Batter’s Box: Trust and Shohei
Baseball is better when Shohei Ohtani (DH, Los Angeles Angels) is playing it, especially when he is playing well. He went 2-3 with a run, a home run, two RBI and two walks on Monday night, which was the first display of his extra base power this season. There’s no question as to the talent of Ohtani-san, and it’s clear that when he’s in the lineup, the Angels intend to feature him (he’s hit third in all six games he’s appeared in). The real question, of course, is how much will he play while he rehabs his arm after Tommy John surgery? The early answer to that question appears to be “a lot.” Since May 7th, he’s appeared in all but one game for the Halos (a routine Sunday off), including four games against lefties. There was a credible concern coming into the season that Ohtani may start slowly and only appear against right-handed pitching, especially while Albert Pujols remained on the roster. Through a week of play, however, it appears that the Angels feel good enough about Ohtani’s elbow that they’ll let him get up to 400 or 450 plate appearances. In 367 trips to the plate last season, he swatted 20 home runs while stealing 10 bases and slashing .285/.361/.564, which was supported by a .276 xBA and .545 xSLG. He’s the real deal, folks, and if you’re in one of the 35% of Yahoo or 20% of ESPN leagues where he is available, you need to correct that immediately. He’s also a player I’m willing to “buy-high” on now that he’s returned—I think his actual value exceeds his perceived value based on the conservative nature many players have when projecting his playing time.
Lorenzo Cain (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – 5-6, R, 2 2B, RBI, SB. He’s a bit behind the stolen base pace he set for himself in seasons past, but he is healthy and looks like he can be a 15 HR/20 SB asset with a high batting average and OBP. While you might have drafted him hoping for 25-30 stolen bags, the uptick in power and RBI should help offset whatever he doesn’t steal.
Eduardo Escobar (3B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, 3B, 3 RBI. The surprisingly widely-owned utility infielder is having a very useful fantasy season so far, having already smacked his eighth dinger of the season. This was also his sixth three-hit game since April 22 and he’s found a comfortable place near the top of the order.
Tommy La Stella (2B, Los Angeles Angels) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. The second baseman continues to hit for the Angels. He’s only struck out in 6.6% of his trips to the plate and is walking 9.8% of the time. He’s alternating between the top and bottom of the order, but while he has playing time, he can be a useful player in 12-teamers with a MI spot. Don’t get too excited though—while he’s hit 10 home runs in 122 PA in 2019, it took him 947 PA to hit 10 home runs prior to 2019, so I wouldn’t count on the next 10 coming quite so quickly.
Yoan Moncada (2B/3B, Chicago White Sox) – 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He’s still striking out less and hitting the ball extremely hard (his 93.5 mph average exit velocity is in the top 4% of the league). The breakout we were waiting for his here, and he should push for 25+ home runs and 20 steals with a strong OBP.
Khris Davis (DH, Oakland Athletics) – 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB. He’s hitting .243, which is a bit of a disappointment from what we’ve come to expect (wink wink). That said, it’s nice to see the two home runs—his first since April 12.
Aledmys Diaz (SS, Houston Astros) – 2-4, R, HR, RBI. The former Cardinal and Blue Jay should continue to find some extra playing time with Jose Altuve recovering from injury, and can provide an OK batting average and modest power in his stead. I’m not using him in 12-teamers unless I’m desperate, though.
Jarrod Dyson (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 2-5, 2 R, 2 SB. From 2012 through 2017, he stole at least 26 bases per year. After a dip to 16 steals in 2018 (largely because he only found his way into 67 games), he’s on pace to go back to what he was in the past. He won’t provide anything else—ignore the current .281 batting average—but he looks like the steals boost he’s always been for NL-only and 15-team leagues.
Jake Marisnick (OF, Houston Astros) – 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. His current .297/.348/.563 is way too high for his skill set, but the free-swinging outfielder will hit his way into 15 total home runs or so by the time the season is done, assuming he continues playing as frequently as he has been.
Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins) – 2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. He continues to be incredibly useful in all formats, and I think he’s working his way into my top 15 SS-eligible players (which sounds unimpressive, but like I keep saying, it’s a DEEP position).
Ronny Rodriguez (SS, Detroit Tigers) – 2-3, BB, SB. The scrappy young infielder keeps piling on the hits for the Tigers, and Statcast says the high batting average is not a mere mirage (.296 xBA). Deep league players can probably use him as a solid fill-in while waiting for injured or slumping players to return.
Christian Walker (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. He’s still crushing the ball—his 94.1 average exit velocity, 55.4% hard hit rate and 18.5% barrel rate are all in the top 4% of the league. It’s great to see the kid finally get a chance in the bigs and perform like he has. A 25 home run season looks very doable, and he should have a decent batting average to go with it.
Cesar Hernandez (2B, Philadelphia Phillies) – 2-3, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. He’s an OBP machine and looks poised to repeat his very useful and possibly underrated 2018 campaign. He is a worthy starting 2B in 12-team leagues and a solid MI in 10-teamers.
(Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire).