Batter’s Box: Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper

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

Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you Garrett Cooper (1B/OF, Miami Marlins) will win you a fantasy championship. He had a strong performance Wednesday (3-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI), but on the season he’s mostly just shown decent ratios and modest power, with 14 home runs and a .276 batting average in 99 contests. He’s now had back-to-back outings with multiple hits, a home run, and multiple RBI, though, so I thought I’d take a little closer to look to see if there was any fantasy juice worth squeezing.

Some of you may recall that Cooper was a bit of an item earlier this season. From May 15 through July 16, Cooper spent almost all of his time as the No. 2 or No. 3 hitter for the Marlins and piled up a .339/.410/.559 line with 11 home runs, 39 runs scored and 37 RBI. They weren’t overwhelming numbers in any one particular category, but his solid, steady production across four categories made him worth owning in most formats for almost two months. In fact, his 155 wRC+ during that period was the 11th-best in baseball.

Unfortunately, he cooled off significantly afterward. From July 17 to the end of August, he had just one home run, nine runs scored, and six RBI with a .212/.268/.285 line and a 49 wRC+ in 149 plate appearances. He was almost certainly cut in all but the deepest of NL-only formats.

As I mentioned yesterday, one person’s trash can be another’s treasure in September. We know Cooper is just an average major league player (if that), but that he’s also capable of blistering hot streaks. You don’t necessarily need to add him after just two good games, but he is definitely on my radar in deeper formats just in case he gets his magic back for a little while. Despite the terrible totals over the last month-and-a-half, there have been flashes of fantasy usefulness, and if he puts another one or two solid games together, he just might land in one of my fifth outfield spots.

Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox)—4-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. When a “disappointing” season consists of a nearly one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, 30 home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .289/.388/.519 line, it probably means you’re pretty darn good. Mookie went fourth in the Too Early Mock I’m in, and I have absolutely no issue with it.

Starlin Castro (2B/3B, Miami Marlins)—4-5, 3 R, HR, 3 2B, 2 RBI. He’s on a seven-game hitting streak, during which he’s popped five home runs, eight RBI and eight runs scored. He’s been a top-15 hitter over the last 30 days (173 wRC+) and is well worth a look in 12-team and deeper formats while he’s hot as a middle or corner infielder.

Kevin Pillar (OF, San Francisco Giants)—4-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. His total of 79 RBI is 20 more than his previous career high (which he set last season) and is tied or better than guys with more recognizable names like Starling MarteRhys HoskinsGleyber Torres, Paul Goldschmidt, Trevor Story, Betts, and Manny Machado. That means (a) he’s been pretty good and (b) that RBI are a limited fantasy player evaluation tool.

Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. He’s hitting the ball considerably harder than he did last season (88.8 mph average exit velocity compared to 85.6 mph in 2018), and that combined with his elite sprint speed has given his batting average a considerable boost. His .393 BABIP is a bit too high (even for a guy with his wheels), but I think he can be a .280 hitter or better in 2020 and should easily get to 20 home runs and 20 steals with potential for more. He’s going to be a nice shortstop target in non-OBP formats next season.

Robinson Cano (2B, New York Mets)—3-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. His 9.5% swinging-strike rate is considerably higher than his career average and might suggest that at age 36, his bat speed is finally slowing down. That being said, he has multiple hits in five straight games and multiple runs scored in four of those five with just two strikeouts in his last 20 plate appearances. I’m very worried for 2020 but have no issue with riding him out in 2019.

Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—3-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. And with that, he reaches the 30-home run mark. He’ll have 10 stolen bases and 100 runs scored when it’s all said and done as well, and at least 90 RBI. His ratios are fantastic, with a .328 batting average and .387 OBP. He’s probably the biggest breakout of the year (which I totally slept on for like a month-and-a-half) and will only be 26 when the 2020 season begins.

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB, SB. His .603 OPS since August 1 has been a major disappointment considering the big bats now hitting behind Mercado, but he’s flashed a bit of power and speed throughout his rookie campaign and is poised to be a very useful fantasy asset for years.

Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Well, at least his 14 home runs are better than the 12 he hit last season? Obviously the bigger concern is the .351 OBP, which is the lowest mark of his 13-year career.

Joc Pederson (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB. He’s a power provider with a not-so-good batting average and a decent OBP. Overall that’s pretty unspectacular in 10- and 12-teamers, though he can carve out a niche if you are willing to platoon him in a daily league and sit him against lefties.

Franmil Reyes (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. His last 12 games have made Franmil look like an almost completely different player. He has an 18.4% walk rate and 20.4% strikeout rate in that stretch along with his big-time Franmil power (slugging .900 in those 49 plate appearances). If he keeps showing this kind of patience, he could be truly special.

Sean Murphy (C, Oakland Athletics)—1-3, R, HR, RBI. The highly touted catching prospect showed off some of his developing power in his major league debut for the A’s. It’s hard to say how much playing time he’ll get as one of three catchers on the Oakland roster, but his contact ability, plate discipline and power make him an intriguing catcher for 2020 and beyond.

Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)—2-4, R, HR, RBI. He has a hit in four of his last five after a slogging through a brutal 0-for-30 stretch. I’m finally done with this guy. I hope he has an awesome career and figures out his inconsistency issues, but I won’t be rostering him.

Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets)—2-5, 2 R, RBI, SB. His 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases are maybe a little behind what people expected, but the .286 batting average is well above what we thought he’d do, so it all balances out. He’s a nice little back-end shortstop in deeper formats for the speed and home runs even if the batting average falls a bit.

Danny Santana (1B/2B/OF, Texas Rangers)—0-4, 3 K. Since the start of August, he’s hitting .194 with a .211 OBP. His .426 slugging is cool, I guess, but you need to cut this guy. The fun is over. This was inevitable.

Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP, Los Angeles Angels)—0-4, 3 K. I love him and am incredibly biased, but he’s been in a pretty tough slump since August 21, and I’m OK with redraft players dropping him for their playoff runs.

And while it was a painful 24 hours, I’m happy to announce that the minor league musings of Shelly Verougstraete are back in in our lives once again:

(Photo by Tony Quinn/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.

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