Batter’s Box: If You Give a Mouse a Mookie
I don’t normally like to talk about a consensus top two overall player in this space, but I want to take a moment to talk about the difference between a player like Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox), who went 3-4 with three runs and a double on Sunday, and virtually everyone else. I had a conversation with someone right when the month of May began regarding their fantasy team (Notice: Unlike the vast majority of people in your life, I not only am willing to discuss your fantasy baseball team, I enjoy it—use the comments section, our fabulous Discord, or any other social media outlet to hit any of us up with your questions and requests, or to just tell me how you’re doing out there). He shared with me that he wanted to make a strange trade to bolster his stolen base totals, then proceeded to provide this strange narrative about how it was clear that Betts, who had just one stolen base to his name, wasn’t going to be a stolen base contributor like we expected. He pointed to things such as his low base running metrics and his only slightly above-average sprint speed and the strength of the lineup around him. It all made sense, in a weird sort of way, but neglected one key point: Mookie Betts is one of the most talented athletes in professional sports.
Now, it just so happens that Betts has stolen three bases in the past two weeks, but even if he hadn’t, I’d urge this owner, you, and anyone else who asked me to avoid making rash judgments or inventing narratives to explain the difference between one month of statistics and your expectations of a player such as Betts. Players such as him, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, and others are called “unbelievable” so often that it feels like it has lost its impact, but whenever you doubt one of these guys or wonder about them, remember that word. They have earned that description by doing things that other professional athletes who have dedicated their life to a game simply cannot do. I don’t know if my friend is still concerned about Mookie’s stolen base totals anymore, but I hope he isn’t. At any given time, he could pop off for 10 steals in a single month—a feat very few players can accomplish. That’s not a hypothetical based on skills, either. It’s what he did last May. He’s special. Unless he’s hurt, that’s the only narrative you need.
Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins)—4-5, R, RBI. He’s taken full advantage of the poor pitching he’s faced in his past 13 games, slashing .429/.475/.679 in this stretch. Speaking of missing steals, Polanco finally stole his first of the season this past week, though it’s looking like 15 steals won’t be in the cards for 2019. Swiping 10 more is plausible, though.
Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, Seattle Mariners)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. The 36-year-old still has plenty of pop in that bat and is well on his way to his eighth consecutive 30-home run season. He’s also seemingly cured whatever caused his drop in walk rate and spike in strikeout rate last season.
Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, SB. While he may be well past his prime, the elder statesman of the Bronx Bombers hit and ran his way into his third combo meal of the season. He may be batting just .211 with a sub-.300 OBP, but he’s not striking out as often as he usually does and should once again find his way to at least 12 home runs and 16 steals for the fifth time in six seasons.
Colin Moran (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. The former top-60 prospect hasn’t done much with the mostly full-time role he’s had in May, slashing just .213/.269/.362 in 52 plate appearances. He’s slightly above-average against righties, though, and his decent spot in the lineup can be useful when you need a cheap guy at the hot corner in DFS.
Ryan McMahon (1B/2B, Colorado Rockies)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He’s hitting the ball fairly well this season, but his playing time is held hostage by the unintelligible workings of the Rockies front office. If I knew he’d play five or six games a week, I could feel good about him in a lot of formats. The issue, of course, is that I don’t know that at all.
Josh Reddick (OF, Houston Astros)—2-2, 2 2B, 2 BB, SB. The perennially undervalued southpaw continues to provide solid value. He’ll get close to 15 home runs and seven steals along with strong ratios, which is useful as a boring but pleasantly predictable fifth outfielder in 12-teamers. He’s even more valuable in points leagues that penalize for strikeouts because of his talent for avoiding those negative outcomes.
Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB. There’s quite a bit of excitement about the young firecracker in Cleveland, but for fantasy purposes, he’s likely just a stolen base contributor. His fantasy profile for 2019 is very similar to that of Greg Allen, whom he replaced.
Hunter Renfroe (OF, San Diego Padres)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Both he and Franmil Reyes have forced their way into full-time roles, which is good for the Padres and for baseball. The former first-rounder has plenty of power and should eclipse 25 home runs on the season. Just don’t expect any help in OBP.
Carlos Santana (1B/3B, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. The batting average is rebounding nicely after a very unlucky 2018, and he continues to be what we all expect him to be—a quality OBP asset with 25-home run power. I very much expect him to finish somewhere in between his fantastic 2016 and his pretty decent 2017.
Leonys Martin (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, 2 R, 2B. He’s available in roughly 95% of ESPN leagues because of the slump he endured recently, but he has begun to come back from it, hitting .333/.389/.455 with two steals and a home run since May 8. I recommend buying him in 12-team and deeper formats that require five outfielders if you need a guy who can steal some bases and not hurt you in the other categories.
Dan Vogelbach (1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. The portly first baseman will likely be prone to hot and cold spells all season, as seen by the four dingers in his past five games after hitting just one in the previous 18. There should be 25 to 30 home runs in his stat line by the end of September, the only question will be whether you want to endure the agony of watching him get there.
(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)