After the eventful series that took place between the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals this past weekend, it seemed pertinent to focus on some of the unsung heroes playing for the team that came out on top twice in three tries. Outfielders Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin had excellent performances in Friday’s and Saturday’s games, respectively, to spur their Nats on to victory by scores of 6-5 and 18-3. While Taylor only pinch-hit Friday, he still went 4-10, 5 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 3 K for the series; he has plated 15 in June to double his RBI count to 30 on the year. I would argue that aside from the Royals’ Jorge Bonifacio, he is the least known name of the 94 guys to have hit 11 homers thus far. The .273 average is more than OK, and the 33 runs he’s scored are also not terrible for 209 at-bats’ worth of work. Taylor has thrown in seven steals to the mix, and he’s only owned in 17% of Yahoo leagues and 10.2% of ESPN leagues. He’s honestly an extremely sturdy play at OF right now, given his .284 average in June and the HR/FB ratio and hard contact percentage being where they need to be for you to feel good about using him. The walk rate is super low and the K rate is high, but production is happening so don’t let those things dissuade you just yet. Goodwin, on the other hand, is a newer asset with a much smaller sample for us to analyze after having been called up from Triple-A Syracuse just over a month ago. Through 91 AB, he has a .275 average with six homers, 16 RBI, 25 runs and a steal after posting a 6-12, 5 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 2 K line versus Cincinnati. It’s tough to break out in an outfield unit featuring the stellar Bryce Harper, but Goodwin is doing a fine job opposite him in relief of Jayson Werth, who’s dealing with a toe injury on the 10-day DL. Goodwin’s .657 slugging percentage in June and 11 XBH in the same span make him an appealing streamer over the next several weeks. He likely won’t have a roster spot when Werth is reactivated in mid-July (after the All-Star Break), but if you need a shot-in-the-dark boost to average and runs with moderate power, Goodwin may be worth a look in the meantime. He’s batted second in the productive Washington lineup over his last seven starts, which is food for thought.
Let’s take a look at what else happened notably hitting-wise around the league:
Sandy Leon (C, BOS) – 3-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. The stat line looks great with blinders on, but this is a weekend recap and he only started one of three Red Sox games. The fact that he’s in a brutal platoon behind the plate with Christian Vazquez makes it extremely difficult to own Leon in standard formats and deep leagues. Despite Leon going 5-9 in his last two starts, the consistent playing time isn’t there on either side of the timeshare fulcrum to be able to leave either guy plugged in at C on your roster without a further thought. That said, for the purposes of AL leagues or perhaps daily fantasy, Leon is a switch hitter who has enjoyed markedly more success both at home and, independent of location, against LHP as a right-handed bat. If you can do the homework to stream him after identifying a favorable matchup when John Farrell is giving him a start, fire him up. Otherwise, he’s not going to do enough for you to make a pickup worth your while.
Derek Norris (C, TBR) – 3-3, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI. Well, he was a catcher for the Rays until he got optioned for assignment to Triple-A on Saturday in order to make room for fully-rehabilitated Wilson Ramos’s return from the 60-day DL. Just like I said before the season, Norris does not have a place as a MLB starting catcher unless someone is injured. Despite the strong Friday audition to keep a spot on the 25-man roster, he was STILL only batting .201 with 24 RBI for his trouble over 179 at-bats. The good news is that Ramos went 1-4 in his return. Jesus Sucre is still going to get some spot starts as the Rays ease Ramos back in to a full-time workload, but Ramos is unequivocally the catcher to own in Tampa Bay.
Logan Morrison (1B, TBR) – 4-12, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, K. I continue to be perplexed by how efficiently Morrison is flying under the fantasy radar. A guy who has 22 homers, 54 RBI, 43 runs and a .251 average—EXACTLY, it’s not a deal-breakingly bad average!—remains unowned in 37% of Yahoo leagues and 39.7% of ESPN leagues. How that happens is beyond me. I get that he plays at pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field half the time and that his away splits are appreciably better, but his production cannot be denied. Morrison’s walk rate is up, he’s pulling more than ever as a LHB, and both his HR/FB ratio and his hard hit rates are approximately 10 percentage points up from their solid 2016 levels. The BABIP is low, too, so there should be no hesitation for fear of regression. He is a no-brainer to add if available and is virtually matchup-proof.
Lucas Duda (1B, NYM) – 5-14, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 5 K. While I’m not thrilled about the 25.2% strikeout rate, Duda has been moderately productive of late. None of the counting stats are going to blow you away, but he’s also not going to necessarily cost you a category in a H2H matchup. Averaging .251 on the season and .253 in June, so what you’re seeing is an accurate representation of what you’re getting in the long run. He’s got 29 RBI, 21 runs and 13 homers. The .302 ISO is encouraging, and he’s being rated as a contributor of 138 wRC+, so he’s certainly an above-average fantasy asset even though he’s not close to top-tier status. I’d recommend using him as a backup on days your starter sits or is off, or alternatively, as an everyday corner infielder if your league has a 1B/3B spot.
