After a 2-4 night with three runs, two home runs, three RBI and a walk, Alex Bregman (SS/3B, Houston Astros) finds himself in a seven-way tie for third in the big leagues in home runs with 17. The second overall pick of the 2015 draft has been exactly as advertised throughout his short-but-excellent major league career, as he’s slashed .281/.370/.509 though his first 1,786 trips to the plate. While he is an extremely valuable fantasy commodity, his tale is a rather interesting one when it comes to understanding a player’s performance throughout the year.
His 49-game debut in 2016 showed that Bregman was going to be able to hit in the big leagues. He was universally regarded as a top-100 player in redraft leagues heading into 2017 and did not disappoint. He hit 19 home runs and stole 17 bases while maintaining a .284 batting average and .352 OBP for the eventual world champions. Based on his pedigree and tools, many believed that this sort of power/speed combo would be what he provided going forward, along with strong ratios. He moved all the way to the top 25 in the spring of 2018 thanks to sustained dual eligibility at third base and shortstop and the promise of 20 or more home runs and stolen bases. He had a season to remember in 2018, to be sure, but not exactly in the way we expected. He smashed 31 home runs and drove in 103 runs for the Astros but only stole 10 bases. Of course, no one complained thanks to the .286 batting average and .394 OBP (eighth-best in the league), setting him up as a second-rounder in all 2019 drafts
Well, at least that’s the narrative we remember when looking back at full-season stats. In truth, his 2017 season started off miserably, as he slashed just .250/.317/.375 through May 28, and at this time last season, Bregman had a mediocre .432 slugging percentage and just five home runs. The plate discipline was good, as he was walking more than he struck out, but many were openly concerned that he was going to be a bit of a let down, especially after the .259/.380/.361 line he had through April of last season. Of course, he went on to absolutely crush the baseball for the rest of the season and all was forgiven, but the little twists and turns that happen throughout the season are all but forgotten by the following year.
On a daily basis, many of us are checking our fantasy leagues, hemming and hawing over the ups and downs of our team’s performance. We’re combing the waiver wire looking for streamers, injury replacements, or potential diamonds in the rough. We see tools like 15- and 30-day rankings or the ESPN Player Rater and try to determine if the players with a strong showing are worthy of a roster spot while openly wondering if we should cut a player who isn’t hacking it. The truth of the matter, as boring as it may be, is that most slumps and hot streaks are temporary. These small sample sizes can be good for a hunch, but ultimately, we have to rely a bit on history and scouting to determine whether we like a player. It makes folks like me seem boring at times—we are dismissive of hot streaks and forgiving of slumps almost to a fault—but that’s because we’ve seen these stories play out a thousand times. That doesn’t mean we’re right, of course. It just means that we’ve been burned enough by reactions to recent trends to be cautious. And yes, I realize that it’s odd for me to talk about ignoring short-term trends when my job is to provide fantasy guidance based on the smallest of sample sizes. This is just me rambling on about grappling with that exact concept.
David Bote (3B, Chicago Cubs)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI. If he didn’t spend so much time at the bottom of the order, I’d be much more interested in what he’s doing so far. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear path to 500 plate appearances (or even 450), and his .375 expected slugging makes his actual .481 slugging appear highly dubious.
Derek Dietrich (OF/1B/2B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, 3 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI. The third of his long balls set a new career high for Dietrich, giving him 17 on the year (tied with the aforementioned Bregman). While the expected stats say he hasn’t been THIS good, the quality of the contact he’s making is still impressive and worthy of attention. I don’t mind him as a utility man for a deeper 12-team league, but the real question is whether you have someone you’re willing to cut for Dietrich. I wouldn’t be cutting any top-150 players for him. I’d probably be hesitant about top-200 players as well.
Carlos Gomez (OF, New York Mets)—3-5, R, 2B. This guy just never seems to go away. His days of even remotely consistent fantasy production are long behind him, but there’s still double-digit stolen bases to be had if he can find playing time in the Mets outfield. He has a little bit of pop too. I wouldn’t be adding him outside of 15-team and deeper leagues, though. There’s not enough there, even if he gets to play every day.
Howie Kendrick (2B/1B/3B, Washington Nationals)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. The 35-year-old is barreling the ball up as well as he ever has in his long career and is a useful addition to 12-team rosters that need a fill-in infielder who can provide strong batting average. Don’t expect to use him for too long, though—he hasn’t appeared in 100 games since 2016.
Austin Riley (3B/OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. He’s hitting a home run almost every other day and has a hit in 11 of his 13 games. He’s doing everything he can to secure a spot with the Braves for the rest of the season. It’s good to see the strikeouts drop a little in the past few days, though I’d really like to see some more walks.
Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)—3-5, 2B, 2 RBI. It was his first time in the leadoff spot in more than a month, and he took full advantage of it. I can’t say for sure whether he’ll get to stay there, but I’m glad to see him have back-to-back multi-hit games for the first time this season. He needs to win a full time job to get back on the 12-team radar, though, as he is really a one-category contributor at this point.
Avisail Garcia (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. He keeps hitting the ball really hard and has recently alternated between the 1 and 4 spots in the lineup. We’ve seen him get hot before (he was the runner-up to Jose Altuve for the batting title in 2017), and it can be a game changer. Feel free to add him in any format where you need another outfielder, especially while the Rays have some solid playing time to give him.
Ronald Guzman (1B, Texas Rangers)—1-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. He has two straight games with a home run, but it’s hard to really see too much coming from the young lefty. He has a bit of power, but his strikeout rate will be painfully high and he’s unlikely to contribute any batting average. He’s also been relegated to the bottom of the order, so the home runs will come with fairly few runs and RBI.
Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)—1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI. The 2% walk rate and 38% strikeout rate give him a razor-thin margin for error. Things are going OK right now, but I’m very worried about his contributions for those who spent their FAAB fortunes on him for 2019.
Nomar Mazara (OF, Texas Rangers)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. As much as I want there to be a breakout for him, it’s starting to look like he’ll finish close to what he’s been for the past three seasons. I think he’s just a hot streak away from a 25-homer season instead of just 20, but otherwise, it’s about the same.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/Zumapress/Icon Sportswire)