Batter’s Box: The Greatest Sho on Earth
First and foremost, I am overjoyed that I can call this my 100th article for Pitcher List. Writing for this site is an absolute dream and contributing to this column, specifically, has been the highlight of my writing career (if it can be called a career). There are countless people to thank for giving me the opportunity to write about fantasy baseball (like Nick Pollack, Justin Mason and Tim McLeod, to name a few). For those who have been reading this column, I hope you’ll keep coming back and interacting—talking about fantasy baseball is fun and I enjoy it even when I end up being horribly, horribly wrong (like with Ketel Marte and so far with Nicholas Castellanos). If you haven’t left a comment before, I encourage you to start. SOMEONE has to keep me honest, after all.
As for baseball, I’m going to use my 100th article to talk about my favorite player, Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP, Los Angeles Angels). I am thrilled that he had a strong night at the plate Monday (2-4, 2 R, 3B, RBI, BB, SB) because it means I get to gush about his ability. Ohtani now has 722 major league plate appearances, a slash line of .293/.361./525, 38 home runs and 21 stolen bases.
This season, he’s worked to improve his approach at the plate and has found real success—his strikeout rate is down to 23.7% on the season (a 4.1-point drop from 2018), he’s swinging at a few less pitches outside the zone and quite a few more pitches in the zone, his contact rate is up by nearly six points and his swinging strike rate has dropped considerably. As for his quality of contact metrics, take a look at this handy little chart of where he ranks in some of the various stats:
Simply put, the 25-year-old is the real deal when it comes to hitting, and that’s not even what he was supposed to be good at! While we only saw 51.2 innings back in 2018 before he blew out his elbow, he had a solid 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts. Even if he’s treated with kid gloves as a pitcher, and even if he ends up being some sort of reliever, he should have massive fantasy value as a two-way player in daily formats.
Obviously, he’s most valuable as a starter (and I think he will be one), as it gives him a chance to be a legitimate eight or nine category contributor in 5×5 leagues, which is utterly unheard of. As a closer, he’d be incredibly valuable as well, though it would require a little more roster maintenance to get the most of his stats (as closing opportunities are somewhat difficult to predict). If he ends up as a reliever, you’d probably want him as a hitter when facing a right-handed starter, as he has a .975 OPS against righties in 457 plate appearances against them (compared to a .737 OPS against lefties, though he has improved slightly against southpaws in 2019) and as a pitcher against lefties.
Ohtani is the truth, folks. He can quite literally do it all. As I’ve said before, he’s a top-10 player for me in 2020 and he’s a top-10 player for me in all dynasty formats right now. My flag is firmly planted.
(Oh, and by the way, let me know down below if you’ll be attending BaseballHQ’s First Pitch Forums in Arizona! I’ll be there, and more importantly, many other more exciting folks from Pitcher List (like Nick Pollack, Alex Fast, Mikey Ajeto and Dave Cherman) will be there and it’s always great to interact with readers and fantasy baseball folks.)
Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B/SS, Washington Nationals)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 5 RBI, BB. He has a hit in all but one start since joining the Nats (though the 0-fer was a brutal 0-8). He’s not an everyday player, but those in 15-team formats should consider picking him up to fill in for almost any infield position. He’s not that special, but he has enough contact ability to provide some batting average and a handful of counting stats while hitting in the fifth or sixth spot in the Nationals lineup.
Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)—4-4, 4 R, 2 2B, BB. This kid is just special. Look, if you had a conservative outlook for a 19-year-old who just slashed .292/.406/.517 back in the spring, you were being prudent. 20-year-olds who only had eight games above A-ball don’t do this kind of thing … or at least they didn’t before Soto did. He has done everything we could have imagined and more in his sophomore season, as he should get close to 35 home runs and 15 stolen bases to go along with an elite .293/.404/.563 line. Whether he continues the double-digit steals trend in 2020 will likely affect just how high he gets taken in drafts, but this should be a second- or third-round pick in 10- and 12-teamers.
