Batter’s Box: Phat Albert

Everything Chu thinks you need to know about Sunday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

Most of the news coming out of Anaheim has been less than cheery of late thanks to injuries to Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, but on the bright side, there have been some surprisingly positive hitting contributions from none other than Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels), including Sunday afternoon’s impressive 2-4 performance that featured a home run, a double, a stolen base, and four RBI.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the 39-year-old is a must-add in 10- and 12-team leagues. He’s going to be memorialized in Cooperstown the first chance he gets, but for the past three seasons, he’s been more or less a replacement level player and a fantasy nonfactor in most leagues outside of some decent RBI contributions. Injuries and age have taken their toll on his legs and body, and most of what he brings to the table is a low strikeout rate and OK power. That being said, it’s worth noting that he’s been productive over the past two weeks, slashing .261/.333/.630 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 12 games. While the losses of Ohtani and Trout aren’t good for the Angels, it likely means that Pujols will get slotted into the No. 3 spot in the order for the remainder of the season, which should help him continue to pile up RBI. His upcoming schedule is not easy, as he’ll have to face the Yankees and Astros on the road, but with three southpaws on the horizon, he might actually be a useful plug and play with his 117 wRC+ against lefties this season.

You see, mid-September is a funny time in fantasy baseball. As I’ve mentioned before, the analysis is all about the here and now. We don’t care about long-term issues or talent. We care about one week, and honestly, maybe even just half of a week at a time. Pujols is hot, and that’s neat. If you’re in a deeper league and need to catch up on RBI in your playoff matchup or need a dependable corner infielder who won’t strike out in your points league, Pujols might just be that guy (he hasn’t had multiple strikeouts in a game since Aug. 5). I probably like him more than any of the guys starting at first base for the Rays this week, and I like him more than former teammate Matt Carpenter.

Austin Nola (C, 1B, 2B, Seattle Mariners)—4-5, R, 2 RBI, BB. The brother of Aaron Nola continues to hit in prime spots in the Mariners batting order, and while he’s been rather hit and miss in September, he has somewhat favorable matchups this week against the Pirates and Orioles if you need to stream a catcher.

Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B, Colorado Rockies)—3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He’s found his power stroke in the second half, slugging a solid .535 and hitting nine home runs in the past month. The batting average has been disappointing, but feel free to use him for his home series against the Mets to start the week.

Christian Vazquez (C, Boston Red Sox)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. Few expected Vazquez to hit 20 home runs this season, but that’s the kind of season it’s been for him. He hasn’t been as good lately, but he has multiple hits in two straight and in three of his past five starts. He’s a streaming candidate for the three-game home series against the Giants.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He’s set a career high in home runs (currently at 28) and RBI (71) thanks to a career high in games played. Despite the boost in health, he’s still a power-only asset with a low batting average and OBP. For fantasy purposes, he’s just a guy and should be avoided in 10- and 12-teamers.

Kyle Lewis (OF, Seattle Mariners)—3-6, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. In six games, he’s slugging .920. Is that good? It seems like it’s good. It’s been a long time coming for the 2016 first-round pick who was once a more highly regarded prospect. A shakeup in Seattle’s outfield depth in the offseason could help him find some playing time for 2020, and road trips to Pittsburgh and Baltimore this week should make him more than good enough to use in your fantasy playoffs.

Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Steady Eddie once again chipped in his fair share of home runs, runs scored, and RBI along with a useful .275 batting average. He’s not a great OBP asset because of the low walk rate, and it’s a bummer that he only swiped three bags so far, but he’s still a top-25 outfielder in standard leagues.

Kris Bryant (3B/OF, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He won some playoff matchups for folks this week, logging a hit in all six games he played along with five home runs, eight runs scored, 13 RBI, a stolen base, and an incredible 1.720 OPS. These are the kinds of things Bryant is capable of, and that’s why he’ll continue to go early in drafts next season.

Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He’s been more or less a full-time player since Aug. 20 and has a respectable .266/.372/.481 line with four home runs and four stolen bases int hat stretch. Batting at the bottom of a National League order hurts his chances of piling up counting stats, but the power and speed are there. The 13.8% walk rate and 24.5% strikeout rate in this stretch are encouraging, and he should be on your radar for 2020 (unless the Cardinals find more old guys to run in their outfield this offseason).

Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)—2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB. He might well get to 50 home runs this season, which is an incredible feat. Perhaps his increased aggression at the plate is helping fuel this, though I know that other fantasy analysts are signaling that they’re worried about his perceived value heading into 2020. He went just inside the top 50 in my 2 Early Mock (run by Justin Mason, who is literally everywhere), which I’m OK with.

Luis Urias (2B, San Diego Padres)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI. He extended his hitting streak to nine games and has OK matchups against the Brewers and Diamondbacks this week. No reason to bench him now. It’s been a tough season overall, though, which may lower his 2020 draft stock.

