Christian Leader

Breaking down the best hitting performances from yesterday’s games.

Christian Yelich (MIL): 4-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

 

Despite signing a nine-year, $215 million extension in March of 2020, Christian Yelich hasn’t quite lived up to expectations offensively in Milwaukee.

After posting back-to-back seasons of OPS numbers over 1.000 in 2018 and 2019, Yelich has failed to touch the .800 OPS mark over the past three seasons. Last year, he posted a .735 OPS, a career-worst, and this season, his OPS of .748 would be the second worst mark of his career, if the season ended today.

The Brewers expected a perennial All-Star player to carry Milwaukee for the next decade when they inked Yelich to an extension. Even though Yelich has stolen 16 bases this year, the first time it has been in the double digits since 2019, the rest of his profile, especially from a fantasy perspective, has been disappointing in 2022.

Yelich has hit only 10 home runs this season, which is only one more than he hit last year, and two less than he hit during the COVID-shortened season in 2020. Despite ranking in the 88th percentile in average exit velocity and 91st percentile in hard-hit rate, his 4.0 average launch angle is a big reason why his barrel rate ranks in the 58th percentile, according to Baseball Savant.

The second half has been much better for Yelich, as he is hitting .285 with a .804 OPS in 146 plate appearances after the All-Star break. And on Saturday, Yelich proved he can lead this team offensively, as he collected four hits, a home run, and three RBI in Milwaukee’s 7-0 win over the Cubs.

While August hasn’t been great for Yelich (.256 average; .709 OPS), this big game could help build some positive momentum for an important September for the Brewers. As of Sunday, Milwaukee is 2.5 games behind the Padres for the last NL Wild Card spot.

Maybe Yelich will never live up to the hype of  that nine-year extension that he inked in 2020. But if he can have a big September and help the Brewers overcome San Diego in the Wild Card race, then Brewers fans will certainly be satisfied, at least for this season.

 

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Nolan Arenado (STL): 4-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.

The Cardinals continue to stay atop of the NL Central, thanks to a 6-5 comeback win over Atlanta at Busch Stadium. Arenado carried the Cardinals’ offense on Saturday, as he not only hit a home run but collected four hits and two RBI as well. The Cardinals’ third baseman has been sensational after the All-Star break, as he is hitting .345 with a 1.104 OPS in 126 plate appearances. A solid September could earn him NL MVP honors, especially if the Cardinals run away with the division next month.

 

Brandon Nimmo (NYM): 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Nimmo collected his 12th home run of the year in the Mets’ 3-0 win over the Rockies on Saturday. For the year, Nimmo is posting a solid slash line (.265/.357/.420), and he has pretty much been a mainstay at the top of the Mets lineup when healthy. Nimmo possesses impressive natural speed, as his sprint speed ranks in the 86th percentile, according to Savant. And yet, Nimmo has failed to collect a single stolen base this year, which hurts his overall fantasy profile. Nimmo will probably get a lot of hype in next year’s fantasy drafts, but the lack of stolen bases will continue to make him an underwhelming outfield option, despite the other solid metrics.

 

Jeimer Candelario (DET): 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

The Tigers have been disappointing this year, and Candelario is a big reason why Detroit has underperformed. After hitting .271 with a .794 OPS in 2021, Candelario is only hitting .199 with a .603 OPS in 2022. On Saturday, in the Tigers’ 11-2 win over the Rangers, he did hit his 11th home run and collected three RBI as well. However, it seems to be too little and too late at this point, as Candelario has been in and out of the Detroit lineup in August (only 73 plate appearances this month).

 

TJ Friedl (CIN): 3-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

The Reds have been pretty non-competitive all season, and that has allowed the organization to give some opportunities to lesser-known players. Friedl is one of those beneficiaries, and he has taken advantage of an increase in playing time in August. This month, in 36 plate appearances, he is hitting .433 with a 1.333 OPS. He has also hit two home runs (his only two home runs hit this year) in August, which included one against the Nationals on Saturday night. With playoff season approaching in fantasy leagues, Friedl could be a “hot hand” to ride, and he’s available in 99 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues to boot.

