Batter’s Box: Hook, Line and Winker
I won’t try to run away from it — I was not a Jesse Winker (OF, Cincinnati Reds) believer in March. I was worried about his health. I was worried about his playing time with Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Nick Senzel and Scott Schebler cluttering up the outfield (especially because Winker can’t really play center field). I was worried about everything, really, except for his bat and his ability to get on base. That’s the thing about baseball, though. Things seem to have a funny way of working out when you can hit and get on base. Puig? He’s struggling with health and productivity. Kemp? He was cut on May 4. Schebler? He has a grand total of three hits since April 10 and may have lost his job to Senzel. Meanwhile, Winker, who went 1-4 with a home run, a run, and an RBI on Sunday, keeps producing. I would go through all the ways that he has done that, though you’re probably best served reading this great piece from Dan Richards that was published on May 2 comparing him to
a summer’s day Joey Votto.
I know I keep talking about not overreacting to March numbers, but in a case like this, we’re seeing exactly what was hoped after his mini-breakout in 2018 that was cut short. Also, instead of being stuck in the leadoff spot or bottom third of the order, he continues to hit third (in part because of the struggles of the rest of the Reds roster). In his past 18 starts, he’s wound up in the 3 or 4 spot 13 times. Winker is still out there in 45% of Yahoo and 41% of ESPN leagues, and I think he’s now shown that he’s a top 35 outfielder, meaning he should be rostered in all formats. In OBP and points formats, he might even sneak into the top 30 when all is said and done.
Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers) — 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Can someone remind Odor that he doesn’t HAVE to repeat what he did in 2018? Through his first 20 games last season, Odor hit .169/.236/.231. Sunday was his 20th games of 2019, and he’s now hitting .141/.221/.244. There are a few lights at the end of this dark tunnel, though. He’s kept his walk rate gains from 2018 (8.1% so far) and also has kept his chase rate to an acceptable 30.9%. He’s struggling considerably with contact, and even when he makes contact, it’s not very good (70.8% contact rate, .231 xwOBA). I still think you should hold on to him in 12-team leagues if at all possible. In the 85 games between May 21 and Sept. 1, 2018, Odor hit .288/.365/.524 with 62 runs, 18 dingers, and 54 RBI with 10 steals. Very few players at second base are capable of that kind of production, and we’ve actually seen Odor perform at this level many times before.
Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers) — 3-4, 2 R, RBI, BB. The old guy did it again! He’s done it so much this season that Daniel Port published a fresh Going Deep on him yesterday to investigate exactly what’s going on. There’s talk of a modified leg kick and xEPH (whatever the heck those are) and, ultimately, some very good news about my favorite Korean outfielder. (Fun fact: I am not related to Choo, but our names are both Korean. I am about 95% certain that they are also spelled the same in Hangul — the only difference in the English version of our names would be the time period during which we came over, which influences the way it was spelled on official documents.)
Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B/SS, Texas Rangers) — 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Another reliable bat for the Rangers. Those hoping for the 33-year-old to repeat his very useful 2018 stat line should be pretty happy with just about everything but the batting average so far. The Statcast metrics suggest that he’s earned his .232 so far, but given his extensive track record (he has hit less than .259 in a full season exactly twice, back in 2013 and 2014), he’s earned the benefit of the doubt for me. Those in 12-teamers should feel very comfortable with him as a replacement at any of the three positions he can cover, though he probably shouldn’t be a starter for you unless you have middle infield or corner infield spots to fill.
Kris Bryant (3B, Chicago Cubs) — 2-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. In his past eight games, he has eight runs, three home runs, and 11 RBI while hitting .276/.421/.690. You can go ahead and put those worries away. This is why you trust in the elite talents. They’re capable of doing stuff like this.
Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox) — 2-5, 2 R, 2B. He has just one home run so far, but with yet another multihit game, at least the ratios have taken a big step forward from his disappointing 2018. He’s also taken a leap in his plate discipline, with a big jump in walks and a big drop in strikeouts. That’s the stuff we want to see in the young third baseman.
Jonathan Lucroy (C, Los Angeles Angels) — 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. As I mentioned in the Catchers to Stream piece this week, Lucroy is looking pretty good for those who need someone to plug in this week. His two-homer performance just makes his history of mediocrity a little easier to ignore for a while.
Nick Markakis (OF, Atlanta Braves) — 2-2, R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. Just one last old guy for the road! There’s nothing to say about him that we haven’t been saying for the last year, but he’s a solid points league play because of his contact abilities and lineup spot. People ignore him because his stats aren’t flashy, but you don’t need to be flashy to produce, and that’s what he does.
(Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire)