Batter’s Box: That’ll Do, Puig
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
I don’t remember a player bursting onto the scene with as much fanfare as Yasiel Puig did in his 2013 rookie season. Maybe it was the fact that he was playing in a big market like Los Angeles. Or maybe it was the fact that he hit .436 with seven home runs in his first month in the majors. Or maybe people were drawn to his rambunctious personality and the fact that he seemed crazy enough to do things like get into physical altercations with a man-golem like Madison Bumgarner. Whatever the reason, the hype on Puig after that first year was out of control, and it seemed like the sky was the limit for him.
Flash forward to 2018, and Puig’s career has been something of a salsa dance; he’s taken a couple steps back and a couple steps forward, and now he seems to be in the same place he was when he started. Yesterday’s 3-4, 2 R, 2B performance pulled his triple slash up to .263/.346/.487 which matches his xStats triple slash. There are a couple of encouraging signs though. For one, his groundball rate is at a career-low 40%, a huge improvement over his career 48.4% rate which has been a big culprit in the inconsistent power numbers he’s posted to this point. His whiff rate (10.1%) and contact rate (78.3%) are also at career-high levels, and he’s primarily hitting the ball up the middle after focusing on pulling the ball in years past. These are all great signs for Puig’s batting average, especially after two straight seasons of hitting just .263. I’m not sure that Puig will ever become the player we were dreaming on back in 2013, but if he can lift his average to .280 while chipping in around 20 homers and mid-teens stolen bases, that’s still a top outfielder.
David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 4-5, R, 2B, 3 RBI – Peralta has been on fire lately, hitting .367 with 3 homers over the past week. He’s making 47% hard contact this season, a huge spike from his 34% career rate, and though his contact rates have suffered for it, he’s still managing a solid .276 average and has 11 homers to show for it.
Nick Ahmed (SS, Arizona Diamondbacks): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI – Never trust a man with two first names. It’s a motto that has served me well over the years, though it has made enjoying Marc Anthony and Paul Simon’s music very difficult. Ahmed has upped his launch angle this year, and is pairing it with a career-high 34% hard contact rate. His nine homers this season match his career-high, which he set in 2015 in 281 more plate appearances.
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics): 3-3, BB – Matt Chapman is a middle name away from having an excellent serial killer name. I mean, Matt David Chapman. Tell me that doesn’t send shivers down your spine. Chapman has an absurd 45% hard contact rate this year, and is making more contact and whiffing less than league average. If he keeps this up, his .244 average is sure to improve.
Charlie Culberson (SS/OF, Atlanta Braves): 3-4, RBI – Fun fact: Charlie Culberson is the alter-ego of Dansby Swanson, and an elaborate ruse by the Atlanta Braves to let Swanson get at least eight at-bats per game. Oh, you think I’m kidding. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. I rest my case, your honor.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks): 3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB – When will we learn not to panic about slow starts from elite players? WHEN WILL WE LEARN? Goldschmidt is now slashing .390/.471/.881 over his last 15 games with seven home runs. I think it’s time for the fantasy community, hat in hand, to apologize to Goldschmidt and grovel at his feet. I said grovel! That means no eye contact!
Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies): 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI – Story is hitting .291 over the past month with seven homers, and is striking out in less than a quarter of his at-bats over that time. Generally known for being a guy who struggles to make contact, his contact and whiff rates are league average this season, and he’s pairing that with a 45% hard contact rate and hitting 48% flyballs, which is going to lead to lots of good things in Coors Field.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Aguilar is now hitting .297 with 11 homers this year in just 56 games. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Brewers approach playing time once Eric Thames, who’s currently on a rehab assignment, returns, but Aguilar has shown the upside of a top first baseman.
Mallex Smith (OF, Tampa Bay Rays): 3-4, 2 R, 3B, RBI – Smith has been a pleasant surprise this year, with 11 stolen bases and a .281 average on the season. That said, he has not been running lately, and has just three steals over his last 30 games, which is a problem for a guy with no other standout tool.
Nick Hundley (C, San Francisco Giants): 2-5, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI – Boy, the internet is a thing of beauty. You start by googling “Nick Hundley” and by the end of your search engine journey you’re staring at this picture of Lou Pinella. Hundley should soak up more at-bats with Buster Posey shifting to first base every now and then while Brandon Belt is on the shelf. But there isn’t much to see here.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves): 2-5, 3 R, 2B, SB – Charlie Culberson, I mean, er, Dansby Swanson has been heating up again over the past week, hitting .321 with two homers. He’ll likely never give owners more than mid-teens power and steals, but he’s a solid all-around contributor.
Leonys Martin (OF, Detroit Tigers): 1-5, R, BB, 2 SB – His xStats triple slash of .260/.327/.469 is an almost identical match of what he’s slashed this year, and supports the surprising power outburst, as he’s up to 8 homers already and has an 8.4 xHR. That’s all gravy, because you likely drafted Martin hoping for around 30 steals, and despite some recent hamstring issues he’s now stolen three bases in the past week. I’ll continue to scream it from the rooftops: pick up Leonys Martin.
Rhys Hoskins (1B, Philadelphia Phillies): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – Rhys was in pieces, but now he’s back and hitting like a Baby Ruth, cranking homers into the Milky Way. This blurb has been brought to you by the candy bar lobby. Hoskins will look to improve upon his slow start to the season from this point forward, and will need to improve on his pedestrian 33% hard contact rate in order to do so.
D.J. LeMahieu (2B, Colorado Rockies): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI – There’s been a lot of talk about LeMahieu’s power this year, but I don’t think I’m buying mid-teens homers from a guy who makes league average hard contact and hits the ball on the ground over half the time. Also, a guy with a name as adorable as “D.J. LeMahieu” has no business being a slugger.
Didi Gregorius (SS, New York Yankees): 3-4 – It’s been a rough month for the Gregorius D.I.Di, as he’s hitting just .176 over his last 30 games. However, he has chipped in six stolen bases over that time period. To put that into perspective, his previous career-high in stolen bases was seven. Over a whole year.
Ryan Braun (1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers): 2-4, 3 R, 3B, RBI – I refer to Braun by the nickname “DTD” because he’s perpetually injured, even when he’s healthy. Braun is still a useful player, but many of his peripherals have been slowly declining for years now. That said, with eight homers and six steals, he’s plenty rosterable as long as he’s healthy.