(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire)
Go back with me to draft season 2017. A simpler time. A pleasant time. So much hope. So much promise. So much prospect hype for one guy in particular. Remember? Bet you can’t guess who it was! Before most of us knew Ronald Acuna’s name, or Shohei Ohtani’s for that matter, there was one particular Chicago White Sox infielder getting hyped and over-drafted like it was his job. Ringing a bell, yet?! Aggressive owners couldn’t wait to get their hands on him even though they knew they’d be stashing for at least most of April. But Kris Bryant had spoiled us all, and now we believed anything was possible from the top prospects.
Give up?! Jake…they already guessed it. This wasn’t that hard. Ok, ok, geniuses…I’m of course speaking of none other than Yoan Moncada. Remember him? I’m sure more than a few of you were burned by him last year. The waiting game that eventually turned into a callup that eventually turned into disappointment that left a lot of people with a sour taste in their mouth. Or they just kept the sour Skittle in their mouth too long. Who’s to say?
So all that disappointment eventually turned into me grabbing him everywhere I could for a little post-hype sleeper madness this year. I couldn’t believe how far he was falling down draft boards after a rocky start to his Major League career. Surely, it wouldn’t be so bad after he had a year to get his feet wet, right? Well…so far the answer is….kind of! The strikeouts have come back with a vengeance, sure, but look beneath the surface, and you’ll find numerous encouraging signs: an elevated line drive rate, a higher flyball percentage, a consistent HR/FB rate carrying over from last year, a hard contact rate of 55%, and a double-digit walk rate. Those metrics have me encouraged that my personal gamble may pay off. And after last night’s breakout 2-7, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB, SB line that featured his 2nd straight game with a combo meal, I’m getting very excited. I think it’s just the beginning of something big, and you should jump back on board the hype train. There’s plenty of room.
Let’s take a look at some of the other performances from Wednesday:
Teoscar Hernandez (CF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 4-6, 2 R, HR, 3B, 4 RBI. Called up from AAA just a few days ago, Hernandez made the most of a rare start in the Blue Jays outfield. He only had 14 plate appearances coming into this one, so talk about making it count. Obviously, I wouldn’t take this for anything more than a single great night at the plate as the Blue Jays have nowhere to give him regular at-bats.
J. D. Martinez (RF, Boston Red Sox) – 4-5, 3 R, HR, RBI. Is there any team out there you want to see your starting pitcher facing than the Boston Red Sox right now? They’ve absolutely obliterated most teams in their path this year on the way to a 15-2 record, and they’ve now outscored a pretty good Angels team 19-1 through 2 games. Beantown’s big prize of the offseason has racked up a stat line of 11 R/4 HR/14 RBI/.313 on the year, and if J.D. keeps that up, he’ll have more friends than Tuukka Rask pretty soon. Cross-sport reference!
Matt Olson (RF, Oakland Athletics) – 4-6, R, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB. Speaking of straight fire offenses, how about the Oakland A’s lately? They love baseball so much that they played 14 innings yesterday against the White Sox, and Olson used it as an opportunity to pad his stats on the year. CHEATER! He did some mercy to the fans who stuck it out with a walk-off, however, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that he has a 40% strikeout rate on the year so far.
Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox) – 3-6, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI. Another participant in one of two marathon games last night! Everything looks just fine for Abreu so far stats-wise despite his pedestrian .250/.323/.500 triple slash. I expect the numbers to return to normal considering the .244 BABIP, which happens to be almost a full 100 points lower than his career average. Elevated hard contact and HR/FB rates from him also help me sleep at night.
Khris Davis (LF, Oakland Athletics) – 3-7, R, 2 RBI, BB. The Oakland A’s have been scorching hot offensively as of late, and Khris Davis has been right in the middle of it all. Last night extended his hit streak, and that now makes it 8 games in a row. I’m also digging the 52% hard contact rate for the slugger…although he’s no J.D. Martinez who currently has a 63% hard contact for those wondering. That was also your Absurd April Stat of the Day.
Evan Longoria (3B, San Francisco Giants) – 3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. After starting ice cold on the year, Longo has finally gotten it going with a modest 3-game hit streak. This also marks his 3rd straight multi-hit game and his 4th in the last 5. He’s still infuriating OBP owners, however, as he has taken just 1 walk this season.
Mitch Moreland (1B, Boston Red Sox) – 3-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. Just another Red Sox hitter getting some love on this fine Thursday morning. Moreland has gotten sporadic playing time this year with just 36 plate appearances thus far, and last night was his first dong of the season. Last night also tripled his RBI output for the year. For another fun fact analyzing far too small of a sample size, he has 5 walks to just 3 strikeouts on the year. Watch out, Joey Votto!
Kevin Pillar (CF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI. When your team scores 15 runs in a game, you’re going to have a few guys pop up in the Batter’s Box article. No Blue Jay is safe! Anyways, Pillar has actually been very good this season with a triple slash of .317/.349/.467 on the year. Last night also extended his hit streak to 9 games, and the Jays have started moving him up to the 5 or 6 slot in the lineup. Can he build off the 16 HR/15 SB season from a year ago? Wish I had shares to find out.
Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers) – 3-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB. He started the year pretty slow, but he’s now got a 4-game hit streak as he begins to heat up. He came into this one with a paltry .212/.278/.273 triple slash, and hopefully, he can continue to build off of last night’s ventures against the Padres.
Ryan Zimmerman (1B, Washington Nationals) – 3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 3B, 4 RBI. After last year’s out-of-nowhere, late-career renaissance, Zimmerman has plummeted back down to Earth this past April. He came into this game with an uninspiring 2 R/1 HR/6 RBI/.121 stat line, which means he officially tripled his HR total in just one game. I’m not in a full-panic mode with him yet, but I am very concerned.
Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 2-5, R, 2B, 3 RBI. Did you know that the Pirates…and yes I mean the Pirates…have been the highest-scoring offense in the National League? That is not a typo. AND they’ve been doing it in the rain, snow, and freezing cold temperatures. Kudos, Buccos! Anyways, Bell has still yet to club a homerun on the year, but you have to be encouraged by the number of routine singles he’s been getting. That’s sarcasm, folks.
Cody Bellinger (1B, Los Angeles Dodgers) – 2-5, 2 R, 2B, RBI. This now makes it 6 in a row for Bellinger’s hit streak, and he has also hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games. The thing that stands out to me so far, however, is his greatly improved 19% strikeout rate. It was a big issue for him a year ago, and if he can keep it anywhere close to this level, we’ve got a possible big jump in batting average coming.
Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit Tigers) – 2-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI. It was Miggy’s birthday yesterday, so I guess that makes his homerun a birthday dong! Love it! I’m also loving that Miggy-esque 11% walk rate to pair with the 20% K rate on the young season. It is early, but I am slightly concerned with the 55% groundball rate that could make 20-25 HR feel too ambitious in a hurry.
Yoenis Cespedes (CF, New York Mets) – 2-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI. The Mets exploded for 9 runs in the 8th inning against Washington last night, and they were actually behind when Todd Frazier came to the plate. “That escalated quickly,” said every Nats fan after that inning. Anywho, this was actually Cespedes’ first homerun since April 5th, and he’s had just 1 extra base hit since then as well. But when you break a cold spell like that, you go hard and hit a grand slam. And that’s just what Cespedes did.
Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox) – 2-5, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Really big fan of this guy coming into the season, and he’s been nothing short of spectacular since we started. Last night was his first career grand salami, and he now has a very impressive 15 RBI on the year. This also marks his 6th multi-hit game of the season. Huge upside looks to be coming to fruition in the early goings.
Ryan Flaherty (2B/3B, Atlanta Braves) – 2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. The improbable start to the season continues for the Hotlanta Braves, and it’s mainly due to big games from guys like Ryan Flaherty that have kept it going. This was actually his first homerun of the season, but don’t let that take away from his very impressive .365/.450/.500 triple slash. As long as he keeps getting playing time, I could see sneaky value here as this lineup continues to produce.
Curtis Granderson (LF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 2-4, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB. Should I do it? Should I go up to the top, edit the title to “Blue Jays Corner,” and call it a day? Perhaps! Grandy hits a Slammy in this one, and it genuinely feels like he saves all his best games for when I’m doing the Batter’s Box. Hmmm…maybe one of our staff members should do a Going Deep piece on THAT! Peep Granderson’s 46% hard contact rate, B-T-DUBS!
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics) – 2-7, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. Quick! Without peeking at the person who this blurb is about, name the AL leader in RBI. Ok, it’s Jed Lowrie. By like…more than a few RBI too. Guys. This was his 6th HR of the year, and the 11 R/6 HR/21 RBI/.346 stat line is starting to feel like more than just a hot start. I’ve told you like 17 times the A’s are red hot right now, and Lowrie is the hottest of them all. Sorry, Khris Davis. But real talk…it’s time to pick him up. Said someone on our staff (probably) like 4 days ago.
Yangervis Solarte (2B/SS/3B, Toronto Blue Jays) – 2-4, 3 R, HR, RBI, BB. Blue Jays’ corner! Solarte has been rock solid this year, and last night was his 6th multi-hit effort of the young season. He also has 11 walks to just 8 strikeouts on the year, and that’s helped his OBP jump up to a .409 mark for 2018. It’s hot north of the border!
Whit Merrifield (2B, Kansas City Royals) – 1-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. This was actually Whit’s first homer of the year, and the Kansas City branch of the About Darn Time Department was busy with phones ringing off the hook yesterday. Despite the lack of dongs, I’m encouraged that he’s been able to maintain a 16-17% strikeout rate that’s carried over from last year. He may not be getting the big flies, but he’s only been held without a hit 4 times this season.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves) – 2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. Remember what I was saying about post-hype guys when I opened with Yoan Moncada? That all applies to Swanson as well. He’s now slashing .358/.394/.582 on the season, and he has a remarkable 9 (!!!) multi-hit games so far this year. Despite all that, I’d still love for his walk rate to catch up to that 21% strikeout rate.
Brian McCann (C, Houston Astros) – 2-4, R, 2 2B, RBI. He hasn’t given us much at all offensively yet, but neither has any catcher outside of the Bronx this year. These were actually his first two doubles of the season, and he had a mere 3 RBI coming into this one as well. Let’s hope this provides the spark he needed.