Batter’s Box: Hey Mister DJ

DJ LeMahieu (2B/3B, New York Yankees), who went 3-4 with two runs, a home run, a triple, and three RBI on Sunday, has been a welcome addition to the Bronx Bombers. Back on January 12, the three-time Gold Glove winner, two-time All-Star and one-time National League batting champion signed a two-year deal worth $24 million that strangely clouded his fantasy outlook for 2019. The Yankees had already signed Troy Tulowitzki about two weeks earlier to theoretically cover for the recovering Didi Gregorius, and had Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar already locked in at the keystone and hot corner for (hopefully) years to come, so LeMahieu seemed doomed to a part-time role.

Baseball has a funny way of working these things out. Andujar suffered a devastating season-ending injury early in the season, and Tulowitzki injured his calf in April and has yet to return to baseball, which gave LaMahieu a spot to play, and an injury to Aaron Hicks opened up the leadoff spot. While these injuries are unfortunate, they did open the door for LeMahieu. He exploded out of the gate, and after about two weeks, he took over the leadoff role for the Yankees. Since April 23, LeMahieu has hit at the top of the order in every start except for one, when he hit second on June 8. He is eighth in runs scored since that date with 42, slashing .332/.377/.514.

While he has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season and he hasn’t stolen double-digit bases since 2016, LeMahieu is the pinnacle of what high contact players can be. His low-strikeout approach makes him fairly resistant to extended slumps, and by hitting at the top of the lineup for a team like the Yankees, he is able to score plenty of runs and get maximum value out of the singles and doubles he slaps into the outfield grass. He probably won’t hit 20 home runs, steal 10 bases, or drive in 90 runners, but he could push for 100 runs scored with a .300 batting average. He’s a top-shelf asset in points leagues and is worth rostering in virtually all formats because of the exceptional boost in runs and ratios. I’m willing to rank him as high as 12th at second base, which is pretty impressive for a guy who was drafted outside the top 200. Just another example of how unpredictable the fantasy landscape can be. Those in keeper and dynasty formats should consider this a one-year play, though—a lot of dominoes had to fall to get LeMahieu to this spot and you can’t count on all of that happening again.

Austin Hedges (C, San Diego Padres)—3-6, 2 R, 2 2B, 3 RBI, SB. He was supposed to have lost his job to Francisco Mejia by now, but the free-swinging catcher continues to find playing time. He’s no more than a second catcher in very deep leagues, but at least he has playing time and a bit of pop. Second catcher is a miserable position to fill, and Hedges won’t do much to make it feel less miserable.

J.P. Crawford (SS, Seattle Mariners)—4-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI. He’s taking full advantage of recent playing time opportunities and has been locked into the second spot in the order behind Mallex Smith. The former first-round pick has an OK blend of power and speed. He still pops out too often, but if he can continue to build on his plate discipline (which was a huge asset of his in the minor leagues), he could carve out some value as a middle or corner infielder in deeper leagues.

Starlin Castro (2B, Miami Marlins)—3-5, 2B, RBI. The limited value Castro’s has value is generally tied to his batting average and the fact he bats fourth (even if it’s for a bad team). He’s only batting .239 so far this season, which means he has zero value in all formats except for maybe NL-only, where his plate appearances alone are worth something.

Garrett Cooper (1B/OF, Miami Marlins)—3-5, R, HR, RBI. His 18.1% fly-ball rate leaves quite a bit to be desired, but his high line-drive rate is fueling his high batting average and his 22.3% strikeout rate will keep his floor high. I’m not sure how much power he can unlock without putting the ball in the air more, but he could still be fairly valuable as a back-end outfielder.

Delino DeShields (OF, Texas Rangers)—3-3, 2 RBI, SB. He’s a poor man’s Mallex Smith. His on-base skills are fairly good, and he has legitimate speed that could lead to 25 or more steals. That said, he’s won and lost the starting job in Texas more times than I can remember because of injuries and poor performance, and the crowded outfield won’t make it easy for him to find consistent playing time. He’s also been moved around the order quite a bit, making steals less predictable.

Avisail Garcia (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-4, 2B, RBI, BB. He’s still getting plenty of hits, but the power has evaporated a bit in June with only four doubles and one home run in 83 plate appearances. If you think of him as a batting average asset with mild to moderate power, you probably won’t be disappointed. He’s never hit 20 home runs in a season because of limited playing time as a result of injuries, but this year he should be able to break through that ceiling (though probably not by much).

Jason Heyward (OF, Chicago Cubs)—3-4, R, 2B, SB. He was a hot commodity back in April when he has a 142 wRC+ with five home runs and four steals. Predictably, he turned back into a pumpkin in May with a 63 wRC+, three home runs and zero steals. He’ll run hot and cold all season, but he’s not nearly reliable enough to warrant consideration in 12-teamers.

Manny Machado (SS/3B, San Diego Padres)—3-6, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, SB. The steals have always been up and down for Machado, but the power and batting average remain consistent. The uptick in strike outs is a tad bit concerning, but for Machado, “up tick” means 20.6%, which is still quite low for a slugger like him. His value will continue to climb as the young hitters in San Diego continue to develop.

Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, Colorado Rockies)—3-4, R. He has just one walk in June, but the batting average is back up to .338 and he’s hitting in the heart of the order for the Rockies. His full season numbers still look rough, but he seems to have fully turned a corner. If you have leaguemates who are somehow still frustrated with him and his low counting stat totals, go try and steal him from them.

Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-3, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. June has been a better month for Votto. He’s slugging .500 on the month and has a a Votto-like .380 OBP. He still only has three home runs on the month, but that’s OK. He might never be worth the draft price you paid, but he won’t be worthless. At this point, that feels like a win.

Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. This was his first home run since April 23, which is a great sign for the diminutive second baseman. He’s hit at the top of the order for the past two games as well, which may help him find his first stolen base since April 2.

Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)—2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. In 56 plate appearances, he’s slashing .333/.429/.813. Those are video game numbers. He’s not striking out an egregious amount and he’s walking a healthy 14.3% of the time. He looks like the real deal, though I doubt he’ll remain an outfielder for 2020 and beyond. He’s likely a first baseman or designated hitter long term.

David Fletcher (2B/SS/3B/OF, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. His plate discipline is incredible, and I’m glad to see him make some contact after going through a bit of a slump. I think he can provide strong ratios going forward, though the counting stats may leave a bit to be desired. His positional flexibility may help ease that pain, though.

(Photo by Cody Glenn/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 podcasts with Friends with Fantasy Benefits and contributes to Lineup Logic. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (AS SEEN IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL!!), 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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Comments


theKraken

I would argue that a player like LeMahieu is an example of failure with contemporary analysis. He doesn’t have the walks or HR to excel in any of the OPS-dervitave stats (which is almost all of them) and his batted ball data is nothing special but he is an excellent hitter who brings a ton of value to a lineup. I wonder if there are not a lot of players that are cut from the DJL mold that don’t get opportunities these days. Heck, three months ago that almost applied to the man himself. I think plus hit tools might be the new quad A players. As for his future, I don’t see any way he gets squeezed out of his job unless he absolutely faceplants or gets hurt. I think there is a better chance that he is the new Ben Zobrist than a flash in the pan – hes a good hitter in a league that lacks them.

theKraken

I wouldn’t pigeon hole Yordan Alvarez to DH quite yet. Kyle Schwarber plays LF and Cody Bellinger played CF last year haha. I think teams are starting to realize the lack of importance of defensive value despite its arbitrary value in WAR equations.

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