Batter’s Box: Good Willians Hunting
Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire
Trivia time: What is the single-season record for fewest strikeouts in a season by a batter? Take an honest guess. The answer, believe it or not, is three. No, that’s not a typo, I PROOFREAD. Joe Sewell struck out three times in 576 plate appearances in 1932. Granted, in 1932 pitchers probably topped out at 55 mph and subsisted on diets comprised almost entirely of moonshine and boiled shoe leather. But still, it’s an impressive feat.
Now I’m not saying Willians Astudillo could give Sewell a run for his money. But over 86 major league plate appearances, Astudillo has struck out just three times, good for a 3.5% strikeout rate. If he qualified, he would lead the league in the category, coming in way ahead of Andrelton Simmons and his 7.1% strikeout rate. This isn’t necessarily a fluke of small sample sizes either; Astudillo never posted a strikeout rate above 5% at any stop in the minors. So the contact ability is clearly elite. The question is, can he do anything else but hit for average? The jury is still out on that one. He showed some punch in last night’s game, going 2-4, R, 2B, 4 RBI. And he did pop 12 homers in 306 plate appearances in the minors this year, to go along with the three he’s hit in Minnesota. So he likely won’t be a complete dud in the category. The fact that he’s logged 15 games at catcher should help him retain eligibility there in most leagues next season, which only further boosts his value. And he’s shown an ability to play all over the diamond, getting reps in the outfield and at second and third base this year. Keep an eye on Astudillo in 2019 drafts. He could be a guy that hits .290 with double-digit homers while qualifying at catcher, which would probably be enough to make him a top-10 option there.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS/2B, Kansas City Royals): 1-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB, 2 SB – Can we just rename these posts “Adalberto’s Box” and get it over with? Mondesi now has 13 homers and 30 stolen bases on the season after yesterday’s performance, which would be impressive enough counting stats if he compiled them over a full year, but he’s only logged 264 at-bats to this point. He’s hit nine homers and stolen 14 bases over the past month alone. His value entering the offseason is skyrocketing.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, New York Yankees): 2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB – I think somebody told Stanton that there’s a clause in his contract that states he has to be shipped back to the Marlins if he doesn’t reach 40 homers this year, because he’s gone yard three times this week now to boost his home run total to 37. He hasn’t been the 70-homer world-destroyer you were hoping to get on draft day, but he’s been… fine.
Miguel Andujar (3B, New York Yankees): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – This was Andujar’s second homer this week, and he’s beginning to run away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award. The .299 xAVG indicates he isn’t just getting lucky, and he’s smoking the ball with a 13.6% value hit rate, which is nearly twice the league average.
Tyler Austin (1B/DH, Minnesota Twins): 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 3 RBI – I think Austin has been pretending the baseball is Joe Kelly’s head over the past month, as he’s crushed eight homers in his last 30 games. He puts a charge into the ball when he makes contact, but that whole contact thing is an issue for him: he’s striking out 35.9% of the time this season with an 18.5% whiff rate. Woof.
Greg Allen (OF, Cleveland Indians): 1-5, 2 SB – Greg Allen: certified tax professional or baseball player? Don’t let the ho-hum name fool you; Allen now has 21 steals in just .264 at-bats, including six this past week alone. Carving out playing time might be tough in Cleveland next year, but I see some pre-breakout Mallex Smith here.
Whit Merrifield (2B, Kansas City Royals): 2-5, SB – Merrifield has stolen six bases over the past week alone, giving him 42 on the season and moving him within one stolen base of the major league lead. He’s also popped 12 homers this year while hitting .304, yet he still isn’t getting the love he likely deserves as an elite second baseman.
Christin Stewart (OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-4, RBI, BB – Stewart has been solid over his first 60 at-bats, and is hitting .320 with two homers over the past week. He’s flashed some solid power and plate discipline numbers in the minors, and may be worth a last-round flier in 2019 drafts, especially in OBP formats. I wish him nothing but the best, because he knocked it out of the park as Bella in the Twilight series, and it’s great to see him pursuing a new career path despite his previous successes.
Josh Donaldson (3B, Cleveland Indians): 3-4 – It’s been a totally lost season for Donaldson, who hasn’t really been able to get things going in Cleveland yet. His 38.9% hard contact rate is still in line with his career averages, but he’s been pounding the ball into the ground nearly half the time this year while whiffing 12.9% of the time, one of the highest rates of his career. It’ll be interesting to see where he’s grabbed in next year’s drafts, as there’s clearly quite a bit of risk here both in terms of performance and health.
Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees): 3-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB – Luke Voit kind of resembles the thugs from the Final Fight video game series. I’m sure he looks that way to most opposing pitchers too. Voit has been a complete monster since coming to New York, slashing .331/403/.661 with 12 homers in 139 plate appearances. The .286 xAVG and .399 xOBA back it all up, and it looks like the Yankees may have snagged a diamond in the rough.
Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins): 3-5, 2B – Even without the Captain America juice flowing through his veins, Polanco has managed to be productive across the board this year, with six stolen bases, six homers, and a .290 average over roughly half a season. Don’t let the fact that he took PEDs and has no moral compass tarnish his value, as he looks to be a shortstop with a very safe floor going forward.
Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees): 2-4, 3 R, 3B, 2B, RBI, BB, SB – Playing time is hard to come by for Gardner now, with McCutchen and Judge entering the fold again. Things should clear up a bit in the offseason with McCutchen’s departure though, and he still seems to be a good source of both power and speed with a batting average that won’t totally tank you.