasty 4-8, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. For further context on how sturdy Suzuki has been in fantasy since mid-July, one need only see that he’s accomplished it all with the second-lowest BABIP (.272) among the top-20-wOBA-achieving backstops in that span. It’s also worth praising his tie with Jonathan Lucroy for lowest C strikeout percentage (12.1%) in the second half. I’m digging the .340 September AVG that has produced five XBH, eight runs and eight RBI also. None of this is to disparage what Flowers brings to the table, but it’s more geared toward thinking of the Braves’ two-headed platoon atop the depth chart as being way more even than many realize. It’s so easy to consider the guy with more playing time as the alpha dog, but Suzuki has the same number of RBI and seven more HRs than Flowers in 42 fewer at-bats. He’s poised to do great things for fantasy owners this week, especially later on. Suzuki has hit just .174 against the Mets this year, albeit with three RBI and five runs scored—a .345 OBP against New York has been nicely padded by four walks despite the relative hitting inefficiency. Fast forward to Thursday at Marlins Park, though, and get ready for Suzuki to eat when he starts: he’s gone .400 with eight runs this year at the expense of Miami’s pitching staff.
Now, for some notes on several other hitters’ outings this past weekend:
Adam Lind (1B/OF, WSH) – 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB. Lind had a nice pair of games at Citi Field before heading back to the bench Sunday. With first-string 1B Ryan Zimmerman held out of the series due to soreness, the Nationals utilized the quietly serviceable Lind in his stead and he added his 12th and 13th homers of the year in his appearances. Lind has come in solely as a PH nine times in September, but for the moderate playing time he’s enjoyed, he has been a solid contributor in fantasy. A .310 hitter on the year, he’s gone 13-34 this month with 10 RBI and eight runs scored. It could be handy having him as a backup 1B this week if you’re looking for help in BA as Washington will likely opt to use his hot lefty bat consistently in order to let Zimm get to peak health for the real-life playoffs.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR) – 4-12, 5 R, 3 HR, 3 RBI, BB, 5 K. He was only called up to Toronto on September 1 when rosters expanded, but Hernandez has had a decent three weeks or so. He homered in each of the three weekend contests against the Yankees, and he has led off for the Jays in each of his last six starts. What’s interesting about the splits is that he is a mere .214 when leading off but four of the six hits he’s gotten have been XBH. Still a super small sample size, but I found it intriguing that he has slugged well despite not hitting for an amazing average atop the order. He’s unlikely to make a palpable difference in one’s chances at a championship this week except in the deepest of leagues, and even then he’s probably still a benchwarmer. This is more of an alert to the fact that his power could be worth harnessing next season if he remains a fixture in the Toronto outfield.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B/OF, CLE) – 5-11, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 K, SB. Ramirez has now officially set career highs in almost every basic hitting stat, now that his five RBI brought the season total to 81 (He concluded the midweek series at Anaheim with a mark of 76 that exactly tied his RBI count from 2016). He is also now a member of the exclusive Century Run Club this year, having 101 of them, and is joined by just nine other big-leaguers in that honor. More importantly for your fantasy title hopes, in the month of September, Ramirez has MLB’s highest average, OPS, wRC+ and wOBA among qualified hitters. Only Jacoby Ellsbury and Joey Votto have logged a better OBP than J-Ram this month. Oh, yeah, and he leads all of baseball with 51 doubles. He is truly indispensable in all formats.
Yan Gomes (C, CLE) – 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He only played in Saturday’s game at Safeco, but The Yanimal came through powerfully to deliver a pair of dingers off two different Mariners pitchers to extend Cleveland’s lead late in the contest. You have to myopically inspect just September’s numbers when it comes to evaluating Gomes’ value down the stretch since his season-long numbers look pedestrian. Aside from Kansas City having him figured out (0-12), Gomes has otherwise gone 13-33 this month with seven runs and eight RBI. If you need to stream a catcher this week and Gomes happens to be Cleveland’s starting backstop the same day your starter doesn’t play, have at it with roughly 7/10 confidence.
Chris Iannetta (C, ARI) – 3-8, 2 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, BB. I still would have lost my points league semifinal even if I’d not boneheadedly left Iannetta benched Friday (with an embarrasing empty UTIL slot, to clarify). But it didn’t make me feel great to miss out on eight ribbies, regardless. I can rest easy repeating in my own headspace that Iannetta is my backup catcher for a reason and that nobody could have expected this barrage of boom. He’s at .506 in SLG on the year, but 16 homers and just 36 runs to complement a .253 average all mean he’s not been better than a reserve at any point throughout the year. Iannetta would do owners a favor in the BA department right now if they really needed him, as he’s hitting .308 in September.
Justin Bour (1B, MIA) – 4-14, 2 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, BB, 6 K. Bour helped his owners out in a huge way with four homers between Tuesday and Saturday of this past week. He came back from the 10-day DL on September 8 and then went nine straight games without a bomb but has emphatically redeemed himself with this recent burst. Even aside from power, though, going .340 this month is pretty luscious. He has 15 RBI in 14 games since his return, making him a must-start in 5×5 play. Getting to mash at Coors Field the next several days should also appeal to Bour owners, especially if their opponents own an equally privileged Giancarlo Stanton.
Ian Desmond (1B/OF, COL) – 5-11, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, K, 2 SB. He’s up to 14 steals now, and the run-scoring has been adequate—if not necessarily awesome—since his return to health (nine this month). Desmond has hit safely in four straight and five of his last six, and yet, is only averaging .254 since September 1. He’s fine to start, however, as Colorado looks this week to defend the second NL Wild Card spot it currently occupies; the reasoning there is that his monthly AVG is being dragged down by six hitless games that took place during the first 12 days of September, but he’s hit .316 since then so no need to fret.
Nelson Cruz (OF/DH, SEA) – 5-12, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB, 4 K, CS. Cruz has been an RBI monster all year long, and 115 thus far is a career high. To have dealt Cleveland’s top-tier closer Cody Allen just his seventh outright loss on the year with a tie-breaking walk-off blast Friday is a notable accomplishment, but it’s pretty crazy that if he were to finish the regular season with 37 total homers (four this week), they would comprise his lowest bomb total since 2013. On a more technical note, Cruz’s walk rate has been steadily increasing every single year since 2011 and he has curtailed the strikeouts slightly from last year as well.