Batter’s Box: Magic Carp
Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire
With September right around the corner, we’re approaching the point in the year when we have to start making mental notes for next season. Which incredible 2018 seasons were a fluke? Which are legit? Especially in keeper leagues, it’s important to get a grasp on future player values as early as possible to get a sense of next year’s draft landscape.
This brings us to Matt Carpenter. I don’t need to tell you he’s been very good this season, especially after he went 4-5, 2 R, 4 2B, 2 RBI yesterday. Since the beginning of May, Carpenter has slashed .299/.404/.647 with 32 home runs. He’s having what will likely be the best offensive season of his career, posting a 154 wRC+ to this point. But to what extent should we be buying in to this version of Carpenter, and where should he be taken in drafts next year? You might look at his 21.8% HR/FB and say this power output isn’t repeatable, especially when his career average to this point has been 11.6%. But then you notice that he’s leading all of baseball in hard contact with a 50.4% rate, and hitting the ball in the air 47% of the time, and you figure that maybe it’s not pure luck after all. In fact, xStats thinks Carpenter has actually been underperforming this season, pegging him for a .294 xAVG, 33.4 xHR, and a .429 xOBA. His 13.3% value hit rate is nearly twice the league average, and if he continues to smoke the ball there’s no doubt that what he’s doing this season is repeatable, even as he approaches his 33rd birthday. It might not be crazy to take him around the third round in drafts next season, something that would have seemed unthinkable when he was scuffling at the beginning of this year.
Adam Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals): 4-6, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB – Speaking of player values for next season, what is one to do with Adam Eaton? He’s been productive in 271 plate appearances this year, slashing .304/.387/.414. But given that he’s now missed sizable chunks of two seasons with leg and knee injuries, it seems reasonable to worry about whether he can stay healthy for a full season, and how those injuries will impact his speed. He has stolen six bases since the beginning of July though, which is encouraging, and in OBP leagues he’ll still likely be worth a gamble in 2019.
Jason Heyward (OF, Chicago Cubs): 4-4, 3 R, 3B, 2 RBI – Jason Heyward and disappointment, name a more iconic duo. Sure, Heyward’s posting the best strikeout rate of his career (11.4%) and hitting a respectable .278. But that comes with just seven homers and one stolen base over 439 plate appearances. That’s as blah as it gets.
Jason Kipnis (2B, Cleveland Indians): 4-5, 3 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI, SB – Kipnis is a guy whose peripherals I look at every year while asking myself, “He can’t be this bad, can he?” The answer is yes. He can be this bad. Despite constantly teasing us with multi-hit performances like this, only to follow it up by going 0-for-15, and despite his above-average strikeout and walk rates, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jason Kipnis is no good for you and I forbid you from ever talking to him again. You hear that, missy?
Wilson Ramos (C, Philadelphia Phillies): 4-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – When he’s on the field he hits; the problem has been keeping him on the field. Ramos has been plagued by hamstring and wrist injuries over the past few weeks, but is hitting .464 over the last seven games that he has suited up for. His 43.8% hard contact rate has helped him overcome his groundball tendencies and post a .356 BABIP. While that won’t last long, he’ll still likely be a top-5 catcher in next year’s drafts.
Miguel Andujar (3B, New York Yankees): 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI – Andu McClutchin’ (I swear I’ll make this nickname stick if it’s the last thing I do) just won’t be stopped. He’s now hitting .359 with five homers over his last 15 games and seems destined to be a fixture in these Batter’s Box articles every dang day until the end of time.
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics): 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI – I see people bandying about the Josh Donaldson comp when it comes to Matt Chapman, and it does seem fairly relevant. Late-blooming third baseman for the Athletics with the most ho-hum name imaginable. Chapman has homered nine times over his last 30 games while hitting .333 and is a guy that should be on lots of owners’ radars if he slips in next year’s drafts.
Tyler Austin (1B, Minnesota Twins): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI – I’ll make an exception to my “never trust a guy with two first names” rule for Tyler Austin, primarily because he seems to have a full-time role with the Twins at the moment and has been on fire lately, with six homers and a .314 average over his last 15 games. Enjoy the production while it lasts, but considering his 36.5% strikeout rate, be prepared to cut bait the second he’s no longer useful.
Justin Turner (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers): 3-5, R, 2 2B, 5 RBI – Sometimes injured players really are worth the wait. Owners who bailed on Turner after he missed much of the first half with injuries have missed out on the .360 average he’s posted over his last 30 games. Turner’s nearly identical 10% walk rate and 11.8% strikeout rate make him a bit of an offensive oddity (in a good way), and give him a really safe batting average floor.
David Bote (3B, Chicago Cubs): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – It’s pretty amazing that David Bote managed to so seamlessly transition from writing hit songs like “Under Pressure” and “Heroes” to being a competent major leaguer. Oh, that’s David Bowie. And he’s dead. Oh. Well, Bote’s alive and well, and has been filling in for Kris Bryant admirably. The 51.9% groundball rate is worrisome, but the 42% hard contact rate and 10.2% walk rate are really impressive, and should guarantee he doesn’t get relegated to a bench role even when Bryant returns.
Mark Reynolds (1B, Washington Nationals): 1-1, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI – With Ryan Zimmerman suddenly remembering how his body works, Reynolds will unfortunately have to settle for part-time at-bats for the foreseeable future. He makes the most of it when he does play through, having posted a 127 wRC+ this season despite never getting full-time run.
Lucas Duda (1B, Kansas City Royals): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – Fun fact: “duda” in Spanish means “doubt.” As in, “I doubt Lucas Duda has any value to anybody not playing in an 18-team league.” That’s back-to-back games with a homer for Duda, who at the very least will be afforded near-everyday at-bats during the final month of the season.
Melky Cabrera (OF, Cleveland Indians): 2-2, 4 R, RBI, 3 BB – Cabrera has been batting sixth in a very deep Cleveland lineup, so his excellent ability to make contact and get on base should result in plenty of opportunities to rack up runs and RBI. Barring a trade over the coming days, Cabrera seems locked in as the Indians’ right fielder, and has been taking full advantage with a .336 wOBA to this point.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics): 3-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Lowrie mentioned in the preseason that he has begun sleeping in a frozen metal chamber every night to slow down his heart rate in an attempt to preserve his youthful strength and vigor. It seems to be working as he’s stayed healthy all year, and is up to 21 homers and 81 RBI on the season. I lied about the frozen metal chamber by the way. Why? ‘Cause I felt like it.