Batter’s Box: We want the one you call ‘McNeil’

Scott Chu walks through Wednesday's top batting lines.

When you just look at the stat lines, it can be tough to figure out how to value a guy such as Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets), who managed three hits in five plate appearances with a double and a run scored on Wednesday night. Guys such as McNeil who don’t put up gaudy counting statistics seem uninteresting and unexciting for fantasy purposes, and they can be easy to ignore. Don’t fall for this trap. Batting average and OBP have a big impact on your ability to win a league.

For the uninitiated, McNeil is a slap-hitting lefty with positional flexibility who exploded onto the fantasy scene last season by slashing .329/.381/.471 in 248 plate appearances. He walks at a slightly above-average clip and does a wonderful job avoiding strikeouts, which has helped him carve out a role at the top of the Mets’ order. It’s the perfect scenario for a guy of his talents, as he isn’t all that able to bring himself all the way around the bases on his own. There were concerns coming into the season about the sustainability of his batting average and OBP as well as the type of role he’d have coming into the season after the Mets acquired Robinson Cano. The struggles of Cano and the open spot in left field has paved the way for McNeil’s playing time this season. He has recently returned from the IL after a hamstring injury put him on the shelf for about two weeks, but it seems that the issue is now behind him.

McNeil isn’t going to put up 15 home runs or steal 10 bases (he has zero steals on the season and has been caught four times, though he stole seven in his short 2018 premier). He also won’t score 80 runs or drive in 70 runners. What he will do, though, is hit about .300 and keep an OBP in the area of .360 or better. That doesn’t always feel as useful as a bunch of dingers or a ton of stolen bases, but these ratios can be the toughest thing to acquire during the season on the waiver wire. A guy such as McNeil can help offset some of the ratio damage caused by assets such as Franmil Reyes and also tend to be a bit more consistent in points leagues thanks to their contact ability. McNeil is owned in less than half of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, though I expect that to change very soon now that he’s back in action. If he was dropped in your league because of someone else’s IL crunch, go swoop him up now. He has a definite place on rosters in 10- and 12-teamers (especially if you need to start five outfielders or a middle infielder) and in all points formats.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. He went through a prolonged power drought through most of April and May but now has four home runs in his past five games. Like many power-first bats, Grichuk has a tendency to be streaky. He’s difficult to roster in 10-teamers because of his low batting average and he’s even tougher to own in OBP formats, but 12-teamers that use batting average and five outfield spots might find a home for him as a fifth outfielder thanks to his 30-home run potential.

David Bote (2B/3B, Chicago Cubs)—4-4, R, HR, 2B, 7 RBI. He doesn’t have consistent playing time and he usually hits at the bottom of the Cubs batting order, but that’s through no fault of his own as he’s hitting .289 with a .503 slugging percentage so far this season. That said, the Statcast data seems to think Bote has been more lucky than he has been good, giving him an expected batting average of just .240 and an expected slugging of .373.  Those expected stats, along with his playing time and lineup issues, make him a hard pass for me in all but the very deepest of formats.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. The quality of contact he makes has been quite impressive, and his plate discipline remains strong. Since his power breakthrough on May 14, he’s hitting .295/.353/.615. Vladito is simply an unbelievable talent.

Colin Moran (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. The 26-year-old has been crushing the ball over the past two weeks, evidenced by his .265 ISO in his past 53 plate appearances. He’ll likely continue to sit against most of the lefties the Pirates will face, but he has a fairly useful career .787 OPS against right-handed pitching, making him a nice platoon bat in very deep leagues and a decent DFS option.

Wil Myers (3B/OF, San Diego Padres)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB, SB. Through May 24, Myers was sporting a painful .222/.292/.399 batting line and forcing owners to decide whether to drop the guy they counted on to be a starting third baseman or outfielder for their fantasy team. His .286/.457/.657 line from May 25 through yesterday’s combo meal is a great start toward making amends. The three steals in his past seven games are also a great sign, as his power/speed combo is what makes him so appealing. If he was dropped by a frustrated owner in your league, go ahead and pick him up. He’s potentially starter-worthy at third or in the outfield in most formats. I’m still concerned about the strikeout rate, but at least it hasn’t bled into his walk rate.

Domingo Santana (OF, Seattle Mariners)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. The shine has really worn off of pretty much everything in Seattle these days. I think he could be good for 25 home runs and 10 steals with a decent batting average and OBP, which is nice and all but also a bit replaceable.

Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI. He’s one home run away from tying his total from last season and continues to show strong plate skills. He could very well put up 25 home runs and 15 steals at this rate, which is an incredible return on investment for his owners (who spent nothing to acquire him).

Brian Anderson (3B/OF, Miami Marlins)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI, BB, SB. This is a cool performance for Anderson but probably not an actionable one for fantasy owners. He has middling batting average and OBP potential with limited power and speed. You can do better in 10- and 12-teamers.

