Batter’s Box: Slam Francisco Treat
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
It was a slow day in baseball yesterday, with just four games transpiring, so let’s take some time to talk about Francisco Mejia, who went 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Mejia was the top catching prospect in baseball entering the year, though fantasy-wise his prospect status seemed to be dimmed by an unimpressive 14 plate appearances with the Cleveland Indians last season, and the fact that he lost catcher eligibility in some formats over the offseason. Yes, it was just 14 plate appearances, and yes, he seemed destined to get that catcher eligibility back once he was recalled this year, but us fantasy owners are nothing if not reactionary and insane.
Well Mejia’s back now, and ready to turn over a new leaf in San Diego. His excellent contact ability has helped him keep his whiff rates in the mid-teens throughout the minor leagues, which has helped him hit .336, .304, and .293 the past three seasons. The power has been a bit all over the map, in part due to inflated groundball rates that hovered around 40%, but he pulls the ball a good amount, which should help him make the most of the power he does have. The infield flyballs are a bit concerning, as he regularly posted rates above 20% throughout the minors, which is more than double the league average. He’s also likely set to split catcher duties with Austin Hedges for the rest of the season; as the wise and sage-like Dave Cherman mentioned recently, Hedges is batting .276 with nine homers since the start of July. In keeper formats, Mejia should be stashed though, as his ceiling is that of a top-5 catcher who could hit around .280 with 20 homers over a full season.
Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians): 4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI – If Francisco Mejia ever asked Francisco Lindor to marry him, they’d both be Francisco Mejia. Sorry, that has nothing to do with baseball, or anything really. Lindor has matched the 33 homers he hit last year in 21 fewer games, and he’s boosted his line drive rate to 23% and his hard contact rate to 42% this year, resulting in a higher batting average to boot. At 24 years old he keeps getting better.
Jason Kipnis (2B, Cleveland Indians): 1-5, R, HR, 3 RBI – Kipnis has been solid over the past month, hitting .277 with five homers and three steals while striking out just 16% of the time. He may find his playing time diminish once Josh Donaldson is back next week, which will push Jose Ramirez to second base and Kipnis into a utility role.
Spencer Kieboom (C, Washington Nationals): 3-3, R – Kieboom really lived up to his name in this game. Although actually, it was three singles, so maybe this was a performance more appropriate for a “Spencer Patoot” or a “Spencer Boop.” Matt Wieters and Pedro Severino are still ahead of Kieboom on the catching depth chart, so there’s nothing to see here.
Jose Peraza (2B, Cincinnati Reds): 3-4 – Regarded as a stolen base asset, Peraza ranks 67th in sprint speed this year and has just 20 stolen bases. He’s batting .288 with 10 homers though, so as long as he’s producing value elsewhere it’s hard to really complain. But I’ll complain anyway, because it doesn’t seem that we’ll ever see the 50 stolen base upside he flashed as a prospect.
Rowdy Tellez (1B, Toronto Blue Jays): 3-4, R, 3 2B, RBI – The Jays prospect went off yesterday, and now has four doubles in the first two games of his major league career. Known for his contact ability and moderate power, Tellez likely won’t have a shot at full-time at-bats until 2019, as he’s currently blocked by both Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales.
Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals): 2-5, 2B – Though I think he’ll likely lose out to Ronald Acuna in the Rookie of the Year voting, let’s reflect on the insane season that the 19-year-old Soto is having right now. If he qualified, his 17% walk rate would rank fourth in all of baseball, behind Bryce Harper, and he’s currently hitting .300 with 16 homers on the season. I see a handful of reasons for skepticism next year, including the fact that he’s currently benefiting from a .362 BABIP, and that he’s posting a 53% groundball rate and lackluster 34.1% hard contact rate. But, again, he’s 19 and will continue to grow and improve. Unlike me, who has done nothing but sit in front of a computer thinking about fantasy baseball for the past 10 years.
Nick Markakis (OF, Atlanta Braves): 4-5, 2 RBI – August was disappointing by Markakis’ standards, as he hit just .259, dropping his batting average to .309 on the year, which only ranks him eighth in all of baseball in the category. His 11.1% strikeout rate is at a five-year low, and at 34 he seems to be improving with age.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks): 3-5, 3 R, HR – Goldschmidt has been white hot for awhile now, hitting .333 with 11 homers in the second half. The fact that he’s only stolen five bases likely drops him out of contention for being a first-round pick next season. However, it has made the neck-and-neck race between him and Zack Greinke (3 SB) for who can steal the most bases super intense, which I’m all for. Should Goldschmidt lose, it will be an albatross he carries with him until his dying days.
Nick Ahmed (SS, Arizona Diamondbacks): 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI – I think a lot of people are quick to write off Ahmed’s 16 homers this year, especially since he’s hit just two over the last month. However, he’s cut his groundball rate from 47.7% to 39.9% this year, and is making more hard contact than he ever has with a 38.9% rate. The .243 average obviously hurts, but based on his 19.1% strikeout rate and .271 BABIP, I think he’s been getting a bit unlucky in the area this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s a .260 hitter who pops 20 homers next season, which I think is a line that plays at shortstop.