Batter’s Box: Kyle is Seager to Please

Everything Scott Chu thinks you need to know about Tuesday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

Once upon a time (and I don’t mean last night when he put up a 3-4, 3 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, BB stat line), Kyle Seager (3B, Seattle Mariners) was a locked-in starting fantasy third baseman with dependable mid- to upper-20s home run power and a decent .260 to .270 batting average. He even turned things up a notch in 2016 by increasing his walk rate, hitting 30 home runs, and batting .278/.359/.499. He’d even steal a handful of bases each season! Oh, those were days.

Unfortunately, things started taking a turn for the worse. After his career year in 2016, Seager took a bit of a step back in plate discipline in 2017 which played a part in his worst (at the time) full-season batting average of .249. He kept most of the power and hit 27 home runs, but the remaining stats were a bit unimpressive. His BABIP dropped a bit, so most just chalked it up to bad luck and assumed he’d bounce back in 2018, but that wasn’t the case. His skills continued to degrade, and after just 22 home runs and a .221 batting average in 2018, he appeared to be washed up as a fantasy asset.

Coming into 2019, expectations for the 31-year-old third baseman were as low as they could get. He was injured in the preseason and wouldn’t debut until late May. His starting role was considered fairly safe because of his above-average defensive skills and contract that runs through 2021, but no one expected him to contribute outside of AL-only and 16-team and deeper formats, and through July 21, that’s exactly what happened. While he was walking a bit more than he had in the past, he was slashing a horrid .186/.260/.331 with the majority of his positive stats coming in a one-week stretch at the beginning of June.

And then the calendar flipped to July 22. Since July 22, he has walked more, struck out a bit less, and absolutely crushed baseballs, hitting .375/.444./.828 with eight home runs and 30 combined runs and RBI in 72 trips to the plate. He’s been putting the ball either on a line or in the air, sporting just a 28.6% ground-ball rate and spraying the ball to all fields. His .231 wRC+ since July 22 is third in all of baseball.

Now I’m not saying Kyle Seager has made some identifiable and remarkable change leading up to this hot streak. In fact, I have no idea whether that is the case (and I’m on vacation in the Outer Banks, so I don’t much feel like finding out). What I do know is that he’s owned in fewer than 20% of leagues, and while he could go cold and crappy at any moment, those desperately looking to stream a bat while trying to manufacture a playoff or late-season push could do worse than the veteran lefty. The Mariners have a very favorable hitting schedule on the horizon (they face the Tigers twice and the Blue Jays six times in the next 11 days), and neither team features enough strong pitching to force Seager out of his comfort zone.

Tom Murphy (C, Seattle Mariners)—2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. His plate discipline is putrid, but he plays more than most backup catchers (roughly three times a week) and already has 12 home runs on the season, which is tied for 13th among backstops. He’s not really useful in single-catcher formats because of his limited playing time, but those in need of a plug-in second catcher could try to take advantage of his power as long as they don’t get their hopes up about the batting average continuing (a 3.9% walk rate and 35.4% strikeout rate makes his .273 batting average appear quite dubious).

Will Smith (C, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB. He’s been the third-best catcher over the past 30 days per the ESPN Player Rater. If you’re in a competitive Yahoo league, then you likely missed the boat as he’s already owned in 63% of leagues, but for some reason, he’s only owned in about 30% of ESPN leagues. He’s as good a bet as any to be a top-seven catcher the rest of the way.

Ramiel Tapia (OF, Colorado Rockies)—3-4, BB, SB. I covered him a bit yesterday but just wanted to remind those in five-outfield formats to go pick up this guy if you need an upgrade in the back end of your outfield. He has good contact and speed with a bit of pop, so he can do a bit of everything and should get plenty of playing time in place of the injured David Dahl.

Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)—2-5, 2B, R, RBI, SB. The story of Mallex remains constant this season: His elevated strikeout rate isn’t ideal and is dragging his batting average way down, but his speed is as real as it gets. He’ll almost certainly swipe 40 bags by season’s end and will be the quintessential “rabbit” people target in 2020 drafts.

Travis Demeritte (OF, Detroit Tigers)—2-5, 2 R, SB. The youngster is doing quite well in his first taste of major league action, hitting .262/.360/.452 in his first 50 plate appearances with a home run and three steals. He was never a high-level prospect, but he’s shown decent power in the minor leagues and a little bit of speed. He might have some value in 15-team formats as a fifth outfielder as the new left fielder for the Tigers, but he’s really more of a dynasty league asset than a redraft one. His 32% strikeout rate is likely going to persist for the near future, as he showed high walk and strikeout rates in the minors.

Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP, Los Angeles Angels)—2-5, 2B, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB. If you hadn’t noticed, Ohtani is my favorite player. He’s in my top 10 overall for 2020 because of his pitching ability, hitting ability, and speed (after all, you have to be fast to hit a triple and steal a base in the same game).

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—6-6, 4 2B, R, 3 RBI. Can you believe he got caught stealing? What a bum! Really cost his team. In all seriousness, this kid just keeps proving that the hype around him a few years ago was all warranted. Not all prospects deliver right away, and a little patience can pay off. He’s been the fifth-best hitter in standard leagues per the ESPN Player Rater and the eighth-best player overall. If there’s one thing that hasn’t been going well, it’s the stolen bases. He stunned us with eight steals by June 5, but is 0-4 in stolen base attempts since then, including getting caught twice in the past three games. He MIGHT get to 10 steals as the BoSox fall out of contention and let him run as he pleases, but in future seasons, I wouldn’t bank on more than seven.

Juan Lagares (OF, New York Mets)—4-4, 2B, R, RBI. He has power and speed and nothing else. His defensive prowess has kept him in the league for a long time, but he’s just a bit player at this point. I’m not even sure he’s an asset in NL-only anymore.

David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Angels)—4-4, 2B, 3 R, BB. While the power is fairly limited, his excellent plate discipline (8.4% walk rate, 9.1% strikeout rate) and contact ability make him a really useful points league contributor. To make a comparison, he’s like a multi-positional Adam Eaton, and that’s something I kind of dig. He’s going to retain all four positions for fantasy in 2020, which makes him even more useful, particularly in draft-and-hold formats or leagues with very tight benches.

Luis Urias (2B, San Diego Padres)—2-3, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. He hasn’t exactly hit the ground running, but the 15.4% walk rate and 22.1% strikeout rate are extremely encouraging. I think he’ll eventually get the hang of making contact in the majors and be an excellent batting average guy, even if the power and speed don’t become eye-popping tools.

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—1-6, 3 K. The brakes have been slammed on the rookie Indian, who has just one home run and zero stolen bases (and one caught stealing) since July 23. In standard Yahoo formats with just three starting outfielders, I am OK with moving on, but those in five-outfield formats should probably hang on if you have the bench space unless you feel comfortable with your other speed options.

Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—0-4, 4 K. August has been unkind to Hoskins, as he’s 5-44 with just one home run and one RBI so far on the month. The plate discipline is stellar, but otherwise, he’s just in a slump. You can’t really do anything about it for fantasy purposes as he’s too good to bench, but feel free to rant and rave below if it helps you feel better.

And finally, I am going to try to occasionally feature some minor league content in here from my incredible colleagues (such as Shelly Verougstraete!). I won’t ruin it by trying to add my likely nonexistent thoughts on these players, so feel free to hit up our dynasty columnists in our fabulous Discord or by seeking out them out in our Dynasty section

 

 

Oh yeah, and one other thing …

 

 

(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

  • Avatar Tyler O says:

    Rhys Hoskins has brought my family and me much disappointment and shame, as of late.

  • Avatar Vinny says:

    Hey Scott,

    Points league make it easier to drop mercado? Other options are ian happ, victor robles, willie calhoun

    Thanks on advance!

    • Avatar theKraken says:

      I can’t imagine they stick with him in the 2 hole for much longer which would render him irrelevant. I think all three of them would be better owns but that spot should be used to stream. Happ is not a guy that the Cubs like and he won’t play every day. Calhoun also doesn’t play every day but is pretty solid. I could see Robles getting hot as rosters expand – at least he should play every day.

      • Avatar Scott Chu says:

        I’m going to echo Kraken on this – Mercado is streamable and the other three provide a a better option. I’m lowest on Happ as his playing time is the least certain, but it’s going to mostly be about matchups.

  • Avatar Michael says:

    Enjoy your time on the OBX Scott! I visit a couple times a year and it’s amazing.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Thanks Michael! As a ginger, I’m not hugely tolerant of excessive sunlight, but I’m enjoying myself nonetheless.

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