A good portion of yesterday’s stats were generated in the home half of the sixth inning in Detroit. The Tigers had 42 at-bats in yesterday’s game against the Cubs, knocking out 18 hits. Despite this, they also left 27 runners on base and did not hit a home run.
Mining weaker teams for fantasy production is an excellent strategy, especially in deep leagues. The difficulty, of course, is knowing when that production will arrive. Jon Lester started for the Cubs and threw five innings, giving up eight hits, allowing just one run. Rowan Wick and Ryan Tepera came in in relief in the sixth inning, combining for eight hits, and five earned runs, as the Tigers sent 10 men to the plate.
There are some fantasy leagues that may not have a single Tigers’ player rostered. That might be completely justified in shallow leagues, but consider some of the standout performances from last night:
Jonathan Schoop (2B)—3-5, R, RBI.
Miguel Cabrera (DH)—3-4, R, RBI, BB.
Jeimer Candelario (1B)—2-5, R, RBI.
Niko Goodrum (SS)—1-4, 2 RBI, BB, SB.
Cameron Maybin (2B)—3-5, 2 2B, R.
Austin Romine (C)—3-5, R, 2 RBI.
These aren’t numbers that will blow fantasy mangers away, but they are all put up by players who will play (almost) every day. The Tigers have played 29 games and the six players above have played a combined 142 of the possible 174 games (81.6%), with most of the absences from their catcher, Romine, and Maybin, who lost time due to injury.
Jonathan Schoop and JaCoby Jones lead the team in WAR (0.8), with most of that coming from their offensive, rather than defensive, contributions. Schoop has slashed .300/.331/.518 with seven home runs, 17 runs, and 17 RBI and a .357 wOBA. His 22.7 K% and 3.4 BB% are in line with his career norms. His max exit velocity on the season is 114.4, tying him with Nelson Cruz for 15th in the league (among qualified hitters). His 114.9 mph max EV in 2019 was 27th, so we know that Schoop can hit the ball hard, on occasion.
Plate appearances aren’t the most exciting aspect of fantasy baseball, but they might be the most important, especially in 2020. While other managers get excited about young prospects and players on the top teams, Schoop, Candelario, Romine, and Goodrum have put up stats thanks to the simple fact that they are in the lineup. The winners of this year’s fantasy leagues are going to be the managers who have the most games played at each position and it pays to check-in on the regulars on weaker teams.
Here are some of the other standout performances from Wednesday’s games:
Eloy Jiménez (OF, Chicago White Sox)—2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. The White Sox are rolling, and so is Jimenez. Yesterday afternoon’s game was his seventh in a row with a hit and the 13th of his last 15 games. We hoped that Jimenez would put up big numbers and has a .315/.342/.631 slash while bringing his K% down from 26.6 last year to 23.1 this year. At just 23 and in the heart of a surging team, expect to see Eloy challenge as a top-10 OF next draft season, despite his lack of stolen bases.
Danny Mendick (2B, Chicago White Sox)—2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI. The thumb injury to Leury Garcia has given Mendick the opportunity for every day playing time and he has done well with it. We don’t expect much from the 5’10”, 189-pound second baseman, but he can put a charge into the ball. His home run had an exit velocity of 96.3 mph, and he grounded out on a ball leaving the bat at 99.5 mph. He has already surpassed his home run total from last year but, most importantly for deep leagues, he has also surpassed his games played and plate appearances from 2019. Don’t rush out to grab him, but his wRC+ is 106, putting him above the average and he does have regular playing time.
Rowdy Tellez (1B, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. Two weeks ago, I wrote about Tellez in this very spot, and he continues to smash. Tellez is seeing the ball well, dropping his K% from 28.4 in 2019 to 15.8 this year. When he isn’t manning first, he is usually the DH, but the signing of Daniel Vogelbach might threaten Tellez’s playing time. The way things are going (.254/.308/.549, 6 HR, 11 R, 17 RBI), Tellez is showing that he wants to be a part of the young core of the Jays’ future.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. (1B/3B/DH, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, 2 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI. It is frustrating to watch Vladdy continue to pound the ball into the ground. With the bases loaded in a 3-0 count, Guerrero had the green light and hit a grounder down the third-base line at 109.8 MPH. It hooked past Rafael Devers, but it very easily could have been fieldable for an inning-ending double play. With all the power we saw at last year’s Home Run Derby, it’s a shame he doesn’t unleash it with a 3-0 green light, especially when a ball on the ground is, usually, unhelpful. Vlad’s other double last night was 107.5 mph off the bat, and the launch angles were -4 and -18 degrees. Despite pleas to increase his launch angle, Guerrero has dropped it from an average of 6.7 degrees in 2019 to 4.0 degrees in his 89 batted balls this season.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)—2-5, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB, SB. Acuña popped his fifth home run of the season in his first at-bat returning from injury. It’s nice to see Acuña back on the field and bringing his power and speed back to the Atlanta lineup.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)—2-6, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Swanson is the fifth-ranked shortstop in Fangraphs WAR this season and has put up a .319/.352/.504 line, cementing himself at the top of the Braves lineup. He is 20-for-49 in his last 11 games. When Ozzie Albies returns to the lineup, Swanson may return back to the sixth and seventh slot, but is it going to be a difficult move. Until then, enjoy the increase runs and RBI and add him if, by some chance, he is still available.
Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets)—2-2, HR, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 BB, SB, CS. If his .324/.444/.520 slash doesn’t impress you, maybe combining it with three stolen bases will. Michael Conforto, quietly, is one of the year’s best players. For hitters, he is 11th in wRC+ (171) and 23rd in WAR (1.1) on the season. Jacob deGrom’s start will grab the headlines, but Conforto is raking and has been held hitless in just five of his 29 games this season. You have to love the consistency of results and the variety of stats that he fills.
Jake Cave (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, RBI. This isn’t much of a stat line, why is it in the Batter’s Box? After Max Kepler led off the game with a home run, he fouled a ball off his ankle/top of his foot and was forced to leave the game during his second plate appearance. Cave was his replacement and should be on your radar if Kepler misses time or is forced to the IL. With Byron Buxton also on the shelf, Cave and Ehire Adrianza could grab some added playing time.
Nico Hoerner (2B, Chicago Cubs)—3-3, 2 R, 1 RBI, BB. Hoerner made a good case last night for more regular playing time. He has been sharing time with Jason Kipnis but the added flexibility of the DH has been beneficial for Hoener, helping him get into 24 games (starting in 19). He hasn’t shown much power this season (.283 SLG, .033 ISO, zero home runs), but getting on base at the bottom of the order, without a pitcher hitting, should mean that Hoerner will get chances to turn the lineup over. It might also justify a move to the top of the lineup card if he can swing the bat as he did on Wednesday.
Sam Hilliard (OF, Colorado Rockies)—2-5, HR, 2 R, RBI. I was quietly working on this article and the score was 3-1 after seven innings, and I didn’t think that I would have much to write about! The Rockies and DBacks combined for 11 runs in the final two frames thanks, in part, to a Sam Hilliard home run. Charlie Blackmon also slugged a grand slam to break open the game…
Christian Walker (1B/DH, Arizona Diamondbacks)—3-4, 2 2B, 4 RBI. …Until the Diamondbacks rallied to make a game of it, adding two in the 8th and four in the 9th. Walker hit a hustle double in the eighth and smacked a liner off the top of the wall, just missing a walk-off grand slam. Matt Wallach recently did a deep dive on Walker suggesting that his power should return. Since that article published, Walker has gone 5-for-9 with two doubles and a home run. He is now slashing .310/.367/.500 and looks like he is dialing in at the dish. If he is available, it might be worth trying to catch the wave.
Cam Gallagher (C, Kansas City Royals)—1-2, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB. As the unheralded backup to Salvador Perez, it is easy to ignore Cam Gallagher. Fantasy doesn’t take well to backup catchers, except in the very deepest two-catcher leagues. However, in 10 games, Gallagher is slashing .318/.423/.545 and has assumed the starting role until Perez returns from the IL.
Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire