Batter’s Box: The Choi is Mine
Back in late February, my ARCH-NEMESIS Daniel Port wrote a fantastic piece on Ji-Man Choi (1B, Tampa Bay Rays) that explained why the career platoon bat might be something more in 2019. After last night’s performance where he went 2-2 with a home run, three runs, an RBI, and two walks, it’s clear that he may have been on to something. That’s not easy for me to admit, but this was the fifth multihit game of the season for Choi, and he’s been locked in as the No. 3 hitter for the Rays all season after winning the first base job late in the spring. His career 124 wRC+ against righties has been noticed by DFS players and real baseball managers for quite some time now, but because of his poor defense and the fact that the teams he’s played for had a lefty-mashing first base/designated hitter type on their bench, he never really had a chance to play in more than 61 games at the major league level. In the linked article above, Port makes several interesting comparisons between the batted-ball profiles of Choi and Michael Conforto that are worth checking out. He also makes a case for Choi’s floor (a useful back-end first baseman in 12-plus team OBP leagues or a corner infielder in standard 12-plus teamers) and ceiling (a legitimate 27-plus home run hitter in 10-team leagues with a strong OBP). Get excited, folks.
Oh, and one message for you, Mr. Port: “You need to give it up / had about enough / It’s not hard to see / the Choi is mine.”
Clint Frazier (OF, New York Yankees) — 3-4, R, 2B, RBI. Injuries continue to decimate the Yankees, affording the young outfielder consistent playing time for the time being. He’s taken full advantage of it as well, logging hits in nine of his 13 appearances with a .333/.347/.622 batting line. He was a fairly highly touted prospect as recently as 2017, and I think he could make some adjustments to get the walk rate up from its current 4.1% to something more like 8% or 9% based on his minor league track record. If he somehow finds his way to 100 games, he could have 20 home runs and 5 stolen bases if everything breaks right — nothing to sneeze at as a deep-league fill in. In the short term, he’s made his way into the five and six spots of the lineup, making him a nice fifth OF in 12- to 15-team formats and a useful DFS play.
Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees) — 1-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. The ageless Gardner is off to a pretty OK start, with four home runs and two stolen bases in his first 17 games, though the .203 batting average leaves a bit to be desired. The xBA and xSLG don’t provide a lot of optimism at this stage, but when all is said and done, a repeat of 2018’s 12-home run and 16-stolen base campaign with a .236/.322/.368 line is very doable.
Paul DeJong (SS, St. Louis Cardinals) — 4-5, R, RBI. Yup, he’s still the No. 3 hitter for the Cardinals, and he’s still piling on the hits — this is his sixth multihit day of the young season. His ownership is up to 79.3% in ESPN leagues, so you likely can’t take any action if you don’t already own DeJong, but it’s really nice to see that after 81 plate appearances he still has a strikeout rate below 20%.
Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals) — 3-4, R, 2B, RBI. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen flashes of promise from the second baseman, but even I have to admit that I’m impressed by the 14.1% walk rate, four home runs, and four stolen bases. What I’d REALLY like to see is a climb out of the seven or eight spot to the top of the lineup so that he can put more of this contact to good use, but it’d be tough to justify moving Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt, the previously mentioned DeJong, or Marcell Ozuna down in the order. The best we can hope for is a move up into the five or six spot, and if he keeps it up, it could happen.
Jake Bauers (1B/OF, Cleveland Indians) — 2-3, R, HR, RBI. He’s been demoted to the six/sseven hole in the Indians lineup, but his nice three-game stretch (five hits, two runs, three RBI, and a couple of walks) could help him slide back into the heart of the order. He has just two dingers and one swiped bag so far, but don’t panic — it looks like the bat might finally be heating up.
Gerardo Parra (OF, San Francisco Giants) — 1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB. He’s piling up the stats over his past four games, but he’s still the No. 8 hitter for a bad offensive team. He’s valuable in NL-only formats, though, for his decent ratios and playing time, but go ahead and ignore him in all other formats.
Brandon Lowe (2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays) — 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. The good news? He’s young, exciting, getting a ton of playing time, and is absolutely demolishing the baseball, posting a .300/.358/.617 line in his first 67 plate appearances. The bad news? His xBA of .236 and xSLG of .442 indicate that the regression monster may be coming for him. The beautiful thing about regression is that while we can predict that it should come, we can’t predict when. Enjoy the production now and hope that he makes adjustments to offset the potential luck regression.
Yandy Diaz (3B, Tampa Bay Rays) — 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Seriously, folks — how can you not LOVE the scrappy Rays right now? I mean, if they found a way to swap Mike Zunino for my dude Willians Astudillo, I’d probably just move down there right now. Like Lowe, the expected stats are much less exciting than the real ones — there’s about a 50-point gap between his batting average and xBA and a 140-point gap between his SLG and xSLG — but the gains in his walk rate are promising, as is the consistent playing time. If/when a slump kicks in, I can’t justify owning him in 12-teamers because of the unlikelihood of 15 home runs or five stolen bases, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it while he’s hot.
Adam Jones (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) — 1-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Boring ol’ Adam Jones found his way onto a roster and into the one and four spots of an OK offense. That probably means another boring ol’ 25 home run season with a good batting average and 150-ish runs + RBI. That’s worth owning in 12-team standard leagues, though it’s a bit boring.
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)