Kyle Schwarber (OF, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s slugging .611 since Aug. 1 and already has four home runs in September. The batting average is a problem, but he offsets it with a tolerable .326 OBP for leagues that care about OBP. His 85 RBI are a bit weak for a guy with 36 home runs, but a lot of that stems from the fact that they had him leading off for the entire first half. His 42 RBI since the halfway point are just one fewer than he had in the first half despite logging 119 fewer plate appearances.

Rhys Hoskins (1B, Philadelphia Phillies)—2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. Well, he finally turned it around. It was likely too late for many of you, but it did finally happen. His plate discipline never really fell apart, even in his awful slump, which is a sign that it was merely that—a slump.

Wil Myers (3B/OF, San Diego Padres)—2-3, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB. He’s slashing .417/.463/.708 in September with three home runs and three steals in 14 games because of course he is. He’s doing enough to give us hope that he can be a bit of a “sleeper” (whatever THAT means these days) in 2020, especially considering the improved plate discipline this month. His strikeout rate is what I’m really watching for the rest of the month, as it’s the thing that has seemingly kept him down all season.

Josh Fuentes (1B, Colorado Rockies)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. A couple of starts in Coors can make anyone look good, you know? He took a step back in the minors this year, which was his second full season in Triple-A. While he does have some power in his bat, it’s unlikely that the 26-year-old has a fantasy impact any time soon.

Josh Reddick (OF, Houston Astros)—5-5, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI. Even with the juiced ball, he still has modest power and a handful of stolen bases. His primary value comes from his .275 batting average and his 524 plate appearances for one of the best offenses in baseball. He’s OK in DFS sometimes and is a boring-but-necessary AL-only play.

Lewis Brinson (OF, Miami Marlins)—0-4, 3 K. The part that stinks is that this isn’t even a surprise. It’s par for the course. All that power and speed remains lost in a lack of contact ability.

Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)—0-4, 2 K. 27 home runs and 10 steals is pretty sweet, I’ll give you that, as is the .306/.370/.776 line in 54 September plate appearances. That said, the strikeout rate spike and the effect it had on his batting average and OBP are too much for me to swallow, especially considering that he was just SO streaky in 2019. I probably won’t be investing in 2020, especially with how crowded that infield could get in Texas in years to come.

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/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.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    It really is ridiculous how E Suarez can’t go a day without people trying to undermine his performance. Ironically, I think he has enough in the bank that he is probably won’t get too much more shade thrown on his season. He might be an MVP if he didn’t have that really bad June. He is a black eye on xStats. It would be productive for people to sit around and realize that not all successful hitters fit narrow, predictive models of limited accuracy but people seem to spend more time finding reasons to discredit the results. All those articles calling this a down year look pretty bad at this point. Much as he got unlucky, dealt with injuries, etc – he is having a big finish to even all that out. Heck, I’ll take the under on 50 HR in 2020 too but that doesn’t have anything to do with xStats.

    Isn’t it odd that Reddcik hit 32 HR back before the juiced ball era?

    I didn’t know that Austn was Aaron’s brother – I had wondered… so thanks for that.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I think the knock on Suarez is his regression against breaking balls AND really just price. He’s a really good player, but like Rendon, may finally be at a point where the 2020 price leaves little room for profit. He’s the type of guy who will get negative press only because of where he gets drafted as opposed to his actual performance, which is a bummer.

      Reddick has never hit more than 27 home runs in any 2 major league seasons COMBINED outside of 2012. Weird stuff.

      I always forget about that factoid as well. He’s actually the older brother.

  • Avatar Frankie says:

    Hi Scott.
    I’m in the semis in a 6×6 OBP and have been staring at both Laureano and K Tucker on my watch list. Should I drop Eaton or Canha for either? I feel it’s a lateral move at best. I own Springer and Tucker would be a nice security blanket, same could be said for Canha and Laureano. I love Eaton’s schedule this and next week though. What say you?
    Ty!

    • Avatar Frankie says:

      Ugh. Strike the Laureano factor. He was just added.
      Eaton > Canha > Tucker?

      • Avatar Scott Chu says:

        I think it depends on what stats you need – Eaton will be the source of runs and speed, while the other two have more power and RBI. I think the Nats and A’s have the best schedules coming up as well. I like what Tucker has done, obviously, but I’m not sure he’s an upgrade.

  • Avatar Aaron says:

    You can point to any stat you want to about Suarez but the fact of the matter is that he’s progressing and not regressing and his hr consistency is a problem as compared to the mlb juiced balls or not. I feel like if I go pitcher heavy early and still get Alvarez Suarez Cruz and laureano. Most likely 3of4 .I have a great chance of contending with guys like Cole degrom to start my team off in the 2020 draft.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I think he’s a fine player. I think he’s probably more of what he was in 2018 than he was in 2019, but both are very valuable seasons. It’s less about him and more about his price. I’m curious to see how that shakes out.

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