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)