It was a slow day for offense around the league on Saturday, with rain washing out two potentially high-scoring matchups and only five teams breaking five runs on the day. One of those teams was the Toronto Blue Jays, who continue to hit the ball out of the park at an astonishing pace, with Saturday’s deluge of power in their 12-4 win over the Orioles making it difficult to choose just one featured player. The Jays’ offense is so potent—handily the best in the league outside of Houston—that it would likely be the talk of the league this season if their bullpen wasn’t entirely on the IL and their rotation wasn’t 40% comprised of Ross Stripling and Anthony Kay. Anyhow, to the show!
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his league-leading 26th homer of the season, and while you’ve probably seen some variation of this stat floating around, it’s worth repeating that Vladdy is poised to become the third player ever to lead the league in homers in their age-22 season, joining Bryce Harper and Ted Williams despite being younger than both relative to the rest of their season. No big deal. Needless to say, if Tatís Jr. manages to accomplish the same feat, it will be the first time ever that players so young have run the league with this much power.
It’s easy to get overshadowed in a lineup with luminary scions like Vlad and Bo Bichette, but let’s talk about Teoscar Hernández! It’s not a stretch to say that Hernández has quietly been among the best hitters in the game over the past three seasons, and he’s only getting better. After going 2-4 with a homer and three runs batted in on Saturday, his strikeout rate is just a tick above league average, and while he still struggles to draw walks, he more than makes up for it with consistent contact that ranks among the best in the league. The three runs batted in aren’t and won’t be a rare occurrence; even if the weird offensive environment caps him at 25-30 homers, he’s still on pace for double-digit steals, and should handily break the 100 RBI threshold this season having already totaled 81 since the start of last year.
Hey, George Springer is back! There’s not much to say about George, who did his part with a 2-for-4 effort, but is now occupying the fifth spot in the lineup after ceding his typical leadoff role to the streaking Marcus Semien. Springer is poised to rake in oodles of RBI opportunities that may have otherwise escaped him hitting out of the one spot.
Finally, Randal Grichuk had perhaps the biggest day of them all, justifying his seemingly unnecessary $45 million contract extension with a 3-for-4 night, including his 14th home of the year and his first four-RBI of the season, the 14th of his career. Forever destined for trivia history as the player drafted with the pick before Mike Trout, Grichuk has settled into a solid if unexceptional run-producing role for the Jays, running middling rate stats and decent homer totals but driving in runs in droves. Saturday puts him at 52 RBI on the season, and he’s driven in runs at a rate of 97 per 162 games over the past three years. With the Toronto offense rolling and filled to the brim with young stars, that doesn’t look like it’ll change anytime soon!
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Joey Gallo (TEX): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, 2 BB.
Seven days after a multi-homer deluge flooded these pages, Gallo bestowed us with the only multi-homer effort on the night, getting a piece of Ervin Santana and Wade Davis (is it 2009?) for his 14th and 15th jacks of the year in the Rangers’ 8-0 shutout on Saturday. He also added two walks to bring his league-leading total to 60. Somewhat surprisingly, Gallo appears to have traded some of his light-tower power for contact ability in recent weeks, hitting .281 with an even 18:18 K:BB total in his last 15 games, but it hasn’t done any damage to his overall line; his 193 wRC+ over those 15 games is his highest in such a stretch since he appeared to be on his way to MVP consideration in 2019. With a year and a half of team control left, Gallo will be a fascinating name to watch at the trade deadline.
Trevor Story (COL): 1-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB.
Story had one of two combo meals on the night in the Rockies’ loss to Milwaukee on Saturday, hitting his ninth homer of the season and stealing his fourteenth base along the way. With free agency approaching, Story picked an inconvenient time to have his worst offensive season in years, but his skills are more or less intact, with walk and strikeout rates right in line with his career averages, and his 29 steals since the start of 2020 are second in the majors to Whit Merrifield. With five multi-hit efforts in his last nine games, Story appears to be heating up, but with just a 97 wRC+ on the season, it stands to reason that the Rockies may opt to hang on to their star and reap the rewards of a qualifying offer, should a palatable trade fail to materialize.
Christian Yelich (MIL): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Yelich appears to be slowly but surely regaining his superstar form, with his strikeout rates finally trending in the right direction after an alarming 2020 and early 2021 spike, and now with two home runs in three days, the return of his power stroke will be more than welcomed. The 2018 MVP has kept his wRC+ at a healthy 124 this season despite a .407 slugging that would be the worst of his career. Even if that MVP form never fully returns, Yelich’s near-20% walk rate appears to be here to stay, keeping his floor quite high in any case.
DJ LeMahieu (NYY): 4-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
DJLM back? DJLM back. Now that we’ve made it through the great Yankees freakout of early June, it’s time to turn our focus to LeMahieu, who’s once again flashing the MVP-caliber form he displayed at the plate between 2019 and 2020. He’s now hit safely in nine consecutive games and 14 of his last 15, which includes seven multi-hit efforts. Saturday was the 19th four-hit game of LeMahieu’s career but his first of the 2020 season after doing it an incredible four times in just 60 games last summer. Still a fixture at the top of the lineup, a hot and streaking (but not like that) LeMahieu ought to be a sparkplug for a New York offense that’s been a crushing disappointment this season; their bats will be worth keeping an eye on as the summer heats rolls over us.
Eduardo Escobar (ARI): 4-5, 2B, HR, R, 5 RBI.
Escobar might have just wrapped up his Diamondbacks career with a bang, going 4-5 with a home run, a double, and a league-high five runs batted in during Arizona’s 10-1 route of the Padres. Escobar was pulled from the game in the late innings, with many anticipating an imminent trade to the White Sox after a bizarre late-night Bob Nightengale tweet appeared to break the news of a deal, though it has yet to be reported elsewhere.
Paul DeJong (STL): 1-2, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB.
The other combo meal of the night belonged to DeJong, who registered a hit in consecutive games for the first time in nearly two months in the Cards’ unexciting 3-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. After an All-Star 2019 and disappointing 2020, DeJong’s bat has fallen off a cliff this season, bottoming out completely with a painful .165/.260/.341 line entering play on Sunday. In spite of that, injuries have forced Tommy Edman into full-time outfield duty, and with Matt Carpenter also struggling badly and backup options being limited to the likes of Edmundo Sosa and José Rondón, DeJong will likely have every opportunity to hit his way out of this funk, and could be good for some instant power numbers if he heats up again in the near future.
Ji-Man Choi (TB): 4-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Randy Arozarena (TB): 3-4, 2B, 3 R, RBI, BB.
Tampa Bay’s offense also caught fire in Saturday’s 13-3 thrashing of the Angels, with Choi and Arozarena spraying the ball over the field at will against a struggling Alex Cobb and Anaheim bullpen. They got there in quite different ways, however. Choi smashed the cover off the ball, reaching the 95 MPH hard hit threshold on all four of his base knocks, with three of them checking in over 102, whereas Arozarena dinked, dunked, and ran his way into a big day with expected batting averages on his three hits registering at .410, .240, and a somewhat hilarious .070. Though he’s not the superstar we saw last October, Arozarena is establishing himself as a dangerous but inconsistent power/speed threat; he’s now got three three-hit games in his last eight, however, he also combined to go 0-for-15 in those other five games. Choi, meanwhile, entered the night with just five hits in his last 40 plate appearances, but on the whole continues to play like the platonic ideal of a Tampa Bay platoon first baseman, running an excellent 132 wRC+ despite middling power numbers.
Donovan Solano (SF): 2-4, HR, R, RBI, BB.
Solano came up huge in the Giants’ dramatic extra-inning win over Oakland last night, sending Oracle park into a frenzy with a wall-scraping solo homer against Jake Diekman to tie the game at four in the 8th inning. San Francisco is now the first team in the majors to 50 wins, and should they hang on for an improbable postseason run, the sudden re-emergence of Solano as a quality hitter will be one of the better stories in recent memory. Though he’s fallen back to average this season, the 31-year old now owns an impressive .313/.351/.439 line in 183 games with the Giants since the start of 2019.
Zack Short (DET): 1-2, HR, R, 2 RBI
Short hit his first career big league home run in the first leg of Detroit’s doubleheader with Houston yesterday, and it was a game-changer, with the two-run shot in the sixth inning giving the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish and handing Framber Valdez his first loss of the season. Initially called up as the 27th man for the doubleheader, the former Cubs prospect appears poised to get an opportunity for playing time up the middle, as he will reportedly remain on the roster with Isaac Paredes getting demoted to Triple-A after the game.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)