Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire
As someone who constantly waxes poetic about the “Joe Schmo Effect,” you’d think I would have been more of a believer in Ryan O’Hearn‘s excellent performance over the past few weeks. He’s slashing .291/.381/.680 over his last 30 games with nine homers, and went 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI in yesterday’s game. Sure he’s got the name of a guy who sells dishwashers at Lowe’s, but wouldn’t an O’Hearn by any other name be just as sweet? According to xStats, yes, yes it would. It’s only 150 plate appearances, but so far O’Hearn is posting an excellent 12% value hit rate to go with a .379 xOBA and .370 xBACON. Now to temper your expectations: he’s hitting just .061 against lefties. However he’s only faced lefties 22 times this year, so I’m not quite ready to write him off as strictly a platoon bat just yet. In the end I think he’s likely a nice upside flier at the end of next year’s drafts, as I could see him mustering a .250 average with 30 homers over a full season.
Gary Sanchez 2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI, BB – So here’s the great thing about Gary Sanchez‘s horribad season: every Yankees fan and 2018 Gary Sanchez owner in your league won’t want to touch him with a 10-foot pole. But here’s the bad news: they have good reason. You might think the .194 BABIP tells the whole story, but there’s other things going on here, including an 18.3% infield flyball rate, mediocre 34.7% hard contact, and hugely unpalatable 14.4% line drive rate. He’ll come at a discount, but don’t assume this season was pure fluke.
Anthony Rendon 3-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI – I never knew I felt so strongly about other people’s grooming decisions until I saw Rendon rocking the Jerry curl mullet and goatee last season. Then I felt as though I couldn’t rest until I saw both those stylistic choices demolished. So, thanks for that Anthony? It’ll be interesting to see where Rendon gets drafted next year. He lost some time due to a toe fracture early in the year, but has more than made up for it over his last 30 games, with a .378 average and eight homers. His hard contact and line drive rates have both gone up this season, and his absurd 13.9% strikeout rate is below his 16% career rate. The steals likely aren’t coming back, but even so he’s essentially a lock for a .290 average and 25 homers.
Ryan Braun 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI – Is there a player with a more ironic last name than Ryan Braun? Seeing as he seems to be nursing a new ailment every other week, Braun’s had a relatively productive season. The 48.7% groundball rate likely explains some of the poor batted ball luck this season, and his hard contact and whiff rates don’t hint at any age-based regression… yet. He’s a big risk health-wise, but his draft price should reflect that next year.
Jesus Aguilar 3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI – He’s cooled off quite a bit over the past month, slashing .225/.276/.387 with just five homers. Still, this regression has only pulled his overall line down to what his xStats have him pegged for. He’s sporting a .271 xAVG, .376 xOBA, and 30.7 xHR at the moment, and that’s probably close to what he’ll do over the course of a full year.
Brandon Lowe 3-3, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB – Lowe had himself a breakout year in the minors, popping 14 homers over just 205 plate appearances, and he’s carried most of that power to the majors, with six homers in 122 plate appearances. Unfortunately the .304 average he flashed in AAA has fallen to just .248 with the Rays. The 11.5% walk rate is solid though, and there may actually be something here
Christian Yelich 2-6, R, HR, 3B, 6 RBI – There’s been a lot of chatter about how Yelich deserves the title of MVP this season. I personally think he should have won the MVP every year since he broke into the league, to be honest. Wait, MVP stands for “Most Vampire-like Player,” right? What more is there to say about this guy: he’s driven in 42 runs and hit 13 dingers over his last 30 games while batting .373. His 51.9% groundball rate is a career best, but is still bad, so he’ll likely need to match the 47% hard contact rate he’s posted this year to eclipse 30 homers again next season.
Pablo Reyes 2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB – No, this isn’t the phenom from Backyard Baseball. Pablo Reyes is a real player who plays for the (checks Google) Pirates obviously. He’s only played 13 games, and though he flashed some power and speed in the minors, there isn’t enough playing time–or time in the season, for that matter–for him to showcase his skillset.
Hunter Pence 2-4, 3 R, HR, RBI – I think the phrase “he’ll run through walls to win” was first uttered in reference to Pence, and I don’t think it was metaphorical. Pence has been a shell of himself since 2015, and now his lack of plate discipline and dreadfully low hard contact rates (30.4%) are catching up to him at the tender age of 35.
Nick Martini 3-5, 2 R, 3B, 2 RBI – My martini puns have run… extra dry. Okay, now I’ve seriously used every one I had. Martini is hitting .383 over his last 15 games, but has just one homer and no steals over 142 at-bats. At 28 years old, there likely isn’t much to see here.
Yasmani Grandal 3-3, 3B – It’s been a rough second half for Grandal, who is hitting just .201 since the break, albeit with 11 homers. The 40.1% hard contact rate this year is nice, especially since it came with a drop in strikeout rate. At the end of the day, he hasn’t taken the big step forward that we thought he did earlier in the year. He’s still a low-average catcher with 25-30 home run power whose value gets a big boost in OBP formats.