Batter’s Box: Tommy Boy

Everything Scott Chu thinks you need to know about Sunday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

Holy schnikes! Over his past 15 games, Tommy Edman (2B/3B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals) has been absolutely on fire, with his Sunday performance (3-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, SB) arguably being the best we’ve seen from him in this stretch. Since Aug. 9, he’s slashing .367/.415/.517 with 12 runs, six extra-base hits, seven RBI, and three steals with just a 12.3% strikeout rate and a 7.7% walk rate. He’s a high-contact hitter whom the Cardinals have moved all over diamond (and all over their batting order), though lately he’s found himself right at the top of the order in most games.

I’ve talked about players similar to Edman several times in this column—slap-hitting utilitymen who don’t hit home runs but seem to do everything else (Jeff McNeil, Adam Eaton, Luis Arraez, David Fletcher, etc.), and yet I still feel like these guys aren’t getting their due. In points formats, the case for owning these guys is wickedly simple—they put the ball in play and get on base a lot, and therefore they score plenty of points. They stay free agents longer than they probably should (likely because of a lack of name recognition), but eventually someone notices that they’ve scored more points than anyone else on the wire over an extended period of time, and they get scooped up.

In roto and H2H leagues, though, it can feel a bit more difficult to gauge their value. Z-scores do an OK job at showing the value of ratio contributors (ESPN’s Player Rater is a z-score system, which seeks to put a numeric value on a player’s contributions in each category based on how they compare with other players), but it’s conceptually difficult to see how much a .300 batting average will help your bottom line. Also, for whatever reason, people place an emphasis in the spring on positional flexibility that doesn’t seem to carry over into the actual regular season (you know, when you might actually need it).

Just because the counting stats aren’t gaudy, you can’t sleep on guys such as Edman, especially at this stage of the season when any player can get injured and be out for the rest of the season (we’ll miss you, Jose Ramirez). In the next few weeks, you’re almost certainly going to have to replace a player you were counting on for the rest of the season, and there may not be a great replacement on the waiver wire (especially at specific positions). Guys such as Edman, who can start at multiple fantasy positions and provide better-than-replacement level value at multiple categories, are worth their weight in gold when you’re trying to gain ground (or for those of you at the top, trying to hold ground). They allow you to not only quickly plug a hole in a roster but also open up more waiver wire options, which is critical at this stage of the game. Instead of being restricted to just, say, a replacement second baseman, owning a player such as Edman allows those feeling the pinch to find replacements who play one of many positions, as Edman can fill the immediate gap.

Anyway, before I get to the rest of the hitters, feel free to toss your favorite Tommy Boy lines in the comments. Don’t worry—there’s plenty for everyone.

Anthony Santander (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—5-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. With just modest power and very little stolen base ability, Santander doesn’t jump off of the page as a fantasy asset, but deep-league players could find some decent value in his .286 batting average and the fact that he hits in the heart of the Orioles order.

Kevin Newman (2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates)—4-4, 3 R, 2B, RBI, 2 SB. The scrappy middle infielder has been a top-10 fantasy second baseman over the past 30 days thanks to seven stolen bases. The power is very limited, but he makes a ton of contact and hits leadoff against lefties, giving him plenty of opportunities to get on the basepaths.

Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—4-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. As I’ve said before, 2020 will finally be the year that he’s not “underappreciated.” He’s fifth in batting average among qualified hitters, second in RBI, and has a healthy 29 home runs. It’s weird to see a guy take a step forward at age 29 after losing a few pieces in the lineup around him, but Rendon is a monumental talent and is probably good enough to produce in pretty much any scenario.

Donovan Solano (2B/SS, San Francisco Giants)—4-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB. Solano is another guy who has slapped the ball for a high batting average but limited power (and in this case, no speed). His .349 batting average comes with an eye-popping .429 BABIP, but don’t let that scare you too much. That uber-high BABIP largely comes from an insane 35.8% line-drive rate, and his .322 expected batting average indicates that his BABIP is the result of good contact as opposed to luck. He should be able to provide solid batting average going forward for those in deeper formats.

Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. He’ll hit at least 37 home runs, drive in at least 110 runners, and have a batting average above .287 for the fifth consecutive season. I don’t talk about it much in this column as it’s not like you can go and pick him up off the waiver wire, but he’s absolutely incredible and quite deserving of the early- to middle first-round pick you spend on him.

