Batter’s Box: Fresh Start
For those of you who are new to our site, welcome to the Batter’s Box. Each day, Jim Chatterton and I will be recapping noteworthy hitting performances from the previous day (or in this case, from earlier in the day) to provide insight, analysis, and most importantly:
horrible amazing jokes. Essentially, it’s the hitter’s edition of Nick Pollack’s excellent SP Roundup. Want even more fantasy baseball chatter? Then join our community on Discord!
For a limited time only, real baseball that actually counts is back. With just one game to review, you would expect intelligent analysis from a site like ours—analysis that urges you to avoid drawing any real conclusions from what is essentially an exhibition game, played on the other side of the world’s largest body of water, more than a week before the “real” Opening Day. Well, that’s not what I’m here to do today. I did not drag myself out of bed at an unholy hour to preach patience. I woke up and tuned in to bake up some fresh, piping hot takes, and that’s what you’re going to get!
Tim Beckham (SS, Seattle Mariners): 3-3, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB – The demotion of the recently acquired J.P. Crawford all but assured Beckham would be the starting shortstop to begin the season. Though he has never lived up to being 2008’s #1 overall pick, Beckham has flashed fantasy relevance when given playing time, particularly during his 50-game debut for the Baltimore Orioles. While his 2018 did not quite live up to expectations (an unfortunate theme for his career thus far), there were many promising changes under the hood that indicated he might be of great use to owners in need of a fill-in or bench bat that qualifies at both SS and 3B. Of note, his plate discipline improved across the board. He swung less outside of the zone, made more contact inside the zone, and reduced his swinging strike rate by 2.6%. Plate discipline has been the major knock on Beckham throughout his major and minor-league career, so if he can continue growing in those areas, he may very well be a useful addition in 12+ team leagues for his positional flexibility and 20+ HR power. No strikeouts and a walk is a great start, but to really get our attention he’ll have to climb out of the eight-hole and overtake Ryon Healy and/or Omar Narvaez. Neither presents a great challenge, but as always, his biggest opponent is most likely himself.
Hot Take: Beckham proves worthy of ownership in 12+ team leagues by settling into the sixth spot in the lineup and hitting .260 with power and chip-in speed.
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, K – I’ll admit to being worried about Chapman throughout the offseason. In addition to having shoulder surgery, Statcast felt he significantly overperformed in both batting average and power. While he’s not likely to repeat his .278 average (most projection systems put him somewhere between .240 and .255, which seems about right), we don’t much care thanks to his excellent walk rates. The real issue would be if his power falters, as it’s his primary source of value. He slugged a mighty .508 last season, which was 23rd highest among qualified hitters, but based on the Statcast data, his xSLG was a mere .427. For reference, Yuli Gurriel and DJ LeMahieu each slugged .428 in 2018. Thankfully, we can put any regression fears to rest for now, as he smacked two extra base hits. His on-base skills should keep him near the top of Oakland’s lineup, which means plenty of opportunities to swing the bat, and unlike many other power hitters on weaker offenses, the team should give him a chance to score 100+ runs. I can’t be bold enough to project 30 HRs like some others have, based on the SLG-xSLG gap. While 2018 may prove to be more of a ceiling than a starting point, he will return strong value for his draft value, which continues to sit just outside of the top 100 on most sites.
Hot Take: Matt Chapman disappoints those seeking power by slugging only 25 home runs and hitting .240, but avoids the “bust” label thanks to 110 runs scored.
Domingo Santana (OF, Seattle Mariners): 1-5, 1 R, HR, 4 RBI, 2 K – Another fresh face in the Mariners lineup, Santana made his debut in grand fashion (yes, these jokes are happening and will continue to happen) with a 373-foot blast to right field. You likely recall Santana’s first full season in 2017 for the Milwaukee Brewers, where he hit 30 dingers, stole 15 bases, and slashed .278/.371/.505. Of course, the Brewers rewarded his performance the following offseason by acquiring two elite outfielders in Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, pushing Santana out of a job. Santana is a curious bat to analyze. His high walk and strikeout rates are par for the course for modern power hitters, but his minuscule 27.7% fly ball rate is unusual. Santana’s line-drive-heavy batted-ball profile sticks out like a sore thumb and makes it easy to question his career 26.3% home run to fly ball rate. However, there is one hitter we can look to as a comparison: none other than reigning NL MVP and former teammate Christian Yelich. While Santana does lift the ball a bit more than Yelich (honestly, who doesn’t?), he doesn’t hit the ball quite as hard, particularly on line drives and fly balls. Also, he happens to strike out a LOT more, but thanks to his line-drive tendencies, he can provide a much higher batting average (somewhere around .265) than most other batters who carry a strikeout rate above 30%.
Hot Take: Domingo finishes as Seattle’s best fantasy asset.
Chad Pinder (OF, Oakland Athletics): 2-4, 1 R, 2B, BB, K – The stat line isn’t so exciting, but batting fifth between Khris Davis and Matt Olson is a very interesting development. The semi-obvious reason for Pinder’s choice lineup spot against Marco Gonzalez is the .361 wOBA he posted against lefties last year. While his limited playing time and skill set keep him from relevancy in all but the deepest of formats, Pinder is a very interesting play in DFS if he continues to land in the heart of the lineup against southpaws.
Hot Take: You’ll consider adding him in season-long formats a few times this season when Oakland is set to face 3+ lefties in a week. He will appear in more than 20 DFS articles on our site this year.
Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, Seattle Mariners): 0-3, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 K – Uh oh. Were all those posts calling him an old man true? Are those who drafted him going to be left holding the bag on a player with seven consecutive 32+ HR seasons and four consecutive 100+ RBI seasons? To quote the monotonic Reverend Lovejoy from The Simpsons, “short answer [is] yes with an ‘if’, long answer [is] no…with a ‘but’.”
Hot Take: EE has his worst full season since 2008 (back when he was with the Cincinnati Reds) but still manages to be a top-12 1B option, if not top-10.
Comment below with your hot takes. Hooray for real baseball!