Batter’s Box: Ringing of the Bellinger

After going 3-4 with a home run, a run, three RBI, a walk, and a stolen base, it’s high time that we talk about Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) for a moment. Bellinger has been incredibly impressive, batting .424/.500/.882 through his 23 games with 11 home runs and 28 RBI and 12 walks to just 12 strikeouts. It’s such a stark contrast to his 2018 start, where he didn’t hit his 11th home run until June and people were wondering just how much of an outlier his breakout 39 home run/10 stolen base rookie campaign would be. Well, 2019 has shown us a newer, more patient side to Bellinger he’s dropped his chase rate, he’s making more contact when he does chase, he’s making more contact in the zone, and he’s showing just a 5% swinging-strike rate (career rate of 12.1%). His average exit velocity is 94.3 mph, almost 5 full ticks above his averages in 2017 and 2018, and his unbelievable .424 batting average and .882 slugging percentage are actually supported by the Statcast data (.420 xBA, .853 xSLG). You can’t trade for him or add him, but you can sure as heck enjoy him. Perhaps a 2017 repeat, which looked all but impossible at times last season, is in the cards after all.

Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) 4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Let’s start with the obvious point first: No, Pederson is not suddenly an all-world hitter despite his 10 home runs in 23 games. He might be a pretty good hitter now, though, and there are signs that he’s adjusting his approach at the plate based on his 8.2% swinging-strike rate (3.1% lower than his career rate) and an 81.5% contact rate (7.9% above his career rate). The 16.7% strikeout rate is a nice touch as well and is part of a greater trend where he’s lowered his strikeout rate each year since posting a 29.1% strikeout rate in 2015. I wouldn’t be trying to acquire him in a trade, as his .716 slugging likely makes the price too high (his .539 xSLG suggests he’s been legit but not like THIS), but I would be holding on if I added him, and I’d probably try to weather the storm when the inevitable slump strikes.

Josh Donaldson (3B, Atlanta Braves) 3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. This is the Josh Donaldson we remember in all of his power-hitting glory. It was a bit of a sluggish start, but he’s raised his batting average by 148 points over the past two weeks with a hit in 11 of his past 13 games. The elevated strikeout rate doesn’t concern me much because even if it stays around 26% to 27%, he can still be very successful, especially because the walk rate is moving up with it. He can be a top-50 player in OBP leagues and a top-75 player in standard leagues, which is great considering the price you likely paid for him.

Josh Reddick (OF, Houston Astros) 3-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. He’s available in more than 95% of ESPN leagues (mostly because 15 home runs and seven stolen bases isn’t that exciting in 10- to 12-team formats), but he continues to walk plenty, strikeout very little, and do a fair bit of damage against righties (.337 wOBA against them for his career). It makes him a useful DFS play when the Astros face a right-hander and an OK fifth outfield option in deeper formats.

Jonathan Villar (2B/SS, Baltimore Orioles) 3-5, R, 2B, RBI, 2 SB. He nabbed his fifth and sixth bags of the season yesterday, but I was perhaps more impressed by the three hits and zero strikeouts. He has a career 26.9% strikeout rate, which peaked at 30.3% in 2017 (the year after he had his amazing 19 home run/62 stolen base breakout), so his current 19.2% rate is exactly what we wanted to see. Even on a miserable Orioles team, there’s a path to 15 home runs and 40 stolen bases with a .260 batting average that’s a really nice player and exactly what folks hoped for when they drafted him.

Robinson Chirinos (C, Houston Astros) 2-4, R, 2B, RBI. I really wish I could tell you that there’s something meaningful in the early success of Chirinos he’s hitting .271/.362/.521 and has been one of the better offensive catchers in baseball so far. He’s always shown good walk rates, but the strikeouts have been an issue and he’s prone to soul-crushing batting averages (.222 in 2018). His wimpy 83.5 mph average exit velocity combined with his extreme fly-ball tendencies indicate that his hot start is unsustainable, and the expected stats agree, giving him an xBA of .142 and xSLG of .268. Winter is coming, and he’ll be OK to cut when it arrives.

