Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
At the start of the season, in spring training, we’re introduced to a bunch of new faces and young prospects trying to make names for themselves. Some of these guys turn into the next superstars. Most of them will disappear from our radars, never to be heard from again. Then, towards the end of the season, a second wave of youngsters appear. As most teams fall out of contention, they begin to use their games as opportunities to audition prospects for next season. Rosters expand, and players we’ve never heard of start picking up at-bats. As in spring training, most of these new names won’t leave their mark. But occasionally a few do.
That brings us to Christin Stewart. He was great in Twilight, and now he’s here to show what he can do outside of Tinseltown. Yesterday’s 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB performance featured the first two homers of his major league career, but he’s no stranger to the long ball. He hit 28 homers over 136 minor league games last year, and tallied 25 over 125 games this year. His batting averages have generally hovered around .250 in the minors, but he’s displayed excellent plate discipline, with walk rates of 12.8% this year and 10.1% last year. Though he hasn’t accumulated enough at-bats in the majors yet to draw any solid conclusions about his future, his 77.7% contact rate and 9.9% whiff rate to this point are decent, and I’m not seeing anything in his minor league stats that indicate his batting averages will be a total liability. In deep keeper leagues, especially those that use OBP, he’s not a bad speculative add, especially since he’ll likely have a full-time job locked down entering next season.
Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox): 4-5, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI – I still contend that, if you want your child to succeed in life, you should give them a weird name. It teaches them to deal with adversity at a young age. That’s why I intend to name my firstborn “Derek Jeter Metzelaar.” And no, it has nothing to do with my losing a bet to Dave Cherman. This homer was Mookie Lynn’s 30th on the year, but according to xStats he’s actually gotten a bit unlucky in the category, as he’s pegged for 35 xHR. His value hit rate has shot up this season, from about 8% over the last three years to 12.7% this year, and with two more stolen bases he’ll have himself a 30/30 season. He good.
Michael Brantley (OF, Cleveland Indians): 3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB – I don’t think I was alone in thinking Brantley’s days as a useful player were over after he struggled through a litany of injuries over the past two seasons. Yet here he stands, with 595 plate appearances under his belt in 2018 and a .306 average, 17 homers, and 11 steals. With just a 4.1% whiff rate and 90.7% contact rate, this is looking like vintage Michael Brantley.
Nick Martini (OF, Oakland Athletics): 3-6, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI – I guess you could say Nick Martini was the straw that stirred the drink in yesterday’s blowout of the Angels. The man just can’t be shaken. Sorry, olive martini puns. This was Martini’s first homer this year in 129 at-bats, so while the .295 average is useful, there isn’t anything else here. Don’t pick him up unless your season is truly… on the rocks.
Tommy Pham (OF, Tampa Bay Rays): 3-5, 2 R, 3B, 2 RBI – I’m really disappointed that J.B. Shuck and Jack Cust are no longer in the MLB, because “Cust Shuck My Whit Up Pham” would be a hell of a fantasy team name. Pham has been on fire lately, batting .375 this month with three homers and two steals. Pham had historically struggled at Busch Stadium, and considering the issues with his eyesight, perhaps Tropicana Field is proving to be a better home park for him.
Yoan Moncada (2B, Chicago White Sox): 3-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB – I think most of us were expecting a little skills growth from Moncada this season. There are some positives: he’s cut way back on his groundball rate (45.6% to 37.5%), and his plate discipline is still above-average. But he’s striking out 33.4% of the time, and the 11 steals from a guy pegged with 70-grade speed is disappointing. It seems he’ll continue to be the ultimate high-risk/high-reward player in next season’s drafts.
Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics): 3-5, R, 2B, 5 RBI – Semien’s season has been… fine. I think we hoped for more than 12 homers after he hit 10 in just over half a season last year, but he’s gotten his strikeout rate down to 18.3% thanks to an improved whiff rate. In a very deep shortstop pool he just hasn’t done much to stand out though.
Mallex Smith (OF, Tampa Bay Rays): 1-4, R, BB, 2 SB – Smith has really set himself apart as one of the premier stolen base assets in the game this season. He’s now up to 35 steals over just 439 at-bats, including four this week and twelve over his last 30 games. Oh, and he’s hitting .301. In the current stolen base landscape, guys who can swipe 40-50 bags over the course of a full season are worth their weight in gold.
Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds): 2-3, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI, BB – If Batter’s Box had a poster boy, Gennett would certainly be in the running. Or should I say, the scooting? Nah, you’re right, “running” makes more sense. He’s slowed down a little in the second half, but is still posting a 122 wRC+ since the break. He’s upped his line drive, hard contact, and walk rates this year while cutting down on his strikeouts and whiffs. He just continues to improve.
Stephen Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics): 2-3, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB – Those who pounced and grabbed Piscotty after his slow first half have been reaping the rewards. Over the past month he’s hitting .330 with 11 homers while striking out less than 20% of the time. I’m sorry, Mr. Piscotty. I never really meant all those things I said about you being a mediocre hitter.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, New York Yankees): 1-3, R, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB – Stanton has had a rough go of it lately, hitting just .183 over the past month while striking out nearly a third of the time. It hasn’t been a bad year for Stanton per se, but 35 taters is pretty pedestrian, especially after he hit 59 last year in the cavernous funhouse known as Marlins Park.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS/2B, Kansas City Royals): 2-5, R, HR, RBI – I toyed with the idea of featuring Mondesi as today’s spotlight. Again. For like the eighth time. Because we can’t say it enough: Adalberto is the Man-desi. Mondesi’s second-half wRC+ is now up to 130, and after mostly just flashing his elite speed, he’s started flexing his muscle lately, with five homers this month. He continues to fly up next year’s draft boards.
Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets): 3-6, R – Rosario continues to salvage what had looked to be a hugely disappointing season, batting .325 over the past month with seven steals. Known as a free-swinger, he’s walked just three times this month and has a 40% chase rate, so you can expect him to be a streaky player until his plate discipline becomes more refined.
Rowdy Tellez (1B, Toronto Blue Jays): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Rowdy “Roddy” Tellez just keeps on crushing. His OPS is now up to 1.144 over 39 at-bats, and the Blue Jays seem intent on getting him at-bats at the expense of Kendrys Morales over these final weeks. He’s looking like next year’s full-time designated hitter, and while scouts were never super high on him, he’s got enough pop and contact ability to be useful.
Jonathan, I am in need of your infinite wisdom once more this year. If you had to play one guy today (assuming Milwaukee gets rained out), would it be:
Franmil Reyes (@ Rich Hill),
Mallex Smith (@ Reid-Foley),
or Hunter Dozier (RHB @ Liriano)
Hey Vinny. I’d go Franmil there. He’s hitting .358 vs. lefties this season, and Hill is very prone to the long ball.
Thanks for the reply!
Jonathan, if I don’t get the chance to talk to you again before the end of the year, just wanted to thank you for all your hard work and especially for your subtle sarcasm and humor which truly made your batter box’s articles some of the best! Consider me a fan indeed, and have a great offseason sir!
Vinny, your kind words will keep me warm during the long, cold offseason. Thanks so much for reading, you’re the best.
Deciding between Suarez (5 @ home) or W. Myers (3 home 3 away) for final week. Suarez mired in ugly slump and suspect his back is bothering him.
I think I’d stick with Myers since he gets the extra game and the potential for some steals, though they’ve been equally cold lately.