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, 3 RBI, SB. That’s 15 steals for Jose, putting him at a tie for second in all of baseball. We’re still waiting on the power and batting average, but at least he hasn’t been a TOTAL black hole.

Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox)—1-2, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB. He has a 177 wRC+ in his past 57 plate appearances. I keep plugging him because I really believe he has value in 12-team and deeper formats as your fifth outfielder.

Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-4, R, 2B, RBI, 2 SB. These were his first two steals of the season and a positive sign that he can get to double digits again like he has in four of the past five seasons.

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—2-5, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, SB. The hitting numbers are all well and good, and I’m happy to see him finally break out, but what the heck is going on with these steals?

Delino DeShields (OF, Texas Rangers)—4-6, R, RBI. He has six hits in his past two games with a stolen base, but this is not a guy to own in 10- and 12-teamers. He’s a speed-only guy who the Rangers have shown no real commitment to at the top of the order (not to mention the fact that their outfield is already extremely crowded).

(Photo by Mark Goldman/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 Terry Bennett says:

    Scott – great stuff as always. In a league that counts OBP, who would you choose, ROS between Jackie Bradley and Dwight Smith? Also, if you had to choose between Colin Moran and Chad Pinder?
    Thanks
    Terry

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Thanks Terry! I’d pick JBJ and Moran here. I like JBJ’s upside more than Smith Jr’s (especially if he can start doing what he did last year in terms of barrel rate). Moran and Pinder are both basically platoon bats for fantasy purposes, but Moran is a lefty so his platoon is a bit more useful from day to day.

  • Avatar Rufus T. Firefly says:

    Scott- do you think it’s worth dropping Victor Robles for Wil Myers, or does that not really make my team better? Victor is a great talent but thus far the youngster has struggled to hit consistently, and that may just be what he is this season. 5×5 redraft, I have noone else to drop and I’ve always been a fan of Wil
    thx

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      That’s a tough one, Rufus. I totally get it if you need power, as Robles isn’t likely to have a whole lot of it while Myers should have plenty. It’s a tough cut and I don’t envy your position, but it’s not necessarily crazy depending on the depth of your league.

      • Avatar Rufus T. Firefly says:

        I made the move. The clincher was position versatility, I have no backup 1B. Thx Scott

  • Avatar Karl says:

    Better own in a 20team dynasty h2h points league: Teoscar Hernandez or Delino DeShields?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Touch call in that kind of depth. If strikeouts don’t hurt, Teoscar by a mile. If they do, probably Teoscar, unless steals get an unusual amount of points compared to most formats.

    • Avatar theKraken says:

      DeShields isn’t ownable in any format.

  • Avatar Saint says:

    Great stuff Scott,

    12 Team 6×6 H2H OPS 3OF Redraft

    Speaking of Domingo, I currently roster Yelich, Brantley, Puig, Domingo, K. Marte, and Fletcher with OF eligibility. I have 2 bench bats and would like to carry just one. The rest of my offense is solid across the board.

    Who would you consider dropping? Also, Kingery just gained 3B eligibility and now is 3B-SS-OF eligible in ESPN league so I could then drop two of what I have and grab him as well.

    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Thanks Saint! Domingo is the drop for me in this one. He’s OF only and I don’t see how he’ll ever go in ahead of the other guys and doesn’t provide anything that you aren’t getting elsewhere.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I don’t see Kingery as a good add, though. He’s not an upgrade from Fletcher or Marte.

  • Avatar J says:

    What are your thoughts on Domingo in dynasty?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Good question, J. He’s neither a building block nor dead weight—he’s more “good enough” than he is anything else. The upside of his 30 HR, 15 SB seasons makes him worthy of a roster spot, but I’m probably not doing a ton to buy or sell him. He’s also just 26, so he has a place on most teams.

  • Avatar PC says:

    Scott – thanks for the great stuff. I am exactly one who just picked up McNeil on the day of his activation, hoping to offset ratio partly hurt by Franmil!

    12 Team H2H 6X6 (AVG, OPS) + K
    In 2B + 3B + SS positions, I currently roster McNeil, JoRam, Chavis, and Villar. With only Villar being SS eligible, I’m thinking of picking up another SS, hopefully also 2B/3B eligible for flexibility given the slump of JoRam and Chavis. What do you think of Asdrubal Cabrera and Goodrum?
    And is it time to panic on Chavis, who’s not producing as much and just K-ing way too much? Considering dropping either Chavis or a borderline pitcher for the add.
    Thanks!

  • Avatar Scott Chu says:

    Thanks PC! Glad to hear you got him.

    I think I like Cabrera more than Goodrum, but I’m not sure either is a significant upgrade from Chavis, though Chavis is looking more like the player we expected.

    I probably wouldn’t worry too much about a backup SS to be honest. You wouldn’t start them over Villar anyway.

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