A strong bearded rugged looking man in a hat always looks like they can get things done. At least that’s what I think Chuck Norris did in Walker, Texas Ranger. I’ve never actually seen an episode. But with all the Chuck Norris jokes from ten years ago, those things he could get done were impressive. The things Christian Walker can do at the plate have been just as impressive. Last night, he ripped three hits all over 104.7 MPH, two of them for home runs. He finished the game going 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. He’s been unexpectedly fantastic in his first full season in the bigs while being 28 years old already. He hopped around a few teams in 2016-2017 when the Diamondbacks grabbed him off waivers. In AAA during the 2017 season, he showed what he could be capable of, hitting 32 homers in 133 games while hitting .309. The only thing preventing him from playing in the majors was Paul Goldschmidt. Tough competition. Well the Diamondbacks had something figured out since Walker has been outperforming Goldschmidt so far in 2019.
Back on April 24th, after Walker’s blazing hot start, Alex Fast dove into the changes Walker had made and if he is a legitimate breakout for the season. What has he done since then? It’s been well over two months of baseball and Walker hasn’t lived up to his blazing hot start. As Fast predicted, everything has gotten worse for Walker, except his K rate which has stayed the same. However, a lot of the struggles he faced came and went in May. From the end of May (the 30th) and forward, Walker is slashing .296/.356/.583. Those last two games in May he had homered, so that was where things started to turn around again for him. Also, notably in May, he was unlucky based on his expected stats. Each BA, SLG, and wOBA were around 50 points below expected for the month of May while his April and June numbers were only slightly higher than expected. Despite these fluctuations with his production in regards to expected stats, his hard hit rate has steadily declined as the season progresses. I wouldn’t expect a repeat of his first half moving forward and may only be good enough to roster for deeper leagues.
Adalberto Mondesi (2B/SS, Kansas City Royals)—3-6, 2 R, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, SB. Mondesi has now clocked as many games in 2019 as he did in 2018. So let’s look at how over-hyped he was in the offseason! Of course he couldn’t repeat his incredible second half breakout. Well, he hasn’t lived up to the power, but the rest is right in line. He has scored just four less runs, 13 more RBIs, stole four less bags, and hit about .270 again. He may have gotten a bit lucky to start the year but the way he’s scoring and stealing, he’s still worth it.
Jesús Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. 2019 Aguilar is just 2018 Domingo Santana. I’m not sure how actually similar they are but they mirror each other so well. Aguilar’s power has just gone poof! It’s all come down to hitting the fastball. Instead of mashing it like last year, he’s whiffing more and not getting good contact. Regardless of the reason, as a fastball hitter last year, if he can’t hit it this year, he just won’t hit at all.
Chris Davis (1B, Baltimore Orioles)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. After ending his original hitless streak, Davis bounced back with a strong month. That time has long passed us by and we’re back to Davis’ classic hitting ways. He’s not playing regularly anymore either which makes sense as he has a 40% K rate the past month, with a .207 average and a BABIP at .323. Davis has clubbed a couple dingers in the past few games but he’ll always get a hold of one every now and then.
Aaron Judge (OF, New York Yankees)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. You can’t spell exit velocity without Aaron Judge. Now that I typed it out, that doesn’t look exactly right. Anyway, Judge picked up right where he left off after returning from his injury and has mashed the ball. Last night was no different with a 116.3 MPH homer traveling 442 feet. He also added a 104.1 MPH homer. He’ll continue to rip the cover off the ball as long as he stays on the field.
Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Gardner got in on the action with his own 400 footer making it 13 on the year for him passing his total from last year. He isn’t stealing like he used to (only six so far) but he is making the case for one of his best offensive seasons. He currently has the highest slugging of his career which is being boosted by his highest HR/FB and FB rate of his career. In the end, Gardner will put up ok numbers everywhere except runs where it looks like he’ll reach close to 100 again. Due to his age and not so flashy play, I feel Gardner easily slips through the cracks.
Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-4, 3 R, 2B, RBI. Betts’ season is certainly nowhere close to his outstanding performance last season, and looks much more similar to his solid 2017. He is getting on base at close to a 40% clip and is scoring a ton of runs. Through 86 he has 74 runs scored. But where has his power gone? His hard hit rate is down nearly eight percentage points. And again (like a few players discussed yesterday and today) he is struggling much more against the fastball. He’s still producing and giving your team value, just not top pick value.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)—4-4, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, RBI. The master of contact delivered four more hits last night, three of them for extra bases. Despite still never swinging and missing, he has struggled a bit more than usual this past month. Weaker contact and less balls in the air pushed his OPS for the last month below .800. He has struck out a touch more as well. It should not be much of a concern as a player with elite contact skills in the middle of the Astros lineup will be plenty productive.
Jonathan Schoop (2B/SS, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI. Schoop’s put together a nice bounce back season much more similar to his 2016 campaign. Despite this, he’s still swinging more and missing more. He continues he quest to never walk (3.7 % walk rate). But he’s making much better contact when the bat does hit the ball. His barrel rate is up a few ticks to 8.3%, its highest since 2015. He’s also improved drastically on breaking balls, a big part of what kept him at bay last season.
Marwin Gonzalez (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI. One of the big offseason signings for the Twins, Gonzalez has not been paying out many dividends. He’s also given almost no fantasy value despite being able to play almost every position. He’s been mediocre all around and hasn’t gotten much playing time recently with a hamstring injury. However, before going down with that injury, he had a small resurgence. Since the start of June (with the two weeks out) he slashed .301/.346/.548. Something to consider now that he’s back in playing again.
Dexter Fowler (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 3B, 2 RBI. I was this close to squeezing in Fowler yesterday into the Batter’s Box, so now that he’s gone two games in a row with a homer, he had to get slotted in. Fowler ended the game last night a double short of the cycle for all those leagues with a cycle category. But more importantly since the start of June, Fowler has been slugging .537 with six homers. Another but! His HR/FB is way up while his hard hit rate hasn’t changed much.
(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
You didn’t need a deep dive to determine that Walker wasn’t going to be an MVP candidate – you really don’t. It seems to me like the progressive metrics actually cloud the analysis as a hot stretch will look a bit more valid than it clearly isn’t and you don’t need them to determine that he probably isn’t going to go from terrible to elite year-over-year. That said, his AAA mashing has always been notable. Things could end up pretty ugly for him as his BABIP creeps toward where it belongs. He has been a good add this year, but you don’t need statCast to tell you that he is still Christian Walker.
Interesting take on Mondesi, I had been thinking that he was exceeding expectations this year. I don’t think anyone thought he would just pick up where he left off. I thought he might be a lot worse than he has been and he has been really good. Wow, his wRC+ is 91 (which is a just a bad metric for him)… I didn’t realize how much he struggled in June. My concern with him was always that if he scuffled it could really go very south very quickly due to the lack of an approach and frankly how bad he was at times as a younger player. If there is a time to buy, it is now but it would be risky. This would be an interesting player for a deep dive as he is not an obvious overachiever (Walker) or a player that is going to rebound for sure like Goldy. I still think of him as having a good year which is probably a weird thing to say at this moment.
Awesome title, Jim!