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Batter’s Box: The Adventures of Pete & Pete

Scott Chu reviews his favorite batting lines from Tuesday's games.

There are two versions of Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets) that we need to discuss, from a fantasy baseball perspective. The first one is the Alonso we’ve seen through 301 plate appearances, including last night’s 4-4 performance with three runs, a home run, two doubles, three RBI, and two walks. He’s the No. 31 overall hitter on ESPN’s Player Rater and is currently on pace for 53 home runs and 126 RBI and is second in baseball in home runs with 24. Not too shabby for a guy who was drafted after pick 200 in most leagues, right? His barrel rate of 18.6% shows that he’s had no trouble catching up to major league pitching, and his 9% walk rate and reasonable 25.9% strikeout rate have quelled fears that he’d be too strikeout-prone to be a top-10 first basemen this season. Whatever you did to acquire Alonso this offseason has been well worth it, and because he’s only 24 years old, you’d think that there’s a room to grow from here.

That’s where the other version of Pete comes inthe Pete we should be planning for on our fantasy rosters for the rest of the season. This isn’t some kind of bold prediction or identification of a flaw or weak point that I expect to be exploited. It’s simply hedging a bet that has already paid off 10-fold. In the leagues where I happen to own Alonso, I’m preparing for precipitous drops in batting average and OBP with an uptick in strikeouts by making sure I have other players on my roster who can boost me in these categories. His swinging-strike rate of 11.6% is actually quite promising for the young slugger, and his expected batting average of .268 indicates that his current .274 batting average isn’t the product of smoke and mirrors. That being said, we have seen time and time again where players go through adjustment periods after initial success. Because Alonso’s fantasy value is derived solely from his ability to make hard contact (he won’t be stealing multiple bases for you any time soon, and while his plate discipline is good, he’s not exactly Joey Votto), a major shift in how opposing pitchers approach him could really hamper his ability to generate fantasy value. Sure, this is technically true of any player, but young players are especially prone to this kind of shift because opposing teams are getting more and more new data with each passing game. For example, there’s no way that teams haven’t taken notice of Alonso’s 189 wRC+ against fastballs this season or the 19.4% swinging-strike rate and 40% chase rate against sliders. As more and more of this data reaches a meaningful sample size, we can expect opposing pitchers to force Alonso to adjust.

I’m not saying Alonso won’t be able to adjust—I actually believe the opposite is true; however, just because I believe in Alonso doesn’t mean I’m not keeping an eye on the standings in each category to ensure that I’ll be able to survive a prolonged slump from the power-hitting rookie. Most projections see Alonso hitting close to .250 the rest of the season and slugging .500 (a pretty significant drop from his current .624 slugging percentage). Use those numbers to chart your course to your fantasy championship—not what he’s on pace for. Those rest-of-season projections were made by some very, VERY smart people, and while they may be a tad conservative based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s quite a bit of value in treading carefully with young hitters.

Jake Bauers (1B/OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. That’s three multi-hit games in a row for the left-handed outfielder as well as his fourth home run in June. He’s been a pretty significant disappointment so far this season for those who drafted him hoping for some speed and power, but his .302/.339/.623 slash line in June indicates he may finally be getting over his early season issues. The walks and steals aren’t quite there yet, but if he keeps hitting, they should come.

Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB, SB. McNeil is really difficult to get a read on in roto and head-to-head category formats because of his very limited power and speed, but the strong and consistent batting average from the leadoff spot combined with his multiposition eligibility should continue to give him value in 12-team formats.

Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. He’s doing a better job getting the ball off of the ground than he did last season, which helps him tap into his power much more effectively. He stands out from most of the run-of-the-mill because his stellar walk rate, though in leagues that only utilize batting average, he may be a bit overrated.

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, 3 R, 3B, BB, 2 SB. I keep writing him up because he keeps performing. He’s owned in just 33% of Yahoo leagues and 11% of ESPN leagues, which strikes me as odd because I know that more people need speed than that. His Triple-A numbers suggest that he can improve upon his 5.1% walk rate, which would certainly help with his batting average and OBP floors. As the Indians offense continues to heat up, he could find himself in the fourth or fifth outfielder conversation in 12-team formats even for folks who don’t necessarily need steals.

Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox)—2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. The breakout is still going strong for Jimenez, who boosted his June batting line to .340/.400/.760 with six home runs and 14 RBI in 14 games. The thing that really sets Jimenez apart is his bat control, evidenced by the fact that he hit well over .300 in virtually every stop in the minor leagues. He could very well hit .280 or better for the rest of the season and be an outfield staple in all formats.

