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Connor Eye Joe

Chu provides fantasy analysis on 21 of Sunday's best hitters

Connor Joe (COL): 1-2, 2B, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB.

Where did you come from, where will you go? Where did you come from Connor Eye Joe?

It’s been a long and wild ride for Connor Joe, who continued his hot second half by going 1-2 with a double, two walks, two runs scored, and an RBI on Sunday.

He was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 2015, then was traded to Atlanta in 2017 and traded again less than two months later to the Dodgers. He was then selected in the 2018 Rule 5 draft by the Reds, then was again traded, this time to the Giants, before clearing waivers and being returned to the Dodgers, where he remained until the end of 2019. After that, he opted out of the 2020 season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer and wound up as a free agent last offseason. That was when he finally signed on with the Rockies, and it’s where he’s finally finding some real big league success.

While it’d be easy for me to just sit here and say that Connor Joe is just a hot corner infielder who has been doing all of his damage in Coors (which is exactly what I said about him a week ago), it’s hard to ignore exactly how much damage he has been doing and what has come of it.

Since his most recent call-up on July 20, Joe is slashing a cool .331/.382/.600 with seven home runs and a 145 wRC+, the second-best mark on the team behind the white-hot C.J. Cron. In his first call-up, Joe really struggled to get the ball in the air and instead ended up just turning over and rolling his batted balls to the shortstop and third baseman. While the thin Coors air can do a lot of things for hitters, it can’t really do much to help out an infield grounder.

He came to town like a midwinter storm
He rode through the fields, so handsome and strong
His eyes were his tools and his smile was his gun
But all he had come for was havin’ some fun

This second tour of duty has been a very different Connor Joe, though. Not only has he been able to turn over 70% of his batted balls into line drives or fly balls, but he’s also been spraying the ball all over the field. In fact, he’s even hitting more balls the opposite way than he is pulling, which is a huge contrast from earlier in the season when he pulled the ball almost twice as often as he went oppo. To top it off, he’s done all of it while maintaining that good plate discipline

Connor Joe’s plate discipline in the minor leagues has always been strong, but it wasn’t until he joined the Dodgers that he started showing off a bit of power. I can’t say exactly what happened quite yet, but the results have been sudden and successful in his most recent major league call-up.

At this point in the season, it doesn’t help quite as much to try and determine what a guy like Connor Joe would be over 162 games—all that matters now is what his current role is and how he’s performing in it. He’s now appeared in the leadoff spot for Colorado for eight straight games, and he should stay there as long as he’s hitting, even if Ramiel Tapia comes back relatively soon from his toe injury.

Colorado will remain on the road for the entire week this week, though this upcoming series with the Cubs should be pretty decent for the right-handed slugger, as should the series at the start of next week in Texas. I obviously don’t love the Dodgers series that’s sandwiched between them, but I can stomach it if it means getting the other two series plus an eventual homestand.

While I usually like to add a ranking (of sorts) to these kinds of evaluations, I think that’s less helpful here. Joe does happen to be available in over 80% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues right now and should be available at both first base and outfield in the vast majority of formats. If you’re hurting at one of those positions and don’t have a specific need for a ton of steals or home runs, Connor Joe can be the contributor you’re looking for.

In shallower 10 teamers, I see no need to hold a guy like Dominic Smith, Nate LoweCarlos Santana, Sam HilliardJoc Pederson, or Mike Yastrzemski if you are trying to make up quick ground, and wouldn’t hate on anyone who cut one of those guys for Joe if they were in that situation.

Ryan McMahon (COL): 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB.

McMahon has been a top-13 option at both second and third base this season, though it hasn’t been without its ups and downs. He started the season scorching hot, hitting eight home runs in April and then five more in May, but only has five total since June 1. He also stole some bases early, but that has dried up as well over the last two months. A brief review of the stat line suggests he’s traded a lot of that power for on-base skill, as he’s hitting .299 since the All-Star Break with a .395 OBP, but only has two home runs to go with it. The real scary thing is the lack of fly balls, though. He was comfortably over 40% fly balls back in April and May, only to drop to 30% in June and July and an even worse 21.3% on the month so far in August.

It’s going to feel bold, but I don’t mind swapping McMahon out for a more exciting option in 10- and 12-teamers, especially if you don’t have a CI or MI spot to fill.

J.T. Realmuto (PHI): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.

He may no longer be the clear top catcher (that’s all Salvador Perez these days, and it’s not very close), but he remains clearly in that elite grouping of catchers in the top four along with Will Smith and 2021 surprise Buster Posey. He’s already up to eight steals on the season and should be able to get to double-digits for the first time since 2016 as the Phillies desperately try to cling to their playoff hopes.

Odúbel Herrera (PHI): 4-5, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.

He’s hitting .368/.422/.719 this month with a strikeout rate south of 10%, driven in large part by three home runs in his last four games, so he’s an OK fifth outfielder while he’s hot. The Phillies seem content to hit him either at the top or bottom of the order, which can be frustrating for fantasy managers who want to maximize plate appearances. That said, he actually walks a lot more hitting seventh (9.5%) and eighth (10.5%) than he does leading off (3.1%), and he actually has a much stronger overall stat line in the eighth spot, so there’s that.

Rhys Hoskins (PHI): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Hoskins is well on his way to about 35 home runs on the season, and while it comes with a sub-.250 batting average and probably something short of 95 RBI, he’s barrelling the ball better than ever and is comfortably inside the top 15 first baseman in all formats—and he even can creep into the top 10 if your league uses OBP instead of batting average.

