Batter’s Box: Profar, So Good
Prospect growth is not linear. And sometimes, it’s really not linear. Sometimes a player’s value plummets sharply downward for four or five years before it finally decides to start ticking up. Perhaps no player is more of a testament to this phenomenon than Jurickson Profar. A former top prospect, Profar saw the early years of his career get derailed by injuries, inconsistent playing time, and lackluster performance. Despite being just 25 years old at the start of the season, most people–including the Rangers front office–seemed to have given up on him.
But after going 4-5, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI yesterday, it’s time to acknowledge that there are a lot of things to like about Profar this year. And yes, his name is obviously one of them; Jurickson Profar sounds like an intergalactic bantha smuggler from Star Wars. But beyond that, there’s his 34.5% hard contact rate, which has actually hovered closer to 40% since the start of June. This is a big jump from the 26% rate he posted last year, and the first above-average number he’s posted in the category in his career. He’s not sacrificing his trademark contact ability to do it either; his 13.9% strikeout rate is top-25 in baseball, behind Mookie Betts. His .271 BABIP has held his average down around the .250 mark for the entire season, and his 12.6% infield flyball rate indicates that that may not correct as much as we might hope. However, xStats is a bit more bullish on him, pegging him for a .267 xAVG. And with 14 homers and 10 stolen bases already in the bank over 121 games, not to mention his multi-position versatility, he doesn’t have to return a super high average to be fantasy relevant. Plus, considering his age, there’s still room for growth. Not linear growth, of course. But considering the path he took to get here, any growth will do.
Victor Reyes (OF, Detroit Tigers): 4-5, 2 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI – If you haven’t heard about Victor Reyes, you must have been living in a hole in the ground for the last 10 years. Reyes is one of the most exciting, dynamic, athletic… okay fine, I never heard of him before either. Yet somehow he’s accumulated 180 at-bats this year for the Tigers. Hm. The results to this point have been poor–a .228 average with one homer and eight steals–but he flashed an above-average hit tool and some speed in the minors. There’s nothing to see here right now, but there may be a useful player here in the future.
George Springer (OF, Houston Astros): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI – As a Springer owner, this was nice to see after getting a big fat zero from him for the past month due to a cavalcade of injuries to his quad, shoulder, and thumb. It’s been reported the thumb issue may linger for the rest of the season, which could sap his power over the final month, so if you’re counting on more nights like this… maybe don’t?
Brandon Lowe (SS/2B, Tampa Bay Rays): 3-5, R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI – Lowe cracked 14 homers in just 205 AAA plate appearances prior to getting called up to the majors this year, and this was his third homer in 18 games with the Rays. He had never displayed this much power previously, but Tampa Bay has been getting him in the lineup pretty regularly by moving him around the diamond, so he should get a chance to prove whether the power is legit in September.
Stephen Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics): 2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI – I’ve never been a big Piscotty fan, but there’s no denying that he’s on a roll right now, batting .322 with six homers over his last 15 games. He’s now up to 21 homers this season, leaving him one shy of his previous career-high.
Nomar Mazara (OF, Texas Rangers): 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Characterizing Mazara’s career to this point as having an “arc” would imply that it has had ups and downs. Since Mazara debuted in 2016, he’s essentially put up identical seasons every year: a .260 average with 20 homers and not much else. Pedigree will likely continue to inflate his value in drafts next season, but until either his high groundball rates (56% this year) or middling hard contact rates improve, it’s hard to find much to really get excited about here.
C.J. Cron (1B, Tampa Bay Rays): 2-5, R, HR, 2B, RBI – I’d feel bad about always referring to Cron as a caveman if A) he didn’t make millions and millions of dollars, and B) he had any idea that my pitiful existence was even a thing. Cron has been very streaky this year, but he’s currently on another good run, batting .315 with four homers over the last two weeks. I bet if they let him use his customary blunt wooden club as a bat he’d perform even better though.
Ian Desmond (1B, Colorado Rockies): 1-4, R, 2 SB – What a long, weird rollercoaster Ian Desmond’s season has been. His April was about as awful as can be, as he posted a 34 wRC+ for the month. He gradually improved over the next few months, culminating in a huge July wherein he hit .321 with a .378 wOBA. But then, in August, he turned back into a pumpkin, posting a season-worst 25 wRC+. You can’t ignore the 20 homers and 15 steals so far, but you kind of wish you could, because between the 60% groundball rate and 13.4% whiff rate there’s no way his average is going to be anywhere close to useful.
Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers): 1-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB – Yelich is now hitting .364 with nine homers over his last 15 games, and the “MVP” chants are only growing louder. It’s getting really distracting, actually. This is why you never stop taking your meds. The 30-homer plateau is well within reach, though the 53.4% groundball rate and 32.5% HR/FB don’t have me feeling very confident that this is the new normal for him.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays): 1-2, R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB – The Statcast leaderboards love Teoscar Hernandez. He’s top-10 in barrels per plate appearance and top-25 in hard hit percentage. Unfortunately this hasn’t been enough to guarantee him playing time, as he’s been losing at-bats to Randal Grichuk and Billy McKinney lately. To be sure, the 31% strikeout rate is tough to swallow, but I still believe there’s 30-homer upside here if he can carve out a full-time job.
Miguel Andujar (3B, New York Yankees): 3-4, 3 R, 2B, RBI, BB – I don’t know why the Yankees would trade for Andrew McCutchen when they already have Andu McClutchin’, but hey, different strokes and all. He’s batting .331 over the past month with 10 homers. It feels like this guy is not getting the attention he deserves right now, despite playing for the Yankees.
Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs): 2-2, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB – Gee Rizzo, you really would’ve saved your owners a lot of hand-wringing if you hadn’t saved your best performances for the season’s final months. He’s batting .345 with eight homers over the past month while walking more than he’s striking out. He’ll still likely fall short of his production from last year, but a strong September should at least pull him within range of what you expected when you drafted him.
Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 2B, RBI – Is there a player having a more overlooked season right now than Tim Anderson? I barely hear him getting talked about at all, but with this home run he’s up to 18 homers and 25 stolen bases on the season with a month to go. He’s made small improvements this year in all the areas you look for: walk rate, strikeout rate, hard contact, groundball rate. The average may hurt you a bit, but you can’t ask for much more everywhere else.
Nick Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI – It’s pretty disappointing to see that Castellanos has just 20 homers this year, considering his 48.5% hard contact rate is the third-highest in baseball. He’s showing that it may be possible to hit too many line drives. Don’t get me wrong, the 28.7% line drive rate is nice, and is certainly bolstering the .294 average. But if he lifted the ball a bit more I think he could easily reach over 30 home runs.