Don’t Get Mad, Get Vlad!

Breaking down the best hitting performances from Monday's games.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR): 2-5, R, RBI.

In Monday’s docket of just four MLB games, the biggest hit came off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Tied at two with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Guerrero took a misplaced first-pitch slider from Clarke Schmidt and lined it 117.3 mph to left field. The hard-hit single delivered a walk-off win to the Blue Jays, moving them a game closer to clinching a playoff spot. Guerrero finished the day 2-5, R, RBI.

After Guerrero’s breakout 48 home run campaign last year, the power numbers have taken a hit. With just over a week left to play, Vladito’s sitting at 30 long balls and has seen a 122-point dip in his slugging percentage.

Aside from the league-wide offensive downturn, the reduction in power looks to be stemming from falling fly ball and barrel rates. In his phenomenal 2021 season, Guerrero had a 36.5% fly ball rate and a 15.1% barrel rate. This year, those numbers are down to 29.7% and 11.2%.

Overall, Guerrero’s still been one of the best hitters in baseball. He’s slashing .276/.340/.479 which comes out to a 132 wRC+, the 29th highest among hitters. This year seems pretty close to the floor for a healthy Guerrero, so I expect his draft stock to stay very high entering drafts next spring.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

Cedric Mullins (BAL): 2-6, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Mullins started last night’s game with a bang, homering and tripling against Connor Seabold in the first and second inning. There’s not a much better way to start a game than that, and he seemed to have a great shot at hitting for the cycle. Then the downpour began. The rain delay lasted over an hour and a half, and once play finally resumed Mullins didn’t collect another hit. The Orioles centerfielder has followed up his breakout 30/30 season with 16 home runs and 31 stolen bases. Mullins’ HR/FB ratio has fallen from 15.5% last year to 7.8% this year amidst the power outage.

Marcell Ozuna (ATL): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

It’s hard to see Ozuna’s name in box scores these days without thinking about the numerous off-the-field problems he’s caused over the past couple of years. Despite the controversies, he’s maintained a roster spot with the Braves, although he’s only playing every two or three days. His big showing at the plate last night included his 22nd home run of the year which came against Cory Abbott in the fifth inning of the Braves’ 8-0 win. On the year, he’s slashing .224/.272/.406. Unless he gets hot right now, this’ll be his second straight season with a wRC+ below 90.

Matt Olson (ATL): 1-2, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.

Olson also homered against Abbott last night, his 29th big fly of the campaign. Given how last offseason played out in Atlanta, no matter what Olson does, he’ll always be compared to Freddie Freeman. This year, the numbers favor Freeman. The Dodgers’ first baseman is slashing .328/.405/.517 compared to Olson’s .234/.319/.456 line. It’s hard to be mad if you’re a Braves fan and you get to trot out an All-Star first baseman every day for the next eight years, but that “what if” will always be there.

Jack Suwinski (PIT): 2-4, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI, BB.

Suwinksi’s flashed serious power in his first taste of MLB action. The 24-year-old rookie hit his 10th and 11th doubles of the season yesterday to go along with 18 home runs. Suwinski’s .212 ISO would be tied for the 31st best mark in the league if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Unfortunately, those strong power numbers come with a lowly .196 batting average. He’ll be a name to watch next spring to see if he breaks camp with the Pirates or gets more time to develop in the minors – he’s only ever played 31 games at the Triple-A level. He’ll be an interesting late power threat in fantasy drafts next year and could certainly turn into a more well-rounded hitter as he continues to develop.

J.D. Martinez (BOS): 2-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI.

The bottom has totally fallen out of Martinez’s power swing this year. The veteran DH took Jordan Lyles deep in the second inning of last night’s high-scoring affair, but it was just his 13th home run of the year after hitting 28 in 2021. Martinez’s barrel and flyball rates are virtually the same, but a lot of the other metrics are down this year, namely average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and pull rate. All that comes out to a .433 slugging percentage, down significantly from last year’s .518 mark. At 35 years old, there’s no guarantee the power comes back next year.

Oneil Cruz (PIT): 4-5, 2 R.

Cruz notched the first four-hit game of his career last night as he collected all four of his singles against different Pittsburgh pitchers. Despite elite raw talent, it’s been a rocky start to Cruz’s time at the MLB level, but he seems to finally be figuring things out. In 97 September plate appearances, the 23-year-old shortstop is slashing .281/.340/.562, although the strikeout rate is still over 30%.

TJ Friedl (CIN): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.

Friedl’s taken over the leadoff role when the Reds are facing righties and has performed well, hitting .227/.333/.507 with five home runs and a stolen base since assuming the job on September 4th. With seemingly little shot at contending next year, the Reds should give Friedl every shot to prove he’s a valuable piece moving forward, and he could be a fun late-round fantasy draft target. If your league’s still playing this year, Friedl’s not a bad outfield option and is available in more than 80% of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.

Anthony Santander (BAL): 2-6, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Santander’s sixth-inning home run against Kaleb Ort was a milestone blast for the 27-year-old outfielder: his 30th big fly of the season. It’s the first time Santander’s reached that mark, setting a new career high. Santander followed that home run up with another in the seventh inning, this time against Franklin German. Santander’s 31 home runs tie him for the 13th most in the big leagues.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Mark Steubinger

Mark loves everything talking and writing about baseball - from fantasy leagues to the legitimate defensive prowess of Kyle Schwarber as a left fielder. Mark has a degree in Sports Communication from Bradley University and works in radio production. He lives in central Illinois where his TV is permanently tuned to Chicago Cubs games.

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