Lane Thomas (WSH): 3-4, 2B, BB, SB.

I discussed him yesterday but wanted to call out that he now has a three-game multi-hit streak and also appeared in the leadoff spot for the second time in a row.

Kolten Wong (MIL): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.

The 24 stolen bases from 2019 seem like a major outlier, which ruins just about any chance of him being a top-15 second baseman. He has enough power, speed, and contact to hang around the back-end of the top 20, though, especially when he’s leading off. He’s probably more of a streamer in 10- and 12-teamers.

Daulton Varsho (ARI): 3-4, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.

In his last 10 games, Varsho has a ludicrous 1.658 OPS with seven walks against just four strikeouts. Despite this incredible production, though, he remains available in over 75% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. The Diamondbacks have one of the most favorable schedules for hitters this week, so unless you’re rostering a top four or five catcher, Varsho should be a priority add in all formats.

J.D. Davis (NYM): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.

I’m still alarmed by the 31.4% strikeout rate he’s held since the All-Star Break, but he’s the starting third baseman right now and is hitting .300 in August, so there are worse corner infielders or back-end outfielders.

Amed Rosario (CLE): 3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.

I discussed him a bit in this morning’s Hacks & Jacks podcast if you want to know more, but he’s hitting well, hitting at the top of the order, and stealing bases.

Javier Báez (NYM): 2-4, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI.

Sure, he swings at everything and misses almost everything, but he looked strong in his first game back from the IL after dealing with back spasms and should go back to hitting for power and stealing some bases. Even with the horrible plate discipline, he’s a top-15 shortstop in leagues that use batting average.

Wander Franco (TB): 2-5, 2 2B, 3 R, RBI.

He’s slashing .310/.380/.521 in August with a 7.6% walk rate and an 8.9% strikeout rate. This is the kind of upside we expected from the young man with a hit tool that some graded as high as 80 (which, you know, is the highest grade). I have him as a top-10 shortstop for the rest of the season and if he continues hitting like this I could see him being drafted in the top six at the position.

Miguel Cabrera (DET): 1-5, HR, R, RBI.

500! WOO! I love Miggy so, SO much. If you don’t, I’d have to wonder if you like even like baseball.

Tyler Naquin (CIN): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Naquin extended his hitting streak to 12 games with his third consecutive multi-hit performance, which also happened to be his fifth of the week! The 30-year-old southpaw excels against righties and at home, which more than makes up for his struggles against southpaws.

Adam Duvall (ATL): 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI.

Duvall should get to 30 home runs for the first time since 2017, and I wouldn’t be overly surprised if he set a new career-high by the end of the season (he needs seven more to beat his 2016 total of 33). Sure, he strikes out a ton and is only hitting .223, but the power is undeniable and Atlanta keeps letting him play. Atlanta is off Tuesday and Wednesday for some reason and faces a slew of tough pitching over the next few series against the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers, so make sure you’re only using him because you really need the power because it could be ugly for a little bit.

Carlos Santana (KC): 3-5, 2B, R, RBI.

For a guy with such good plate discipline, Santana sure does make a lot of bad contact. He’s hitting just .197/.274/.250 in August, and while he hits in the middle of the ROyals order, I see no real appeal here outside of very deep leagues.

Emmanuel Rivera (KC): 2-4, R, BB, SB.

I like to include players in this space that I had never really heard of, and the 25-year-old third baseman fits the bill. His minor league track record suggests an OK hit tool and OK pop, and he had an excellent 143 wRC+ in triple-A, so deep dynasty managers might want to make a note of what he does for the rest of the season.

Ty France (SEA): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

His 1.027 OPS so far in August is really encouraging for both fantasy managers and Mariners fans, and while his overall counting stats may be a little underwhelming on the season (he will need to push to get to 20 home runs, 80 runs scored, or 80 RBI), the .292 batting average and .362 OBP makes him useful in most formats.

Andrew Benintendi (KC): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Those hoping for a renaissance in Kansas City have been disappointed, as Benintendi looks exactly like the lackluster fantasy performer we saw back in 2019. While that is still a massive improvement from his miserable 2020, he is best thought of like an accumulator at this point with limited upside.

Nicky Lopez (KC): 2-3, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB, SB.

This was his eighth steal in his last seven games, and as a team, the Royals have stolen an incredible 20 bases over the last 14 days. While Adalberto Mondesi has begun his rehab assignment in triple-A, he’s 0-18 and hasn’t yet played in back-to-back games. Until Mondesi is ready, Lopez should continue to get plenty of run near the top of the Royals lineup, and considering that he’s now 18 for 18 in stolen base attempts, there’s a good bet he’s not done swiping bags. Oh, and he’s available in over 75% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

Lars Nootbaar (STL): 2-4, 2B.

This is an 80-grade name, though the 24-year-old lefty doesn’t have any other traits that rate quite so high. There’s mild intrigue here in very deep formats due to his strong plate discipline in the minor leagues and a good showing in triple-A (six home runs and a 138 wRC+ in 35 games), but his overall body of minor league work suggests that this is more of a part-timer. He’s listed here primarily because you all deserved to become aware of this name.

Writer’s Note: The history of the song “Cotton Eye Joe” is long and difficult to pin down. The version being referenced in this piece is the techno-pop hit by the Swedish band Rednex from 1995. A recording of the song can be found here, and lyrics can be found here. This version was specifically chosen because it avoids the inherent racial undertones of the older versions of the pice.

 

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

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