Over the past couple of seasons Tim Anderson has solidified himself as one of the faces of energetic and enthusiastic baseball, the kind of baseball that pumps up fans and gets the team going. It’s the kind of excitement that leads to an intense bat flip after an RBI walk. Do other teams or other teams’ fans like it? Probably not. But that’s what builds even more fun for baseball and fans. You know what else is exciting? A 412 foot opposite field homer. It’s tough to compete against your teammates like Luis Robert that blasts 450 foot no doubters later in the same game though. But going 3-4 with a homer, a couple runs and RBIs, including that walk is a fantastic game, nevertheless.
Anderson had a fabulous breakout season in 2019. He finished the season batting .335 and almost went 20/20 (which he did in 2018 with 30 more games played). A BABIP of .399 seemed too good to be true for Anderson’s excellence to keep going. But that hasn’t stopped him. 2020 Anderson is more of the same and then some. In his first 126 plate appearances, he is slashing .347/.389/.610. Something stands out there and no it isn’t the .347 average. He is slugging .610 for a .263 ISO. His seven home runs puts him on pace for what would set a career high by far in a full season. What’s the difference maker for this power in 2020? His hard hit rate has jumped a few percentage points and he’s barreling at almost double his rate from last year. Specifically, he is seeing breaking balls much better this season and is handling them. However, an intriguing factor into this power is his HR/FB which has doubled from 16.7% to 31.8%. That is a remarkable jump. Additionally, his fly ball rate is down. The balls he does get in the air though have been impactful.
He’s also being a bit more patient which can’t be too hard as he’s notoriously one of the most free swingers in the league. He’s taking the first pitch more often (35.7% to 27%), he’s chasing balls out of the zone less (43.6% to 34.6%), and he’s making more contact on the ones he does chase (56.8% to 61.3%). Improving a weak spot like this looks to keep benefitting the improving Anderson who keeps showing fans to have a good time playing the game.
Let’s look around the rest of the league for the best hitters from Thursday’s games:
Todd Frazier (3B, New York Mets) – 3-5, 2 2B, HR, 3 R, RBI. Everyone’s favorite Met from Tom’s River, NJ is back and unstoppable. Immediately plugged in to the clean up spot for the Mets, Frazier’s presence has led to two straight nine run games for the team. Let’s move beyond my Met fan sarcasm and actually look at him as a fantasy asset. This was his first home run in over 20 games and it barely made it over the fence down the right field line. He hasn’t been hitting the ball as hard as previous seasons (under 30% hard hit rate) and is constantly getting too under the ball. He is having a somewhat comparable year to last year so far but with less power which should not be appealing fantasy-wise.
Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets) – 3-4, R, 3 RBI. After a strong finish to last season, Rosario has come out of the gate stumbling. He drew his first walk a few games back, has struck out more often, has not stolen a base yet, and has an OPS under .600. He is struggling against the fastball where he thrived last season and many of his balls in play that were line drives in 2019 are now on the ground. Those both can impact batting average significantly. Additionally, on each pitch type there’s been a dip in exit velocity resulting in a 10 percentage point drop in his hard hit rate from last season. With last night’s performance there may be signs of a turn-around but better options are out there.
Bryan Reynolds (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI. Reynolds showed off in his rookie season as someone with solid contact skills and hit for a good average. He hit over .300 last season with 37 doubles! With a hard hit rate over 40% and an xBA of .300 he seemed to be a solid producer. This season has been a topsy turvy one for Reynolds. A .387 BABIP has now become a .265 BABIP. Subsequently a .314 average is now a .196 average. He’ll have a few games with a handful of hits but then put up a bunch of O-fers. He has not done much yet and with the rest of the Pirates’ lineup is tough to see them doing much moving forward.
Martin Maldonado (C, Houston Astros) – 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB. Possibly the only Houston player doing anything positive at the plate, Maldonado is having a career year. He is slashing .272/.416/.457 in 103 plate appearances. He has an 18.4% walk rate! His .375 BABIP with his career .271 BABIP has been a help but with an 18.4% walk rate, he’s getting on base regardless. That BABIP can be attributed to his ridiculous 36.5% line drive rate which had never gone much higher than 20% in previous seasons. I would chalk most of this up to luck (except the walks) so I do not expect this success to continue much longer.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros) – 3-5, 2 2B, R, 3 RBI. Brantley has not played as often as we’d like him to due to a nagging quad injury, but he’s also been one of the few positives in the Astros’ lineup. Over his 95 plate appearances, Brantley has slashed .318/.389/.553. This is quintessential Brantley with a bit more slugging. He has 11 doubles in his 23 games! That’s on pace for over 70 doubles in a full season. Brantley seems to be underrated every season so when he’s healthy he’s a must start.
Nick Solak (OF, Texas Rangers) – 3-4, 2 2B, 3 R. Solak has been a solid presence in the Rangers’ lineup since his arrival last season. In his last couple games, he has essentially reached his output from last season. It looks as if he’s taken a step back, hitting with slightly less power, but he’s made some improvements. His contact has bumped up a bit leading to a decrease in strikeouts (a five percentage point drop from 2019 to 2020). His hard hit rate has also jumped ten points to 43.8%. He’s still getting his feet wet in the bigs with not even 70 games played but Solak could become a decent threat.
Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals) – 3-5, HR, R, 3 RBI. Turner gets drafted near the first round every season because of his solid bat mixed with top tier stolen base totals. This year has been a bummer as he’s only swiped three bags. But wait… he’s slashing .366/.420/.634? That is a 177 wRC+ in 35 games for Turner with eight homers and only a 14% K rate. He’s having a career year and hasn’t thought about stealing a base.
Teoscar Hernández (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 2-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. What a season so far for Hernández. He is on a fifteen game hitting streak with six home runs over that span, putting him up to 13 on the season. He has been annihilating the ball with a hard hit rate of 54.8% up over ten percentage points from his career average. He is still striking out a decent amount but his K rate has dropped about six percentage points. His major weak spot looks to be breaking balls (a .132 batting average against) so if pitchers keep hammering him with those, things might change. But if he can lay off those and wait for anything else he’ll be fine.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 2-5, HR, R, RBI. Lourdes has popped up recently in a number of Batter’s Boxes as he has been on quite a streak since mid-August. Since August 17th, he is slashing .323/.394/.661. I am reminding you that he is healthy and he is a great hitter. He’s cut back on his Ks which were a bit of a problem last season. He’s also in a fun lineup that just added Jonathan Villar and will be getting Bo Bichette back soon.
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)