Batter’s Box: Seeing Red

Jim Chatterton dives into Thursday's best hitters and the changes Eugenio Suarez has made to fight for the NL home run title.

A year before he was traded from the Detroit Tigers, Eugenio Suarez was considered a top-10 prospect in the Tigers’ system. He was not one of the team’s top guys but was good enough to dangle in front of the Reds to entice them to part with All-Star pitcher Alfredo Simon. The Tigers were looking to fill in a hole in their rotation and had the prospects to do it.

Some trades you look back on and wonder. Other trades you just completely forget about until that random prospect who was thrown in is now sitting at 45 home runs on the year. Funnily enough, Simon even found his way back to the Reds the following year.

Suarez made the move from shortstop to third base in 2016 as Zack Cozart had that spot locked down and Jose Peraza was right around the corner. And that was when Suarez started to hit. In 2016, he finished with 21 homers. 2017, he increased to 26. 2018, up to 34. And finally now he is still going with 45 as he went 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB yesterday. He has continued to grow as a hitter, delivering more and more power. However, despite his counting stats being at their best, his 2019 has taken a step back from his excellent 2018 performance. It’s a small step back, but 2019 is not the next step forward for him that it might look like. First, his slash is pretty similar with .283/.366/.526 in 2018 and .269/.349/.570 in 2019. That slugging is the only one up with those 11 extra homers. Also, these lines are good for an almost identical wOBA of .376 and .375 respectively. The biggest step back comes in his strikeouts. His strikeout rate is up to nearly 29%, a good 5.5-point jump from his previous two seasons. He’s swinging about the same amount; he’s just missing the ball more often. His contact rate was literally 77% every year until this year. It’s down to 73%. His batted-ball profile has changed as well. His 2017 and 2018 were nearly identical: 24%/38%/37% for liners, grounders, and fly balls while pulling 42%. 2019 however has changed to 22.6%/36.3%/41.1% and pulling 53.4%. He is hitting the ball slightly less hard than last year, but with his increase in fly balls and another uptick in HR/FB, more of his hits are traveling out of the park.

His second half has been drastically better than his first half; however, those batted-ball changes and strikeout numbers have been consistent through out the season. It looks like he made a change in his approach, and it took a bit to adjust. Now in the second half, he is reaping those benefits.

Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)—Game 1: 3-5, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Voit has been back since Aug. 30, but he didn’t seem back until his 449-foot home run last night. If you are worried about playing time for him down the stretch, do not worry as Edwin Encarnacion went down with an injury of his yesterday.

Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets)—2-3, 3 R, HR, RBI, BB. He’s starting to pad his season best stats with his 30th homer of the year and tying his career-best 82 RBI. He is performing a bit better than his solid 2018 but not nearly as good as his injury-shortened 2017. His line-drive rate this year is more in line with 2017, and his ground-ball rate is even a bit lower but he has not been hitting the ball nearly as hard. In 2017, his hard-hit rate was 43% and only from July forward this season is it close to 40%. And we see that split in his wRC+: 119 first half and 134 second half.

Juan Lagares (OF, New York Mets)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI. It was a Juan of a kind night for Lagares as he blasted his first career grand slam while also knocking in four or more runs for the first time. He finished the night with two dingers and six total RBI. With more and more of the Mets getting healthy, they will be cycling their lineups playing the matchups with Lagares being the defensive focus. There is almost no value in him on the fantasy front.

Hunter Dozier (1B/3B/OF, Kansas City Royals)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. These past two weeks, Dozier has caught fire, just in time to help the Royals make a last-ditch playoff push. He’s hit four homers with eight total extra-base hits and seven multi-hit games in his past 14. However, these past couple of weeks have been notably un-Dozier-like, as he’s hitting way more ground balls with softer contact. But they are finding the holes with his .636 BABIP.

Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 2 SB. Wong nabbed a couple of bases last night, breaking his career high in stolen bases in a season. He now has 22, which comes as a decent surprise as he hadn’t had more than eight in a season since 2015, when he swiped 15. He also added a 400-foot homer, matching his total from 2015. He has quietly put together his best season yet.

Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. He’s been on quite the tear since August started after a rough July. His line since August is .341/.404/.765 with 17 homers. That ranks first among all players for home runs and slugging since Aug. 1. It has been a rocky year at times for Nolan, but he’s put it all together when fantasy teams have needed it most.

Cavan Biggio (2B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-4, 2 R, 3B, RBI, BB. He’s played eight games since the last time I wrote about him, and he’s posted a 167 wRC+ in that time. This is despite having only one hit in his first five of those games. For a bit more depth on this rookie, check out Matt Wallach’s Going Deep on him from a little while ago.

Jean Segura (SS, Philadelphia Phillies)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. Segura delivered a yummy combo meal with his 12th homer of the year and his ninth steal of the year. Wait, his ninth steal? Has he been hurt or something? How many games has he played? He’s posted 20-plus steals in every single one of his full seasons (the past six years) but now has just nine on the year. He only has attempted 11 total steals. He did have a hamstring strain early in April this season, so there is a strong chance he’s been taking it easy on the hammy as the season has gone on.

Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)—1-5, 2 R, HR, RBI, 2 SB. It’s 40/40 watch time. Home run No. 39. And steals Nos. 35 and 36. The Braves have 14 games remaining, so that is one homer and four steals. That seems doable.

Jonathan Schoop (2B/SS, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. Schoop hasn’t returned to his 2017 form, but he’s hitting much closer to that than he is to last season’s struggles. He is hitting the ball much harder this season and even harder than his standout 2017 season. He’s just spending a lot of time in the back of the Twins lineup, so you won’t find him scoring or driving in nearly as many runs.

Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB. My MVP pick at the beginning of the year is strongly making his case with half a month of baseball remaining. His 181 wRC+ since the break is the best in the NL, while his 55 RBI in 56 games is best in the majors. His .375 average and .459 OBP are also tops in the majors among qualified hitters in that same time. He is a big reason the Nationals are taking that top Wild Card spot.

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    Be sure to discredit that 40/40 season for the juiced balls. Its going to be tainted in the same way that every other HR “record” is during this era. Its probably more like 30/40 which is good but not actually historically significant. If past players were lucky enough to play today, 40/40 wouldn’t be the exclusive club it is. We don’t want to cheapen the accomplishments of the people that earned it the hard way.

  • Avatar J says:

    “just in time to help the Royals make a last-ditch playoff push”

    Uhhhhhh……..

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