Batter’s Box: H to the Rizzo
“He’s striking out more than usual.” “His hard-hit rate is down.” I’m not going to say that there’s no value in seeing these changes because there certainly can be. What I will say, though, is what I keep saying every single day — all of this stuff is potentially temporary. No matter how much people like me keep saying that April stats aren’t the end of the world and that you don’t need to make rash decisions quite yet, we continue to get asked about … well … making rash decisions! Take the 2018 version of Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs) for example: He ended April with a .149/.259/.189 line, good for a 32 wRC+. Yes, 32. Many folks did something very human and natural: They looked for explanations and narratives that explained what was happening. Most of those narratives, though, were not helpful. You see, most narratives we create as outsiders are based on very limited and incomplete data — we don’t really know what’s going on in the dugout or behind the scenes. We just see results. Perhaps Rizzo adjusted his swing or changed his position in the batter’s box or maybe he started shoving a seven-leaf clover down his pants, but eventually, he turned it around and posted a very Rizzo-like season (albeit with a few less home runs). Fast forward to the end of April in 2019, and some are quick to point out his elevated strikeout rate, depressed hard-hit rate and .229 batting average. Again, I’m not saying these things aren’t important. I will say that for a guy such as Rizzo, just smile and nod when you hear those things in April (and for a good chunk of May too). Case in point: He went 2-3 with a run, HR, 2 RBI, a walk, and a steal last night, giving him three home runs, six runs, and seven RBI in the past seven days along with a .300/.382/.733 line. He’s a great player capable of great things, and I trust that you’ll remember that before considering putting someone like him on your bench because of a slump.
Carlos Santana (1B, Cleveland Indians) — 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. It was only his third home run of the season, but he’s walking as much as he strikes out and is batting a respectable .316/.430/.463. He has been undervalued the past few years but was one of a select few who walked more than he struck out in 2018. There’s a decent argument to be made that Santana is a poor-man’s version of Joey Votto and an even more fun argument that Santana is what we want Votto to be.
Justin Turner (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers) — 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. If you had told me that Turner would have one home run in April, I would have assumed it was because he spent time on the IL. Unfortunately, his lack of production has been entirely performance related. You can’t cut him — he’s too talented of a hitter — so you have to at least take solace in the fact that he’s got a strong batting average and OBP. His xSLG of .420, while unimpressive, is a lot better than his actual SLG of .337, so some luck correction should be in order, particularly with the power.
Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres) — 2-4, R, HR, RBI. His signing is still a bit awkward for the Padres as I’m not really sure they ever needed him, but he’s performing much like we expected his five home runs in April. We haven’t seen a stolen base yet, but a 20- to 25-home run season with five to six stolen bases and a .260 batting average, which is basically what we thought we’d get on draft day, is still a possibility. 10-teamers can look to him to fill a hole caused by injury, and those in 12-teamers and deeper can count on him as a boring but useful starter at their corner infield spot.
Enrique Hernandez (2B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) — 2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. The production has slowed down a bit overall, but he’s still crushing lefties and making the starting lineup against righties. Unless he can turn a corner and become average (or preferably above-average) against right-handers, he’ll continue to be a 20-ish home run bat who is mostly useful in daily leagues where he can be sat against tough righties and left in against all lefties.
Adam Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals) — 2-5, R, HR, RBI. Just a reminder that the routinely forgotten about Eaton is a very good baseball player and is a beacon of light in points formats because of his contact ability. Maybe the Nationals won that trade after all.
Jeff McNeil (2B, New York Mets) — 4-5, R, 2B, RBI. The aforementioned Eaton may be a good comp for the contact-hitting McNeil. In fact, the more I think about it, they’re VERY similar players from a fantasy perspective. He’s worth owning in most formats now, but just be aware that big home run and stolen base numbers are not in the works.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers) — 1-3, R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s still rocking home runs. I hope you didn’t drop him. This is why you don’t cut healthy top 100 picks in April. I will not stop spreading this message.
Carlos Gonzalez (OF, Cleveland Indians) — 1-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. He’s batting primarily in the fifth spot, which is really nice for DFS players who can put him in their lineups. There really isn’t much competition for him in the Indians outfield right now, so he’s probably worth a speculative pick-up in 12-teamers if you need a fifth outfielder.
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire)