Batter’s Box: What a Juan-derful World

Everything Scott Chu thinks you need to know about Monday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

It’s still crazy to me that Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals) is just 20. He had a solid night at the dish last night (1-3, RBI, 2 BB, SB) and is having a very strong sophomore campaign thanks to his extremely good plate discipline and 30-home run power. The fact that he’s on pace for double-digit stolen bases is just icing on a very, very sweet cake.

As the 14th best outfielder so far on the season, it’s fun to think about what Soto’s ceiling might actually be as he matures in the major leagues. He’s still six or more years away from what we generally consider to be the peak for a hitter yet he’s going to have roughly 50 home runs before he’s even allowed to legally buy himself an alcoholic beverage.

Following last season, several folks (myself included) preached a little bit of caution with Soto, saying that it’s very difficult for even the best players to repeat what Soto did in his rookie season. Pitchers have a full off-season to hunt for ways to attack him, and it was clear that the team around him might not be as talented as the one he had in 2018. There were also a few things in the Statcast data that suggested that he benefited from a bit of good fortune.

As I’ve said before, though, just because there are concerning points in the data doesn’t mean a player is predestined to regress. While his opposition worked to attack him in new ways, Soto clearly found ways to elevate his own game. He’s hitting the ball harder and higher than he did last season and barreling it up more often. He grew, and as a result, he flourished.

Growth is really difficult to predict, and that’s why it’s commonplace for fantasy analysts to be very conservative with young players. Growth isn’t merely a product of talent, after all. It’s a mental thing as much as it’s a physical one. We don’t know these players and we don’t get to see them during the off-season. We can’t automatically assume players will grow (in fact, many don’t), but man, when they do, it’s a special thing to behold.

Cavan Biggio (2B, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI. For the month of July, Biggio is batting just .197 and his .330 OBP is higher than his .303 slugging. On the plus side, this was his second home run in his last three games, so hopefully it’s a sign that he’s pulling him self out of this slump.

Ian Desmond (1B/OF, Colorado Rockies)—3-3, R, 3B, 2B, BB. Our own Nick Gerli wrote a great piece on some of the changes Desmond has made, which include a fancy new pitching machine, getting the ball in the air more and pulling line drives for extra bases. The speed may be diminished, but there’s still some fantasy value left in the tank for Desmond.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-5, R, HR, 3B, 3 RBI. He’ll get close to 30 home runs, sure, but it comes with a brutal .232 batting average, a sub-.300 OBP and no speed. He’s the poster-child for the type of player that is no longer relevant in 10- and 12-team leagues unless you’re streaming your fifth outfielder and he’s on a hot streak or has an extremely favorable slate (like Baltimore).

Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, R. He should hit 40 home runs and rack up 110 RBI. The batting average is down a bit, which is sort of coinciding with an elevated strikeout rate and a pretty extreme slump earlier this season. He’s a borderline top-10 third baseman, which doesn’t sound super impressive until you start to look at the actual names at third base.

Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, R, 2 RBI, BB. It has not been the rebound campaign we hoped for from Joey Votto, to say the least. The power has evaporated, though there are small nuggets of value lingering in his bat, such as his .310 batting average and 15 combined runs and RBI in his last 10 games. Just don’t expect much in the way of home runs—he’ll be lucky to get to 15 on the season.

Brian Anderson (3B/OF, Miami Marlins)—2-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. He plays every day, has pretty OK plate discipline and should get close to 70 runs, 70 RBI, 20 home runs and five steals. In a 15-team league or NL-only, that’s pretty darn useful. Everywhere else, it’s pretty darn not.

Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit Tigers)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. The batting average and OBP are not bad and he’s started 26 times at first base, so he might have AL-only relevance for one more season. I love Miggy and everything about what he brings to the game of baseball. He’s not a fantasy asset at this point of his career, but I hope to get my 7-year-old son to a game or two this season just so he can say he saw him.

Cheslor Cuthbert (3B, Kansas City Royals)—2-4, 2B, 2 RBI. Great call by Rich Holman in his DFS column yesterday picking Cuthbert. He’s found quite a bit of success in the majors, though much of it is probably due to good fortune. He was a mildly interesting prospect at one point and has decent contact ability, though he doesn’t walk much and doesn’t have a ton of power. I’m not a fan of his in most formats but if you’re in a very deep dynasty format you could probably do worse if you need a backup corner infielder.

David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Rich also nailed this one! From a full-season perspective, it’s going to be nice to see Dahl finally get to 500 plate appearances (knock on wood). There’s a bit of pop and speed here, though the real value comes from the high batting average that goes with it. He might not become the star we hoped for back in his prospect days, but he should be a solid mixed league outfielder for quite some time.

Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. It had been nearly a month since his last home run, so it’s nice to see him swat two of them to catch up. His .589 OPS for July has not been great, but he’s still the 14th best first baseman on the season according to the ESPN Player Rater, ahead of names like Paul GoldschmidtLuke Voit and Rhys Hoskins (that’s what a .283 batting average can do for you). I don’t expect him to FINISH above any of those name, but it’s an interesting tidbit nonetheless.

Kole Calhoun (OF, Los Angeles Angels)—1-4, R, HR, RBI. This also came with three strikeouts, which highlights the boom-or-bust nature of Cowboy Kole. He is a streaming option for me and nothing more. He’s particularly useful when the Angels play righties, as he often sneaks into the lead-off role.

Austin Riley (3B/OF, Atlanta Braves)—0-3. Two of the outs were strikeouts and after his blistering start, things have screeched to a halt for the young Brave. If the struggles continue, he may start to cede major playing time to the now-healthy Ender Inciarte and the recently activated Adam Duvall. Riley has a 42.2% strikeout rate so far in July and since the break he has a wRC+ of 9. Just nine. He has taken a big step back in virtually every metric since he exploded on the scene and has been really difficult to roster since the start of June. In 10- or 12- team redraft, you can drop him.

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 Rene S. says:

    Hey Scott, which catcher do you recommend for ros… W.Smith or M.Garver?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hard to have a much better start for a rookie catcher than what we’ve seen from Will Smith, who has 4 home runs in his first 40 plate appearances. That said, I’ll take Garver if I have to lock one in—his track record is a bit longer and his plating time is more predictable. Both are mostly streamers for me in 10- and 12-team single-catcher formats, though.

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