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Batter’s Box: Being Aware of Javier

Scott Chu reviews some of the top performances from Monday's short slate.

We fantasy analysts are creatures of habit. We try to validate performances suing certain stats and prefer players to have certain types of approaches at the plate. That’s probably the main reason that many articles published about Javier Baez (SS/2B, Chicago Cubs), who went 2-4,  with two runs, a home run, a double and three RBI, were of the “beware of Javier” variety. He swung too much, missed too much, and seemed to have no awareness of the edges of the strike zone. In our stubbornness, many of us warned folks to stay away from Javy, or to “sell high” before the bottom fell out and he went on a prolonged slump (which, to our credit, is usually what happens to guys with that kind of approach).

Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and it’s easy to look back now and see how foolish we were at the time. He went on to put up 34 home runs and 21 steals with a strong .290 batting average in 2019 and was a second round pick in most leagues this spring. While the stolen bases haven’t been quite where we want them, he’s continued to crush the baseball in 2019, hitting his 13th and 14th home runs in yesterday’s game while sporting a .301/.346/.572 batting line through 246 plate appearances. He still swings too much and misses too much, but it has been made abundantly clear that Javy is a special player and that the normal rules just don’t apply to him.

Now obviously, I can’t tell you go to and acquire him—he’s owned everywhere and I can’t imagine owners are all that interested in parting with him. What I can tell you, though, is that most of us (myself included) can be slow to accept something that’s different or unique. Human beings will often struggle to understand things that don’t fit into common archetypes or molds, and Javier Baez is a great example of that. If you’ve got a feeling that a player is special and that rules don’t apply to them, go ahead and make your move. We won’t advise it (and by the percentages, we’re probably right), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s your team, darn it. Have fun with it.

Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs)—2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. He already has more home runs (13) than he did last season and his .291 batting average is a huge advantage coming from the catcher position. If he can play as many games as he did last season (138), he should be good for at least 25 home runs, 75 RBI, and a .275 batting average. That’s a clear top 3 or 4 catcher.

J. T. Realmuto (C, Miami Marlins)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. It’s a tad alarming to see the strikeout rate jump up to 23.1%, but he’s making sufficient contact and is hitting for sufficient power in the fifth spot of the Phillies lineup, so you can’t be too upset. He also has a shot to set yet another career high in home runs (current mark is 21 from 2018).

Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres)—1-4, R, HR, RBI. The big question about Franmil is whether he can hit 40 home runs. He’s on track to get there thanks to the solidified spot in the lineup, assuming good health, though it will likely come with .250 batting average and .310 OBP. My gut tells me to hedge a little and say 35 home runs is the more likely target, as players like him have been known to endure extended slumps, but holy cow does he hit the ball hard.

Manny Machado (SS/3B, San Diego Padres)—1-4, R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. I still believe in his ability to hit over 30 home runs, and he should at least get close to his career .281 batting average when all is said and done. The stolen bases have always been unpredictable with Manny, as he has shown no clear pattern in how often he’ll steal. You’re best off just assuming you’ll get five on the year and everything else is a bonus.

Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)—1-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Since May 4th, he’s hitting .275/.362/.549 and showing the kinds of things we saw in him prior to his 2018 injury. After a slow April that likely worried his owners, it looks like everything is going to be OK.

Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)—1-4, R, HR, RBI, BB. He’s worked his way back into the lead-off role for the Mariners and is playing nearly every day, so he’s OK to use for stolen bases. The batting average and OBP still aren’t very good (just .246 and .306 since his return to the big leagues on May 16), but he did managed to steal six bases (though four came in one day). He’s a one category contributor right now, which makes him hard to recommend in 10- and 12-teamers.

Jason Heyward (OF, Chicago Cubs)—2-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI. For those in 15-team OBP formats, the 14.3% walk rate is kind of useful, especially if he can get to 15 home runs and 10 steals. Everything else is kind of boring, though, and he’s probably not worth owning in the majority of formats. He;; go through a hot streak or two, but he usually finds a way to return to his career .262/.344/.411 line.

(Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

  • Jim says:

    Hi Scott.
    I have the perfect question for a hitter’s column on a pitching site!
    In a Points league, I have been offered K Davis for either Maeda or Montas.
    I value Montas slightly more than Maeda but it’s close. My pitching depth is fairly strong.
    I could use the K Davis from ’17-’18 in my Util spot which would push Y Diaz or La Stella to a reserve role.
    What say you? Thnx!

    • Scott Chu says:

      Hey Jim! That is a very good question. It certainly seems that Nick has quite a bit of faith in both guys, putting each in the top 50. Khris Davis is still popping home runs and hitting .247 (well, .242, but it’s close), but the exit velocity is down a few ticks to start the year and his quality of contact is down overall. He had an injury a few weeks ago, but it was just a contusion and shouldn’t impact him long term. I don’t have any answers as to why he’s not hitting as well so far, but that also means I don’t see any reason why he can’t return to form (and to be clear, he’s doing just fine—a .484 xSLG isn’t awful by any means).

      The main question I would have is what kind of players are available on your wire?

      • Jim says:

        I just picked up Renfroe, A Garcia and J Upton are the best 3 in to fill that Util slot.
        Do you think K Davis is that much of an upgrade over Upton in a few weeks that it makes sense to lose Maeda/Montas?
        Ty!

  • MenLieWomenLieNumbersDont says:

    “If you’ve got a feeling that a player is special and that rules don’t apply to them, go ahead and make your move.”

    Sound fantasy advice right here. League winning stuff…

    There were always metrics that supported what baez was and is doing. People just focused on the wrong ones. Gut based decision making is never the best course of action when there is an abundance of data available to base your decision off of.

    Trust the numbers, the right ones, and you will outperform the guys who sit in a room talking about their gut feeling (think moneyball scene) every time.

    • Tony says:

      Not being an ass, but what are the “right” numbers” and what are the “wrong numbers”?

      • Grind Crunch says:

        This guy is literally saying the metrics used to gauge how often someone swings at pitches outside the strike zone and how often they swing and miss are the wrong things to focus on… oooook

    • Scott Chu says:

      The metrics on Baez, as I understood them, sent very mixed messages and has several red flags. You had to believe he could either become more disciplined or that he would continue to perform in spite of his plate discipline (which has always resembled that of Mike Zunino). Yes, the quality of contact was always fantastic, but there were (and are) legitimate concerns about how often he makes such contact.

      He has a 31.2% strikeout rate and a 6.4% walk rate. That’s rarely a successful combination and folks are right to question it. It just so happens that he’s found a way to perform despite that approach. I’d challenge any interpretation of the data that suggests “we should have known” we’d get all of the good and nearly none of the bad.

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