A hitter’s clinic by Toronto 1B Justin Smoak keyed the Blue Jays to an offensively sound Thursday, as he went 3-3, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB en route to a 7-2 win over Seattle. The homer was Smoak’s sixth of the year and he’s up to .274 in batting average. The 21 RBI he boasts lead the team. He is only owned in 4% of Yahoo leagues and 5.8% of ESPN leagues, as compared to Albert Pujols being owned in 88% and 86.4%, respectively. And yet he now has more runs, home runs and total bases than Pujols. Makes you wonder whether people are actually researching stats or sometimes reverting to name recognition to flesh out their rosters.
Let’s take a look at what else happened hitting-wise around the league:
Ezequiel Carrera (OF, TOR) – 2-4, R, 2 K. He’s hit safely in three games and had back-to-back multi-hit efforts. Carrera’s season average has ballooned to .322 with a strong start to the month of May, and he’s got 10 each of runs and RBI.
Jean Segura (2B/SS, SEA) – 2-4, R, BB. Both hits were doubles, and his average keeps on climbing to what is now .369. He’s had multiple hits in seven of nine games played this month, which is frankly incredible.
Nelson Cruz (OF/DH, SEA) – 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Cruz finally homered for the first time since April 30 to give him eight on the year. League-wide, his 31 RBI trail only Joey Votto’s 33 and Ryan Zimmerman’s 34.
Denard Span (OF, SFG) – 4-5, R, HR, RBI. This line looks great on paper. Coming up a triple short of hitting for the cycle, especially in your first game back from the DL, is an extremely solid evening. However, buyer beware. Span lacked the overall counting stats before his DL stint: this 4-5 evening increased his BA from .200 to .255, so let’s not get too hopped up on adulation just yet. Also, the RBI was just his third in 15 total games played this year, and he only started 12 of those 15 (PH in three). The takeaway is to see whether he can ramp up production but to stay away from Span until he does so.
Zack Cozart (SS, CIN) – 2-4, RBI. His T8 RBI double plated Scooter Gennett to provide what would be the one-run game-winning margin Cincinnati would need to upend the Giants. That hit marked Cozart’s 11th such XBH, and only five guys league-wide have hit more than he has. The .356 average and .596 slugging are things of beauty as well. That Cozart is only owned in 55% of Yahoo leagues and 65% of ESPN leagues is surprising to me at this point.
Yunel Escobar (3B, LAA) – 3-4, RBI. With this outing, Escobar notched his fifth multi-hit game of May. You cannot rely on him for power or speed, but the 20 runs and 17 RBI to pair with a .272 average all stand to do you favors if you should need them. He’s the Angels’ locked-in leadoff man ahead of Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout; so, if the bases are ever loaded with that trio, Albert Pujols would be the guy tasked with slamming one into the bleachers for Escobar to score yet again. Again, it’s a favorable spot to be in, and you could certainly do worse than Escobar.
Ian Kinsler (2B, DET) – 3-4, 2 R, BB. Not only is his left hamstring issue finally resolved after over a week of not playing on day-to-day health status, but Kinsler came back with a bang to help his lagging average up to .228 Thursday. He is safe to fire up in all lineups again.
Justin Upton (OF, DET) – 1-5, R, HR, 3 RBI, 3 K. Upton had a nice box score to show for his evening of work, but the real news is that he’s homered twice in three games and has now hit safely in four straight from Detroit’s 5-spot. He has a .262 BA and 19 RBI now, and he’s also scored 21 times himself. The multiple strikeouts should only be something to keep an eye on if you play in a points league that penalizes for such transgressions.
James McCann (C, DET) – 3-4, R, RBI. I would truly like for McCann to have more fantasy relevance than he does; seven homers and 16 RBI are both solid for a guy who’s splitting time at backstop with Alex Avila. But the .195 average is too meager for me to forgive. Legitimately, however, a decent strategy would be to own both guys as handcuffs to one another, with the caveat being that you’d have to be on your toes checking news for who’s starting in Detroit’s order every day. Avila is mashing .360 with four homers and 13 RBI, for comparison’s sake.