Hunter Pence (OF, Texas Rangers) 1-3, R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s just a part-time player in Texas, but he’s got a .281 batting average that’s supported by the underlying metrics and when he does make it into games, he’s often hitting in the heart of the order. He’s a great cheap DFS play when he starts, particularly when the game is in the friendly confines of Arlington, and he’s a worthwhile scoop or throw-in if you’re in an AL-Only league. Everyone else can keep moving.

Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants) 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. It’s not been a great start, but he’s somehow below 90% ownership in ESPN and Yahoo formats, and that’s ridiculous. He’s roster-worthy in any format where six total catchers or more have to be played. Stop this madness and pick him up if you’re one of the lucky leaguemates of the owners who have cut him. His production will improve as his hips heal.

Willians Astudillo (C, Minnesota Twins) 1-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI. My absolute favorite player is hitting .295/.313/.523, and if you’re thinking that he’s overperforming YOU’RE DEAD WRONG. His xBA of .337 is in the top 3% of hitters, and his .590 slugging suggests that he’s actually been a bit unlucky. LONG LIVE LA TORTUGA! He’s the only thing more exciting for me right now than fantasy curling, which is 100% a real thing that I’ve been working on.

(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.

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Comments


Saint

Great stuff Scott. Time to leave Voit behind? Please rank Bell, Walker and H. Dozier as possible replacements. 12 team H2H 6×6 OPS redraft.

Thanks in advance for your feedback

Scott Chu

Hi Saint, hope you had a good weekend. I’m not sure I’d necessarily drop Voit for any of these guys,a s I’m not sure they provide a boost over what Voit will provide. Voit is in the top 3% of the league in Barrel Rate, and an xBA/xSLG of .246/.529 with a 13.7% walk rate. He’s doing just fine.

I won’t leave you hanging, though — I’d rank those three as Walker, Bell, . . . . . . Dozier. The first two are guys who could provide a .800+ OPS, while Dozier is still more of a .700 OPS guy for me, despite the hot start. Bell is safer than Walker thanks to the walks, but comes without the big HR upside.

Scott Chu

Garver is the one piece that’s making it tough for the Twins to give more playing time to Astudillo thanks to his 5 HR (2 of which came on Saturday in his 2nd start from the lead off spot). His expected stats are supporting the strong results so far, though they are a peg lower than what Astudillo has shown.

Last season, Garver was a soft-hitting catcher who showed some decent batting average and not much else. He showed some decent pop in the minors in 2017, but he was also a 26 year old in AAA at that time. Astudillo is better at making contact

GIVE ME LA TORTUGA! Even if they get the same number of PAs, I expect Astudillo to be as good or better than Garver in every single category (except walks, because Astudillo is trying to swing the bat). Ultimately though, I think Astudillo will get more PA due to flexibility and because he’s my favorite and that should mean something to the Twins.

Chelsa

Hi Scott. Another good article! Please keep ’em coming! Need to increase my SBs in my 10 team, roto, 6×6, keeper league. Was considering adding Cole Tucker and dropping Ketel Marte. Please advise.

C – Alfaro
1B – Rizzo
2B – McNeil
SS – Tatis
3B – Machado
CI – Shaw
MI – C. Hernandez
OF – Acuña, Dahl, Eloy & Trout
U – H. Dozier & Pederson
BN – K. Marte
IL – Andujar & D. Murphy
SP – Bieber, Boyd, Fried, Musgrove & Stripling
RP – Colomè, Neris, Pressly, Smith & Treinen

Lastly, do you think Minor is worth an add? If so, whom would you suggest I drop?

Thank you for your help,
Chelsa

Scott Chu

I’ll do my best, Chelsa! My read on Cole Tucker so far is that he’ll be good for SBs, but I’m currently still skeptical he can provide much else for fantasy owners. In a 10 team 6×6, Marte was fairly expendable anyway, so if you are really hurting for the extra 15 steals Tucker could provide, I won’t mind it. At this point, you probably should stream your bench anyway with whoever is hot.

Scott Chu

As for Mike Minor, that may be a better question for Nick Pollack or our other pitching gurus, but generally, Minor is probably a streamer in your format when he has a nice road match up. I strongly advocate for streaming in leagues like yours unless your have insanely deep benches (10+ spots).

stevek

Great article as usual. Really look forward to them. Do you think shaw will come around, and if so when?

