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Batter’s Box: Belli Ache

Jonathan Metzelaar recaps yesterday's notable offensive performances, including big games from Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, and Eddie Rosario.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Managing expectations is hard. We all want the best things in life, but sometimes it’s just not meant to be. I, for example, would love to one day become the owner of a Chipotle franchise. But that requires money and dedication to the Mexican culinary arts. I have neither. Also, Chipotle doesn’t franchise. So, double the disappointment.

Managing expectations in fantasy baseball is even harder though, because it’s a world where the future is supposed to be a little easier to predict. When a guy like Cody Bellinger hits .267 with nearly 40 homers in his rookie season, it seems to make sense to set that as a baseline for his future performance. Generally we’d expect him to gradually build off a breakout campaign like that and continue to improve throughout his career as he gains more experience. But despite his 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB performance yesterday, things have not gone as expected for Bellinger this year. His xStats triple slash this year is a stupefying .198/.275/.399, and he has just a 7.7% value hit rate and 27.2% poor hit rate (compared to a 10.5% VH and 20.6% PH last year). He’s struggling the most against the one pitch you’d expect him to be demolishing: fastballs. Bellinger is batting just .203 with a 39.8% strikeout rate against fastballs this season, despite posting an incredible .296 average and 23% strikeout rate against the pitch last season. He can still turn things around though, and he’s slashing an improved .250/.375/.750 over the past week with three homers. Which is to say that, unlike my dreams of becoming a Chipotle franchisee, Bellinger isn’t trampled, dead, buried, and rotting in the ground just yet. There’s still hope.

Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers): 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI – With a first name like “Joc,” did he ever have a chance at growing up to be anything other than a professional athlete? By this same token, I’m thinking of naming my future kid “Billionaire Dad-Supporter Metzelaar” and seeing what happens. As mentioned earlier in the week, Pederson has seen a significant drop in his strikeout rate, from 21.1% last year to 14.4% this season. He’s not sacrificing hard contact though, posting an excellent 37.6% rate while hitting a career-high 42.4% of his batted balls in the air. He’s pulling the ball  just 35% of the time this year compared to the nearly 50% pull rate he posted last year, and seems to finally be making an effort to be a better all-around hitter. I’m buying in wherever I can.

Scott Schebler (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 3-6, R, 2B, RBI – The Joe Schmo Effect is strong with this one, as his ownership levels continue to hover in the teens despite a torrid week that has lifted his average up to .277 with eight homers on the year.  He’s still posting an elite 41.7% hard contact rate, and his peripherals are all about the same as they were last year. He’s also dominating against lefties, with a .365 average against them this season, which has helped keep him out of a platoon in the crowded Reds outfield. That said, his measly six-degree average launch angle is definitely concerning and could cap his future batting average and power contributions. Still, I think this is a guy who is a swing adjustment away from being a top outfielder this year.

Jesse Winker (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 3-3, R, HR, 2 RBI – It’s really a shame that Jesse Winker never became a dating guru with a last name like that. Aside from being either a great ladies man or a total creep, an assumption I’m basing on absolutely nothing other than his last name, Winker has demonstrated elite plate discipline this year, as evidenced by his 14.4% strikeout rate and 13.4% walk rate. However, he’s slugging just .357 with two homers in 201 plate appearances, and considering that it’s no surprise he’s been losing playing time lately.

Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs): 1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI – At some point we were talking about Rizzo having a down year, but he’s slashed .313/.412/.571 over the past month with seven homers. His 25.4% line drive rate is a career high, and his whiff rate has dropped for the third straight year to an elite 6.9% rate. RESPECT HIM!!!

Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins): 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB Eddie Rosario has five homers over his last seven games, and is hitting .347 over the past month. I was a doubter earlier in the year, but now I worship at this man’s feet and pray throughout the day with my Rosario beads.

Eduardo Escobar (SS/3B, Minnesota Twins): 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI – Like his fellow Escobar, Pablo, Eduardo is making a name for himself through sheer force of will. Unlike Pablo though, Eduardo’s victims get to go home at the end of the day with both their feet still attached to their bodies. Escobar’s career-high 22.7% strikeout rate this year is likely a result of him swinging harder, as his hard contact is up nearly 10% from last year, sitting at an elite 40% on the season. He’s hitting nearly half his batted balls in the air too, in what seems to be an effort to take advantage of his newfound power. It seems to be working; he’s hitting .423 with four homers over his last seven games alone, and has been absolutely on fire dating back to last season, as he’s hit 29 homers over the last calendar year (150 games).

Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros): 3-4, 2 R, RBI, SB – Altuve has caught fire over the past month, and nobody seems interested in extinguishing the flames. He’s a human being, for chrissake, somebody show the man some compassion! In all seriousness, he’s batting .344 with eight stolen bases and two homers since early May. He has only hit four homers this season, but he has a career-high 38.5% hard contact rate and has cut his groundball rate from 47% to 41%. Still, I’m tempted to say 15 homers is a more realistic expectation from Altuve than the mid-20’s power he’s shown the past couple of years, though 30-40 stolen bases is still very possible.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays): 3-4, R, 2 2B, 2 RBIRandal Grichuk was released from the carbonite cell he had been frozen in and returned to the Blue Jays roster this past week. He’s hitting just. 146 on the year, but batting .368 over his last seven games with just one strikeout in 19 at-bats. Has been seeing more playing time in right field lately. Why, you ask? Who knows.

Elias Diaz (C, Pittsburgh Pirates): 1-3, R, HR, 4 RBI – It was a nice performance from Elias Diaz, the um *Googles Elias Diaz*  catcher for the, uh… *re-opens browser, re-Googles Elias Diaz* Pittsburgh Pirates. Yep, one of my favorite players in the league right now.

Mitch Haniger (OF, Seattle Mariners): 2-3, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB – Praise be to Mitch Hanigod, through Him all things are possible. After a torrid start, Haniger has cooled lately, hitting just .200 over His last 15 games while striking out around 30% of the time. Still, His xStats back up His great overall performance so far though, as He has a .270/.348/.515 xStats triple slash with an insane 13.3 xHR.

Evan Gattis (C/DH, Houston Astros): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – He may look like the missing link between man and ape, but he has the power of a god. Despite a slow start to the year, Gattis is now up to 10 homers and 31 RBI and one can only wonder what he’d be capable of if he were allowed to play in his loincloth as opposed to the restrictive, uncomfortable uniform that the Astros insist that he wears.

Johnny Field (OF, Tampa Bay Rays): 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI – Field is slashing a perfectly fine .256/.287/.470 this year with six homers and three steals. I’m hoping he becomes a superstar so that he gets a stadium named after him one day called “Johnny Field Field,” but it seems like he’ll return to the bench once Kevin Kiermaier returns.

Justin Bour (1B, Miami Marlins): 3-4, 2B, RBI – Careful Justin, if you keep this up you might not have the honor of playing for the world-class Miami Marlins organization much longer. I’ve always been a big fan of Bour’s ability to hit hard line drives, and this season his plate discipline seems to have developed more as well, as he’s sporting an incredible 16.9% walk rate.

Stephen Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics): 3-3, RBI – I mostly just wanted to write about Piscotty because his last name sounds like biscotti, which is a delicious cookie, and every time I think about it I can taste it and it’s great. Piscotty’s making an incredible 41% hard contact this year, but is hitting nearly half his batted balls on the ground which is dragging down his home run totals and batting average.

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer, content manager, and podcaster with Pitcher List. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

  • Gr says:

    do you think joc is going to play every day or at least almost every day? I want to grab him but not sure if worth it in weekly league

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      It might take a little while, but yes I think he becomes their regular center fielder soon with Bellinger returning to 1B full-time and Muncy acting as a utility guy, spelling Turner, Bellinger, Kemp, and Puig throughout the week.

    • theKraken says:

      I doubt it. He’s the same guy… I think the Dodgers know what he brings, which are some really nice streaks and an ideal 4th OF/bench bat. If he plays too much he gets exposed. Toles is finally healthy in AAA which is not going to help Joc’s chances. Try to remember hat Joc does this every year!

  • Mike G.... says:

    I read pitcher list everyday….it is great. Unfortunately they allow you to constantly make distasteful jokes about Christianity. Jon you ruin Batter’s Box.

    • Dave Cherman says:

      What’s distateful towards Christianity here? His use of “chrissake”?

    • Bob says:

      Mike….who peed in your Cheerios? It’s 2018 take xanax and relax.

    • theKraken says:

      While not offended… I do notice this as well – not in this column more than others. That’s a large demographic to alienate. In most facets of society even the possibility of offending a single person is zero tolerance… just saying. I enjoy your work and I know you are a good dude, I wouldn’t say anything if there wasn’t some pilling on below. There are very few contexts where someone would claim to be offended and then called a troll in 2018.

    • Luke says:

      It’s undoubtedly unfair of me to assume that you, as an individual, skew right politically but as a general rule people who post things similar to what you just did almost always do. Somewhere here there’s an interesting discussion to be had about the Christian Right’s inability to shrug off very mild language such as “Hanigod” while constantly berating “PC culture”. You just cant say anything anymore can you?

