Batter’s Box: d’Arnaud is d’Man

While the people of Tampa may not appreciate the Rays, you can bet that Travis d’Arnaud (C, Tampa Bay Rays) does. He had an incredible night at the plate on Monday (3-3, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB) and is slashing .282/.342/.542 since joining the team earlier this season. When the Rays scooped him up, it was likely considered a short-term move while Mike Zunino was recovering from injury, but d’Arnaud has played his way into the starting role by hitting for contact and power with solid plate discipline (a skill that Zunino lacks).

A long-time Met, d’Arnaud had put up a few decent seasons but suffered from injuries and ineffectiveness throughout his career before finally being released earlier this season. He was briefly added to the Dodgers, but only made a single plate appearance before being released yet again and signed by the Rays. Being a Met or Dodger would have given d’Arnaud no real opportunity to become a starting catcher. He’d either have been a mere back-up to Wilson Ramos or part of a three-headed catching monster in Los Angeles with Austin Barnes and Russell Martin. By landing in Tampa Bay, d’Arnaud found the ideal situation by finding a place where he’d get playing time right away and also an opportunity to steal a job from another backstop who has a long history of up-and-down play. The icing on the cake is that the Rays are a non-traditional club when it comes to strategy and are willing to do things that other teams don’t, like letting d’Arnaud hit in the lead-off spot against some lefties.

With the trade deadline fast approaching, one of the key discussion points in the fantasy game will be identifying whether a new team improves or worsens a player’s fantasy value. d’Arnaud found himself in a much better situation, but other players will not. Many will focus on ballpark factors, but that’s only a piece of the puzzle. Make sure you pay attention to where a player would find himself in the batting order, whether they’ll have to fight to win or keep a starting role and their new team’s modus operandi. All of it plays a big role in a player’s fantasy value.

Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants)—5-6, 3 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI. He was the conductor of the Giant’s hit parade in Colorado, but he’s still not all that exciting for fantasy purposes. NL-only and 20-team leagues will find value out of his everyday role and uninteresting production, but very few other folks will.

Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—4-6, 4 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He could very well hit 50 home runs and steal 15 bases with a .300/.400/.600 batting line. That’s unbelievable for a 24-year-old coming off of what many felt was a disappointing sophomore season. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be enough to win an NL MVP, which is utterly insane.

Jon Jay (OF, Chicago White Sox)—4-4, 2 2B. The scrappy veteran southpaw has an impressive .353/.393/.451 batting line through his first 57 plate appearances on Chicago’s South Side and is worth a look in deep points leagues due to his ability to make plenty of contact. He doesn’t have much speed or power, though, which really hamstrings his value in most Roto and H2H Category formats.

Mike Yastrzemski (OF, San Francisco Giants)—4-6, 4 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. He’s run into some playing time due to the sad state of the Giants outfield and the fact that he absolutely raked in AAA, but he’s having a tough time making consistent contact in the major leagues. This is an NL-only play unless he can display the kind of plate discipline he showed in the minors, and even then he might be limited to deep league relevance.

Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, R, 2B. He’s batting eighth less often and even found himself in the two-hole a few times recently, which all bodes well for his value. Even if he stays in the sixth spot, it’ll improve his ability to score runs and drive runners in. It’s looking like he’s going to put up similar power and speed numbers that he had in 2018, but with improved ratios across the board. He’s a solid second baseman in all formats, even though he apparently doesn’t have the stolen base upside we once thought.

Alex Dickerson (OF, San Francisco Giants)—3-5, 3 R, 2 2B, RBI, BB. Another hitter benefiting from a chance in scenery, he’s slashing .364/.444/.764 as a member of the Giant’s outfield after they traded for him a little over a month ago. He was never going to see consistent playing time for the Padres thanks to the seemingly endless run of power-hitting outfielders in their pipeline, but he should continue to get solid playing time in San Francisco. Statcast is a big believer in what he’s done (.302 xBA, .548 xSLG) and he’s worth a look in 12-team and deeper leagues as a fifth outfielder if you need to add some power. His sub-22% strikeout rate also makes him valuable in points formats, as most guys with his kind of power on the waiver wire strike out considerably more than that.

Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-4, 3B, 2B, RBI, SB. He’s crushing the baseball in his second visit to the big leagues, posting a .975 OPS in 59 plate appearances. He still is striking out over 30% of the time, which may leave him prone to slumps as he adjusts, but unless the Brewers make a trade, he looks locked into the second base job going forward.

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, SB. The power has been a big surprise, but the speed is exactly what we expected when he came up. I don’t think he’ll keep slugging over .450 like he has so far, but he should steal at least 10 more bases the rest of the way with decent ratios.

Jordy Mercer (2B/SS, Detroit Tigers)—3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 2 RBI. He’s been injured for big chunks of the season and really isn’t interesting for fantasy purposes outside of AL-only leagues. He has limited speed and power and really only has value because he’ll get regular playing time when healthy.

Tyler O’Neill (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. If he can run into some more consistent playing time (which is far from a given with the log jam on the Cardinals outfield depth chart), he can provide solid power. However, his strikeouts are really tough to get over—currently 41.5% through 82 plate appearances—and even if he improves, I wouldn’t expect it to drop below 30% without a major change in approach or skill. That propensity to strikeout is also a major barrier to his playing time on a team that’s really struggling at the dish.

