Let’s take a trip in the way back machine to last offseason where teams were signing free agents left and right. Especially the Cleveland Indians. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Cleveland had no need to sign anyone! Francisco Lindor wasn’t going to start the season on the IL, Jose Ramirez was one of the best players in the league, the starting rotation was stacked headed by ace Corey Kluber. All they had to do was fend off the measly Minnesota Twins. But really what it came down to was the Indians knew that they had Oscar Mercado waiting in their system after acquiring him from the Cardinals at the deadline last year. Not really. They probably were just told to not spend any money. Mercado didn’t look like much of a fantasy asset though. He projected as a speed and defense type player that could slot in almost anywhere. Every year at almost every level he stole over 30 bags despite only a .300 OBP some years. But how would that translate to the big leagues?
The Indians called up Mercado in mid-May after Tyler Naquin went down with an injured calf. Even after Naquin returned, Mercado stuck around. He’s certainly holding his own hitting out of the two hole every day locking down the starting CF role. So far this season he is slashing .299/.352/.477 with seven homers and nine stolen bases over 51 games. That is a solid rookie performance on pace for 20/20 season. He’s not too prone to the strikeout putting a lot of balls in play and with his incredible speed, that is helpful for getting on base. This may be part of why his BABIP is consistently in the mid .300s throughout his career including the minors. Additionally, his plate discipline has continually improved as the season has progressed gradually dropping his K% while increasing his BB%. He’s an interesting fantasy consideration. His speed is definitely an asset. Someone that can hit close to .300 and steal 30 bags is great. Hitting second in front of a heating up Jose Ramirez is also great, especially when you can go 5-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, SB like last night. If you need some speed in your outfield it may be time to scoop him up.
Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs)—2-3, R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. Rizzo hadn’t hit a home run since June 15th. Last night he finally just hit one out to the opposite field for a grand slam. Over the course of this month of not hitting a homer, he was still mashing. He slashed .312/.420/.462 with a 133 wRC+. He hit fewer fly balls but a good amount more line drives with less hard contact as well. He has still hit despite his HR/FB being significantly lower than the rest of the season.
Anthony Santander (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-4, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. He’s been starting regularly since his call up from AAA in the beginning of June. He’s been playing as you’d expect from an Oriole call up. Mediocre all around. He doesn’t hit the ball too hard while either hitting grounders or fly balls (very little line drives). This has resulted in a 94 wRC+ not including his one start in May. Overall he’s over-performing his expected stats by a bit as well. There isn’t anything to be wowed by here.
Ryan Lavarnway (C/1B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 6 RBI, BB. Speaking of being wowed, Lavarnway made his season debut something special last night. No better way to show off yourself to your new team by hitting a couple of homers and driving in six runs all by hitting behind the pitcher’s spot. He’s never played much in the majors and has been jumping around teams for the last five seasons. He’ll slot in the catcher role until any of the Reds’ injured players come back from the IL.
Jose Martinez (1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. The usual concern with Martinez is playing time. However, he’s been slotted in pretty regularly in the outfield. His recent play has been a bit of an improvement over his earlier play. This may be due to more consistent playing time. More specifically, he has been hitting the ball much harder, despite hitting more balls on the ground. This has helped him hit a few more homers than he had been seeing. If he can keep up the hard contact but get back to his batted ball profile of last season, the Cardinals should be much more comfortable with him in the starting lineup.
Paul DeJong (SS, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. He’s back! Two days in a row for DeJong. That game the day prior may indeed be a turning point. Of course, it is only two days but it still must feel good to shake off those struggles.
Leury García (SS/OF, Chicago White Sox)—4-5, 3 R, 3 2B, 2 RBI. Even though I look at all the box scores almost every day I still hadn’t come across Garcia, the leadoff hitter for the White Sox. He’s top 30 in the league in runs scored and hitting nearly .300. However, there’s basically no power and he doesn’t make it up in stolen bases either. The only asset he delivers is a decent amount of run scoring. He does fit that mold of a soft ground ball hitting leadoff hitter with great speed. If only he used that speed a bit more to steal.
Yolmer Sánchez (2B/3B, Chicago White Sox)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI. Three hits for Sanchez last night? Must have been three soft hit singles. Nope. Two doubles and a home run! Of course, the homer was only 359 feet. Those three extra-base hits were only number 13 through 15 on the year!
Teoscar Hernández (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. At the end of last season, Hernandez looked to be another classic Statcast guy in the vein of Joey Gallo. He could barrel the heck out of the ball but would strike out a ton and still end up with a low .200s batting average. Still, Gallo could end a season with around 40 dingers so why couldn’t Hernandez? Well, this year, he’s not hitting the ball as hard and he’s hitting more ground balls. Therefore, a lot fewer barrels and a lot fewer hits. He’s been struggling to stay above the Mendoza line. However, in his last four games, he’s had a surge of power with four homers.
Tyler Naquin (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Naquin came back from the IL on June 4th. Since then he is slashing .306/.340/.643 with a 144 wRC+. He’s not up to take many pitches but he’s hitting the ball hard on those many swings with a 45% hard hit rate since June. He’s been especially hot over the past week with a two-hit game in six of his last seven.
Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB. A single away from the cycle! It’s tough when that happens especially for you owners in fantasy leagues with cycle categories. Anyway, Semien continues to put up numbers pushing him towards the best season of his career. Over the past month, he still has a K rate just above 10% and a walk rate just below that. He’s putting almost every ball in play. His average has recently dipped a bit but his BABIP is also much lower than usual. If he continues his hitting, expect a bit of a bump in average moving forward.
Daniel Vogelbach (1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI. Vogelbach was trying to outdo Mike Leake‘s stellar performance on the mound for the Mariners last night. Vogelbach added a couple of Vogelbombs, both traveling over 400 feet, one 441 feet. It hasn’t been a pleasant last month for him as he’s been slashing .197/.303/.461. However, he’s still crushing the ball while making more contact than usual, especially in the zone.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)