Matt Carpenter (1B/2B, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-4, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. It’s too late to salvage his season, but a September surge could make us consider him as a late-round flier in 2020. This might have been my biggest miss in the preseason, and I’m so mad that my colleague Jonathan Metzelaar was so right on him.

Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. His .306/.366/.504 slash line on the season looks very Altuve-like, but it also hides the fact that he slashed just .243/.329/.472 before hitting the IL on May 10. As I’ve said a few times now, the stolen bases are the piece that will ultimately define his fantasy ceiling, but there’s little room for doubt that his bat makes him a top-tier second base option. Also, I feel obligated to remind folks that he’s hitting .357/.415/.684 since the All-Star break.

Josh Donaldson (3B, Atlanta Braves)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He probably won’t hit close to .300 in a full season again, but the veteran third baseman should get to at least 35 home runs with a .375 OBP at the end of the season and there’s little reason to suspect that he can’t do something similar in 2020. His fantasy value will likely be judged in part by where he ultimately signs, though.

Ryan O’Hearn (1B, Kansas City Royals)—2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. Good for him, you know? He’s hitting just .171 in 290 plate appearances and is well past the point of consideration in almost every format, but it’s good to see him have a good day.

Mark Canha (1B/OF, Oakland Athletics)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. This piece by Matt Wallach came out a few weeks ago, but it is required reading for those of you who haven’t yet started believing in Canha.

Franmil Reyes (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. After hitting just three home runs in all of July, Franmil has turned the power back on in a big way with five home runs in his past 12 games, including these two late-inning blasts. His low-walk, high-strikeout approach makes his ratios tough to stomach, but he should hit a few dingers in his upcoming trip to Detroit that starts on Tuesday.

Victor Robles (OF, Washington Nationals)—1-6, R, 2 SB. I am very interested to see if he can build on the 16 home runs he has hit so far, which is truthfully already quite a few more than I expected coming into the season. He’s likely to push for 30 steals on the season, though, which should be par for the course for many seasons to come.

Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants)—0-5, 4 K. He has zero home runs this month and a triple slash of .206/.286/.270. If you’re still holding on, please let go.

Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox)—0-4, 3 K. It doesn’t always feel like it, but he really is improving his strikeout rate little by little (down to 24.7% for the month). This was a poor example, of course, but hopes should remain high for his future.

Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)—0-4, 2 K. I just cut him in TGFBI (I’m somehow 14th overall out of like 300 but still second in my individual league—CURSE YOU, SHELLY V!). There are rumblings that the Rangers may bench him, and he just isn’t cutting it. There’s tons of talent here, but it doesn’t matter if he can’t unlock it. He’ll need to rediscover his plate discipline from 2018 if he’s going to be relevant in mixed leagues.

For those wondering, here are the performances I also considered discussing today: Josh VanMeter (2B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds)—1-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB (many people’s second-half savior); Aristides Aquino (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—1-4, R, RBI, SB (what a story); Tim Locastro (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-4, R, BB, SB (he’s REALLY fast); and Manuel Margot (OF, San Diego Padres)—2-3, R, 2 2B, BB, SB (is he finally a thing?).

And now, without further adieu, your minor league update from Shelly Verougstraete:

 

(Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

  • Avatar Michael says:

    TGFBI?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational! It’s a cool fantasy industry contest run by the great Justin Mason.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    Picked up Edman to fill in for JoRam – yes, I am screwed!

    Re: Rendon – don’t mistake this year with the rest of his career. He is vastly outperforming anything he has ever done before. It doesn’t make his past self more productive. I think he took some steps forward this year which made him a good value. Most of his career he has not been a particularly great value IMO. This was the first year I had him on my list of players I thought were a solid value. In the past he didn’t really move the needle enough for a 2nd rd pick and the injury history was the nail in the coffin but now that he is looking at mid 30 HR with the AVG you have a star. I think he has been a 3rd 4th rder the past few years which I always thought was about right – probably a good value but the limited upside was a reason I wanted to reach for higher upside. Mid 20s HR really is nothing these days so all you had is the AVG and BB which are nice but not great. Those Nats have never been underrated thanks to Bryce Harper. On that note, my bold prediction that WAS would make the playoffs over Harper’s PHI is looking possible. I didn’t think they would, I just thought it would be funny if they did. It really is uncanny the negative effect that Harper has on a team.

