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)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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Comments


Mike P

Hey Scott! I’m a little disappointed to hear you think Riley won’t stay up for the ROS. I picked him up over Hiura due to his better power potential which plays better in my league. Did I make the wrong choice here? Does Hiura stay up ROS? If Riley plays well enough you don’t think he can stay up and they will find a spot for him? Thanks!

Scott Chu

Good questions, Mike P. I’m not sure either makes a big impact in most 10- and 12- team leagues, but if had to pick one it would have been Hiura. I think he has a better chance to stay up as he’s a much better defender than the slumping and injured Shaw.

A full-time role for Riley is tough to imagine right now, as the Braves have plenty of depth already. That said, if he DOES somehow get one, he’d be a better okay with Hiura.

Vinny

Morning Scott!

With ender incartie being complete & utter trash this year, is it inconceivable that riley can run with the job even after ender comes off the IL in a competitive NL east?

Scott Chu

That would be a huge surprise to me, Vinny. Even with Ender’s struggles, his speed on the bases and prowess in the outfield makes him a valuable contributor. At best, Riley could carve out a part time role, but I’m not sure the Braves would want that for his development. 2018 breakout utility man Johan Camargo also looms large despite the slow start.

Vinny

All very valid points Scott. As always thank you for taking out the time and for the great work!

Scott Chu

You’re more than welcome! I’m just glad you’re here checking out the article and the site. Trying to answering questions is the least I can do.

Jim

I’m curious why you kind of doubt La Stella yet tout Mazara. Saying La Stella will need another 120 games to duplicate his first 40 or so is doubting, right? And saying Mazara is capable of 30 HR despite never doing so (not to mention he is having a very unproductive 2019 thus far) doesn’t make a lot of sense. Is this all about selling high on one and buying low on someone else?

Scott Chu

I’m not sure I’d recommend juxtaposing the two, Jim. La Stella is a 30-year-old journeyman who had 10 home runs across give seasons prior to 2019 and a career 31.1 % fly ball rate. His best single season home run total at any level from 2012-2018 was 9, and that was in his rookie year at single A. He’s put on the performance of his life, but that doesn’t mean his performance was predictive of future success.

Nomar, on the other hand, is a 25-year-old who is also a former top 30-ish prospect as recently as 2015. His power has been locked in his hit tool and high ground ball rates, but even a slight improvement can have him build on the 20 home runs he hit in 128 games last season. I’d argue that his current performance has been fine – not great, not terrible, and his expected batting average of .295 and expected slugging of .520 are better marks than what La Stella has done (though not by much).

So why am I down on one and not the other? Because Mazara has age, track record, pedigree, skill set, role, and growth potential in his favor, while La Stella has exactly none of those things.

theKraken

Mazara has always produced at a rate of around mid 20s when healthy and he is young – thirty is just a hot stretch away. Track record trumps a quarter season.

Scott Chu

He was compared to Wily Mo Pena and Miguel Cabrera as a prospect. He’s probably not THAT strong, but he can be a 25-30 home run hitter for a couple of years. He’s also still quite young, as those three prior years with 20 home runs were his age 22, 23, and 24 seasons.

Matt

Of Hiura, Riley, and now Rodgers, who do you think has the best ROS outlook? thanks!

Scott Chu

Hiura, because I think he has the best shot to eclipse 200 plate appearances. He can play a solid 2B while Shaw is out (which may be for a while), and could certainly keep the lion’s share of the keystone job for the rest of the season. Hernan Perez is still around to steal some at bats here and there as well, but both he and Shaw are lefties, making Hiura the only right-handed batter available to take job.

In my comment to Vinny, I detailed a bit of why I think Riley’s days with the big club are numbered, and even if they aren’t, there are other mouths to feed at the hot corner and in the outfield.

Rodgers likely gets the least playing time of the three. Not only is there a logjam of talent on the major league roster, but Garrett Hampson is bound to figure things out quickly at AAA and push for another promotion. With just one second base job available and as many as four players vying for the role (Pat Valaika, Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson and Rodgers), it’s hard to project any meaningful playing time.

Scott Chu

Well Patrick, that trade isn’t exactly my style — I love the gains from Gallo and think Nola will bounce back. Acuna is a stud, but I’m actually not a big believer in Bieber due to how much the hits the heart of the plate. That said, If your league penalizes strikeouts and you think Nola won’t return to his 2018 self, you probably did just fine.

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