The fourth cycle we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing this season came about on Sunday with Colorado 3B Nolan Arenado going off versus the Giants at Coors Field on Sunday. His composite box score contributions were a robust 7-15, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI, 4 K, and that includes a Friday double beyond the XBHs inherent to hitting for the cycle two days later. According to Steamer projections, Arenado is now on pace to hit 34 homers and 115 RBI this season, so he would be slightly behind his work rates in 2015 and 2016; at the end of the day, though, he is a member of the elite class of hitters in baseball and is again an absolute joy to own if you were savvy enough to snag him on Draft Day or retain him as an obvious keeper.
Let’s take a look at what else happened notably hitting-wise around the league:
Lorenzo Cain (OF, KCR) – 5-10, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 SB. Cain continues to surprise the daylights out of me with his unexpected surge of power, particularly when many were simply counting on him to be a solid average hitter who offers steals at a decent clip. He’s got eight homers in the month of June at this point, so owners have to be thrilled with this collateral bonus of production. Cain hit 16 taters in 2015 and is clearly capable, but the current .184 ISO and 32.3% hard contact he’s rocking this season are both better than what he posted two years ago. A .284 hitter with 38 runs and 14 steals has no business being owned in just 87% of Yahoo leagues and 85.9% of ESPN leagues. Scoop him if you can.
Josh Bell (1B/OF, PIT) – 3-10, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, K. Bell’s average is not the greatest at .236, but 33 runs and 30 RBI for Pittsburgh certainly make Bell a serviceable fantasy option. He’s got 12 homers for your trouble after hitting his latest on Friday against the Cubs, and he also threw in a double and triple over the weekend for good measure if XBH compensation is a thing for you in points league formats. He’s hit safely in eight of his last 10 outings.
Dexter Fowler (OF, STL) – 6-11, 3 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K. Four consecutive multi-hit games and seven in his last 10 showings are what Fowler has brought to the table recently. As such, he’s batting .333 in June for a .254 average overall after a somewhat lackluster May. The fact that he has crossed the plate 38 times and driven in 35 RBI is also pretty impressive, and he’s now bumped up his 2017 homer count to 13. He appears safe to plug into lineups daily at this rate.
Stephen Piscotty (OF, STL) – 2-8, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, K. Piscotty has been something of an injury-prone and inefficient disappointment this year, but a dual-homer showing is worth discussing. That’s a particularly salient stat line when he’s only hit six on the year; 22 RBI and 18 runs aren’t doing much for you either, alas. I personally drafted Piscotty in the 11th round of our staff league here at Pitcher List with high expectations, and he just hasn’t delivered. A batting average of .250 isn’t wowing anyone either. The .273 BABIP has room for positive regression, but he’s ultimately been just mediocre with a wRC+ of just 110 and a WAR of eactly 0.0. You’ve got more productive OF options at present.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B/OF, CLE) – 11-18, 6 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB, 3 K, SB. Ramirez is a huge reason why the Indians were able to sweep the previously AL-Central-leading Minnesota Twins this past series: that “11” is literally the largest hit count I’ve typed out for a weekend’s worth of production so far this season, so that says a lot. J-Ram is on an unbelievable six-game streak with multiple hits and has scored 42 runs over the course of his 2017 campaign—only 27 players league-wide have more under their belt. His HR/FB ratio is sitting at 12.9%, which is incredibly more than double than the same metric from his 122 wRC+ season last year. The positional flexibility is a cherry on an already ample and delicious baseball-flavored ice cream sundae. Get hungry and acquire him in the unlikely event that he’s available.
Yasiel Puig (OF, LAD) – 2-11, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K. Puig has been an infuriating—if still acceptably productive—fantasy asset of late, and this weekend is a perfect microcosm explaining how and why. Going 0-2 Friday and 0-5 Sunday means all the production came Saturday. He obviously has done fine for owners over the course of the year by notching 12 jacks, 32 runs and 37 RBI. But the .241 average leaves something to be desired, as does his tendency to alternate fruitless outings with good ones. Ultimately, he’s truly solid, but you can’t necessarily count on him to be your surefire savior when a H2H matchup is in the balance in the waning moments.
