Batter’s Box: That Sounds Like a Lob For Me, Ender

Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves) just keeps on hitting. Since his recall on July 18, he has three home runs and four stolen bases with an eye-popping .408 OBP, including Sunday’s excellent performance (2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, SB, BB). His stellar defense has allowed him to reclaim the starting center field gig in Atlanta, and while he generally hits in the bottom of the order, those looking for batting average and speed should pick him up while he’s still available in most leagues.

Inciarte represents the kind of late-season resurgence that I think gets lost in the shuffle when looking at full-season statistics. Inciarte was drafted in many formats because of his strong 2018 campaign and his ability to provide modest pop along with strong speed and ratios. While some cautioned a downturn because of his likely move to the bottom third of the order (which definitely happened and has hurt his stats), most felt there was still enough there. Unfortunately for Inciarte, he struggled with poor performance after the calendar flipped to May and then ultimately went down with an injury. While that would be bad enough on its own, the young Austin Riley exploded on to the scene at approximately the same time that Inciarte struggled. Within the course of a few weeks, Inciarte went from decent starting outfielder to suddenly a fantasy afterthought in all formats.

Thankfully for Inciarte, he’s been able to reverse his fortune to some degree with an opportunity that arose from, well, exactly what happened to him. Riley slowed down significantly as more pitchers took advantage of the holes in his swing, and then he got hurt. Cue Inciarte, who plays elite defense in center field that allows Ronald Acuna Jr. to move to his stronger defensive position in the corners (he’s not a bad center fielder, he’s just a better corner outfielder).

Inciarte, as I mentioned earlier, is a strong add in most leagues for those who need speed. More importantly though, his 2019 journey highlights the importance of context and narrative. While many narratives that get presented are fairly bogus, there is still value in trying to remember them while preparing for next year’s drafts. It’s actually fairly difficult to find news beyond injuries when trying to understand what happened in a prior season, and while injuries played a role in Inciarte’s story so far, there’s much more to it. Those who can recall these narratives in the winter and spring are a step ahead of those trying to piece the stories together from box scores.

Starlin Castro (2B, Miami Marlins)⁠—4-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI. Castro is 13-for-25 with three doubles and two home runs in his past five games with eight RBI. He continues to be a steady contributor of batting average in deeper leagues, though that’s really all he can contribute apart from fairly consistent playing time.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—4-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB. It took 116 games, but he finally stole his first base. His double-digit stolen base days are behind him, but the power is still there. While his first half batting average of .254 was disappointing, he’s hit .288 since the All-Star break.

Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—4-5, 2 R. He’s well on his way to setting new career highs in everything except for stolen bases and will almost certainly have his third consecutive season with a batting average above .300. He was continually called an underrated player throughout the draft season, but I am guessing that he won’t be underrated in 2020.

Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)—3-3, 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. The two blasts from Sunday raised his home run total to 35 thanks to six home runs in his past six games. His monstrous power comes with a very manageable .259 batting average and respectable .344 OBP, which helps him avoid the massive slumps that are common among many hitters who swing for the fences.

Jonathon Villar (2B, Baltimore Orioles)—3-4, R, 2 SB, BB. This will be his third season in the past four years with at least 14 home runs and 35 stolen bases with a .260 batting average. That big-time let down in 2017 still leaves a sour taste in people’s mouths, but it shouldn’t scare you. He’s done a fine job keeping his strikeout rate down despite a fairly aggressive approach and has steadily improved his contact numbers for the past two seasons.

Cesar Hernandez (2B, Philadelphia Phillies)—3-4, R, 2 RBI, BB. The Cesar Hernandez truthers out there have mostly gone silent because of his quiet season so far, and he’s only going to barely clear double-digits in home runs and steals. He has drastically changed his approach at the plate this season, swinging much more at pitches outside of the zone (and making more contact with those pitches, which rarely results in quality contact). While he’s striking out in just 13.8% of his plate appearances, he’s walking in just 5.4% of them (down from a 13.4% walk rate last season). It’s hard to envision him re-creating his 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases from 2018 or his high OBP from 2017 or 2018 with his current approach.

Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He went more than a month without a single home run, but the power outage is officially over after Sunday’s dinger duo. The prolonged home run drought likely ended any aspirations of 40 home runs, but he should clear 35 by season’s end and his strong batting average and OBP makes him a top-five first baseman for the rest of the season and for 2020.

Justin Turner (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. The strikeout rate has climbed up to its pre-2017 levels, which has dropped his batting average into the high-.280s. Because he has average power and doesn’t collect more than his fair share of counting stats, he’s more of a niche corner infielder than a locked-in third baseman in 10- and 12-team leagues. Where he truly excels is against lefties and is often a strong play in DFS formats in those matchups.