Khris Davis (OF, OAK) – 6-13, R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, SB. Davis made you wait two weeks in between Homer No. 1 and Homer No. 2 that he hit in June, but only five days elapsed before he got his third this past Friday. He’s hitting .305 this month, and that efficiency has gotten his season average up to .251. The 49 RBI and 44 runs are excellent, and Davis tossed in a bonus steal this weekend during the road series at the White Sox. His 19 homers are tied for 12th-best total in the league with Texas’ Joey Gallo (who makes you punt batting average in exchange for his power), Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas and Nationals veteran Ryan Zimmerman.
Kyle Seager (3B, SEA) – 3-11, 3 R, HR, RBI, BB, 3 K. I’m actually not feeling great about Seager in fantasy at all. The fact that he’s only scored 30 runs and homered eight times through 284 at-bats kind of leaves me indifferent about him at this point. To have amassed 43 RBI is solid, but that is his résumé’s brightest spot. The .254 BA is acceptable but far lower than what we thought he would post. The 30-homer, 99-RBI season he had last year was paired up with a .278 average, and those feats collectively boosted our expectation of what Seager would accomplish in 2017. To date, he has disappointed in almost every regard. Not a bad 3B to have, by any stretch, but utilizing him as your starter probably doesn’t feel great when the Jose Ramirezes and Miguel Sanos of the world are tearing it up after having ADPs 30 to 50 picks later than Seager’s.
Mike Zunino (C, SEA) – 2-8, R, HR, 4 RBI, BB, 4 K. This is just to call attention to the fact that Zunino is hitting .329 with nine homers just in the month of June. Nobody saw that or the corresponding .757 June SLG coming. The BABIP is sitting at .372 so temper your expectation for the long term, but Zunino is hot right now and could probably function as a streamer if you’re having some issues at the position. I’m still skeptical and waiting for the other foot to drop, but ride the heatwave if you must.
Alcides Escobar (SS, KCR) – 5-11, 3 R, RBI. Far be it from me to recommend deploying a .210 hitter who hit his lone homer of the season on June 10 in your lineup, but Escobar has been improving drastically and he’s actually hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games. Saturday saw him hit his first triple, and that comes after having doubled on Thursday against the Red Sox. This is purely a curious musing, and I do not think you should even consider adding him. That said, I’m definitely going to be monitoring his stats in the near future for whether or not this uptick in efficiency can be sustained. He’s scored 26 runs overall and owns an uncharacteristic .264 average in June.
Brett Gardner (OF, NYY) – 2-9, R, HR, RBI, 2 K, SB. Gardner is having kind of a tepid June at the plate, as he is batting only .223 with three homers this month. The 14 runs he’s scored to increase his campaign total to 49 are perfectly fine, however. Five of his 10 SB have also come in June, so this is the part where I preach patience and point to the horizon, the point in Gardner’s future where some slight, temporary ineffecacies smooth out. He’s a solid play and could end up as a Top 20 OF by the end of the year.
Scooter Gennett (2B/3B/OF, CIN) – 8-14, 4 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. I want to say it’s still a hard pass on keeping and using Gennett, but my interest is sliding in a positive direction on the fantasy viability spectrum. I’m duty-bound to reinforce the fact that his June-only batting average of .324 nosedives to a more realistic .272 if you take away the fun four-homer fluke Gennett had on June 6. The season average also drops from .308 to .287 without that 5-5 barrage against the Cardinals. He still has generated 40 RBI for the Reds, and the four homers over his last seven games are raising my eyebrows slightly. Stay tuned because I’ll keep an eye on his stats even if I’m too gunshy to advise an add right now.
Keon Broxton (OF, MIL) – 6-11, 4 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB, 2 K, 2 SB. Broxton had a fantastic series against St. Louis and has now scored 44 runs and hit 13 homers on the season. The 13 steals are a really crucial component to his cross-category utility, and while the .250 average and 32 RBI could be better, you cannot argue that Broxton is not a useful and desirable asset at this point. He had a rough stretch early on in June when he went 0-17 but has since hit safely in 11 of his last 13 outings.
Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, LAD) – 4-12, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, K. This guy hasn’t even been in the majors for three months but the fact that I can confidently say aloud at a sports bar that “There goes Bellinger doing Bellinger things again” and not be looked at cryptically or misunderstood is awesome. The guy is rewriting the book on how to make an impact as a rookie. He now has a whopping 13 homers in June and 24 total to go along with 44 runs scored and the league’s 10th-highest RBI count with 55. You are committing fantasy suicide if you bench him for any reason at this point.
Jonathan Schoop (2B, BAL) – 4-11, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, 4 K. Schoop is having a searingly good June, hitting .337 this month along with 11 multi-hit games to improve the season BA to .295. His BB/K ratio is a wretched 0.27, but 15 homers and 48 RBI are hardly anything to nitpick. He’s a locked-in and arguably elite starter at 2B.