Batter’s Box: Good Baez

(Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)

First impressions can leave a mark that’s hard to erase. When I worked at McDonald’s in high school, they introduced a special menu item called the McPhilly Cheesesteak. It was like a regular cheesesteak, except McDonald’s made it, so most of the ingredients were squeezed out of some kind of tube. But being a young kid who had yet to experience the taste of a truly delicious cheesesteak, I thought the McPhilly Cheesesteak was the pinnacle of fast food. It was gone from the menu within a month, and has yet to ever return to my knowledge. But I swear to God, some nights I lay awake at night and think about it. I can still taste it, even. I know if I had it again now I’d find it disgusting, but it was delicious back when I first had it, and so it will always be delicious. Always.

Javier Baez is kind of the opposite of a McPhilly Cheesesteak. Not only because he’s a human being and not a hoagie, but because my first memories of him involved him striking out over 40% of the time. I immediately wrote him off as someone who would never make enough contact to matter, and didn’t pay much attention to him for nearly three years.

Last night, Baez went 3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI and I realized that maybe it was time that I re-evaluate my position on him. Now make no mistake, he still whiffs a lot. His current swinging strike rate of 16.8% isn’t far off his career average, and it’s well above the league average rate of 10.6%. But he’s been absolutely destroying the baseball this year, posting a 44.1% hard contact rate. It’s still early, but he’s also cut down on his troublesome 48.6% groundball rate from last year and started hitting way more line drives (28.1%) and fly balls (43.8%) this season. His average is being held down in part due to a .167 BABIP, but I’m seeing a lot of good things in his peripherals this year, and at just 25 years old there’s still a lot of room for growth.

Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox): 3-3, 3 R, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB – Three hits, three runs, three homers, three RBI. If Betts had drawn a third walk in this game I think it would have ripped a hole in the matrix and caused reality to collapse in on itself. In his first game back from a small injury scare, Betts absolutely unloaded on the Angels. I guess it’s safe to say Betts is healthy. Here’s a hot take though; maybe Mookie Betts is too healthy.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (2B, Texas Rangers): 4-5, 2B – I believe Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the first major league baseball player named after the sound that a sneeze makes. It was a good night for Kiner-Falefa, but there’s nothing to really see here. He didn’t hit a single home run in the minors from 2013 through 2016, and he doesn’t have any standout tools.

Michael Brantley (OF, Cleveland Indians): 3-5, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI – Brantley was batting cleanup in yesterday’s game, which was an interesting development. He hit his first home run of the season and has only struck out twice so far in his 26 at-bats. Even when he’s healthy, the Indians will likely give him plenty of days off to ensure his limbs remain attached to his body. But there’s an excellent player hiding somewhere within this broken shell of a man. Too dramatic?

Victor Martinez (DH, Detroit Tigers): 3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI – Victor Martinez reminds me a lot of my refrigerator. Even though I know there’s probably nothing inside, I keep checking it over and over again hoping I missed something. Well, maybe this year there’s a bit of chicken lo mein hiding in the back, out of sight. What am I talking about again? Oh right, Victor Martinez. He’s not making as much contact as he used to, but he’s still elite at putting the ball in play, and so far this year he’s hitting the ball very hard.

Mike Moustakas (3B, Kansas City Royals): 5-9, R, HR, 2 RBI – Over the past 10 days, Moustakas has put together a nine-game hitting streak and belted four home runs. If he keeps this up he may be able to make a whole dollar next year as a free agent.

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians): 3-5, R, HR, RBI – Yesterday’s performance lifted Ramirez’s average up to an even .200. He’s homered three times in the past week, and has more than twice as many walks (10) as strikeouts (4). I’m not sure if there ever was a buy-low opportunity with Ramirez, but if anybody’s selling I’d jump in now before he really heats up.

Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals): 3-4, 2 R, 2 2B, BB, SB – Turner has really been serving up stolen bases on a platter this year, tallying eight on the season, including three over his last four games. I guess those that drafted him have been well-served. That’s all I got for “tray” puns. You know, because his name is Trea. Oh whatever, I don’t need your approval.

Mark Canha (OF, Oakland Athletics): 3-4, 3 R, 2B, 2 RBI – Mark Canha is so white that he looks like he was carved out of a block of pure ivory. Playing time has opened up in the Oakland outfield, and Canha has been soaking it up the way his skin soaks up sunlight: by becoming blistering hot. Canha has gone 7-for-19 so far with a homer, and appears to be Oakland’s primary centerfielder at the moment.

Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers): 1-2, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB – I call a performance like this “dog ownership” because it involves lots of walks and runs. Choo’s been hitting just .103 over the past week, so hopefully this performance helps him pull himself out of his funk.

Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox): 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI – Bradley Jr. has been scuffling a bit this year, so it was nice to see him put up some numbers, including his first homer of the year. He’s been making slightly more contact and chasing pitches a bit less this year, so there’s reason to think he can turn it around soon.

Yangervis Solarte (2B/3B, Toronto Blue Jays): 2-8, R, HR, 4 RBI
With a name like Yangervis Solarte, I’d be kind of disappointed if he wasn’t doing incredible things like driving in four runs every night. Solarte should have another week or so of full-time at-bats while Josh Donaldson is on the shelf, and may steal some playing time from Devon Travis down the road if Travis can’t break out of his funk soon.

J.T. Realmuto (C, Miami Marlins): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI
Shhh, don’t tell Marlins ownership, but J.T. Realmuto is making more than minimum wage and has trade value. Realmuto’s days in Miami may be numbered, but he’s making the most of it while it lasts. He had a solid offensive showing in his first game back from injury against his future employers, the New York Yankees.

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer and content manager with Pitcher List, and co-host of the On the Barrel podcast. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

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Comments


AC

In my 9-team mixed OBP league, the following (mid-range)power/speed options are currently on the wire: Zimmer, Buxton, Margot, Merrifield, Leonys Martin (and bonus, Mallex Smith). Two part question: (1) why am I in such a shallow league, and (2) how would you rank these guys ROS?

Jonathan Metzelaar

Two-part answer:

(1) Because you like it, and we don’t get to choose what we like. Otherwise I would be saving a whole lot of money on late-night Taco Bell runs.

(2) In an OBP format: Buxton, Margot, Merrifield, Zimmer, Smith, Martin.

AC

Thanks (and you’re right about (1) in both the general and specific sense).

Follow-up: Are any of Buxton/Margot/Merrifield going to do significantly more for me in an OBP league than DeShields, currently on my DL?

Let’s Play Two

In a 10-team standard season-long roto.
1B Freeman / Abreu
2B Schoop (DL) / Merrifield
3B Moose
SS Bregman
OF Trout / Springer / Ozuna / Pollock / Acuna

Another team owner is thin on quality in OF and deep in infield. Do I trade Ozuna for Jose Ramirez? Fair deal? Do it?

Jonathan Metzelaar

I would 100% make that offer. You might have to include another player though. It’s a fair offer, but I think most people would rather have Ramirez.

theKraken

Baez comes in two flavors, good and bad. Good Baez is a really special player and that is what we have been seeing over the past week, but unfortunately, bad Baez has historically dominated the majority of the PAs. Bad Baez is helpless and can’t even foul off a pitch – one of these days he may be able to put that guy behind him. I say this over and over just hoping that people will start to say it with me – I wonder if he wouldn’t step forward if he got some lineup protection or a prominent spot in the order. I know a lot of people like to pretend that lineup position doesn’t matter – and for most people it doesn’t – but Baez almost always hits before either a pitcher or someone just a little less helpless. The result is that he gets pitched around and for a free swinger like Baez… that is a recipe for disaster. You can see how the Cubs baby Schwarber and Russell – they coax whatever value they can out of those two and throw Javy to the wolves. Honesty, I don’t like the way Javy goes about his business, I am not a fan and I imagine that Maddon isn’t either and I think that is why he always the guy on the short end of everything, but I would also like to see how he would respond to being treated like he was an important part of the team as opposed to a guy that fills whatever spot is open. #freeJavy

Steve

He’s been moving up the lineup steadily this season. Started 8th, now 6th. Joe Maddon seems like he may be figuring it out somewhat.

Southern Marylander

I’m really struggling to put together a competitive offense in my mixed 16 team head-to-head league (R, RBI, SB, OBP, SLG | W, K, SVHD, ERA, WHIP). My pitching is fine and carrying me team so far. My rotation is Ray, Martinez, Greinke, Carrasco, and Darvish (not great so far, but I’m holding out). My bullpen is Allen, Miller, Knebel (DL), Hader, Jansen, Ottavino, Cingrani, and Cimber.

On the other hand, here’s my offense:
C – Suzuki; 1B – Hoskins; 2B – Schoop (DL), Utley; SS – Correa; 3B – Bregman; 2B/SS – Rojas; 1B/3B – Bour; OF – Kemp, Duvall, Schebler (DL), O’Neill, Acuna; UTIL – Longoria… Bench – Austin Hays, Dustin Fowler.

As you can see, my offense is slumping and very light on OF production (though props to Kemp for still kicking). I don’t want to drop prospects (every team in this keeper/auction league stockpiles them) for a hot hand. I could pick up Canha in place of Cingrani or Cimber, though with Jansen struggling, I feel like I need the extra arm in the bullpen (especially to counter that I have just 5 SP compared to most teams’ 7 or 8).

What’s the play here on my offense? Add Canha? Sit tight and hope Bregmand, Longoria, and Duvall have more to offer than they’ve shown?

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