The quote in the title is actually one of my favorites from rock star Ozzy Osbourne. The full quote is, “I got rabies shots for biting the head off a bat, but that’s OK—the bat had to get Ozzy shots.” It’s quite brilliant and the epitome of what a front man should say after biting the head off a mammal.
As for Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves), who had yet another fantastic night at the plate (4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI), he’s turning into quite a front man himself as the No. 2 hitter for the Braves. Previously this season, I had hoped and prayed in this column that Albies would get out of the six and seven hole and be bumped to the top of the order to allow him more opportunities to get counting stats, and that’s exactly what happened on July 24. Since that time, he’s hit .349/.388/.635 with three home runs, three stolen bases, and 25 combined runs and RBI in 67 plate appearances, including 10 combined runs and RBI in his last two games thanks to back-to-back four-hit contests.
With Albies, the biggest surprise in 2018 was the power, as he did not grade out well in that area and figured to be a batting-average and stolen-base contributor before an incredibly hot start where he hit 20 home runs in the first half—only to hit just four of them in the second half. I fully expected the power to take a step back in 2019, but Albies clearly had a different idea, as he already has 17 home runs on the season to go along with his 11 stolen bases.
The trials and tribulations of Albies really have two important lessons for fantasy owners. First, scouting grades are not gospel. Despite 30- to 40-grade power, Albies is on pace to have back-to-back 24 home run seasons and is slugging .496. His 70-grade hit tool likely has helped him find more power as he’s developed, but he’s also simply a great athlete who can grow and develop new skills. The second lesson is that changes in where a player hits in the batting order can be a big deal, especially when they move from the bottom third to the top third as Albies has. It’s simplistic, but getting more plate appearances each night and having better players hitting after you have an obvious and meaningful impact on counting stats and opportunities, and it’s even more of a boost in the NL.
Assuming Albies can keep these gains in batting average and stay in the two-hole, he can continue to be a top-six or -seven second baseman with the potential to move into the top five. The future is extremely bright in Atlanta.
Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox)—4-4, 3 R, BB. Make that three multi-hit games in a row for the spark plug shortstop. The steals will come back eventually, but until then, enjoy the hot bat and the seven-game hitting streak. Statcast is a big fan of his this season and even suggests that his .323 batting average (which is a full 83 points higher than his .240 from 2018) is more real than it is a mirage (.284 xBA).
Charlie Culberson (OF, Atlanta Braves)—4-5, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI. He’s a part-time player, but I’ll give credit where credit is due for his solid performance. He’s started two games in a row at shortstop and may get a few more before Dansby Swanson returns (which won’t be until next week at the earliest). He’s an NL-only play.
Cameron Maybin (OF, New York Yankees)—4-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. Since returning to the big leagues in late July, he has an 1.147 OPS and home runs in back-to-back starts. He may not carve out a full-time role, but DFS players and those in deep leagues and AL-only formats should pay attention to this hot streak, especially after they batted him fifth in Wednesday’s game.
Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox)—3-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI. He’s alternated between good and bad months in terms of batting average but has otherwise been fairly consistent in providing some power and counting stats this season. He’s been the 12th-best first baseman per ESPN’s player rater and should be a top-10 to -15 guy in 2020 as well.
Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)—3-4, R, BB. Is 43 RBI in 43 games good? Can someone look up if that’s good? Since his call-up on June 9, he’s tied for first in the league with teammate Yuli Gurriel in wRC+ at 196 and is second in OBP at .429. He’s still only at seven games in the outfield, and it looks more and more like he’ll start 2020 with DH-only eligibility, but don’t let that stop you from ranking him highly. DH-only eligibility is heavily over-punished and is truthfully not all that big of a deal. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being a first baseman next year.
Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI. His aggressive approach is likely going to have him running hot and cold for the rest of the season, but there’s no doubt that his power and speed are legit. The Brewers have also steadily moved him up in the order, which increases his opportunities to pile up counting stats.
James McCann (C, Chicago White Sox)—3-5, 2B, 3 RBI. He hit just .173 in July with only five RBI, but he’s put together three straight multi-hit games and continues to be the starting catcher for the White Sox, so he has some value. He’s not good enough to ignore streaming the position, though.
Gio Urshela (3B, New York Yankees)—3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI. He’s now got a nine-game hitting streak and three home runs in his last two contests. He also hit third for the Yankees. That’s enough to be a back-end replacement in many leagues and an option in DFS if his price hasn’t become overinflated. For what it’s worth, Statcast thinks he should have a .312 batting average and .520 slugging, so the quality of contact is solid. He’s a career .262/.309/.406 hitter in 824 plate appearances, so I expect him to return to that at some point, but weirder things have happened. If you want a deeper look into Urshela, check out Tim Jackson’s Going Deep on him that was just released.
Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)—2-3, R, HR, RBI. He finally has a chance to play every day due to some injuries and demotions and is doing well with the opportunity, slashing .325/.357/.775 since returning to action on July 26 with four home runs. He doesn’t walk much and won’t steal bases, but the rest should be pretty good for fantasy purposes.
Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets)—2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB. He’s not that special in 10-teamers that use batting average, but he’s a locked-in starter in pretty much every other format, and especially in leagues that use OBP. You can write in 30-35 home runs and a .360+ OBP for the next couple of years at least.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians)—3-6, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, SB, BB (doubleheader). Yeah, turns out he’s still really good. He won’t be a No. 3 overall pick, but he’s an absolute stud.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—0-4, 3 K. This is just what he is: a high-strikeout, decent-power guy. I just can’t see any value in a mixed league until he drags that batting average out of the .220-.240 range.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—0-4, K. He’s hitless over his last four games with one walk and five strikeouts, though he did have a hit in each of the 11 games prior, including seven home runs with a triple-slash of .370/.396/.891. He’s been on a bit of a decline against fastballs over the last two seasons, though what will really stand out about his 2019 campaign is the nearly 40-point drop in batting average from years prior.
(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)