Batter’s Box: As Lux Would Have it

Jim Chatterton explores the best hitters from Friday's matchups.

I love it when a good prospect is good. It feels right, like the world is working as expected. There is some kind of comfort I glean from that. Gavin Lux was selected with the 20th pick in the 2016 draft by the Dodgers and has been performing like a first round pick ever since. In his first year in rookie ball, he found a way to not hit a home run in over 50 games but still be productive, hitting close to .300. As his development continued, he found that power. In the 49 games in AAA this season (after getting promoted after 64 games in AA), his slash line was .392/.478/.719 while scoring over a run per game. He turned a good amount of the ground balls he hit in AA to fly balls in AAA, taking great advantage of the new balls that AAA has seen this year that resemble the MLB’s a bit more.

I am not sure how the ball change in AAA gives us a better way to project those players into the bigs, but Lux has played in ten big league games now and has continued his strong performance. He had a stretch of four games with no hits, but his last three starts have been strong. He has hit a double and a couple of homers in those three starts also adding a stolen base. Yesterday was a particularly solid outing, going 2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Overall, his walk and strike out rates are in line with his minor league stats as well as his batted ball profile. This still is such a small sample, but it is good to see consistency. For redraft fantasy purposes, we must consider his playing time. The Dodgers have locked in a playoff spot so they do have more incentive to test Lux out in the wild and get him as much experience as possible. Mostly, he will be playing against righties as the season comes to a close but as long as he’s starting he should be starting in fantasy.

Pablo Reyes (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-5, 2 R, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI. Reyes started the season in the majors but struggled heavily. He was sent down at the beginning of May but has been back in the MLB since August 2nd. Since his return, he’s been a bit better than he was at the start of the year but still has a sub-100 wRC+. There is no need to consider him in any league for the remainder of the season.

Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI. A strong August has led into a weaker September. Rizzo has still kept his strikeout rate down to the low of 10%. However, his BABIP has sunk to a .229 in September despite a 36.1% line drive rate. Interestingly, his fly ball rate is at 13.9%. The grand slam in yesterday’s game is hopefully the spark that gets him back in his groove.

Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs)—3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB. It’s only been six games since this catcher returned from his hamstring injury. During that time he has hit four home runs and is slugging exactly 1.000. He is having his best offensive year of his career but he’s struggled to stay on the field. The Cubs will try to keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible as they fight for a playoff spot and are down Javy Baez.

Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. The secret to Mancini’s success this year would be if he could cut down his ground ball rate and get more balls in the air. With a fly ball rate under 30%, he still found a way to slug 24 dingers each of the last two seasons. This year his ground ball rate is down seven percentage points and has bumped his line drive and fly balls rate up a bit. This has contributed to his 31st home run coming yesterday along with a career high in runs and RBIs.

Ramón Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics)—1-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. He was out over a month with a stress reaction in his shin. The Athletics have been cautious with him since his return and won’t be playing him everyday. He should be a must start when he does play but know you should have a replacement if setting daily rosters. With the Wildcard on the line, I would expect Oakland to put its best out there so I expect him to play everyday soon.

Khris Davis (OF, Oakland Athletics)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. This is a name I have not seen in a long, long time. He looks to be well off from his .247 mark but most importantly he is slugging under .400. So what has gotten in to him? He is swinging more often in and out of the strike zone while also missing on those swings more often. His ground ball rate has increased seven percentage points while his fly ball rate has dropped over 10 points. This is all while his hard hit rate has dropped nine points. Khrush is simply doing less khrushing.

Danny Santana (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Texas Rangers)—1-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB. Many are drinking the Santana champ ’cause it’s so crisp. But that crisp has gone a bit flat since the middle of August. Despite slugging eight homers in August, he finished the month with a .674 OPS. This has continued into September, last night’s homer has been his only one. His K rate has jumped up nearly 10 points to 35% over this span as well.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI. My gut tells me that Goldschmidt’s first season as a Cardinal has been disappointing. His slash line is well under what it had been in previous seasons, but with a closer look, not much has changed. He’s walking only slightly less while striking out the same. His batted ball profile is about the same as last year and a bit better than years before with more line drives and less grounders. His hard hit rate is pretty much his career average as well but his barrel rate is down a couple ticks. The biggest change is his BABIP which is under .340 for the first time in his career. It is 45 percentage points below his career average. That is a huge difference. Is this just going to be the difference between being in St. Louis instead of Arizona? We could find out next year.

Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies)—3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. He continues his Trevor ending Story with another incredible Coors fueled season (the park, not the beer). His counting and rate stats continue to be in line with last year which is now back to back 30/2o seasons. That is fantastic for a shortstop while also hitting just below .300. Story should once again be an early round selection next season.

Kole Calhoun (OF, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. I feel like Kole Calhoun could be one of the poster children for juiced ball season 2019. His HR/FB has never been greater than 16% and this season it sits at 23.3% which has helped him surpass 30 HR for the first time in his career. He is hitting the ball just as hard as last season and is barreling the ball slightly better. He’ll provide some power if you need but has the chance to tank average in a snap as well.

Yoán Moncada (2B/3B, Chicago White Sox)—3-5, R, 2B, 3B, 4 RBI. After coming back from injury near the end of August, Moncada has settled back in. These two weeks in September have been outstanding with a 1.00 BB/K ratio and a 205 wRC+. He has four three hit games in his last six as he has been spraying line drives all over the field. If you had been uncomfortable playing him after his injury he looks back to normal.

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

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