Batter’s Box: Corey Meets World

Jonathan Metzelaar recaps yesterday's notable offensive performances, including big games from Alex Bregman, J.T. Realmuto, and Yadier Molina.

Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire

A wise man once said, “It can’t always be rainbows and butterflies; it’s compromise that moves us along.” That man’s name was Adam Levine, and he also once bragged about being able to move like Mick Jagger, a decrepit 69-year-old man, so I guess we should take what he has to say with a grain of salt. Still, there’s a nugget of truth there. Things aren’t always going to be great. We like to focus on the hot new prospects, or the guys who have homered in three straight games. But sometimes looking at the bad stuff is instructive too. Sometimes we have to cry, to make the smiles that much sweeter.

That brings us to Corey Dickerson. A man who was lauded earlier in the year for the huge gains he had made in his contact ability. To be sure, the drop from a 24.2% to a 14.9% strikeout rate is impressive, and is backed by an improved 11.1% whiff rate this year. But at what cost? After an August where Dickerson posted a .204 wOBA with zero homers, I’m starting to wonder if this new approach is necessarily good from a fantasy perspective. While his hard contact rates haven’t suffered much, his pitch values are down almost across the board (he’s only improved against curveballs this season). It seems possible that, in an attempt to make contact with everything, he’s not squaring up on much of anything. His career-low 5.6% barrel rate would support this theory. And it certainly doesn’t help that the contact gains haven’t coincided with improved plate discipline. Dickerson is still chasing 48.6% of pitches out of the strikezone (league average is generally around 30%). And while he’s making contact with more of those pitches than he customarily does, making contact with a ball outside the strikezone is obviously not ideal. He’s still hitting .291 with 11 homers on the year, so it’s hard to get too down on him. But if the power continues to be a no-show in September, this might not be the breakout we were hoping for.

Alex Bregman (SS/3B, Houston Astros): 3-4, R, 3 2B, 2 RBI – Bregman’s one of the hottest hitters in the game right now; over his last 15 games he’s hitting .421 with four homers and more walks (8) than strikeouts (3). He’s one of the only players in baseball right now walking more than he’s striking out, and his zone recognition is unbelievable, as he’s chasing pitches out of the zone just 20% of the time. With 28 homers and 10 steals already in the bank, he should shoot up draft boards next season, and probably should go as early as the third round in 2019.

Yandy Diaz (SS/3B, Cleveland Indians): 3-4, 3 R, HR, 3B, 2 RBI, BBYandy Diaz has biceps so gigantic he could crush a bowling ball in the crook of his elbow, yet this was his first major league home run in 70 career games. He’s a bit of an enigma wrapped in a riddle sprinkled with creatine, because the power has never showed up at any level in the minors despite his hard contact rates (47.9% this year). His propensity for hitting grounders probably has something to do with it–his 7-degree launch angle this year is actually up from last year, when it was 0 degrees. Yeah. Zero.

Steve Pearce (1B/DH, Boston Red Sox): 3-4, 3 RBI, BB – If you play in a league where you have the luxury of keeping Pearce on your bench for the handful of times he gets in the lineup with a lefty on the mound, he’s a hell of a weapon. In 81 at-bats against lefties this year he’s batting .346 with four homers and nine doubles.

J.T. Realmuto (C, Miami Marlins): 2-2, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB – J.T. Realmuto sounds like a robot’s attempt at creating a human name. Hello. My name is C-R134… I mean… my name is J.T. Realmuto. Such a pleasure to meet a fellow human like myself. Ha. Ha. Ha. This performance gives Realmuto four homers over the past week, and lifts his season total to a career-high 20. I often mention how it’s a shame he’s no longer stealing bases–he’s just 3-for-5 in attempts this year–but how can I really complain about a guy who has been the best catcher in baseball this season?

Marcell Ozuna (OF, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI – Ozuna made his first hits since returning from the DL count, launching two sweet po-taters back to Idaho. It’s been discussed before, but 2017 Ozuna and his 37 homers are likely never coming back based on his propensity for hitting the ball on the ground. That said, he’s posting career-best strikeout and hard contact rates this season, and he’s still plenty useful if he manages to hit .280 with 25 homers in a season, which I think is where his true talent level lies.

Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI – Meep meep. Everybody out of the way because the brakes on this Scooter are broken and he cannot… be… stopped. Gennett is hitting .348 over the past month and .464 over the past week, and has entrenched himself as a top-10 second baseman this year. The .370 BABIP is sure to correct next season, but when you spray the ball to all fields, hit plenty of line drives (23.8%), and make lots of hard contact (39.6%), good things tend to happen.

Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates): 3-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI, SB – Anybody have Madballs toys as a kid? Anybody think Gregory Polanco looks like the Madballs character Dust Brain? No? Just me? Just me. After getting off to a dreadful start to the year, Polanco seemed to turn things around in June and July, hitting .303 with 11 homers between the two months. However, he fell off bigtime in August, hitting .216 for the month on his way to posting just a .282 wOBA. While the power has dropped off lately, the speed at least seems to be picking up, as this was his third stolen base this week.

Charlie Blackmon (OF, Colorado Rockies): 3-5, R, SB – So I’ve written around 80 Batter’s Box articles  since the season began, and I’m not sure if Blackmon has appeared even once during that span. It’s been a pretty down year by Blackmon’s standards, as he’s posted just a 108 wRC+ to this point while hitting just .281. If there’s a silver lining, the six stolen bases in his last 30 games are encouraging after it looked like his steals total was destined to shrink for the third consecutive season. And he certainly hasn’t hurt you anywhere.

Yadier Molina (C, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB – It’s amazing that after almost 15 years playing the most physically demanding position in the sport, Molina is still managing to put up extremely solid offensive numbers. This is the second year in a row that he’s set a career-high in hard contact rate, and it has shot way up this year, from 36.4% to an insane 45.5%. The 25% line drive rate is a career-best as well, and all things considered he seems to actually have gotten a bit unlucky on offense this year.

Orlando Arcia (SS, Milwaukee Brewers): 3-5, 3 R, 2 2B – After hitting .277 last year with 15 homers and 14 steals, Arcia took a gigantic tumble backward this year, and has now been relegated to a bench role. He just turned 24, but it’s hard to be optimistic after seeing him regress practically across the board this season. This performance was a nice reminder of the days of yore, but I doubt too many people were even rostering him yesterday to take advantage.

Niko Goodrum (1B/SS/3B, Detroit Tigers): 2-4, 3 R, BB, SB – So we’ve already established that there’s a Joe Schmo Effect (i.e. players with boring names get undervalued). But maybe there needs to be a Niko Goodrum Effect too. Because Niko Goodrum is not really that good–33% chase rate, 13.4% whiff rate, 45.6% groundball rate. And yet, his name is so dang cool that I still feel compelled to roster to him. He’s hitting .296 over the past week, but don’t let the excellent name fool you into thinking he has value going forward.

Mikie Mahtook (OF, Detroit Tigers): 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB – I’m getting deja vu, because Mahtook came up late last season and put up a useful little run with the Tigers, and he’s doing it again this year. He’s hit five homers in his last 15 games to go with a .271 average but I’d probably stay away unless you just need somebody who’s going to get at-bats.

Cesar Hernandez (2B, Philadelphia Phillies): 2-3, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB – A rough August has dragged Hernandez’s line down, but he’s having a solid offensive season overall, and is looking like a lock to set career-highs in homers and stolen bases this season. While the 45.8% groundball rate is actually an improvement over past years, he’s still not making nearly enough hard contact (24.4%) for double-digit home runs to be sustainable next season.

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."

  • MRegan says:

    Those waiting till the third round for Bregman next year are going to be sorely disappointed, methinks.

  • Launch Angle says:

    In a standard roto. For HR and RBI who do you trust more ROS and in what order?

    White, Piscotty, Soto, Franmil

  • Southern Marylander says:

    Ketel Marte had a nice 2 / 3 with 1 R, 1 RBI, and 1 SB yesterday. It was his first SB since August 2nd. That’s absurd. By my count, he reached first base 26 times in that period. Baseball Savant has Marte’s sprint speed at 28.7 ft / sec, which is 2nd fastest on the Diamondbacks and in line with Jose Peraza (28.8), Ozzie Albies (28.8), and Starling Marte (28.6).

    How hard is it for a player to learn to recognize pitching moves in order to improve their stolen base chances? What do MLB teams do to help with this skill?

    Arizona runs slightly less than average, with 87 attempts compared to the average of 97. Their .313 OBP is pretty atrocious, so I wonder if they run less because they get so few runners on base and are scared to lose them or if they should run more to maximize the chances for their fewer baserunners to score.

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I think what makes that even more surprising is the fact that Marte frequently hits towards the bottom of the order. You’d think he might run more down there in order to make something happen before the pitcher spot comes up, but no dice.

      It’s also interesting that you mention Peraza, because he’s one of the faster players in the game in terms of raw speed, but it doesn’t look like he’ll even make it to 30 stolen bases this season. Team philosophy and reading pitchers definitely come into play, but I’m not sure we have a great way of quantifying the impact of those things yet.

  • theKraken says:

    Polanco got off to a scorching start… then the bad stretch. Just making the point that he is extremely flawed and talented. It’s not like he ever figures anything out – he just goes back and forth between legit and worthless.

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Some guys are just notoriously streaky. I think it’s fine to dream on him “putting it together” at some point and being more consistent, but he’s definitely a high-risk, high-reward player.

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