As we enter June, the home run boon is busting out all over. And no, I don’t know what I was thinking in expecting a Carousel reference to land in a fantasy baseball post. Where was I? Ah. yes, with all these sexy long balls, it’s easy to overlook the more power punchless batting average assets, but on the contrary, this should make them a rarer and more valuable commodity. So I put a focus on guys who either portend to hit for good average the rest of the way, as well as power-first guys who have also been hitting for average as of late. Because if social psychology taught me anything, it’s that based on facial composite studies, average is beautiful.
Jose Bautista (OF, Blue Jays) – Hey, remember when several weeks ago I justified dropping Bautista by saying that maybe he’s getting too old and losing a step? Well, he called me to tell me he read my article and that’s why he’s been hitting so well lately. Okay, not really, looks like I was just wrong. Bautista has always been a player to use cutting edge technology and nutrition to fight father time, so it looks like a slump was just a slump. And that’s why panic is bad for winning fantasy leagues. Joey Bats been hitting over .400 over the past week, with 3 Homers, and 8 Homers in the past 21 days. Now, in most leagues, teams were smarter and didn’t drop him despite the horribad start. But in leagues in which he was dropped due to owners as dumb as me, he should be added in all formats, including the shallowest 10-team mixed. His skill set is more replaceable nowadays, but he’s still among the best at it when he’s on.
Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies) – Yeah, this one’s for shallower leagues, as he was likely not dropped in deeper leagues despite his pre-injury struggles. But perhaps the time on the shelf helped him fix his broken extreme flyball approach somewhat, as he’s been performing much better since with 2 HR and a hit in nearly every game. Since the DL frenzy might’ve led some impatient owners with a full DL slot cut him loose, you’d be wise to hold on since we all know what he is capable of producing when he’s healthy and has his head on straight. Let’s hope this is a comeback Story.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics) – I hope my last write-up of him prevented you from being leery of Lowrie. He’s provided his owners with a hefty dowry, as he’s posted a .298 AVG, .367 OBP and 6 HR in 210 PA, and has been especially hot as of late, with a 4-4 game among several multi-hit outings. Despite his diminutive frame, his mashing looks legit, as he’s posted an excellent 37.9% Hard%, and I was surprised to find he’s posted these kinds of hard contact rates 2 other years in his career. But this year, he’s combining it with a 43.4% FB% to follow the Alonso model. But unlike Alonso, Lowrie’s launch angle revolution hasn’t harmed his contact, as he’s also posting a career best 91.3 Z-Contact%, and despite a career high 48.6% Swing%, has the best chase rate since 2012. I’m definitely high on Lowrie, and think he’s worth an add in all deeper mixed and even all 12-team leagues.
Lucas Duda (1B, New York Mets) – The Duda bides… his time. He missed a good chunk of time but is wasting no time to make an impact with a .263 AVG, .391 OBP and 7 HR in just 115 PA. Interestingly, Duda is posting a career high 90.1% Z-Contact which is very good for a power hitter, but his F-strike% rate took a massive jump to 64.4% from a 54% career mark. The 16% walk rate will likely regress as his chase rate hasn’t changed much, but his 11.6% Barrel/BBE suggests the homers will keep coming. He’s widely-available pickup (11.6% Owned in ESPN) for those who missed out on the Alonso/Bauer/Smoak 1B bats, so if you need power, adding him is Dudamentary.
Melky Cabrera (OF, Chicago White Sox) – To quote the Birchwood Brothers of Fangraphs, I’m up all night to vet Melky. The Melkman has been delivering for owners who remained patient with him after a slow start, as he’s been one of the hottest hitters in the majors with a .407 AVG and 4 Homers, with just 2 Strikeouts over the past week. His power has fully returned to a rate in line with his career numbers, but the average still should improve, as he has just a .266 BABIP despite hitting only 29% flyballs (which dampen expected BABIP). And I’m expecting him to maintain this K rate or even lower it, as his 95% Z-Contact% is a career best and 3rd-best in the majors. That makes him a solid flier in deeper mixed and worth consideration in 12-team formats as he still has a touch of speed left. He’s often overlooked due to his age and consistency without panache, meaning he may be more available than many inferior players, so be Mel-keen and add him while you can.
Alex Avila (C, Detroit Tigers) – One week after he was one of the most added players in the league, he was one of the most dropped players in the league. And the funny thing, there was no valid reason other than he wasn’t red hot over a few games. And now that he’s been legitimately struggling with a regressing K rate, he’s… added again? Man, fantasy can be inexplicable sometimes. It seems that his K rate is regressing to his career ineptitude, as he’s K’d 25 times in 72 May PA (but with 13 walks), so the average will come down, but the extremely high walk rate won’t as he’s more selective than ever with one of the lowest chase rates (12%) and swing rates (33%) in the majors. But he’s still bringing the boomstick, with a 25.4% Barrel/BBE and strong eV of 94.1 mph (96.1 mph on FB/LD) and a crazy 57.1% Hard% suggesting that his 6 Homers may even be a bit light. Of course, he can’t hit lefties worth a lick and thus is a strong side platoon bat, so while he’s a viable starter in 12-team leagues and even some 10-team OBP (because that walk rate is just so purdy), provided you can bench him when a lefty is on the hill. Since his power output has stagnated lately, you may be able to snag him from another team looking to “cash in” on his strong start. But soon you’ll be richer than Avilan Musk. I might get run over by a Tesla for that one.
