Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire
Did you know that Jorge Soler’s nickname is “El Yoyo”? It seems appropriate, considering the trajectory of his career to this point. When he came up with the Chicago Cubs, everybody thought he was the bee’s knees. The cat’s pajamas. The (animal)’s (incongruous noun). Then his long swing caught up with him, and for the past two seasons he struggled to stay afloat in the majors.
Now, at 26 years old and with a full-time gig, he seems to be on the upswing again. Or is he? Sure, after yesterday’s 3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB performance he’s slashing .324/.436/.546 on the year. Yes, he has three home runs over the past week. But most of his peripherals point to him being the same old Soler that burned us once before. His 43.8% groundball rate is the highest it’s been since 2014. His 13% whiff rate and 66% contact rate are below average, and in line with his career averages in those categories. And most of his success to this point has been due to his penchant for killing lefties; his .246 average against righties this season is identical to his career average against them. The increased hard contact is encouraging, as is the fact that he’s chasing pitches out of the zone less than he has before. But I wouldn’t be so quick to assume El Yoyo is on his way up again until I see him go Around the World a bit more. That’s the name of a yo-yo trick. It’s very important to me that you get my jokes.
Alex Gordon (OF, Kansas City Royals): 4-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI – I always thought Alex Gordon looked a bit like a White Walker from Game of Thrones, and now he’s acting like one, rising from the dead this year to throw an icy spear through the hearts of unsuspecting fantasy teams. Sorry, spoiler alert. Gordon is hitting .414 with three homers over the past week. His 15.7% strikeout rate would be a career-low, which is saying something for a guy who has been in the league for 12 seasons, and he’s making more hard contact (38.5%) than he ever has as well. The .355 BABIP will come down, but I’m cautiously optimistic here.
Tucker Barnhart (C, Cincinnati Reds): 3-4, 3B, RBI – It looks like Barnhart is going to benefit from more at-bats thanks to the recent trade that sent Devin Mesoraco to the New York Mets in exchange for the bloated, useless humanoid formerly known as Matt Harvey. He won’t hurt you in any category, and is a solid pick-up in deep and two-catcher leagues.
Adrian Beltre (3B, Texas Rangers): 3-4, 2 RBI – Beltre picked up right where he left off in his first game back from the DL, raising his season line to .330/.381/.451. Beltre is notorious for not liking when people touch his head, but he’s so good at hitting that his teammates will only naturally want to touch his head in congratulations. He must be living in a personal hell.
Mike Moustakas (3B, Kansas City Royals): 3-6, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI – Is Mike Moustakas the value signing of the offseason so far? He’s now up to 10 home runs while slashing .300/.333/.586, and nothing in his peripherals indicates he’s getting particularly lucky (.283 BABIP, 17% HR/FB). He’s seen a huge jump in hard contact, posting a 46% rate so far after just a 32% rate last year. And last year he hit 38 home runs. So yeah. This is looking very real.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, New York Yankees): 2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB – Stanton’s early struggles were great for selling newspapers, but I think it’s time we put this story to bed. He’s hitting .296 with five homers over the past two weeks, and now he’s stealing bases like he used to when he was young and named Mike. He’s currently on pace for another 40+ home run season, and that’s the floor.
Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins): 2-5, 3 R – I think we need to seriously consider changing the name of these articles to “The Eddie Rosario Update” because he’s been making daily appearances lately. He’s now batting .438 over the past week with three homers, and seems to be desperate for attention or something. Why else would he keep hitting like this?
Marcus Semien (Oakland Athletics): 2-3, 2 R, BB, SB – A solid performance for Semien, whose three stolen bases now match his home run total. Aside from a spike in his groundball rate this year, his peripherals are in line with what he’s always posted, and he’ll likely challenge a 15/15 season if he stays on the field.
Odubel Herrera (OF, Philadelphia Phillies): 2-4, RBI, SB – Please take a look at Odubel Herrera’s MLB profile picture and tell me he doesn’t look like some kind of human/forest troll hybrid. Whether Odubel is making real improvements to his contact ability, or simply channeling the Earth energy provided by the tree god Gaia, it’s been working. Herrera’s whiff and contact rates are much improved this year, and he’s hitting .358 with four homers over the past two weeks.
Brandon Belt (1B, San Francisco Giants): 2-4, R, SB – I know it’s probably more natural to associate Belt’s last name with his ability to “belt” line drives (28% line drive rate this year), but I still can’t help but picture a giant talking belt named Brandon whenever I see his name. Belt is absolutely crushing the ball at a 46.8% clip this year, and his 24 degree launch angle means his six homers are likely right on pace with what he’ll continue to do all season if he stays healthy.
Matt Kemp (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers): 3-6, RBI – Kemp is making 47% hard contact and hitting 30% line drives, so while his .425 BABIP isn’t here to stay, it might not regress as much as you’d expect. He’s hitting .433 over the past week.
Dee Gordon (2B/OF, Seattle Mariners): 3-5, R, 2B, SB – Dee Gordon is hitting .517 over the past week with five stolen bases. No, I didn’t write “.316” wrong. No, .517 isn’t his OPS. That’s seriously how hot he’s been lately, and I don’t appreciate you doubting my proofreading ability.
Danny Valencia (1B/DH, Baltimore Orioles): 3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI – The nice thing about owning Valencia in fantasy as opposed to real life is that he can’t face-punch his teammates in fantasy. Valencia has been a fairly useful hitter over the past few years, and is now getting semi-regular reps at third base for the Orioles.
A.J. Pollock (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 2-6, R, HR, 2 RBI – Just like his father Jackson, A.J. is a bit of an artist, spraying the ball all over the field in new and exciting ways. Okay, so he’s not related to Jackson Pollock, but wouldn’t it be cool if he was? No? Okay. Pollock is up to 11 homers and eight stolen bases this year and is batting .370 over the past week.