Remember that rumor about how Adalberto Mondesi (SS, Kansas City Royals) was going to come back but he wasn’t going to slide or make dangerous plays? Well it looks like Ned Yost didn’t get that memo and let the game’s premier stolen base threat run absolutely wild on Sunday (4-5, 2 R, 3 SB).
As many of us prepare for the final month of the season, we’re trying to gauge what we can expect from a slew of injured players. Hitters such as David Peralta, Mitch Haniger, Carlos Correa, Austin Riley, Max Muncy, Eugenio Suarez, Ramon Laureano, Edwin Encarnacion and Keston Hirua all have questionable timetables and have, at one point or another, carried their managers’ fantasy teams.
For head-to-head leagues that begin their playoffs now or in the near future, the decision on what to do becomes a little bit easier—you’re focused on one or two weeks at a time, and if a player isn’t due back until “mid to late September,” then you probably can let him go. Roto league players have a bit of a rougher choice, though. They’ll have meaningful games right up until the end of the regular season, and in a close race, even a week’s worth of action from a high-caliber hitter could make all the difference.
The toughest part about this, though, isn’t the patience—it’s knowing what to expect when they return. Take the aforementioned Mondesi, for example—numerous reports indicated that he’d be taking it easy with the slides and aggressive play on his return, which absolutely would have sapped his fantasy value. Then, in his first game back, he proceeds to set his single-game career high by swiping three bags.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you some sort of brilliant insight on what to expect when a player returns. In some cases, you might get a clue from his stats in rehab assignments, but because of the number of factors that can influence how a player acts in rehab starts, it’s hard to find any hard and fast rules. You can also follow along our Injury Report, written up every week by Jeff Davis to get an idea of how some injured players are doing along with their projected timetables. In truth though, all you can really do is hope and pray. Some players, regardless of injury, come back as good or even better than ever. Some players deal with minor injuries that hurt their performances for an entire year. The human body, even when carefully managed and monitored, does weird, unpredictable things.
Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI. He’s put up multiple hits in six of his past eight appearances and only has three games since July 25 in which he didn’t put up a run, RBI, or stolen base. OH, and he’s 20. This kid is amazing, and we don’t talk about him enough (though I heard a rumor that one of our Going Deep writers may be picking up the topic sometime soon).
Bryan Reynolds (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-5, 2 R. He went from relative obscurity to a .335/.402/.531 hitter this season, and while the power and speed are nothing to write home about, he makes an outstanding points league asset because of the contact ability.
Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-5, R, 2 2B, RBI. I know I say it every time I write him up, but the dried up steals is a major concern for his overall fantasy value. The August power surge helps (eight home runs), but he had seven steals through May and has just two since then. Also of note is his pretty intense plate discipline platoon splits. He has a 10% walk rate and 20.6% strikeout rate against righties and a 3.3% walk rate and 30% strikeout rate against lefties. If he can make some adjustments there, I’d imagine we’d see some less volatile ratios from the young outfielder.
Tim Lopes (OF, Seattle Mariners)—3-5, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB. There is absolutely no power to speak of here, but he has occasionally found himself in one of the top two spots in the order and has just enough speed and plate discipline to be worthy of consideration in 15-teamers if you’re desperate for speed.
Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres)—3-4, R, 3B, 2B, RBI, BB. The .285 batting average and 90 RBI are pretty neat, though his power upside is 20 to 25 dingers each year, and he no longer seems to be chipping in the seven-ish steals like he used to. He’s more valuable in points leagues than category leagues, where he’s really just a fairly boring corner infielder.
Phillip Ervin (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. His 128 wRC+ in 172 plate appearances is pretty surprising, and the departure of several Reds outfielders over the course of the year has given him a chance to start three or four games a week. The bulk of his production was back in July, when hit .432/.490/.727, but he’s been pretty average otherwise. He’s strictly an NL-only play or, if he’s getting a start against a lefty, a DFS consideration.
Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. He’s a locked-in top-two first baseman along with Cody Bellinger, and it’s a pretty significant drop after that (not that the next group is bad or anything, they just aren’t elite superstars like those two). He is officially setting a career high in runs, home runs, and RBI and should have his fourth consecutive season with a .300 batting average and .388 OBP.
Kevin Pillar (OF, San Francisco Giants)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Pillar is now the first Giant to hit 20 home runs in a season since Brandon Crawford did it back in 2015. He’s a useful outfielder in 15-team formats for his decent power and speed, though his .260 batting average and .288 OBP make him a bit less appealing in 10- and 12-team formats.
Dan Vogelbach (1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-3, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. He’s hitting just .174 in the second half and is striking out considerably more than he did early in the season but has recently put together a three-game hitting streak. If your league uses batting average, you might be OK to let Vogelbach go, but OBP players might want to instead let him sit on the bench to see if he can work this out as his power and walk rate can be quite valuable.
Nate Lowe (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. It was his first appearance since July 31, and the expanded September roster should get him a few more starts between now and the end of the year. He won’t be a factor in 10- or 12-teamers, most likely, if only because the first base and designated hitter slots are jammed up by a combination of Ji-Man Choi, Avisail Garcia, and Jesus Aguilar. He should very much be on your 2020 radar, though.
Tyler France (2B, San Diego Padres)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. I literally had no idea who this guy is, though he has apparently had 145 major league plate appearances this season. After looking him up, I see that he raked in Triple-A for the Padres this season (.399/.477/.770 in 76 games) and has some power in his bat. If you’re an NL-only player who needs some home runs, why not France?
Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)—0-3, 2 R, BB, 2 SB. You know you’re good when you don’t even need to get a hit to fill up the box score.
Paul DeJong (SS, St. Louis Cardinals)—0-4, 4 K. He had more hits in March and April (40 in 129 plate appearances) than he has in the entire second half so far (34 in 183 plate appearances). After putting up a .342 batting average through April, he has a batting average of .235 or worse in each other month. Turns out he’s basically the same guy we saw in 2018: decent power, limited speed, and a low batting average. That simply doesn’t move the needle at shortstop anymore.
And of course, as the cherry on top, a little minor league recap from Shelly Verougstraete:
Interesting #MiLB stats from yesterday
Jarred Kelenic (SEA AA) 2-4, 2HR, 5RBI 💪💪
Julio Rodriguez (SEA A+) 2-5, 1HR, 1RBI 💪
Nick Raquet (WAS A+) 6IP, 11K, 0BB, 0ER 🔥
Zac Lowther (BAL AA) 6IP, 9K, 0BB, 0ER
— Shelly Verougstraete (@ShellyV_643) September 2, 2019
(Photo by: Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)