    Harper is an interesting data point in assessing player value – specifically his WAR clearly isn’t what numbers pin it as. There is anecdotal evidence that he doesn’t help his team at all and he might even hurt it. There is more to life than total bases – its the thing you grapple with when trying to value AVG. The answer lies in consistency. If we used medians instead of means then I think there would be a lot of insight there, but there are a few reasons we don’t use that. 1) there is so much invested in the bigger, stronger, faster, smarter narrative and I think that has more momentum than getting it right. We are not doing better analysis and nobody seems to mind. Look at how often we talk about maximums lol… which are just outliers and tell us very little. Look at the haphazard shifts teams deploy – there is no data to support that they work most of the time. It a mindless progressive narrative in most cases – getting it right is secondary and probably even tertiary. 2) I have heard that it is much more computationally difficult to work with medians. I think we are up against the edge of where this line of analysis can take us and there certainly are not any answers in batted ball data – that is just less valuable than the real outcomes. Isn’t it funny that in the era of cloud computing and AI that the computational limitations are a problem. To be clear, I think OPS was a revolution and I think it is the best we can do with what we have. Everything is just a derivative of that. To improve on OPS you need to be able to de-value the 5 HR week followed up by the 0 for 20 or the 3 HR game in general. Rather than using averages, we need to use average performances. People have tried to chase down streakiness but the results are always embarrassing as it goes nowhere but its because people keep using the same tools – batted ball data isn’t the answer either. If someone got it right I think they would make sure that it was properly branded first – that is just the era we live in. Maximums fit well with what Amazon and MLB are trying to market. Medians are not sexy numbers but when the sample gets large enough they are insightful. Medians are what we use for home values…. because you know people want to actually gain insight as opposed to marvel at big and small numbers and averages can be greatly influenced by a few fluky data points. Heck, just throwing out the 10 best and worst games would probably be really insightful – again that sounds computationally taxing as you would have to look at the entire set every time. In a world of medians, those high average players probably look a lot better and the three outcomes types definitely look worse as they have lots of bad games and they would lose most of their good games.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Lots of good points, and funny enough, I talked about the ups and down of Rendon from 2018 – something like 40% of his season production in HR and RBI were from like 15 games with the other 60% Cron the remaining 140. It was bizarre. I think there’s room for growth in how we talk about fantasy baseball value in H2H formats (fantasy football, for all its flaws, has several consistency metrics they use that FBB could adopt).

      • Avatar J.C. Mosier says:

        Amen. Looking forward to PL’s new Consistency Rankings in preparation for next year’s draft!

        • Avatar Scott Chu says:

          I think it’d be more difficult to do with hitters than pitchers, but I think some of the rolling stats you can grab from Baseball Savant would help provide some kind of visual representation of consistency throughout a season.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    Want another good milb line from yesterday? From what I can see it was a slow day yesterday but my view is limited.
    Jeter Downs, 2/2, 2BB, 2B

  • Avatar John Connors says:

    Would you prefer VanMeter to Nick Ahmed (who I currently have) for the fantasy playoffs. Where OPS counts the most. Thanks!

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      My colleague Ben Palmer had a really nice piece about Ahmed over the weekend. He’s hot, but there’s evidence to suggest that it’s just a hot streak.

      It’s close, but it’s VanMeter for me. He hits leadoff against righties while Ahmed, despite his ridiculous second half, is still batting seventh.

  • Avatar MeterMan says:

    Hi Scott, thanks for these articles!

    VanMeter or Edman for this week? how about ROS?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      You’re more than welcome! It’s a close call, but it’s mostly about need. If you need speed, it’s Edman. If not, it’s match-up based.

  • Avatar PLSF says:

    Hey scott,

    In a points league you rolling with canha or mcmahon?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Gimme Canha. Just a bigger believer in him than McMahon. I think McMahon is just a guy despite hitting in Coors.

  • Avatar Brad R says:

    Edman has been great to me in my points/OPS league (a point for every total base and walks).

    You mention Arreaz who I’m looking at as a flex/5th OF eligible guy but also Pillar who’s been great in a points format. Who do you like in this format ROS and wondering possible thoughts on Berti

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hey Brad! I like Arraez quite a bit in your format – he has excellent contact ability which makes him consistent in points. I like both Edman and Arraez more than Berti.

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