Batter’s Box: Your Guy in April

Scott Chu covers the best and brightest hitters from Tuesday's games.

We all fall in love during the spring. We plant our flag on guys we believe in, especially the ones that we believe in more than everyone else. Willians Astudillo (C, Minnesota Twins) was that guy for me, and truth be told, he probably still is. He had a pretty solid night at the plate on Tuesday (3-4, R, 2B, RBI), and to his credit, he’s hitting .412 with a .647 slugging percentage since his return to to the Twins’ active roster on June 19th with zero walks or strikeouts (which is just CLASSIC Astudillo). On the season, though, his limited power and playing time have made him very difficult in roster in single-catcher formats.

I will admit that I have rostered him far too long in most leagues and have scooped him up every time he has been dropped. I simply can’t shake my fondness for everything he represents. He’s not a slender man, but he hustles his heart out and has mind-boggling contact numbers. I will go well out of my way to include him in these Batter’s Box articles (like I am doing right now) and usually find myself writing his name in all caps whenever he does anything even remotely positive. I will apologize for his mistakes and then immediately forgive him for them and look for reasons why he will rebound. For example, he’s played at three different positions over the last week (catcher, third base, and right field) and I’m positive that if he gets hot that he can carve out a nearly full-time role for the Twins during the absence of their utility man Marwin Gonzalez. Heck, he might even find regular playing time afterwards if the Twins finally let Jason Castro fall to the wayside (he’s hitting .171/.237/.286 in June) or if an injury were to unfortunately befall another Twins regular (as Gonzalez would likely slide out of right field to cover that spot, giving Astudillo a place to play).

He probably won’t, though. During a recent live chat on our Discord (which you should join), I asked fantastic writer Shelly Verougstraete her unbiased opinion of him and she gave me the correct answer: “I love the idea of him. . . but I don’t think he’s really that great.” It was devastating, but almost certainly true. I love him because I want to love him. This is true of a lot of guys I planted a flag on back in March and April (Matt Carpenter is another example). It’s late June now, and while many of these guys could very easily turn it around and become the player I dreamed they could be, it’s time to start thinking that they (probably) won’t. If you’ve got these kinds of players still on your roster and are refusing to let them go for much better options, I understand. I feel for you. That said, it’s time to look in the mirror and make sure you’re keeping them because you think they’re going to help you win your league.

. . . I’m not going to cut La Tortuga, though. Not yet.

 

Hanser Alberto (SS/2B/3B, Baltimore Orioles)—4-5, R, 2B. He has almost no power to speak of, but his ability to avoid a third strike and put the ball in play will help him maintain a useful batting average. His expected average is .263, which is 55 points below his actual .318 batting average, but in a 15-team league he should have value as a replacement infielder even if the average drops a bit due to his spot at the top of the Orioles order.

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—4-4, 2 R, 3 2B, RBI. He’s been the cleanup hitter for the Red Sox for most of the month and has multiple hits in seven of his last 11 starts. He should get to 25 home runs and close to 100 RBI with a .300 batting average by season’s end. As I’ve mentioned before, I think the stolen bases are more of a fluke than something we can expect more of going forward, but the power and batting average certainly are. I’m especially fond of his increased contact on pitches outside of the zone. While that usually doesn’t result in the best contact, it has greatly reduced his strikeout totals and even weak contact is better than none at all.

Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets)—4-5, R, 2B, RBI. He has at least two hits in six of his last seven starts and is firmly entrenched in the leadoff role for the Mets. The power and stolen bases will be sporadic and unimpressive, but the batting average and OBP will make him valuable in all formats.

Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins)—4-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI. Just when I thought I had Steady Eddie all figured out, he goes on a power binge in April and puts himself on pace for 35 home runs. He’s slowed down a bit in June, but his combination of power, double-digit stolen base potential, and solid batting average make him a solid second or third outfielder in batting average formats. He’s a little less exciting in OBP due to his low walk rate, though.

Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s outperformed his expected batting average for most of the season (it currently sits at .240), but his power is very real. His 13.2% barrel rate should help him continue to hit the ball a long way, even if he doesn’t hit the ball quite as often as he has been going forward. He’s also got the most certain playing time among the three active Twins catchers, for whatever that’s worth.

Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-4, RBI. The good news? He’s got a .341 OBP in June with five walks and six strikeouts. The bad news? He’s only starting about half of the time and is hitting near the bottom of the order. He’s probably only useful as a DFS play or deep league platoon against lefties at this point.

Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, R, HR, RBI. I was wrong to completely dismiss La Stella earlier this season, as he has continued to show impressive contact and decent power after his hot April. I think he’ll be good for three or four home runs a month and is a solid option at the top of the Angels lineup for batting average and modest power going forward.

Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets)—2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB. He’s a major OBP sandbag in leagues that use that category, but in batting average leagues he has plenty of value due to his 15 home run power and 20-to-25 stolen base ability. He should also hit close to .265 as well, which is quite useful in most leagues.

Manuel Margot (OF, San Diego Padres)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. At one time, he was the Padres outfielder we were most excited about due to his combination of pop and speed, but now that he’s a part-time player who hits in the bottom third of the order, he’s easy to ignore in most formats. The outfield got crowded and unfortunately Margot was the ultimate loser.

Chris Taylor (2B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-3, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 SB. He’s hitting .481 with a 1.494 OPS and 12 RBI over the last week as the full time short stop and should be on rosters in most 12-team leagues for his power, speed, and positional flexibility. He’s particularly useful against lefties and finds himself in a nice spot in the order against them.

Ryan Braun (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-5, 2 R, 2 2B. He looks like he’s going to do pretty much the same thing he did in 2019 but with a better batting average (mostly due to a rebound in his luck). He’s still on pace for 130+ games, which he hasn’t done since 2016, and a healthy Braun is a useful Braun in 12-team and deeper formats.

Manny Machado (SS/3B, San Diego Padres)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Remember when he had poor numbers early in the season and everyone worried? Well, I spent a bunch of time in this piece talking about how it’s time to move on from players who aren’t living up to our expectations, and there’s a good reason I wrote that blurb now instead of back in April.

DJ LeMahieu (2B/3B, New York Yankees)—2-4, R, HR, 3B, RBI. He. Just. Cannot. Stop.

(Photo by Nick Wosika/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 Eric says:

    Trade question. Gleyber for Snell and Amed Rosario

  • Avatar Eric says:

    5 year keeper league. we are in year 3 so rest of this season and 2 more years

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I think I’m on the Rosario/Snell side, especially if it’s BA instead of OBP. There are a variety of factors but basically, Rosario’s SBs are a premium asset and a Snell rebound isn’t out of the question. Not sure if this helps as much this year (it could, though) but it could REALLY pay off down the road.

  • Avatar Barrett says:

    Scott,

    I keep going back and forth with one spot in my lineup. Utility. I’ve gone from McNeil to Dietrich to Calhoun, but I just keep coming back to McNeil with that high floor and Alonso lurking behind him. 10 teamer dynasty points. I feel like he’s not going to set the world on fire most of the time, but I know what I’m getting. I know he’s going to get on base constantly and he’s not going to strikeout (basically).

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      McNeil is a premium asset in that format, Barrett. All of that contact at the top of the order gives him a ton of opportunities to pile on the points. He’s the easy pick for me of that group. He won’t have any massive outbursts, but he’ll post crooked numbers almost every single day.

  • Avatar Orange WHIPs says:

    What’s going on with Eugenio Suarez? He’s been abysmal the last month plus.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Abysmal is right, Orange. He’s hitting .169/.247/.260 in June with just two home runs and an uncharacteristic 31.8% strikeout rate. He was awesome early on and has screeched to a halt.

      Almost any stat you look at is simply going to verify that his June has been awful. I don’t have the capacity to do a deep dive (though I will suggest it to some of our writers), but for now I’m just looking at it as a slump. Slumps happen and are extremely frustrating. If you can afford to bench him, go ahead and wait for signs of life. Don’t cut him, though. Slumps aren’t permanent.

      • Avatar theKraken says:

        Holy smokes. I didn’t realize how bad he has been haha. He has proven that he is a good hitter, so there really isn’t much to do. As you say slumps happen. You can overlay some meaningless xStats over his poor results which will just quantify what a slump is or you can just hang tight. The only worry would be an injury but those are the kind of things you learn about afterwards when a player hits the DL lol.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    There is no figuring out Eddie Rosario. I am sure he doesn’t have much figured out himself. I think the one thing you can say about him is that he doesn’t want to walk – other than that you have no idea what he going to do on a given night. It is scary to think what he could be if he was more selective, but I don’t think he will ever be that guy.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      You know, Kraken, I wonder if his aggressive approach is part of his success. He doesn’t strike out much so I wonder if he aims to just punch as many baseballs as he can. Being more patient may not actually improve his overall improve his overall performance unless he also started swinging harder and making better contact when he identified ideal pitches (which is, like, really difficult).

      I’ll take the high average and 25 home run power and 10ish steals and just accept that he’s not an OBP guy. Anything above that is gravy.

  • Avatar Sam says:

    Is the title of this article a reference to the manga/anime “Your Lie in April”? If so, what is your scouting report on Tsubaki?

    Also, the guy I have been holding onto is Jesse Winker. I got Joey Votto 2.0 vibes last year, and still hope he can start hitting. Is it time to let go?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      YES! NAILED IT, SAM! Tsubaki is an impressive athlete, though I do have concerns about composure. She tends to wear her heart on her sleeve, which can get players into trouble. It has been a long time since I’ve seen her in action, though, and I can’t say I ever saw much of what she can do.

      I’d love to see Winker get 100% playing time, but the Reds seem content to put him on the strong side of a platoon. He’s hitting .407/.500/.741 since June 16th, which is probably enough of a heartbeat to hold on a little while longer in shallow leagues. Due to his upside, you probably are stuck with him for the long haul in 15+ team formats.

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