Batter’s Box: Big Willie Style
Things have not exactly gone according to plan for rookie outfielder Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers). Already in his young career he’s been plagued by slumps, reports of a miserable attitude in the minor leagues, and attacks on his work ethic. He started 2018 with a lot of hope and promise. He was a top-50 prospect by some accounts and looked like he had the inside track on a full-time role in the Rangers outfield. He seemed destined to be a useful power source and fantasy asset. Very little good news has come out since then, but his strong performance in Triple-A thus far (.304/.416/.557 with eight home runs) led to his call-up on Wednesday which he followed up with a 2-5 performance with a run, home run, and two RBI with no strikeouts. It’s hard to say whether Calhoun will become an asset in redraft leagues with the currently crowded outfield situation in Texas, but at the very least, those in keeper and dynasty leagues who have been holding Calhoun can at least feel better about his trajectory going forward. If he gets semi-regular playing time, he could hit 15 home runs the rest of the way with a solid batting average, making him viable in 12-team formats with five starting outfielders. I’m not rushing to add him yet, but I am watching closely to see if he can carve out the strong side of a platoon with the ancient Hunter Pence.
Brian Goodwin (OF, Los Angeles Angels)—4-4, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI. His .256 expected batting average and .421 expected slugging are probably closer to his actual skill set than his current .315 batting average and .496 slugging, but he can still likely finish the season with close to 15 home runs and five to seven steals. That’s not really useful in a 10-team league and is on the roster bubble in a 12-teamer, but those in 15-team leagues should take notice.
Tommy La Stella (3B/2B, Los Angeles Angels)—4-5, R, HR, RBI, BB. I still believe that he’ll need the remainder of the season (or longer) to hit another 10 home runs, but he’s doing his best to prove me wrong. His expected slugging is about 100 points lower than his actual slugging, but that still puts it at a strong .496. Luck is helping him out a bit but not so much that it discredits what he’s doing.
Nomar Mazara (OF, Texas Rangers)—4-5, 2 2B. He has eight hits in his past three contests, though he only has one RBI and zero runs to show for it. He has hit somewhere between the three and six spots in the lineup and should continue to be a valuable source of power and RBI the rest of the season. While he may struggle to get to the 30-home run mark (he’s capable of doing it, despite hitting just 20 in each of the past three seasons), I believe he can get to 25.
Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. It felt like his 34 home run, 104 RBI season in 2018 was going to be the outlier, but the 27-year-old continues to improve and grow as a hitter. He now has five multihit performances in his past six games and could very well top his run, home run, and RBI totals from last season. Looks like he’ll be well worth that top-60 pick that was spent in March.
Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)—3-4, 2B, 2 RBI. Ben Pernick told you in his May 1 Buy & Sell article to target him, and you likely questioned him during a brutal stretch that started April 30 (right before his article) where he slashed a meager .086/.267/.257. This performance, though, is why you should have faith! To Voit’s credit, even during that rough patch he was walking at a 15.6% clip. Maintaining plate discipline is generally a good sign during a slump, and the late bloomer has a solid hold on the first base job in the Bronx. I’d be mildly shocked if he didn’t end the season with 30 home runs and a .350-plus OBP. Also, when a Red Sox fan (such as Ben) tells you to buy a Yankee, you should probably listen. Roughly 20% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues out there have Voit on the waiver wire, and he should be owned in all formats.
Albert Almora (OF, Chicago Cubs)—2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. He’s a much better defender than hitter, but he occasionally finds himself at the top of the Cubs lineup against southpaws because of his .297 batting average against them in 323 career plate appearances. He’s a solid budget play on those nights and is worth a look in NL-only formats as he has a full-time role and should hit for a decent average (though probably not as good as the .291 average he had between 2017 and 2018).
Ryan Braun (1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-4, 2 R, RBI, BB. He was a favorite target of mine on draft day because so many people just don’t seem to like old guys, even when they post an expected batting average of .297 and an expected slugging of .520 the year before. Health will always be a concern (he hasn’t played 141 games in a season since 2012), but the veteran still hits the ball with authority and can swipe a bag when called upon. A 25-home run campaign with 10 to 12 steals in 125 games seems about right to me, along with a .265 batting average. He’s a bit less valuable in OBP leagues because of his average walk rate, but he’s still worth owning in the vast majority of leagues, particularly those with five outfield spots.
Gleyber Torres (SS, New York Yankees)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He’s off to a great start this season, and his three home runs in his past two games have put him on track to top last season’s 24 home runs. Even more impressive, though, is the fact that he has a hit in 17 of his past 18 games with a .414 wOBA in that stretch. He should be a top-seven or -eight second baseman (depending on whether Adalberto Mondesi is eligible at second base in your league) going forward.
Eduardo Escobar (3B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. I don’t have much extra to add about Escobar from when I discussed him a few days ago. He’s a valuable and versatile infielder in 12-team leagues, especially if you have corner and middle infield spots to fill, as he can play in either one. He’s not exciting (most of the time), but he’s useful.
Austin Riley (3B, Atlanta Braves)—1-3, R, HR, RBI. Welcome to the show, Mr. Riley! I don’t expect him to stay up the entire season, as he’s really just up for a cup of coffee while Ender Inciarte deals with some back issues. I don’t expect him to get more than 150 plate appearances this season, which makes him tough to roster in 10- and 12- team redraft leagues, but he’s a player worth watching in case something else happens to the active roster for the Braves.
Jason Castro (C, Minnesota Twins)—1-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Everything that puts on catching gear for the Twins turns to gold, apparently. He’ll get extra playing time while Mitch Garver is out with an ankle/leg injury and should be particularly useful when facing righties. There’s not much average in his bat, but there’s some pop if you need it.
(Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)