When a player is drafted ninth overall, the ball club will have high expectations. That is where the Atlanta Braves drafted Shea Langeliers in 2019, signing him for $4 million.
He went to Rome. The Rome Braves. In 55 games, he hit .255/.310/.343 with two homers. Then we all know what happened in 2020: the pandemic. From there, Langeliers went to Double-A South for most of 2021, where he improved to a .258/.338/.498 with 22 home runs. In both seasons, his K% hovered around 23-26%.
This year, Langeliers was traded to Oakland (along with Christian Pache, Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes) for Matt Olson. Last night, the 24-year-old catcher hit a curveball from Paolo Espino 382 feet for a solo shot, tying the game at 1-1. It was his third home run in 58 plate appearances. He would finish the evening going 2-5 with a 2B, HR, R, and 3 RBI. He’s batting .232/.241/.518 in his first small sample in the big leagues. That’s quite a slugging percentage.
Certainly, many analysts will point out a glaring issue. Langeliers has a K% of 43.1%, and his BB% sits at 1.7%. A quick scan of his career will show a repeat of this number in Triple-A in 2021 where his K% was 42.9%.
So ring alarm bells? Nah.
Let’s be clear. That Triple-A experience in 2021 included 14 plate appearances. Langeliers had 402 plate appearances in Triple-A this year, and his K% was 21.9%. In fact, if we ignore that 2021 anomaly, his K% tracks quite evenly through his career (23%, 26.2%, 21.9%).
Quite simply, give him some time. Catchers must do a lot when they arrive in the Show, and they often play an immediate supporting role to pitchers. This makes sense.
Personally, in the long run (dynasty leagues) we should be salivating over that Triple-A line, his largest body of work, which yielded .286/.366/.510 with 19 homers and a .375 wOBA. Everything he does may not be magic in the big leagues yet, but it might be sooner than we think.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday.
Joey Meneses (WSH): 4-6, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
I’ll admit it, Mr. Meneses has been fun to watch. His first major league hit was a home run on August 2nd, and in 104 plate appearances, he’s hitting .354/.385/.626. He has seven home runs, so simple math says that he can hit 35 homers in 500 plate appearances (I know it’s not fair to extrapolate that way). But he did hit 20 homers in 414 plate appearances in Triple-A this year. So he’s up to 27. Meneses continued to roll last night with a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th. The power showed up late in his career (around 2018), but the 30-year-old outfielder is showcasing it now. Here’s to 30 being the new 24.
Alex Verdugo (BOS): 3-4, HR, 3 R, RBI, BB.
Verdugo has eight home runs in nearly 500 at-bats this year, so it’s unfair to assess him in terms of power. What we might prefer to look at is how effective he’s been at hitting overall…full stop. His .287 BA isn’t the half of it. In the last month, he’s hitting .363 with a .989 OPS. Last night he reached safely in four of his five trips to the dish. He’s hitting second in that Boston lineup, so he often gets to the plate 5-6 times per game. He has cut his K% by 4% this year, so the 26-year-old is putting the ball in play more. The home run last night came off Glenn Otto’s sinker in the sixth inning. This is a well-rounded hitter.
Christian Walker (ARI): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
Sister Christian…Walker Texas Ranger…Why haven’t I made him a featured hitter yet? Owned in 74% of Yahoo leagues, a large portion of Walker’s power-hitting season might be going unnoticed. He has 31 homers on the season, and the most recent one came off Brandon Woodruff in the first inning yesterday. It was a two-run shot. He’s currently batting .236/.334/.486, but his BABIP is .231 and his xBA is .256. There is some bad luck here.
Adolis García (TEX): 1-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
The 29-year-old outfielder connected for his 22nd home run yesterday off Eduard Bazardo. In his last 111 at-bats, Garcia has a .297 BA. In his last 52 at-bats, Garcia has walloped three home runs. He’s sitting on a .255/.302/.453 line. He is a rare 20/20 hitter, and this year he’s at 22/22. It’s entirely possible that he could reach the 30/30 club.
AJ Pollock (CWS): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Pollock is getting that power-stroke back, managing five home runs in his last 96 at-bats. In the seventh spot in the Chicago White Sox lineup last night, he hit a two-run homer off Anthony Misiewicz in the 8th inning. The 34-year-old is slugging .378 on the season, but his xSLG is .409 according to Fangraphs. His ISO is .138; it was .240 last year. So the power is down, but he may still be useful in deep leagues.
Ty France (SEA): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Seattle beat up on Detroit last night, winning the game 7-0. France was a big part of that as he clobbered an Eduardo Rodriguez changeup in the third inning to give the Mariners a 3-0 lead. That was his 17th home run of the season. France has hit three home runs in his last 39 at-bats. After batting .191 in the last month, he’s got a 1.481 OPS in the last week. Although he’s been slumping, he may be turning it around now for good.
Julio Rodríguez (SEA): 1-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB.
Rodriguez was part of the back-to-back home run excitement with Ty France yesterday. Eduardo Rodriguez threw him a slider, and it was an 80 mph hanging pitch that Julio sent 407 feet. From one Rodriguez to another, let’s just say someone wasn’t locating their off-speed stuff. The 21-year-old is now batting .266/.328/.476. He’s a 22/23 hitter and could join the 30/30 club this season.
Andrew Vaughn (CWS): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Vaughn hit his 15th home run of the season yesterday off Daniel Mengden’s cutter in the bottom of the third inning. That puts him at a highly respectable .289/.338/.460 on the season. There are defensive woes here, but if we’re talking fantasy baseball, hitting is the thing that counts. He hit 15 home runs last year, so it’s clear that the 24-year-old Vaughn is having a career year.
Austin Riley (ATL): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.
Riley really hasn’t looked back after breaking out last season. He hit his 33rd home run last night off Chad Kuhl in the fourth inning, and he’s now batting .289/.358/.563. Riley has a resounding .921 OPS on the year. We’re looking at a new top-50 hitter and a top-4 third baseman.
Corey Seager (TEX): 2-6, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
Seager may have been slow to start the season, but when we look at the aggregate, he’s going to be a top-tier hitter. He’s driving in a couple runs nearly every game lately. He has a career-high 29 home runs, and he’s batting .256/.331/.476. But Fangraphs has his xBA at .291 and his xSLG at .524. In the last two weeks, Seager is hitting .286 with an .883 OPS. Although he didn’t hit a home run yesterday, he’s definitely worth pointing out as a hot hitter in these pages.
Ryan Mountcastle (BAL): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.
Mountcastle hammered his 19th home run of the year yesterday against Shane Bieber in the 4th inning to give Baltimore a 4-0 lead. He’s now hitting .243/.290/.424. We’re seeing a little less discipline over the course of the season. He owned a .796 OPS last year, but it sits at .714 this year. To top things off, Mountcastle has a .200 BA over the last month and a .653 OPS.
Anthony Santander (BAL): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.
On the other hand, Santander has regained some plate discipline this season, batting .257/.335/.460 this season. In the first inning, he hit a solo shot off Shane Bieber’s changeup. It was his 24th of the season. Unlike his teammate above, Santander has seen a sharp increase in his OPS lately, hitting .929 in the last two weeks, with five home runs in his last 101 at-bats. The 27-year-old outfielder is turning into a true cleanup hitter.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)