Scott Chu

Thanks Stevek! I’m glad you’re enjoying them. I’m not even close to ready to dismiss Travis Shaw’s back to back 30+ HR, .340+ OBP seasons yet. I still think he’ll be a solid 2B/3B option in leagues of virtually all sizes, and if he’s been dropped or if you think you know a reactionary owner, I’d be looking to grab him. He’s still inside my top 10 at 2B and top 15 at 3B.

Scott Chu

Stevek – I’m also going to forward this one to my colleague Gabe Zammit to possibly look into for the weekly Pitcher List Mailbag. Shaw was a popular preseason pick for lots of folks, so it’s worth more thoughts and words than I generally would do in the comments.

Adam

Scott, 10-team H2H with OBP instead of AVG, and I’ve stocked my middle infield with versatility, with a lean toward power (Shaw, Niko, C.Hernandez, E. Hernandez, and Asdrubal, with Segura and Murphy on the IL). I am definitely SB deficient overall – worth adding Cole Tucker over any of the healthy options, at least until my IL guys return? Interested especially in your thoughts on Shaw, and his BIG uptick in SO, which has my eyebrows raised. (Niko is 1 game from adding OF eligibility in our league, FWIW.)

Scott Chu

Hi Adam — See above for my quick thoughts on Shaw, and the next time he does something noteworthy at the plate I’ll be certain to write him up. He’s swinging and missing more, but his other plate discipline metrics are solid, and he got his BB% down under 19% last season, so hopefully this is just a slump.

Tucker might be OK as a streamer for your last roster spot, but I don’t think I’d cut any of the guys you have for what Tucker can provide in a 10 team league. He’s really more interesting in the 15+ team formats where speed of any kind is at a premium on the wire. If speed is what you need, I’d probably either wait for Segura to return and also utilize Niko when possible — there’s 20 SB potential in those legs. Otherwise, I’d look to find speed at another position, like OF (Leonys Martin comes to mind as a 20 SB option with decent stats).

Terry Bennett

Hey Scott – great stuff as usual!
I would appreciate your thoughts. I hold Puig and Schebler in Keeper League with standard Roto categories plus BB and OBS. Both have been a drain this year – any chance you think they turn it around (ROS or Long Term) or should I just cut bait?
Thanks!
Terry

Scott Chu

Many thanks, Terry! In a 12 team or shallower league, Schebler is probably on the roster bubble, if not droppable based on who is available on your waiver wire. I think Puig will turn it around a bit, and you paid too much to acquire him to cut him after a few weeks. Schebler, on the other hand, is really just a C-List version of Puig in terms of stat production, and the rise of Jesse Winker and the impending debut of Nick Senzel will make starts tough to come by. I’m OK with moving on if there’s something more dynamic on the wire. In a 15-teamer, it’d be tough to make a move unless there’s something rather enticing on the wire or if you’re in a real jam with injuries at other positions.

Mike P

What’s going on with Justin Turner? Only two extra base hits on the season. We know he’s not technically a home run hitter but still…he hasn’t been great. Especially for someone with 92 ADP preseason.

Scott Chu

Hopefully nothing, Mike, considering I just traded for him in a 16 team league! I’m willing to peg this as just a slow start for an older player. He’s striking out at a higher rate and usual after 94 PA, but since joining the Dodgers in 2014, he’s never hit worse than .275 or slugged worse than .491. Even if this becomes his worst season in Dodger Blue, I think he’ll get close to those numbers. As for the HRs, well, expecting more than 20 was probably a bit of a pipe-dream.

Scott Chu

Mike – I’m also going to forward this one to my colleague Gabe Zammit to possibly look into for the weekly Pitcher List Mailbag. It probably deserves more attention than what I can give it here.

Mike P

Hi Scott, thanks for the reply! Fingers that you’re right! I hope age hasn’t finally caught up to him. He seems to be taking his walks. And he is always batting in a prime spot in one of the best lineups in baseball. So here’s to hoping he starts to breakout in a big way soon!

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