Batter’s Box: If a Grichuk Could Chuck Wood
I’m not sure if any player has been on more of my “watch lists” than Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays), who went 2-4 with a home run, a double, 2 runs, and 2 RBI last night. It’s not because I’m waiting for a new breakout, or because I think he can fundamentally change his game — it’s because guys like Grichuk fall into a category of guys who are, in 10-12 team formats, just good enough to be interesting, and just bad enough to not be on my roster at any given moment. For Grichuk, it’s because he has a very archetypal power-hitting profile — he hits the ball VERY hard (his average exit velocity from 2015-2018 was 90.8 mph, and his Barrel % is almost always in the top 4%), and he swings and misses a LOT (career 14.8% whiff rate). Predictably, his stats play this out in a classic way — he has 20+ home runs in each of the last 3 seasons, but his batting average was below .245 and his on-base percentage was below .301 in each of those 3 seasons. Its important to note, though, that just because we know what he is does not mean we can’t get value from this. Mr. Grichuk finds his way to my watch lists because I know I can count on him for something (those sweet sweet dingers) and I know the price I’ll have to pay (a hit to my BA or OBP). There’s something comforting about knowing I can always turn to him if I need some pop. There’s even some upside in there, because if this Grichuk can chuck the injury bug that has plagued him during his career and get to 150 games played, there’s a real shot at 30 home runs.
David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 3-5, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI. One of 2018’s biggest surprises, Peralta smashed 30 bombs for the Diamondbacks after hitting only 35 in the prior 3 seasons combined. While many are projecting a home run regression back into the low-20s, I’m a little more bullish on the former pitching prospect. For starters, he has always mashed against right-handed pitching (career 132 wRC+), and that’s always a very good thing seeing how that’s the majority of pitching in baseball. Also, in each of the 4 seasons in whcih he has played at least 50 games, he has slugged his way to a batting average of at least .286, including back to back seasons of .293. Third, his career strikeout rate is below 20%, which is uncommon for hitters with the potential to hit 30 HR. While he is undoubtedly owned in every league you’re playing in, most managers drafted him somewhat begrudgingly due to the mostly negative outlooks on him during the preseason. That may give you an opportunity to buy, and he’s a great fit on any team needing a boost in batting average and/or power.
Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves) – 3-4, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB. While 24 home runs may be the high water mark for the young second baseman, there’s still a lot to like about what he brings to the table. He didn’t swipe a bag in this contest (there was no need, as the Braves held a commanding lead for the majority of the night), but stinging two doubles and scoring a pair of runs shows exactly what kind of things he can do at the top of a rather potent Braves lineup. He’s untouchable in most dynasty leagues — owners either love him or want people to forget about his sluggish 2nd half in 2018 — but any prolonged power outage is worth acting on as an opposing manager. There’s a ton of stolen base upside here, even if the power is merely average.
Ketel Marte (2B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 3-5, 3 R, RBI, SB. Yet another Diamondback who exceeded his power expectations in 2018, Marte has a somewhat boring projected stat line thanks to his barely double-digit power and speed combination, which was reflected in his ADP, which was usually right around pick 250. While he’s not terribly useful in shallower roto or head-to-head category formats due to the limited counting stats, he should be owned all over the place in points leagues due to his high walk rate and very low strikeout rate. He puts his bat on the ball often, and that’s the only way to score more than 1 point at a time in most leagues. It’d be great to see him move into the top 2 spots in the lineup, currently occupied by Adam Jones and Eduardo Escobar, but it would likely take an injury or prolonged slump by one or both of them to make it happen. He’s likely locked into the 6th slot, much like 2018.
Alex Avila (C, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 1-3, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB. If you don’t play in a deep OBP format, go ahead and skip to the next blurb. For those of you sticking around, Avila can be a somewhat useful back-up or 2nd catcher due to his willingness to take a pitch and walk to first base. He was dreadful last season, but has shown that he can hit around 10 home runs and has a career .348 OBP that is tough to find in bargain bin catchers. He actually has a better bat than you think — he routinely posts above average barrel rates and exit velocity — but he turns most of that contact into line drives instead of fly balls. I don’t expect that to change, but he should post much better numbers than he did in 2018, and in 2 C or daily formats, he can be especially useful when you limit his use to games where he faces right-handed pitching.
