Batter’s Box: Go Ketel It on the Mountain

Everything Chu thinks you need to know about Sunday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

I feel like I have to say it every time I bring him up, but I was wrong about Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks). He had yet another fantastic night at the plate (3-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB—that home run was inside the park), bringing his season line to 75 runs, 24 home runs, 66 RBI, and six stolen base while slashing .319/.380/.577. That’s good enough to the be 10th-best hitter on the season according to ESPN’s Player Rater in standard leagues. He’s currently eligible at three positions, and he should bring his two most valuable ones (second base and outfield) into all formats in 2020.

You cannot understate how big a breakout this was for the guy who was an afterthought back in March. Prior to 2019, Marte’s career high in home runs was just 14, and he had only hit 22 total in 396 career games. Truthfully, it seemed like 2018 was going to be the breakout after hitting those 14 home runs and chipping in six steals with a respectable .260 batting average. It was his first full season of major league action, and he appeared to develop into a useful (if unexciting) middle infielder in deep mixed leagues.

He’s much more than that now, of course. After finding a way to make harder contact in 2018 (his exit velocity jumped from 86.6 mph in 2017 to 88.5 mph), Marte built on his success by finding a way to get the ball in the air more (his launch angle went up from 5.7 degrees in 2018 to 11.7 degrees so far this season). He’s also improved steadily each season against fastballs, breaking balls, and offspeed offerings by most metrics. In fact, he has an expected batting average of at least .292 against all three pitch categories this season. Simply put, he’s grown into an all-around hitter. There are currently very few identifiable flaws in his approach. I haven’t completed any 2020 rankings as of yet, but it will be hard to keep the 25-year-old Marte out of the top 75 overall and he may even push for top 50.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—4-5, R, 2 2B, RBI. The current home run environment makes guys such as Grichuk who can hit 25 home runs with a sub-.240 batting average essentially obsolete in 10- to 12-team formats. Power is still important, but there are simply too many other options who can contribute what Grichuk provides without so many negatives.

Max Muncy (1B/2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—4-5, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI. He should get close to last season’s 35-home run mark, proving it was no fluke, though this time it will come with close to 100 runs and 100 RBI. He will be a solid target for 2020 drafts and will retain position eligibility at all three bases.

Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers)—3-3, 3 R, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB. He has one season left under contract, and I wouldn’t be shocked if 2020 was yet another 20- to 25-home run, 10 -stolen base season with a decent batting average and a very good OBP. This old dog has learned a new trick or two as well, as highlighted in this Going Deep by Kyle Horton.

Trent Grisham (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-4, R, HR, RBI. The rookie Brewer finally got his first hit and home run in the majors. He was absolutely raking in 158 plate appearances in Triple-A prior to his call-up, with a 1.247 OPS and more walks than strikeouts. He probably won’t be a difference maker in 10- to 12-teamers, but those in dynasty and NL-only formats should be excited.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-5, R, 2B. If you want to understand just how hyped this guy is, we’re still talking about how he’s been a bit of a disappointment in 2019 despite his .279/.352/.468 line as a 20-year-old rookie. That only can happen when you have an insane amount of talent and potential. The price isn’t coming down on Vladito, folks. It’s only going to go up.

Adam Jones (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—3-4, R, 2 2B, 4 RBI. There’s still some value in this old bat for deep-league players thanks to his .270 batting average and 80-ish of both runs and RBI. He’ll likely have to find a new job for 2020, but if he does happen to find a starting gig, he’d be worth a last-round flyer in 15-teamers.

Francisco Mejia (C, San Diego Padres)—3-4, 2 R, 2B, SB. Since his second round in the major leagues began on June 18, he’s slashing an admirable .287/.343/.447 with a very strong 17.6% strikeout rate and playing more often than he doesn’t. The hyped prospect hasn’t been the difference-maker we hoped for 2019, but there’s plenty of reasons to see him as a top-10 catcher for 2020.

Jesus Aguilar (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. He’s likely still a platoon bat at first base for the Rays, though the designated hitter spot should give him a handful more opportunities than he had in Milwaukee. In deep daily leagues, there might be some magic left in the tank, though I wouldn’t count on him if you don’t have to. In real baseball, though, I love the combination of him and Ji-Man Choi at first base. The Brewers’ trash is the Rays’ treasure, I suppose.