Asdrubal Cabrera (1B/2B/3B, Washington Nationals)—2-4, 2B, 2 RBI. While the change of scenery appears to have opened the door to some extra playing time, it likely won’t do much to change what he can do for your fantasy team, which is provide largely empty batting average and some flexibility. That has some boring value in deep leagues and NL-only formats, but that’s about it.

Delino DeShields (OF, Texas Rangers)—0-4, 4 K. Sure, he’ll probably have 20 stolen bases by the end of the season, but let’s get one thing clear: You should absolutely not draft him in really any mixed league in 2020. Every spring, I hear someone start pushing the story that DeShields, who will probably somehow get called the leadoff man for the Rangers again, is a “sneaky” pick in drafts. Folks will ooh and aah when he’s drafted and cite his double-digit walk rate and rave about how he has 30-stolen base upside. THEY’RE WRONG. This guy is just an average ball player who is not really good enough to hold down a starting gig for any team. He won’t start more than 120 games, and even that’s a stretch. Is this a rant? Yes. Is it necessary? No. Is it important? YES IT IS BECAUSE THIS SAME MOVIE KEEPS GETTING REMADE LIKE IT’S SOMETHING NEW EVERY DARN SPRING.

(Photo by Andy Lewis/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


Scott Chu

I can do my best on that. I still think Trout is the #1 overall redraft player, but how long he holds that title is now a real question. Is 2020 the last year?

theKraken

Ender hurts more often than he helps – the good news is that his production comes in bunches. If you can hope to roster him while he is hot, then good for you but you never want to count on him as a starter. He seems like exactly the same guy he has been for year to me. I imagine his historic splits bear this out.

I thought Rendon was always overrated. When everyone always calls a guy underrated, he probably isn’t and I always thought that was the case. This is the first year where he is actually the guy people were hoping for IMO. That said, he is on another level this year. I imagine he will be drafted appropriately next year as the age should counter out the excessive hype which has always followed him. He is an interesting case for sure. Ultimately I think he is a bit undervalued because so many people have overpaid at some point and don’t want to do it again, but he has also been a bit of a late bloomer…. hes weird.

What is a Cesar Hernandez truther? I have never heard anyone talk about him lol.

There won’t be a more interesting player to argue about in the offseason than Josh Bell. A big finish to the season will go a long ways in determining his 2020 value but that isn’t a given. I disagree that he is a clear top 5 1B going forward. He might be, but that is a pretty high bar especially this year. Long-term you have to like his age, but production isn’t a given.

Lol Delino Jr. I agree that every year someone starts pushing for him. He is not an average player. He would hold a job down if he was.

Scott Chu

Cesar Hernandez was one of the “underrated” guys you talked about, Kraken. Deep in the bowels of the fantasy scene, he was called a solid target at 2B you could wait for (though it was largely in the 15-team context like NFBC-he was more of a MI target in 12-teamers), in large part due to the power/speed combo and ratios. He made great strides last season, actually, though they all went the wrong way this season.

With stolen bases being so tough to come by, Ender was a legit starting OF last season. What’s important about Ender is less him than the concept of remembering narratives. Sure, his final line will look normal, but the context is important.

Scott Chu

I can get that hesitation, OW, but if he does miss it, he won’t miss it by more than 2 or 3. The real point here is just how valuable he has been in 3 of 4 seasons.

Swfcdan

About time the Chu-chu train is back. Either your guy Chatterton doesn’t like me or he just doesn’t bother responding to comments!

Keeper league looking at next year. Big fan of Voit ($10) but had to trade him away earlier this season (looong story). Would you trade Neris ($3) for him? Both could be kept at +$3 next year, but the kicker is that we’ll be making the saves cat SV+1/2HLDs next year (Fantrax special) so Neris loses some keeper value, plus it’s an OBP league which really helps Voit!

Finally what would you do as a Garver owner? He kills it but plays half the games at best, which bizarrely seems to be receding more lately. Added D’Arnaud’s heater to plug in but seems to be cooling now. Should I just stick Garver in there every night, or play him one night and D’Arnaud the other? It’s a pain but at least I’m getting better than average production from C, and I could even keep Garver for $6 next year- keeping a catcher!?

Scott Chu

Glad to be back, even though I’m on vacation. I think the one advantage I have over my colleague is that I write during the week, so comments that come in are a pleasant distraction from my day job as opposed to something I can’t get to due to weekend plans (not that I actually have those).

I would definitely go get Voit for Neris if I could. Hard to put much value in late inning relievers from year to year as their roles can be gained and lost quickly.

Depends on the format for Garver, but he’s not a keeper. I’d keep looking for streamers from Dave’s weekly piece and/or platooning him. He’s not quite good enough to set and forget.

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