Kevin Kiermaier (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI. If he can stay healthy, he’s a threat to put up a 20 HR/20 SB season. If you’re laughing, it’s because you know how much work the “if” is doing in that sentence. He’s played more than 108 games exactly one time, and it was all the way back in 2015. His injuries have come from a variety of ailments that aren’t necessarily related — he just happens to get banged up a lot. The one thing you can count on, though, is that when healthy he’ll be in the lineup due to his excellent defense in center. He was a nice rebound at the end of last season that can give some hope to those seeking some pop and speed, but there’s cause for concern in the upward trend in swinging strikes. He turns 29 soon, and because of the injuries, it’s a pretty old 29. He’s worth adding to watch lists in shallow formats or throwing a buck at in deep waiver wires in the unlikely event he can log 120+ games.
Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners) – 2-4, R, 2 SB, BB. This is what Mallex is — he can make contact, he can get on base, and he can steal bags. There’s no power here, and the bottom of the Mariners lineup is unlikely to generate any RBI opportunities for him, but runs and steals are both things you need in virtually every league (unless you’re in the SUPER old school 4×4 format). He’s also especially useful in points leagues due to his ability to avoid the strikeout. A game like this isn’t really actionable — it’s just validation of what you can expect going forward.
Brandon Belt (1B, San Francisco Giants) – 2-4, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI. Hey look, another useful points league bat! Most of you already know what Belt is — a first baseman who hits a ton of doubles and takes a ton of walks, and who was regularly seen as a breakout candidate in hopes that he’d turn those doubles into dingers. Well, he never did, and he probably never will. He is what he is at this stage of his career, with the added negative of also being a big injury risk. That said, his .350+ OBP is great in the corner infield spot in deeper OBP leagues and he’s a decent DFS play when facing righties with command issues.
Colin Moran (1B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 2-3, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB. He is playing second-fiddle to Jung Ho Kang right now, despite a career slash line of 276/.342/.417 in 163 games. He’s a former first round pick and was a borderline top 50 prospect when he made his debut, so I have to imagine that more playing time is coming for Moran. For now, expect him to be a sneaky DFS play against righties, who he has a .339 wOBA against, and a speculative FA add in dynasty formats where he may have been dropped. He doesn’t have “loud” tools, but a mid-to-upper teens power profile with strong AVG and OBP has value.
Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees) – 2-4, HR, R, RBI, SB. He’s still leading off against righties, though the injuries to Andujar and Stanton will hurt his ability to score runs. The old man still has enough in him to put up 15ish home runs and steals if given the playing time, albeit with a below average BA (but slightly above average OBP). In shallow formats with weekly lineups, you might want to pass on him, but deep league players and daily lineup adjusters can look forward to slotting him in every time the Yankees face a righty.
Peter Alonso (1B, New York Mets) – 1-5, HR, 3 RBI. Nothing terribly noteworthy about this performance besides the first career blast from the Fall League’s biggest story. He was able to crack the Opening Day roster for the Mets and has even managed a few starts so far, which bodes well for his projections this season. You never quite know how the Mets are going to handle first base, as they’ve done wildly frustrating things in the past, but the power of Alonso is real and is worth being excited about.
Brandon Lowe (2B, Tampa Bay Rays) – 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Another rookie with his first bomb of the year! Lowe’s playing time is much shakier than Alonso’s due to the many moving parts in the Rays lineup card, but when he plays (which will usually be against righties), he’s worth adding in DFS contests due to the pop in his bat and what will likely be a sweet lineup spot. I’m not adding him anywhere except very deep formats, and he’s already rostered in dynasty, but he’s a kid to keep an eye on as he matures as a hitter.