Michael Conforto (OF, NYM) – 3-11, 2 BB, 2 RBI, 4 K, SB. The prolific Conforto now has two steals after Sunday’s effort, but the real story is that he’s got back-to-back hits again for the first time since two weeks ago. Moreover, June 2 marked the last time Conforto notched RBI, so this weekend’s resurgence was most welcome. A subpar .196 June has plagued his generally wonderful season, but he can still claim a .289 average; 44 runs and 38 RBI overall are hard to argue with, but it would be nice to see Conforto regain his early-season form. He’s hit 14 homers but has just four in the last month. Baseball is streaky, but he’s the real deal so you’d do well to avoid impatience.
Brandon Phillips (2B, ATL) – 4-13, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K, CS. Phillips came through with some top-flight clutch hitting against the Marlins over the weekend, as he tallied the game-winning walk-off hits on consecutive days for Atlanta. Phillips has a .306 average to go with 32 runs, but his four homers unfortunately tell a story of him not being a big power threat. An RBI count of 23 is satisfactory without being exemplary; meanwhile, he has seven steals despite none of them coming in June. His recent multi-hit work makes it easy to endorse rostering and starting him.
Mike Napoli (1B/DH, TEX) – 3-9, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB, 3 K. As a Cleveland fan, it was really easy to be a fan of Napoli last year when he hit 34 homers during the Tribe’s rousing run to the World Series. I know I wished him well when he departed for Texas, and I thought he would complement an already solid lineup nicely down in Arlington; the reality is that he has been a fantasy nightmare for much of early 2017. He’s hitting a wretched .199, and the 24 runs and 29 RBI just aren’t sufficient to make up for that, honestly. Thirteen homers are respectable. But he is clearly costing you in other departments to the extent that it’s hard to recommend using him when there are guys who have 13 jacks while NOT screwing the pooch in average. Exhibits A, B and C are Tigers OF Justin Upton, Rays OF Justin Upton and Yankees OF Brett Gardner. Roll with those dudes insetad.
Jonathan Schoop (2B, BAL) – 4-11, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 K. Schoop’s monster game with 10 total bases Saturday was sandwiched in between 0-3 outings on Friday and Sunday, but regardless, he’s having a great month. He owns a .333 BA in June and is slashing .289/.343/.533 so far this season. Pertinent to the conversation about Napoli alternatives, Schoop also is a member of the 13-homer club, and his 41 RBI and 39 runs are palatable components of his résumé to boot. I’m pretty surprised he’s owned in only 79% of Yahoo leagues and 79.3% of ESPN leagues. That needs to be rectified.
Willson Contreras (C/OF, CHC) – 5-9, R, 6 RBI, BB, 2 K. The timeshare with Miguel Montero kills me, because Contreras has the potential to be great if he were to become a beneficiary of more playing time. Given that caveat, 31 RBI through 185 AB aren’t worth complaining about at a position that is so set-and-forget as catcher. He’s got the bat and plate discipline to slug a good number of homers, but they’ve been few and far between with just five so far. I’d like to see a higher average, but .254 is what we’re dealing with. He’s a gem in a two-catcher league, but some spot streaming in a one-catcher format might be necessary.
Ian Happ (2B/OF, CHC) – 4-12, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB, K. It’s time to mention Happ in fantasy conversations. He’s got 82 fewer at-bats than Contreras and yet has three more homers to his name, so there’s that. Seventeen runs and 16 RBI don’t necessarily leap off the page at first, but he’s also only been operating at the MLB level since May 13; Ben Zobrist being on the DL likely has meant his playing time is especially not in question, and he appears to have the starting CF gig on lock. An average of .223 isn’t great, but Happ’s slowly gaining his sea legs in a tumultous NL Central race and should be fun to watch as his bat progresses. He’s likely best utilized as a bold UTIL plugin, a streamable OF or as a backup 2B for Mondays or Thursdays when your starter is off.
T.J. Rivera (1B/2B/3B, NYM) – 4-10, R, K. Rivera’s fantasy relevance has likely gone up a notch in the coming weeks with 2B Neil Walker landed on the DL with a mild hamstring tear. Rivera has three multi-hit efforts in his last five games, and while the at-bats and counting stats aren’t terribly abundant, he could serve as a walking, talking stopgap measure this week and in the near future.