Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire
Prospect growth is not linear. This is an important yet difficult thing to remember, especially when it comes to fantasy. If career arcs were just a diagonal line pointing upwards from beginning to end, Aaron Judge would hit 110 home runs in his final season in the majors. Mike Trout would literally be willing home runs out of the stadium using the sheer power of his mind by this point (which I guess isn’t that far off from being reality, now that I think about it). Player development is full of fits and starts. Promising beginnings, lulls, reinventions, sudden explosions of talent. That’s just how it goes.
That brings us to Maikel Franco. Again. After his 3-4, 2 HR performance last night, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that he may be having the best season of his young career, even after being all but left for dead after his subpar performance in 2017. He’s slashing .272/.318/.476 at the moment, and has been on fire over the last month, with seven homers and a .337 average during that span. His 10.7% VH is the highest he’s posted since his excellent rookie season, and his .279 xAVG and 11.5 xHR point to his production to this point being fairly legit. There is still, however, one caveat: his groundball rate. It’s currently at a career-high 50.5%, and has consistently hovered around 50% throughout his career. This, it seems, is the hurdle Franco is going to have to overcome to truly ascend to greatness. High groundball rates (spurred by low average launch angles, like Franco’s 8.4-degree angle this year) cap a hitter’s power potential, and lower their BABIP ceiling. There’s still clearly a world of potential here though, if Franco could only begin to elevate the ball more.
Max Muncy (1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers): 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB – I appreciate Max Muncy. Not only does he have an unassuming, borderline adorable name, but he has the body of a 40-year-old dad. And yet he’s one of the most dangerous hitters in the game right now. Mad respect. That’s 10 homers over the past month for Muncy, and with a 17-degree average launch angle and 45.4% hard contact rate, I expect the power outburst to continue.
Jonathon Schoop (2B, Baltimore Orioles): 2-4, HR, 2 RBI – Schoop’s certainly been better over the past month, hitting .273 with six homers over that time. The problem is his horribad 26.7% hard contact rate, which is one of the worst things you can see for a guy who you’re likely depending on for above-average power. Paired with a 45.3% groundball rate, I’m not sure there’s much reason for hope this year for Schoop (no rhyme intended).
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B, Toronto Blue Jays): 2-4, HR, BB – I’m keeping a close eye on Gurriel who, like his brother, is a bit of a free-swinger but manages to make it work with good contact rates. Gurriel’s hitting .375 over his last 15 games with three homers and is getting the bulk of the second base at-bats in Toronto.
Logan Morrison (1B/DH, Minnesota Twins): 2-5, HR, 3 RBI – I’ll spare you my weekly “Logan Morrison is going to turn it around any day now” shpiel, but this is his third homer this week and he’s not actually this bad. Okay, looks like I made the shpiel anyway. I can’t help myself.
Charlie Culberson (SS/2B, Atlanta Braves): 4-6, R, 3 RBI – I love how the Mets get all this flack for batting out of order earlier in the year, and yet the Braves have consistently been letting Dansby Swanson bat in two different lineup slots all year by using this Charlie Culberson alias and they don’t face any consequences. Wake up, sheeple! Culberson should continue to get at-bats by spelling the Braves regulars around the infield, but a full-time gig doesn’t seem to be in his future, capping his potential value.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves): 2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB – No adjustment period, no adjustment period. You’re the adjustment period. Ronald Thump has been plugging along over his last 30 games, with a .278 average, five homers, and three stolen bases. July has been his worst month in terms of strikeouts (32.8%) though, so it seems the league may be figuring out how to pitch him.
Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves): 3-5, R, 2 RBI – Inciarte has plugged the stolen base faucet that had been flowing so generously early in the year, stealing just three bases over his last 30 games. He’ll still likely manage 10 homers and 30 stolen bases by year’s end, so there’s nothing to complain about, but the pace he was on has slowed to a crawl lately.
Josh Harrison (2B, Pittsburgh Pirates): 2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI – I think this is the first time all year I’ve written about Josh Harrison, so that should give you a sense of how his season has gone so far. He hits enough line drives (27%) that his batting average should start to creep up, but there’s not much else here that you can’t find hanging out on the waiver wire.
Jake Bauers (1B, Tampa Bay Rays): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI – Super agent Jake Bauers toppled the evil empire with a three-run bullet off Luis Severino. All in a day’s work, ma’am. That’s Jack Bauer’s catchphrase, right? Anyway, I’ve talked up Bauers’ elite plate discipline and 46.3% hard contact rate quite a bit, and I think he’s definitely worth an add in all OBP leagues and 12-teamers.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, New York Yankees): 4-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB – Giancarlo did all that he could to will the Yankees to victory in this game. He even blew really hard to try to get Gary Sanchez to first base quicker on Sanchez’s game-ending groundout. Now that’s a team player. Stanton’s early season struggles are long gone now, as he’s hitting .380 over the past month with seven homers. If you were patient with him earlier this year, enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Daniel Robertson (SS/2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays): 3-4, HR – I had to comb through like three pages of “Robertsons” to find Daniel on Fangraphs. Are you happy, Daniel Robertson’s mom? You couldn’t have set your son apart a bit more by naming him Rickbob or Tullyho? Robertson is still flashing elite plate discipline with a 13.2% walk rate this year, and I kind of buy the moderate power he’s shown. With his position flexibility and ability to hit high-teens homers over a full season, he’s a solid bench asset in deep and OBP leagues.
Khris Davis (OF, Oakland Athletics): 3-6, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI – I have no way of proving it, but I think Khris Davis and Chris Davis battled for the title of one true (C/K)hris Davis two years ago. Obviously Khris Davis won, absorbed all of the life energy from Chris Davis, and left the dried husk that currently occupies first base for the Orioles behind. Though he’s going to have to pick up the pace to get back above the 40-homer plateau for the third straight season, Davis’ reduced strikeout rate and career-high 48.8% hard contact rate should give him all the help he needs to get there.
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI – Chapman’s batting a cool .318 over his last 30 games, though we’re still waiting for the power to come around. Considering his 42.9% hard contact rate, things should start clicking for him in the department real soon.
Jonathan Lucroy (C, Oakland Athletics): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI – This was Lucroy’s *squints* second home run this year. Oof. Honestly, there’s a lot to like in Lucroy’s profile: career-high 38.7% hard contact, 23.7% line drive rate, consistent ability to spray the ball to all fields. I keep waiting for vintage Lucroy to appear, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be this year.
Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB – This was nice to see from Abreu, who customarily heats up with the weather each year, but has had a really rough go of it in July so far with just a .253 wOBA and season-high 22.3% strikeout rate. He’s dealt with an ankle injury that I can’t help but think may be impacting him a bit. Hopefully the All-Star break gave him time to heal so he can turn things around here for the stretch run.