Nick Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers)—1-2, 2 R, 2B, RBI, 2 BB, SB. For the past three years, Castellanos has done an excellent job punching baseballs into the spacious Comerica Park outfield for doubles and triples (he’s faster than most people think, though stolen bases aren’t usually part of his game). In years past, line drives have really fueled his success, but we’ve seen a big chunk of those line drives turn into fly balls this season. These fly balls aren’t exactly being scorched, either. Fly balls have a much lower batting average than other batted-ball types, and line drives have the best average, so this change is likely a big part of the batting average woes. You can actually see this a little in his drop in barrel rate and exit velocity as well. He’ll be bandied about as trade bait from now until the deadline, though quite honestly, a trade is unlikely to boost his value by very much as few teams need a guy like him in the heart of the order.

Carlos Santana (1B/3B, Cleveland Indians)—0-2, R, 3 BB, SB. This is why we like walks in fantasy—even in non-OBP formats. Getting on base means getting chances to produce fantasy value. Guys such as Santana can have zero hits and still be useful.

Ramon Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics)—4-5, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. He’s still only owned in about a third of leagues, but that number is bound to shoot up in the near future. He’s been promoted to the fifth spot in the order for the past two games, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue to find spots in the top half of the lineup going forward thanks to his eight home runs, five stolen bases, and .892 OPS over the past month. He’s certainly in the starting outfield conversation in most formats and is worth scooping up before your league mates notice.

Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. He now has six home runs in his past 12 games, but what’s even more impressive is the 11 walks and just seven strikeouts in that same span. He’s improved in virtually every quality of contact metric Statcast has to offer, and in many cases, he’s improved by a significant margin. He’s finally become the Max Kepler that we all wanted him to be for the past three seasons.

Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals)—3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI. He’s who I consider to be the best second baseman in fantasy. The steals are down a bit from last season, but he’s offsetting that by hitting for considerably more power and racking up more runs and RBI, so I can deal with it. He should still get to 30 steals or so when all is said and done, which will pair nicely with his .300-plus batting average and 15 to 20 home runs. He’s a top 20 overall hitter and will be drafted as such for the next few seasons.

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

  • Colin says:

    Debating between Mercado and Laureano for my 5th OF slot in my points league. Any preference between the two?

    • Scott Chu says:

      That’s a tough one. I like Mercado’s place in the 2 spot as it gives him more PA, and more PA means more points. That said, Laureano’s power means a better chance to score more points per PA. Gimme Laureano for now.

  • Derek says:

    Why do you think a trade wouldn’t help Castellanos? He’s in a pitchers park with no protection. Even hitting sixth for a team like StL, Ari, Oak, etc would help take pressure off him, provide him with more counting stats, and a park upgrade (except Oak)

    • Scott Chu says:

      Well Derek, for starters its because Comerica is really a hitters park! The big power alleys and amazing batters eye make it a great place to hit. Check out the Tigers home numbers the last several years and you’ll see it. Also, because I actually think he truly is better off or at least in the same boat hitting 3rd for Detroit than he would be hitting 6/7/8 for a contender. His primary contribution has been RBI, and he won’t get them much in either scenario.

      • Swfcdan says:

        Sorry to butt in but don’t understand why you want hitters in spacious parks. So youd rather him be traded to say Cleveland than Philly? Having a double result than a homer is undesireable, so im not sure what your logic is there. Detriot is a terrible hitters park which saps home runs, which is what we care about in fantasy.

  • AC says:

    Looking to boost production out of my MI slot in 10-team redraft h2h categories (obp instead of avg). Currently using Didi and have been hoping for him to hit his stride off the DL, especially with the RBI opportunities he’ll have in the NYY lineup. (I also have Gennett stashed on my IL, so he could be a consideration in the future). But Lourdes Gurriel has been outstanding over the last month or so – worth chasing the numbers in my format, or stay the course and look toward the season-long upside with Didi?

    • Scott Chu says:

      Good question! Because this is OBP, I’d recommend keeping what you’ve got. Gurriel is hot, but he doesn’t walk much and his floor will be very low in your format. Didi and Scoots have equal ceilings and higher floors.

  • k says:

    When Alonso was going on his cold streak for a bit people said he would have a harder time putting numbers up as pitchers adjusted to him. And now that he adjusts again and is making good contact and putting up numbers, you discredit it again? Man PL’s batting writers are all over the place.

