Batter’s Box: No Way Jose

Scott Chu walks you through Wednesday's top hitting performances.

I feel your pain. Like many others, I had Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians) as the third-best player heading into drafts. Even as he fell off a bit at the end of last season, I believed in everything he accomplished. After all, he’s just 26 years old and found ways to improve in virtually every offensive metric for three consecutive seasons and put together an epic 2018 season in which he hit 39 home runs and stole 34 bases. While I didn’t expect that level of success for this year, I’ve certainly been disappointed by the 66 wRC+ he’s earned so far in 2019.

For those unfamiliar with wRC+, it’s a stat that scales hitter performance, with 100 being average. A wRC+ of 66 can be roughly interpreted to mean that he’s only been 66% as good as an average player.

Yesterday’s 2-5 outing where he smacked two doubles, scored two runs and drove in two runners is certainly a step in the right direction, but many fantasy owners are wondering what they should do with the young Ramirez. I have had several folks ask if should they try to sell him to an owner who still believes he can be elite or just keep him plugged in to their second base slot and continue to take their lumps while they wait for him to bust out. For me, the only answer is the latter.

First, I still believe in the skills he has shown for the past two seasons. There’s potential for him to hit 20 more home runs and steal 20 more bases before the end of September, which would make him an elite fantasy asset (because remember, we want to rank players for what we think they will do going forward, not just what they’ve already done). Also, it’s not as though he’s been without value. While the hits haven’t been falling for him as much as we’d like, he’s still walking at a 12.1% clip, and he’s stolen 14 bases, which is the second-highest total in baseball. Further, the expected stats indicate that he may have had some bad luck, as his .240 expected average and .403 expected slugging, while not impressive, are much better than his actual .209 average and .313 slugging. Sure, the Cleveland offense has been incredibly disappointing so far this season, but you should believe in the young All-Star. All players struggle from time to time, and while it’s easy to cobble together a narrative as to why he’s not good anymore, I would urge you to ignore that narrative. If there’s anyone in your league willing to sell him for a top-30 to -50 player, you should 100% make that trade. If he’s on your team, keep him in your lineup. There’s no way Jose isn’t a top-20 hitter the rest of the way, if not a top-20 player.

Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He’s third in the majors in home runs and is one moonshot away from 20 on the season. The hype on the power was real, folks. The strikeout rate is probably going to remain close to 30%, but his slightly above-average walk rate and massive power should help offset that issue. He’s inside my top 10 at first base, and I could see him pushed up as high as eighth (which is more impressive than it sounds).

Dominic Smith (1B, New York Mets)—3-5, 3 R, HR, RBI. Remember when THIS was the Mets first baseman we were clamoring for? He’s been finding some low-key time in the 2-hole recently and is taking advantage of it, slashing .370/.469/.556 in 64 trips to the plate this season. It has mostly been pinch-hit work for the 23-year-old, but they’ve been testing him a little bit in left field the past few days. If he finds playing time, he could be worth a dice roll in deeper leagues.

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. He looks well on his way to repeating his 2018 season, which is exactly what we hoped for. He’s played in 812 major league games, and yet he’s only 26 years old and is entering the prime of his career. He’ll hit 20 to 25 home runs and sport a .285 batting average for years to come.

DJ LeMahieu (2B/3B, New York Yankees)—1-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. He’s a great source of batting average, as evidenced by his career .299 batting average and by having an average above .300 in three of the past four seasons. He may not be in Colorado anymore, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t hit at least .280 the rest of the way with a handful of home runs and steals chipped in.

Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3B, RBI. For those who believed in him in the preseason, consider your faith rewarded. While he hasn’t been quite as unstoppable as he was in the 47-game sample we saw at the end of 2018, he’s managed to walk in 13.3% of his plate appearances and mash 14 home runs. He should finish the season with at least 30 dingers and should stay in the top 12 or so at first base.

Max Muncy (3B/1B/2B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. He’s getting plenty of runs as the table-setter in Los Angeles and is doing a fine job with the role. He’s an excellent play in OBP leagues thanks to his double-digit walk rate, and while he won’t hit 35 home runs like he did last season, something in the high-20s should be in the cards.

Kyle Schwarber (OF, Chicago Cubs)—1-3, R, HR, RBI, BB. The good news is that he’s slugging .596 over the past two weeks with six home runs, 15 runs, and 11 RBI while walking 15.5% of the time. The bad news, of course, is that his batting average is only .228 during that same stretch and is at .224 for the season. That being said, we already know what Schwarber’s profile is—he’s a low-average, high-strikeout power bat with a good walk rate. That makes him a great (and generally undervalued) play in OBP formats but difficult to roster in any standard league that features fewer than five starting outfielders.

