The Michael Conforto story has been told time and time again leading into the 2019 fantasy season. His all-star 2017 campaign was cut short with a gruesome shoulder injury 109 games into the season. He already had 27 home runs with a 147 wRC+. In 2018, the New York Mets forced him back in the lineup a month earlier than everyone anticipated—and it showed. He struggled heavily to start the year, but blossomed in the second half. With a 143 second half wRC+, 2017 Conforto was back. He had more time in this past offseason to continue his recovery and training and was poised to make a splash this year. For more details on our offseason Conforto thoughts, check out Kevin Dalby’s Going Deep piece from January!
So far in 2019, Conforto has delivered. A .93o OPS and nearly .400 wOBA has shown that Conforto fits in with the league’s top hitters. These stats are all looking legit and his xBA and xSLG are nearly identical to his current output, while his xwOBA is actually slightly above his true wOBA. He is no longer hitting the ball on the ground—a problem that can arise from shoulder issues, with a ground ball rate at 26.7%. Not all those batted balls are fly balls either. His line drive rate is a whopping 27.7%. That is a higher line drive rate than ground ball rate! How often does that even happen? Additionally, Conforto has taken strides to improve his plate discipline. He’s chasing about five percentage points less than his career average, while also making more contact. He’s being slightly more selective as well, taking a few more pitches. All of this has come from an improved effectiveness against non-fastball offerings. Being able to hit or even just handle any pitch thrown your way is a sign of a fantastic hitter. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Conforto did just break out of a rough slump, just like all the Mets, with the help of the Miami Marlins. Last night, he continued in this direction going 2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Even with that slump, Conforto’s season numbers are some of the best he’s put up. He’ll be exciting to follow the rest of the year.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the games from Saturday to see who else made a fantasy impact at the plate.
Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox) — 3-4, R, 2 RBI, BB, SB. I dug into Devers further yesterday, so this is more of a follow up. In yesterday’s game, he didn’t lift the ball as the day prior, but he ripped the ball around the field. All three of his hits exceeded 104 mph. That’s back-to-back three-hit games for Devers.
Omar Narvaez (C, Seattle Mariners) — 2-4, R, HR, RBI. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Narvaez pop up after his hot start. He’ll still get a few hits every so often including last nights barely made it over home run. He is having his best season so far, but his output is exceeding his expected stats by quite a bit.
Ronny Rodríguez (1B/2B/3B/SS, Detroit Tigers) — First: 2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB. Second: 0-4. We can ignore the second game of the double header here. He was tired after his stellar performance in the first! After starting consistently from April 23rd and on, Rodriguez is slugging .717. He’s solidified the fifth spot in the lineup with ample opportunity to drive in runs. My primary concern with him is an increase in strikeouts, as his whiff and chase rates are too high for comfort.
CJ Cron (1B, Minnesota Twins) — First: 1-3, R, HR, RBI, BB. Second: 4-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Cron was able to continue his success throughout the day yesterday, slugging a 422-foot homer in the first and a 386-foot rope (at 115 mph!) in the second. Cron has taken step forward at the plate this year. He’s increased his hard hit rate by five points while also decreasing his K% by over six points.
Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs) — 2-7, R, HR, RBI. Taking his time all the way to the 15th inning, Willson Contreras took Burch Smith deep with a little bat toss and spin to walk it off for the Cubs. With this home run, Contreras has matched his total from last year in 104 fewer games. Baseball, huh? He’s also pretty much half way to his RBI and run totals too.
James McCann (C, Chicago White Sox) — 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI. Another Chicago catcher with a solid performance yesterday. McCann looks to have solidly taken over the catching spot in the south side, edging out Castillo. This all makes sense, as McCann is exceeding at the plate. This four-hit night was his ninth multi-hit game in the 23 games he’s started this year. If you are still looking to replace your catcher, McCann can be your man.
Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) — 2-4, 2 R, HR, 3B, RBI. Since Statcast started, Grichuk has always been a underrated favorite, especially because of his barrel rates over the past few seasons. Well, this season he’s taking a step back, cutting his barrel rate nearly in half to 8.1%. Plate discipline and batted ball profile-wise, Grichuk remains largely the same as previous years. You can mostly expect more of the same then: low .200s batting average, low to mid 20s homers, with 60-70 RBI and run totals.
Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels) — 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Just the other day, Pujols was my featured man for crossing the 2000 career RBI mark. And here he is again with two more dingers in the same game. How much pressure does a looming milestone put on a player? Probably some, but for the Machine? Regardless, he’s slugging better than previous years and his BABIP is still sinking his average. This may be a small bounce-back year for Pujols, but not necessarily something to be worthwhile for fantasy.
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays) — 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Diaz finally gets a chance to play every day with Tampa, and he starts slugging .550. Additionally, his plate discipline is fantastic, with a nearly 1 BB/K ratio. If only Diaz could find a way to more consistently elevate the ball, we’d be seeing a 40 home run threat. At nearly 50% ground balls and a 25% HR/FB rate, this power may be unsustainable.
Wil Myers (3B/OF, San Diego Padres) — 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB. Who doesn’t love a night with a home run and a stolen base? The best of both fantasy worlds—that’s what Myers can be. He’s broken 20/20 twice and would have done the same last year if he played a full season. 30/30 isn’t out of the question either. However, this year the thing holding him back is his increased strike outs: up nearly nine percentage points. He’s just whiffing a lot more across all pitches, but more so at non-fastballs.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros) — 2-5, 3 R, HR, RBI. Brantley is currently leading the AL in batting with a .340 batting average. This is what we expect out of Brantley. A superior contact threat is making the most out of his contact. More notably, he’s finding some power. This was his tenth homer of the season, already halfway to his career high. Brantley has taken a major step forward in fantasy value by joining the Astros.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Cincinnati Reds) — 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. Puig, like Myers, double dipped for a homer and a stolen base in the same evening. This is Puig’s third game in a row with a steal, vaulting him to seven steals on the season. Despite not reaching 20/20 in any season prior, he is the kind of player that can threaten that threshold. Getting on base, though, has been an issue for Puig. His BB/K has dropped from 0.41 last year to 0.25 this season. However, he’s turned it around in his past nine games, improving in every area of his offense. This is a good sign for his season moving forward.
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)