Batter’s Box: Con Man
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
When you root for a team as star-crossed and pathetic as the Mets, your reaction to good news falls into one of two categories. Either you get overexcited by it because you need something positive to distract you from the sad, dark news that’s forever pouring out of the organization. Or you dismiss it as a trick, a way of the team trapping you into caring about it again just so it can rip that hope away from you at the last second and cause you further emotional damage. As a Mets fan, there is no such thing as a measured, mature reaction when things go well. It’s one extreme or the other.
When it comes to Michael Conforto, I’m beginning to find myself in the overly excited camp again. He went 3-8, HR, 4 RBI in yesterday’s doubleheader, and seems to finally be getting into a groove over these past few weeks after a very slow start to the year. Yesterday’s home run was his fourth this week, and sixth this month. With 25 homers in the books now, he has a clear shot at beating his previous career-high of 27 despite his struggles. And so far in September he’s struck out at just a 15% clip after posting a season-high 33% rate in August. There are still some reasons for concern here; he’s pulling the ball 53% of the time since the start of August, a slightly troubling trend considering his ability to hit for power to all fields was considered his calling card at one point. And his groundball rate has also been trending up for three months now, and sits at 51.1% for September. But the plate discipline, contact ability, and power are all clearly still there, and at 25 years old he still has time to put it all together.
Javier Baez (SS/2B, Chicago Cubs): 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB – Javier is putting the “bae” in “Baez” this year. He’s only stolen two bases over the past month, but his power output has not slowed down at all, and he’s up to 31 homers on the season. With a 17% whiff rate and 45% chase rate, Baez is going to have to depend on high BABIPs to keep up this level of production, but it’s worked out for him the past two seasons
David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies): 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI -Dahl is reminding us what he’s capable of when he’s healthy, as he’s slashing .290/.351/.550 over the past month with six homers and three steals. He’s batting an even .400 this week and should be added anywhere he’s available for a boost in all categories over the final weeks.
Nick Martini (OF, Oakland Athletics): 3-3, 2B, RBI – Nick Martini would be a great name for a James Bond knockoff. “Jon Hamm is Nick Martini in Espionage on the Rocks.” You may be surprised to learn that Martini is batting .294 over 109 at-bats this year, and occasionally hits leadoff for Oakland. You may also be surprised to learn that he hasn’t accumulated a single homer or stolen base over that span. He’s likely not worth your time.
Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies): 2-4, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI – I keep a document open on my computer with the sentence “Trevor Story hit a home run and he’s good” on it, and whenever I have to write a Batter’s Box article I simply copy and paste it for his entry. Makes things so much easier. Anyway: Trevor Story hit a home run and he’s good. He’s hitting .179 this week, so things may finally be starting to slow down for him, but he’s already banked a sensational season’s worth of stats so he could go 0-for-40 over the final two weeks and you’d still have to love him.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (SS, Toronto Blue Jays): 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI – As somebody who walks at just a 4% clip and chases 39.2% of pitches outside the zone, Gurriel is going to need to make plenty of contact and depend on some BABIP luck to succeed, especially considering he makes a LOT of medium contact (52.4%). With eight homers over 55 games this season, there may be 20 homers here over a full year, but the batting average will likely be pretty volatile.
A. J. Pollock (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 1-4, R, HR, RBI – I have a sneaking suspicion that “A.J.” stands for “Artist Jackson,” and that Pollock had to change it to A.J. because people were getting confused every time he introduced himself as “Artist Jackson Pollock.” And by “sneaking suspicion,” I mean there’s zero evidence of it and I simply wish it were true. After an absolutely brutal past month that saw Pollock tally just a single home run and no steals, he seems to be turning things around a bit this week with a .292 average and a homer and stolen base. His 45% hard contact rate is a career high, but he seems to be sacrificing some contact for it with a personal-worst 21% strikeout rate. The 39 stolen base speed he flashed a few years back is likely gone, and it will be interesting to see where he goes in drafts next year considering how 2018 has gone.
Stephen Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics): 1-4, R, HR, RBI – I still don’t like you, Mr. Piscotty. What if I make you your favorite banana pancakes? No. What if I keep hitting home runs every other day? I’ll think about it. That’s now six homers over Piscotty’s last 15 games, and he’s hitting .330 over the past month. He has pulled his overall average up to .269, and if that number continues to rise over the final weeks his hype train may start getting pretty crowded again entering next year. I’ll still be standing on the platform and waving it goodbye, though.
Yairo Munoz (SS/2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-4, 2 R, 2B, BB -Munoz has had a very underrated season to this point as the Cardinals’ super utility guy, slashing .285/.352/.438 with eight homers and five steals on the year. The injury to Jedd Gyorko has opened up some playing time for him, and his versatility gets him into the lineup more often than not. He was a high-average guy with some pop and speed in the minors, and could be a really helpful bench piece in deeper leagues next year.
Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets): 3-4, R – The last time I got excited about the New York Mets was when they made it to the World Series and then did the baseball equivalent of butt-fumbling away the championship. I vowed, after their defeat, to never get excited about anything Mets-related again. But between Rosario and Conforto, my cold heart may be beginning to thaw. Since the beginning of August, Rosario has nearly doubled his line drive rate while cutting down on his grounders and going up the middle more, resulting in a .296 average with five homers and nine steals over those 37 games. A very highly regarded prospect, he might be a great post-hype sleeper in drafts next year.
Nelson Cruz (DH, Seattle Mariners): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – I like that Cruz is a hulking behemoth of a man and that his name is… Nelson. People who read tax code for fun are named Nelson, not power hitters. This was Cruz’s third homer this week, and gives him 36 on the year as he bids for his fifth straight season with 40 homers. Yeah, I know he only hit 39 last season. Let’s fudge the numbers a bit for the sake of fun.
Manny Machado (SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers): 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Aside from an increase in stolen base attempts, Machado’s numbers have taken a small step back since he arrived in Los Angeles, with sizeable increases in his strikeout, whiff, and chase rates. Maybe he’s pressing now that he’s on a new team, or maybe it’s just a fluke in the numbers and I’m trying to create a narrative because I’m a flawed human who can’t deal with the chaos of uncertainty. To his credit, he’s making more hard contact and hitting more line drives with the Dodgers, and none of this will likely impact how many hundreds of millions of dollars he makes next year or how good he’ll be in 2019.