George Springer (OF, Houston Astros)—3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. He’s really good and really healthy—both of the things we hoped for coming out of the break. Hooray!

Alex Verdugo (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-6, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI. Unlike Joc Pederson (who is mentioned below), I think he’s going to stay in the mostly-everyday role he has. His 10% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate are extremely impressive and I think the Dodgers will want to keep that in the lineup as much as possible.

Edwin Encarnacion (1B, New York Yankees)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Yeah, it’s probably yet another 35-to-40 home run season with over 100 RBI for the aging-but-dependable slugger. His batting average is still very low due to a huge spike in pop-up rate (it’s up to 18% this season), but his high walk rate helps offset that in OBP leagues. The .201 BABIP will make you think his batting average will rebound, but pop-ups have basically a .000 BABIP, so if he keeps hitting high infield flies, the BABIP will stay incredibly low.

Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-6, R, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. Pederson is likely to fall into a platoon role in the Dodger’s outfield with A.J. Pollock‘s return to the lineup, but for fantasy purposes, that’s probably OK since he was really only valuable against righties anyway.

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, 2B, 2 RBI. I really believe he can be a top-25 player for the second half. He’s been discussed ad nauseum during the break, but I did want to throw my beliefs out there.

(Photo by Mary Holt/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 podcasts with Friends with Fantasy Benefits and contributes to Lineup Logic. 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


J

Wait why would that not be enough for Bellinger to win MVP? His offensive numbers are slightly better than Yelich and he’s a much better defender. I’d say he’s the clear front runner. The Statcast metrics support his performance more than Yelich’s too.

Scott Chu

I think it probably SHOULD BE, J, but Yelich is also adding those gaudy stolen base totals. A 50 HR/35 SB season would almost certainly lock him in as the repeat NL MVP. Bellinger would need a sizeable advantage in counting stats to steal 1st place votes and also would need to keep that Vottoian BB/K ratio. It’s not out of the realm of possibility and should be an exciting race – I just think Yelich will win it.

TheKraken

There is no way he is a much better defender thsn anyone in the OF. He looks lost out there as he makes everything look difficult. That cant factor in. He is a hell of a 1B though. I wpild also bet that yelich has the better second half. Betting on the proven guy is always smarter. I do have a feeling that belly will win it if it is close as I think awards tend to go to new faces these days.

J

The advanced metrics love him. He’s 3rd in UZR and by far 1st in DRS among outfielders. He’s also 10th in Statcast’s outs above average. It’s a small, unsustainable sample, but it’s absolutely plenty to say that he is at least an above average outfielder, especially since his metrics were above average before this season too. He has plus range and a plus arm.

Scott Chu

He’s a fine right fielder. That said, DRS and UZR are better looked at in much longer samples, like 1 to 3 years of data. If you look at 2017 through 2019, he still grades very well as an outfielder. It’s much less dramatic, of course, but it’s clear he’s helping his team out there. Yelich grades as basically average, which is pretty much what the eye test tells you. Defensive metrics are tricky though. Would you consider Bellinger a much better outfielder than Mike Trout? These metrics certainly do.

For what it’s worth, Defensive WAR, which has it’s own issues, is much colder on Bellinger’s defensive capabilities.

Bellinger’s defense is certainly worthy of discussion, but I don’t think it will do much with Yelich trying to set new records in HR+SB, especially when the other offensive statistics are similar.

Scott Chu

In redraft he’s well ahead of Brosseau for sure and probably Lowe due to the uncertain playing time. It’s close with Cooper, but I believe in Dickerson’s power more and think both can provide some batting average and OBP with stable playing time.

Steve K

Scott – great column as always. My catchers are contreras and chinirios. I’m looking to drop chinirios for someone a bit more productive (I’m hurting for average). Options are Garver, Alfaro d’Arnaud, posey, astudillio. What do you think? thanks again

Scott Chu

Thanks Steve K!

My first answer is to point you to Dave Cherman’s Catcher to Stream article that comes out every Sunday. It would likely provide better results than sticking with one of these guys long term.

Outside of that, though, my answer would be Posey. Posey has recently found his stroke at the plate, slashing .390/.432/.610 in his last 11 games (9 starts) and has more talent than any of these other guys by a mile. It’s hard to pinpoint why he has struggled so much, though the wear and tear of catching is likely one of the root causes.

I’d be OK with d’Arnaud or Alfaro though, if they had better upcoming match ups than Posey. I think d’Arnaud is running away with the job and has shown strong enough plate discipline to be a solid option. Alfaro I’ve added because he’s playing every day and has decent power in his bat for a catcher, though he whiffs a LOT and isn’t viable in leagues that penalize strikeouts.

Astudillo probably isn’t returning to baseball anytime soon, so he’s out of the question, and Garver has been merely average since his return from the IL at the beginning of June. I probably would pass on them, though Garver is interesting if he sees a string of lefties.

TL;DR—Stream your catcher, but Posey is showing signs of life worth paying attention to.

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