Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire
Jake Bauers sounds like an alias Jack Bauer from the show 24 might use if he were really bad at coming up with aliases (dude, the whole idea is to make it NOT sound like your real name). They have a lot in common though, Bauers and Bauer, or at least as much as a baseball player a fictional super agent can. They’re both incredibly disciplined (Bauers draws walks, Bauer doesn’t go on torture sprees), they have great eyes (Bauers doesn’t chase pitches, Bauer can take out an entire platoon with one sniper rifle bullet), and they’re both here to save the world/your fantasy team.
After his 2-5, 4 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB performance yesterday, I think it’s time to start paying attention to Bauers. He’s been on fire this past week, slashing .393/.485/.893 with three homers and more walks than strikeouts. And that’s a big part of what makes him so appealing: his plate discipline. Were he qualified, his 15.4% walk rate would have him ranked eighth in baseball in the category, sandwiched between Aaron Judge and Justin Smoak. And not only does he know when to swing, but when he does he puts a charge into the ball; his 49.5% hard contact rate would rank fifth-best in baseball. Sure, it’s a small sample, but 149 plate appearances isn’t that insignificant. I think Bauers could be primed for a big second half, and between his elite plate approach, high hard contact rates, and the 20 stolen base upside he flashed throughout the minors, there’s a lot of upside here.
Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets): 1-3, HR, 3 RBI, BB – Boy has it been a rough year for Conforto, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon. Even with yesterday’s big performance, he’s batting just .170 over his last 15 games. Between the sharp plummet in hard contact, from 41.6% to 32.8%, and the big increase in groundballs, there’s a lot to be concerned about here.
Adam Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals): 3-4, 2 R – Eaton is giving you batting average this year but… that’s about it. With just two homers and two steals so far in 140 plate appearances, I’m sure most owners are losing patience. Sure, he may still be dealing with the lingering effects of his lower body injuries, but that doesn’t really reflect itself in the peripherals. He’s posting career highs in hard contact (39.8%) and line drive rate (27.7%), and his whiff and contact rates are both above average. Maybe temper your stolen bases expectations, but keep the faith that the power will come around.
Jordan Luplow (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates): 2-4, 2 HR – Luplow was having himself a pretty nice year in AAA this season, hitting .297 with eight homers and seven steals before his call-up. Still, the Pittsburgh outfield is crowded enough as it is, so at-bats will be hard to come by.
Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates): 3-8, 3 R, 2 HR – Starlings are a type of bird that are considered boisterous, loud, and annoying. I think I know what kind of baby Mr. Marte must have been. He doesn’t get talked about much, but Marte is currently on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .283 with 13 homers and 24 steals on the season despite missing time with oblique injuries.
Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates): 2-7, 2 HR, BB – Gregory Polanco has to be one of the most frustrating players to own in fantasy baseball. There is literally no way of predicting what kind of numbers he’ll post in any given year, and his hot streaks and cold spells are the stuff of legend. After likely being dropped in shallow leagues early in the year, when he struggled horribly for two months, he’s turned it around since the calendar flipped to June, and is slashing .297/.398/.648 over his last 30 games with eight homers. His walk and strikeout rates have both nearly doubled since last season, but he’s no longer stealing bases. Yet he’s suddenly hitting for power? I’m giving myself heart palpitations just thinking about Polanco. I give up.
Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins): 3-5, R, 2 RBI – Rosario has looked significantly more human so far in July, but that’s to be expected after his posted wOBAs of .424 and .448 in May and June. His plate discipline isn’t spectacular, but he wouldn’t be the first player to find a way to make that work.
Mallex Smith (OF, Tampa Bay Rays): 3-4, 3 R, RBI, BB – Mallex has hit .321 over the past month with five stolen bases, but the rest of the counting stats have just not been there for him this season thanks in large part to the fact that he frequently bats towards the bottom of the lineup. Given that his speed is his only standout tool, expect his upside to continue to be capped unless he moves up higher in the lineup.
Jorge Bonifacio (OF, Kansas City Royals): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI – Since being reinstated from his PED suspension, Bonifacio has slashed .306/.358/.510. So, is it bonafide? I don’t think so. Bonifacio had fringe 20-homer power even when he was injecting himself with Captain America juice, and his strikeout rates don’t hint at any batting average upside. He’s super Bonifacio.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI – Bogaerts has already matched his RBI total from last season in 70 fewer games. That’s impressive enough in its own right, but he’s also pacing towards his best season in terms of power output thanks in large part to an increased launch angle and significantly more hard contact. Could this be the year he reaches the 30-homer plateau that the legends foretold of?
Matt Carpenter (1B/2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-4, HR – Um, excuse me Mr. Carpenter but… could you not? The Carpenter vs. Muncy wager I made with Dave Cherman should be a runaway victory at this point but Matt Carpenter will. not. die. Here’s the thing though: even with good BABIPs over the last few years, Carpenter hasn’t managed to hit above .272 since 2013. I don’t see that changing this year, and without any stolen bases, he’d essentially need to get to 30+ homers to have real value in standard leagues. I just don’t think there’s anything that special about Matt Carpenter.
Jose Peraza (SS, Cincinnati Reds): 5-6, R, 2 RBI – Peraza has really kicked it into another gear over the past month, hitting .339 with three homers and eight steals over his past 30 games. A bump in line drive rate and hard contact seems to be helping more of his batted balls fall for hits, and his 11% strikeout rate and 6.3% whiff rate are ensuring there are plenty of batted balls to go around.
Javier Baez (2B, Chicago Cubs): 2-5, HR, 5 RBI – Very good, Baez, get all your big offensive performances out before the break, because I made a bet that you were going to disappoint in the second half this year and daddy needs a new pair of shoes. It’s not that I think Baez is bad, but the plate discipline gives him such a small margin for error. A 3.7% walk rate, 47% chase rate, 18.2% whiff rate (!!!), and 69% contact rate are not the numbers that a successful major leaguers posts.
Ian Happ (OF, Chicago Cubs): 2-4, 3 R, HR, BB – I think I owe Mr. Happ an apology. Earlier in the year I said he’d never survive with a strikeout rate about 35%, and that he’d be living under a bridge by season’s end, eating whatever food people threw out their windows as they drove by overhead. Over his past 30 games he’s gone on to hit .293, and in July he’s dropped his strikeout rate over 10 percentage points, to a very impressive 23.1%. It’s also worth noting, however, that he’s hit just three homers since the beginning of June, which makes me wonder if he’s sacrificing a lot of his power in order to make that increased contact.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians): 1-3, 2 R, HR, BB – Sometimes with Jose Ramirez I feel like I’m recapping the performances of my create-a-player from The Show 18, Tiger Mantooth, who has 80-grade power, speed, and contact ability, and can throw a perfect game five times a week. I don’t know what to say anymore, Jose Ramirez is not of this world.
Didi Gregorius (SS, New York Yankees): 2-3, HR, 3 RBI, BB – Gregorius eclipsed 20 homers the past two years despite posting incredibly low hard contact rates (24.5%, 23.1%). Naturally everybody said to themselves, well that was fun, but we shouldn’t expect lightning to strike three times. Except now Gregorius has boosted his hard contact all the way up to 36%, and nobody knows what to think anymore. Is this was living in the post-truth era feels like?