(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)
Yasiel Puig (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) went berserk on Saturday, piling up 7 RBI on 3 home runs. In the last two days, he’s 6/10 with 5 runs, 5 HR, and 9 RBI. He’s basically handing out fantasy championships to his owners and causing irreversible heartbreak to those who left him on the bench.
He’s had a really interesting career in many respects due to the potential in his bat and the almost reckless way he plays the game on one of the most visible teams in baseball. He’s also been a very polarizing fantasy player who has been seen as an early round pick one year then as an afterthought the next. Beneath all of that hype, hate, and debate, though, is a very good baseball player. He currently ranks as the 30th OF on ESPN’s player rater for standard 5×5 leagues thanks to his 21 HR, 15 SB, and .271 AVG over 113 games. Granted, much of that is due to the impossible success he’s had over the last two days, but it’s certainly no accident — the Statcast data backs up his overall output (.274 xAVG, .491 xSLG).
While there’s little you can do about Puig’s monster weekend in redraft formats, he’s someone to keep an eye on for next year in daily formats. 150 games simply isn’t going to happen (and I wouldn’t bet on 140, either), but the career .280/.354/.480 hitter will provide fantasy goodness for your squad in 2019, and there’s a decent bet that he can be drafted outside of the top 40 OF or acquired for a bargain as soon as people forget about this weekend (probably in the offseason). He likely has at least 1 more year with the Dodgers (Puig is arbitration eligible), but after that, he’ll hit free agency prior to turning 30, so he won’t have to worry about the outfield crowding for too long. Keep an eye on him and his ADP this offseason.
Cody Bellinger (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – 3-5, 3 R, HR, 6 RBI, BB. He’s been a bit of a disappointment to those who took him in the 2nd round of drafts back in March, but he rewarded those who remained patient last night with his clutch fantasy playoff performance. The uptick in groundball rate and infield fly rate is troubling enough to push him outside the top 20 for me, but due to the lack of elite 1B options in fantasy, he should still be in the top 5-7 1B conversation next season.
Alex Gordon (OF, Kansas City Royals) – 3-5, 2 2B, 5 RBI. Dude, just stop it. One more swiped bag gives him his best total since 2011 and 2 more RBI give him his best totals since 2014. He’s also posting the bets hard hit rate of his career. He’s available in over 90% of ESPN leagues and has a 107 wRC+ against righties this season, so he might be worth that 5th OF spot in daily formats for those in dire need of offense in their late season push or playoffs.
Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Talk about consistency. In each of the last 3 seasons, he’s hitting between 22-24 HR, scoring 53-66 runs, driving in 55-68 RBI (currently at 53), and batting .238-.247 in 122-132 games. Those are some pretty tight numbers, and it’s likely to repeat itself in 2019. For a guy who will still go VERY late in drafts, that’s a nice little player. The drop in strikeout rate (~30% to 25.7% this season) also bodes well for his batting average and gives him a better chance to stay in the lineup.
Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem) – 2-3, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Fun trivia question for a slow day at the bar – ask people to name all professional sports teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB with names that do NOT end with an “s”. Everyone always misses the Angels of Anaheim. Oh yeah, and Mike Trout is really good.
Justin Upton (OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem) – 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Don’t mind him — just another 30 HR season in the works with a decent batting average, strong OBP, and plenty of counting stats. Let everyone keep sleeping on the guy due to his hot and cold tendencies — he’s a lock for 30 HR and 160+ R+RBI.
Robinson Chirinos (C, Texas Rangers) – 1-3, R, 2B, 3 RBI. This is your regular reminder that the catcher position i awful for fantasy. Chirinos is a top 10 catcher. One of the more dependable ones, actually. Yuck.
At 1B I think you either need an elite guy or just take whatever falls. A guy like Bellinger can be replaced on the waiver wire if you are actively looking… imagine some combination of Mitch Moreland in the first half and Tyler White in the second for free. Settling with a guy like him actually hurts in that you are not looking to upgrade… just waiting for the big turnaround and in all likelihood overvaluing the good games.
That’d be ideal, theKraken, but a lot easier said than done. I think in 10-12 team redraft this is a more palatable strategy for 1B, but will require quite a bit of managing and speculating to ensure you get your guy first, as well as some luck. The more important point, however, is focusing on the lack of depth at 1B — a position that as recently as 5 years ago was absolutely stacked. After Goldschmidt, Freeman, Rizzo, and Carpenter, who’s left? Encarnacion will be 36 years old, Bellinger and Votto are coming off of disappointing seasons, and Hoskins will no longer be eligible at 1B. Do you bank on Aguilar repeating his outrageous hot streak? Do you believe in Ian Desmond? It gets ugly in a hurry.
I think Grichuk is a great example of what that kind of production means in 2018. Lots of guys are essentially Grichuck and are top 100 bats, but that type of production is pretty readily available – low BA, 25 as either a FA or trade throw-in.