Batter’s Box: J.D. Stands for Just Dingers
There are plenty of famous J.D.s in this world and the fictional realm. J.D. is one of the stronger initial names to exist. We have J.D. Salinger of Catcher in the Rye fame, J.D. the main character of Scrubs, John Davidson from the NHL, and J.D. Drew, the original baseball J.D. That last J.D., Drew paved the way for the other baseball J.D.s to come, more specifically J.D. Martinez and J.D. Davis. With two stellar performances from two J.D.s I couldn’t separate them when wanting to feature one. There is something special when there are two East division J.D.s tearing the cover off the ball.
Last night, Martinez had the better night going 4-5, 4 R, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI. Both of his homers travelled around 400 feet, and he also added a couple of doubles, now with two or more hits in his last five games. He’s also turned up the gas on an already stellar season since the break, slugging .646 with a 168 wRC+. He also has been consistently great throughout the year. There has not been any down months or too long stretches of time where he’s been frustrating. His expected batting average has remained right around .300, with his expected slugging around .600 for each month this season. Even though he’s been an elite hitter this season, he still hasn’t been close to the level of play he enjoyed the last two seasons. That is how good Martinez has been.
Our other J.D. friend over in the NL helped the Mets keep their streak alive with an early homer going 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. In late July, Davis has been plugged in as a starter with Smith’s and Cano’s injuries. He’s been a solid performer at the plate all season but since this new starting gig, he’s been on fire. From July 25th on, he is slashing .409/.491/.818 with a 232 wRC+. Even before this hot streak, he maintained a hard-hit rate close to 50% with a 24.1% line drive rate and excellent expected stats. One thing I keep hearing in Mets’ broadcasts is in regards to his performance against fastballs. The booth has referenced the work he’s put in with hitting coach Chili Davis to shorten his swing to catch up to the fastball. You can see his skills improve over this season month to month. In April and May, he’s slugging in the mid-.300s against them but in June and on he’s slugging over .600 against the fastball. Also, check out Devan Fink’s piece on Fangraphs back in April about just this topic.
Let’s look at the rest of the non-J.D.s in the league to see if they are any worthwhile.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB. He crushed both of his home runs, with his first one traveling 447 feet. Hernandez has not been living up to the hype he built from last year with his stellar hard hit and barrel rates. Since July, he’s been back to the better outcomes from his 2018. These two home runs have brought his total to nine since the All-Star break. His line drive rate has been too low while his strikeout rate is too high for much else other than Ks and homers for him for this year.
Starlin Castro (2B/3B, Miami Marlins)—4-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Castro is back for a Batter’s Box double dip, with his third multi-hit game in a row. It’s also home runs in back to back games in Miami. He’s not one to strike out much but he hasn’t struck out in four straight after a handful of games with too many. But still, as I had pointed out yesterday, there hasn’t been much coming from Castro since joining the Marlins. He’ll have to keep this up to make any moves for fantasy.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He added a couple more dingers including a 429-foot homer off Caleb Smith, making it four straight with a homer and seven in his last eight. Since the break, he’s remained one of the top fantasy assets with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases. He should stay a top tier player for quite a while.
Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves)—4-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. Albies joined in as the Braves second half of their 1-2 punch as they got back at the Marlins. He’s remained hot since the break with a good chunk of non-home run extra-base hits, mostly due to his line drive rate over 30%. He’s had a bit of an up and down year so far where his K rate has bounced between 10% and 20% each month really driving his hot and cold streaks. As long as he puts the ball in play, he’s been effective.
Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3B, 3 RBI. Take a look at Rendon’s stats from last year and then look right below the 2018 line to 2019. They’re almost identical. Except for two things; his slugging is about 60 points higher and he’s played 35 fewer games. His barrel rate has gone up nearly 4% from last year with his increase in hard-hit rate while also maintaining his elite contact skills. Rendon has firmly placed himself into the discussion for one of the leagues best hitters.
Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)—3-5, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. Speaking of nearly identical stat lines, take a look at Soto’s 2018 and 2019. All his rate stats are nearly the same while his counting stats are also extremely close but with 11 fewer games. He has decreased his ground ball rate from 53.7% to 41.3% while bumping up both his line drive and fly ball rates. Soto has also maintained his elite plate discipline. And remember he’s still only 20.
Jose Ramirez (3B, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB, SB. Ramirez has done so much to recover from his awful start. More recently, he has seven doubles in his last eight games. Since the All Star break, he’s been classic Jose. He is slashing .355/.381/.736 with a 181 wRC+. One aspect of his game that was drastically off to start the year was his performance against fastballs. How has he been doing against them throughout July and August? Yep, he’s pushed his SLG against fastballs way up from below .400 to above .700 over the last couple of months. If you were one of the lucky ones to buy low or hold, you have a first-rounder to help you to the playoffs.
Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Somewhat like Ramirez, Betts hasn’t been living up to his draft selection or expectations. His season has had some ups and downs. He delivered a three-home run performance a couple of weeks back and since then he’s had four extra-base hits with a 76 wRC+ in 14 games. But also like Ramirez, his success has been driven by his performance against fastballs. Last year he consistently annihilated the fastball, slugging .667 against them all of 2018. 2019? His whiffs and Ks against fastballs are up and he’s performing fine against them, but not stellar.
Carson Kelly (C, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB. Kelly has been another one of those catchers that seems to have come out of nowhere. Of catchers with 200 or more plate appearances, Kelly is fourth in wRC+ at 124. And since the break he’s been just as good if not better, slashing .241/.349/.611 with an absurdly low .184 BABIP mostly due to his 61.4% fly-ball rate. He also has been hitting the ball harder and harder as the season’s progressed.
Luis Urías (2B, San Diego Padres)—2-4, 3 R, RBI. Urias has been getting overshadowed by his double-play partner a bit. But really he’s overshadowed because he hasn’t performed quite up to what Tatis has been doing. Urias started the season played a bit in April, was sent down to the minors but came back up July 20th. Since the second call up, he has not been doing much. He has two extra-base hits, good for an SLG smaller than his OBP. But that also means his plate discipline has been fantastic. He has walked more than he’s struck out. His swinging-strike rate is below 10%, his O-Swing is below 30% and his O-Contact is about 75%. All fantastic for a 22-year-old.
Bryce Harper (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—2-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. Harper turned it on last night to keep the Phillies around in the Wildcard with two lasers for home runs both traveling over 420 feet. He’s been gradually improving over the course of the season lowering his strikeouts. In the short span of August so far, he has been at his best with over a 55% hard-hit rate and a .583 slugging while still underperforming his expected stats. If Harper is starting to turn things on, he’s doing it at just the right time.
Corey Dickerson (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—3-5, R, 3B, 3 RBI. Dickerson joined the Phillies a week ago at the deadline from the Pirates. Since joining the club, he’s contributed immediately with two homers and seven RBIs in four starts. He missed all of April and May with a shoulder injury and has been dealing with a nagging groin injury since returning from the IL in June. However, since the return, he’s been excellent at the dish. A .324/.374/.581 slash intrigued the Phillies enough to grab a replacement for the injured Jay Bruce. Dickerson has been a decent fantasy asset over the last few seasons and getting plugged into the middle of the Phillies line up should only help him.
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)