  • John Connors says:

    Thoughts on Carlos Gonzales? His last 15 he’s batting an eye popping .405 with another eye popping 1.111OPS! That real nice. Could he be turning it around in a big way?

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I buy it to a certain extent, but I’m not expecting vintage Cargo. I like that he’s spraying the ball more, but the lack of line drives (15%) is going to suppress his average going forward. I think 2017 Cargo is about right, so a .265~ hitter with like 20 HR? Nothing special.

  • Charlie says:

    With his uppercut swing and high K/HR numbers, is Bellinger a poor man’s Gallo?

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Spot on. I was thinking a rich man’s Chris Davis, but to-may-to, to-mah-to.

      • King says:

        I don’t understand the Gallo or Davis comparison. Gallo hits the ball way harder and both Davis and Gallo strike out 10% more often then Bellinger. It appears that Bellinger is much better at making contact than both Gallo and Davis (though he doesn’t hit it as hard). Am I missing something? Do you expect Bellinger to go the Chris Davis route of selling out for power and his k rate spiking? Just curious to see how people are viewing Bellinger.

        • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

          I really meant it in the sense that I think he’ll be a guy who walks a lot, hits a bunch of homers, but whose average might be hard to stomach. You’re right in the sense that I don’t think Bellinger will ever hit .230 or below like Davis or Gallo. But something in the range of .250 wouldn’t surprise me, and if he’s not getting to 40 homers I don’t see a ton of separation between him and first basemen like Yonder Alonso, Eric Thames, etc. I think it’s important to note that he was never a high-average guy in the minors (hovering around .260) and scouts ranked his hit tool a 30 as recently as last year.

    • theKraken says:

      I think that is a really bad comp. Gallo has light tower power and Belly doesn’t. He also doesn’t strike out at a Gallo clip, so I don’t really see the similarities other than ugly swings and misses. There is also the fact that Gallo lite isn’t rosterable. Ironically, every one of Belly’s recent HR has been opposite field I think. So… this isn’t the guy from last year, but it could be a better version of what we have seen this year – but… Belly doesn’t have a lot of power, so I can’t imagine the oppo FB approach working out well.

  • JD says:

    Puig or Joc? OPS league Ks are a negative counting stat

  • Kevin says:

    I’m sure you saw this one coming – Pederson or Schebler ROS? 10 T, 5×5

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I’m weighing this one myself, as I own Schebler in a league where Pederson’s on the wire. It’s super close. I think, gun to my head, I’d go Pederson. Schebler hasn’t been great against righties this year, while Pederson is hitting .289 against them. Pederson’s 15-degree launch angle is also right where you want it, while Schebler’s is just six-degrees and he’s hitting tons of grounders. I’m also dreaming on some of the speed Pederson showed in the minors coming back (he used to be a perennial 25+ SB threat).

  • Kevin says:

    What’s your gut on Daniel Murphy this year? Saw that he was paying 1B yesterday in rehab game.

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I think I’m out on him. I’ve seen lots of reports that he’s still struggling with mobility, which probably explains why they’ve moved him off 2B in his rehab. It’s safe to say the speed’s never coming back, and who knows how such a significant lower body injury will impact his power.

      • Kevin says:

        Really sad. He was such a great player. Maybe he’ll be reincarnated as a 1B.
        Along those same lines, any thoughts on Ryan Zimmerman?
        Thx for the responses.

        • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

          I liked what I was seeing from Zimmerman when he was healthy, all his peripherals were as good or better than his insane season last year, he was just getting super unlucky. With Reynolds and Adams both playing reasonably well, and now maybe Murphy in the 1B picture, it’s hard to say how playing time will shake out for him. But I’d take a flier if I could, as he’s probably free in most leagues.

  • Christian C says:

    So, who to drop for Joc? Jorge Soler, Nimmo, or Polonco?

  • Play Ball says:

    I own both Correa and Escobar for SS. I picked up Escobar after Correa tweaked his side, fearing an oblique strain and a trip to the DL. Escobar has put up the same R/RBI/HR numbers as Correa with a batting average around 20 points higher. I’ve been disappointed with Correa this year in that dept.

    Who do you like ROS between the two? Also, what happens to Ecobar when Polanco comes back from his PED ban pretty soon?

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      You still have to stick with Correa ROS over Escobar, but Escobar is a super underrated player right now. If you’re really out on Correa, consider flipping him for an equally talented player that fills another need. You can probably get a great haul on name value alone.

      As for what they do when Polanco’s back, it obviously depends on the health of their other players, but the great thing about Escobar is his versatility. He’s played 2B, 3B, and LF throughout his career, so they’ll find a spot for him.

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