Batter’s Box: Keep Your Whits About You
You need to be ready when a guy comes out of nowhere. As a 27-year-old, Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals) had a fairly quiet half-season debut, with two home runs and eight stolen bases in 81 games. Very little was thought of him at the time, as he didn’t have much of a prospect pedigree and seemed like a speedy fourth or fifth outfielder for the Royals. Of course, in 2017, he broke out in a massive way and was even better in 2018. After Tuesday’s performance, where he went 4-5 with three runs, a home run, a triple, five RBI, and a SB, he finds himself second among all second base-eligible players on ESPN’s Player Rater behind only Javier Baez. Merrifield was drafted as a top-40 overall player, so this doesn’t come as TOO much of a surprise for the five-category contributor, but it’s worth noting that doubters were present throughout the past two seasons. Many thought he’d be unable to continue his 2017 successes, and just as many believed it was a bit of a fluke going into 2018. At the end of the first half last season, people pointed to his five home runs and 17 steals and claimed that Whit wasn’t as good as his promoters claimed. Then, of course, he went and hit seven more in the second half and stole 28 more bases in the final 67 games.
I said something to this effect yesterday, but it bears repeating: You can’t always wait until you know for sure that a certain player is legit. You can use scouting and the advanced stats (which, by the way, indicate that Merrifield’s season so far has been mostly legit, though the .545 slugging percentage will likely drop below .500 eventually) to look for glaring issues, but ultimately, you’ve got to use your gut. If you’ve got a feeling that someone is legit, take action. Use the resources (such as our fabulous Discord or the comment section below) at your disposal and make moves. Action is more fun than inaction.
Justin Turner (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—4-5, 3 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI. On April 25, Turner’s batting line was .250/.364/.284 with zero home runs. Just 10 starts later, it’s .302/.391/.434 with four home runs. I hope you didn’t try to get cute and bench him. He’s no spring chicken, but he still has elite bat skills. Also, for you DFS players out there, he’s a great start against lefties, which he faces plenty of in the NL West.
Robinson Cano (2B, New York Mets)—4-5, R, 2 2B. Statcast thinks the elder second baseman has been a bit unlucky in batting average and slugging, so don’t worry yet about the lack of production so far. We know enough about Cano to know that he can hit, and there’s nothing in his profile that suggests he’s lost it.
Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI. He can’t stop, he won’t stop. This was his 11th home run in 31 games, and he’s been the No. 5 first base-eligible player according to ESPN’s Player Rater. The sky is the limit for this kid. His .604 slugging percentage is more than 100 points higher than his xSLG, but I still think he has top-10 potential at first base (which ain’t as deep as it used to be).
Evan Longoria (3B, San Francisco Giants)—2-3, 3 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. The old guy can still hit a little bit, though some of this is likely a result of being in Coors. He might get to 20 home runs, albeit with a low batting average and OBP. That’s a fill-in at corner infield in 15-teamers, probably. Nothing more.
Hunter Pence (OF, Texas Rangers)—3-3, R, HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI, BB. His coach said he’d get more playing time, and he has. He won’t keep this up forever, but he doesn’t need to. Hopefully he can keep it up long enough as your fifth outfielder in 12-teamers for you to either find a better fifth outfielder or to get back whoever is on your IL.
Jurickson Profar (SS/1B/2B/3B, Oakland Athletics)—2-3, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. He’s been dropped by plenty of owners over the past week or two, but he’s on a nice five-game hitting streak and has two multihit games in a row. If he was dropped in your 12-teamer and you could use his positional flexibility, feel free to add him.
Chris Iannetta (C, Colorado Rockies)—2-3, R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. He’s back from the IL and should shine against lefties, especially while in Coors. If you need a catcher this week, Iannetta will face several more lefties and will stay at home through Sunday, so feel free to fire him up.