Batter’s Box: Leonys, and Tigers, and Cubs, Oh My!
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
Every year there’s certain players you just plant your flag in from the get-go and hope it works out well, even when they’re all like, “Ow, why did you impale me with that flag?” This year, Leonys Martin was one of those players for me. I dug him when he burst onto the scene in 2013 flashing a 20.5% strikeout rate while racking up 36 stolen bases. When he showed some plate discipline gains the following season and swiped another 31 bags, I was all in. He’s had some ups and downs since then, but when I heard he’d be the Tigers leadoff hitter this year I figured rostering him was worth the gamble.
After last night’s 3-5, 3 R, HR, 3B, 4 RBI performance, Leonys and his .295/.358/.475 slash line are making me feel pretty good. His xStats triple slash of .259/.331/.422 back it up to some degree, and his 6.5% value hit rate is solid. His 58.1% flyball rate scares me a bit, because it tells me he may be getting a bit homer-happy, and that’s not his game. Still, the price is right for Martin right now, and the steals upside is enticing.
Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs): 3-4, R, RBI, BB – Rizzo’s back, and so is his back. He appeared fully healthy in this game, which is great news for Rizzo owners, and bad news for that one guy who was hoping Victor Caratini might pick up first base eligibility at some point. Sorry, Victor Caratini owner. Hang in there.
Lewis Brinson (OF, Miami Marlins): 2-2, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI – I joke about it a lot, but deep down I do firmly believe that at some point this season, the Marlins will reach a level of desperation so unprecedented that they’ll give the churro vendor a shot at playing centerfield. Brinson’s big performance last night set this inevitability back at least a week, and for that I (and the churro vendor) will never forgive him. Brinson had one hit in his previous 36 at-bats prior to yesterday’s performance, and though he has a long leash, there will come a point where the Marlins will run out of patience.
Preston Tucker (OF, Atlanta Braves): 2-4, R, 2 2B, 5 RBI – Preston Tucker sounds like the name of a lawyer that would sue you for all that you’re worth and then set your money on fire and use it to light his cigars. Is it weird how specific that description was? Tucker has cooled off a bit since his hot start, but after last night’s performance he’s tied with Bryce Harper for the National League lead in RBI with 18.
Jeimer Candelario (3B, Detroit Tigers): 4-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB – Fun fact: Jeimer Candelario is an avid candle collector, and is referred to by his friends as “Jeimer Candelabra.” Most of Candelario’s peripherals are perfectly average this year, so if you need a perfectly average corner infielder he’s your man.
Adam Jones (OF, Baltimore Orioles): 3-5, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI – Adam Jones is all like, I don’t have to draw walks if I’m busy getting hits. Jones has a 2.5% walk rate this year, which means pitchers have to literally throw four pitches into the dugout in order for Jones to get a base on balls. Jones is also striking out at a 27.8% clip, which would be his highest rate since he was a rookie, and whiffing more than he customarily does. It’s still early, but…
Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros): 3-4, R, 2 2B, 4 RBI, BB – Did Altuve stop at In-N-Out burger before last night’s game? Because it looks like he had a double-double. Altuve went off yesterday, animal style, but still hasn’t hit a homer yet and has just one stolen base on the year.
Jason Heyward (OF, Chicago Cubs): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI – Jason Heyward has 99 problems but his groundball rate ain’t one. After years of making poor contact and not lifting the ball enough, Heyward has pulled his hard contact rate up to an acceptable 32.6% and is hitting the ball in the air an absurd 53.5% of the time. He seems to be making a conscious effort to hit for more power, but has just a 4.3% HR/FB to show for it. It could be some early bad luck, or it could be some early bad Jason Heyward. Time will tell.
Manny Machado (SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles): 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI – “I’ll take three runs, two homers, a bunch of ribbies, and… a $300 million contract please.” That’s my impression of Manny Machado yesterday. Machado’s .338/.414/.623 line is looking great so far, and he’s walking more than he ever has. Just strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride.
Cesar Hernandez (2B, Philadelphia Phillies): 2-4, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB – That’s five steals and 14 runs now for the Phillies leadoff hitter. Philadelphia’s lineup is a bit more potent than they get credit for, and if Hernandez stays true to his game and keeps getting on base, he should be able to pile on the counting stats.
Lorenzo Cain (OF, Milwaukee Brewers): 3-3, 4 R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB – Lorenzo Cain has a name where, even if this whole baseball thing doesn’t work out for him, he can always start his own line of homemade pasta sauces. I mean, who wouldn’t buy an alfredo sauce made by a guy named Lorenzo Cain? The dude just sounds like he knows his sauces. Cain has been a bit dinged up in the early going, but is sporting an excellent 12.5% walk rate, which has helped him rack up four stolen bases already.
Kurt Suzuki (C, Atlanta Braves): 2-3, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB – Close your eyes. No wait, don’t close your eyes, because then you won’t be able to read this. Okay, keep your eyes open and try to imagine what you think Kurt Suzuki’s triple-slash looks like in xStats right now. WRONG. You’re wrong. Know how I knew that? Because it’s .298/.401/.473 and there’s no way you guessed that. I would be rolling with Suzuki for as long as Tyler Flowers is on the shelf, as his batted ball profile indicates that his power breakout from last season is legit.
Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays): 0-4, 3 K – Remember that moment in Brokeback Mountain when Jack Twist was like, “I just can’t seem to quit you,” and it was super heartbreaking because you owned Randal Grichuk and you knew exactly what it was like to not be able to give up on somebody you knew was only going to cause you pain? Grichuk has struck out in nearly half his at-bats over the past week and has been trying to make up for it by hitting flyballs at a crazy 62.9% rate and hoping some of them leave the stadium. Maybe one year betting on Grichuk will work out.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers): 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 3 RBI – Jesus Christ could turn water into wine, but could he turn a part-time bench role into a .414/.485/.552 triple-slash? I didn’t think so; time to start worshipping Aguilar as our true lord and savior! Aguilar has shown some intriguing power, including 16 homers in a 311 plate appearance sample with the Brewers last year, but unless the injuries keep stacking up for Milwaukee he likely won’t get enough playing time to show what he can do.
Max Stassi (C, Houston Astros): 2-3, 3 R, HR, RBI, BB – I guess it’s easy to keep the bench warm when you’re BLAZING HOT. Stassi had himself a night, but with Houston already juggling two catchers in Evan Gattis and Brian McCann, don’t expect much of anything from Stassi the rest of the way.