Batter’s Box: If You Give a Moose a Muffin

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

Back in the spring, Mike Moustakas (2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers), who went off at the plate Sunday (3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, BB), was a slightly overlooked third baseman who could provide some power with OK ratios. While he didn’t seem likely to repeat his 38-home run season, 30 home runs seemed plausible along with 160 or so combined runs and RBI in the powerful Brewers offense.

As a third baseman, Moose would be OK. Not an obvious starter in 10- 12-team leagues but possibly useful as a corner infielder. On the season, he’s the 17th-best third base-eligible player, which, again, is not too bad. He knocked in his 30th home run Sunday, which puts him on pace to get close to that career high of 38, but with power up across the board, he isn’t an impact third baseman for fantasy.

Thanks to the weirdness of the Brewers, though, Moose found fantasy relevance at a position he had never played in the major leagues: second base. Apart from catcher, second base is the thinnest position in most formats (challenged only by fifth outfielder in 15+ teamers), and a consistent second baseman is difficult to find. Of the top-10 second baseman taken in drafts, only five are in the top 10 now and only six are in the top 15. Moose, whose ADP would have been about 11th among second basemen, finds himself as the 13th second baseman in standard formats.

Heading into 2020, I don’t expect the outlook of second base to change much. There is certainly a decent core of guys like Ketel MarteJonathan Villar, Whit Merrifield, Gleyber Torres and Ozzie Albies. A lot of question marks appear—especially with guys like Javier Baez and Jose Ramirez losing eligibility. Moose will retain his second base eligibility for fantasy, regardless of where he ends up in 2020, and should be a solid option at the keystone for fantasy managers once again.

Austin Hedges (C, San Diego Padres)—4-4, HR, R, RBI. It has been an awful season for the 27-year-old, though he continues to get regular time as the backup to Francisco Mejia. He’s an NL-only catcher, though, and his era of mild fantasy relevance is over.

Alex Bregman (3B/SS, Houston Astros)—4-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB. He’s the 25th-best hitter in batting-average formats, though he’s the eighth-best hitter in OBP leagues thanks to his fantastic .411 OBP. His 17.2% walk rate is a full five points higher than his strikeout rate, and the 25-year-old has a fantastic baseball future ahead of him.

Ben Gamel (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—4-5, HR, R, RBI. He’s mostly a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement against lefties, but should there be an injury in the Brewers outfield, he could be of some use to deep-league managers who need some fill-in OBP and speed.

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—4-5, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. He’s a top-five hitter right now, plain and simple. He should be in the first or second round of most drafts next year.

Hunter Pence (OF, Texas Rangers)—3-5, R, BB. The playing time has slowed a bit since his return from a monthlong IL stint in July, though he still plays enough to warrant consideration in daily leagues. If you’re in a weekly format, you’ll want to make sure there are plenty of lefties in the forecast before plugging him in over your other options.

Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI, SB. Someone must have mentioned to him that he’s been slacking on the stolen bases, because he has found another gear in August with eight steals in 15 games. He could get to 25 home runs and 30 steals at this rate—not that he needed the value boost. He’s the seventh-best hitter in standard leagues (though he takes a bit of a hit in OBP formats with his career-low 3.7% walk rate).

Brian Dozier (2B, Washington Nationals)—3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB. He went on a bit of a hot streak for a few weeks after the break but cooled off recently. Very deep leagues might be able to squeeze some low-batting average juice out of this orange, but everyone else can move on.

Mike Freeman (2B/3B/SS, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, 2 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI. The .275/.362/.440 line from the career backup is pretty neat, but he doesn’t play nearly enough to use in anything except the deepest of AL-only leagues (which goes to show the brutal nature of such formats).

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB, 2 SB. He now has double-digit steals and home runs, and the steals were his first two in a month. There’s pretty decent speed and a strong batting average here if you need it.

Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets)—3-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB. Aaaaaaaand there’s 40! I’m not sure whether the 40 bombs or the .271 batting average and .375 OBP are more unexpected, but both have been awesome to watch. Maybe he’s so good that not even the Mets can screw him up.

Matt Thaiss (1B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)—3-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI. He’s playing most days and has power. That’s good. He also has contact issues, no speed, and hits in the bottom-third of the order. That’s bad.

Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-4, 2B, 2 R, BB. Zero strikeouts is the best part of this performance. He actually has a sub-30% strikeout rate so far in August (just barely) along with an 8.8% walk rate this month and a 10.5% walk rate since the All Star break, which might be an indication that he’s working on that issue. While some players can survive with 30% or higher strikeout rates and low walk rates, it’s extremely difficult.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-3, 3B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. For the second year in a row, Goldschmidt is exploding in the second half. His second-half ISO is almost double his first-half ISO, and his OPS is up by 158 points. Granted, much of this is from an outburst in July, but even if the production picks up, I won’t be ready to call him a “second-half player.” I find those narratives to be flimsy, at best.

Jonathan Villar (2B/SS, Baltimore Orioles)—2-3, 2B, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 SB. He’s still killing it. The nice thing about Villar is that his skill set is sort of team-proof, as he should be given a green light to steal bases regardless of how bad the team around him is, and you probably weren’t counting on him for RBI anyway.

Tommy Edman (2B/3B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-5, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB. The versatile utility man is getting some run at the top of the Cardinals lineup and is providing hits in bunches along with some steals. The power isn’t great and his OBP won’t go much higher than .300 thanks to a 3.8% walk rate, but there’s some sneaky value for deeper leagues in his bat and positional flexibility.

Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers)—2-5, HR, R, RBI, SB. He’ll end the season with about 25 home runs, 10 steals, and a .270/.370/.475 line. Not bad for a 37-year old, eh? 2020 will almost certainly be his last year in the majors, but he should be good for one more year of fantasy relevance as a dependable back-end outfielder.

(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

6 responses to “Batter’s Box: If You Give a Moose a Muffin”

  1. Jack says:

    sigh…so should I drop Franmil for Yaz III? Franmil’s OPS just dipped under .800 which is the last straw for me.

    *kicks self for hanging onto Franmil over 5 other OFs*

    • Scott Chu says:

      Depending on the league format, Franmil might be just a guy. The power is good but when he’s cold he’s gotta hit the wire. If this is a 10-12 teamer, you can probably get decent mileage out of streaming that last outfielder.

      • Jack says:

        That’s the plan. How do you feel about Yastrzemski? He’s looking more legit every day.

        • Scott Chu says:

          Pretty good! I mean, it’s mostly power (I think his batting average going forward is more like .250 than .275), but he’s hitting the ball well. Just don’t get too attached if he gets cold.

  2. J.C. Mosier says:

    No o-fer write-ups?

    • Scott Chu says:

      It’s a fair call-out! I just got back from a week long vacation and was already SEVERELY late getting this piece out, so I had to skip the 0-fers and Shelly’s tweet. They are back in today!

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