Batter’s Box: Free Willy
The Tampa Bay Rays look set for a long time at shortstop, and I mean a long time. Last year, the team called up its top prospect—one of MLB’s top overall prospects—to slot in at short. And now, the Rays currently have the top-rated prospect in the game developing in the minors: Wander Franco. Franco is only 18 years old, so there’s still plenty of time for the major leaguer Willy Adames to make his mark. Adames has played in just over 200 games and is sitting right at a 100 wRC+ over that span. His value is certainly fine with the bat, but it’s shining through more so in the field. However, us fantasy owners don’t care about the glove. Show us what you can do with the stick, such as that 3-4, R, HR, 3 RBI he put up in yesterday’s game.
In his first full season in the majors, Adames has been fine at the plate, but he’s really taking off in the second half. Since the All-Star break, he is slashing .289/.350/.484 with a 121 wRC+. This is much better than anything he’s done yet in the majors. Specifically in August, everything has improved. His hard-hit rate is at its best, over 45%. His strikeout rate is down to 12% when it usually is in the upper 20s. With that, he is making a lot more contact both in and out of the zone even though he’s swinging just as often. He’s showing great signs of improvement here, especially with his contact and plate discipline.
Does that matter for you as a fantasy owner coming down the stretch? There have been many great shortstops this season, but Adames’ strength right now has been the batting average. Yes, that means there are more run scoring and RBI opportunities, but he doesn’t have great power and hits at the bottom of the Rays lineup. He’s also not stealing much. If he does get shifted in the lineup, he could be someone to look at more, but for now, his improvements are just something to note down and keep in the back of your mind.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI. After a blazing hot start after the All-Star break, Bogaerts has settled down. He’s experiencing one of his weaker stretches of the season even though he’s still slugging over .500 over the past month. Most notably, he’s walking at a much lower rate than the first half of the season, 6.4% versus 12.9%. He’s also barreling the ball less, swinging more, and swinging and missing more in the second half as well. You are still seeing a good player, just not the MVP-level play from the first half.
Howie Kendrick (1B/2B/3B/OF, Washington Nationals)—3-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Kendrick recently came of the IL and has been playing more sporadically while coming off the bench. He hasn’t had as many opportunities as earlier in the season, so he doesn’t have that fantasy value any longer. But when he does start recently, he’s been producing.
Victor Robles (OF, Washington Nationals)—2-4, R, RBI, SB. The other very young outfielder on the Nats hasn’t been producing like his buddy Juan Soto. Robles’ wRC+ for the year is still below 100, but he’s inching closer to a 20/20 season. From a fantasy perspective, he’s scoring some runs and stealing bases, but hitting eighth makes all counting stats more difficult to come by, especially while hitting about .250 with little power.
Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. Since the break, Meadows has gone in small bursts of great a poor play. He’s on one of those great bursts now after getting no hits in four straight. He’s now had five extra-base hits in his past four games. Despite the streakiness, his August has stood out as he’s cut his strikeout rate down to 17% from around 30% the past couple of months. He’s putting many more balls in play, especially fly balls, resulting in a lower BABIP than usual.
Alex Bregman (3B/SS, Houston Astros)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. It looks like this good player is still very good. He’s kept his walk rate greater than his strikeout rate since the All-Star break while maintaining a wRC+ above 180. Looking at just August, his strikeout rate is 7.5% with an OPS of 1.279.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)—3-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI. Brantley continues the Astros’ offensive destruction as one of the five Astros in the top 10 players in wRC+ in MLB since the All-Star break. Yes, more than half of the Astros lineup is in the top 10 in the majors for the second half. Even more so than Bregman, Brantley puts balls in play, and with a line drive nearly 25% of the time, many of them will fall for hits.
Yoán Moncada (2B/3B, Chicago White Sox)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Moncada has broken out and has been a fantastic player this year. However, there are some spooky things hiding under the covers still. His strikeout rate hasn’t improved all that much. He’s taking fewer pitches, but that also means he’s swinging much more at pitches out of the zone. Additionally, his swinging-strike rate has increased a few percentage points. His BABIP is also close to .400 while not changing much of his batted-ball profile from last year, driving up his average to above .300 after it was around .230 last season. But he is hitting the ball harder than he has before and his 93 mph exit velocity is one of the best in the league.
James McCann (C, Chicago White Sox)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. McCann had a fantastic first half establishing himself as a must-play at the catcher position, a very rare commodity. But July came around, and McCann quickly told everyone to disregard that 33 wRC+ for that month. Since August rolled in, he’s slashing .333/.380/.591 with a 156 wRC+. This has been fueled by a ton of line drives and a BABIP over .400.
Gleyber Torres (2B/SS, New York Yankees)—4-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 2 RBI. This was Torres’ eighth multi-homer game of the season, in a season chock full of multi-home run games across the league. He’s had quite a bounce-back month after an interesting July in which he rarely hit a fly ball and slugged in the .300s. August has been much better to him, slugging .824 while also striking out 11.1% of the time, half of his usually rate.
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)