Batter’s Box: The Common Starling
It’s not every day you come across a player who can provide some power, decent runs and RBI totals, fit in at least 30 stolen bases, and hit close to .300 every season. That’s been Starling Marte for the past six years (if you stretch out his suspension year to a full season). And after his first 20-homer season this past year, he’s shown he can be one of the rare five-tool players. He turned up the power a bit, hitting more fly balls than he had in previous seasons while also hitting the ball harder than he had before. He did not have to sacrifice anything in terms of plate discipline either, keeping those numbers close to his career totals. Marte was able to adjust his swing slightly to give him that power boost. It was not unreasonable to expect another similar season out of Marte coming into the 2019 season.
This season started out rough for Marte. He was hitting just above the Mendoza line with not much to show when he collided with a teammate on a play in the field. He was placed on the IL for a few games and then returned to action April 30. Since his return, Marte has looked a bit more himself. He’s gotten a few homers and stolen five bases. There was plenty of worry the stolen bases may see a decline from the injury. He put it all together yesterday, going 2-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. A concern is still is ground-ball totals. They’ve increased 5 percentage points to 55% while fly balls have dropped that same amount. We’ll still see decent power output, but he probably won’t break 20 again. At least Marte’s stolen bases are back on track after the injury.
Let’s take a look at around the league for the other stand out performances from yesterday.
Carlos Gomez (OF, New York Mets)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB. I went to the Mets’ two games prior to yesterday’s and thought I was the new lucky charm. I couldn’t make it to yesterday’s day game, but Carlos Gomez still found a way to win it without me. Gomez rejoined the Mets last week but hadn’t made any impact until this game. He put together a full performance. Gomez is just a stop gap until the Mets recover from their injuries, so he can be ignored in fantasy.
Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Bell keeps annihilating the ball. Since April 28, Bell is hitting above .400, and in those 22 games, he has gotten multiple hits in 12 of them. That’s why he keeps popping up in almost every Batter’s Box. It’s nice to see that this performance looks to be sustainable as his wOBA and xwOBA are nearly identical.
Renato Núñez (3B, Baltimore Orioles)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Nunez keeps his little hot streak going with his third home run in four games, adding also his fifth run and seventh RBI. Nunez has been one of the few bright spots for the O’s this year, but he still has plenty of room for improvement. Nunez is striking out more and walking less than last year but not by much; however, it has led to a minuscule 0.21 BB/K ratio. His low .223 average has been pulled down by his .257 BABIP, much lower than last year’s .315. His high fly-ball and low ground-ball rates should pull the BABIP down, but we should still expect some average improvements.
Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. Voit has turned it on since the second game of a double header on May 15. This streak snapped a six-game streak of no hits. Since the start of May, encapsulating the cold and the hot streak, Voit has been hitting mostly grounders and fly balls. His season line-drive percentage of 27.9% is much higher than his 17.6% percent in May. This may be contributing to the streakiness as it’s more all-or-nothing balls in play for Voit. He still has put up sustainable numbers over this time, and that cold streak shouldn’t worry you.
Steve Pearce (1B/OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. It may seem that winning World Series MVP got to Pearce’s head. It has been a rough go of pinch hitting and sprinkled-in starts for Pearce, resulting in a .171 average and over 30% strikeout rate. It was tough to expect any solid playing time versus Mitch Moreland, but it all depended on performance. Moreland won out easy in the beginning of the season. Pearce will really have to turn it on to fight back into the lineup in any capacity.
Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs)—4-5, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI. Rizzo is back in a big way. He’s been dominating for a good while this season while still struggling with a lower-than-desired BABIP. Before we continue praising this return to form from the small decline of last year, I want to note not much has changed in his profile. He still is walking and striking out the same, he’s hitting fewer line drives but more grounders and fly balls. His hard-hit percentage is even a tad lower according to Statcast. It’s just that more of those hard hits are barrels, and his HR/FB has spiked about 9 percentage points. Rizzo will still remain good, but his home run rate may drop.
Austin Riley (3B/OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-6, R, HR, 3 RBI. Another game, another home run for Riley. He has homered in more games than he hasn’t. If he can keep this up for a career, what a career that would be. These numbers through nine games are hard to look at for determining much, so I’ll keep it simple. His hard-hit percentage is 70%, but he’s striking out at a 31.3% clip while only walking once. He’s a free swinger, so he’ll have to get that under control before pitchers start exploiting him.
Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-5, R, HR, 4 RBI. This will stop eventually, right? He’s being a contact fiend, rarely swinging and missing. That’s great for his solid average for a reasonably low BABIP. I’d even expect his average to get a small boost with the amount of balls he puts in play. However, his 27.9% HR/FB on 33.9% fly-ball rate is absurd. We should see this start to drop soon. Really any day now. We’re waiting.
Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, 4 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, SB. It was hard to pick from the surplus of high-caliber Twins performances from yesterday. Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, and CJ Cron all had spectacular games too, so don’t think I forgot them. Having six from one team seemed a bit much. And I feel like the Twins do this at least once a week. Anyway, Kepler put together a full fantasy spread, a bit of every category on the Kepler plate. Our Kepler dreams seem to finally be coming to fruition even with a decent batting average.
Jonathan Schoop (2B/SS, Minnesota Twins)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Schoop has 10 home runs on the year and four games with multiple home runs on the year. There’s a good shot if he hits one, another is on its way. Everything is pointing to Schoop returning to his top of the line 2017 form after a down year last year. He’s hitting the ball much harder and handling breaking pitches much more effectively than last year.
Miguel Sanó (1B/3B, Minnesota Twins)—2-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB. Sanó finally rejoined the team a few days ago after an injury kept him sidelined to start the year. Sanó immediately has made an impact homering four times in those six games. However, Sanó’s main weakness is the strikeout, and even in his hot start, he’s been striking out a ton.
Tommy Pham (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Pham is crushing the ball but mostly into the ground. His 56.4% ground-ball rate is sixth among qualifying hitters, but his hard-hit rate is also near the top. He has also cut his strikeout rate by 7 percentage points from last year by getting a lot more contact, especially on pitches out of the zone. If Pham could elevate the ball a bit more, he’d be a much more dangerous power bat, but for now, he’s just getting on base more than 40% of the time.
(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)