Batter’s Box: Gettin’ Rowdy
Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire
Why do we love rooting for overweight baseball players? Pablo Sandoval. David Ortiz. CC Sabathia. These guys have attained cult hero status at least partially because of their girthy figures. Is it because they give us hope that, at any moment in time, we could peel ourselves off our couches and suit up in a baseball uniform and dominate? Is it because they blur the line between us and the world-class athletes that actually play the sport? After all, if a 45-year-old Bartolo Colon, who purportedly weights 285 pounds, can still pitch and occasionally square up a 90+ mph fastball, surely I could wipe the Doritos dust off my chest and do the same at a moment’s notice. Right?
Well it just so happens that we have a new entrant wading into the beloved-and-rotund player pool: Rowdy Tellez. With his 3-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI performance yesterday, Tellez has now tallied nine doubles and is slugging .787 through just 48 plate appearances. Obviously the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions, but the scouting reports always pegged Tellez as an above-average contact hitter who would likely grow into some power due to his, uh, size. And to that point, Tellez has posted a strikeout rate above 20% just once over his last five seasons in the minors. His current .500 BABIP and 2.1% walk rate point to some major regression coming in the future, but his 31.4% line drive rate and 40% hard contact hint at a guy who could hit for a decent average with some pop. The designated hitter job is likely his next season with Kendrys Morales departing, so he’s a guy to keep on your radar late in next year’s drafts.
Aramis Garcia (C/1B, San Francisco Giants): 4-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI – A great performance from Aramis Garcia, who I definitely always knew existed and played for the San Francisco Giants without Googling it or anything like that. He’s hitting .368 with three homers over his first 38 at-bats with the Giants, splitting time at first base and catcher in Buster Posey’s absence.
Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros): 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB – It’s been a weird year for Altuve, and you can probably make the case that this has been one of his least productive seasons fantasy-wise since 2013. The 24 homers he hit in each of the last two seasons always seemed a little flukey, but it’s the downturn in stolen bases that’s scary. Maybe some of it can be explained away by the leg injuries he dealt with this year. Either way, there’s suddenly a bit of risk in drafting him in the first round next season.
Robinson Cano (1B/2B, Seattle Mariners): 3-4, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI, BB – Cano’s batting .319 with five homers over the past month, and is striking out less than 20% of the time during that span. His hard contact rate has gone up this season, and his contact rate is stable, so those worrying about a dropoff in future performance following his PED suspension can rest easy for now.
Javier Baez (SS/2B, Chicago Cubs): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB – Somebody mentioned the other day that, when you make a ton of hard contact, sometimes it’s better to whiff at pitches out of the zone than make subpar contact that will result in a weak groundball or a pop-up. In that context, Baez’s 17.8% whiff rate and 46.5% chase rate are slightly less horrifying and baffling, because his 82.5% contact rate on pitches in the zone actually isn’t that far off the average. In other words, yes, Baez is a free-swinger who whiffs a ton on pitches out of the zone. But when he gets a strike, he usually makes contact, and he usually hits it hard. I still think he’s been performing voodoo blood rituals to have the success he’s had this year despite really poor peripherals. But at least there’s some potential logic behind it.
Greg Allen (OF, Cleveland Indians): 1-2, 2 SB – If you abided by the old adage to never trust a guy with two first names, you likely would have been spared the steep dropoff in playing time that Allen has seen since Josh Donaldson made his way into the lineup. Should he ever find himself with a full-time gig, the speed absolutely plays, as he’s up to 17 steals over just 273 plate appearances. The 20.1% strikeout rate is impressive too, and I’m getting a bit of a 2017 Mallex Smith pre-breakout vibe here. Keep him on your radar.
Tommy Pham (OF, Tampa Bay Rays): 1-4, R, HR, RBI, BB – This was Pham’s third homer this week, and he’s hitting .429 over his last seven games. His 49% hard contact rate is second in all of baseball, just barely edged out by Matt Carpenter’s 49.1% rate. This past week has likely cut into any discounts you were hoping to get on him in drafts next season.
Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves): 2-3, 3 R, BB, SB – That’s now three stolen bases over the past week for Inciarte, whose speed has slowed dramatically after an impressive 23-stolen base first half. He’s just 5-for-10 in attempts in the second half, but it’s nice to see him finally running again, and he needs just two more swipes to get to 30 on the season.
Hunter Renfroe (OF, San Diego Padres): 2-3, R, HR, RBI, SB – When Aaron Judge went down, I thought all hope was lost for one of my fantasy teams. In an act of desperation, I recorded an S.O.S. holo-message and sent it with a protocol droid to the barren desert wastelands of Tatooine. Shortly thereafter, I was rescued by a brave moisture farmer by the name of Hunter Renfroe, who single-handedly saved my team/the galaxy. In the 45 games he’s played since the beginning of August, Renfroe has hit 17 home runs and posted a 136 wRC+. He’s made 46% hard contact over that time while only striking out at a 22.6% clip. I’m starting to buy into him for next year a bit, and think there’s 35+ homer upside here.
Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals): 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, SB – He’s already eclipsed the 40 stolen base plateau, and this homer pulled him just two shy of 20. Should he get there, he’d be the only player in the last two seasons to go 20/40, further cementing the fact that he possesses a very unique skillset among current major leaguers.
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/SS/OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI – I refuse to believe that anybody actually has a name as cool as Niko Goodrum. But maybe I’m just jealous, seeing as how my last name sounds like a sneeze. Over the past month “Niko Goodrum” has been surprisingly solid, hitting .274 with six homers and four steals. Considering his positional versatility and ability to provide both pop and speed, he could be a solid bench bat in deeper leagues next season.
Mitch Haniger (OF, Seattle Mariners): 3-5, 3 R, 2 2B – Haniger’s second half has been even more impressive than his excellent first half, as he’s hitting .310 with a .386 wOBA since the break. He’s smacked seven homers over the past month, and while he is prone to an extended slump on occasion, he’s clearly established himself as a top outfielder.
Yuli Gurriel (1B, Houston Astros): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI – Gurriel’s 10.9% strikeout rate this season is elite, and he’s as safe as they come in terms of batting average output. That said, the lack of hard contact and his penchant for hitting grounders caps his power output in the mid-teens. That doesn’t really play at first base, and while he has picked up second base and third base eligibility this season, it doesn’t seem that he’ll play at either spot enough over the final week to retain that eligibility next year.
Nick Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-4, R, 2B – Castellanos finally put it all together this season, and over the past month he’s hitting .360 with four homers. He’s pulling the ball way more this year, which pairs nicely with his insane 48.1% hard contact rate. He’s also a line drive machine, and I’m kind of buying the .303 average he’s posted this year. If .290 with 20-25 homers is his new baseline, he’s suddenly boosted himself into the top tier of outfielders.