Batter’s Box: How Does Something So Wong Feel So Right?

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

Once upon a time, Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals) was seen as a significant fantasy asset. Back in 2014, he hit 12 home runs (which was decent for a second baseman at the time) and stole 20 bases. The hope was that he’d improve his plate discipline, add a little power, and become a 20/20 threat. Since then, he’s been a disappointment in fantasy with limited power, limited speed, and a sub-par batting average.

It’s been a bit of a surprising story for Wong in 2019, though. His solid performance on Wednesday (3-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI) was one of many he’s had this season. The power is still on the low side (10 home runs), but his 18 steals and .280 batting average have made him relevant in many formats. His 14.7% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate this season are the continuation of a trend he started back in 2017 which has also helped him keep up a higher overall batting average (though a .275 BABIP in 2018 kept his batting average suppressed).

In truth, I mostly chose to feature Wong because I wanted to use his name for the title of the article, but when I dug a little deeper and saw his .363/.441/.500 slash line since the All-Star Break, I figured it’d be worth mentioning. He’s probably not a major game changer in 10-team formats, but those in 12-team and deeper leagues (particularly those that utilize a middle infield spot) should pay attention, especially now that he’s been promoted to the second spot in the order after spending the majority of the season in the bottom third.

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. Yup, he’s still great. He logged his 30th home run, 100th run scored, and 100th RBI all in this game and his .311 batting average is quite impressive in its own right. I’d bet on him reaching at least three of those four numbers next season.

Alex Bregman (3B/SS, Houston Astros)—3-4, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI. His 16.5% walk rate and 12.5% strikeout rate are incredible, particularly for a 25-year-old. Points and OBP players should have him way up in their rankings (not that he isn’t valuable in standard leagues).

Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B/SS, Washington Nationals)—3-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI. He’s played most days since joining the Nationals and has 18 RBI in 17 games with his new club. His .346/.426/.577 line over that stretch jumps out considering how bad he was in Texas and deeper league players could find quite a bit of utility in his positional flexibility and contact skills.

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 3B, RBI. The stolen bases are still gone (yes I keep saying that but it’s an important narrative), but even without them he’s an incredible fantasy third baseman. And by incredible, I mean #1 on ESPN’s Player Rater for this season so far in standard leagues.

Matt Joyce (OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. Yes, he’s still in the league and yes, he’s still mashing right-handed pitching. He’s been in a mostly full-time role over the last two weeks and has performed well, putting together a .385 batting average and a .590 slugging in 13 appearances since August 13 including five straight starts as the #5 hitter.

Aaron Judge (OF, New York Yankees)—3-5, R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI. Injuries have now ruined two consecutive seasons for Judge and will likely be the primary topic of conversation next spring when discussing his fantasy value. The power is still impressive and helps keep his batting average high despite a strikeout rate above 30%, but that won’t matter if he isn’t on the lineup card.

Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, SB. After two straight seasons of 30+ home runs, Lindor may fall just short thanks to missing some time early in the year. On the bright side, the concern that the injury would hold him back on the base paths was unwarranted as he’s already swiped 19 bags and should get close to 25 by season’s end. He’s a first round fantasy talent for 2020.

Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets)—3-5, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. He’s in a battle with Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds for the NL Batting Title (which I think he will win), and while you’d think winning a batting title would increase a guy’s fantasy stock, it never really did that with the somewhat similar DJ LeMahieu. His limited power and lack of speed will likely make him appear uninteresting to some but don’t be fooled—this is a very useful player in all formats.

Aristides Aquino (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. He went four whole days without a home run, which probably felt like an eternity to some, but did manage to steal two bases during his little drought. I think the projection systems will be all over the place on him in 2020 if he has a strong September, but the number I’m really interested in is the stolen bass.

Jason Kipnis (2B, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. That’s three home runs in his last two games and seven for the month, which is much more than his fantasy owners likely expected. He’s really “just a guy” at this point for fantasy who isn’t really useful outside of AL-only or 15+ team formats, but in those formats he has some stable value thanks to his everyday role.

Jonathan Schoop (2B, Minnesota Twins)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He has been on fire of late with five home runs and nine RBI in his last five games. He hadn’t been playing quite every day thanks to the emergence of Luis Arraez, but his hot streak combined with the injury to Marwin Gonzalez could give him increased opportunities.

Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. He has a hit in 16 of his last 19 games and continues to improve his plate discipline as the season wears on. Brewers fans should be very pleased with the rookie and he’ll likely be highly sought after in 2020 drafts.

DJ LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B, New York Yankees)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. His 2020 fantasy value depends entirely on his role. He’s under contract for the Yankees next season and it’s hard to imagine him losing a starting role after hitting over 20 home runs and batting .335, but 2018 breakout Miguel Andujar will be back, as will Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, and Didi Gregorious. Something has to give, and at least one of these players will lose significant playing time.

Enrique Hernandez (2B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—1-3, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB, SB. Since returning to the active roster on August 20th, he has an OPS of 1.067 and has started in seven of nine games for the Dodgers. For fantasy, he’s really just an injury replacement or platoon bat when the Dodgers face a lefty, but it’s good to see him come back strong after missing a month of action.

Danny Santana (1B/2B/OF, Texas Rangers)—0-5, 5 K. Over his last 10 games, he’s slashing just .146/.146/.317. He’s been awesome this season but I still have no intention of owning him in 2020.

Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—0-4, 4 K. He’s followed up a seven-game hitting streak with two straight duds, but more worrisome is zero steals since July 18th. His fantasy value comes from the power/speed combo, as he doesn’t hit enough home runs to be special without the swipes.

And of course, your hand-picked batting lines from the minor leagues from the stupendous Shelly Verougstraete:

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/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.

  • Avatar kleborp says:

    Didi is an FA, may not necessarily return next year

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      That’s a good point, kleborp, though I believe Didi and the Yankees have had extensive conversations about a long-term deal (per MLB Trade Rumors, they’ve thrown around 6 years, $120MM?). It’d be a somewhat surprising outcome if Didi wasn’t in pinstripes next season.

      EE’s club option and the rise of Gio Urshela certainly muddy up the infield outlook as well. It will be a compelling off-season story line for sure.

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