Photo by Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire
Bank on skills, not roles. That’s the adage that’s bandied about when it comes to closers every season, but it applies to hitters too. Playing time has a way of working itself out when you’re good. Just look at Austin Meadows, or Brandon Nimmo. Lots of people, myself included, likely overlooked them because the at-bats just didn’t appear to be there at the time.
This brings us to Harrison Bader, a man I affectionately refer to as “The Master” because I’m a millennial and I’ll never grow up and I think farts are still funny. After his 3-5, R, 2B, SB performance yesterday, he’s now slashing .290/.365/.484 on the year with five homers and six steals in just 104 plate appearances. His .350 average over the past week likely played a big role in the demotion of the giant bicep known as Tyler O’Neil, and Bader now has sole possession of the fourth outfielder gig in St. Louis. He’s making 35.9% hard contact with an excellent 28% line drive rate so far, and he’s just 23 years old with a great minor league track record. He hit 20 homers with a .283 average and 15 stolen bases last year in AAA in just 123 games, and considering all three of Tommy Pham, Marcell Ozuna, and Dexter Fowler have battled nagging injuries this year, I think he’ll find his way into the lineup more often than not.
Ian Kinsler (2B, Los Angeles Angels): 3-4, R, 2B – I joked last time that Kinsler’s bat is an angel this season too, because it’s dead. But he’s now compiled a .375 average over the past week, so maybe bat-God decided it had some unfinished business to take care of and sent it back to Earth. Kinsler’s 9.9% strikeout rate is close to his career-low, and I think his 46.6% flyball rate paired with his embarassingly low 4.4% HR/FB has likely suppressed his average to this point. Invest cautiously in case this is the beginning of a turnaround.
Victor Reyes (OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-4, R, 3 RBI, SB – I feel like one of these days the Detroit Tigers are going to give the entire team off and let the grounds crew play in their place, and literally nobody is going to even notice. Victor Reyes, who I’m sure each and every one of you knew was a real outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, has been a high-average minor league hitter with 20 stolen base speed. He may be able to steal a few at-bats going forward with Leonys Martin’s recurring hamstring issues cropping up again.
Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates): 3-4, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI – This is like the baseball equivalent of me haphazardly bashing random keys on my keyboard at work to make my boss think I’m working really hard. Polanco must see the writing on the wall with Austin Meadows eating into playing time in Pittsburgh’s outfield, and considering that he’s hitting just .189 over the past month, now would be the perfect time for him to start proving his worth.
Brandon Nimmo (OF, New York Mets): 2-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI – Among players with at least 100 plate appearances, Nimmo is ranked sixth in wRC+. His .429 OBP is ranked fourth among all players with at least 100 plate appearances. He’s hitting .320 over the past week with three homers and two steals. This has been Nimmo Facts™: If You Don’t Know, Now You Nimmo.
Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals): 1-3, 2 R, BB, 2 SB – Prior to this game, Turner had only stolen four bases over the past month while hitting just .263. Still, he’s up to 16 steals on the year and is pacing towards a 15-homer, 40-stolen base season, so what can we really complain about? I mean seriously, there are people out there that have to wring the moisture out of cow dung in order to survive. Let’s have a little perspective, okay?
Francisco Cervelli (C, Pittsburgh Pirates): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Another two “beppis” for baseball’s favorite Italian, Francisco Cervelli. “Beppi” is Italian for “hit.” Actually no it’s not, but it sounds like it should be, doesn’t it? His flyball rate has nearly doubled this year, from 27.1% to 50.5%, and his 38.3% hard contact rate is the highest of his career. He’s clearly making a concerted effort to hit for power this year, yet his contact and whiff rates are still around league average. If he can hit upwards of 15 homers by season’s end with a high average, he’s essentially vintage Jonathan Lucroy.
Miguel Sano (DH, Minnesota Twins): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – Sano is hitting just .208 despite a .291 BABIP. He’s still striking out at an astronomical 39% rate, but not pairing it with the elite hard contact he has in years past, as he’s making 37.7% hard contact compared to last year’s 44.8% rate. The 66.5% contact and 15.9% whiff rates are also concerning, and paint the picture of a player who might struggle to maintain an average above .250.
Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics): 1-4, R, HR, RBI – The Oakland Matt-letics accomplished a Matt Trick yesterday: Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Matt Joyce all homered in the same game. The fans rained door mats and bath mats onto the field in celebration. Perhaps the most interesting of all the Matts, Olson has traded some of last year’s 46% flyball rate for more line drives this year, and considering his absurd 52.2% hard contact rate, expect the homers to start piling up in the coming months.
Christian Villanueva (3B, San Diego Padres): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI – Villanueva is hitting just .157 over the past month, but he’s chipped in eight homers over that span, and is up to 14 now on the year. His 22-degree launch angle and 16.2% whiff rate indicate the rest of the year will feature more of the same.
Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians): 4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI – It’s pretty incredible that Lindor walked away from his chocolate empire to become a professional baseball player, but it’s worked out for all involved so far. Over his last 30 games, Lindor has slashed .369/.432/.700 with 10 homers.
Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres): 3-4, R, 3 RBI, BB – Is Hosmer referred to as the “Wizard of Hos” because everybody thinks he’s amazing, but in reality he’s just a sad, powerless man hiding behind a mask? Is Hosmer even referred to as the “Wizard of Hos,” or is that just wishful thinking on my part? Hosmer’s launch angle this season is, get this: zero degrees. No, seriously, it’s zero. The league average is 12. Maybe he’s been cursed by the Wicked Witch of the NL West, but I wouldn’t count on 20 homers this year if I was an owner.
Ben Zobrist (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs): 3-5, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI – I started pronouncing his name as “Benzo Brist” one day and I think I broke my brain because I can no longer say it any other way. He’s now hitting .292 with four homers which is a classic Benzo Brist statline. DANGIT.
Nick Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-5, R, 2B – Castellanos is making 47% hard contact, hitting 30% line drives, and has an average launch angle of 16 degrees, but has just five homers to show for it thanks to an 8.3% HR/FB. He’s now batting .332 though, and based on the underlying stats, the homers should start showing up soon in a big way. Buy if you can.