Batter’s Box: The Meadowlands
When the Rays dealt Chris Archer to the Pirates last year, many Pirates fans were a bit disappointed in what they gave up. Yes, Archer has been an ace at times, but Glasnow had been making some strides, and the other player was a recent first round pick. This first round pick from 2013 was just starting to pop his head into the majors. By the time fantasy drafts were starting up in 2019, Austin Meadows was a young breakout candidate getting picked around Jesse Winker and Adam Eaton. Scouting reports tagged him for great contact, good power, and could steal some bases. Doing so potentially at the top of the Rays lineup only makes his stock higher. Now a couple of weeks into the season, Meadows has quickly risen to the top of the young stud outfielders and hopes to stay there.
The last few games for Meadows have been as good as anyone could ask. Last night, Meadows went 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. This is on top of the previous two games in which he had seven hits, two homers, four runs, seven RBIs, and a stolen base. Those three games alone have given the Rays more value than Archer. These few games though are just a small example of the season he is having. He’s making incremental improvements from his inaugural season last year. He’s barreling the ball at a much greater rate, hitting the ball harder, and also rarely making weak contact. Meadows has only a 3.2% soft hit rate. He’s being a bit more patient as well, swinging at fewer pitches and drawing walks, but he isn’t making as much contact. But when the contact is there, it is great. Whoever owns Meadows in your league may be holding on tightly after this hot streak and may be tough to get him.
Meadows wasn’t the only hitter to knock a couple out of the park. Let’s take a look around the league at the others.
Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs) — 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. This promising young catcher had a real head-scratcher of a 2018. He barreled the ball a bit less and had some more soft contact but a 16% drop in HR/FB? Many expected a bounce back this year and we’re seeing nice things. He’s averaging almost 5 MPH higher in exit velocity. Contreras isn’t hitting many line drives but has been putting a few of his usual grounders into the air. This has translated to five homers so far this year, half of his 2018 total.
Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals) — 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Before the start of the season, I had my own end of season awards predictions. With Harper out of the way, I felt Rendon had the chance to step into the star role in Washington and finally take the NL MVP. He is perennially atop the WAR leaderboards but hasn’t pushed beyond a quietly great year. He took further steps forward in 2018 even though he missed a few games. So far in 2019, he’s playing like Harper. He already has eight barrels and a 60% hard-hit rate. He is well on his way to that MVP.
Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox) — 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. We all expect great things from these top prospects right out of the gate. Last year we were spoiled. But it wasn’t long ago that Moncada came up not living up to his hype immediately. Eloy seems to be following his teammate’s footsteps. He isn’t being patient, he’s striking out too much, and hasn’t hit the ball well. If someone is still excited for Jimenez in your redraft league you may get a good return. It could take some time for him to find his footing.
DJ LeMahieu (2B/3B, New York Yankees) — 2-2, R, 2 RBI, BB. The Yankees picked up LeMahieu for depth and they needed it. Injury after injury to their infield, LeMahieu has stepped in to fill the full-time role well. He’s driving the ball well with a 58.8% hard-hit rate with decent loft. However, he is yet to find a homer. He may be changing his approach going from Coors to New York as he’s hitting way more fly balls. If he keeps this up, he’ll start to see some power. Now that he’s taken hold of playing time, his value is quickly rising.
Brandon Lowe (2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays) — 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Wow. Remember this and take note. Know that his last name is not pronounced like know. It’s easy to remember. Whenever you see this guy hit, you’ll say “Wow!” Lowe added a couple more dingers as he is still working through the growing pains of a young hitter. He’s chasing a bit too much and swinging and missing, but he’s hitting the ball hard.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) — 2-4, R, 2B, RBI. One of our favorite Statcast darling players, Hernandez was near the top of the league in barrel rate last year. His exit velocity has dropped a few MPH from last year but his approach at the plate has changed for the better. A 10% drop in K rate and a 7% increase in walk rate as he is making a lot more contact while not swinging and missing. The other promising side of Teoscar’s start is his limited soft hit rate. Keep him on your radar and he’ll start hitting with some power soon.
Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox) — 2-4, R, HR, RBI. The Sox minted Benintendi as this year’s leadoff hitter but that didn’t seem to pan out right away. He was swapped out only a few games in dropping to two. However, a few games ago Benintendi turned it on and was brought back to the top stop. In his past seven games, he has five multi-hit outings. Benintendi had explained before the season started that he’ll be focusing more on getting hits and less on home runs, which diminishes his 20/20 chances again. Despite this, he is hitting on top of one of the best offenses in the league and could provide an unbelievable amount of runs.
Andrew McCutchen (OF, Philadelphia Phillies) — 3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. The Phillies made an incredible amount of additions in the off-season, but one of the most underrated was adding McCutchen. Adding a patient veteran to the top of an offensive juggernaut is dangerous. However, McCutchen’s offense has been in decline. Sparked potentially by the energy in Philly, and fear of both the Phanatic and Gritty, McCutchen has been hitting the ball harder and walking more than he has in the past few seasons.
Brandon Nimmo (OF, New York Mets) — 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Has Nimmo found himself? He certainly has been lost at the plate. His swinging strike rate is nearly double that of his career in the early goings, resulting in an absurd 46% strikeout rate. Usually the Mets leadoff hitter, Nimmo was sent down to the eighth spot, and he came through big time. He doubled and hit a home run both over 100 MPH. He had a similar line back on the 9th. He may start turning a corner soon so hold on to him in OBP leagues. Just keep swimming!
Elvis Andrus (SS, Texas Rangers) — 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, SB. I have somewhat of a soft spot for Andrus as he was the first player I ever wrote about. He is off to a solid start this April reminding us of what he did in 2017. Last year was cut short by an arm fracture, but take a look at his batted ball profile. All similar to 2017! He was barreling the ball just as well. Now in 2019, he’s hitting the ball harder but with fewer fly balls. Andrus will still get plenty of stolen bases for you too. Right now, he’s worthy of a starting spot in a standard league.
Ramon Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics) — 2-4, R, HR, RBI. I struggled to pull out the Athletic to blurb up this morning. There were lots of 2-4 days for some struggling players like Piscotty and Profar. Laureano, on the other hand, was able to pop one out of the park. He had a slowish start to the season (except out in the field) but has really turned on the jets. He already has six barrels on the year, while hitting fewer grounders and more fly balls than last year. If he’s still around, grab him.
Alex Gordon (OF, Kansas City Royals) — 4-5, R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI. Something’s changed with Gordon this year. I don’t know what he did but he’s out to prove he can stick around. He’s taking his at-bats to another level. His plate discipline is off the charts. He’s chasing 10% fewer pitches, swinging and missing at 3.5% less, swinging at pitches in the zone 10% more, making contact about 7% more. This has all translated to a better walk rate but most importantly a 12% drop in strikeout rate. That is crazy. Gordon changed something. Keep an eye on him.
George Springer (OF, Houston Astros) — 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. In 2018, many aspects of Springer’s game seemed to take small steps back. He had been in his prime and we all expected the same or another step forward from the great 2017 campaign. To me, he’s also always seemed like a potential 20/20 candidate, yet hasn’t breached 10 SBs since 2015. So far this year, he’s stolen two, a third of the way there to last year’s total. He’s also found the pop again. He’s barreling the ball better, hitting the ball harder and in the air. This may be coming from a change in approach too as he’s striking out more than he ever has. Regardless, he’s crushing the ball and looks to be in solid form.
Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers) — 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, 2 BB. Lots of questions hovered around Seager as he returned from missing almost all of 2018. It took a bit of time but Seager finally joined in on the Dodgers hit parade. Since April 5th, he has five multi-hit games with five extra-base hits. Coming back from injury can be difficult, but Seager looks to be settling in.
Yasmani Grandal (C, Milwaukee Brewers) — 3-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. Yaaasss! He has found some magic in Milwaukee. Grandal has been crushing the ball at an average of 95.6 MPH. However, he hasn’t been able to get the ball in the air. A 26.7% fly ball rate is well below his career number of 37.8%. Also, his launch angle is about 10 degrees less than usual. Once he starts putting the ball in the air as he usually does, the ball will fly out of Miller even more so.
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)