Batter’s Box: No Way Jose
Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire
Your dog is barking because it wants to go outside, but it’s raining. You try to explain to him that he can’t go outside because he’ll just get dirty and gross, but he isn’t having any of it because he doesn’t speak English. You finally relent and let him out, and when he comes back inside he’s covered in mud and tracks it all across your carpet. You’re disappointed in him, and go to scold him, but then you look and see that he has something inside his mouth. It’s a solid brick of gold that he has seemingly dug up from some buried treasure he found. You are now rich beyond your wildest dreams.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, you probably live inside a commercial. Because what I just described only happens in commercials. But this is essentially what owning Jose Peraza has been like this year. You drafted him for steals. You explicitly wanted at least 30 stolen bases from him. But with just 23 at this point, it seems like he’s going to let you down. Except, hey, he went 2-5, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI yesterday and now has… 13 home runs?! That’s more than he hit from 2011-2015 in the minor leagues combined. What a pleasant surprise. Yesterday’s bomb was Peraza’s third homer this week, and surely makes up for the fact that he isn’t stealing as much as you probably hoped. So is this newfound power likely to carry over into next year? Probably not. xStats has him pegged for just 6.6 xHR and a .291 xOBA, and while his hard contact is up this year, it’s still hovering at 29.4%, which is bad. His 10.9% strikeout rate and 26.1% line drive rate point to the .292 average being stable, and he’s still likely a lock for 25 steals every year. But I would not count on double-digit homers in 2019, and in keeper formats I would be selling him to anybody who has bought in on this being the new baseline.
Joey Wendle (2B, Tampa Bay Rays); 4-5, R, 2 2B, RBI – Looking at the Rays depth chart is like flipping through a copy of a book called “All The Most Generic Names Ever.” Joey Wendle. Daniel Robertson. Matt Duffy. This performance pushed Wendle’s line over the past month up to .305/.351/.466. The problem is, he hit just one homer over that span. The contact ability seems above-average, but his plate discipline is not (36.7% chase rate), which makes me worry that the .292 average might not have much staying power. And without that, he doesn’t seem to have any other standout offensive tools.
Robinson Cano (2B, Seattle Mariners): 3-4, 2 2B – Cano is posting a career-high 41.9% hard contact rate this year at 35 years old. Maybe some of that can be explained by the fact that he was directly feeding PEDs into his muscles like Bane during the first half of the year. Still, his 8.2% whiff rate and 82.5% contact rate are above average, and in line with his career norms, so he doesn’t appear to have lost a step yet in his old age. A .280 average and 20 homers is likely a safe bet for next season, though how useful that is anymore at second base is debatable.
Peter O’Brien (1B, Miami Marlins): 2-2, R, HR, RBI, 2 BB – A former catching prospect who was supposed to hit for a ton of power, O’Brien never really managed to break out thanks in part to strikeout rates that hovered around 40%, even in the minors. The Marlins seem inclined to give him regular at-bats over Derek Dietrich at first base right now though, and he’s rewarded them with three homers over his first 32 plate appearances. The sample size is too small to make much of it, but in all likelihood there’s nothing here.
Daniel Murphy (2B, Chicago Cubs): 2-3, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB – The curse that haunted the Cubs for over 100 years was supposedly started by a goat named Murphy, so it seems like they’re tempting fate bringing a GOAT named Murphy into the fold. Murphy is slashing .264/.309/.462 since arriving in Chicago, which is a bit disappointing by his standards. The concern with Murphy this year was whether his knee injury would sap his power, but he’s hit five homers over 97 plate appearances with the Cubs, so he appears to be feeling just fine. The 26.6% hard contact rate is pretty scary, but the power isn’t being buoyed by a high HR/FB% (11.5%), and the above-average hit tool hasn’t eroded at all. With a long offseason to get fully healthy, he could be a decent value in next year’s drafts.
Jorge Alfaro (C, Philadelphia Phillies): 2-3, R, HR, 3 RBI, SB – Don’t let Alfaro’s performance over the last month fool you. The .283 average with three homers and three steals may look nice. But hiding under the surface is a world of unimaginable horrors. Ack! .398 BABIP! Boo! 49.5% groundball rate! Arf! 46.8% chase rate! I’m sorry to have had to expose you to that, but it was important that you knew the truth. If you’re hoping for a potential breakout from the former top prospect next year, don’t.
Paul DeJong (SS, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI – You can’t spell “DeJong” without “dong.” It’s amazing what lady luck can do, as DeJong’s peripherals are mostly the same or better than they were last year, but without the .349 BABIP and 19.8% HR/FB rate he was posting in 2017, things haven’t turned out quite the same. The real DeJong likely lies somewhere between last season and this season, which would mean he’ll likely hit 25 homers and bat .250 over a full year. But with the shortstop pool as deep as it is right now, that might not even play in shallower leagues.
Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves): 3-5, 2B – Sometimes guys hit too many line drives. It’s a case of having too much of a good thing, something that plagues me in every aspect of my life. In Freeman’s case, it seems to be robbing him of some power though. A 32.1% line drive rate is absurdly good, but if that translates to just 22 homers from a guy who should probably be hitting around 35 based on his hard contact rates, that’s not really a great trade-off.
Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins): 2-4, 2 R, 2B, BB, SB – Polanco has been tearing it up over the past month, with a .306 average and five homers over that span. The peripherals look pretty stellar: 85.8% contact rate, 6% whiff rate, 25.7% line drive rate. That tells me the .292 average isn’t a mirage, and with the ability to chip in double-digit homers and steals I think he’s an extremely underrated commodity at the moment.
Freddy Galvis 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B – Galvis is actually making a ton of hard contact this year, as his 39.1% rate is a huge jump from the roughly 25% rates he’s posted for the past four seasons. Moving to Petco Park has likely suppressed some of the benefits of that though, as he’s posted just a 7.4% HR/FB.
Kaleb Cowart (OF, Los Angeles Angels): 2-4, R, HR, 3B, 5 RBI – Cowart is the poster boy for the “AAAA player” tag, as he’s always performed well in the minors but has been completely overmatched at the major league level. He’s batting .143 this season with a 34.5% strikeout rate in 36 games and should be avoided like the plague.
Hunter Pence (OF, San Francisco Giants): 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, SB – Hunter Pence is the answer to the question, “What would a human look like if it was designed by Jim Henson?” Once the model of perfect health, this is now the fourth consecutive season in which Pence has lost significant time due to injury. He’s posting the worst strikeout and walk rates of his career, and his 29.5% hard contact rate is sad. It’s easy to wonder how much of an impact the injuries have had on his production, but in all likelihood he’s just not good anymore.
Andrelton Simmons 3-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI (SS, Los Angeles Angels) – Simmons has taken a step back in the second half, posting just a .296 wOBA compared to the .352 wOBA he produced in the first half. His strikeout rate has doubled since the break, going from 4.5% to 10.5%, and his walk rate has shrunk from 7.8% to 2.4%. The .298 average is fairly safe thanks to his ability to put the ball in play, but if he just barely scrapes double-digit homers and steals he’s not really a top option at shortstop for fantasy purposes.