Batter’s Box: The White Whale
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire
Oftentimes, all it takes is a lackluster debut for the fantasy community to dismiss a player. If a player doesn’t have a pedigree, and he doesn’t immediately set the world on fire, everyone just moves on. Oftentimes these players have a harder time being taken seriously when they get off to hot starts in later seasons, because hey, we already gave you shot buddy! I can’t be giving out shots left and right. This isn’t an LMFAO music video.
Enter Tyler White, who had a very lackluster debut with the Astros in 2016, when he hit .217 with a .287 wOBA in 276 plate appearances. That was enough for most people to dismiss him, and even though he hit 25 homers and batted .300 over 111 games in AAA last year, it wasn’t enough to put him back on anyone’s radar. But he carried last season’s success over into this year, hitting .333 with 14 homers in 70 games in the minors prior to being called up. And after his 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI performance last night, it’s looking like that performance might be carrying over to the big leagues. He’s now homered four times over the past week, and 11 times in his last 30 games, all while posting a very solid 20% strikeout rate. The 35.8% hard contact rate isn’t going to blow anyone away, and it certainly doesn’t support his bloated 28.2% HR/FB. But he’s always displayed above-average contact ability in the minors, striking out at just a 12.5% clip in AAA this year, and posting just a 6.7% whiff rate so far with the Astros. The 16-degree average launch angle should still help plenty of future hits leave the yard, and he seems to have carved out semi-regular at-bats at both first base and DH, even with the Astros now at full health. Late-season breakouts like this can be the difference-maker in close playoff matchups, so pick him up where available.
Jason Kipnis (2B, Cleveland Indians): 2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI – Kipnis is batting .360 over the past week with two homers, but it feels like this happens once a month. And by “this” I mean that he gets hot for a few games, and then spends the next month acting like his bat is a pool noodle. Those still hoping that 2016 Kipnis is hiding somewhere inside 2018 Kipnis like a little Russian nesting doll can probably move on. Forever.
Lorenzo Cain (OF, Milwaukee Brewers): 2-4, HR, BB – Cain hasn’t taken to Miller Park quite as well as his teammate Christian Yelich, as this was just his ninth homer of the season. Then again, Cain’s posting a 55.9% groundball rate and not benefiting from the 32.9% HR/FB that Yelich is, so that explains at least some of the lack of power. Still, with a .311 average and 24 steals in the books, you’d really have to pick some nits to be down on what Cain has down this year. And who the heck wants to spend their time picking nits?
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/OF, Detroit Tigers): 4-5, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB – Niko Goodrum sounds like an alias I would use if I ever got in trouble with the cops. Come here son, what’s your name? It’s, uh…Niko… Goodrum. Yeah right, get in the car we’re taking a trip downtown. This performance pulled Goodrum’s average up to just .233, and while the 14 homers and 10 steals are nice considering his multi-position eligibility, he’s not racking up runs or RBI batting in that barren Detroit lineup. Hard pass.
Gleyber Torres (SS/2B, New York Yankees): 3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI – If you’d like to know what the ladies think of Gleyber Torres, just know that typing his name into Google returns “Gleyber Torres wife” as one of the top searches. This was Torres’ 21st homer of the season, and sixth during the month of August. After posting a .380 wOBA in the first half, teams seem to have put together a book on Torres, as he’s posted just a .334 wOBA since the All-Star break. Still, the power hasn’t slowed down, and he continues to contribute across the board.
Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves): 3-5, 2 R – Ronald Thump’s crushin’ collusion has come to a stop lately, but despite the lack of homers over the past two weeks, Acuna is still hitting .303 over that span. He’s posting an otherworldly .460 wOBA in the second half, and should continue to shoot up next year’s draft boards with a strong finish to the season.
Andrelton Simmons (SS, Los Angeles Angels): 3-4, 2B, 3 RBI – Much has been made about the fact that Simmons has struck out just 31 times this year in 500 plate appearances. That’s great and all, very Tony Gwynn-like, yadda yadda yadda, but with just eight homers and eight steals on the season, Simmons isn’t really doing enough offensively to justify being considered a top-10 shortstop.
Victor Martinez (DH, Detroit Tigers): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI – I saw someone mention that this will probably be the last time that Victor Martinez homers twice in the same game and I was like, really? I mean, the guy’s old, but he’s not on the brink of death. We’re talking about a sport where a morbidly obese, 42-year old pitcher hit a home run. Anything can happen. Martinez’s 9.2% strikeout rate this season is actually one of the lowest of his career, but the power seems to have totally evaporated, and considering his age and mobility, the .258 BABIP probably isn’t a fluke.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, New York Yankees): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB – This was career home run #300 for Stanton. The person who caught the ball is apparently demanding, among other things, a meet-and-great with Stanton, tickets to another Yankee game, and two Bud Lights for it. I love how the request really tails off there at the end, but people like what they like. With just 33 homers on the year, this has not been the season most Stanton owners envisioned when they drafted him, but if anybody can go on a tear in September it’s him.
David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 1-4, R, HR, 3 RBI -Based on Dan Richards’ excellent piece yesterday about the changes we’re seeing this year in hard contact rates, we shouldn’t be as blown away by guys making a ton of hard contact as we may have been in the past. Unless they’re David Peralta, whose 47.7% hard contact rate this year is absurd no matter how much you adjust it downwards. I still think the 23.4% HR/FB points to this season being an outlier as opposed to the new norm for Peralta, especially since he’s known for hitting about half his batted balls on the ground, but enjoy it while it lasts.
Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI – Voit looks like a WWE heavyweight champion–even his head has muscles–and he’s been hitting like one too since he got to the Yankees, with four homers under his belt in just 14 games with his new team. The 44.7% hard contact and 31.6% line drive rate are both super impressive, but with just 53 at-bats so far this year there’s a lot of noise still present in the numbers. Voit seems to have taken over the bulk of first base at-bats from Greg Bird, but it will be interesting to see how playing time shakes out with the recent addition of Andrew McCutchen and the impending return of Gary Sanchez.