Donovan Solano (2B/SS, San Francisco Giants)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. The four home runs is far more than I thought he’d hit (he only had four in twice as many Triple-A plate appearances in 2018), but the high batting average seems about right. He’s an extremely deep mixed or NL-only guy only, but there’s a little value there if you need a fill-in who can support your batting average.

Jason Kipnis (2B, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB. He’s been quietly useful in deeper leagues and should get close to 15 home runs and 10 stolen bases in about 120 games. In a full season, that’d be something like 18 home runs and 12 steals. I’m not saying he’ll do that in 2020, because I’d bet against it—I’m just saying that there’s enough value to consider him in deeper leagues as a middle infielder.

Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets)—2-4, 4 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. He’s one of my favorite players to own in fantasy because he just doesn’t hurt you in any category. His .400 OBP and the fact that he chips in virtually every hitting stat you might need makes him worth a bit more than the sum of his parts might indicate. He’s kind of like pre-2019 DJ LeMahieu.

Bo Bichette (SS, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-5, R, HR, 2B, RBI. He extended his hitting streak to seven games and has multiple hits in five of those seven. He hasn’t stolen a base yet, but this is about as good of a debut as you could possibly hope for. The Blue Jays are going to be fun to watch for the next few years.

Franmil Reyes (OF, Cleveland Indians)—0-4, 4 K. Yeah, he does that. His desire to swing the bat as hard as he can will lead to a lot of nights like this. You will probably just have to accept it as part of the package.

Domingo Santana (OF, Seattle Mariners)—0-4, 3 K. Yeah, he does that too. His 10 stolen bases make the strikeouts easier to swallow, but I’d really like to see the double-digit walk rate come back.

(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 creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. 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.

  • Avatar Jarrod says:

    If you were head to head dynasty keeper league, and get to keep 3 players. The league was scored on RBI, HR, R’s, AVG, KS, OPS, SB. Who would you keep: Bellinger, K. Bryant, J. McNeil, K. Marte, G. Torres, Judge, Correa.

    Reason I ask is because you are on point with McNeil and Marte both are highly underrated, play multiple positions and showing major upside. I have always keep Bryant, Correa, and Judge in the past, but this hasnt worked well for me the last few years and highly considering Bellinger, McNeil, and either Marte/Correa/Torres.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      That is quite a stacked squad!

      Bellinger and Judge are probably required keepers (though injuries have slowed Judge down), but the rest really depend on your setting. I’d think Bryant is the guy, but a few others could push him. McNeil and Ketel are wild cards but you may be able to redraft McNeil at a discounted rate (though not Ketel).

  • Avatar Grumpy McGrumperson says:

    Love the headline! Can someone remind Nick that THIS is how you pronounce Ketel and not like a tea kettle 😬

  • Avatar Penelope Pitstop says:

    Franmil Reyes is my backup OF.. he has too many nights where he just gives you a big goose egg, it’s annoying. I had Ramon Laureano filling that role but he’s busted.
    OFs on the wire – Schwarber, Kipnis, Corey Dickerson, Adam Jones, Mallex Smith, Desmond, Eloy J., Teoscar H., C. Biggio
    You think any of these gents are an upgrade? Thx.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Franmil very much fits the protoype for a free-swinging power hitter, Penelope. He has weeks where he carries a team and weeks where he sandbags you.

      Mallex Smith stands out on this list for me, though he has none of Franmil’s power. His .229 batting average is more a product of his EXTREMELY slow start than anything else. He’s hitting .252 since June 1st with 16 stolen bases (but only three home runs). If you don’t need power or do but also need speed, Mallex is probably my pick. None of the other names can come close to the steal count he can provide.

      If you need simply need replacement power, it’s probably Schwarber, though he runs almost as hot and cold as Franmil (but does strike out a little less and walks considerably more at the cost of a little power). Eloy is a better look long term, but things just haven’t come together for him in 2019. He’d be hard to add unless you could keep him.

      If this is a daily league, Corey Dickerson (who is slashing .391/.472/.717 since the All-Star Break) is intriguing, though he will sit against most lefties and won’t give a one-category boost like any of the names above. He’s more of a “solid” contributor for average, OBP, power, and some counting stats. I like him quite a bit as long as you can fill his spot on the 2-3 nights a week he sits.

      Hope this helps!

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