(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)
This might have to be the first edition of Batter’s Box that exclusively features hitters from one team, because the Philadelphia Phillies stuffed the box score against the Miami Marlins on Saturday in a 20-1 blowout. The Marlins actually forfeited in the 4th inning of this game, and later that night decided to completely disband as a major league franchise out of shame. So if anybody has work for Billy the Marlin, give the guy a shoutout, mascots have mouths to feed too.
It’s hard to single out one performance as a highlight, as the entire Phillies lineup got in on the action yesterday, including Vince Velasquez who went 2-for-4. Maikel Franco certainly stood out though, finishing the night 2-4, 3 R, 6 RBI, BB. In my previous Batter’s Box I mentioned my hesitation to anoint him with the nickname “Maikel Spanko,” but he’s much closer to gaining that title now. I want to see him earn it though; you don’t become Mr. Spanko after just one good week.
Franco has been a bit of a disappointment the past two years, as people were dreaming on him ascending to stardom after he posted a .280/.343/.497 triple-slash during his first extended taste of the majors in 2015. However, aside from a declining BABIP, there aren’t many red flags in his peripherals that explain the sudden drop in performance the past couple seasons. He doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard (career 29.7% hard contact), but he has still managed to pop 20+ homers the past few years in spite of that. His HR/FB% has hovered around 14% every year he’s been in the majors. And he’s actually been gradually going to the opposite field more the last few years, which should theoretically bode well for his batting average. In summary, it seems at a glance that Franco’s suffered from some bad juju the past two years. If he burns a little sage and cleanses his aura this year, there doesn’t seem to be any reason he can’t get his career back on track.
Scott Kingery (2B, Philadelphia Phillies): 2-5, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB
I’m literally going to just talk about the entire Phillies roster from this point forward, so brace yourselves. Kingery has held his own with the bat in the early going, and played both shortstop and second base in this game. In the next couple of months he’ll likely have outfield, third base, and shortstop eligibility, which would be incredibly valuable if he continues to hit.
Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies): 2-3, 3 R, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB
Hoskins has multi-hit games in four of his seven starts this year. What’s perhaps most surprising is that he currently has more steals (2) than home runs (1). Can we call him Rhys Lightning? Let’s call him Rhys Lightning.
Andrew McCutchen (OF, San Francisco Giants): 6-7, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI, SB
Observe the magnificent Andrew McCutchen in his natural setting. See as he lulls his opponents into a false sense of security by playing like garbage for an entire week before striking with tremendous force. McCutchen was 2-for-24 prior to Saturday. Then he did some one-stop shopping against the Dodgers, picking up six hits, a homer, and a stolen base for good measure. He’s prone to bad stretches, but with McCutchen you just have to ride it out because he can go off at any time.
Joe Panik (2B, San Francisco Giants): 3-7, 2 R
Joe Panik apparently made a swing change in the offseason to unlock more power. He had one of the lowest strikeout rates in the majors last season, so adding a power component would be very enticing. However, I feel like swing change stories are starting to become the regular season equivalent of the spring training “best shape of his life” stories, and I’m taking them with a grain of salt from here on out. Still, Panik is worth rostering if for no other reason than his cool last name.
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics): 1-3, 2 R, 3B, RBI, 2 BB
Matt Chapman has a 53.8% hard contact rate so far this year, and is now hitting .405 on the season. I mentioned last time that I’m not a Matt Chapman believer, but now he’s starting to make me look silly. If he continues to make me look silly I will resent it and secretly pray for his doom. Just kidding, no I won’t. Just kidding, yes I will.
Justin Upton (OF, Los Angeles Angels): 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI
This is the second night in a row that Upton has homered, and so far he’s striking out at just a 16.2% clip, which if he maintained it all year would be a career low. Hitting behind Mike Trout is nice, and will only get nicer when (if?) Trout is no longer hitting below the Mendoza Line.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox) 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 6 RBI, BB
I wanted to lie and say Xander Bogaerts was a distant relative of actor Humphrey Bogart, but then I realized their last names are spelled differently, and also that that would be a stupid thing to lie about. Regardless, Bogaerts has been giving baseballs one-way tickets to Casablanca this season, and tripled his RBI totals with Saturday’s performance. Bogaerts has a 34.6% groundball rate so far this year, a huge drop from the 48.9% rate he posted last year. It’s early, but this bodes real well for his chances of getting back over 20 homers this season.
Adam Duvall (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 0-5, 4 K
With Joey Votto hardly striking out at all, it’s awfully nice of Duvall to pick up his slack. Duvall is not at risk of losing playing time with Scott Schebler nursing an elbow injury at the moment, but with Jesse Winker crushing the ball so far this year, a poor first month could cost Duvall some at-bats further down the line.
Marcell Ozuna (OF, Miami Marlins): 3-4, R
There were some rumors early in the season that Ozuna had a bum shoulder, but his shoulder resented being called a bum, got off the couch, and got a high-paying job. His shoulder was never incompetent, YOU JUST NEVER BELIEVED IN IT. Anyway, since going 0-for-8 in the first two games of the season, Ozuna’s put together a six-game hitting streak and seems to be just fine.
Jose Martinez (1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI
Jose Martinez came here to mash baseballs and chew bubble gum, and he’s all out of bubble gum. Martinez has been routinely making hard contact, including a couple of 100 mph outs this past week. When you hit the ball that hard, the hits will inevitably start falling, and that’s what they were doing on Saturday.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks): 1-4, R, BB
Somebody should probably tell Goldschmidt that the humidor is just an Arizona thing. Goldy is still looking for his first home run of the year, and has struck out in over a third of his at-bats so far. Don’t panic or anything though, just read this fear-mongering blurb and stay completely calm.
Kris Bryant (3B, Chicago Cubs): 3-3, R, HR, 3B, RBI, 2 BB
Bryant nearly crossed the 40-homer plateau in 2016 thanks to a 40.3% hard contact rate. His hard contact dipped quite a bit last year, falling to 32.8%, but he also boosted his walks and cut down on his strikeouts. The early returns this year show another spike in hard contact, and if he maintains the gains he made in plate discipline and starts destroying the ball again, he could be in for a special season.
Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds): 3-4, R, HR, 2B, 5 RBI, BB
With Jesse Winker getting on base in front of him at a .538 clip, and Joey Votto hitting behind him, Suarez should be a great source of counting stats this season, even in a lineup that features Scooter Gennett as its cleanup hitter.