 

José Ramírez (CLE): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Ramírez continues to post MVP-caliber numbers, as he is hitting .285 with a .909 OPS which includes 26 home runs, 106 RBI, and 14 stolen bases in 523 plate appearances this year. On Saturday, against a Mariners team fighting to keep their spot in the Wild Card race, Ramírez collected two hits, which included a home run and a double which helped the Guardians beat Seattle on the road, 4-3. Cleveland sits in first place in the AL Central, and Ramírez continues to be one of the most productive hitters in baseball. And yet, it’s likely that he will be overlooked once again when it comes to AL MVP voting by season’s end.

 

Jake McCarthy (ARI): 4-5, 3 R, 2 SB.

The Diamondbacks won’t make the postseason, but they have a core of young hitters and pitchers who should give hope to Arizona fans in 2023 and beyond. McCarthy is part of that core, as he is only 25-years-old, and is hitting .292 with a .784 OPS in 217 plate appearances this year. McCarthy’s speed is his most impressive tool, as he has collected 12 stolen bases this year, and had two on Saturday in Arizona’s 10-5 win over the White Sox. McCarthy is only rostered in 21 percent of Yahoo leagues and seven percent of ESPN leagues and could be an interesting player in keeper or dynasty leagues, especially since he’ll be a bigger part of the Diamondbacks’ plans in 2023.

 

Austin Riley (ATL): 3-4, 2B, R, RBI.

Atlanta rewarded Riley with a 10-year, $212 million extension this season, and it seems like it’s already money well-spent. Riley is hitting .287 with a .911 OPS and has collected 31 home runs and 83 RBI in 550 plate appearances this year. The defense of course is a concern, as he ranks in the bottom one percentile in outs above average, but Atlanta showed last year that they will ignore questionable defense from a player as long as their offense continues to be productive (Jorge Soler was a prime example of this). Atlanta lost 6-5 to the Cardinals on Saturday, but Riley did his best to keep Atlanta in the game thanks to his three-hit performance.

 

Joey Meneses (WSH): 2-3, 2B, R, BB.

Going into this year, Meneses was a career Minor Leaguer who was picked up by the Nationals on a Minor League deal this offseason after being released by the Red Sox organization last year. One of the worst teams in baseball, the Nationals traded Josh Bell to San Diego, and as a result, Meneses was given an opportunity to play first base for the Nationals. Meneses has taken advantage of his first MLB opportunity at 30 years old, as he is hitting .333 with a .958 OPS in 85 plate appearances. He also has collected six home runs in 21 games played, which is a pretty impressive rate. Could Meneses be an option at first base in 2023 for the Nationals? That is tougher to tell, but at the very least, he has solidified his roster spot in DC for the remainder of 2022.

 

Bobby Witt Jr. (KC): 1-3, R, BB, 2 SB.

Adley Rutschman, Julio Rodríguez, and even Steven Kwan seem to be the favorites in the AL Rookie of the Year race. And yet, what Witt, Jr. has done this year has been pretty impressive, especially on a floundering Royals team. Even though the .254 average and .744 OPS don’t pop out, his 18 home runs and 26 stolen bases have been more impressive, especially for a shortstop. It’s been a rough August, as Witt’s .718 OPS this month is his lowest mark since his lackluster April (.558 OPS). That being said, he’s been heating up the past few games and could be setting himself up for a solid finish in September. Witt finishing the year with at least 25 home runs and 30 stolen bases is a realistic possibility.

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien is a high school educator and baseball blogger based in the Kansas City metro area. In addition to writing for Pitcher List, he writes about the Kansas City Royals at his own blog, the Royals Reporter, which can be found at royalsreporter.com.

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