Batter’s Box: To Your Heart’s ConTrent
Tuesday’s impressive outing (5-6, 2 R, 3B, 2B, 2 RBI) was the best performance of the season for the 22-year-old Trent Grisham (OF, Milwaukee Brewers). While he has yet to show the elite plate discipline that highlighted his tour through the minors, the Brewers have let him lead off against righties and he could be a nice spark plug for them and for you if you’re in a deeper five-outfield format.
As many of you may have heard, this is the last season where we will see the type of September call-ups that we have been used to in years past. This season, a team may use any player on its 40-man roster in any game from September 1 through the end of the regular season. Beginning in 2020, roster expansion will be capped at 28 players. While no team actually cycles in folks for all 40 roster spots, every team does call up a handful of players to give them a taste of major league action. While Grisham was actually called up earlier in the season and isn’t a mere September call up, it’s still significant for players like Grisham who rely on injuries, failure or roster expansion to worm they way onto the big league bench for a chance to play.
This time of year is always exciting from a baseball perspective because of these call-ups and rookies getting additional playing time. For those of us still managing our fantasy baseball squads, it provides a buffet of endless potential to possibly get our team where it needs to be to finish strong. Players like Grisham, who have a strong performance and a decent pedigree (he’s a top-100 prospect), can make all the difference, after all. Grisham himself, though, is a bit of a a dart throw. He lacks a standout tool, though he did an excellent job controlling the strike zone in the minors, posting 14% or higher walk rates at every step of the way. It’s only 7.4% so far through 108 plate appearances, but I expect that number to come up as he matures. He’s got some power and maybe double-digit stolen base potential with a strong OBP, so he should be exciting to watch this month at least.
While I can’t just tell you to add a bunch of called up players to help you win your league, I will say that fantasy baseball is supposed to be fun—especially in September. If there’s a young player you’ve been following for a while and you think he can somehow play his way into enough at bats to be fantasy relevant, I won’t try to stop you. Roll with them to your heart’s content.
Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros)—3-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. His 26 home runs in 109 games would come out to somewhere between 32 and 34 in a full season, though the stolen bases remain erratic and limited. Perhaps it’s the Astros playing it safe for health reasons, or the fact that they haven’t much need for Altuve to steal with Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel hitting right behind him the way they have in the second half, but I’m not overly concerned. Even with a lower stolen base total, Altuve remains an elite second baseman for fantasy.
Brandon Belt (1B, San Francisco Giants)—3-4, 2B, 2 RBI. In many ways, it’s been the worst season of his long and injury-riddled career. There was always so much untapped potential in his bat, evidenced by his strong plate discipline and the number of doubles he ripped into the power alleys. It’s a shame his body couldn’t hold up.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-3, 2B, BB. He’s been OK as a fifth outfielder in deeper OBP formats thanks to his 10.5% walk rate, but he belongs on the wire in standard leagues with that hideous .225 batting average. His batting average has dropped for three consecutive seasons now and I just don’t see a path to relevance outside of deep OBP and AL-only league.
Lorenzo Cain (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-5, 2B, RBI. He’s been plagued by injuries all season long, and while he’s managed to steal 16 bases, his .255/.323/.356 line has not been what folks were looking for when they drafted him as a #2 or #3 fantasy outfielder. Perhaps he can get healthy and make a rebound in 2020, and depending on the price, I might very well be interested.
Nick Castellanos (OF, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI. If he remains a Cub, I can only imagine how high his draft stock will go. He already has more home runs as a Cub in 36 games than he did as a Tiger in 100 games, and his .707 slugging through 158 plate appearances is nothing short of spectacular. A strong September will likely put his price to a point higher than I’m willing to pay for a guy like Castellanos, though he’s certainly a valuable commodity in most formats (but particularly those that use batting average).
Robinson Chirinos (C, Houston Astros)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI. He’s a boom-or-bust catcher who either goes 0-4 with a few strikeouts or explodes for a bunch of stats. He’s a streamer at best, though.
Nico Hoerner (SS, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, R, 3B, 4 RBI. The 2018 first-round pick showed off his contact ability and wheels in his major league debut. With Javier Baez out for the rest of the season and Addison Russel in the concussion protocol, deeper league managers could get a helpful batting average and a stolen base or two from Hoerner for their end-of-season push.
Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. You gotta like his chances for 50 dingers now, right? He’s the #4 first baseman on ESPN’s player rater for standard leagues and should be taken fairly early in fantasy drafts next season. Even with a fair bit of hype coming into 2019, he has exceeded all expectations and then some.
Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. All that’s left to describe his debut are swears and superlatives. He’s just that good. I’m participating in one of Justin Mason’s Too Early Mocks (which is a standard 5×5, 15-team format) and despite being DH-only, Yordan went in the third round (close to pick 50). Honestly, that price could easily go up.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)—2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI. The stolen bases are gone (which might be a good thing for his health), but his impressive contact ability and the fact that he hits in the heart of one of the best lineups in baseball has helped him remain as a top-15 outfielder in all formats.
Jon Berti (2B/3B/SS/OF, Miami Marlins)—1-3, 2 R, 2B, 2 BB, SB. With nine steals since August 1 and a palatable .273/.367/.461 line, Berti has been a nice surprise for owners trying to shore up their September rosters. Leading off for the Marlins isn’t the most fantasy lucrative spot in the world, but he’s well worth an add if you need speed to finish strong.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)—1-2, R, 2B, 2 BB, SB. It has been a rough for Swanson as of late, as he’s hitting just .195 in 82 at bats since the midway point with no home runs. Injuries have been the key issue, but those in 10- and 12-teamers can safely drop him for their fantasy playoffs if there’s something shinier on the waiver wire.
Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—0-4, 4 K. This was more strikeouts than he had in his previous 12 games combined. The timing is rough, but this young man doesn’t owe his fantasy managers anything for the rest of the season. If anything, they owe him.
Cameron Maybin (OF, New York Yankees)—0-4, 3 K. He was looking like a useful fantasy contributor in the middle of the season, but he lost time to injury and is hitting just .128/.196/.234 over the last month. Turns out not EVERY guy the Yankees pick up is awesome. At least not for a while season.
(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire).