(Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)
The past two years have been interesting ones for former 1st round pick, Javier Baez. His first full season in 2016 was defined by a fair amount of hype, some promising power, but far too many strikeouts without the walks to offset the damage. Last year was a step forward in the power department as he muscled 9 more HR (23) than the previous season (14) in only about 50 more plate appearances, and he got to double-digit steals for the 2nd year in a row. Still, the strikeout rate grew to 28% while the walk rate only went up to 6%. While it’s been nice growth, there’s been a sense that Baez was still making the climb to his full potential, but those doubters may be silenced after this season.
It’s been a remarkable April for the 25-year-old, and he’s starting to look like the guy the Cubs drafted high back in 2011. Not only is his triple slash up to .292/.363/.736 after yesterday’s game (2-6, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI), but he’s also currently leading the NL in RBI with 23. Oh, and his 7 HR put him just 1 behind the leaders in the NL. He’s been nearly unstoppable since April 14th as he’s racked up a line of 11-24, 4 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI in that time. xStats backs up the production so far, with an impressive 16% VH% so far this year. It’s a dream start for the young Cub (kind of redundant), and maybe this is the year he catapults to the elite among fantasy infielders.
Let’s take a look at some of the other performances from Sunday:
Miguel Andujar (3B, New York Yankees) – 4-4, R, 2 2B, RBI. This game was pretty much the perfect encapsulation of Miguel Andjuar’s season: put up great numbers while everyone talks about the other prospects in the system. Yesterday was the Major League debut for Gleyber Torres, but it was Andujar who stole the show with his 5th multi-hit game in his last 6. He has 7 doubles, 2 HR, 7 R, and 6 RBI over that 6-game stretch as well. Don’t forget that this is a guy who had a raw power grade of 60 coming up, so that certainly makes me feel more confident in the 40% hard contact rate.
Brandon Belt (1B, San Francisco Giants) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. The king of OBP leagues has suddenly found the big stick as he has now homered in 4 straight games. The .369 OBP is business as usual for him, but the .519 gives me pause. Then I contemplate my hopes, dreams, wishes, etc. Then I get back to his analysis. The hard contact rate is 47%. There are tangible upticks in opposite field power and flyball percentage, and while those are all backing up the sudden power surge, I doubt he’s reinvented himself as The Power Belt. He should return to normal eventually, but enjoy the surge while it lasts. How do we like that nickname, by the way? No? Whatever.
Charlie Blackmon (CF, Colorado Rockies) – 3-5, 3 R, HR, RBI. He had just one hit coming into this game in the Chicago series, AND I TOLD YOU TO BUY LOW. Joke aside, I am really hoping the 2018 Blackmon can maintain something close to the 12% walk rate. Of course, he needs to bring down the 23% strikeout rate to be Mr. Ultra Sexy, but I feel we are just picking nits here with him. He’s a stud, and he’s now tied with Bryce Harper for the NL lead in homeruns.
Mitch Haniger (RF, Seattle Mariners) – 3-5, R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI. It’s well documented just how much his season was derailed by injuries last year, but I think people forgot just how good he was to start the 2017 season. You know…when he was fully healthy? Well, he looks that way again, and yesterday makes it three games in a row with a dong. A triple dong streak! Beautiful! xStats is buying so much of this great start, and he has elite marks in both VH% (13%) and PH% (16.9%) so far this year. If he stays healthy, he’s going down as one of the biggest values of the draft season.
Manny Machado (3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles) – 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. This makes it 10-games in a row with a hit, and Machado is ascending to the top of the fantasy mountain in the early goings of 2018. He’s currently rocking an un-Manny-like .421 OBP, which is good enough for top 10 in the AL. It’s just not fair that he’s developing next-level plate discipline to go along with the elite skills. He’s looking every bit like a top 10 fantasy player.
Yadier Molina (C, St. Louis Cardinals) – 3-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI. He didn’t go deep in this one, but did you know Yadier is currently tied for 3rd in the NL in HR with 6? The early power has been supported by huge upticks in HR/FB rate (currently 26%) as well as an astounding 50% mark in hard contact rate. Obviously, that contact number won’t last all year. Interestingly enough, however, xStats says he’s actually UNDERachieving with that .292/.316/.569 triple slash.
Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies) – 3-4, R, 3B, 2 RBI, BB. Owning Trevor Story is like being in the tumultuous relationship in high school where the couple would seem infatuated with each other one day but at each other’s throats and breaking up for the 56th time the next day. One day, all you can think about is how bad he’s been, his .218 average, and his 30%+ strikeout rate. The next day, he has games like this and you forget all about it. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, but you have to know this is what you signed up for.
Michael Taylor (CF, Washington Nationals) – 3-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 SB. A combo meal DELUXE for the Washington Nationals’ outfielder as he goes deep and steals not one but TWO bags in this one. That brings his stolen base total to 8 on the year, which ties him with teammate Trea Turner for tops in the National League. Sure, the .224/.280/.329 doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but he’s swiping bags at a rate we have never seen from before. Now maybe the time to get on board.
Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. It’s actually just his 3rd dong of the year thanks to the suspension, but he’s done nothing but make up for lost time since he came back. I’m a big fan of the 12% walk rate that thas contributed to his .414 OBP so far this year especially considering walks have never been a huge part of his game. Because how can you walk when you’re busy blasting baseball to Mars?!
Adrian Beltre (3B, Texas Rangers) – 2-3, 3 R, 2 2B, BB. It’s looking like the power has been officially zapped from the old timer as he has just 1 HR and 6 extra base hits all year. The slugging percentage currently resides at .390, and his HR/FB rate has plummeted down to 5.9% from the 15% of 2017. He’s still showing his famous plate discipline with a 14% K rate to pair with his 9% walk rate, but he’s not delivering the kind of production you need from your #4 hitter.
Justin Bour (1B, Miami Marlins) – 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. His current triple slash of .243/.325/.432 is very un-Bour-like, and like Adrian Beltre, he’s been struggling with just 5 extra base hits all season. The hard contact rate is down to a paltry 21% while the groundball rate is at 51%, so there could be some slight panic from Bour owners right now. Take heed that xStats says he’s been slightly unlucky to begin the year, so brighter days should be ahead.
C. J. Cron (1B, Tampa Bay Rays) – 2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. 2 days in a row for Cron on the Batter’s Box! THAT’S a real achievement. Cron has been blazing hot as of late with 5 multi-hit games in his last 7, and he also has 3 HR in his last 2 games. The hard contact being elevated supports the rise in power as well. He’s hit exactly 16 HR each of the last three seasons, so you can count on just 11 more this season.
Khris Davis (LF, Oakland Athletics) – 2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. Typical Dong Davis getting a three-run blast in this one as the Oakland A’s just stymied the Boston Red Sox this past weekend. He’s up to his old tricks with that 51% hard contact rate, and so many of his numbers look remarkably similar to his previous marks. Even the .259/.340/.506 triple slash is oddly close to his mark from last season. If he makes it 4 years in-a-row hitting .247, I’ll eat my hat!
Paul DeJong (2B/SS, St Louis Cardinals) – 2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. We’re starting to figure out the guy DeJong is going to be moving forward I feel. A guy with a slugging percentage in the .500s, an unsightly strikeout rate either at 30% or above, and plenty of HR. He currently finds himself near the top in NL HR this season with 7, but you have to DEspise that 39.7% strikeout rate.
Ian Desmond (CF, Colorado Rockies) – 2-3, 2B, BB, SB. It’s been absolutely brutal for him this year with a .171/.210/.355 triple slash, and xStats says this is exactly what he’s earned, unfortunately. In fact, he has a 27% PH rate at the moment and woe unto his owners! A 73% groundball rate?! Are you kidding me? I didn’t even know they made groundball rates that high! Alas, we can pray for regression to the mean as his .146 BABIP would indicate. Stay patient…I guess?
Teoscar Hernandez (CF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 2-4, R, HR, RBI. He’s had just 38 plate appearances so far this year, and his line of 7 R/3 HR/10 RBI/1 SB indicates he’s made them count. He’s slashing .343/.395/.743 since being called up April 13th, and if I’m the Blue Jays, he’s staying in the lineup until he cools off. Which…could be awhile. He’s an athlete with tons of skills that just needs an opportunity. Hope you bought in while you could!
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians) – 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB. He had exactly 2 hits in his first 9 games. In the 9 games since, which led up to yesterday’s game, he had 13 hits with 6 of those were bombs. Yeah. He’s going to be just fine. Yooooo that 15% walk rate vs. the 5% strikeout rate SURE looks sexy. That’s the second time I’ve used “sexy” in this article about baseball players today…
Christian Villanueva (3B, San Diego Padres) – 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. I poo-pooed him in one of my first articles of the season, and I continue to correct my mistake every single week it would seem. He now owns a 9-game hit streak, and he’s been on a tear lately. His 7 HR put him in the top 2 for HR in the NL, and he’s slashing an insane .345/.441/.724. The profile backs up the power, and he’s got no pressure to fight for playing time whatsoever in San Diego.
Joey Gallo (1B/3B, Texas Rangers) – 1-2, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. I had a knock-down, drag-out chat fight with my home league dudes about Joey Gallo’s value in OBP leagues. I am on the side of him being an elite option worthy of an aggressive keeper slot, but my league mates were none too keen on that. Aaaaannnd now he’s slashing .209/.284/.488. Joey. JOEY. JOEY!!! You’re KILLING me. Sure, he’s near the top of the AL in HR, and will continue to be, but he’s really making me look foolish. I don’t like it at all. Still, Gallo will get his dongs.