Batter’s Box: Making His Marcus
Marcus Semien is perennially a fine fantasy shortstop. He puts together a solid full season hovering between being rosterable or not. In my first Batter’s Box this season, I mentioned that Semien finished top 12 in all five standard categories in 2018 and was being drafted as the 26th shortstop off the board. What gives? Probably that shortstop is getting deeper and deeper. It’s harder to fit in players like Semien who don’t shine in any particular category and still struggle with average. This season is still the same. Many shortstops are having strong years, and Semien is playing catchup. Players like DeJong, Escobar, Marte, or Polanco all are outshining Semien in one way or another. He’s having another Semien style year, but this time it’ll be his best.
Semien has made major strides to his plate discipline. He keeps cutting back on swinging strikes, as well as chasing bad pitches. His walk rate continues to rise, up three percentage points to 12%, while is K rate shrinks another 3.5% down to 15.1%. He was consistently striking out 22% of the time back in 2017 and earlier. He has coupled this improved plate discipline with a downside. His ground ball rate is up nearly 10 percentage points, taking about five points away from both his line drives and fly balls. He is hitting the ball a bit harder to make up for that but to take the next step in improvements, he’ll need to keep his discipline but find a way to start driving the ball off the ground more. Despite this, he is still well on his way to career highs in average and OBP. He also has a chance to break his career highs in runs and RBIs. With a game like yesterday’s 4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, Semien can show he’s worthwhile to a team that has been struggling to find a shortstop that can stick on the roster for the rest of the year.
Let’s look around the league to find other players that should stick around.
Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)—2-4, R, HR, RBI, BB. Votto has continued his head-scratching tailspin from last season into 2019. His walk rate has plummeted and his strikeout rate has shot up due to swinging at more pitches out of the zone and missing those pitches more often. He’s also getting under the ball a lot more driving down his line drive rate and decreasing his hard-hit rate. However, seven of his last ten games have been multi-hit games. If you’ve been on the fence of what to do with Votto, he looks to be turning a corner.
David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. Peralta has been following up his strong 2018 with another solid start. He just returned from the IL with AC joint issues and has delivered these past few games. A lot of what he has done this year is just carry-over from the strides he made in 2018 which is a great sign for his continued success. He has, however, started chasing pitches out of the zone a bit more, resulting in fewer walks and more strikeouts. He is still a great play in the outfield.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. Acuña has had somewhat of a power outage recently with nothing but singles for 11 straight games, but in the last four he has a couple of homers and a double. He’s surpassed the halfway point of his plate appearance total from last season and the biggest change is his slugging. His line drive rate is up significantly but his fly ball rate has dropped accordingly. His xSLG, however, is higher than his xSLG from last year, both much closer to his 2018 number than 2019. He’s been great this year, but expect him to produce more.
Kevin Kiermaier (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. Kiermaier is not a player I have thought about in regards to fantasy potentially ever. He’s always a defense first player and his only fantasy stat to consider is his stolen bases. Additionally, he hasn’t played a full season since 2015. So why should you care now? He hasn’t hit the IL yet, he’s stolen ten bags so far this year, and he’s on pace for a career high in home runs. Could he pull off a 20/20 season? Probably not, but he may get close.
David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Dahl has been en fuego since May 23rd. In those 15 games, he is hitting .435 and slugging .694 with nearly a 1 BB/K ratio. Yes, ten of those games were in Coors, but on this current road trip, he has continued this tear. He launched a home run at Citi Field last night and scattered five hits in the three games at Wrigley.
Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. Garver returned from the IL earlier this week and is doing Garver things again. He has hopped back on the homer train and is keeping the Twins catching position near the top offensively. With Garver back, he will see plenty of playing time at both catcher and DH as the Twins don’t want to miss his bat. If Garver ended up on the wire after his injury, scoop him back up. If he was stashed on your IL confidently pop him back into that catcher slot.
Adalberto Mondesi (2B/SS, Kansas City Royals)—3-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. Mondesi has come roaring out of the gate stealing at nearly the same rate as he did in his half season last year. His full-season pace last season was 69 and this season is now at 60. Sixty stolen bases do not happen too often. Batting wise, he is still holding his own. His HR/FB has dropped significantly, but he’s still knocking runners home and scoring plenty. He may see some regression, though, as his BABIP is high and he’s outperforming his expected stats.
Eric Thames (1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. Thames has been on a bit of a power surge lately with three dingers in his last six. That’s pretty much been it for him, though. He had a weak May, hitting just over .200 while striking out 34.2% of the time. He has been getting good playing time, though, with Aguilar struggling as well. Neither of these guys are good plays at the moment, so hopefully one of them can pull things together.
Domingo Santana (OF, Seattle Mariners)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Santana had such a hot start, it’s hard to separate out what else he has done and judge what to make of him. He took two over 4oo feet deep again last night throwing in more confusion. Since the start of May, he is hitting .246 with about an .800 OPS. He still has been hitting the ball hard with plenty of line drives. In fact, his expected SLG on the season is still 40 points higher than his current SLG. He’s still someone to hold on to.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. Tatis is finally back from his lengthy IL stint with a hamstring issue and he delivers big in his second game. A homer/stolen base combo meal is exactly what fantasy owners ordered. There should be no hesitation popping him back into a starting role delivering on all five standard categories.
(Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)