Matt Adams (1B, Washington Nationals)—3-5, R, HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI. If you have the bench depth to roster a platoon bat, this is a good one to look up. He’s predictably strong against righties and when he gets hot he can be a real game changer in deeper leagues. Speaking of getting hot, he has back-to-back three-hit games with a home run, and three home runs in his last six starts.
Luis Arraez (2B/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, R, 2B. I keep saying it, but only because it’s worth saying. Even though he will struggle to find double-digit power or speed, his ability to take walks, avoid strikeouts and make contact makes him a great under-the-radar add in points leagues. I’m excited to see a future Twins lineup with both him and Willians Astudillo towards the top of the lineup, as they will give opposing pitchers absolute fits with how often they collectively slap balls into the shallow outfield for base hits.
Travis Demeritte (OF, Detroit Tigers)—3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. The former first-round pick is striking out a ton (which will leave him prone to a slump sooner or later), but with hits in 14 of his 18 starts for the Tigers as their starting right fielder, deep league players should be targeting him if they need a fifth outfielder, especially after the Tigers slotted him into the two-hole for the first time on Monday.
Tom Murphy (C, Seattle Mariners)—3-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. Weird-but-true: two of the top-five catcher-eligible hitters over the last 30 days are Mariners (but somehow, neither are Omar Narvaez). He plays too infrequently to use in 10- or 12-team single-catcher leagues, but those in 15-team formats or those who need two catchers should scoop him up if he’s out there. Sure, he’ll come back to earth eventually, but until then you might as well ride it out with how awful the position has been.
Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins)—2-5, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. He’s the 14th-best shortstop per ESPN’s Player Rater, but he’s probably ranked even higher in most points formats that won’t penalize him for the sub-par stolen base totals. He provides a very nice batting average along with OK power and pretty good combined run and RBI totals, making him a very useful asset as a back-end starting shortstop or high-level middle infielder.
Austin Nola (C/1B/2B, Seattle Mariners)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. He’s a top-five catcher over the last month and has four multi-hit games in his last five starts. His primary value is as a catcher, though he rarely actually catches (he’s done it twice this season). He’s clawed his way to the coveted three-hole in the Mariners’ batting order for two consecutive games thanks to his recent hot streak, and lest I forget, he also has three consecutive games with a home run. He’s an excellent streamer at catcher if you need one (assuming he’s still available).
Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, SB. The 39-year-old got a combo meal, and that’s worthy of praise. It was the only combo meal of the day, actually (which is mind-boggling to me). He’s somewhat relevant in AL-only formats for RBIs and some batting average, but that’s about all the future Hall of Famer has in the tank at this point.
Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. He only has one stolen base in the second half after stealing eight in the first half. The stolen bases are crucial to his overall fantasy potential, so hopefully they come back soon.
Delino DeShields (OF, Texas Rangers)—2-5, BB, 2 SB. Cool, Delino. Real cool. I refuse to get swept up in this nonsense any longer. He has speed and decent plate discipline, but actually swinging the bat remains a problem. Until he learns to actually make some contact, he’s waiver-wire fodder.
Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)—0-4, 2 K. Yeah, this will happen sometimes. It’s part of being an aggressive young hitter. As I mentioned yesterday, there are signs of growth in his approach, so take heart in that.
And last but certainly not least, a little Minor League update from the remarkable Shelly Verougstraete:
Interesting #MiLB stats from yesterday
Brayan Rocchio (CLE A Short) 2-4, 2SB, 1HR, 1RBI 🍟
Willi Castro (DET AAA) 3-4, 1 2B, 3RBI
Trevor Stephan (NYY AA) 4IP, 7K, 1BB, 0ER
Joey Murray (TOR AA) 5.2IP, 6K, 1BB, 0ER
— Shelly Verougstraete (@ShellyV_643) August 20, 2019
(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)