    • Scott Chu says:

      Alonso has done a fine job of adjusting so far this season. He’s still a top 10 1B for me rest of the way. All I’m asking people to do is to be prepared in the event he does have another adjustment period because it’s very possible. A 53 home run pace is difficult to sustain even for veterans, and teams are getting more and more glimpses of possible ways to attack Alonso with every PA he has. The majority of players go through an extended period of decreased production from bad luck and adjustments. Refusing to prepare for that is not a good way to win leagues.

      If you prepare for one and he goes through one, you’ll be fine. If you prepare for one and he doesn’t, you’ll be fine.

  • Blue Jay Way says:

    Scott- do u buy what Ian Desmond has been doing? Or am I better off with so done like Laureano.

    • Scott Chu says:

      Hey BJW! In short, I don’t really buy Desmond. I spoke about it a bit with the great Jon Metzelaar on last week’s “On The Barrel” podcast, but basically I’m not convinced that he’s going to continue to keep the ball off the ground. He’s also seemingly done with stealing bases, which was a huge part of his value. I’d rather have Laureano, personally.

  • Blue Jay Way says:

    Sorry- “someone like”

  • Orange WHIPs says:

    Mercado or Mallex Smith going forward?

    • Scott Chu says:

      Good to see you again, Orange WHIPS. It’s Mallex got me. Mercado is simply the poor man’s version of Mallex. My archnemesis Daniel Port did a great going deep on Mallex Smith that published today that’s worth a read, if you haven’t spotted it already.

  • Swfcdan says:

    Comment you missed yesterday:

    Haha I was about to say “but nothing happened” in comments after seeing the title, but you already covered it good job! Our age groups all played the early Pokemon games, nowadays you look at the games and there’s a million new Pokemon we’ve never even heard of.

    I have a bad feeling about Otani next year, just don’t feel anyone can hit and pitch successful in cohabitation (wrong word context who cares). Maybe he gets drilled on the hand while hitting and suddenly can’t pitch for 6 weeks, maybe he tweaks his shoulder on a swing. So many maybes when you do both, maybe I’m salty I dont own him in my keepers (definately am) but if I was the Angels I’d just let him pitch. He should’ve signed for an NL team so he could just hit when pitching!

    Finally when selling in a keeper which prospects do you tend to target, ones closer or ones with highest upside? Deciding between Kelenic and Luis Robert, leaning Robert because I don’t trust Mariners developing prospects but should that play a part?

    • Scott Chu says:

      Sorry about that! I saw it, but got wrapped up with real life (what a bummer, right?!)

      For Ohtani, I tend to believe that any value he loses from missed PAs while pitching will be gained from, well, pitching! He’s going to be HUGE in daily formats where you can slot him in against righties as part of the Trout/Ohtani/Upton part of the order, which will likely be a big time force against southpaw.

      For prospects, I generally want to target a time range. For example, I have a heavy rebuild in front of me in one league, so I’m not adding much value to guys who will be up before 2021. It’s not that I don’t want them, it’s just that I don’t give them a bonus. My advice is to make an honest assessment on your window and target players who should debut slightly before that window.

  • Terry Bennett says:

    Hey Scott
    In a Roto league that includes OBS. I own Reddick, would you swap him for Garrett Cooper for ROS.
    Thanks

  • Joe Met says:

    Pete came up, started sending balls out to CF with ease and a ridiculous batting average (except vs Mad Max & his slider). The league adjusted by pitching him in making him pull the ball, his adjustment was “I will sacrifice avg and be my best Rhys Hoskins.”….. Although unlike Hoskins, whenever they did throw a strike away he did put it out to center then the league stopped and kept throwing it in (so more Rhys Hoskins).
    The issue is there’s nobody hitting behind him that will make pitchers pitch to him. He hunts alot of pitches out of the zone with 2-0 counts.
    This brings me to the Conforto guy. No great insight on him, other than he’s really the only potential protection Pete has. He’s doing a better job this year not pushing his hands away from his body on his load and getting the front foot/hands rubberband effect. This should lead to more power the opposite way (a huge plus for him earlier in his career), but when he puts a good swing on the ball to the opposite field he seams to be hitting the ball down towards the end of the bat this year. Maybe he’s cheating towards the pull side? He’s not a superstar hitter, he has to give some to get some somewhere else.
    I’ve seen alot of Alonso (alot of minor league clips during the offseason that had me drooling also), I haven’t seen the typical robbing Peter to pay Paul most major leaguers have to do to cover the strike zone and hit for power. But if the point is he might be a 265 avg with 40 homer hitter. Yeah I agree with that.

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