I can’t say enough good things about Royals 2B/OF Whit Merrifield these days. He’s seen mention in some recent Batter’s Box articles for his hitting and baserunning exploits of late, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue for him to go 5-13, 5 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB, 2 K, SB during the final three games of this weekend’s series against Seattle. But the fact that he’s hit safely in 19 of his last 22 games and enjoyed nine multi-hit showings during that span is making his value as a budding fantasy star very apparent. During a red-hot July, Merrifield hit .330 and notched nine of his 18 overall steals. He now currently leads the Royals in doubles and triples. A .294 season average is awesome, with Eric Hosmer‘s .316 beating him out among Kansas City players. A HR/FB ratio of 9.4% could use a little work, but 13 homers from a sub-.200 ISO guy are acceptable when he’s contributing amply in every roto category. The balance of 49 RBI and 50 runs scored is nice as well, especially considering that he bats leadoff for Ned Yost’s club. Merrifield’s zone contact rate is 91%, and he only swings at one-third of the stuff thrown outside the zone to him, so I’m liking the discipline as well. I have him as my starting 2B on my Pitcher List staff league team, and he led me to a narrow victory with some of his work during Sunday’s doubleheader. I highly recommend being one of the people that ups his ownership percentage from 80.3% in ESPN leagues and 76% in Yahoo leagues.
Let’s take a look at some of the other notable pieces of hitting from the weekend:
Brian Dozier (2B, MIN) – 5-11, 4 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, BB, 2 K, CS. Dozier has spent most of the past couple months averaging anywhere between mid-.240s and low .250s, and even though that is not an exceptional BA range to be in I respect and admire the consistency: you know what you’re getting when he’s on your roster. The .268 Dozier enjoyed in 2016 is appearing to be the exception rather than the rule, with this relative regression being more in keeping with his career average of .246. The three jacks over the weekend put him at the 20-HR mark, which means he theoretically could get 30 by the end of the regular season. Ten steals to his name but he’s also been caught six times, which would be a bummer if you’re in a NSB league. Otherwise, 54 runs and 56 RBI are perfectly fine as well. He’s a solid 2B starter, even if he’s not doing anything particularly flashy at the moment. He did exit Sunday’s game with an illness, but he’ll be fine.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, MIA) – 5-11, 4 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2 K. Stanton and Dozier had similar stat lines from the weekend, but the fun subplot differentiating the two is that Stanton reclaimed the position of Home Run King from Aaron Judge for the moment, with what is now 36 bombs on the year. A .278 average is especially appealing for a guy with such raw power, as you’re not cornered into accepting a low BA as the sacrifice you make for all the homers like you might with a Joey Gallo or Rougned Odor. Stanton has 79 RBI and 80 runs as well, which are eighth-best and sixth-best in the league, respectively. In summary, Stanton is one of the best existing OF in three categories and a perfectly decent play for the fourth. Get your steals elsewhere and enjoy his presence on your roster.
Orlando Arcia (SS, MIL) – 5-10, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 K, CS. Arcia has a five-game hit streak going after concluding a series against St. Louis well and opening up a can at Tropicana during the weekend’s action against Tampa Bay. His .282 average is still strong, even though it’s dwindled from .290s territory since the All-Star break. He’s quietly accumulated 10 steals, and he has a slightly modest 42 runs and 39 RBI. Travis Shaw is dominating the latter in Milwaukee, but only Domingo Santana and Eric Thames join Shaw in outdoing Arcia in plating runs for the Brew Crew. Arcia is a really great middle INF play, and is on the bubble between being a bona fide starting SS and a robust backup SS in 12-teamers. He does bat toward the bottom of Milwaukee’s order, however, so just know that going into ownership of him.
Yuli Gurriel (1B/3B, HOU) – 5-12, 4 R, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K. Gurriel bookended a dud of a game Saturday with excellent ones on Friday and Saturday at Minute Maid Park. He’s been on fire since before the All-Star break, batting .375 so far in August and .304 throughout July for a composite average of .290 right now. Gurriel has settled in to his role as the almost-daily cleanup hitter for Houston, and 58 RBI and 51 runs are working nicely for fantasy owners. Similar to my assessment of Arcia, he’s a backend starter in 12-teamers, but the multiple position eligibility adds to his appeal for sure.
Andrew Benintendi (OF, BOS) – 3-10, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 2 SB. This doesn’t even include the 3-3 night with two doubles he had on Thursday, but Benintendi undeniably had an outstanding series against the White Sox. He struggled Friday with an 0-5 outing, but Benintendi made up for it with otherwise decent work. He’s now got a .269 average to go along with 13 homers, 57 RBI and 54 runs. With three steals over the last four days, his season total in swipes is up to 12, which boosts his value quite a bit. Boston is poised to make a deep run into October, and Benintendi batting early in the order is going to continue to produce for John Farrell’s AL-East-leading Red Sox.
Chris Young (OF, BOS) – 4-10, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 K. Young doesn’t get a ton of playing time in Boston’s stacked outfield, but he made his veteran presence known with a dual-homer game Sunday. Through 187 at-bats, Young has seven bombs, 24 each in runs and RBI, as well as three SB and a .251 average. All of those things are really solid for the coaching staff to have available in a reserve OF in real life, but from a fantasy production standpoint, it’s just not enough. Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Mookie Betts, along with the aforementioned Benintendi, are going to make it very difficult for Young to have any fantasy upside or lasting value despite the excellent bit of hitting he put together this weekend. He’s owned in less than 1% of ESPN leagues for a reason, alas.
Wil Myers (1B/OF, SDP) – 3-12, R, HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, SB. Myers was pretty dreadful in July, and he’s not hitting well for average in general, but he had a few flashes of brilliance during the Padres’ road series at PNC Park. The season BA is .242 for Myers, and he has managed 55 runs and 52 RBI to this point in the 2017 campaign; his 21 homers have honestly underwhelmed, based on the expectation that he’d be a sturdier threat to bring power regularly to the dish for San Diego. Having said that, he’s got 11 steals to add variety and versatility to his fantasy résumé. He’s a good UTIL play, but there are numerous other better options to deploy as your starting 1B at this point.
Nelson Cruz (OF/DH, SEA) – 3-9, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, K. Cruz snapped a seven-game hit streak with an 0-4 showing during Game 2 of Sunday’s double feature at Kauffman, but he’s still hitting .279 on the season. Three homers during his first five games of August have Cruz’s season total sitting at 24, and he’s got a resoundingly great 84 RBI as well. The cleanup man for Seattle doesn’t score nearly as many runs himself, with only 54 to his credit. Cruz is more than capable of making a push and ending the year with 35+ jacks and an average in the .280s if he can get more streaks working for him.
Justin Turner (3B, LAD) – 4-12, 5 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, K, 2 SB. Sunday’s game was a mouthwatering multi-category bonanza for Turner: stealing his third and fourth bases of 2017 and homering for the 13th time to terrorize the Mets was how Turner closed out the weekend. Even better is the fact that he went yard Saturday too. The .349 BA he owns is second league-wide to only Jose Altuve (.364…!!!) among qualified hitters. I would like for him to have more than 50 runs scored and 46 RBI, but it’s very apparent Turner is hot and the Dodgers are arguably the best team in the league with excellent batting up and down the order. He’ll continue to rake and do good things for you.
Thoughts on Matt Chapman? His minor league profile is very similar to Gallo (a tad less power for a tad more contact rate. I am just a little surprised he isn’t getting any notice with a second half OPS over 1.000 as he settles into the majors.
His power is well below the Gallo. Gallo is a legend in that department. Consider that if Gallo had just a bit less pop he would be a AAAA slugger