Joe Mauer (1B, Minnesota Twins) – He may not yet be among the most added, but after his 5-for-8 marathon game he garnered some attention, and I think he will soon be added a lot more. That may surprise you as .287 with 3 Homers is nothing special, and he hasn’t been the same since his concussion issues, and he is 33 and injury-prone. Now back to the good part; He’s hitting the best Hard% in years at 35.6%, and it’s with a career high 33% FB% rate, and a career low 42% GB% rate (which may sound redundant but it’s important to point out he didn’t trade of line drives which are steady at 24%). He also has a good eV of 90.0 and excellent FB/LD eV of 94.9 mph, though a more pedestrian 5.8% Barrels/BBE since he’s been hitting a whopping 43% of balls to opposite field. While pulled flyballs are generally better, his spray chart shows several flyballs and liners that were nearly home runs, and that 6.8 HR/FB will go up. Oh, almost forgot to mention his lowest chase rate (21.7%) since 2009, and his league leading 96.5% Z-Contact% and 3.2% BB rate. I think he’s a must-own in AL-only and 15-teamers, and a savvy spec-add in deeper 12-team leagues for AVG, while you can before Mauer brings the Pauer.
Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins) – I actually wasn’t planning on writing about him, but after looking at Mauer leading the Z-Contact% and Swstr% leaderboards, I was surprised to find the rookie Polanco slotting in at #2 in both in the league, and #1 in Overall Contact rate. So his 9.0% K rate is legit, and as a speedster, his .269 BABIP and .259 AVG look positioned to rise, under one condition. Mr. Polanco needs to realize the flyball revolution was not meant for him. While his 31.1% Hard% is surprisingly good, his 84.6 mph eV and 2.0% Barrel/BBE are very poor, yet he’s hitting a whopping 45.2% FB. That’s not a good thing for a speedy scrawny guy like him. While he’s posted several 40%+ FB rates in the minors, he’s kept it in check in his past two major league stints, and if he can cut that down, he can hit .290 with 10+ SB the rest of the way, making him a good flier in AL-only and even 15-team Avg leagues.
Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins) – I’m on a Minnesota kick, so let’s keep it going. Kepler got left in the dust by many after a slow start with no power, but he’s kicking things into high gear with 5 HR and 3 SB with a .255 AVG and .342 OBP in 182 PA. Now that’s not super sexy, but his K rate is down and walk rate up from last year, and the walk rate is supported by a reduced chase rate, and unlike his teammate Polanco, he’s hitting his 42.5% Flyballs with power, as he’s improved his Hard Hit% to 35.7% and FB/LD eV to 94.4 mph, and unlike Mauer with a strong 45.7% pull rate. So of the trio, I trust in Kepler most for power, since even though he hasn’t posted a strong Barrel/BBE with just 3.2%, he deserves better than his 9.3% HR/FB. Soon his batted balls will go back, back, back so you’ll hear more Chris Berman on this German.
Adam Frazier (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) – Frazier is showing that his prolific small sample in 2016 was not just a fluke, as he’s posting .330 with 3 Homers and 2 Stolen Base, and has made significant improvements in his OBP backed by improvements in chase rate and Swinging Strike Rate. That also helps ensure the legitimacy of his ability to hit .300 the rest of the way. But don’t count on him for stolen bases, since he’s been caught stealing 4 times, and he won’t continue to run with a 33% SB success rate. Well, also don’t count on him for home runs at this pace, as he has a lousy 85.3 mph avg. exit velo and even worse 86.7 FB/LD eV which is just below Ben Revere, so yeah. He’s a fine 1-category keeper in both OBP and AVG leagues in NL-only and 15-team, but don’t get carried away by the pretty average as he’s had some good batted ball luck with a lower line drive rate and it will regress.
Jake Marisnick (OF, Houston Astros) – Of all the reinventions going on this year, Marisnick’s has been among the most extreme. Look, I know I usually save this for struggling players who should be dropped, not ones who are white-hot. But you may have seen his .277 6 HR and 5 SB surface numbers and added him, and if you did, you should undo that move right meow. Okay, well the good news is that he has found his power stroke, with an excellent 16.2 Barrel/BBE and he does have speed, with 5 SB in just 78 PA, with only one AB. But the power has only been on flyballs, as despite his excellent 94.9 mph FB/LD eV, his overall eV is just 84.5 mph, with an awful 73 mph eV on grounders. Perhaps that’s why his Hard% is a measly career-worst 21.6%. And the power has come at a cost, as his Z-Contact% of 70.3% is 2nd worst in the league, and overall Contact% of 58.5% is the worst in the majors, the next being Gallo at 61.3%. Seeing as he won’t maintain a 42% HR/FB, he’s going to look a lot worse as that average plummets and he doesn’t have the pop to back it. It seems like he’s put it all on the line for power, but such an exploitable approach is a losing bet and the repo man will come to take his at-bats away.
Colby Rasmus (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – Perhaps the best comp for Marisnick’s 2017 is none other than Rasmus, who similarly is going barrel-happy at the expense of all other batted-ball types, and sporting a Whiff rate even high for him, with a league-worst 19.5% Swstr%. Maybe it’s a game theory strategy for players on the fringe to get noticed. While Rasmus does have a great 46.5% Hard% unlike Marisnick and a less insanely fluky 33% HR/FB since he hits more FB, he also lacks speed at this point in his career, and with power being available just about everywhere this year, it’s just not worth the damage you’ll do in the other categories to get the pop.
Hyun-Soo Kim (OF, Baltimore Orioles) – If you’re still holding onto him, you’re either a pollyanna or have just been out to lunch since your draft. He showed intriguing exit velocity last year but that’s all but evaporated in 2017, with an 86.4 avg EV and weak 2.1% Barrel/BBE. He was never really given a fair shake last year, but now he’s earned his spot on the bench. It could be that the lack of regular playing time has messed with his head and he needs a change of scenery, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he were released and re-signed with a Korean team. But regardless, after his performance, or lack thereof, this year, I’m done-soo kim.