Batter’s Box: McNeil Is McReal

Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets) has been a revelation. He was excellent again Wednesday (3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI, SB) and has the third-best batting average, 12th-best OBP, and 12th-best wRC+ in baseball since his major league debut on July 24, 2018. Despite missing over 20 games this season, he’s still been a Top 60 hitter and is ahead of guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, Kris Bryant and breakout hitter Max Kepler on the ESPN Player Rater.

I’ve touted the value of hitters like McNeil, Luis Arraez, Bryan Reynolds, Adam Eaton and other guys with stellar ratios but limited counting stats throughout the season. Their value in points leagues is generally obvious, as it’s easier for our puny human brains to compare simple accumulation stats like total points, but trying to understand the value of a .325 batting average and 20 home runs versus a .259 batting average and 29 home runs can be much more difficult. Tools like the ESPN Player Rater (which calculates Z-scores) do a fairly good job of putting a value on these stats (in this case, McNeil’s home runs and batting average are worth 3.81 points, while Goldschmidt’s average and power are worth 1.99 points), which is why you’ll often find me referencing it in these articles.

I know how easy it is to look at the simplistic, valuable numbers like home run, stolen base, RBI and runs scored totals, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I also know that in the draft room or on your waiver wire, sorting by batting average usually brings up a slew of useless pinch-hitters who are batting 1.000 in two appearances over the last 14 days. If at all possible, I encourage folks to use Z-scores, the ESPN Player Rater, the FanGraphs Auction Calculator, or other tools that put numeric value on each category. It will provide you an excellent sense of how each stat is valued down to an individual level.

Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)—4-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Speaking of the ESPN Player Rater, Soler finds himself 19th among outfielders thanks to his 43 home runs. His lack of steals and his low batting average provide minor negative value, but his runs, RBI and home runs are very positive. I highly doubt there’s another level to his production, but the 27-year-old can certainly repeat what he’s done.

Todd Frazier (3B, New York Mets)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. He’s an NL-only guy who can hit a few home runs. He’s a free agent heading into 2020, and I can’t really foresee a scenario where he becomes fantasy relevant, even if he goes to Colorado.

Mike Moustakas (2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB. It’s only his second start since August 25 as he’s dealt with some injuries, so it was good to see him come back in style. The devastating injury to Christian Yelich means that the Brewers will need Moose to step up and be an offensive force, and for at least one game he seemed up to the challenge.

Ji-Man Choi (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-2, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB. He wasn’t really able to capture a full-time gig, and with Nate Lowe emerging as the first baseman of the future, I don’t think a full-time role is in the cards for Choi. That said, he has a 123 wRC+ against right-handed pitching and is useful in deep leagues as a platoon bat and in DFS when facing a righty.

Adalberto Mondesi (SS, Kansas City Royals)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 SB. He’s going to steal 40 bases in fewer than 100 games. He should fairly easily get to 50 next season and will be an early pick in drafts. I suppose health is a bit of a question, but the upside is so great that I’m not sure you can worry about it too much. He’s the 13th-best shortstop on the season on the Player Rater despite missing significant time due to the value of his stolen bases.

Manuel Margot (OF, San Diego Padres)—3-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB.  As a mostly everyday player, Margot is once again showing off the power and speed that we saw in 2017. He has seven home runs and nine steals since the All-Star break along with much-improved plate discipline. He’s an outfielder to keep an eye on for 2020 drafts thanks to his 15-home run, 25-stolen base potential.

Cavan Biggio (2B, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-3, 2 R, 2B, BB, SB. The batting average has been brutal, but in just over half a season of work, he has 13 home runs, 11 steals, and a .350 OBP. If he can start to cut back on the strikeouts, the batting average should rebound to a more tolerable level, but even if he doesn’t, his 20-20 potential should make him a helpful piece in most formats (but particularly OBP).

Magneuris Sierra (OF, Miami Marlins)—2-3, RBI, 2 SB. While there’s no power in his bat at all, the young Marlin has high-end speed that could make him a semi-relevant rabbit in deeper formats as early as next season. I worry that he won’t be able to maintain enough batting average to get opportunities, though, and he doesn’t take enough walks to allow him to manufacture steals.

Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics)—3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB. He’s been the 11th-best shortstop in fantasy this season, which is incredibly impressive considering how deep the position is. He set a new career high in home runs (28) in this one and his .281 batting average and .363 OBP are huge steps forward. If you miss out on one of the elite guys at shortstop, this is a fantastic consolation prize in 2020 drafts.

Yasmani Grandal (C, Milwaukee Brewers)—0-1, 2 R, 4 BB. Four walks! His .383 OBP has steadily moved him up in the Brewers order, and he’s now locked into the No. 2 slot on a nightly basis. It may be a little less lucrative with Yelich out, but he should still continue to pile up stats on a regular basis.

Brandon Nimmo (OF, New York Mets)—2-3, R, HR, RBI, BB. 2019 has been a lost season for Nimmo thanks to injury and poor performance, but keep him on your last-pick radar in 2020. His willingness to take a ton of walks combined with his blend of power and speed could make him a really nice bounce-back guy next season.

Dee Gordon (2B/OF, Seattle Mariners)—0-3, 2 K. He got hot for a second and was given an opportunity to lead off on September 8, but since then has gone 0-for-10 with four strikeouts. He can still steal bases, evidenced by the 22 he’s swiped thus far, but he’s just not a guy you can own in 10- and 12-teamers.

Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, Colorado Rockies)—0-4. While usually I highlight guys who struck out a lot, Murphy’s 0-fer last night stood out because he went 0-for-4 while seeing just 10 pitches and left eight guys on base. Great things were expected when he joined the Rockies, and while his .278 batting average isn’t hurting anyone, it is well below expectations. In fact, it’s his lowest batting average since 2009.

(Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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