David Peralta (OF, ARI) – 2-4, R. Peralta got his first hits of May in this low-scoring affair against Pittsburgh, and they were both doubles. To clarify, he’s only appeared in five games and started just four of those after missing time with the flu. The slow start to the month is not a concern, and the .291 season average backs that up. I would like RBI and power to experience an uptick, but otherwise Peralta is a more-than-serviceable guy to own.
Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL) – 2-4, 3 RBI, BB, K. He has been a massive disappointment to fantasy owners thus far this season, and the fact that he had a .500 night and yet is still below .200 on the year encapsulates his medium-term struggles succinctly. He’s finally in double digits for RBI, on a bittersweetly positive note. The .239 BABIP is a career low for CarGo in the majors, so the consolation here is that despair over his recent inefficiency should be sprinkled with many grains of salt. If you’ve had the patience to retain him this long during the hard times, don’t give up now and let someone else enjoy the spoils when he turns it around.
Ian Desmond (OF, COL) – 2-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, K. Colorado enjoyed the luxury of getting six doubles in Thursday’s game against the Dodgers: Desmond and fellow stud Nolan Arenado were responsible for two apiece. Desmond has looked largely exceptional ever since making his long-awaited return to the active roster on April 30 from a hand fracture. Eleven games are probably too few to get hugely excited about hard contact numbers, but his percentage is sitting at an engorged 48.4 and fantasy owners have to be enjoying it.
Yasmani Grandal (C, LAD) – 1-1, 2 RBI. The only reason this pinch-hit RBI double is relevant to mention here is because it extended Grandal’s hitting streak to six games. He’s batting .407 in May and .276 on the year, which are numbers that manifest relief to owners who saw him dip below .200 several times throughout April. For a power guy, four homers is a slow start, but RBI have come for Grandal in six of his seven games this month.
Mike Napoli (1B/DH, TEX) – 2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. This was a fantastic game for Napoli. But the fact of the matter is that he’s been so terrible so far this year that he’s only owned in 40% of Yahoo leagues and 35.3% of ESPN leagues, so relatively few people got to enjoy the spoils brought by his multi-homer evening against San Diego. The .172 average is still going to ensure that folks maintain their distance, but he does have 15 runs and 17 RBI to his credit despite the horrendous average. If and when Napoli becomes a consistently good bat again, the price to acquire him will be extremely low, by his own doing.
Rougned Odor (2B, TEX) – 2-4, R, RBI, CS. This marks the first time in 2017 that Odor has two multi-hit efforts in any three-game stretch. He’s thankfully crossed back into .200-plus BA territory now. Hang tight, because the steady improvement should be finally coming now.
Jonathan Lucroy (C, TEX) – 3-4. He’s still basically irrelevant because his counting stats are all languishing in the single digits. The .253 BA obviously now shows that Lucroy is recovering his form, but you almost certainly have already deployed other guys at C who have exhibited greater reliability and production to this point in the season.
Miguel Sano (3B, MIN) – 1-2, 2 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. He got his first homer since May 2 to bump the season tally to nine, and Sano is averaging .304 with an appealing 1.108 OPS. His BB/K rate bumping up to 0.60 is part of the reason he has bona fide top-echelon appeal in OBP leagues.
Eduardo Escobar (3B/SS, MIN) – 2-3, R, HR, 4 RBI, BB, K. The homer was Escobar’s fourth of the season, and it plated both Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer. As the DH for Minnesota Thursday night, he added an RBI double T5 that accounted for one of Sano’s runs too. He’s got an acceptable, if not great, .250 BA in 60 at-bats this season.
Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, KCR) – 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Don’t be swayed by Merrifield’s one solid evening: he’s batting .217 and only has eight runs, 3 homers and 6 RBI this year.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS) – 2-5, K, 2 SB. While Mookie Betts was hogging most of the spotlight with a three-RBI night, Bogaerts quietly slipped in and stole a couple of bases to bring his season total to five. He’s also batting a luscious .342 right now.