Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire
Javier Baez was a hot topic early in the year, and for good reason. He hit 13 home runs over his first 50 games and didn’t seem like he could be slowed down. But prior to yesterday’s incredible 4-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 5 RBI performance, he had just one home run in June. There’s a lot to like with Baez, and there’s a lot to be worried about as well.
First, the good. He’s already set a career-high in stolen bases with 13, including six steals over his last 30 games. He’s up to 16 home runs now, and is posting the best line drive and hard contact rates of his career. The problem is that his plate discipline and contact ability don’t seem to be improving, and those things were starting from a pretty ugly baseline. It’s incredibly hard to succeed when you’re whiffing 18.1% of the time and making contact just 69.6% of the time, and the swings he does take are often not competitive, as he has a 47.5% chase rate. In all likelihood Baez will end the year with a 25/25 season, and may be the only middle infielder to pull that off. But there is definitely a ton of volatility here.
Matt Carpenter (3B/2B/1B, St. Louis Cardinals): 5-5, 5 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Carpenter was the lead in yesterday’s Batter’s Box, and was apparently vying for the spot for a second consecutive day, because, just, wow. That’s now 11 home runs over the past month, during which time he’s hitting .292. My Carpenter vs. Muncy bet with Dave Cherman is looking bleaker by the day, and I’m facing the possibility of having to name my firstborn child “Derek Jeter Metzelaar.” Which, now that I think about it, may actually set my kid up for a happy and successful future, so I’m all for it.
Alex Bregman (SS/3B, Houston Astros): 4-5, 2 R, HR, 3 2B, 2 RBI – Much like he did last season, Bregman has started to heat up in June, batting .286 with five homers over his last 15 games. His 4.8% whiff rate is absurdly good, and his plate discipline is much-improved, as his walk rate has nearly doubled and his chase rate has dropped from 26.3% to 17.9%. As hot as he’s been lately, he might be able to get even hotter.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics): 4-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB – I wish I could say there was some discernible difference in Lowrie this year compared to seasons past, but aside from a slight bump in hard contact and pull rate, this seems to be the same Jed Lowrie we’ve always known, albeit with a little HR/FB luck. He’s up to 12 homers now, and should easily eclipse his previous career-high of 16.
Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants): 3-3, BB, SB – Crawford is hitting a blistering .336 over the past month to pull his slash up to .316/.374/.496 on the year. The batting average is a huge boon, and with a modest eight homers and three steals, he’s not a one-trick pony. Though I’ve never seen a pony performing any tricks, so even one trick would be impressive to me.
Jesse Winker (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 3-4, 2 RBI – I talked a bit yesterday about how Winker possesses excellent plate discipline, but needs to improve his launch angle to become fantasy relevant. He seems to be making an adjustment this year, as his launch angle is up to 14 degrees this season, nearly double what it was last year. Though he has just five homers to show for it thus far, I’d keep him on my radar over the next few weeks.
David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 3-5, R, 2B, RBI – Peralta is hitting .311 over the past month with eight homers, though I wouldn’t expect the power outburst to continue considering his 50.7% groundball rate and 22.7% HR/FB. Still, he’s a fairly safe bet for a solid average with about average power going forward.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox): 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI – Baseball is a fickle beast, isn’t she? Just two years removed from what seemed like a breakout a 26-homer campaign, Bradley is now up to just five long balls on the season with a .199 average. On the positive side, he’s stealing more than he ever has, as his eight steals are just one shy of his previous career-high. On the negative side, well, he sucks.
Jose Martinez (1B, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – The fact that Martinez’s nickname is “El Cafecito” is hilarious to me, because the dude is the size of an ent. I mean seriously, he’s a giant. I could hitch a ride to Mordor by clinging to his ankle. I’m sure his size plays a big role in how easily he mashes the ball, as he’s got a 40.8% hard contact rate this year. Martinez is one of the rare hitters I’ve seen that actually hits most of his batted balls to the opposite field, and between that and his miniscule 14.7% strikeout rate, it’s no wonder he’s hitting .299 this year. If you reached for him in drafts this year, he’s been rewarding you so far.
Wilmer Flores (1B/3B, New York Mets): 2-5, 3 RBI – Keep a tear-filled eye on Flores over the next few weeks. He’s already become the de facto first baseman for the Mets with Adrian Gonzalez gone, and he’s an extremely interesting player, as he makes a ton of contact and possesses above-average power. He’s striking out just 11.4% of the time this year, backed up by a 6.2% whiff rate and 86.9% contact rate, which are both elite. His swing is a little loopy–he hits too many infield flies and not enough line drives–but he could be a very sneaky corner infield option in deep leagues.
Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds): 2-3, 3 R, 2B, RBI, 2 BB, SB – Honk, honk, Scooter coming through. Okay, one month of insane production you can write off to a hot streak. Two months you can claim as good luck. But three months into a season, and you have to start re-evaluating everything. Is Scooter Gennett actually this good now? Well, no, not this good. But many of his peripherals have actually improved from last season, in what was already an incredible breakout year for him. With his propensity for hitting hard line drives to all fields, I think he may be a legitimate .290+ hitter with 25-30 home run power. And isn’t that essentially Robinson Cano, minus (hopefully) the steroids?
Jake Marisnick (OF, Houston Astros): 2-3, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB – As the self-proclaimed leader of the #FreeKyleTucker movement, I declare Jake Marisnick an enemy of the people and an impediment to global progress. It’s only a matter of time before Marisnick and his 44.4% strikeout rate are a thing of the past, but man is it frustrating to see him get in the way of the future.
Adalberto Mondesi (2B, Kansas City Royals): 2-3, R, HR, 2B, RBI – The artist formerly known as Raul clubbed his first homer of the season yesterday. Mondesi is the epitome of a low-floor/high-ceiling player, as I could easily see him clubbing 20 homers and stealing 30 bases in his prime, but I could also see him striking out so much that he flames out with a .200 batting average. The Royals are going to give him semi-regular playing time at both middle infield positions going forward, so he’s worth a flier in deep keeper leagues.