Lourdes Gurriel (SS/2B, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-6, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. To answer all of the questions I’ve been getting about his “legitimacy”: (a) Yes, he has a pretty good power tool and can hit his fair share of home runs, (b) Yes, he should be able to squeeze some playing time out of the outfield and infield throughout the season, and (c) I could see him as a long-term middle infield option in 12-team formats. He’s unlikely to save your season, and this hot streak will likely be followed by stretches such as the one we saw in March and April. He’s worth owning, but he’s not a top-100 hitter or anything like that. He’s probably just inside the top 150 hitters (which is where Jonathan Metzelaar ranked him in yesterday’s Hitter List).

Jackie Bradley (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. The turnaround is happening, folks. I’m just going to keep planting that seed.

Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s in my top eight at first base. That’s a very pleasant surprise. I’m not sure he can go much higher than sixth or seventh (the names above him are absolute studs), but he’s awesome.

Photo by Frank Jansky/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.

16 responses to “Batter’s Box: No Way Jose”

  1. Avatar Orange WHIPs says:

    Can we really say Muncy won’t his 35 HRs? Seems like a toss up to me. He’s on pace for ~33, he’s increasingly locked into almost every-day playing time and the cold/bad weather of April is behind him. I feel like anywhere in the 30s is a good guess.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      We can’t say for sure, Orange WHIPs, but I’d be stunned if he made it to 35. Something like 28-30 seems right to me.He needed a 29.4 HR/FB% to get where he got last season, and it’s not as though LA is a hitter’s paradise (with or without heat).

  2. Avatar Bartender Isaac says:

    hey Scott– trying to figure out the catcher position, it’s been a carousel for me all season.
    I’d like to settle on a guy and not worry about it, though that may not be in the cards.
    I currently have J. McCann, but it’s been revolving door of McCann, Castro, Astudillo, Garver, Chiniros, Barnes, Lucroy, Suzuki, Flowers, Wieters
    There may be no real answer here but who do you like best from this crew? I lean towards McCann because of playing time and that lineup & ballpark… Thanks! Bar’s open!

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hey Isaac! Figuring out catcher is a fool’s errand, and none of these names are quite good enough to necessarily lock in full time (I still believe in Astudillo, but that’s a personal thing).

      If I were you, I’d hit up the Catchers to Stream piece primarily produced by Dave Cherman that goes out early Sunday afternoon. I think streaming the position is the best way to address it if you don’t have a solid guy in that spot (which you don’t). I’ll actually be covering it myself this week, so you might want to skip it, but future editions will be by Dave and will be worth looking at.

  3. Avatar theKraken says:

    You should point out that Ramirez nearly hit the DL twice withing the first week of the season. There is every reason to think that he isn’t healthy. Its not just bad luck. Maybe he gets healthy and turns things around.A player with his skills doesn’t struggle to hit .200 unless there is something going on IMO. I own lots of shares and he is killing me but I am not considering selling. I don’t see how I can take pennies on the dollar for such a pricey asset. The only value is in holding.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      That’d be one explanation, Kraken, though it’s hard to confirm if he’s hurt. Ultimately though, you and I both agree that you have to hold and hope the skills shine through at some point. Selling this low seems like a bad gamble.

  4. Avatar Al says:

    14 team h2h points league:

    Traded W Contreras and D Dahl for Jose Ramirez.

    Ramirez replaced Y Diaz at 3B, Dahl has never been in my lineup once this year, and I picked up C Vazquez for catcher.

    How’d I do?? I feel very comfortable with what I gave up.

    • Avatar Downtown Chuck Brown says:

      that’s a steal! I think you did great on that one…

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      That’s a good way to do it, Al. It’ll be a bit of a hit at catcher, but you should be able to get some mileage streaming the position. Ramirez is a nice play in points due to his excellent plate discipline, even when he’s struggling.

  5. Avatar Gentle Ben says:

    Someone in my league just dropped Wil Myers. 5×5 league- would you drop V. Robles for Myers?
    I’m considering it although I guess I see them as pretty close in value at this point? thx

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Not sure it’s an upgrade for you, Ben. Is Robles the worst guy on your roster?

      • Avatar Gentle Ben says:

        pretty much– Robles, Jimenez, Tatis (I have Bregman at SS)
        I suppose I can consider Jimenez, but I have a feeling he will erupt soon so I’m hanging on

        I have noone I can drop at pitcher

        • Avatar Scott Chu says:

          Myers and Tatis seem like they may be similar guys the rest of the way. Sounds like you don’t have an immediate need for Myers. He should be owned, probably—but that doesn’t it has to be you. It doesn’t look like he makes your team any better.

          • Avatar Justin Hilton says:

            Is dropping Eloy Jimenez for Justin Smoak a good idea? I like Eloy’s potential but have a lot of outfielders. I have Alonso and Vogalbauch at first.

            • Avatar Scott Chu says:

              It sounds like you have a lot of first basemen also! I’m not sure Smoak is a real improvement to your roster as he provides similar stats as the guys you already have.

  6. Avatar Derrick says:

    Hear hear on Jose Ramirez.

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